Nordic import Sticks’n'Sushi won’t win any prizes for subtlety (the menu is, guess what, made up of sticks – of meat/fish/veg – and sushi), but we’ll forgive it that, because what it does, we like. The moreish sticks are dished out in delicate, bite-sized portions. Careful, you’ll have scoffed multiple portions before you know it. Then there’s the sushi, so beautiful you barely want to eat it and ruining the display. But who are we kidding, something that looks that good must be too tasty to leave. Service is fab and the cocktails are, well, cracking. We visited on a weekday but are told its pumping on a weekend. Don’t leave without trying dessert particularly the lemon and yuzu meringue for a burst of flavour like no other. As a bonus, if you’re not central, there’s a second branch in Wimbledon too.
The foody community in London are going wild for Flesh & Buns–the latest offering from Bone Daddies’ chef and proprietor Ross Shonhan. Set in a loud and buzzy basement (a blink-and-you’d-miss-it kind of affair, adds cachet, y’know). The menu combines Japanese classics with Taiwanese hirata buns – one of the latest Asian crazes to hit London. The format is DIY; choose your protein (pork belly, crispy duck leg, steak, you get the picture), sandwich in soft pillowy buns, add sauces, salad, garnish to taste. A touch gimmicky, a lot of fun, but still not a patch on those offered at street-food favourites Bao or Yum Bun. What can we say, we just don’t got the skillz. Whatever, we’re still having fun making thing – toasting ‘s’mores’ over a bunsen burner for dessert. A touch dangerous after a couple of cocktails, but that wild side is where we roll. Additional warning: the array of small plates and ‘Asian’ cocktails can leave the bill to rack up quickly.
The Delaunay sits regally bang in the centre of Aldwych. It’s big glass windows, tastefully swaddled in curtains to protect diners privacy, wink invitingly and inside everything is hustle, bustle and bon vivant. It’s classic Corbyn and King (you know, that lot what did the Wolseley and Brasserie Zedel) and it’s up our street. The food is tasty, but isn’t going to blow you away. It’s simple Euro-bistro fare (schnitzel, weiners, goulash, eggs various ways), good , solid comfort food. It won’t win any Michelin stars, but it will leave you feeling satisfied and ready to come back.
This former mobile pizza van has gone permanent, and boy are we pleased! Now operating from a 50 cover site in Neal’s Yard, these guys are still churning out the same wonderful pizzas, but now you don’t have to stand in the rain to eat them. The charred and chewy bases are topped generously with exciting flavour combinations like bone marrow and spring onion or white anchovy and chard. The classic margherita is there too for the purists, never fear. Prosecco and beer are on tap and wine is served by the bottle with a ruler taken out to measure how much you’ve drunk by the end (gimmicky but it works). 20″ pizzas are £20, come with your choice of two flavours and are big enough for 2-3 to share. There’s no messing around here; no salads, starters or desserts to ruin your appetite, it’s all about the pizza, pure and simple. Shimmy on down on the weekend, which always promises to be a lively affair, or grab a slice (or two) for lunch. Expect some queues, the word is out!
Keith McNally’s latest outpost of Balthazar is so smoking hot, it’s near impossible to bag a table and no wonder, this place is bang on the money. The vast dining room is almost identical to its New York sister restaurant; think plush leather booths, a French Bistro vibe and beautifully high ceilings. Somehow, in true McNally style, it still feels intimate. So intimate that you’ll want to take your mum, your best mate, your wife and your mistress (not all at once, of course). The menu is predictable, but not boring. It’s proper French comfort food for those that live this side of the channel; French onion soup (gloriously thick), steak tartare (a strong contender for the best in London), moules frites (garlicky and gorgeous) and chocolate soufflé (the stuff dreams are made of). The wine list is basic and unpretentious and service is friendly and unobtrusive. The prices are leaning towards the expensive side, but manageable. Book it and book it now, you will have no regrets (other than the 20 minutes you spend on hold that you’ll never get back). Alternatively, walk in, cross your fingers that they have a spare table (they tend to hold some 2-3 person tables back) or better still, nab a sneaky seat at the bar.
Perennially top of the most-romantic- destinations in London lists (yes, these do really exist – we don’t just make this stuff up, y’know), Clos Maggiore is prime date territory. Make sure you get a table in the fabulously kitsch conservatory out back. The dining room is wreathed by fake flowers and fairy lights so you can giggle at the OTT arrangement or roll with the romance – either way, it’ll disarm your date. Even better the roof opens up in the summer so you’re practically dining al fresco. The food is French with Mediterranean accents and just fabulous. Surprisingly for a French place, there are also some very tasty veggie options that make good use of seasonal ingredients. Don’t forget the wine, at 2,000 strong the list is well worth a read, though the sommelier is more than happy to help out if the breadth of choice gets too overwhelming. Prices are getting on to the high side, but very reasonable pre and post theatre menus can make for a sneaky cheap date.
Located in the painfully hip St Martin’s Lane Hotel, everything about Asia de Cuba is carefully curated to feel fun, young and sexy. Things can get a bit whacky (giant columns covered in everything from flowers to books dominate the room), but the phwoar factor is undeniable, especially when it comes to the clientele who swarm to the place for its generous portions of well executed and always delicious pan-asian food. Admittedly, the Asian/Cuban fusion thing can take a while to get your head around, but bear with it. The ceviche is some of the tangiest in London and the wagyu short ribs and yuca mojo fries are weirdly intriguing and deliciously more-ish. Beautiful waiters and waitresses and killer cocktails pump up the atmosphere, especially on weekend evenings when the place is rammed with leggy 30-somethings getting their evening started before heading on to the next-door bar. The place is especially good for big groups for when you want to party in style.
Modelled on Bombay café culture, this wistful, retro all-day diner oozes charm and nostalgia. Stylish to a fault, the funky interior mixes retro prints with marble table tops, giant clock faces and checkerboard floors. The atmosphere is always buzzy whether you go for breakfast and the dangerously moreish bacon naan roll or for a boozy dinner laced with spice-infused cocktails. The food is a bit of a weird fusion – Desi fish fingers anyone? But tastes pretty damn good so who’s complaining, it also means there’s no need to fear the heat levels. The food is well flavoured, but definitely not overly spicy. The staff, on the other hand, can be overly helpful – Yes, we get it, sharing plates, understood – but are always friendly. Book ahead, especially if you’re with a big group and if you can’t get a table in the Covent Garden branch, try the one in Shoreditch.