Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote

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Entrecote

You have two questions to ponder when you enter Le Relais de Venise, or l’Entrecote as it’s generally known: what would you like to drink and how would you like your steak cooked??? It’s good to come prepared with answers since the waitstaff aren’t the most patient bunch – don’t be surprised if the bill arrives in tandem with your last bite of food. On the plus-side for busy diners, this is the fastest steak and chips you’re likely to get this side of Calais. You start with a mixed leaf salad served with a tangy mustard dressing and bread before moving on to the main event: Steak Frites, l’Entrecote style. That means you get half of your meal in the first round and the other half in the second round – yes you heard it greedy guts, this is a double sitting!!! You know they must be doing something right, because this place has spread from Paris to London to NYC. In London, the Marylebone branch remains a firm favourite, but the City and Canary Wharf spots are big hits for business lunches. The only problem: no reservations. Go figure.

 

Zoilo

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Zoilo

London is heaving with delightful little tapas joints. A good thing too, since we love our little nibbles. So we were super chuffed when Zoilo popped up in Marylebone, which is sadly bereft of small plate menus (Donostia’s a notable exception). Even better, this tapas has an argentine twist, which means they’re all about the cows. Steak plates to share? Yes please. If you can get a seat downstairs at the kitchen bar, do. That’s where all the action is, and if watching the theatre of food preparation doesn’t make you hungry, nothing will. A larger party will probably be more comfortable upstairs though, which has a slightly more sophisticated, bar-like vibe. Whatever you do, save room for dessert. The dulce de leche crème brulee with banana ice cream is to die for.

Royal China

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Royal China

Royal China is more elegant than most of the other Chinese offerings in London, and it’s pricier too, but this place still gets packed to the gills every weekend lunch with eager dim sum eaters after delicately steamed parcels of deliciousness. Over the years, the popular and posh venue has expanded with a branch in Canary Wharf that does a healthy trade in business lunches, while the other venues tend to fill up with big groups and families. Be warned, the bill may make you gasp compared to other similar places, but you pay a premium for the atmosphere.

Full list of locations here.

Patty & Bun

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Patty&Bun

So we’ve been suffering from a serious case of burger fatigue. Despite our solid levels of appreciation for meat in a bun, we were beginning to feel the deluge of burger places opening were verging on overkill. We were getting tired of it. That’s until we had the Ari Gold at Patty & Bun. Followed by every other non-veg burger on the menu. In one sitting. You may say greedy, we say revelationary. The hunky burgers in this diminutive Marylebone joint are just to die for; big juicy patties (cooked to perfection, might we add) daintily balance inside a delightfully airy brioche bun and topped with all sorts of naughty and wonderful cheesy and pickle-y things. It’s no reservations of course and titchy to boot so be prepared for a wait. Or if you live nearby (you lucky thing), cheat and go for the takeaway option. We didn’t have room for dessert (this time), but we hear the choc ices are ace. We won’t judge you if you make our mistake of overloading on burgers though – sometimes resistance is futile.

Atari-Ya

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Atari Ya

Imagine if you could just sit down at your fishmonger, point at some fish and within 5 minutes have a freshly prepared plate of sushi staring back at you. Oh wait, you can, at famed London fishmonger Atari-Ya. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, you have to actually order off a menu, but eating at Atari-Ya does feel a bit like the end of a trip to Tokyo’s Tsukiji market; the good bit where you tuck into a giant plate of raw fish. Since Atari-Ya supplies fish to all the top sushi joints in London, you know you’re getting the good stuff. But eating here couldn’t be further from the experience at one of London’s fancier Japanese joints. Squeeze into the little shop and perch on plastic chairs around small metal tables before choosing from the wide selection of fish. The sushi won’t have fancy ponzu dressings, or delicate truffle overlays, but you won’t miss those things either, especially when you catch sight of the low prices.

Roti Chai

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Roti Chai

That little bit of Marylebone just behind Selfridges used to be a culinary no-man’s land, but gradually little gems are popping up in-between the Italian chains and noodle bars. Roti Chai is one of these oases, specialising in fast and fun Indian street food. The décor is fun and quirky – colourful Indian groceries colliding with industrial cool. It’s nostalgia chic and it works, though stick with the upstairs street-food venue. Downstairs is way too cavernous and soulless, plus the service sucks. This is snack food, so go wild ordering and share, or don’t (the chicken lollipops definitely require multiple orders). Wash it all down with steaming hot cups of masala chai and finish with the creamy mango or pistachio Kulfi.

Fairuz

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Fairuz

Huge portions and flavour-packed dishes more than make up for the uninspiring service and décor at this homely Lebanese local in Marylebone. The place packs out every night with regulars after a relaxed and laid-back dinner. Don’t fill up on the complimentary bowls of crudité, which are served on arrival, because the menu is full of goodies. The Hummus with Lamb and Matubul are must-haves, as is the minced lamb in flatbreads. Share dishes as mains are larger than life (and it’s always more fun to try a bit of everything anyway). Don’t bother with dessert – it’s nothing special and if you’re not full to the brim before the sweet course, you’re not doing it right. Prices won’t break the bank, but don’t expect a bargain either. Then again, this isn’t your bog-standard kebab shop.

The Providores and Tapa Room

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Providores

It is a truth universally acknowledged: the antipodeans know how to do brunch. How else to explain the top-notch Aussie and Kiwi eateries that dominate the London mid-morning dining scene. Providores is one of the more established of the set, with a bustling weekend brunch that masterfully spans the full gamut of menu must-haves from Turkish eggs to banana and verjus French toast with streaky bacon. Don’t be put off by the queue, it’s shorter than it looks and the quirky fusion fare is well worth the wait. The place isn’t a bad shout for lunch and dinner too, especially as that gives you a good excuse to sample all the New Zealand wines sitting in the cellar just begging to be drunk. Try your luck in the bustling downstairs Tapa room to chow down on sharing plates or book a table in the more sedate upstairs dining room for a calmer experience.

Dinings

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Dinings

Japanese tapas sounds weird, but boy does this sushi fusion work. Then again it should, given the ex-Nobu chef’s impeccable credentials. The beautifully presented tit-bits will burn a hole in your pocket before you know what’s hit you, but combinations of eel and froie gras will also leave you dazed and confused – in a very, very good way. While the food is of Nobu standard, don’t expect any of the glitz and glamour, the Spartan and utilitarian space makes it clear this place is all about the food. Eat at the bar if you can get a space or book well ahead to score a table in one of the two titchy downstairs rooms.

Beirut Express

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Beirut Express

Locals flock to this fast food chain, the Lebanese version of a greasy spoon. Don’t expect much by way of décor – the drinks are served in plastic tumblers, the serving spoons are disposable and customers have to request a knife. Service and atmosphere fall equally short. This place is about efficiency and speed, so don’t be surprised if your table is close enough to easily nick a neighbour’s chip unnoticed. The Lebanese fare is as garlicky and greasy as it comes, but perfectly seasoned and equally addictive; the ideal place to stuff yourself silly. Best of all are the late opening hours. Doors stay open ’till 2am which makes this the perfect pick for midnight munchies. Don’t be surprised to find a queue, no matter what hour you go.