Perfectly polished people populate Granger & Co., Ozzie c’leb chef,Bill Granger’s perfectly polished resto – his first in London. Chichi Notting Hillybillies and their offspring love the promise of their very own version of Tom’s Kitchen (eat your heart out South Ken), so it should come as no surprise that the queue winds round the block during the weekend brunch hours. If you can stand the wait, you have unbelievably light and fluffy scrambled eggs, irresistible ricotta hotcakes and a bar piled high with good-looking baked goods to look forward to. On balance, we like to think it’s worth it. Dinner is a slightly different proposition, with a confusing menu that takes fusion to new heights (fish curry next to parmesan crumbed schnitzel, really?). There’s still a great vibe though and for those who don’t want to schlep west there’s now a branch in Clerkenwell too (and they take bookings!).
E&O is a firm Notting Hill fave, permanently packed to the rafters with yuppies and ladies-that-lunch slurping cocktails and prodding dumplings with their chopsticks. The place really comes into its own during the summer, when its punters sprawl over the pavement sipping cocktails on sunny days, though it’s not a half-bad place to fortify oneself against the winter chill either. E&O is a member of the Ricker group, which also owns La Bodega Negra (amongst others), so you know it’s a good time. The menu is pan-Asian cuisine for Western palates and ranges from dumplings to sushi to black cod to the obligatory chocolate fondant, all well executed if a touch formulaic. Buzzing every night, perhaps because it is the only restaurant of its type in the area, you can always expect a good atmosphere and bar packed with trendy thirty-somethings wanting to let their hair down but not go wild. Be sure to book ahead on weekends, this stalwart resto is pretty damn popular.
This long-standing this Notting Hill fave has had a bit of a facelift. But the place has been given more than just a lick of paint. Complete with a brand spanking new bar, lush booths and a menu overhaul, even if the crowds weren’t flocking before (which they were), they’re banging down the doors now. The place gets especially busy on the weekend, but never fear, put your name down and go for a wander along Portobello Road – they’ll call you when your table is ready and let’s be honest; there are worse places to while away half an hour. The food is kept simple, but the kitchen really do it very well. Think burgers, hot dogs, eggs (for brunch), and salads. It’s simple, bang-on-trend comfort food kind of stuff and it hits the spot. Even better, it’s reasonably priced. The donut place next door is an added (but naughty) bonus.
Located above a furniture design studio (Tom Dixon’s no less) and frequented by a rotating array of celebs (the Jaggers were out in force on our last visit), it’s hard to imagine a trendier restaurant than Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen. Wait, it could be located in Hoxton I guess. Instead, it’s in a rather down-trodden, unloved part of Ladbroke Grove. What this means, if you decide to make the schlep out there, is that there is space for the most glorious of roof terraces. A pure joy on the rare occasions when the British sun decides to make an appearance. If it doesn’t, you’ll still benefit from the startlingly varied, ever-changing menus on offer and frequent collaborations with guest chefs. In the evening the place runs a fixed shared meal as well as its usual a la carte offering. Have that. It’s a bit like attending an awesome pop-up dinner party. If your friends were famous. And whatever you’re eating, you can be sure it’ll taste good.
Alounak is a bit of a West London institution. It’s two branches are perennially packed with locals tucking into heaving plates of grilled meats on piles of fluffy saffron rice, mopped up with steamy baskets of freshly baked bread. The fare is pretty authentic, evidenced by the large number of Iranian ex-pats frequenting the place. It’s dirt cheap to begin with, but a strict BYOB policy keeps costs to an absolute minimum. The Westbourne Grove branche is on the titchy side, but the one over Olympia way is great for big groups. Just make sure to book in advance.
Going since 1983, this family-run Persian place is ancient in London restaurant terms.It owes its longevity to a steady stream of loyal expats, lured by the promise of overly generous portions of down-home classics in a relaxed setting. Stand out dishes include mizra ghasemei (grilled warm Aubergine with tomato and egg) and lamb kubideh (ground lamb kebab). Both are ridiculously moreish and its dangerously easy to polish off Hafez’s giant portions. Of course, that assumes you’ve managed to resist filling up on the fluffy mounds of freshly-baked Lavash bread that flows in basket loads from the kitchen.
This laid-back Italian bustles with chichi Notting Hillers slurping down giant plates of pasta and scarfing pizza by the metre. The food is refreshingly simple – as good Italian should be – and very reasonable for the area. In fact, the only chichi thing about the plain wood interior is the clientele. The pizzas are what’s advertised out front (thin crusted and piping hot, they’re well worth the trip), but the huge plates of pasta and stone-baked fish mains will also leave you drooling with food envy. Go with an empty stomach because the temptation is to order everything. The desserts can be a bit underwhelming, but Gelato Mio round the corner is always guaranteed to come to the rescue with its impossible-to-refuse biscotto ice cream. Reservations are, of course, de rigeur. If the weather’s good ask for a table on the gorgeous terrace out front. Don’t worry, you’ll be protected from the hustle and bustle of Ladbroke grove by some strategically-placed shrubbery.
London’s rather lacking in diners – y’know, pancakes and milkshakes kind of places. Sure there are a few, but not many as stylish as Lucky 7 – it is a Tom Conran venture after all. So, though Westbourne Grove is a far cry from the West Coast, slide into one of the plush green booths in this baby and you feel like you’re in a film still. The food – burgers and American-style breakfasts (that’s pancakes and huevos rancheros to you and me) is decent, but it’s the décor that makes this place such great fun. OK, so there a couple of downsides. They can be kind of anal over tapwater, which here at Scofflerland is a cardinal sin. They can also get extremely busy and unless you’re a big party this is one of those no res places. On the upside, they do do take out.
Consistently top of London’s best restaurant lists, the 2 Mich-starred Ledbury does silver service on crack; the food is modern but classic, the service flawless but friendly and honestly if plating were an art form, some of what we ate should be in a gallery. And despite all this, the place is unpretentious. There’s no dress code and the places oozes low-key sophistication (some might argue it’s a little bland) – all beiges and greys and white tablecloths. Having said that, if you’re not going for the weekday lunch menu (which is a fair steal), prices are fairly prohibitive and mean this is a grown-up, special-occasioney kinda place. The food’s worth every penny though. Start by stuffing yourself with bread. It’s mouth-wateringly good, you won’t be able to resist, so don’t bother trying. The menu is, of course, seasonal, and aside from the lip-puckering expense, it’s desirable in every way.
Nothing about the row of roasted fowl hanging in the window of this Chinese mainstay distinguishes it from the cluster of other dingy and carpeted Sino-style restos found along Queensway, but the queue that often stretches out the door tells you this is a place of legend. The roast duck from Four Seasons is talked about from Singapore to Hong Kong, and they should know a good roast when they see it. Mix up your order with a bit of roast pork as well then slather the whole thing in the super-addictive, salty sweet special sauce that makes this place so great (let’s be honest, it’s probably the MSG). Keep it simple with the roast meats, the other dishes are done much better elsewhere on the street – pop next door to Goldmine to top up the order if you’re really craving something more. As usual with Chinese restaurants in London, don’t be surprised by indifferent service and a bit of a wait; it’s all part of their charm after all.