LONDON LIFE • April 2019
They say London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, and when it comes to our restaurants, you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere more globally inspired. From Peruvian platefuls to Nordic nibbles, we’ve rounded-up those in the know to review the capital's best world cuisines
What for: Peruvian
Says who: Hannah Ralph, Club content editor
If, like me, your knowledge of Peru is a little wanting, let me introduce you to the London spot turning lost-looking Llamas into Peruvian pros, one ceviche at a time. Pachamama East – the sister site of the Marylebone original – is tropic without a hint of tack, all big-bulbed fairylights and foliage. Jorge, our Peruvian waiter, advises three to four small plates and a couple of Pisco Sours each, starting with the glazed pork belly chicharrones snack. Then, it's over to zesty ceviche, sizzling stir-fry and melt-in-the-mouth duck over puffed rice to deliver the Peruvian punch, while South American-flair elevates drool-worthy veg and that unforgettable fried chicken waffle, drizzled with sichuan pepper syrup.
Top tip: This, the restaurant’s ceviche masterclass held in the downstairs dining room (which can be spied through a glass floor hatch near the bar), with Piscos, snacks and citrusy ceviche rustled up by your own fair – and well guided – hands.
What for: Spanish
Says who: Ross Clarke, food writer and Club contributing editor
Fifteen years ago, any paseo around the capital and you’d have found places for authentic Spanish cuisine were few and far between. However, simmering like a fine fabada for the last 30 years has been Brindisa. The latest incarnation of this Spanish food importer-cum-restaurant chain finds itself nestled on the Thames waterfront at the iconic Battersea Power Station, with an inspired focus on its 1980’s roots. Unctuous croquetas de jamón, huevos rotos with paprika-spiced sobrasada, and just-gooey tortilla española, are served next to regional specialities like Monte Enebro goat’s cheese from Ávila and the best charcuterie from as far and wide as Fuerteventura to Menorca.
Top tip: The Battersea spot also serves a weekend brunch menu including huevos a la flamenca – Andalusian baked flamenco-style eggs, with chorizo. Want to learn more about jamón? Take yourself to ham school at Brindisa’s original Borough Market shop.
What for: French
Says who: James Thompson, the foodie behind @food_feels
Housed in a former sandwich shop in burgeoning Bermondsey, Casse-Croûte is garlic-around-the-neck, handlebar moustache-levels of French. And this is no bad thing. Bustling with dimly-lit intimacy, vintage art on the walls and checkerboard tiles on the floor, this neighbourhood bistro feels achingly authentic. Once you’ve taken your seat, it’s all about the ever-changing chalkboard menu, all-French wine list and host of absolute classics. Think tender boeuf en croute, parsley-flecked feuillete d’escargots and creamy poulet de Bresse. If it’s on the menu, the strawberry and pistachio tarte is the best way to finish things off.
Top tip: There are no reservations for this tiny gem, so go and add your name at the door and grab a drink at José tapas bar across the road.
What for: Thai
Says who: Madévi Dailly, food and travel writer
There’s no denying it, this hip Shoreditch eatery is fully committed to its street food schtick. Pastel plastic plates may seem incongruous against bare-brick walls and low-slung filament bulbs, but immediately transport me back to the crowded, deliciously hot markets of south-east Asia. We kick things off with Tamworth skewers (charred piggy treats with just the right chilli kick) and a plate of the joint’s signature wings, expertly fried and coated in a sticky fish sauce. Subtle fare this isn’t – from the smoked aubergine salad to the glorious barbecued rib, the menu is unapologetically flavour-packed. Just the thing to feast on with a head-turning cocktail or three.
Top tip: Come early and ask for off-menu specials. We lucked out with grilled, hand-dived scallops served with a fiery dip in their still-sizzling shells.
What for: Scandinavian
Says who: Marisa Cannon, travel writer and Club contributing editor
Located next to the Victoria Palace theatre – where musical success, Hamilton currently resides – Aster provides a classy dinner spot if you’re after some Nordic post-theatre swag. Inside, décor is elegant with polished marble tables and rustic wooden accents, while the menu perfects Scandi-influenced European fare. For fresher-than-fresh food, try the Skrei cod with crushed potato and seaweed, or the seared scallops with plankton and kohlrabi. The duck breast with beetroot and liquorice, too, is an unexpected showstopper, pairing swimmingly with the truffle potato or braised red cabbage. Finish with the dark chocolate tart, which comes with dollops of sweet lingonberry gel.
Top tip: The bar is kitted out with an enviable selection of premium booze, which ends up creating a truly impressive spread of cocktails. Try the Scandinavian Sling - made with aquavit, lingonberry, lemon juice and dill.
What for: Sri Lankan
Says who: Matt Richardson, Club picture consultant
There’s one name to know right now in London’s culinary scene, and it’s the Sethis. The sibling unit behind Gymkhana, Brigadiers, Bao and more, they now bring us the second Hoppers outpost, an ode to the spice gardens of Sri Lanka. The menu might seem a little daunting (there’s even a glossary), but you can’t go wrong with the mutton rolls – a spring roll, but meatier, paired with a delightfully hot dip – the karis (Tamil for curry), and the insanely rich but impossible to stop eating bone-marrow varuval. You scoop out the marrow, mix into the fiery sauce, and mop it up with your roti.
Top tip: If you can’t tell a hopper from a dosa, or ghee from a sambol, the Taste of Hoppers menu is for you. It leaves the kitchen with all the tough decision making, serving up the largest variety of what Hoppers has to offer.
What for: Chinese
Says who: Charlotte Swift, Club group editor
The memory of MSG-laden Chinese meals still ‘fresh’ on my taste buds means the cuisine is rarely one I crave. However, on a recent trip to Shanghai, I had the most unexpectedly flavourful dinner that on my return home to London, I made it my mission to find a Chinese establishment to add to my favourites list. And in A. Wong – a modern and buzzy restaurant on an assuming street in Victoria – I found it. Offering a traditional à la carte dinner menu with a contemporary twist, each dish was a successful demonstration of chef Andrew Wong’s creative talents. Stand-outs included wagyu beef laced with mint, chilli and lemongrass, and Sichuanese aubergines. My return visit will be at lunch, to sample the much-lauded dim sum menu.
Top tip: Arrive early to savour cocktails in the restaurant’s seductively lit, subterranean bar, temptingly named the Forbidden City.