FOOD • November 2019
Londoners are proud of saying you could eat out every night in the city for a year and never have the same cuisine twice, but where should the truly adventurous diner go? Financial Times food writer, Bill Knott, suggests restaurants with dishes that may not be for the faint of stomach, but are tastes any gourmet worth his or her fleur de sel should acquire
Chef (and Princeton philosophy graduate) Jeremy Chan, co-owner of Michelin-starred Ikoyi, in St James’s Market, creates strikingly beautiful and delicious reinventions of West African cuisine. Start your meal (everyone does) with dramatically plated plantain and raspberry, fiercely pepped up with home-smoked Scotch bonnet peppers, then feast on Chan’s reinvention of moin-moin (a steamed bean pudding), smoked jollof rice and maafe, a peanut stew that he matches with aged beef.
1 St James’s Market, St James’s, SW1Y 4AH; 020 3583 4660
Ivan Tisdall-Downes, chef and co-owner at Native, near Borough Market, has a rigorously local and seasonal approach to his cooking, and is no stranger to the joys of wild food, as his sublimely flavoursome squirrel lasagne amply demonstrates. There is ragù of goat, too, paired with home-made curds, pickled walnuts and Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, and South Downs venison with hay ash, wild mushrooms and lovage.
32 Southwark St, London Bridge, SE1 1TU; 07507 861570
London’s original ‘nose to tail’ restaurant, a white-washed old smokehouse in Smithfield, is 25 this year, and ageing very gracefully: nobody should miss chef/co-owner Fergus Henderson’s magnificently squidgy bone marrow and parsley salad, served with thick slices of hot toast from the in-house bakery. Then, perhaps, devilled kidneys on toast, or ox heart with chips and ketchup. A warm Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese is the classic way to finish.
26 St John St, Barbican, EC1M 4AY; 020 7251 0848
The oldest restaurant in London, founded in 1798 – a young Charles Dickens used to press his nose against the window on his way to the blacking factory – is still a Mecca for game lovers: expect a huge range, both furred and feathered, and order the woodcock if it’s available, simply roasted and served on a croûte spread with a pâté of its own innards. Much of the game comes from owner John Mayhew’s own estate in the High Pennines.
34-35 Maiden Ln, Covent Garden, WC2E 7LB; 020 7836 5314
Go off-piste on the menu at this charmingly shabby Isaan Thai joint on the borders of Chiswick and there are manifold delights in store: prawns stir-fried with sator seeds, for instance, a Southeast Asian delicacy also known as ‘stink beans’ (you will understand why). Som tam – shredded green papaya salad – is adorned with tiny salted crabs, while the eye-wateringly hot fish curry has a gravy made with salted fish kidneys. And do try the laab ped roi et, a meat salad made with duck, chicken giblets and copious herbs.
352 King St, Hammersmith, W6 0RX; 020 8746 6888
Claude Bosi’s menu at one of London’s most beautiful and celebrated restaurants is a delight: daredevil diners should definitely order the assertively aromatic tripe and cuttlefish gratin, based on a recipe from his mother and a typically audacious dish on a two-Michelin-starred menu. The two flavours complement each other brilliantly: surf ’n’ turf as you have never seen it. To mop up the rich juices, Bosi serves it with ham and pig’s ear cake.
Michelin House, 81 Fulham Rd, Chelsea, SW3 6RD; 020 7581 5817
This Colombian restaurant in Elephant and Castle features hormigas culonas (fat-bottomed ants) on its intriguing menu, matched with a spicy salsa and plantain chips. Move on to octopus with tempura breadfruit, or empanadas stuffed with slow-cooked brisket, and wash them down with one of Paladar’s excellent South American wines from its own bodega next door. If the weather’s good, book a table in the hidden courtyard garden.
4-5 London Rd, St George’s Circus, SE1 6JZ; 020 7186 5555