The Covid-19 lockdown in London was a necessary evil that had me daydreaming for five and a half months about one of my favorite pastimes – dining in restaurants. Indoor dining is scheduled to open May 17th, and you better believe that Mr. B and I are excited to eat at many restaurants we have yet to enjoy (like Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Hélene Darroze at The Connaught)! In the meantime, I thought I would share some of our London favorites:
Location: Piccadilly/Green Park
The Wolseley emits an air of elegance when you step in the door, and pays homage to Europe’s “grand cafes” of the past. I wish I lived closer because I’d love to be one of the regulars who pops in on a weekday morning to read the paper and enjoy breakfast. It is without a doubt, my favorite brunch spot in the city. I only wish they would serve breakfast past 11:30am!
Some of my favorites: Banana bread with vanilla butter (sometimes I’ll get it for takeaway if I’m too full), Gruyère omlette, a pot of coffee, and Mr. B always gets the pancakes with extra crispy streaky bacon.
Looking for an intimate and relaxed brunch spot? This is it! Everything on the menu always sounds delicious. They even released a cookbook so you can replicate some of their recipes at home. I always struggle to answer the question that terrorizes all brunch enthusiasts – Sweet or savory? Sunday offers an excellent assortment of both. Mr. B and I usually each order something sweet (he’ll choose pancakes 9 out of 10 times), and then split a savory item like corn fritters. The only downside to this weekend oasis, is the guaranteed line (they do not offer weekend brunch reservations). They are currently offering many takeaway items, but I’m certain the queue will return once indoor dining resumes in London.
Some of our favorites: French toast with caramelized bananas, pancakes (obviously Mr. B’s choice), and the cornbread with honey.
Hash E8 is a modern greasy spoon joint that will cure your hangover! They serve a variety of popular American-style brunch staples (hashes, eggs benedict, pancakes, etc.), along with a full english breakfast. During lockdown, this was definitely a delivery fave when we wanted to treat ourselves to a weekend brunch!
Some of my favorites: White chocolate and banana pancakes, Hash benedict, and the Bucket of hash tots.
Other’s we love: Where the Pancakes Are and St John Bread and Wine
Night Out with Friends
Location: Shoreditch, Kensington, Covent Garden, King’s Cross, and Carnaby
Dishoom is an ode to the old Irani cafes of Bombay, which peaked in popularity in the 1960s. It is one of our favorite places to bring friends when they visit us in London. We are most familiar with the Shoreditch location, which has fun, eclectic decor to channel the Bombay cafes. We love to sit in the covered outdoor area, which has a more intimate vibe. Their menu is a collection of delicious shareable plates, and they also offer a selection of fun cocktails. Pre-pandemic, you could only make reservations for groups of 6+, so we would typically arrive early (usually 5:30pm) to avoid the impending line. However, it appears that they are now accepting reservations for all party sizes!
Some of my favorites: the Chicken Ruby, Gunpowder Potatoes, Chili Chicken, Masala Prawns, and Black Daal (obviously rice and naan are a must for soaking up all of these yummy dishes). If you like a sweet/tropical cocktail, I usually order a Colaba Colada while we wait for our table. When I’m with a group, I like to order their punch to share.
Pasta, pasta, and more pasta! What more could a girl want? Trullo is an Islington gem that offers a daily-changing Italian menu. The changing menu makes it difficult to recommend a specific dish, but if you haven’t noticed…I’m here for the pasta. When my husband and I ate at Trullo, they had 3 pastas on the menu and 1 pasta dish as a special. We ordered them all! Everything was incredibly enjoyable, and we were delighted to have some leftovers the next day. I apologize, because I’m sure I’m doing the restaurant a disservice by only highlighting the pasta, but we have yet to sample the other dishes.
Quality Chop House
This is truly one of our favorite restaurants in London! It has a community feel, the staff is always kind and attentive, and they source quality ingredients. The restaurant is housed in a Grade II-listed building that has a rich historical feel. It also neighbors their own shop (containing a butcher and LOTS of other goodies) and wine bar. The menu is seasonally focused and changes daily depending on availability. We love to get a mix of small plates and share one to two mains.
During lockdown they offered at-home meal kits, which we ordered for many special occasions (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Valentine’s Day)! We also popped into their shop frequently to stock up on a variety of treats.
Some of my favorites: Smoked cod’s roe, confit potatoes, and steak (cuts will vary).
Location: Southwark (Borough Market) and Shoreditch
Padella’s Borough Market location is notorious for having a line wrapped around the building. They serve small, shareable plates of fresh pasta that aim to please! It’s a cozy spot for a glass of wine (or two) and a laidback meal with friends. The Borough Market location does not take reservations, but they started to utilize a virtual queue, which you can join online. And lucky for you, Padella recently opened a new location in Shoreditch where they will be taking reservations!
Padella is another spot that pivoted to at-home meal kits during lockdown. We ordered from them twice, and their at-home meals make such an easy weeknight dinner.
Some of my favorites: Cacio e Pepe, Ravioli with ricotta, butter, and sage, Fettuccini with nduja sausage, mascarpone, and lemon, and Pappardelle with Dexter beef shin ragu
Other’s We Love: Delhi Grill, Smoking Goat, The Compton Arms (get the dexter burger), and The Laughing Heart
Core by Clare Smyth
Location: Notting Hill
It’s rare that I enjoy every single thing on a tasting menu, but Core by Clare Smyth was the exception. Both Mr. B and I enjoyed everything on our plates! The ingredients are locally sourced, and the dishes are as beautiful (and meticulous) as they are delicious. Upon arrival, we enjoyed cocktails in the bar before being escorted to our table. The restaurant has an airy, minimalist vibe with a feminine flare. The built-in book shelves give the illusion that you are dining in someone’s home. Clare Smyth is the first female chef to run a three Michelin starred restaurant in the UK. I love to see women crushing it in a male-dominated industry, and I have to admit that I was fangirling a bit when she waved at us from the kitchen as we arrived for our meal. She opened Core in 2017 after working as head chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay for many years, was named the World’s Best Female Chef, and even catered Harry and Meghan’s wedding. I was very surprised not to see Core on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019, and will be pretty disappointed if it doesn’t appear on the 2021 list when they resume this October.
Dinner by Heston
Celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal is considered one of the pioneers of multi-sensory dining. Dinner by Heston offers a modern twist on traditional British recipes. We hoped to dine on the tasting menu at the chef’s table, but you have to have 4-6 guests. Unfortunately, most of our 20-something year old friends don’t have the same penchant for drawing down their bank accounts at restaurants like we do. So we opted for the a la carte menu, which is a more affordable entry point into the Blumenthal world. The two Michelin-starred restaurant sits in The Mandarin Oriental opposite Hyde Park. You can’t go wrong with any of the starters or mains, but the menu offers some staples that are not to be missed! Like the too-pretty-to-eat “Meat Fruit,” which is a chicken liver parfait disguised as a mandarin, or the “Tipsy Cake” made with spit roast pineapple. Blumenthal is also known for inventing triple cooked chips which are a mainstay at pubs across the country…so of course I recommend those!
Some of our favorites: Sherried scallop, fillet of Hereford beef (with triple cooked chips), the mashed potatoes, and the tipsy cake.
The River Cafe
Another very reliably delightful restaurant! River Cafe sits along the Thames and offers a seasonal Italian menu (a la carte). The restaurant has been a London staple for over 30 years! Many successful chefs trained in its kitchen, like Jamie Oliver and April Bloomfield. You may even spot the who’s-who of London at this establishment. Once, I sat back-to-back with Pro-golfer, Rory McIlroy (trying not to look over my shoulder too many times). River Cafe makes the perfect date night destination, and never disappoints. I will eat nearly anything on this menu (it’s all so good)! We typically get a selection of antipasti (usually opting for a seafood dish and some buffalo mozzarella), pasta to share, and then each choose our own mains and desserts.
Some of our favorites: Much of the menu changes seasonally, but I always get the beef sirloin for my main (it’s perfectly seasoned). Mr. B loves their risotto and the “Chocolate Nemesis” flourless cake! But don’t forget to sprinkle in some other pasta and seafood dishes too.
The Fat Duck
If you have a special occasion, The Fat Duck is an incredible place to celebrate! It is another Heston Blumenthal restaurant and is the definition of multi-sensory/experiential dining. The restaurant was named number one on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2005. It is not actually in London, but resides in Bray (well worth the train ride). If you want to be wowed by molecular gastronomy and clever and inventive food, this is THE spot. The elaborate and whimsical tasting menu made us feel extremely nostalgic. While all the food was delicious, I wouldn’t say it was our favorite meal out of the restaurants listed, but it was certainly the MOST special dining experience. Before you visit the restaurant, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire (i.e. Fond childhood memories? Favorite food growing up? Special family vacations? What makes you feel like a kid in a sweet shop? etc.). And sometimes these answers are used to customize small aspects of your dining experience. I won’t tell you too much because I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises, but the meal truly filled Mr. B and I with childlike joy! I recommend booking the earliest seating, so you won’t see the courses at other tables before your plates arrive. The meal is also quite long – we were there for over 3 hours – so starting early will ensure that you can return to London at a reasonable time.
Other’s We Love: Clove Club, A. Wong, Le Dame de Pic, St. John, Lyle’s, and Brat
Check out my Instagram, where I frequently share recommended restaurants in my stories! Bon appetite!