It’s no secret that I love eating in London. People often ask me for recommendations of where to eat out, so I thought I would compile a post on my favourite things to eat in this fair city. These aren’t necessarily my favourite restaurants or cafes, although there’s a lot of overlap, but more the things I take enormous joy in eating. Here goes…
Nduja pizza at Zia Lucia
Fate smiled on me when it decided I was going to work one road away from some of the finest pizza in London. There’s nothing I like more on a sunny day than turning to my boss around 1 o’clock and saying ‘… are you… hungry?’ and he knows what I’m really asking is ‘do you want to go to Zia Lucia and sit on a pavement table and spy on people and eat the nduja pizza?’. I love this pizza. I’ve had nduja pizzas at other places and honestly, Zia Lucia has spoiled me. I had one from Yard Sale in Walthamstow and was just like… where’s the nduja? I love that Zia Lucia never skimps on the toppings, or the flavour, and has some of the nicest staff in London.
Tarte tatin at Brasserie Zedel
I really like going to Brasserie Zedel. It’s been the site of some really lovely evenings in my life. It feels special but not too fussy, and I feel like I always have a great time there. It’s in a super-central location and is in a space so huge you almost wonder how it can exist in London. Although I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had there, I’m always saving the best ’til last. I’m much more into savoury food, but the tarte tatin at Zedel is just wonderful. It’s rich, delicious, caramelised, flavourful. I just adore it.
Hot wings at Chick’n’Sours
It’s no secret that I love Chick’n’Sours. I think people on social media think I have some kind of sponsorship deal with them, but the truth is, I went once in November 2015, and have just kept going back. I love it. I simply love it. I take everyone there and everyone leaves happy. The cocktails are brilliant. The fried chicken is brilliant. The blue cheese and buttermilk dip is brilliant. The chips are brilliant because they taste like Burger King chips used to taste. But most brilliant of all is the hot wings. I’m so not into the macho bullshit stuff of eating extremely hot food to prove how cool you are, but Jesus, these wings are something else. As well as being hot (but not too hot!), they are just like being punched in the tongue with flavour. They’re crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, extremely messy and absolutely incredible. Get involved.
Wiener Holstein at the Delaunay
If I could only eat one genre of food for the rest of my life, I would probably choose the kind of food you get served at Brasserie Zedel and the Delaunay. French-Austrian-grand cafe food. Unfussy, heavy, satisfying. I love my very occasional trips to the Delaunay. It’s got a beautiful interior, a menu of exactly the kind of food I like, and feels so special. It’s also home to one of my favourite menu items in London: schnitzel. They’re huge, covering the whole plate (I’ve only just learned that there’s no need for a side, because I will not have room), and the one I particularly love is served with anchovies and a fried egg. It’s just so utterly wonderful it makes me wonder why schnitzel is not on the menu in more places. This is the most expensive item in this post, which is why the Delaunay falls into the category of strictly the most special occasions.
Lychee tea at Biju
I’m never sure what constitutes authentic bubble tea, so I’m just going to call this ‘lychee iced tea with jelly bits’. It’s light, refreshing, fun to suck the jellies through the big straw, and, lifehack: the lids are vacuum-sealed on after the drinks are made so these are perfect to buy at the shop on Old Compton Street and sneak into one of the nearby cinemas for refreshment, because you can put it in your bag and it won’t leak until you stab the lid with a straw.
Ganbian chaomian at Etles
Silk Road in Camberwell is a famously great home of cheap London eating. I would happily trek down to Camberwell for dinner, but now I don’t have to. In Walthamstow, where I live, there’s a restaurant that does food from the same region to similarly high standards but without the queue, without the rush, without the slight feeling of stress that always tinges a Silk Road visit. Etles on Hoe Street is my favourite place to eat in Walthamstow, and my favourite thing to eat there is the ganbian chaomian, which is beautiful, springy noodles served with beef. It doesn’t sound super exciting but the flavours are just wonderful, and it’s so satisfying. I honestly can’t recommend Etles enough, and I feel so lucky to have it in my neighbourhood. If you want to read more about the food of this region, have a look here.
Breakfast at the Regency Cafe
I say ‘breakfast’ but I really mean everything. I could probably eat every meal at the Regency and be happy. But, I love breakfast, and as I elaborate in great detail in this piece I wrote and performed for Voices At The Table last week, I have very specific desires when it comes to breakfast. The Regency is the best place to fulfil those desires. It can be slightly stressful if you try to go on a weekend morning, or if you get to the counter without knowing what you want, or if you don’t get cash out before you go, but if you play the Regency game right, you will have the most delightful morning. One of the happiest London moments was when I bumped into one of my best friends at the Regency having breakfast with an American friend visiting London as I was having breakfast with a different American visiting London. Truly bringing people together. Oh, and Marco, the loud shouting man with a beautiful head of grey hair, is one of the greatest men in London.
Roasted red plum ice cream at Gelupo
One of my favourite things to do in life, yes, in my whole life, is to go to Gelupo, buy ice cream, walk down Archer Street and sit on the round bench outside Ham Yard Hotel (my favourite place to drink a cocktail in central London, by the way). Sitting on the bench, I get to watch lots of interesting people coming and going from the hotel, sometimes famous people, mostly not famous people, sometimes people I know, mostly no one I know. It’s just a lovely courtyard space that’s perfect for sitting on summer nights. If I’ve ever sat in Ham Yard with you, eating ice cream or drinking bubble tea, it means I probably think you’re cool and special. The ice cream I like to eat there is Gelupo’s roasted red plum, which is a rarity on the menu but when it’s there, it’s just the best thing in the world. If it’s not there, I’ll happily go for any other fruit flavour. Gelupo is much better to eat outside than in the slightly cramped, brightly-lit shop, but the ice creams and sorbets are A+.
Salt beef bagel at Beigel Bake
I honestly and truly do not care if you like going to the yellow bagel place on Brick Lane or the white bagel place on Brick Lane. Personally, I go to the white one, because it’s the one I used to go to with my dad when I was little, and old habits die hard. Either way, if I could only eat one last thing from anywhere in London before I die, I would want it to be one of their salt beef bagels. Enormous, delicious, too big for my tiny mouth, and less than FIVE ENGLISH POUNDS, they are a true work of art.
Turnip cake at Joy King Lau
Dim sum is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and my favourite place in London to indulge that is Joy King Lau. I don’t know if it’s the best place, but Chinatown is kind of overwhelming with options, so it’s become my default place. My favourite thing on the menu is this, a greasy crispy delicious concoction that I honestly can’t get enough of. I know I’ve done a terrible job of listing meat-free dishes in this post and this is no exception, because it comes studded with little bits of sausage. Delicious.
Tonkotsu ramen at Tonkotsu
If you’ve followed me for two years, you’ll remember the horrible accident I had in Tonkotsu one night. I won’t go into details, but I had an accident involving a chair and my nail, and it was thoroughly unpleasant. Even that wasn’t enough to put me off. I go for the big, satisfying bowl of Tonkotsu ramen with delicious pork belly and the tastiest broth imaginable. This is what I will be eating for dinner tonight.
Any cake at Maison Bertaux
It’s a real institution. I don’t go as much as I used to, but Maison Bertaux has been such a happy part of my adult life. Year-round, I know there’s a place in Soho that I can sit and read and meet friends and eat cake and that there will be lots of interesting people to spy on and that I’ll have lots of sugary tea and a cake filled with cream or chocolate. I once left a pavement table without paying and went back in a panic the next day because the thought of getting barred from Maison Bertaux was too horrible to contemplate.