London is a wonderful place for foodies, filled with Michelin starred restaurants, hidden kitchens and supperclubs. British cuisine has seen somewhat of a resurgence; instead of boiled cabbage, chefs are foraging in the heaths, harvesting fresh cockles, picking wild mushrooms. However, nothing beats the classics. Here are a few of my favourite foods from London.
Fish and chips at The Grapes
Narrow, dim, atmospheric – in short, everything an 18th century pub should be, The Grapes was our local during our time living in London’s East. This was the pub depicted in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend,“A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.” Order a traditional English fish and chips meal, a pint of London Pride, and try to spot Ian McKellen, a Limehouse local who bought out the Grapes in 2011.
Steak and kidney pie at the Guinea Grill
Another old pub, this time located in Mayfair, the Guinea Grill serves perhaps the best steak and kidney pie I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting acquainted with. As you walk into the dining room, a top-hatted gentleman will take your coat and umbrella, then your server will seat you in a dark, wood-panelled area hung with old lithographs and prints. The pies come fresh, hot and rich with gravy. Reservations here are essential.
Eggs benedict, The Breakfast Club
A favourite Sunday ritual, eggs benny at the Breakfast Club in Angel with some good coffee and an orange juice laced with ginger was the perfect way to start the day. The servings are huge, there’s always some 80s pop playing the background and the cheerful orange and yellow deco and colourful parrots complete the ambience. There’s another branch on Soho. Go early, or be prepared to queue.
Cornish pasty, everywhere
Best snaffled down after a hard night out on the tiles, a Cornish pasty is a semi-circle of shortcrust pastry filled with beef, potato, turnip and onion, baked to a golden brown, crispy perfection. There’s lots of different types of filling available – curry, steak, chicken, mushroom, vegan varieties – but the traditional is my favourite. The West Cornwall Pasty shop (a franchise found all over London) at Liverpool Street station is where I usually get my fix.
Northern Indian, Tayyabs
Tayyabs is a bit of an insitution when it comes to North Indian food. The place is crammed, narrow, chaotic and always, always packed. Make reservations, wear old clothes, turn up on time and be prepared to wait. The signature dish here is the mixed grill – the lamb chops are a particular favourite. Other good dishes include the chicken paneer, accompanied by jugs of mango lassi.
Chorizo roll at Borough Markets
It was really hard to pick a favourite from Borough Markets. There’s the stuffed olives, the fresh mozzarella, the prosciutto, the Monmouth coffee, the freshly shucked oysters… but the one thing we always buy, time and time again, is the chorizo roll. Spicy, greasy, served in a soft roll with rocket, it ticks all the boxes. Best washed down with some cold English cider.