Touted as the world’s dining capital, London backs that claim with a rich history that expertly blends European, Asian and Pacific Rim inspirations in the restaurant scene. Culinary pioneers, visionary chefs, innovative entrepreneurs, British traditions and top quality produce fuel the unique representation of global cuisine.
This was most evident at the recent Taste of London held at Regent’s Park, which showcased over 40 restaurants that entranced and beguiled visitors to sample the unique food tapestry of this cosmopolitan hub. The magnificent array offered a peek into the thriving and vibrant pulse that drives London’s food culture.
It is a city where pop-ups, street food, weekend markets and food halls are nestled in the same neighbourhood as homegrown and global restaurants, offering diners a significantly diverse choice that continues to expand its menu options.
Join us on a tasteful journey through some of these restaurants that have won over the hearts and palates of London’s discerning diners, bound by a shared passion for great food, ingredients and dining experiences.
The Ultimate Fish And Chips
A visit to London is incomplete without sampling one of its most iconic dishes, fish and chips. The path to this perfect coupling leads to Hook, a pearl of a find in the midst of a city where chippies are as ubiquitous as one’s next-door grocer. What makes it stand out is its “new school” take on fish and chips, where the traditional classic is updated for a unique dining experience.
Co-Founder and Head Chef Simon Whiteside used his fine dining experience to update the traditional classic. Cairene Smith of Hook shares, “Every element of our menu is made in-house, from sauces and seaweed salt, right through to our lemonades and spritzers.”
The menu is respectful to its origins, but also infuses an imaginative nod to the chef’s creative side. “We change our menu regularly as we take inspiration from around the world. We have close to 100 different recipes at this stage,” Cairene points out.
Start off with the Classic Fish and Chips, a nuanced homage to the British tradition. Inspired versions playfully inject a global flavour from a Caribbean Calypso Panko with hot mango and lime ketchup to Ethiopian Bereber Panko with berber sweet potato ketchup.
Hook offers the battered fish variation, naturally crafted with the same spirit that is seen throughout the menu. “We use tempura, which doesn’t absorb as much oil,” Cairene explains. Lemon and Basil Tempura – one of their bestsellers – and the seasonal Guinness and Squid Ink are two of the savoury tempura combinations, often made with sea bream. Each bite highlights the crisp texture and fresh fish taste, complemented by on-point seasoning.
Don’t overlook the sides, like the intriguing Black Sesame King Prawns with a piquant pickled ginger sauce or Calamari Hot Rings in squid ink sauce. Even Minty Mushy Peas complete the fish and chips triumvirate. Local British craft beers from small independent breweries like Wild Beer Company’s Wild Goose Chase or And Union’s Unfiltered Lager are soothing thirst quenchers.
Sustainability is one key focus for Hook, which contributes to the fresh and seasonal flavour of its menu. “We only use sustainable fish, delivered daily from day boats in Cornwall,” Cairene emphasizes. “We try to use lesser known species where possible to show the diversity available in our oceans.”
Hook beckons with its tempting menu and laid-back charm, daring to go beyond the traditional and succeeding beyond imagination. Cairene tells customers to “expect something different from what you usually associate with this British classic.”
Dining With Altitude
All-day dining has never been this divine. At Duck & Waffle, Executive Chef Dan Doherty’s creative menu is just one of the main attractions. Nestled on the 40th floor of one of London’s tallest buildings, the panoramic view that dramatically changes throughout the day completes the dining experience. The restaurant has garnered a strong following, with reservations required especially during peak hours.
“We are open 24 hours a day, which means you can have many different experiences, depending on when you come to dine,” Chef Dan elaborates. Whatever time you make it, start off with a serving of BBQ Spiced Crispy Pig Ears, irresistible sweet and salty bites that disappear in a flash. Another customer favourite is the Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut, a successful reinvention of the favourite snack.
Mornings herald a whiff of freshly baked bread being prepared, served piping hot all day. There’s traditional Rosemary and Garlic, savoury Guanciale and Welsh Goat’s Cheese and Maple Glazed Cornbread with Harissa Yoghurt. Spicy ‘Nduja and Gruyere combines the Italian salume spread with melted Swiss cheese for a delightful pizza alternative.
The star of the menu remains the Duck & Waffle, available anytime of the day and best enjoyed with a variety of small plates. “The restaurant concept is based around sharing so you can try a bit of everything. Finish with the Duck & Waffle or one of our larger sharing dishes, like the Whole Roasted Chicken or Whole Sea Bass,” Chef Dan advises.
For Duck & Waffle, the alluring combination of creative dishes, a breathtaking view with a relaxing vibe is simply irresistible.
Fire It Up
Britons have long revelled in their fondness for Sunday roasts. LeCoq spins that passion in a different direction, creating a rotisserie reminiscent of France’s street market but imbued with the British pride in locally-sourced ingredients and craftsmanship.
The menu is lean and straightforward, providing a choice of fuss-free starters and desserts that change weekly, with majority sourced within the local community from bread, charcuterie, meats to gelatos. The main highlight is what LeCoq is famous for – free-range Rotisserie Sutton Hoo Chicken from Suffolk, revealing succulent meat whose texture and depth of flavour is simply incomparable. Rotisserie Potatoes are the perfect side dish, lovingly cooked in the dripping juices and fats of the spinning chicken.
LeCoq may have a simple menu, but it is simplicity done really well. It invites diners to take a breather while enjoying their specially roasted meal in this cosy haven in Islington.
It’s not easy being London’s only fine dining vegetarian restaurant with a Michelin-recommended menu. But Vanilla Black dares to be different, smashing vegetarian stereotypes, with familiar dishes interpreted and presented in unexpected ways. Executive Chef Andrew Dargue states, “We serve a twist on traditional English and French classical dishes, reinvented as vegetarian food.”
In fact, the gourmet menu presents the exact opposite of vegetarian cuisine, with its inspired and innovative food. The exciting and seasonal dishes experiment with flavours and textures. Chef Andrew advises to, “order something you would not normally choose. Mix the components together for the full effect.”
Starters like Yorkshire Blue Cheese Toastie set the stage for satisfying mains of Goat Cheese, Fennel Pollen and Pistachio. Leave room for Caramelised Milk, Black Sesame Ice Cream and Yoghurt Crisp or the popular Gianduja Chocolate Brownie with Roasted Hazelnut Ice Cream, Tiger Nut Milk and Nutella Powder – a rich and indulgent dish inspired by Nutella – to pleasurably close the meal.
The joy for every diner is in the discovery of new taste and flavour possibilities. No doubt, Vanilla Black will continue to be the pioneer for innovative meat-free cuisine.
Meat takes center stage at MEATliquor, the first stand-alone venture from MEATeasy proprietors Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins. Yianni describes it as “an experience. The food, the drink, the music and the service come together to produce a unique atmosphere.” The no reservations restaurant has been known to generate long queues on weekends, but loyal customers attest that it is worth the wait.
The menu is an ode to well-loved comfort fare from burgers, fries, crisp fried pickles to buffalo wings matched with irreverent cocktails served in jam jars. The Dead Hippie, Chilli Cheese Fries and Buffalo Chicken Burger are all must-tries, washed down with a can of WHEATliquor.
MEATliquor is an unpretentious hangout with great food. As Yianni says, “prepare to get messy and leave the diet at home.”
Kurobuta was one of the first of its kind when it opened in London. Australian Chef Owner Scott Hallsworth, previously of Nobu London and Mirai Dubai, explains the concept. “We are modelled on a true izakaya with plenty of drinking, exciting small plates and a rock and roll vibe.”
The menu boasts of exciting bites broken into fun categories like Junk Food Japan, Robata BBQ and Significant Others, but with Scott’s distinct signature of East meets West. Every dish is a mix of traditional and modern touches such as Tuna Sashimi Pizza (with truffle ponzu and wasabi tobiko), BBQ Pork Belly (in steamed buns with spicy peanut soy) or Salmon Gravadlax and Avocado Maki with dill mayo.
Scott ends with a fun rejoinder. “Don’t take it too seriously. We aren’t the kind of place where you chew in silence with a curious look on your face.”
Street Food Affair
Farang recreates the authentic Thai street food experience, through the innovative idea started by Seb Holmes. After his successful culinary stints at Begging Bowl and Smoking Goat, where Thai cuisine was front and centre, Seb sought to bring high quality Thai street food back to the streets.
“You can’t get Thai food at this level on the streets in London. All of our food is made completely from scratch, even down to the curry pastes. We even smoke our own chicken and fish daily,” Seb proudly notes.
The menu has been expanding, reflecting its Thai origins but with a more adventurous spirit. Current favourites include Smoked Chicken Green Curry, served with homemade curry paste and fresh Thai herbs for an explosion of salt and spice. Grilled Peach Massaman uses the mild and aromatic base with grilled and smoked peaches, for an innovative twist. Black Sticky Rice Pudding with Summer Fruits is a rich take on the classic Thai dessert, with creamy black sticky rice cooked in fresh coconut cream and condensed milk, topped with seasonal summer fruits. Farang’s other bestsellers include Whole Crisp Chilli Sea Bass and Gola Chicken Satay.
“Remember that our food is sweet, salty, sour and spicy. We keep it that way, so come with an appetite for chilli,” Seb finishes. •
Photography by various establishments.
• British Airways flies out daily from Sydney to London; britishairways.com
• Qantas flies out from Sydney and Melbourne to London, with connecting flights to other cities; qantas.com.au
• Singapore Airlines flies out from Sydney to London on a daily basis; singaporeair.com
• Renault Eurodrive: renaulteurodrive.com.au
WHEN TO GO
London offers travellers a unique experience, depending on which time of the year they arrive. The mild climate
and rare extreme weather conditions is a boon. A timely autumn in November does offer a chance to be part of Taste of London Festive Edition, as Tobacco Dock is transformed into a winter culinary wonderland. london.tastefestivals.com
WHERE TO STAY
• The Halkin by COMO is an elegant and discreet luxury hotel in the Belgravia district, a gem in a quiet location but within easy access to other London attractions; comohotels.com/thehalkin
• The May Fair Hotel epitomises five-star hospitality, set against its glamorous and distinctive surroundings that redefine modern luxury; themayfairhotel.co.uk
• Radisson BLU Portman Hotel boasts of a prime location in the fashionable West End district, with easy access to tourist destinations and public transport for an ideal Central London stay; radissonblu.com
WHERE TO EAT
• Duck & Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, London; +44-20/3640-7310. duckandwaffle.com
• Farang, check website for current locations; +44-79/0383-4808. faranglondon.co.uk
• Hook Restaurant, 63–65 Parkway, Camden Town, London; +44-20/3808-5112. hookrestaurants.com
• Kurobuta, 312 King’s Road, London, 17-20 Kendal Street, London and 109-125 Knightsbridge, London; +44-20/7920-6442, +44-20/7920-6440, +44-20/7920-6443. kurobuta-london.com
• LeCoq, 292-294 St Paul’s Road, London; +44-20/7359-5055. le-coq.co.uk
• MEATliquor, 74 Welbeck Street, London; +44-20/ 7224-4239. meatliquor.com
• Vanilla Black, 17-18 Tooks Court, London; +44-20/7242-2622. vanillablack.co.uk
Visit Britain: visitbritain.com