The Olympics are in full swing, and London restaurants are serving visitors from all over the globe, but the host city is encouraging even more tourists to take in the moment. The lure, beyond the Summer Games, is the English capital looking as you have never seen it, without the anticipated traffic woes. For an added flavor, here’s a tip sheet to city’s restaurants that ignite tradition with daring and innovative style.
Noma, the world’s best restaurant for the third year in a row, will be represented as a pop-up at Claridges. For steaks and drinks, The Hawksmoor is the place. Its many cuts of beef are sourced from sustainable British farmers. The wine list includes a good selection of dessert wines. Hawksmoor also serves a hearty breakfast. Another breakfast spot high on my list is Kopapa near Covent Garden, where Turkish eggs in yogurt are served with hot chili butter and toast. For anyone in need of a hangover remedy or an energy boost, this is the way to start the day.
Coffee and cheeses
The coffee at Monmouth Coffee on Monmouth or Stoney streets may be the best in London. If you go to the one on Stoney Street, you can hang out in the open café, sit at the communal table and pay a few pounds to share the bread, jam and butter. For lunch, or if you have a hankering for breakfast teas and cakes, or just want to do some serious food shopping, La Fromagerie in Marylebone is the place. The homey spot offers a wide cheese selection and tasty Mediterranean salads made of great quality ingredients from France, Italy and Britain. Budget meals can be found at Koya, which has a great selection of noodles and side salads, as well as Japanese-style marinated vegetables and fish specials.
The Ottolenghi restaurants are also worth a try, offering some of the best salads in London. At their newest, Nopi, small delicate plates bursting with flavor are meant to be shared. Chef-owner Yotam Ottolenghi challenges the palate with meticulously sourced food.
Sardines to rabbit
For a less expensive, louder and more lively experience, try Polpo, a small spot in Soho. They don’t take reservations at night, so you may have to stand in line for the no-nonsense food. Not far away is the Soho outpost of Duck Soup, where the menu changes daily and is written on pieces of paper. I had great sardines, mackerel, quail and blood oranges. Sit in the window or in the bar and enjoy fairly-priced food made from the heart. For a classic French meal go to Racine, where the Knightsbridge vibe is uplifted a bit with proper table cloths. Try chef-owner Henry Harries’ rabbit in mustard sauce and enjoy a classic French dessert.
St. John restaurant is a must for real British food: pork cheeks, sweet bread, raw vegetables, langoustine, pigeon. All are cooked to perfection and served in surroundings reminiscent of a pre-World War canteen. At Dock Kitchen, which chef-owner Stevie Parle started as a pop-up, the home-cooking menu is inspiring and the atmosphere relaxed. In July, I was on their guest chef roster, cooking a Danish supper. Last but not least, if you fancy dim sum during the week, Royal Garden has branches throughout London, ideal for a quick bite.
Photo: A porterhouse steak at Hawksmoor in London. Credit: Courtesy of the Hawksmoor