One of London's strengths as a dining destination is the sheer diversity of the dishes available.
It’s a city where restaurants compete on every level, from price to style to cuisine. You could go for a full English breakfast, followed by a fine French gastronomic lunch, then a fancy afternoon tea and finally some of the world’s best Indian food for dinner.
The only problem is, where to focus your energy? Let me help.
Here are some of the most exciting new dishes being served in London right now. They range from an inexpensive plate of pig’s head through to a £39 ($51) starter featuring Oscietra caviar. You certainly don’t need to have funds stashed away in Panama to be able to afford to eat well in London. Some of my favorite restaurants—including Bao, Chick ‘n’ Sours, Hoppers, Padella and Zedel—are among the least expensive. But if you do have cash to splash, there are plenty of opportunities.
Charlotte Potato, Core by Clare Smyth
Rarely has a potato attracted so much attention as in this new dish by Clare Smyth, who previously was guardian of three Michelin stars at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Northern Ireland-born Smyth loves her spuds, here elevating them to center stage. The potato is slow-cooked for as long as an hour in a marinade of butter and seaweed. It’s then chilled and served in a broth with more seaweed. Herring and trout roe are served on top for an extra umami hit. There are also homemade salt-and-vinegar potato chips that cut through the richness of a dulse (seaweed) and butter sauce served on the side and provide crunch for texture. This spud is salty and rich and sweet. (And it is available on all the menus, including the £65 three-course lunch.)
Seared Curried Orkney Scallop, Pétrus
Pétrus is one of the best-kept secrets in the U.K. food world. It’s a longtime Gordon Ramsay restaurant that has only now become a destination under Ramsay’s most recent head chef, Larry Jayasekara. Sri Lankan-born Jayasekara (whose resume includes Michel Bras in Lyon and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons near Oxford) is a great talent who is taking the menu at Pétrus in a new direction, featuring innovative dishes and Asian spices. This extra-large scallop well represents his style. It’s seasoned with a curry salt (based on his grandma’s recipe) and pan-roasted before being topped with Buddha’s Hand (Asian) citron and finely chopped chives for a light onion flavor. It’s served with a sabayon egg and bacon sauce, with braised kombu seaweed for an extra taste of the sea. (You can find it on the a la carte menu, which costs £85 for three courses.)
Potted Pig Head With Blood Masala Onions, Gul and Sepoy
Enough of this posh grub. For just £8, Gul and Sepoy, a new Indian brasserie in East London, has a bloody good dish that gives your taste buds a bit of a kicking, rather than just tickling them. Pig’s head is braised for more than four hours in “secret” spices (which appear to include fenugreek), inspired by a mix from the Coorg region of Karnataka in south India. The meat is pulled apart and served in a flower pot, layered with onions that have been cooked down with pig’s blood and masala. The dish is topped with wheatgrass to satisfy your soul. (Some people think wheatgrass is a cure for cancer, but then other people believe the Earth is flat, and I doubt that, too.) If that isn’t enough excitement, there are crispy pigs’ ears, too.
Duck Jelly, Claude Bosi at Bibendum
French chef Claude Bosi won two Michelin stars straight away for his smart new restaurant in Chelsea, where no dish has garnered more attention than his starter of duck jelly, Oscietra caviar, spring onion and smoked sturgeon. I should probably mention right here that it costs £39 if you order a la carte at lunchtime, so you might prefer to sample it on the dinner or tasting menus. It’s inspired by a duck and eel dish that Bosi was served in Hong Kong. He spent two years developing his own creation based around those flavors, with a little extra inspiration from a Joel Robuchon dish. A soubise onion purée lies beneath the jelly, which is made with natural gelatin from cows’ feet and duck bone. It’s topped with smoked sturgeon, decorated with puree dots with fennel for aniseed flavor to cut through the richness of the jelly. Diced cold smoked surgeon surrounds the caviar, which is heaped in the middle.
Beef Fillet, Ella Canta
Ella Canta is a new restaurant on Park Lane from Martha Ortiz, one of Mexico’s leading chefs. Mexican cuisine has long been a gap in London’s culinary repertoire, with only a handful of authentic restaurants untouched by the sticky fingers of Tex-Mex. That started to change with the arrival of Wahaca in 2007 and is gathering pace with new tacos establishments such as Santa Remedio. Ella Canta, which opened in September, leads the charge into fine dining, featuring dishes that combine complex flavours with clean, beautiful presentation. The beef fillet, black chichilo with ashes with aubergine (filete de res con chichilo negro con ceniza berenjena) costs a whopping £37, so this is one for special occasions. Chichilo sauce is one of the seven famous moles of Oaxaca. It’s made with burnt chilis, roasted and smoked tomatoes, tomatillos, onion and garlic, with no added sugar. It’s cooked for a minimum of 10 hours for a deep flavour that is so rich, it could afford to spend the night in a deluxe suite at the InterContinental, home to Ella Canta.
Grana Padano Ciambella, at Fiume
Ciambelle are often sweet treats in Italy, and this one looks like a donut filled with sugary custard. Indeed, it is inspired by Krispy Kreme, but the flavour is not what you might expect. The choux pastry—baked and then deep-fried—is filled with a Grana Padano cheese zabaione, for a salty kick. There’s nutmeg somewhere in the mix, and it is topped with shaved black truffles. The pastry is light but there is nothing gentle about the burst of umami when you bite into it. Chef Francesco Mazzei has been working on this little number for six years, and this is the latest incarnation. It’s a star dish at his new Battersea restaurant, Fiume.
Green Apple Candy Floss, Jean-Georges at the Connaught
This is a very visual dessert, ideal for Instagram. A panna cotta made with Granny Smith apples and elderflower syrup is topped with caramelised apples, freshly sliced apples, strawberries, apple sorbet and lime zest. The dish is then covered with candy floss (cotton candy) that features dehydrated elderflower syrup and basil powder. Finally, a hot apple, elderflower and lime sauce is poured on top at the table. The cotton candy melts away like a retreating army for a colourful moment of restaurant theatre. The flavours play on the idea of childhood nostalgia and the recipe can be adapted with the changing of the seasons. New York-based Jean-Georges Vongerichten never loses sight of the fact that serious food should also be fun. This treat costs £12.
Article by Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg