Where to Eat in London: Spring 2016

Much like Paris – London’s north & east areas are the hottest restaurant neighbourhoods going. Many of the “it” restaurants and wine bars are concentrated there, balanced with some gems in the centre of town. My last trip included 16 restaurants in 5 days. I literally couldn’t squeeze in another morsel of food. During my meal at The Clove Club I had to get up and walk around the block mid-meal. London’s energy continues to fascinate me. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to get to some revamped classics and catch up with industry friends to check out their new finds. Until my next update, you can follow the great folks below on Instagram & Facebook for popup events, guest chef series, menu updates, food porn and more.

1. The Clove Club: Revolutionary Michelin-Star
Chef Isaac McHale

Clove Club

Just inside the Shoreditch Town Hall, Chef Isaac McHale’s casual but refined one-star features a set menu with interesting and often overlooked British ingredients served direct from the open kitchen.  The kitchen staff takes turns bringing the goods to the table: Buttermilk fried chicken nuggets with pine salt, oyster-smoked-charcoal-cream-beef gelatin (a revelation), a red meat widget bird blood sausage pancake that we rolled up like a taco and ate with our fingers, followed by an 108-year old Madeira on a silver tray with a decanter full of hot pheasant bouillon served together in a wine glass. When I told Alain Ducasse (a huge Madeira fan) that I would be making this sassy concoction the next time I get the flu – he took a photo of my Instagram page and sent it to his assistant to put on the future visit list.  Speaking of lists, The Clove Club was just voted #26 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016.

Open Mon-Sat, noon-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm (11pm bar menu)
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street

2. Taberna do Mercado: Portuguese Tapas
Chef Nuno Mendes, Co-Owner Jorge Felizardo

Taberna Pork Sandwich

On the edge of the Old Spitalfield Market, Taberna do Mercado’s innovative Chef Nuno Mendes uses pedigreed Portuguese ingredients for authentic Portuguese tapas, petiscos, tinned fish, pregos and bifanas accompanied by regional wines and beers. Do not miss the roasted pork loin sandwich with fennel mayo or the smoked pork tartare. Reserve the outdoor terrace by the grill in pretty weather.  Co-Owner Jorge Felizardo is fabulous.

Open 7 Days A Week
Old Spitalfields Market, 107B Commercial St

3. Sager + Wilde: Natural Wines & Small Plates
Owner Michael Sager

Sager + Wilde Paradise Row

Don’t miss the cheese & spring onion toastie (grilled sandwich) or the “badass charcuterie” plate at the Hackney Road corner hangout. For the larger Bethnal Green Paradise Row location (pictured) – ask for the terrace in pretty weather for either the bar menu or the 4-course tasting. Both are a natural wine lover’s must stop for white, rosé, orange and red small production wines by the glass or bottle. Sager + Wilde is adored by locals and industry people from around the world for its approachable, fun and friendly neighbourhood vibe. Check them out on Instagram & Facebook for fun food & wine events like the upcoming BBQ party, where four kid goats are on the grill for tacos & tamales.

Open 5pm-11pm Daily

4. Lyle’s: Pedigreed 
British Ingredients
Co-owner John Ogier & Chef James Lowe


John Ogier and James Lowe’s past at St John Bread is a distant memory now as Lyle’s is already a wildly popular industry favorite around the world – a kind of food industry “hub” if you will. Chef James Lowe and team wowing with inventive plates of seasonal pedigreed ingredients served direct from the open kitchen and its charcoal grill: Smoked Eel, Beetroot & Horseradish; Calçots, Cotswold Legbar Egg & Dandelion; Hereford Sirloin, Bitter Leaves & Anchovy; and Cow’s Curd, Blood Oranges & Fennel. James is serious about those ingredients, even taking the Munchie Vice guys on a 127-mile trip in search of the perfect peas. In the same vein as Contra & Wildair in Brooklyn, they love hosting chef guest series with Chefs from all over, including our very own Bertrand Great (Septime) and Tatiana Levha (Le Servan).

Open Monday – Saturday Lunch & Dinner
Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street

5. Rochelle Canteen: BYOB In An Old Bike Shed
Owners: Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson

RO Canteen

Part of the fun factor is in getting there. Since there is no sign, you need to walk to the Victorian school at the Circus’s far side to the brick wall to a door with the word “boys” written above it. Ring the bell, they’ll buzz you in, and the restaurant is in the old bike shed. When it’s warm outside, a few tables are set out in the sun. Margot is one of London’s most influential chefs and is the wife of Fergus Henderson. The canteen is not licensed, so you can BYOW (wine) for £ 6.50 corkage per bottle. A la carte menus change with the seasons: Sprouting Broccoli Vinaigrette; Brown Shrimp, White Cabbage & Chervil; Salt Cod Fritters & Tartare Sauce; Smoked Eel, Potato Cake & Horseradish; Suckling Pig Hash & Fried Egg, etc.

Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 4.30pm
Arnold Circus


6. Black Axe Mangal: Rock & Roll Attitude
Chef-Owner-Founder Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

Skateboards, tattoos, graffiti, a wood-fired oven decorated with the faces of Kiss and AC/DC on the playlist, food served in red plastic deli baskets and beer swigged from a can, no reservations and no phone. That about sums up Chef Lee Tiernan’s (St John Bread & Wine, Host on Vice’s Munchies) fearless style combining Turkish, Chinese, British and Pakistani cuisines. Black Axe Manga started at Bakken bar & restaurant in Copenhagen where Tiernan manned the outdoor grill cooking ox heart or braised goat and smoked lamb kebabs, and flat bread baked to order. Since then, Lee has has been a guest chef at places such as Mission Chinese Food,  Joe Beef in Montreal, the Breslin in New York and Le Fooding festival in Paris. Be prepared for a long wait to get a seat.

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 6-10pm
156 Canonbury Road

7. Primeur: Small Plates Natural Wine Bar In A Former Garage
Owners Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim & Chef David Gingell


Primeur is a rare find. Housed in an airy former drive-in garage, the entire wall of doors roll back onto a quiet tree lined street (gorgeous in pretty weather) and the room is filled with communal tables, bar dining and a lot of good time sounds. Chef David Ginger’s concise la carte small sharing plate menu changes daily paired with fab bottles of natural wine: squid, lemon & capers; quail, raisins & chili; duck hearts, celeriac & bacon; pork belly; cabbage & anchovy dressing; spelt, broccoli & Parmesan, Barnsley chop & creamed spinach, etc.  Once you score a table, it is yours as long as you want.

Open Tue-Thur 5pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10.30pm, Sun 11am-5pm
Barnes Motors, 116 Petherton Rd

8. P Franco: Eat In Wine Shop
Chef in Residence Tim Spedding

P Franco

I’m obsessed with the concept, an eat-in wine shop (by the fine folks at Broadway Market wine store/Noble Fine Liquor) with a resident chef stationed at the end of the communal table. Until recently the resident chef was the wonderful William Gleave who sent out the daily changing sharing plates: Burrata/onion juice/thyme; Beef tartare/anchovy/kelp; Miso pumpkin/aged cheese broth; partridge & pheasant pappardelle ragu; hand-cut stracci & sumo di pomodoro. The new chef manning the hob is Chef Tim Spedding who has worked at the Quat Sydney, Ledbury, and Clove Club. It will be fun to get back to see what he’s doing. Grab a bottle of natural wine off of the shelf to drink at the table (or take home). FYI: On my recent visit, the place was so packed the windows were completely steamed up.

Open Thurs: 5—9, Fri + Sat: 5—10, Sun: 3—8
107 Lower Clapton Road


9. Frenchie Covent Garden: Paris Meets London
Chef Gregory Marchand


Frenchie, Gregory Marchand’s new outpost in Covent Garden serves simple yet generous sharing dishes heavily influenced by Greg’s travels: Bacon Scones, Maple Syrup & Seasoned Cornish Clotted Cream; Green Asparagus, Parmesan, Puffed Barley & Smoked Egg Yolk; Lamb Ragu Pappardelle, Confit Lemon, Kalamata Olive & Espelette; Duck, Chickpeas, French Beans, Green Harissa & Peanuts; Bitter Chocolate, Crumble & Bacon Ice Cream. The wine list is international and the seasonal cocktail menu is clever such as the ‘Apple is the New Orange’ that blends Mitcher’s Rye, distilled apple and rhubarb.

Insider Tip: Each floor has a different vibe – the buzzy bar area is better for groups of friends and the downstairs by the kitchen is more intimate. A la carte dinners can be requested in advanced as tasting menus served in the lower level dining area.

Open Monday to Sunday. Lunch: 12.00 – 2.15 pm. Dinner: 6.00 – 10.30 pm
16 Henrietta Street

Covent Garden

10. Kricket: Modern Indian Tapas In A Recycled Shipping Container
Co-owned by Head Chef Will Bowlby and business partner Rik Campbell

Kricket Table

Another address where half the adventure is in getting there. Kricket opened in June 2015 to rave reviews in the Pop Brixton community project – made up of recyclable shipping containers. Head Chef Will Bowlby (Cinnamon Kitchen alum) uses local seasonal produce to create modern Indian small plates. Just take my word for it, order the entire menu and share. I was so obsessed impressed with this place that I immediately texted some of the biggest chefs and restaurant investors in the world and all but begged them to get behind these talented guys flying under the radar. Now flying above the radar update: The White Rabbit Growth Fund folks believed in them enough to back them in Soho later this year – and possibly other locations.

Open Mon–Thu: 12pm-3pm, 5:30pm-10pm, Fri & Sat: 12pm–3pm, 5:30pm-10:30pm, Sun: 11am–4pm
49 Brixton Station Road

11. Antidote Wine Bar
Chef William Dee

Antidote RSZ

Acclaimed Chef Michael Hazlewood sends out sustainable, unusual breeds, free range, seasonal, non-hybrid varieties, organic, and natural are the words they live by at Antidote – where in addition to charcuterie & cheese platters, the menu changes daily: Hedone’s Bread & Homemade Cultured Butter; Fried Brussel Sprouts, Almond, Montgomery Cheddar; Smoked Eel, Chorizo, Heirloom Radish; Roast Foie Gras, Walnut, Calcot Onion; Panage Pork Loin, Homemade Fregola, Radicchio Treviso; and Dexter Sirloin, Red Cabbage, Turnip. Update: Sadly Chef “Hazle” had to return to New Zealand because of Visa restrictions and Chef William Dee (Silo alum) is now in house.

Open Mon to Sat: Lunch: 12-3pm (4pm Sat), Dinner: 6-10:30pm (10pm Sun).
12A Newburgh St

12. BAO
Chef-Owners Shing Tat Chung, his wife Erchen Chang, and his sister Wai Ting Chung

Taiwanese SOHO street food concept where the queue starts at the “bus stop” across the street. No reservations. Also in Hackney’s Netil Market, and just opened a second location in Fitzrovia last week. Don’t miss the fried chicken, pork confit or lamb shoulder BAO’S. Update: They have just opened a new location in Fitzrovia – check their Facebook, Instagram and site for details.

Open Mon – Sat 12-3pm, 5:30pm-10pm
53 Lexington Street


13. Bubble Dogs: Grower Champagnes & Sinful
Chef Owners: Sandia Chang and her husband James Knappett


Sandia Chang (who personally selects the Champagnes) and her husband James Knappett’s (who has the Michelin star restaurant Kitchen Table at the back of Bubbledogs) “dogs” are made at the local butcher from their recipe, buns are hand rolled & baked fresh every day, and toppings are made from scratch from fresh ingredients. Crispy bacon, caramelized lettuce & truffle mayo hotdog with a bottle of Egly-Ouriet, Les Vignes De Vrigny, 1er Cru, Brut (100% Pinot Meaner) anyone?

Open Mon-Thurs, 12-4pm, Fri & Sat 11:30am-11pm
70 Charlotte Street
Goodge Street Tube


14. Hoppers
– No Reservation Sri Lankan Hoppers, Dosas, Rice, Roast, Kothu & Arrack tapas.
Owners: Siblings Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi (JKS Restaurant Group) & Chef Sambol


Everything this JKS Group does seems to turn to gold, and Hoppers is their latest wildly popular adventure. There are no reservations for this Sri Lankan concept, so either join the queue or leave your cell and they text you with a 10-minute window to get back. For larger groups of friends, order one of everything but these are standouts: Duck Kari, Bonemarrow Varuval, Goat Roti – Rasa, Gotukola Sambol, Idli-Sambhar-Podi, the namesake Egg Hopper (fermented rice & coconut milk pancakes shaped into a bowl) with Pol Sambol, Seeni Sambol, Coriander Chutney. If you get lost in translation, they have a brief glossary on the menu/online. Update: They have all day dining on Friday, a new cocktail menu and takeaway. If only they delivered to Paris.

Open Mon-Sat: 12-2:30pm, 5:30-10pm
49 Frith Street


15. Shotgun
– Southern BBQ & Cocktail Bar
Chef-Partner Brad McDonald


Shotgun’s Chef-Partner Brad McDonald is my adopted Southern brother – both of us grew up in the very Deep South and along the Gulf of Mexico. It is a unique part of the country, and the cuisine is hard to get just right unless you have personally stood over a green egg in the back yard barefoot on a bayou in August then served it on a family-sized table set with linens and china under ceiling fans. Shotgun makes me homesick. The bar, decor and cocktails remind me of New Orleans and for the menu – he’s putting the real deal on the table. No clichés, just delicious contemporary soulful BBQ classics. Boiled peanuts, deviled quail eggs, pig’s ear & sour pancakes, truffled Jimmy Red grits, Middle White suckling pig & pork belly, brisket and grilled pimento cheese sandwiches. If you are reading this and can’t get to London or the Deep South, his new book will certainly transport you there with serious food porn: Gumbo, Fried Chicken, Cornbread with Honey Butter, Grilled Oysters, Pimento Cheese, and Lemon Icebox Pie.

Open Mon – Sun Noon to Midnight
26 Kingly Street

16. Portland
Will Lander (Quality Chop House), Daniel Morgenthau & Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson (In De Wulf)

Portland Restaurant London

A marvelous venture with an open kitchen overlooking a Scandi-style dining room. The menu changes every day and with the seasons. Having a Merlin in the kitchen is a very good thing. Still dreaming about the shaved beef heart over salted butter on warm sourdough bread to start, followed by Stawley cheese macarons, and Biancoperla cornmeal (cooked in langoustine butter!) boneless chicken wing, langoustine, and roast chicken ginger jus (pictured.) If you geek out over natural wines by small producers as much as I do – you’ll find everything from skin contact, carbo maceration and oxidative choices.

Lunch & Dinner Mon-Sat
113 Great Portland Street