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The best food neighbourhoods in London: Part II

The best food neighbourhoods in London: Part II

When I blogged about my Christmas in East Dulwich the other day and speculated where else in London would make a good place for a food lover to live I never expected it to trigger such a response.

Where to live in London if you're a foodie

Where to live in London if you're a foodie

We’ve had a bit of an unusual Christmas this year, moving into London for the week when most people (except the inevitable tourists) have moved out of it. The reason being my son and daughter-in-law were expecting their third baby (still are . . . ) so we offered to cook on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and generally help out.

4 of the hottest new London restaurants (updated)

4 of the hottest new London restaurants (updated)

It's hard to keep up with London restaurant openings these days. The latest hotspot seems to change from week to week but these four should definitely be on your radar in spring 2015.

Bo London: bonkers but brilliant

Bo London: bonkers but brilliant

The best known fact about Alvin Leung the Hong Kong-based chef who has just opened Bo London is that he serves a dish featuring an edible used condom called Sex on the Beach.*

Balthazar, London: beautiful but curiously dated

Balthazar, London: beautiful but curiously dated

There’s no doubt about it Balthazar is drop-dead gorgeous. You only have to see the golden lights winking through the windows to be drawn through the door like a moth to a candle. But how does the food stack up?

Graze: food and wine matching at the London Restaurant Festival

Graze: food and wine matching at the London Restaurant Festival

If you’re the sort who likes to nick food off your partner’s plate - and even off friends' on the other side of the table (mea culpa) - you’ll love the idea of Graze, this year’s new feature at the London Restaurant Festival this autumn which features six of London’s most foodie streets including Exmouth Market, Bermondsey Street, Brixton Village and Marylebone High Street.

London Cru SW6, Red Wine 1

London Cru SW6, Red Wine 1

The idea of making wine in London from grapes grown in France and Italy sounds a bit of a crazy one but London Cru’s first vintage is an impressive debut.

Boulestin, St James’s Street: London’s latest French restaurant isn't quite there yet

Boulestin, St James’s Street: London’s latest French restaurant isn't quite there yet

You’d think London had enough in the way of new French restaurants lately but along comes Boulestin in another bid to seduce the city’s Francophiles. Does it succeed?

Why London's wine bars are booming

Why London's wine bars are booming

Last night I finally caught up with The Remedy, one of the latest of London’s new wave of wine bars. On a Tuesday night - admittedly a week before Christmas - it was absolutely rammed, so much so we were grateful we’d reserved a table

Otto’s, London - the perfect place for a four hour lunch

Otto’s, London - the perfect place for a four hour lunch

If you’re a reader of - er, hem - a certain age who longs for the days when French food was fancy and lunches lasted until dinner you’re in luck.

Lurra - the latest London restaurant you need to know about

Lurra - the latest London restaurant you need to know about

With so much of what’s going on on the London dining scene happening east of the City it’s good to find a hip new restaurant opening slap in the middle of the West End

First impressions: The Lockhart: a taste of the Deep South in London's West End

First impressions: The Lockhart: a taste of the Deep South in London's West End

Every so often a restaurant comes along that gets the critics overly excited. At the end of last year it was Gymkhana. In the early weeks of 2014 it’s The Lockhart.

Tasting London

If you’re in London this weekend don’t miss the city’s big annual open-air food festival Taste of London which is supported by the city’s best-known chefs. The Big Idea is to give you an opportunity to sample the food at their restaurants. Last night big stars such as Giorgio Locatelli, Gary Rhodes, Angela Hartnett and Michel Roux were all on hand to chat about their food.

Where to find the best hot chocolate in London

Where to find the best hot chocolate in London

I’ve a confession to make. All women are supposed to be addicted to chocolate but I’m not one of them. I can actually be in the same room as a box of chocolates and not dip into them - or not if they’re run-of-the-mill chocolates anyway. It’s not that I don’t like them. I enjoy an occasional square of dark chocolate after dinner but that’s as far as it goes. Weird, I know.

Steak and Stilton pie with London Porter

Steak and Stilton pie with London Porter

The other day I won a selection of Pieminister pies in a raffle and as my husband was away rather sneakily found myself scoffing them for supper (until guilt set in and I put the rest in the freezer). As I also had some beers to taste from a new Marks and Spencer range I decided to pick one to partner with each pie and the combination that really impressed me was their London Porter with the Pieminister ‘Moo and Blue’ (aka steak and Stilton).

Game terrine and London dry gin

Game terrine and London dry gin

I’ve already written about how well game terrine pairs with oloroso sherry. Now I’ve discovered an equally good, if not better pairing: London Dry Gin.

'Rad' food matching at the London Wine Sessions

'Rad' food matching at the London Wine Sessions

The second London Wine Sessions took place last Saturday - rather appropriately in über cool Hackney. It was a day of wine tastings and discussions featuring some prominent, established names such as Fiona, Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak, the Telegraph's Victoria Moore and the Independent's Anthony Rose as well as current trail-blazers.

5 fun places to have breakfast in London (updated)

5 fun places to have breakfast in London (updated)

Have you noticed the number of restaurants which have started offering breakfast - and I don’t just mean a full English?

Taberna do Mercado, Spitalfields, London

Taberna do Mercado, Spitalfields, London

The hype that accompanies almost every new restaurant launch these days is crazy. We all swarm in, pronounce it the best opening this year then swarm off to the next hotspot.

5 of my favourite French restaurants in London

5 of my favourite French restaurants in London

For the past few years French food has been eclipsed by more fashionable Italian and Asian but there are still some great places to go if you want a taste of Paris without having to cross the Channel.

How to get the best last minute hotel deal on New Year’s Eve - or any other night

How to get the best last minute hotel deal on New Year’s Eve - or any other night

Ever since lastminute.com introduced us all to the nailbiting thrill of leaving our hotel booking until the final moment it’s generally been assumed that’s the best way to get a bargain. But does it work on one of the most heavily booked nights of the year, New Year’s Eve, especially in a top destination like London?

New Christmas traditions: my 24 hour post-Christmas break

New Christmas traditions: my 24 hour post-Christmas break

It’s the evening of December 27th and my daughter and I are holed up in the luxurious Rosewood hotel in London tucking into a club sandwich (her) and a lobster macaroni cheese (me) on room service.

How to learn about wine without opening a book (or spending hours on the internet)

How to learn about wine without opening a book (or spending hours on the internet)

One of the things that still surprises me after all these years is how scared otherwise confident people are of wine. The number of people who preface a comment on a bottle with ‘I really don’t know ANYTHING about wine’ as if their view didn’t count is ridiculous. Even people like chefs and food writers who taste for a living.

Peckham Bazaar - well worth the detour

Peckham Bazaar - well worth the detour

The thing about neighbourhood restaurants is that they’re a pain to get to if you’re not a local. In general that’s not a problem. They’re nice for those who live nearby, you tell yourself, but you don’t envy them unduly. But Peckham Bazaar is another matter ...

Hedonism, Mayfair: a winelovers' playground

Hedonism, Mayfair: a winelovers' playground

London's most luxurious wine shop by far Hedonism looks as if it's the kind of place you'd need to take out a mortgage to buy a case. Fortunately appearances deceive . . .

Spring, Somerset House - the return of Skye Gyngell

Spring, Somerset House - the return of Skye Gyngell

No restaurant in London can have been more visited or commented on its first couple of weeks than Spring. Everyone seemingly has been there and has a view - not always complimentary - of the merits of chef Skye Gyngell’s return to London.

How to get into Dabbous

How to get into Dabbous

Dabbous is the hardest restaurant to get into in London, in fact probably one of the hardest in the world. They are fully booked for dinner A YEAR AHEAD. Well, until the end of July 2013 which is equally insane. But I managed to get in at no notice yesterday. How?

Ellory, Hackney: well worth the detour

Ellory, Hackney: well worth the detour

With city centre rents unaffordable for most first-time restaurateurs there’s a growing trend for the most exciting openings to be happening in local neighbourhoods. That’s certainly been the case in London for a while.

The Dairy, Clapham: Smart, casual

The Dairy, Clapham: Smart, casual

I’d heard good things about The Dairy, not least from my son Will (of Hawksmoor*), one of whose favourite restaurants it is, but being south of the river it took me a while to haul myself down there.

Tramontana: ‘Brindisa lite’

Tramontana: ‘Brindisa lite’

I’ve been a huge fan of Brindisa, the Spanish food importer who was probably more responsible than anyone for putting chorizo on our culinary map. They have a great shop in Borough Market and a number of convivial tapas bars so it seemed good news when they announced they were opening Tramontana, a restaurant based on 'speciality dishes from the Spanish Mediterranean'.

The Brackenbury: a rather nice restaurant

The Brackenbury: a rather nice restaurant

My father, a sweet man who was never unpleasant about anyone had a phrase for people or places about which he couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm. "Rather nice."

Simon Rogan at The Cube

Simon Rogan at The Cube

It’s a complete indictment of my lazy southerner mentality that I’ve never made it up to Simon Rogan’s restaurant L’Enclume despite glowing reviews that would have had me charging half way across France for a similar experience.

Pigging out - literally - at Blackfoot, Exmouth Market

Pigging out - literally - at Blackfoot, Exmouth Market

As soon as I heard that one of my favourite chefs (Allegra McEvedy) was involved in a restaurant dedicated to one of my favourite ingredients (pork) I knew I had to get down there pronto. And you can’t try out a restaurant much sooner than its first full day’s trading.

Islington lucks out with Oldroyd

Islington lucks out with Oldroyd

We got two important things right on our first visit to Oldroyd. We went before most of the reviews came out and there were four of us which gave us an excuse to try practically everything on the menu.

Grainstore, Granary Square: where veggies take centre stage

Grainstore, Granary Square: where veggies take centre stage

If you want to understand where the London restaurant scene is heading you need to go to Grainstore. Sure, the capital is still in thrall to pork, barbecue and street food but Bruno Loubet’s exciting and ambitious new project is a clear pointer to the way things are going.

Vinoteca: Soho’s newest wine bar

Vinoteca: Soho’s newest wine bar

Even casual restaurants tend to have such good winelists these days that you might wonder whether there’s much of a market for wine bars. But from the heaving crowd at the newly opened branch of Vinoteca in Beak Street this week it looks like they’re on to a winner.

Sea Containers at Mondrian: much more fun than it sounds

Sea Containers at Mondrian: much more fun than it sounds

I may have been handicapped by knowing the building previously as an office block but even the name Sea Containers at Mondrian has a corporate ring that makes the heart sink.

One Leicester Street: an oasis of calm off Leicester Square

One Leicester Street: an oasis of calm off Leicester Square

It would be unfortunate if One Leicester Street became known as the restaurant that used to be St John’s Hotel. Not least because the chef Tom Harris, who used to front the kitchen there but has stayed on to run his own show, has put his own individual stamp on the food.

Worth the detour: Mayfields, Wilton Way

Worth the detour: Mayfields, Wilton Way

If you’re not familiar with London Hackney sounds a heck of a long way to go for dinner. But believe me Mayfields is worth it.

Last chance to eat at Ransome’s Dock

Last chance to eat at Ransome’s Dock

Yesterday I had my final meal at Ransome’s Dock in Battersea which has been part of my life - and I suspect that of most wine writers’ - for the past 20 years.

Hélène Darroze: a case of the empress's new clothes?

Hélène Darroze: a case of the empress's new clothes?

Hélène Darroze is a controversial figure. You either love her modern take on south-western French food or you find her inexplicably over-rated. Having eaten in her eponymous restaurant in Paris a few years ago I found myself firmly in the latter camp but tried to put these prejudice firmly to the back of my mind when I visited her new(ish) London restaurant at the Connaught.

First impressions: Merchants Tavern, Shoreditch

First impressions: Merchants Tavern, Shoreditch

It’s hard to talk about Merchants Tavern without telling the story behind it. Which is that it’s a joint collaboration between Britain’s most famous female chef Angela Hartnett and her boyfriend Neil Borthwick.

Fera at Claridge's: a restaurant for a big occasion

Fera at Claridge's: a restaurant for a big occasion

Housed in Gordon Ramsay’s former restaurant in Claridge's, Fera is one of the most high profile restaurant openings in London this year which means that it’s burdened with a high level of expectation.

Duck + Rice: posh Chinese in a Soho pub

Duck + Rice: posh Chinese in a Soho pub

It wasn’t easy getting to Duck + Rice. The first time I tried their kitchens were out of action because the extraction system was down ….

Caravan Kings Cross: just a very nice restaurant

Caravan Kings Cross: just a very nice restaurant

There was a time when Kings Cross was the last place you’d have gone to for a meal. Still now, despite the gleaming new station makeover, it’s hardly a destination to seek out if you only have a few days in the capital. But if you’ve done Shoreditch and find Soho just too tiresomely hip and crowded head up to Caravan.

Brasserie Chavot: all about the butter

Brasserie Chavot: all about the butter

What is it about the B-word at the moment? Every restaurateur and his dog seems to want to call themselves a brasserie, usually indicating the room is big and has red banquettes. But Brasserie Chavot would be better just called Chavot.

45 Jermyn Street, Fortnum and Mason

45 Jermyn Street, Fortnum and Mason

It’s hard to stand out amidst the flood of new restaurant openings that greet each week in London at the moment but the magical words ‘caviar trolley’ give you as good a chance as any.

10 Greek Street: another hot spot in Soho’s food revolution

10 Greek Street: another hot spot in Soho’s food revolution

Anyone who doubts that London is one of the world’s most exciting cities to eat in should take a trip round Soho, once noted for its sleazy bars and strip joints. Now it’s become the epicentre of Britain’s food revolution - not with the smartest restaurants in town, admittedly, but some of the hippest.

Gathering rosebuds at Sally Clarke’s

Gathering rosebuds at Sally Clarke’s

When I was young I remember my grandmother endlessly telling me ‘Do all you can while you can’ or - even more irritatingly - ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’. At the time I found it hugely annoying but as I get older I can see the point.

A return visit to cheese heaven

Marylebone High Street in central London has become a mecca for foodies in the last few years but the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly Patricia Michelson’s La Fromagerie, a glorious jumble of a shop that sells everything from cheese (obviously) to chocolate, via honeys and herbal infusions.

The Barbary, Covent Garden

The Barbary, Covent Garden

There are two good reasons for eating at The Barbary. One is the Jerusalem bagel, a wondrous piece of baking. Served warm from the oven, encrusted in spicy sesame seeds it must be the best bread roll in town.

Sartoria: a smart West End Italian

Sartoria: a smart West End Italian

I’ve always been a fan of Francesco Mazzei’s cooking so when he suddenly left his previous restaurant L’Anima I couldn’t wait for him to pop up somewhere else.

The Quality Chop House: a very well-connected wine bar

The Quality Chop House: a very well-connected wine bar

From the outside, the re-opened Quality Chop House in Farringdon may look like yet another retro restaurant revival but the big draw is the wine list put together by its well-connected young proprietors.

Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road: is it really worth 10/10?

Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road: is it really worth 10/10?

I don’t envy Gordon Ramsay - or rather his head chef Clare Smyth - the 10/10 rating they received in this year’s Good Food Guide. It makes people like me think ‘Ha! I wonder if they’re really worth it?’ and book to find out.

First Impressions: Ember Yard, Berwick Street

First Impressions: Ember Yard, Berwick Street

As the fourth restaurant in the Salt Yard Group which specialises in Spanish and italian food Ember Yard has a fine pedigree but does it live up to its stablemates?

Brasserie Zédel: Paris comes to Piccadilly

Brasserie Zédel: Paris comes to Piccadilly

If you’re the kind of sad, unreconstructed Francophile (like me) who thinks French food has gone to the dogs head not for Eurostar but the newly opened Brasserie Zédel in London’s West End. Housed in the late and not-much-lamented Atlantic Bar and Grill near Piccadilly Circus, it occupies a huge subterranean space which has been decked out at eye-watering expense in full fin de siècle style.

28-50 Marylebone: a smart West End wine bar for weary shoppers

28-50 Marylebone: a smart West End wine bar for weary shoppers

Marylebone has been regarded as a foodie mecca for a while but the action's been mainly at the northern end. Now posh wine bar 28-50 has conveniently established an outpost at the entry to Marylebone Lane, not far from Bond Street tube - a new haven for weary shoppers or workers in need of a restorative glass of wine.

The tough task of pairing white truffles

The tough task of pairing white truffles

Frankly if you can afford white truffles (currently selling at about 2500 euros per kilo) you probably already have a substantial cellar to pick from but just so you don’t in any way detract from the pleasure of eating your investment let me tell you what the Piedmontese do.

Steak pie and strong ale

Steak pie and strong ale

There’s a distinct nip in the air this week that makes makes me suddenly feel much less like eating summery food. Last night we went round to friends and shared some absolutely awesome steak pies they’d brought back from a butcher called Murray Mitchell in St Andrews in Scotland (they will send them by mail order in the UK apparently if you ring them on 01334 474465).

Braucol, Gringet, Mondeuse and Frappato . . .

What do you give the winelover who has everything? Dinner at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe looks like the answer. A recent dinner to launch their laudably adventurous new wine list revealed a whole bunch of grapes that I’d never heard of including Braucol (an alternative name in Gaillac for Fer and Mansois - pretty obscure in themselves), Gringet, a crisp white from Haut-Savoie (described as ‘glacial as a Hitchcock heroine’), Mondeuse (another wine from Savoie, this time a red) and Frappato, a 'rarely encountered' Sicilian red.

The very civilised Newman Street Tavern

The very civilised Newman Street Tavern

Sometimes it’s good to go to a place without much in the way of expectations. The Newman Street Tavern sounded on the face of it like just another restaurant climbing on the fashionable Fitzrovia bandwagon . . .

The Colony Grill Room at the Beaumont: pure old-fashioned glamour

The Colony Grill Room at the Beaumont: pure old-fashioned glamour

It has to be said that no-one knows how to do glamour like Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the founders of the Ivy and the Caprice and, more recently, the Wolseley, the Delaunay and my current favourite, Fischer’s

Mission, Bethnal Green

Mission, Bethnal Green

What is a large palm tree doing growing in the heart of Hackney? Let alone INSIDE a building (a converted warehouse set in a railway arch). Well, it’s the latest outpost of hipster winebar Sager & Wilde, now with a fully-fledged restaurant, Mission.

Even MPs indulge in a spot of food and wine matching!

Even MPs indulge in a spot of food and wine matching!

Lunching with an MP friend the other day at The Adjournment (one of the House of Commons in house restaurants) I was amused to spot a recommended wine pairing with the daily special: a spiced potato cake with sun-dried tomatoes and soured cream with a 2001 Carmenre from Vinedos Sutil in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, a big, gutsy red which rather overwhelmed the delicate spiced potato cake which tasted a bit like a vegetarian samosa filling.

St John and the art of the long lunch

St John and the art of the long lunch

Everyone I know who’s into food has a soft spot for St John. True, it has/has had its ups and downs but It’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking it was when it opened 19 years ago. And how absolutely right its values still are in terms of serving great ingredients simply,

Food finds: Vivo bakery and café, Islington

Food finds: Vivo bakery and café, Islington

One of the advantages of a blog as I pointed out the other day is that you can have a quick rave about a place or dish you stumble across without it taking several hours to research and write up.

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