If you are in London chances are you are going to be met with more options for eating than Ben and Jerry’s has ice-cream flavours. Recent launches have made some spots hotter than Daniel Craigs swim shorts. If your tick list includes an afternoon tea, a swanky cocktail or an awe inspiring view, here is your guide for the ultimate eat-off to remember:
1. Best New WOW restaurant for Views– Sushi Samba
Sushi Samba has been making foodies swoon in the US for years now. A-listers love its unique combo of sexy design meets Japanese and South American fusion food. Finally it’s opened its doors in London, 39 floors up in the Heron Building (presumably as it’s a little closer to heaven?).
Don’t miss the signature dish of Moqueca Mista; a delicious bowl of shrimp, south coast fish , coconut milk with secret ingredients of dende oil and chimichuri. Other crackers are the robata lollipop black cod and if you have ever wondered what would happen if you could cross breed a McDonalds hamburger with sushi then the El Topo roll is an unmissable taste sensation of salmon, jalepeno, shiso leaf and oozy mozzarella - be prepared for your own personal Harry met Sally ‘Oh oh oh!!’ experience. With outdoor cocktail areas and 360 degree views of the city, this is one hot sexy mamma you have to try.
Top Tip: The best inside table in the house was ours, No.26. it’s the round booth at the end of the restaurant, uninterumpted views for miles.
2. Best Nosh for less than $20: Burger & Lobster
When a Soho restaurant only offers three things for 20 pounds each (Lobster, lobster roll and a burger) the law of restaurants applies; either it closes down quicker than Windows8 or goes viral quicker than Luke Armstrong’s fall from grace. B&L is cracker! Trying to make my melt-in-the-mouth lobster brioche roll last longer than 5 seconds is agonizing.
I stop imagining a scene from Alien knowing that 3000 live Nova Scotia lobsters each week are doing the breaststroke in tanks in the basement below. You gotta love the comedic bravery of a Soho diner with a chalk board sign ‘Big Boys’ (referring to well endowed multi kilo lobsters).The fifty day old corn fed la Bruska beef burgers are delicioulsly snuggled up with tomato, bacon, onions, relish , capers, pickles and mayonnaise.
Top Tip: Bring a plus one (so they can order the burger) and wear something short sleeved or a decorating onesy.
3. Best historic cocktail moments - Good Godfrey’s Bar and Lounge , Hilton Waldorf
Dating back to 1908, bygone nostalgia is oozing from the oak paneling, leather seating and marble tables. No neon here, the spotlight is on the creative talent. It’s a nod to tradition with its feet planted firmly in the ‘world leaders of the cocktail’ scene, thanks to award-winning head barman, Nelson Bernardes. He talks us through the recent deliveries of rare spirits from all over the world, many of which are exclusive. His team work through seasonal combinations such as Japanese Affintiy – Yamazaki 12 year old malt with marin, Napoleon liquer and lychee juice.
Top Tip: Abandon the list, be BFF’s with the bar staff who make magic happen.
4. Best for molecular celebrity dining – Dinner by Heston, Mandarin Oriental
If monks and interior designer Laurence Llewelyn Bowen got together this room could be the result; soaring ceilings, medieval cartwheel chandeliers, jelly mould lamps. It’s a grown-ups room made for play. Heston Blumenthal is behind this creation of mind boggling cuisine. The menu traces the origin of each historic dish.
Don’t miss the 13th-15th century Meat Fruit. A perfect single mandarin arrives on a plate, but is it? One slice of the orange jelly and laughter erupts, surprise! It’s an imposter. We slice silky chicken liver parfait onto house baked bread. Hay smoked mackerel (c.1730) cascades in sweet succulent chunks. The fun is never ending, cod in cider (c.1940) sounds painful but it’s delicious! Powdered duck breast is Christmas in one mouthful (c.1670). Impossibly light brioche Tipsy Cake (c.1810) leads to the finale of molecular fun as liquid nitrogen is mixed with custard base to create the best ice-cream of your life as popping candy explodes in your mouth. Who needs botox when lunch will make you feel you feel 20 years younger?
Top Tip: Go for lunch, they have very reasonable set menus and it’s easier to get in.
5. Best for Sexy Sichuan – Hakkasan
Open for almost 10 years, this is still one of the sexiest places I know to dine, though it does help to wear night goggles. Silhouettes bounce off the table from overhead pendent lights creating strange reflections in the darkness that potentially make your dining partner look like Dr Evil. That said, the food is devilishly brilliant.
Hakkasan is a Sichuan master. Dim Sum platter is good but the ‘Small Eat’ picks are the Crispy duck salad which is a rollercoaster of textures including of pomelo, pine nuts and shallots. The go to dish is the very understated ‘Spicy Prawn’ - an addictive combo of green creamy curry with crunchy attitude of lily bulb and almond.
Top Tip: Speak nicely to your waiter and see if he can get you the best fried rice of your life, pimped up with dried scallop and crab meat. Its not on the main menu…but he will know it!
6. The Un-Bookables – Dabbous
This has been the most hyped up launch since the invention of Group Buying. Food critics from AA Gill to Tim Hayward have fallen head over heels (or on their heads?) about the cuisine. Its product driven, delicate flavours are a contrast to a dining scene of over-cheffyness. The problem is you won’t get to try it unless you plan ahead about 10 years (not kidding), so this review is pretty much useless unless you are uber organized or know someone from the Michelin Guide (please don’t write in - I don’t know anyone either).
The concrete factory style dining room is all moody, whilst downstairs Oskars bar makes delicate cocktails. The Dillusion is my pick; a shaken combo of Bombay Sapphire Gin, elderflower cordial, cucumber, dill and lemon - refreshes the parts not even Berocca can touch. The famous coddled free range hen egg arrives topless in a straw nest studded with smoky butter and woodland mushrooms, the only problomo is that you really do want soldiers to go along with it! A line up of 6 teeny crispy chicken wings with fenugreek and toasted garlic are delicious but disappear in a nano second. The menu in the bar is smaller but at least you can brag you have been.
Top Tip: If you want a ‘taste’ of Dabbous try lunch times in the bar downstairs, it’s still going to be 2013 before you get in.
7. Best Cult Thai -Busaba Eathai
The love affair between Londoners and this spot never diminishes. The moment I arrive in London I want to hail a cab and tell them to take me to Busaba to get my sticky calamari fix. Whatever time of day there is always a queue. Opt for the dark wood communal seating or if you want to survey the Soho scene choose the open bench window seats.
The star of the menu is the pineapple cut calamari with its mix of sticky, crispy, morish pieces stir fried with slivers of fine ginger and bunches of green peppercorn. The green curry with Thai aubergines is not for the faint hearted, but pick anything off the menu and you’re guaranteed a taste bud pleaser.
Top Tip: Plan your visit like a military operation, and don’t go in peak times. Juices and smoothies are innovative glasses of goodness.
8. Galvin at Windows Bar at Hilton
You will feel like a super star watching the world unfold below you from its dizzy heights. Book ahead for a table especially at the weekend and enjoy wafting past the holding pen of wannabies queuing up on the red carpet. A 500,000 pound makeover and huge windows ensures that London is the star, though the cocktails are more than worthy understudies.
Air conditioning is doing its bit to keep your cocktail cool, so if you find your hair freezing over, order a delicious Red Passion of Campari, passoa, Pommery with strawberries to put sizzle into your night. The crowd is young and glamorous.
Top tip: Michelin starred Galvin restaurant next door has great value fixed lunches for 29 pounds.
9.Best High Tea – Ice-cream High Tea at the Dorchester
Car watchers are lined up like Twi-hard fans, waiting to see which next rare sports car will pull up. The Dorchester combines the grandeur of yesteryear with the flair of a modern day Downtown Abbey. The tea lounge is lined with huge palm trees, double Italian columns and Geeves is playing the grand piano. Its dead posh.
We delight in never ending white gloved service with delicate cucumber, egg mayonnaise, chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches. Tiered platters tempt with warm raisin scones and cakes such as Victoria sponge cake with passion fruit and coconut mouse. Tea lovers shouldn’t miss The ‘Dorchester tea’ blend of Assam and Ceylon but save room for adorable miniature ice creams to finish off the experience and your waistline!
Top Tip: Upgrade to Champagne high tea and enjoy Laurent Perrier with your puff pastries. They will also box up your uneaten cakes to take home if you ask.
10. Best Market for foodies – Maltby Street
I know foodies will be looking out for the words ‘Borough Market’ here but the hottest new eat street in London is just 20 minutes walk from London bridge. By all means wander around Borough with its east end banter, stalls over flowing with rivers of tomatoes and heirloom apples but make sure you take the detour. On a Saturday Maltby Street comes alive, arches are heaving with artisans offering high end goods from Greek olive oils to Hawthorne’s African Volcano piri piri sauce which has won gold award equivalent of the product Oscars.
Top Tip: Like any market goer would know get in early for the best produce, it might be strange to sample sangria at 9am but have fun with it.