London: An Edible Guide (Part I)Posted: September 14, 2011
Part I: An Everyday Dinner
These are some of the places I’ve come to like over my many trips to London. I’m lucky to live pretty centrally, so you’ll see that this list has a heavy bias towards the Marylebone and Soho areas. After all, it is my “everyday” list when what I want is a reliable place for a simple, nearby meal.
Belgo Centraal 50 Earlham Street, plus others. Best for: Belgian beer and pre-theatre moules-frites. I had been craving moules-frites for some time when, as luck would have it, I found myself across the street from Belgo Centraal lining up early one morning for theatre tickets at the Donmar Warehouse. I considered it a good sign, and we came here before seeing the Eugene O’Neil play Anna Christie. If you come early you can eat pretty cheaply, unless you really make use of that extensive beer selection.
Busaba Eathai 8-13 Bird Street, plus others. Best for: Quick and cheap Thai food with plenty of options. If you come on a Friday or Saturday, expect this place to be very busy and very noisy. But realistically, on any day of the week, this is not a spot to linger over your food. It’s all done Wagamama-style, where you’re served quickly at large family-style tables, then sort of shuffled out. But don’t let that deter you, because sometimes that’s what you want, right? Besides, the curries are spicy, the rice fluffy, and the tea plentiful.
Defune 34 George Street. Best for: Upscale sushi. Despite the ridiculous prices (last I checked, £4.80 for miso soup) Defune serves some very good sushi. On my last occasion I shared salmon sashimi, and rolls of spicy tuna, california, and salmon-avocado sushi. We also got some very nice matcha green tea (which, fortunately, was free) and those fancy hot towels. There’s no overabundance of cheap sushi in London (I’ll have to head back to Toronto for that) but this peaceful place does its job well, and will never rush you out the door. They may also serve food done teppanyaki-style, but I wouldn’t know, as we’re usually the only people there. Like I said: peaceful!
The Grazing Goat 6 New Quebec Street. Best for: After-work drinks, jetlagged houseguests, or a mixed group. This gastropub is très English, to be sure, with a good selection of beer on tap and a modern classic sort of menu. What’s great about the food here is that it seems to appeal to all sorts of people, which makes it a fine place to go when you’re not sure where to go. They make very nice soups, calamari, and fish and chips with mushy peas. The Golden Hind up the road is famed for its fish and chips, but I think I might like them better here. Or maybe I just prefer the decor.
Tapas Brindisa 46 Broadwick Street, plus others. Best for: Sharing, of course! You know the drill: tiny plates, try everything. My friend and I were looking for afternoon eats on a Sunday and had actually intended to go to Sketch for scones. Sadly, it was closed, so we walked a bit and found this place instead. A very happy accident; we shared some Manchego cheese and quince paste and then the Tortilla Española, that delicious, fried, potatoey omelette. Me gusta.
Woodlands 77 Marylebone Lane, plus others. Best for: Peaceful, white-tableclothed south Indian vegetarian fare. The staff at Woodlands is so friendly and the space is quiet, with very simple decor and no music–so different from many Indian restaurants! The thalis are especially good, but it’s quite a lot of food for one person, so on my last visit I was sharing paneer tikka masala, vegetables jalfrezi, tarka daal, a lemon rice and a plain rice, and a potato-spinach dish whose name I’ve forgotten. Next time I might substitute a dosa, as it’s a south Indian specialty. I’d also recommend starting with a sweet (or mango) lassi, which is delicious and helps keep the spice levels from becoming overwhelming.
Zizzi’s 116 Wigmore Street, plus others. Best for: All-purpose Italian. I haven’t found a go-to pizza place in the Marylebone area yet, but this spot is pretty close. There are different branches of Zizzi’s all over the city, and they serve up all kinds of homemade pasta and pizza, with those twinkly lights and furnishings hewn in a rustic, sort of Italian country home mode.
Stay tuned for updates about drinks and desserts!