It’s been five years since I moved away from London, and there’s a lot of things I miss about the place. I miss my friends, and seeing my reflection illuminated in the coloured lights of the Wellcome Institute. I miss the smell of tube stations – that strange combination of dirt and history. But most of all, I miss the food. London is home to some of the best restaurants in the UK and – like it or not – arguably the most vibrant and involved food culture. Living in Liverpool, and reading numerous blogs posts about the most exciting recent openings, always makes me feel as though I’m pressing my nose against the glass of what’s out there. It also makes me determined to eat at as many amazing restaurants as possible whenever I pay the capital a visit.
I’m lucky enough to visit London regularly (at the moment, it’s around once a month) which provides me with ample opportunity to tick a few of the must-eat-at restaurants off my list. And this visit was no exception. I spent yesterday running around the city with my American cousin in tow, eating some seriously good food and remembering just how much I hate the tourist areas of London, and the huge swathes of humanity who somehow feel that it is their god given right to cluster outside the entrances of tube stations.
We started our eating adventures at Dishoom, a Bombay style café situated in Covent Garden. I’d heard amazing things about their Bacon Naan rolls, and I’m pleased to report that they didn’t disappoint. Deliciously plump rashers of bacon had been grilled to perfection, crispy and thick with smoky fat. The naans were warm, soft and delicious – more chappati like in texture than the pillowy specimens I’m used to getting from my local takeaway (although this is no bad thing). However, the highlight was undeniably the homemade chilli jam which came on the side. This sweet zingy condiment turned a good breakfast into a sensational one, and I found myself picking pieces of out of my naan just so I could dip them into this amazing condiment.
Honourable mention should also go to the cups of chai we ordered to wash our breakfast down. Spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, it provided the warm kick we needed to face walking around an unseasonably wet London.
It’s Dishoom’s first birthday at the moment, and they’re giving away lots of free food and booze providing you whisper some magic words to their lovely waitresses (these can be found on their Facebook page). A swift singsong of HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY! led to us getting a free breakfast which, in case you were wondering, is always a sure fire way to win my heart.
After walking around the seventh circle of Hell which is Topshop on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon (NEVER AGAIN), I decided that gelato was required. Thankfully, we weren’t that far away from Soho, so it was time to make a swift stop at Scoop.
I was introduced to Scoop by my friend Jess last September and now no trip to London is complete without me indulging in tub of this heavenly stuff. Walking into Scoop, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. The counter displays rows upon rows of brightly coloured frozen delights, all whipped up and looking like the world’s tastiest rainbow. If you’d like to try before you buy, the friendly lady behind the counter will be more than happy to hand you a small taste of each different flavour, so you can get a taste before you dive into the main event.
We decided to go for two scoops each – both of us got the Dark Chocolate Sorbet (Cioccolato Fondente) and my cousin opted for the Torroncino whilst I got a scoop of the raspberry sorbet. The Cioccolate Fondente was outstanding - black as night, fruity and rich with 70% cocoa, it managed to be so much more than just a simple concoction of chocolate and frozen water. I adored my raspberry sorbet, sharp, tart with just the right amount of sweetness, it was just the thing to cut through the richness of the chocolate.
At £3.50 for three scoops, this is one of the cheapest means conceivable of getting your rocks off. Don’t be put off by the calorie charts behind the counter either. Indeed, just forget about the diet altogether, and dive into a pot of fats and sugars which is so good, the UN should hand it out to warring nations to promote world peace.
The last food stop of the day saw us schlepping down Charing Cross Road to enjoy a burger at Byron. By this point of the day we were both exhausted. We were cold, tired, incredibly wet and fed up of various tourists poking us in our delicate places with their umbrellas. We required booze and a Cheeseburger the size of our own heads. Each. When I saw the Byron sign emerging out of the rain like a beacon, I knew that this was the place for us.
I’ve heard numerous things about Byron – most of them good – and have wanting to try out the burgers offered by this burgeoning chain for a while. I was also intrigued to see whether they could replace the Meatwagon’s infamous Dead Hippy in my affections.
Whilst my Byron Burger was excellent, it still pales into insignificance compared to the mighty Dead Hippy. Saying that though, I liked the bun which was hefty enough to stand up to the weight of the burger and toppings, and didn’t fall apart after a few bites. I was also pleased to see that it was cooked to a perfect medium rare, with a nice crust on the meat although I’d have preferred it if some juices had oozed out when I bit into it (but hey, perhaps that’s the American in me talking). The cheese and bacon were both delicious, although a dab more of the signature Byron dressing wouldn’t have gone amiss either.
The side of courgette fries were superb - thin strips of courgette coated in a tempura batter. Each strip was brilliantly crisp and worryingly moreish. I demolished a bowl of these, vowing whilst I was eating them that I would attempt to recreate them in my own kitchen. My American cousin was also thrilled to see that they served A&W Root Beer (the only real root beer in our opinion) and, that for an extra 50p, you could get it as a float. Our bill came to £30 altogether and whilst it may have been more expensive than a train station Burger King, it was a hell of a lot more satisfying.
We wobbled back to Euston satiated, happy, and probably a stone heavier. Once again, London didn’t disappoint on the food front. I’m looking forward to my next trip where I intend to tackle the infamous Hawksmoor. Waistline, I apologise in advance.