I’m intending to write reviews on some of my favourite spots – these are currently in the pipeline. Bear with!
In the meantime, here’s a brief guide to some of my favourite places to shop, eat and drink.
John The Unicorn – Full review here – The Antic Pub Co started with the The East Dulwich Tavern, Goose Green, spread right over London, resulting in The Hope in Peckham opening in 2015 followed by this, JTU in 2016. The kitchen was headed up by a fellow Band of Baker; Ben Murlock and his beef dripping focaccia is out of this world. Other great reviews available in Time Out and Southwark News.
***UPDATE*** Ben and his sous chef Pete are no longer at JTU. Their website reflects a slightly different menu now and I haven’t been back since but I understand the staff change involved no animosity and I’ve heard good reports of the food since.
Cravings LaCarreta – Another Bussey Building pop up now with its own small restaurant, this is best as a pop in or grab a takeaway sort of place. Located next to the newly refurbished White Horse Pub at the rye end of Rye Lane in a small lockup, this is some of the best and most authentic Mexican food I’ve had in the UK. Tacos can be had with all the trimmings but be warned the refried beans are as salty as hell – delicious with everything else, maybe not for eating on their own. Great value too.
Dulwich Café – A proper café with proper prices amidst a sea of overpriced of sourdough (I like reasonably priced sourdough tho!)
La Scala – My favourite coffee shop. The coffee is super smooth and delicious, the croissants and muffins are out of the world but the real crowning glories are that its really reasonably priced and the service is friendly and spot on.
CheeMc – I recently visited a fairly new Korean chicken restaurant reviewed by Jay Raynor in 2015 and had a great meal of pork belly and rice and although I haven’t yet sampled the chicken, I can’t wait to go again and try it. Not super cheap but a nice addition to the not so nice Walworth road.
El Rancho De Lalo – Amazing Colombian food in a tiny restaurant in Brixton Market Village. Stumbled upon quite by accident and revisited on a good few occasions at this point. The Colombian national dish – Bandeja Paisa is my go to, ni fact, I’ve never had anything else and why would you when for £13, you get grilled steak, Colombian pork (super garlicky) sausage, fried pork belly, fried egg, grilled plantain, kidney bean stew, cornbread, salad and rice. I’ve never even remotely finished it all but funnily enough I’ve never left any of the meat!
Mama Lan – This is a spot which I have been meaning to check out for a while – I love Asian food and dumplings so I finally got around to it. I has the gluten fee sweet chlli chicken and rice with slaw and it was delicious. I also did have some of the pork dumplings but they did not photo particularly well! There are now several other locations around London and I’ll hope to check another of their spots out soon.
The Luncheonette – Only slightly larger than a whole in the wall but with the ability to cram 15-20 punters inside to wait whilst taking orders from the street door, this is far an away my favourite go to lunch spot – a pasta dish, jacket potato with fillings, baguette (I usually go egg mayonnaise and bacon) or a myriad of other options with a bag of crisps/piece of fruit and a soft drink for £3.50. I’m in.
Borough Market – L’ailOlive – Now I know I’m very lucky to have Borough Market right outside my office door but until my salary triples, an £8 burger for lunch everyday is not feasible (not to mention I’m not a big fan of burgers). Ok there are many more options but I don’t want to spend £6 on a grilled cheese sandwich either or £5 on a scotch egg. I have however found this one stall which I think is excellent value and they’re the only place I ever eat at the market. It’s basically super garlicy fuelled Asian food. I have the chicken udon noodles for £6, sometimes with the addition of 2 chicken dumplings (£1.50). Then I pile on their smoked chilli sauce- its amazing. the lady who fronts the stall is lovely and she recognises me as a regular customer and greets me like an old friend (and gives me a cheeky extra dumpling sometimes too!).
Padella – This recently opened food blogger’s wet-dream-du-jour has a queue snaking out of the door and rave reviews every time I look. So when I wondered out my office to grab a sandwich and saw no queue, I had to pop in and check it out for myself. A ‘small plates concept’ sort of place, you can see the pasta being handmade in the Borough High Street window throughout the morning and with the addition of a bowl of sourdough bread, I found the one small dish plenty for lunch, if not slightly pricier than the Luncheonette sandwich I was aiming towards.
Delivery – AbsurdBird – I’ve recently discovered the joy of getting Deliveroo or Amazon Restaurants to deliver lunch directly to my desk at work. Rather bourgeois I admit and financially not viable on a regular basis but for a treat every now and again, its a delight. My first attempt using Amazon (you need prime membership and the Prime Now app on your phone) led me to AbsurdBird where I ordered Fried Chicken and Waffles with Maple Syrup and Gravy and Jalepeno Mac’n’Cheese. The waffles arrived a little on the soggy side but I think thats to be expected – the chicken however was AMAZING. 3 massive peices and it was gorgeous. The syrup was as expected but I left the thin brown gravy. The M’n’C was superfluous if I’m honest but I had to order something else on top of the £11 Chicken to make the £15 minimum. I did have a £10 first use discount voucher however so even with a delivery tip, the whole meal cost me £7.50. I will certainly be trying the restaurant asap (one in Soho, one in Spitalfields).
Chinatown – Golden Gate Cake Shop – They sell a multitude of things at this tiny bakery in Chinatown. Squeeze in, grab a tray and pair of tongs from just inside the door. Fill your tray then hand to the cashier for packing and paying. On my tray you’ll find gloriously soft Baked Char Sui Pork Buns and an eerily light vanilla chiffon cake triangle. One of each for about £2. Winner winner roast char sui dinner.
The Greenhouse – I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned this place before. It’s easily one of my favourite restaurants in the UK. Actually, the world. And I’ve not even been there for a good 8/9 years. Leonie and Neil set up the restaurant in little St Keverne which was just down the road from the village shop and post office that my family owned at around that time. I found them on a yell.com search looking for somewhere new to eat in the area and we couldn’t stop going back, including for a couple of Christmas Day lunches. They now have a regular stall at Helston and St Keverne farmer’s markets and Neil runs occasional bread making classes. They also have an Instagram which makes me constantly drool and I really should actually go back to Cornwall. The Greenhouse is the first place I’ll be heading to and the first place I recommend to anyone heading in anything vaguely like the direction of the Lizard.
The Champagne Concept – opened in late 2015 by my great friends; Gemma and Laurence Page-Connolly, the result of years of champagne appreciation, research and ridiculously good business acumen. They have an Online Shop and a 5* rating on Trip Advisor. They can be found on Facebook and Twitter. A review and pictures will be coming soon.
Smokeshack – A surprisingly good attempt at authentic US BBQ, I’d go so far as to say that Smokeshack is nearly as good as The Big Easy in London but a bit cheaper. The first time I went, we had a blowout feast between 3 of us – there was more than enough food to feed all three of us another good sized meal the next day. St Louis ribs, beef short rib, sausage and brisket was all there along with classic sides like Boston baked beans, sweet potato fries and mac’n’cheese. There is a sister outlet in Grimsby called Smokehouse which I haven’t yet tried but is a the same menu.
Little Amsterdam – Truly a little dash of Dutch in the most unlikely of places. Little Amsterdam has huge portions and quite a range of sweet and savoury pancakes along with other savoury dishes and desserts including a huge portion of mini pancakes – there is quite a selection of ice creams and milkshakes to choose from too. Great for brunch too.
The Wharf Inn – Fenny Compton – The mixed grill dreams are made off (unless your dreams involve lamb or pork). 8oz rump steak, an 8oz chicken supreme, 10 oz gammon steak, 2 sausages, 2 eggs, 1 (undercooked) tomato, peas and chips (I substituted for salad) – proper meat sweat inducing for £20. The bugers were also fairly epic, the burger pictured below included 2 beef burgers, 1 battered chicken burger, bacon, hash browns & onion rings, topped with cheddar cheese on a soft bun with lettuce, tomato and onion with chips. Because you really need chips with that! Not!
Franco Manca – This is another ‘London chain’ rather than a national but it will get there – 2 of their 28 current outposts are outside of Greater London (Guildford and Southampton). The menu is simple – wood fired sourdough pizzas and a couple of side dishes. Anyone that knows me knows that I like my pizzas ‘Deep Pan Pizza Hut’ style – thick and doughy with a blanket of processed cheese. And meat obviously. And no overpowering tomato sauce. So I’m not really a fan of scant topped, minimal cheese, crispy ‘Italian’ pizzas but I make an exception for FM. The base is chewy and with a bit more body than the usual – I assume due to the sourdough. I’ll still order extra mozzarella and sometimes order it ‘bianco’ but actually these pizzas are damn good. And really cheap. Its fast casual dining with no bookings so not the kind of restaurant for a relaxed catch up but to grab a quick lunch or late night meal, its perfect.
Wahaca – Not quite nationwide yet but quickly expanding, this ‘Mexican Market Eating’ chain was founded by Thomasina Miers after winning Masterchef in 2005. They do big plates or my preferred tapas style affair. I have no photos as my face is in the food before I’ve ever had chance to take them! The Covent Garden outlet is the original and in my opinion, slightly better quality than its offshoots.
Wagamamas – Look, in an ideal world I’d avoid all of the Pizza Expresses, Zizzis, Chiquitos, Giraffes and Las Iguanas of this world but sometimes I have to admit, it’s good to know I can go and get a good feed for under a tenner in fairly quick time. Wagamama’s is my go to chain. I generally order the Belly Pork Ramen now called Shirodashi Ramen (udon instead of ramen noodles, chicken broth instead of their new super salty number and beansprouts instead of memna – their fault, they encourage customisation on the menu!) or the Chicken and Prawn Pad Thai. I avoid the sides (such poor value tho tasty if that isn’t an issue). A free green tea and a tap water later and I’m golden. Oh and if I am feeling all moneybags – I love the White Chocolate Ginger Cheesecake.
Wagamamas now also deliver via Deliveroo – I tried the Shirodashi Ramen a few weeks ago delivered to my office for lunch. Not bad I have to say – it survived the journey quite well and I was impressed by the packaging too.
Ping Pong – A good few years ago I visited the Southbank restaurant where we were seated on a shared table with some gabbling selfie taking idiots and served ok food at very expensive prices surrounded by blaring music, poor service and resulting in a high bill and hunger. So I didn’t go back until I recently wanted to introduce a friend to a variety of dim sum without breaking the bank and came across their Lazy Sunday offer for £24 per head for all you can eat dim sum. As I wanted to try a selection without the exercise adding up to a very expensive meal like any small plates type meal, I decided to risk it and give it a go in their Soho branch. Service was excellent, the food was good, the price was good and I’d likely go back or recommend it but only if you have a real appetite. After a massive meal the night before and a decent breakfast only a few hours earlier, I had to be rolled home!
Hing Loong – A diamond of a restaurant. A sign of a good Chinese restaurant is usually a lot of Chinese people and this place is full of them. As a result, if you want fried chicken feet or some more traditional Chinese specialities this is probably a good place to go. If you just want a huge feed for £7.50 – this is also the place for you. For this handsome sum, you can have a mixed started (one battered large chicken wing, a couple of prawn crackers and a vegetable spring roll) and a standard dish like sweet and sour, chicken with mushrooms, beef withblack bean, curry, etc with fried rice or crispy noodles and a soft drink (soda or fruit juices). Bargain. And I’ll defy you to finish it, the portions are huge.
***Update*** October 14th 2016 will be the Hing Loong’s last day of trading as their tenancy is at an end and the Landlord will be replacing their whole building block with a boutique hotel. Very sad times.
Boss Lady – In a hut at the back of the uber trendy Bussey Building/Copeland Park complex in the heart of Peckham, and only there until September 2016, this little noodle bar place was my obsession in 2016. Pork and Prawn wontons served in a light broth were amazing. On a rare weekday off work and in London, I popped in for a quick lunch and found myself dining alone but with the company of the chef and his partner as he was preparing my lunch. Fab food, super cheap and I went back a few times before they closed. Fingers crossed that after a break, they bring a new venue to life.