Here’s a list of some wonderful places I’ve eaten at all ends of the scale. I highly recommend them all.
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL (under £15 a head)
Franco Manca – in Brixton market, brilliant pizzas with amazing dough and fantastic toppings. Really fun atmosphere.
Mangal – which Mangal is better? Mangal 1 or Mangal 2? It’s a tough one, but I prefer Mangal 1 on Arcola street, Dalston – great Turkish grilled meat, BYO and don’t forget to have the quail.
Hot Stuff – another BYO and great Indian food in Vauxhall. Check out Jay Rayner’s review, here, if you don’t trust me.
No.1 Cafe – brilliant Thai food, again BYO (this isn’t my only criteria for a restaurant). Really friendly staff and the specials are always, well, special. Here’s another review to back me up. It’s on Dalgarno Gardens which is nearish to Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road.
MIDDLE GROUND (£20-£30 a head)
Akari – A brilliant Japanese restaurant in a former pub on Essex Road, Islington – it has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and a focus on ‘home-cooked’ Japanese food. Lots of great sushi, sashimi and traditional dishes. Well worth a visit.
Anchor and Hope – We live dangerously close to this place and it’s a great ‘gastropub’. Serving up brilliantly well sourced and interesting British food. Think sand eels, terrines, snail and bacon salad, rib of beef and skate wings. Really very good. On The Cut in-between Waterloo and Southwark stations. This is what Giles Corren thinks.
Barrafina I couldn’t decide which category to put this in, but it’s tapas and you eat as much as you do. So it’s going in the middle ground category. You can’t book, but it’s worth waiting. Really brilliantly crafted dishes in the heart of Soho.
Jose – while I’m on the subject of tapas. The new place in town is from the creator of Brindisa, aptly named after himself, Jose (Pizarro). I repeat everything I said about Barrafina, but this place has a more faithful Spanish feel and is on Bermondsey Street.
CELEBRATION… (£30 a head and up)
Bistrot Bruno Loubet – wonderful French bistrot food and incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of food and cooking. It’s in the Zetter hotel in Clerkenwell.
St John’s Food and Wine – from Fergus Henderson, the advocate of nose-to-tail eating, you get what you’d expect. Brilliant and well cooked food, sadly the service is a bit hit and miss, but it’s worth tolerating for the food (perhaps they know that?). In Clerkenwell. St John’s Hotel in Soho and Bread and Wine in Spitalfields are also great.
Moro – delicious Moorish cuisine and with the newer Morrito beside it (cheaper and easier to get a table). I highly recommend them both. On Exmouth Market.
NOPI – I have a slight obsession with Ottolenghi, so there’s no surprise I like his newest restaurant in Soho. The menu changes frequently so you can go the whole time and there’s still new stuff to try. Lots of small dishes to share – I recommend going with about 4 people to get a good span of the menu. All sorts of food from Middle Eastern to Asian.
Hawksmoor – I like the original one in Spitalfields. I’m yet to have a better steak than theirs. Would love to know if you have…?
That’s it for the time being, but I’ll keep investigating….