Our resident chef and food blogger, Luiz Hara selects some of the capital’s finest dining experiences this autumn.
Get set for the London Restaurant Festival!
In its 5th year, the London Restaurant Festival (3-21 Oct) is a fantastic celebration of our capital’s thriving dining scene. This year’s festival includes an impressive line up of events catering for all budgets – those with a Cicchetti Trail, Japanese Journey or Tapas Tour passport (£50 - £60) can go restaurant-hopping for a dish and a drink at each of the six venues in every chosen cuisine including Polpo, Shoryu and Fernandez & Wells. For a gastronomic flick and a three-course meal, I’ll be heading to BAFTA 195 Piccadilly for ‘Eat Film’ (£75) to join Jonathan Ross, (yes, Wossy himself!) who will be curating a three-course dinner following a screening of his all-time favourite film, Studio Ghibli’s Japanese fantasy ‘Spirited Away’. Another sell-out event is Gourmet Odyssey (£125) where each dish of a three-course meal is served at one of London’s top restaurants – in each restaurant, a glass of bubbly (Laurent Perrier) will be served and matched to every dish. Guests will travel across the capital on LRF’s Routemaster buses, making it a Champagne lunch unlike any other.
You got Seoul?
Fancy sampling some Korean cuisine? In an area known as Little Seoul, in and around Centre Point in the West End of London, you’ll find a host of charming and surprisingly inexpensive Korean restaurants. A gutsy cuisine, full of bold flavours and relatively unknown in the UK, if you want to give it a try, this is a great place to start. Pocha is my favourite restaurant in Little Seoul, I love their lunch set no. 7 – spicy stir-fried pork served with rice, Korean miso soup and a ‘namul’ starter with complimentary barley tea, all for the grand sum of £6.50! A couple of blocks away on Great Marlborough Street, Bibigo is another favourite – a well designed and priced a la carte menu includes some classics like tofu and kimchi stew, Japchae (stir-fried sweet potato noodles with vegetables and beef) and seafood pancake. I enjoyed their Red Chicken, a dish of crispy, deep-fried chicken pieces in a red caramelised spicy sauce. Commendably for an Asian restaurant, the wine list is very impressive, designed by resident French sommelier Raphael Thierry. In trendy Bethnal Green, Hurwundeki is a hair salon and cafe run by Korean expat Ki Lee. I recently tried his 15-minute trim for £9 followed by a lovely Korean set lunch at the adjoining cafe for £10 with 20% off offered for hair-salon customers. Both the Japchae and bibimbap were excellent, the cafe is also BYO. I love the concept as much as I love having a good haircut, but now I have an even better reason to go to the barbers!
(Po Cha - 56 St. Giles High Street, London, WC2H 8LH; 020 7379 7381)
(Bibigo - 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London, W1F 7JY)
(Hurwundeki - 298-299 Cambridge Heath Rd, London, E2 9HA; 020 7749 0638)
Or how about something French?
Terroirs was the first of four restaurants opened by partners Chef Ed Wilson (former Sonny’s Kitchen and Galvin Bistro de Luxe) and Oli Barker since 2008, followed more recently by Brawn in Columbia Road, Soif in Battersea and Green Man & French Horn in the West End. All four restaurants specialise in French bistro cooking, matched by one of the most comprehensive natural wine lists in town. Terroirs, just off the Strand is a Parisian-style cafe, and one of my favourites in this part of London. The cooking is so creative yet wholesome. I normally try and sit at their zinc bar to watch the chefs in action and for a more relaxed dinner. The menu is short but offers an excellent spread of fish, shellfish, duck, cheese and charcuterie. This is a place to come with friends and share various dishes over a few bottles of excellent French wine. Make sure to have a basket of their French baguette with some butter – it is dense with a hard crust and a tad chewy like good French bread should be. Green Man & French Horn is the group’s latest addition, specialising in the food and drink from the areas along the Loire River. I can’t wait to try it.
(www.terroirswinebar.com; www.brawn.co; www.soif.co; www.greenmanfrenchhorn.co)
Michelin Starred Medlar
Opened as early as 2011, Medlar has been receiving a number of accolades, most recently a well deserved Michelin star in 2013. It is the brainchild of Chef Joe Mercer Nairne and David O’Connor, whose CV involved running the front of house teams at The Ledbury, The Square and lastly Chez Bruce where they first forged their friendship, and eventually hatched their plans for Medlar. The Square and Chez Bruce also happen to be some of my favourite London establishments, both recommended in this column in June and July 2013. In my latest visit, I found Nairne’s cooking highly accomplished, sophisticated yet packed with flavour. At £45 for a three-course dinner, £26 for lunch on Monday to Friday or £30 on Saturday, Medlar is also one of the best value Michelin-starred restaurants around and I highly recommend it.