Not the way Mama intended it to be
Pizza Pilgrims is the shared endeavor of two brothers, James and Thom Elliot, who in 2011 shafted both convention and their office jobs for something infinately more pleasant. Life began afresh for them in the back of a three-wheeled van, which they used to make a pilgrim of sorts around Italy. Throughout their tour, they honed their pizza making skills and chose to bring the Naples variety back to London.
From humble beginnings selling their pizza out of the back of a van, Pizza Pilgrims then set up its first premises in Dean Street closely followed by a second in Kingly Court. It has been a while since their days of touring around Italy and eating authentic pizza, a fact which is beginning to show in the Kingly Court outpost. Naples pizzas are meant to be light and airy, with charred and fluffy crusts that graduate into chewy centres (try them here).
The solution to the age old question: what shall we have tonight, dear?
This neighborhood Italian restaurant is well placed to service the heavily residential Fulham area around the long and leafy Munster Road. The floor to ceiling picture windows allow views onto the Al Fresco terrace, perfect for outdoors dining. The inside of Locale is resolutely dependable with gastro-pub-like exposed brickwork, pleated wallpaper and a hearth of plush leather seating.
The menu speaks of regional Italian classics and is divided into Da Stuzzicare, Antipastis, Pasta, Carne e Pesce, Pizza and Insalata sections. From Da Stuzzicare, an effortlessly cool butter-soft burrata with summer vegetable caponata is a sign of great things to come. Follow this with a trio of perfectly pan-fried scallops with peas, mint puree and strewn rocket.
This newly opened restaurant fits snugly on Charlotte Street, comfortable in carving out its own niche in the booming burger market. Bobo Social burgers, those emblems of the dirty food movement, have cleaned up their act and are presented afresh. The burgers are petite and proper, appropriate against the flowery crockery and country-chic interior. Barely fist-sized, the waist conscious and fashion forward will have no guilt at indulging here.
The clientele at Bobo, short for Bourgeois Bohemian, is indeed the type who would fit into its gilted and whitewashed interior. These blonde, lithe, consummate gym-goers are the sort whose natural environment is more Made in Chelsea than studenty Fitzrovia.
The efforts at glamourous perfection extend beyond the beautiful bodies and onto the food as well. The provenance of ingredients and cooking methods are divulged in proud detail here. Rare-breed Dexter, Longhorn and Red Lincoln beef from Sussex are used for the patties, which are cooked in a Kopa Charcoal Oven to sear the meat instantly at temperatures as high as 300°C. This rapid sealing ensures that the meat retains every ounce of succulence, exemplified perfectly in the exquisitely ripe wagyu burger with Ogleshield cheese, confit shiitake mushrooms, truffle and onion compote and shaved truffles.
Michelin-starred and South Indian
If the dubiously awarded Michelin star system is anything to go by, then it is clear that Indian cuisine seems to lag behind all others. In London at least, there are only a handful of Indian restaurants graced with this distinction. One of them includes Quilon, which has retained its single star since 2008 under the direction of head chef Sriram Aylur.
Quilon creates a taste of Southern Indian cuisine, picking up traditional dishes from along the Keralan coast. The most familiar of these will possibly be the masala dosa, the Quilon variety served as a sweet miniature version with a moist potato masala.
Sushi, sashimi, tempura and grills in Soho
This intimate Japanese restaurant sits in a corner of Soho and serves more than just sushi, although that’s also done well here. Dozo is fitted out to imitate a traditional Japanese Tatami, complete with sunken wicker seating. Navigating into positon is a clumsy affair, first scrambling onto an elevated seating block and then shuffling down; a cushion under your bum and your legs in the hole under the table. This is as rudimentary as the evening will get, the food and service being nothing less that elegant.
Meticulous slices of salmon, tuna, yellowtail and mackerel sashimi are cut with the precision that this cuisine is famed for, and taste as fresh as you’d like. Aburi sushi is a sushi special at Dozo, made with bigger slices of fish or meat, which are lightly grilled. The sea urchin (otoro aburi) is decorated with salmon roe (ikura) and the Japanese citrus yuzu, whilst the minced wagyu aburi is served as a semi-cooked tartare; loosing much of what this cut is famed for in the mincing process.
A question of standards
Kingly Court has a newcomer in the form of Stax, a burger joint loosely styled on Southern American soul food. Named after a Memphis record label, the short menu at Stax includes fried green tomatoes, shrimp po’ boys, and a heavy bias toward Cajun spicing. For all my Muslim brethren, it is also fully halal and doesn’t serve pork.
As I’m feeling generous, we’ll start with the only really good thing at Stax; the chicken and waffles. Buttermilk and flour are used to glorious effect as a marinade; both the breast and thigh are soaked in it before being tossed into a pool of sizzling oil. Minutes later, they are fished out; golden and full of promise. These paragons of poultry are then paired most skilfully with a whole waffle.
Modern Nordic cooking… in Mile End
Ink is a Nordic-inspired restaurant serving aesthetically beautiful food in a minimalist environment. Its head chef, Martyn Meid, works to produce food that ‘connects people with space, plate and emotion’. At Ink, a little world is indeed contrived that excels in making you forget that you’re in Mile End. The small space is deceptively spacious with peaceful canal views and outdoor seating. Although it is a bit of a mission to get here (crossing a busy junction, a road of council houses, across a park and over a canal) when you do arrive you won’t be disappointed.
The new tasting menu at Ink is titled the 72-hour menu, which needs 72 hours’ notice and a list of dietary requirements and allergens. After this, Ink will create 7 courses tailored with the above specifications for £72, which includes a wine flight. The 7 glasses of wine alone make this deal very reasonable, especially considering how accomplished the food is. The a la carte is also well priced with mains between £11.50 and £17.
Although it pains me to say it, Hawksmoor Knightsbridge is a disappointment
The fifth branch of Hawksmoor is now open in Knightsbridge, and is styled to match its opulent new neighbourhood. The flooring and bar are all carved out of exquisite pale marble, brass lamps adorn the walls and the seating is the plushest leather. The same art-deco flair of the previous Hawksmoors is again used in this west London outpost; the result is vintage glam and very familiar to regulars of the brand.
It’s a shame that the same consistency does not, on this visit, extend to the food or service. In previous experiences (Seven Dials & Air Street), Hawksmoor has been a delight to dine in. Perhaps the difference tonight is that I am in a group of 7; a laughing merry gaggle of us out to celebrate my birthday. Perhaps Hawksmoor is wonderful with smaller, more manageable groups, and fails under the weight of a larger table. It is improbable that I will opt to have such a gathering at a Hawksmoor again, so for now at least the cause of Hawksmoors unanticipated failings is a mystery.
People watch to your hearts content with substantial Italian classics
This rustic Italian restaurant is located on the corner of the Covent Garden piazza and offers fabulous al fresco dining as well as an indoor restaurant. The ground floor terrace spills its merriment onto the cobbled square of Covent Garden, with fully heated tables laid under spawning white parasols. The indoor restaurant is located underground in a subterranean network of charming nooks and crannies, perfect for a romantic twosome or more intimate group dinner. Up the tempo in the third floor balcony bar, The Print Room, and enjoy the fabulous cocktails and bird’s eye view of the street entertainment below.
The food menu on the terrace is a shortened version of the full menu available in the underground dining area. When the weather is so deliciously hot, however, there is no price too high to pay for a bit of outdoor seating. Marinated olives, feta-filled green chilies and a spot of bread and olive oil help to open up the gut for some major carb invasion.
Money can’t always buy good taste
By now it is common knowledge that Chiltern Firehouse is a hotbed of celebrity activity, with those higher echelons of society flocking to it like flies to excrement. This, of course, is enough to make anyone immediately suspicious and probably slightly curious. These are the feelings that overcome me to begin with, which upon tasting the food are replaced with disenchantment and regret.
The flurry of good PR that Chiltern Firehouse has been blessed with makes it the kind of place that a certain kind of person would kill to be in. Imagine the excitement that this person must feel, to place their puckered arse onto the hallowed seats that the arses of Lily Allen, Kate Moss, Bradley Cooper and the Camerons have also perched upon. What unencumbered bliss, what unbridled joy. When your sphincter is so well taken care of, who really cares about what going on in your mouth, right?