Americans, stop it. Of London, you often say, “Boy I hear the food is really terrible there.” Stop it, stop it, stop it. Perception is NOT reality, my dear American friends. Yes, you will hate me when I tell you that I like the food in London better (generally speaking) than food in Chicago and that there is more more quality, more care, more variety, more fun. You will not believe me. You will speak poorly about me when I leave the room, the house, the event. But it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I like the food in London better, with the exception of the need for the rare quesadilla, the rare chardog, the rare blueberry pancake. I go back to London to staunch the wound. It is deep. Very deep. Here’s where I ate in London last month, roughly in geographic order, west to east:
Terroirs, Charring Cross. We lucked out and had the best server ever in this well-kept little wine bar, especially in comparison to my past visits. Plus, our charcuterie and wine all on point. Great choice by Trafalgar Square.
St. John Hotel, Chinatown: Apparently under administration?? (That’s bankruptcy for the Americans.) But I love the bar, tucked up above Chinatown. A destination in an area of windows of dead ducks. Even if just for wine in the bar.
Four Seasons, Chinatown: I needed some crispy duck and prawn crackers. This place is a MACHINE. In, out, in, out. And everyone seems drunk. But maybe that was just me. I’m a cheap date, really. Not a destination, but fun just the same.
Koya, Soho: Simple and beautiful, affordable udon in intensely aromatic broth. Finally, finally finally. Liked it so much, I went twice in 10 days. Sprightly, attentive, and happy service. Wonderfully informal. Go.
Barrafina, Soho: Razor clams. Bar seating. Croquetas. That is all. Go.
Bubbledogs, Tottenham Court: Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Hot dogs! Champagne! Tiny little space! No reservations! And, um, sweet potato fries. (Been there, got the t-shirt.) This place is fun, although waiting for your table for over an hour on a Saturday night might not be so fun. I dig it. For now. I will probably not like it later, when there are 40 of them.
Drapers Arms, Islington: Stopped in on a busy Sunday afternoon to meet my friend Ben for a pint. Great to see it so packed and popular. A lovely neighborhood destination. Perfect for Sunday lunch.
Polpo Smithfield: Perky service, darkly romantic in the evening, and fun small plates. Even though I’m just so very, very tired of small plates. MEATBALLS. Casual and reliable and poised to become an empire.
St. John, Smithfield: Bone marrow. That is all. Go.
Busaba Eathai, Shoreditch: Don’t hate me. It’s close to my office and it was a work lunch. My Thai green curry was absolutely fine! I’d do it again. Does that make me less of a person?
Grab Thai, Shoreditch. A stalwart, as it’s right by my office. I love it here. This is mainly a take-out place. Super cheap and likeable Thai. Nice staff. Great for lunch on the go.
Not enough time for all that I want to do. I’m coming back for you, London. I am.