Part of the appeal of the London Marathon was the ability to live it up in London after the race. And living it up for me is eating and drinking well. London did not disappoint! Please bear with me as this is somewhat of a lengthy post. But if you are looking for dining recommendations in London, look no further – I’ve got you covered!
We planned our trip around mealtimes, as is our holiday custom, and we were spoiled for choice with a limited time frame. We wanted to pack in as many must-do places as possible, whilst not completely blowing the budget (which would have been very easy to do – London currently has 64 restaurants with one or more Michelin star).
We arrived on the Friday before the race, and for our first meal in London-town, we decided to visit an old-favourite of my mum’s. Savoir Faire is a French bistro in the heart of the theatre district, nestled comfortably at the top of New Oxford Street. My mum has visited on every trip to London for the past several years, and unfailingly talks about it being the best meal she’s had whilst there. This is a bold claim when discussing London eateries, and we had to check out its credentials.
Savoir Faire is actually owned by a couple from Carnoustie, so it had the added appeal of a local connection for us! But the food is undoubtedly French, and some of the best I have tasted! I was being cautious in my menu choices, given the 26-mile race I was doing in the days following, but my mum and husband were less picky. In fact, my husband had what he claims is one of the best steaks he has ever eaten! And this man has eaten in Wolfgang Puck’s Las Vegas steak restaurant, Cut. Needless to say, I was proper jealous.
I opted for the most ‘French’ dish possible for every course. French onion soup to start, which was just the right side of sweetness; the most melt-in-the-mouth beef bourguignon and fluffy pomme puree; then a gorgeously crisp yet sticky and succulent tarte tatin. The whole meal was utterly tremendous. I cannot recommend it enough, or in fact, wait to go back. Next time, I’m not going to run a marathon shortly after, so will partake in the entrecote. Or if I am going to run a marathon (I’m in the ballot!), we will go for a post-race, celebratory meal instead. #winning
What a start to our culinary adventure in London! For the majority of the trip we were staying in a B&B, which coincidentally had a lovely breakfast (B&B Belgravia), but for the first night we were in a self-catering apartment. Which meant breakfast was required on the Saturday morning. We didn’t want to venture too far before heading across town to the marathon expo, so we popped to the local Italian café, La Bottega Eccleston. It. Was. Divine! The bacon was actually pancetta, and was exquisitely cooked – crisp, yet still juicy. The fresh fruit juices were fabulous (I recommend the green one, the name escapes me). And the little Italian pastries are to die for! We went back on two separate occasions for more sweet treats, and we were only in London for five full days – go figure.
The other highlight of this café was the staff. They could not have been more welcoming or friendly, especially to The Munchkin. In fact, the lovely waitress kept bringing him free biscuits, so they were destined to be firm friends. On our way to the station at the end of the trip, we popped in for some sweet treats for the journey. My mum and I waited outside with the luggage and The Munchkin, whilst my husband was sent in for the goodies. We were now considered locals, given our frequent custom, and as soon as the waitress clocked my husband, she was asking where The Munchkin was. Seconds later she was bringing more free biscuits outside for him. We will definitely be back!
Another Belgravia hidden gem is the The Ebury Restaurant & Wine Bar. As a small, cosy but chic wine bar, it isn’t the sort of place you would expect a 16-month-old to be welcomed – but you would be wrong. Here the staff were absolutely fantastic, setting up a high chair in preparation for our arrival (at 9pm on a Sunday evening – once we had finally made it round the marathon course!), and spending time chatting and playing with The Munchkin. The food was lovely, with a nice variety on the small menu, and the wine was fantastic. Needless to say, my husband took The Munchkin back there the next evening when my mum & I went to the theatre. It is the sort of place I imagine we will make pilgrimages back to whenever we are in London, such was the warm and friendly welcome we were afforded, and the fantastic food & drink.
Whilst the boys were enjoying their second meal at The Ebury…, my mum and I were dining in Hawksmoor Air Street. Conveniently located for the theatre district, this restaurant is all about the steak. And it is bloody good steak! We enjoyed a delicious steak with triple cooked chips. I opted for the bone marrow gravy, and it was amazing! The wine was lovely, with plenty of choice by the glass, and we also enjoyed a rather fabulous seasonal cocktail. One of the best bits of the Hawksmoor were the puddings. I had a decadent chocolate and cinder toffee concoction known as the Crunchy Bar = bliss. My top tip is to take away a box of salted caramel rolos – we popped back after the theatre to get these, in theory for The Husband, but I’m not ashamed to admit I had some of them too!
If you are in need of some more sweet action in London, and happen to be in the Covent Garden area, I do not hesitate to recommend Peyton and Byrne. In fact, I wouldn’t be the only foodie to recommend it – we saw none other than Masterchef food critic, Tracey Macleod, enjoying a little lunch whilst we were there! Great minds, Tracey 😉 It is a lovely, if small, café that more than makes up for its small stature by serving unbelievably big wedges of cake. The tea and coffee is nice too.
Two places I hope to return on future trips are Duck and Waffle and St. John Smithfield Bar & Restaurant. We went to Duck and Waffle for a celebratory breakfast the day after the marathon. The restaurant itself is set within one of the tallest buildings in London, 110 Bishopsgate, and the lift only takes 40 seconds to go up 40 floors – so it’s part dining experience, part white-knuckle ride. The views are spectacular. As is the food. The Munchkin slept through most of the experience, but the rest of us LOVED our dishes. I went for the Ox Cheek Benedict waffles, and it was extraordinary. Braised ox cheek, hen’s egg, hollandaise and sriracha = a taste sensation! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
St. John is the sort of restaurant you will either love or hate. I was sure I was going to hate it, and even tried to persuade my hubby to book somewhere else. The restaurant is a nose-to-tail eatery, and whilst I’m all for that ethos of waste not-want not, when I looked at the menu of the previous day’s offerings I honestly did not want to order anything. I was worried. I’d never been to a restaurant and not wanted to order anything before! But I was assured this was Jay Rayner’s favourite restaurant, and I know he wouldn’t lie to me, so we decided to go for it. And it was sublime! I had roast bone marrow on toast to start, and it was rich, buttery and fabulous. We then shared two dishes for our main course, one lamb sweetbread (don’t Google it, just eat it) and one pigeon with pig trotters…They were delicious. Utterly beautiful, we were basically licking the plates clean.
Now let me interject:- I used to be vegan, and this is obviously a very far cry from my vegan diet. I still question my lifestyle choices sometimes, but if I am going to eat meat then it should be done in a carefully considered way, using as much of the animal as possible. And the restaurant should care about the provenance of the meat. So, in this respect, St. John is a great restaurant, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again. They also make fabulous madeleines in their in-house bakery – there is no other choice for dessert. Though I may try the Eccles cake next time…
We were Michelin star veterans by the end of our trip. Our visit to Benares, Atul Kochhar’s Indian restaurant in Mayfair, was lovely. The staff are fabulous, even catering well for The Munchkin. The only problem was he was not really in the mood for eating that evening. He was teething, had a bit of a cold, and was generally miserable. Which meant myself and The Husband took it in turns to walk around the restaurant with him. Whilst this hindered our enjoyment, that is obviously no reflection on what was delicious food and a fantastic restaurant – even the chefs took time out of their busy service to wave to a grumpy Munchkin through the large window in to the kitchen. It is somewhere I think we will definitely need to revisit when he is in a better mood.
I wasn’t going to write about The Thomas Cubbitt, a somewhat pretentious pub and restaurant around the corner from our B&B in Belgravia. Whilst the food was very nice, and (most) of the staff were lovely and helpful, it was much too busy and crowded. We were packed in like sardines, and it just didn’t feel like a very comfortable or relaxing meal. However, I mention it as The Husband has insisted it was the best burger he has ever eaten. So just pick a quiet time to go and you’ll be fine.
Finally, if you are only in need of liquid refreshment in this fine city, then I can recommend watering holes of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety. Of the latter, please do visit Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market. We were recommended this coffee shop by our good friend, Liezel, and she knows her stuff – this place is fantastic! In fact, it is frequently queued round the block. We were lucky enough to grab seats and managed to resist the fine spread of bread, pastries and jams on the table before us. I have no doubt they would be lovely too. Take your time to have a wander around Borough Market after, as it is a food lover’s paradise! The Husband certainly recommends the salt beef bagel.
For a sophisticated end to your evening in the Belgravia area of town, head to Boisdale of Belgravia. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. What looks like a fairly bog-standard old-fashioned pub from the outside, is in fact a dinky Scottish restaurant and fairly cavernous whisky & wine bar. They do jazz and have a cigar club – need I say more? Haste ye there.
I cannot wait to return to London, which quickly and easily became one of my all-time favourite places. Where should I go on our next trip there? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments), please!