There may have been a few fewer picnic opportunities this August, but despite some extremes of weather the capital was still churning out some incredible food!
We treat ourselves to some of the best ramen on the market!
First up is actually something from out of town though. Matsudai Ramen based in Cardiff have been taking the nation by storm with their at-home DIY ramen kits, which I can vouch for as incredible after repeat orders! Following that success they took their ramen on the road around the country, finishing up in London for a couple of nights at the turn of the month.
Places were super limited but luckily we managed to squeeze in and treat ourselves to some of the best ramen on the market, fresh from the master. Both the tonkotsu and shio ramen that we tried were absolutely top notch, and just made me wish for a London Matsudai restaurant even more! Thankfully Matsudai have announced that they’re already coming back to London for another pop-up in October & November, so you’ll definitely find me first in line.
A hearty roast dinner
From Japanese food to something closer to home – and what could be more British than a hearty roast dinner? I was invited down to The Lock Tavern in Camden to check out their Sunday roast menus, where they serve up a range of special cocktails alongside meaty and vegan roast options.
The first thing I need to call out here is their Breakfast Martini – made with gin, cointreau, fresh lemon juice and orange marmalade – which was an absolute joy to drink, and pretty dangerous as I could easily put back a bunch of them!
For the roasts themselves there’s a choice between roast chicken, roast beef or a vegan wellington, and each of them is served up with some great roast veg and potatoes, and a big ol’ Yorkshire pudding for the non-vegan options. Really solid roasts, and you certainly won’t leave hungry!
Also worth pointing out that the space is huge – inside and out, including lovely terraces – and the staff were really nice and welcoming. It’s even been listed as the most dog friendly pub in London, and our pooch Jasper certainly had a great time there and was super spoiled!
I love Filipino food and I love desserts, so I ADORE Filipino desserts! And this month saw the launch of a permanent bricks & mortar spot for Ligaya Bakery, who have been dishing out cupcakes and bubble teas with Filipino flavours from their pop-up in Broadway Market in Tooting for a while now.
Their new store is just a stone’s throw away in Tooting Broadway and it’s a really cute space with a surprisingly large menu of cupcakes, teas, soft serve and more! Their special Liwayway taho drink has rightly generated a lot of buzz – an indulgent combo of silken tofu, sago, tapioca and brown sugar. I imagine that the taho is just one of many flavours in their repertoire that might be unfamiliar to you, but I totally recommend you step outside your comfort zone and give them a go! Plus they’re doing ‘Bobafloats’ – bubble tea topped with soft serve – and who can say no to that?!
And we’re already back in Japan, but at the other end of the culinary spectrum. If ramen is the street food that salarymen slurp down at the side of the road late at night, then a sushi omakase is the finest of fine dining. We’re talking a fanciful tasting menu of weird and wonderful flavours, dreamed up by a masterful chef and prepared right before your eyes.
Incredible sushi and Japanese steaks
There are a few such experiences available in London, but this latest one I tried was at Hot Stone Fitzrovia – a restaurant known for its incredible sushi and high quality Japanese steaks, with the original branch off Chapel Market in Angel. And their omakase certainly feels like something special from the moment you walk in – top notch, attentive, well-presented service in a very chic atmosphere.
We were treated to 17 courses of various shapes and sizes, including a number of sushi courses, and they were all delightful. I won’t list them all out here but some of the highlights included ‘homemade tofu with ponzu miso caviar and a 5-year aged soy sauce’ and ‘miso aubergine with sea urchin tartare and black truffle’, as well as a dessert that was 50/50 white chocolate and wagyu fat!
I wholeheartedly recommend checking out their omakase. It would be a particularly good choice for a date or special occasion, and if you’re able to fork out for the drinks pairings as well it will take the whole experience to the next level!
Time for burgers
Barely a week can go by, let alone a month, without me putting back a burger or three. In this case I visited EDū, a burger joint with a Spanish twist based in Flat Iron Square in Southwark and in Shoreditch Boxpark.
They have a really fun menu with some flavours and ingredients that you don’t see in many burger places, and a bunch of vegan options too. A liberal use of ‘chorizo jam’ is always going to go down well with me!
Interestingly it was the sides that really stood out to me on this occasion. They do some killer jamon croquetas, and their loaded fries with chorizo and manchego are pretty perfect too. And even more interestingly, it was actually the vegan ‘Ain’t No Fried Chicken’ burger that took the proverbial biscuit for me! It’s good news that vegan options are becoming increasingly competitive with their meaty counterparts.
This is definitely food that will go down well with a drink or two, and naturally being based in Flat Iron Square and Boxpark is a really good fit for it, so maybe worth a look on your next night out.
Cafe Piazza – a great place to chill and catch up
Not too far from Flat Iron Square but with a very different vibe (though still great for a drink!) is Hay’s Galleria at London Bridge. If you’ve not been, it’s an incredibly large and airy yet covered courtyard by the river, with some great food and drink options. This month I was invited over to try out Cafe Piazza for some lovely al fresco dining.
The menu here straddles the line between cafe and restaurant, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but we ended up having a great time. The starters of smoked salmon and baked feta went down a treat, and the pork belly plate blew us away with its presentation and generous portion! Everything was escalated by the great setting too – it might not be the best food in town, but a great place to chill and catch up.
One of my favourite dining experiences of recent times
You may be familiar with Trade – the popular brunch and coffee place on Commercial Street – but you may not know that they’ve just launched a dinner menu at their Essex Road site near Islington. The menu promised interesting cocktails and great European small plates, and it didn’t lie!
This was definitely one of my favourite dining experiences of recent times. I could wax lyrical for several paragraphs just about the heavenly truffle cheese puffs we had as a starter, but everything we had was done to a really high standard.
I’d struggle to pick out too many specific recommendations as I don’t think you can go wrong, but I do reckon it’s worth getting the fried langosh bread as a side and don’t miss the chocolate crema dessert!
Great pizza just opposite Waterloo
Last but by no means least is Crust Bros pizza, famous for their endlessly customisable menu and characterful oven! They have a new branch over in Wandsworth but we hit up the original spot just opposite Waterloo. We always have a great time here so I was pretty hyped…
…and wasn’t disappointed in the slightest! Their cocktail menu is great and we got a little wavy on negronis, Aperols and their midori-based ‘Japanese’ – dangerous in all the best ways. Creating your own pizza is always great fun as well, and it’s easy to get carried away ticking off tons of toppings!
This time I went for a white base with double mozzarella, olives, artichokes, anchovies, sundried tomatoes, nduja, gorgonzola and burrata. Yes, it was incredible. Their homemade tiramisu for dessert is not only delicious but HUGE as well.
Looking ahead to September there are some big new openings I can’t wait to visit. In Brixton alone we’ll be seeing the first non-street food restaurant from pasta brand La Nonna and second shop from cheesecake extraordinaires Whipped. But my top tip is probably for the hotly anticipated (by me, at least!) Soho branch of Filipino-Japanese fusion ramen spot Ramoramen. It’s going to be a good month!