Eating out in London is now an activity to add to your list of tourist must do’s. My favourite place to eat in London is at Giorgio Locatelli’s restaurant Locanda Locatelli. Everything about this restaurant works for me. The restaurant is set on the street level in a smart central hotel, the Churchill Inter-Continental. I was lucky enough to meet Giorgio and his wife when they were on holiday in the south of Sicily. I explained I was returning to London and planning to book there, he knows it is hard for people to get in without a lot of notice so he gave me a phone number that I could get through on! We were armed with a secret phone number… but we did not know and he was too modest to say, that this is a place where any mega rock star or movie star with an interest in food dines and on the night we went – Gweneth Paltrow and Madonna were there, sitting at separate tables but got up to give each other a warm meet and greet. The uber cool English, including us of course tried to avoid gawking and definitely no fawning or autograph hunting went on. For Aussies or anyone else wanting to travel all the way to London and score a reservation it is a sad fact that they do not take reservations by email. I suggest you ring them. Be warned sometimes ringing is a drama but persevere.
Buy a card for overseas phone calls, use a skype phone or go online and subscribe to Morodo, they have very cheap rates and we use this service all the time.
Morodo’s call service is known as mo-call so look up www.mo-call.com
Or think laterally and stay in the hotel, and ask the concierge to get you in!!!
A simple meal in the city can be found at Carluccios – it could be described as anything from a restaurant, bar, cafe or food emporium as they have an area that sells a range of gourmet ingredients. There are another two locations but I have not visited them yet.
Here is a place that is open almost anytime you want to eat. Monday to Friday 7.00am to midnight, Saturday 8.00am to midnight and Sunday 8.00am to 11.00pm.
It has an olde worlde deliberate style of decor but don’t be led astray by my description. It is a place where people are comfortable and go often. It was created in the style of a grand European cafe. In 1921 the building was commissioned as a showroom for Wolseley cars in the West End.
We saw famous author and writer of Old Rumpole fame John Mortimer, he has since passed away but I am sure he was a bon vivant and added to its coffers considerably in his lifetime. We also saw Parky of Parkinson fame and we did not keep craning our neck elsewhere as we may have given the impression we were only there for the celebrities. Actually my Brisbane friend Beverley who has an apartment in London suggested we go there for its contemporary food, atmosphere, no mention of notables. Check out The Wolseley for further details.
Love him or hate him, he is a damn good cook in my book and obviously wields and vents his frustrations in the kitchen which pays off for the punter. I have met him in person and he was an absolute gentleman and I have had friends who dined at Maze restaurant on a day that he was at the helm. They had a good conversation with him, my friends are in the wholesale food business in Australia, and they were also smitten with his charm. His business card should come with the warning ‘I don’t suffer fools gladly’.
Gordon Ramsay’s empire
Books for Cooks
If you visit London’s famous second hand market street, Portobello Road and most do. In the 70’s when I lived in London it was a 15 minutes walk for me. It was once the trendiest place to hangout on Saturdays but now it has evolved into a week round place to mooch and be seen. I avoid the cafes here and head for the Books for Cooks shop. In the back of the shop is a little kitchen that is used by guest chefs and visiting cookbook authors to promote their latest publications. In the meantime you will find it operates as a straightforward cafe.
A restaurant on the Thames that specialises in Italian food.
Cookbooks on my shelves from this restaurant are frequently thumbed in my house and I do cook from them. They respect traditions and buy the best ingredients, they even cultivate some herbs and vegetables at the front of the restaurant. A few years back I was treated to a tour in the kitchen by an Australian chef who was there doing a stint. We took the chef to lunch after that (he was on a day off) but did not expect to get charged for his meal. We paid up but felt a bewildered as I was gathering information for a column I was writing. I did not expect a freebie, but I just did not expect to be charged for the public relations role the chef was undertaking on his day off! Not his fault of course, the cashier’s or the management. I think a warning should come with this restaurant, it is the least posh for the most money. www.rivercafe.co.uk
Pimilico Road Farmers’ Market
Any self respecting foodie will love a stroll through a farmers market and London offers quite a few locations. On my last trip I came across the Pimlico market in Orange Square. Lots of yuppies or as the French call them BoHos (bohemian yuppies) here but then they do support the small organic growers and producers. The Time Out London website is very helpful if you want to look up a market in the district you are staying in. www.timeout.com
It carries the name bakery but it is more of a cafe, and one that is developing a cult following. Why because the food is down to earth and they bake savoury and sweets daily. It began in London but now they have two more in Paris. It is one of those places you cannot book so take your chances. 17-18 Dover St London.
Other dining ideas when trying to cram in sights of London is to eat at art galleries, here at the Tate Modern they have this system of when you arrive at its restaurant reception to make a booking, they give you a beeper to carry about on your person. We went down to the members cafe area for a drink (we had reciprocal membership) and they beeped us just as we got our first drink, by the time we got back to the restaurant they gave us a roasting because we took too long to get there. Hello who is the customer here. Anyway that is off my chest. We calmed down and enjoyed the meal.
Restaurant and Café at The Royal Academy
I dined here on the day my friend Beverley and I visited the gallery. The food was very good, quite simple, not too expensive but I think it is the atmosphere of sitting in this historic place definitely enhances your meal. Designed by Norman Shaw in 1885 and recently renovated by London-based architects MUMA. The Academy Restaurant has murals by Fred Appleyard, Harold Speed, Gilbert Spencer and Leonard Rosoman. The Murals have been illuminated for the first time, fulfilling the original intentions of the artists.
Opening times: 10am–5.30pm Saturday to Thursday — 10am–4.30pm Friday; table service dinner 6.15pm–10pm (last Orders 8.30pm)
For something lighter, go to the Gallery Café – it sits on the ground floor next to the lift, the café has a light contemporary feel. Serving a range of freshly prepared sandwiches, cakes and pastries this is an ideal place to visit for a light snack and drink.
10am–5.30pm daily (7.30pm Friday).
My friend Jocelyn who knows all about baking, being a chef and pastry cook recently tried one of the Ottolenghi shops (they have some seating inside also) for gourmet takeway. She said she loved the shop and layout and bought several things, rare pepper coated tuna from their cold shelf, some puff pastry cheese straws, roasted pumkin and green been salad, almond and apricot cake, a slice of cherry clafoutis, and flourless chocolate cake. Her friend Marie bought a copy of their book. Food similar to Baker and Spice in the early days. Ottolenghi now has five shops across London. Sounds like a good place to pick up a quick meal if you are on the run or staying in a hotel and don’t want to dine in restaurants every day and night.
The Fat Duck
If you have time to venture outside London The Fat Duck is where you should go. It is simply wonderful and it is not often that you end up at a 3 star Michelin restaurant twice in a month. But I will write more on this in my category for Michelin dining. Roz MacAllan