I can't begin to give you a complete sense of eating in London, enormous and varied as its offerings are and as they're spread out over a vast territory. But, because we do love food, we did our best to eat well each day and largely succeeded.
We ate at a pub once, The Admiral Codrington, to give the boys the experience (which they loved; the chips were fab; fish blah), but otherwise stuck to London's many ethnic offerings, including Middle Eastern, Italian, Indian and casual French.
Maroush II & Beirut Express
Maroush, a chain of restaurants including multiple Maroush outposts and Beirut Express joints, serves really solid Lebanese food. We ate once at Chelsea's Beauchamp Place Maroush and once at the Beirut Express in Kensington.
Their tabbouleh is some of the best I've ever had, the baba ghanouj is sublime, the hummus is delicious, and the stuffed vine leaves were lovely! We enjoyed the Maroush salad, falafel and shish taouk as well and everything made for great leftovers.
I didn't think the chicken shawarma was as good as the rest nor did we like the way the moujaddarah was blended together.
The Beauchamp location has very little atmosphere and is spread across three or four rooms in an odd way. Where do you check in? Why can only some rooms serve alcohol? We sat near the kitchen, and the door that the waitstaff went through banged loudly every time someone entered/exited. We almost couldn't hear ourselves talk.
Take-away here and at Beirut Express is a great option! Mezze and sandwich prices are very reasonable.
Franco Manca, also a chain, is an artisanal pizzeria that uses slow-rising sourdough crust cooked in a wood-burning oven. We ate twice -once in, once take-away- at the South Kensington location and were totally pleased both times.
I particularly loved the courgette (zucchini), buffalo milk ricotta, basil, mozzarella and pecorino pie. Wow.The boys loved the margherita (bottom right), and Tom was very pleased with the home cured ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushroom option (bottom left).
The crust was the perfect combination of chewy, airy and toothsome, and the slightly sourdough tang was a terrific addition to the overall flavor of the pies. Pizzas range from £4.50 - 7.00.
The River Cafe
For a belated anniversary celebration, Tom and I went to The River Cafe, an Italian restaurant that opened in 1987 and received a Michelin star ten years later. I've always heard about it though knew nothing specific, so we were surprised by everything.
It's on the north bank of the Thames, in a renovated oil storage facility in Hammersmith. As you drive through the neighborhood, you absolutely do not expect to find a fine restaurant somewhere nearby. It's a fairly odd locale and you have to go behind a tall brick facade to enter the restaurant.
Once inside, I was certain I'd happened onto a Miami Vice set inspired by an aquarium and owned by Wolfgang Puck. If a waiter had immediately brought me a Chinese Chicken Salad, I'd not have been surprised. I mean, there was a large clock being beamed onto a blue wall via projector.
All that time-warp weirdness aside, the service was marvelous, the place old-school in the best ways and not remotely snooty. You could order half-portions of pretty much any dish on the menu and smaller or larger pours of wine. I love flexibility like that!
We took full advantage of it by ordering a decent array of dishes: chargrilled squid with fresh red chili and rocket; tuna carpaccio with fennel, heirloom tomatoes and wild arugula; pappardelle with sausage, veal and liver sauce; lobster and basil risotto; some fish dish with anchovy sauce (I can remember no additional details, but it was great); the apricot-almond tart and a carafe of a gorgeous, crisp Fiano, one of my favorite Italian white wines.
The lobster risotto did not do it for me at all, but everything else was delicious, especially the pappardelle which Tom said might very well be the best pasta he's ever had anywhere. He is NOT prone to hyperbole, so take that very seriously.
Rococo Chocolates and La Cave à Fromage
A foodie friend suggested we treat ourselves at Rococo Chocolates should we pass a location, and damn if we didn't find ourselves in front of one whilst walking in Marylebone (a charming neighborhood full of great shops). I herded the boys inside spit-spot, and ten minutes later we emerged with a beautiful little box of dark chocolate-covered orange peel (one of my faves), milk and dark chocolate caramel "ravioli" and some chocolate lips. It's a pricey but absolutely lovely little place.
Yet another chain, La Cave à Fromage, is just what it sounds like: a cheese cave. And really, don't you want to go into a cave teeming with amazing cheeses? I do. Tom does. We did! The South Kensington location provided us the makings for excellent baguette-and-cheese picnic dinners; I highly recommend their stuff!
Dessert is everywhere
If you are a gelato fan, London is FULL of gelaterias. We tried four different ones: Scoop, Odonno's, Snowflake, a pop-up which closed while we were in town; and Amaretto. Amaretto had the loveliest presentation, Odonno's gets great reviews, but the boys and Tom agree that Scoop had the best gelato.
Borough Market is a fantastic foodie haven located under the elevated train tracks in Southwark. We ate lunch at a pasta stall where each of us had different pasta and sauces, cooked then and served hot, and also took some away to cook later. Afterwards, we walked around taking in the seemingly countless options: burgers, Egyptian street food, French bakeries, coffee stalls, seafood and meat purveyors... It's a fun, delicious place to visit.
Naturally, there are also several outposts of this Keralan restaurant. We ate at the Dering Street location and were very pleased with all we ordered: dosas, eggplant and cashew nut curry, two different chicken curries and paratha. The raita and assorted dipping sauces were fabulous. Wonderful!