My 5 Best Eats
By Mr London aka Dave Burt.
I have 5 recommendations for My Best Eats in London. But before I give up the gold, let me first give context and an explanation for my reluctance. You see, we spend every day of the week telling millions of people where to go, what to eat and drink. And they listen. We’ve painstakingly built trust with our audience, by serving unbiased and non-sponsored food and coffee reviews for more than 4 years now with London’s Number 1 foodie “Clerkenwell Boy” at the helm of our food programme.
In the early days of Instagram we’ve posted about a new coffee shop on @LONDON and watched aghast as Londoners walk through the front door 10 minutes later with the “New Coffee Shop” post on the screen of their smart phones. For a number of years we believed this was VERY COOL. (It still is and we’re in the business of what’s cool). But if we’re constantly featuring all our favourite places, you occasionally have a reality check moment when you return to said establishment and discover a queue out the front door. At this point you whisper “saaake” under your breath.
So the truth is, I’ve become a little selfish and this is some kind of public confessional because I figure it’s fair game to keep some secrets to myself, purely so I can escape the Instagrammers and enjoy some bubbles and a bloody top drawer cacio e pepe in peace.
Having felt a pang of guilt these past few weeks, and having lost an internal battle to justify my selfishness, I’ve given myself a bloody good talking to and decided to finally come clean on 5 of my favourite jaunts. So here goes. I ask for your forgiveness since I’ll probably “see you soon”.
#1 Il Pampero
The Hari, Belgravia
My best Italian in London, essential when your girlfriend is actually Italian and grew up surrounded by Alba truffles and Piedmont vineyards. This beautiful restaurant is hidden inside The Hari hotel in Belgravia, in a rather sophisticated setting. But it never prevents me from turning up in a pair of ripped jeans.
Their present Autumn / Winter menu is a cracker – it’s one of those situations where you genuinely want to eat everything on the menu, whilst being totally aware you need to leave room for dessert. I often defer to Stefano who leads the front-of-house team, and ask for any wild cards that executive chef Claudio Covino has dreamt up. He’s also helped curate bespoke dinners for me when we’ve hosted friends and family. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Favourites include pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Essential. Sea Bass in salt. They also have arguably the best Cacio e Pepe in London which is served by pouring the hot pasta into a parmesan cheese bale at the side of the table and served straight to your plate once it's covered in cheese. Risotto Al Borolo is dreamy, as is any pasta you can choose from. It’s always seasonal and full of provenance.
#2 Scarlett Green
Scarlett Green is part of the Daisy Green collection of restaurants which are designed to bring Australian food and coffee culture to London. They’ve had an absolute smash hit with this recent opening at 4 Noel Street in Soho, now renowned for bottomless Prosecco and Aussie-style brunches. I’m often here on Saturdays. And Sunday if I have the stamina. Think DJ vibes, espresso martinis, raspberry sours, always with shakshouka and chorizo, or on detox days default to their "healthy start" with celeriac toast, avocado, and poached eggs. As you would expect from the Aussie’s, the coffee is banging. Plus they are also purveyors of the best orange juice in London. Random fact, but true.
(Top Tip: book the private pink booth downstairs or a large table for brunch parties, birthdays etc – the team will always look after you and your guests. Heck they’ll even make you a cake if you ask them!)
#3 Scarfes Bar
The Rosewood, Holborn
This is my favourite evening hideaway, set within one of my favourite London hotels. Think English drawing room with the sophistication of a gentleman’s club. It features a roaring fire, a collection of cosy velvet armchairs and shelves filled with over 1,000 antique books hand-picked by a Portobello antiques dealer. It sits opposite the equally impressive British brasserie Holborn Dining (favourite for a Sunday roast), which could serve as a prelude to an unforgettable night. This is absolutely about the people you’re with as much as the setting provided.
Drop into Scarfes when Kitty LaRoar and Nick Shankland Trio are slated to play. Kitty purrs her vocals while standing at her miniature “cocktail” drumkit and syncopating with her jazz brushes, while Nick sings at the piano and plays left hand bass. It’s an extraordinary sight and the back drop to a classic night.
Pair with an old fashioned that comes with a perfectly square-cut ice cube. Am I the only one who still has huge affection for the art of perfect over-sized ice cube?
#4 Santa Maria Pizza
Pizza is quite a controversial topic of conversation. It often divides the greatest of friends. But let’s get one thing clear - whilst most of the English are happy to settle for a Domino’s shocker on a Friday night, I am not one of them. And remember – I have an Italian girlfriend – if I even contemplated eating substandard pizza, she wouldn’t kill me. No. She would simply jump on the first plane to Italy, never to be seen again.
So in light of that, I commend Santa Maria to you, for not only the preservation of my relationship but also because I love their Neapolitan inspired offerings… after all, pizza was in fact invented in Naples in 1889 by chef Raffaele Esposito, in honour of Queen Margherita, using tomato, mozzarella and basil to resemble the colours of the Italian flag – sorry to all the Americans who thought they invented it. You didn’t.
Default order: San Rocco and request added truffle oil. (Of course.) Comes with Tomato sauce, whole burrata pugliese, pecorino DOP, roasted aubergines, rocket. And it kills.
Ok. This is hardly a big secret. But make no mistake, I will move heaven and earth, and travel across a continent for their brisket buns with sweet pickled chilli’s! One of our team once described it like “eating a rainbow”. And he was spot on.
David Carter, the genius man with the firmest handshake in London, is behind the stunning restaurant situated in Sclater Street. It feels like a scene from a movie set in old-school LA, where the theatre isn’t reserved just for the restaurant, it’s also in the open-kitchen. I imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger would happily sit here for hours devouring their ribs and brisket whilst smashing back cocktail perfection.
What is this madness? Well, David having been out to Texas to source a 4.5 tonne smoker, quickly made a name for himself at festivals such as Street Feast. But as it turns out, he is the former front-of-house manager for Roka and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s no less, and this is where things get interesting because his previous life in fine-dining collides with arguably the best BBQ street food in London. I genuinely love this guy’s entrepreneurial journey to a fully-fledged, proper grown up restaurant, which has become a staple. To this day nothing can prepare you for the sensation of eating those brisket buns…
So here goes, on top of the brisket buns, my go to’s are:
Coal roasted aubergine, miso, cashew.
Crispy ox cheek, anchovy mayo
Pork belly rib, pickled cucumber
30-day dry aged beef rib
Jacket potato, mustard rarebit
Corn cob, miso butter, crispy shallot
Save room for sticky toffee pudding & clotted ice cream. And make sure you grab some cocktails – Plantation, Green Chill Tommy’s and Burnt Peach Old Fashioned are insane.