While London boasts a highly commendable cross section of the world’s greatest cuisines, sometimes we like to keep things local. British cuisine has enjoyed a much celebrated resurgence recently, with brasseries, pubs and high-end eateries all jumping on the brawny bandwagon. Baked beans and Spam have been given a tantalising facelift in the form of Great British classics spruced up to appease the modern diner’s appetite. Here are five London hotspots to hit up when you’ve got a hankering for some home-grown flavours.
Following a successful soft opening this summer, the thoroughly British Brook Green eatery, Mustard, is now open breakfast through dinner. Brought to London by the team behind the legendary Joe Allen, the brasserie serves traditional comfort food flavours in a contemporary setting.
With a strong focus on local sourcing, the all-day menu emphasises simplicity and Great British flavours. Breakfast favourites include The Full Green Mustard: poached eggs, chard, tomatoes, woodland mushrooms and herby oat pudding; or the ever-popular duck eggs on toast. The all-day menu runs the gamut from daily seafood specials like sea bream with cockle vinaigrette and creamed potatoes, to seasonal dishes like glazed middle white pork rib with pease pudding. No surprises then that the sweets and cocktails are also a thoroughly British affair – gooseberry and gin crumble with lavender scented vanilla custard being case in point.
If you’re after bags of longstanding tradition paired with exclusively British ingredients, look no further than London landmark, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand. The super central haunt has been dishing out classic combinations for over 185 years.
Simpson’s has recently jazzed up its much-loved menu with seasonally inspired eats like smoked mackerel and watercress salad with celeriac, apple and mustard dressing; and roast duck and confit leg with caramelised chicory and summer squash puree (pictured). However, the old favourites still remain. These include the roast saddle of lamb; steak and kidney pie and of course their famous speciality of Scottish beef on the bone, aged for 28 days and carved at guests’ tables from antique silver-domed trolleys – a practice that began over 150 years ago.
Ask For Janice is a modern British all-day restaurant and bar that looks onto Smithfield’s Market. Drawing from its historical market surrounds, the dinky East End eatery is devoted to bringing an ever-changing menu of wholesome yet inspired dishes to the London table.
Ask For Janice has a focus on locally sourced produce and the team regularly set out on foraging trips to scour ingredients for the retro English-themed menu. The eclectic selection of dishes rotate with the seasons but you can expect to see such mouth-watering morsels as gin cured salmon with rye and hand-picked chervil; or the tattie pancake with woodland mushrooms and Neal’s Yard creme fraiche.
Transport yourself directly to the lush Scottish Highlands… by way of Fitrovia. Mac & Wild is no Scottish-themed restaurant – it’s a real Scottish game restaurant, with almost all of its product sourced within the UK, and much of it from Scotland. Going from strength to strength, the venture began life as a market stall come uber popular pop-up, finally finding its permanent home on Great Titchfield Street last year. Since then its been hailed as the one of the capital’s premier purveyors of game.
Inside you’ll find dark wood flooring, animal busts, tartan and a welcome spattering of Scottish humour. You’ll also find over 100 bottles of whisky that the cheery staff are more than happy to talk you through. Menu highlights include their melt-in-the-mouth Scottish venison ‘steak frites’; haggis pops; and the Venimoo burger: a double patty of beef and venison, béarnaise, cheese and caramelised onions on toasted brioche.
A foodie’s staple since its inception in 1994, St John is the unwaveringly popular Clerkenwell eatery that continues to impress diners and critics from day to day. Pioneering ‘nose to tail’ eating, the restaurant was built into an old bacon smokehouse and specialises in using all the cuts of an animal.
The food is so fresh, in fact, that it often runs out as you are dining, meaning you have to monitor the ever-evolving menu as soon as you get to the table. The emphasis is proper English grub, uncomplicated flavours and proteins cooked to perfection. Though you never know what you’re going to get till you arrive, a typical a la carte offering might include roast middle white pork and dandelion; butter-soaked bone marrow and toast; devilled kidneys; or their melty and magnificent Welsh rarebit.