Food envy is a horrible feeling, but it’s almost unavoidable when eating out in London these days, such is the care and attention top chefs put into each and every dish on sometimes expansive menus.
Fortunately, there’s a solution: increasing numbers of top-flight restaurants offer tasting menus that let you try a little bit of everything and get a real feel for the work of a particular chef in the process. Here are some to try in the British capital.
The tasting menu experience doesn’t have to break the bank. Hot young British chefs Mark Jarvis and Jack Cashmore earned their stripes at upscale establishments, including Four-Star Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, but at Anglo, their stripped spot in Farringdon, you can get seven courses of refined British cooking, plus amuse-bouches, for just £45 (US$49) a head. Drink pairings are a refreshingly good value too, at just £30 (US$33).
Dishes range from bold, inspired takes on simple ideas, like the cheese and onion on malt loaf, to more unusual fare, including ingredients like sea buckthorn or kombu kelp.
The shorter tasting menu available at lunchtime features a couple of different dishes than those on offer in the evening, so if you’ve enjoyed yourself at dinner, then you might want to consider visiting again in the daytime.
Hélène Darroze, one of the world’s leading female chefs, puts a spin on the classic tasting menu concept by giving you an element of choice. There’s the “Inspiration” menu for those in the mood to go all out, or mix and match dishes to curate your own five- or seven-course meal.
Darroze’s bold, modern French cooking is big on provenance, and each dish proudly proclaims its suppliers, whether that’s foie gras from Robert Dupérier in the chef’s hometown of Landes in the southwest of France, or rhubarb from Janet Oldroyd Hulme’s family business in Yorkshire.
This is a top-tier dining experience, but there’s playfulness too — ordering involves removing marbles from a solitaire board — and there’s nothing stuffy about India Mahdavi’s bright, wood-paneled dining room inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Connaught.
Located in a converted town hall building in trendy East London, The Clove Club looks from the outside like a rather grand fine-dining experience. Step inside however, and you find yourself in a dining room that’s anything but. It’s just a simple space dominated by Isaac McHale’s open kitchen.
The Scottish chef — who worked at The Ledbury and Copenhagen’s Noma before setting up here in 2013 — favors simplicity over fussiness in his cooking, but likes to surprise his guests, too. That’s why you’ll discover monkfish in coffee or duck, and morel and ginger consommé.
Unlike most restaurants of this caliber, The Clove Club offers a dedicated vegetarian tasting menu with delectable twists on the standard nine courses, like salt baked beetroot with charcoal cream and hazelnuts, complete with its own set of wine pairings.
Another Noma alumnus, Tom Sellers brings a taste of New Nordic cuisine to Bermondsey, an area of London not exactly known for its fine dining.
As the name of this eatery suggests, Sellers’ food is all about narrative. The 10-course “Full Story” tasting menu is divided into four chapters — “Childhood,” “Sea,” “Land” and “The End” — with each dish telling a story from the chef’s life.
The famous beef-dripping candle, served with dark sourdough for dipping, for example, is a reference to his father’s love for this most old-fashioned of treats.
If you want to do some research before your visit, Sellers’ book, A Kind of Love Story, came out in fall 2016.
There’s a jewel-like quality to many of the dishes found on the seven-course tasting menu at The Ledbury, the chic Notting Hill eatery helmed by Australian chef Brett Graham. And thanks to Graham’s considerable skill at coaxing remarkable flavors out of seemingly simple ingredients — the candy beetroot with caviar salt and smoked eel is a case in point — they taste even better than they look.
Friendly staff and an unstuffy vibe belie the sophistication of this Anglo-French food, and the wine list is more innovative than you’d expect, with offerings from Australia, Austria and Italy alongside the French bins on the pairing menu.