If I had to pick a favourite neighbourhood in London it would have to be Angel and more particularly the area around Upper Street. It's something about the mix of independent shops and cafes, beautiful Victorian terraces and an altogether more village-y feel that sees me go here almost every Sunday (that and the more practical fact that there is a massive Sainsbury's next to a Waitrose and M&S foodhall which basically equals grocery shopping heaven to me). You can also eat reliably well in this neck of the woods, one of my trusted favourites Ottolenghi always a good takeaway choice with it's fantastic Middle Eastern inspired salads and La Farola, just a few doors up, serving well made Spanish classics. I was however yet to discover a truly extraordinary restaurant in the area. That changed after a recent visit to newly opened Oldroyd.
Located by the picturesque Camden Passage, it may look like an unassuming bistro from the outside and is tiny on the inside but the food served here is truly outstanding modern European fare at prices that you won't quite believe. I have to admit expectations of the place weren't exactly low before my visit. Never one to head to a new restaurant unprepared I did some research before and discovered the high pedigree of the owner here. I had in fact met Tom Oldroyd, the man behind it all, by chance a few years prior during his time as head chef at famous Venetian inspired London restaurant emporium Polpo. There, with owner Russell Norman, he helped drive the small plate and flavour led dining revolution that this city went through 4 or 5 years ago and irrevocably changed the restaurant scene forever and with also fundamentally helped improved London's global culinary reputation. Bearing in mind this level of experience then, his own venture, aptly named Oldroyd, was never going to serve bland or boring food and luckily only managed to exceed my already high exceptions.
The food served here, part of a seasonally changing and deliberately short menu, is best enjoyed shared and takes its inspiration from all around Europe in a sophisticated and effortless fashion. I dined with three meat eaters so can't vouch for their dishes but everything I sampled (altogether we had around 7 or 8 dishes ranging from £3 to £16 in price) was absolutely flawless in terms of it's flavour and preparation and of a fine dining quality without the price tags. Every small detail matters here - from the exceptional sourdough served with a big slab of rather incredible anchovy butter to the fine slivers of gravadlax accompanied by shavings of pickled beetroot and turnip that made it almost too beautiful to eat but too bloody delicious when we eventually did. A pungent truffle mayonnaise came dolloped next to crispy wild mushroom croquettes that were far from a mere veggie friendly afterthought, the same true for an outstanding dish of spinach malfetti (a sort of gnocchi like spinach and dough balls) that came served with a mushroom and crispy sage sauce and proved as satisfying and comforting as any meat dish. The real, and for me rather unexpected, highlight of the meal however was the prawn, fennel and saffron risotto topped with gremolata. Far from being the bland and gloopy mountain of rice I usually associate with risotto, this was a silky, rich and smooth, a delicate marriage of flavours where every mouthful proved an absolute delight.
Yes Oldroyd isn't perfect- as mentioned before it is a tiny place, in fact minute to the point where you are likely to elbow your dining companion in the face as you fight over who gets the last spoonful of risotto and with the open kitchen tucked away in a corner of the ground floor room you may break a sweat or two BUT for me this really only adds to the magic of Oldroyd. Here it is all about exceptional and genuine cooking by a man that has put all of his passion and knowledge into his very own place, a step that is more than brave in a London restaurant scene dominated by chains, and if indeed you are able to score a reservation for one of his tables here should make you feel very lucky to experience exactly this, with minor imperfections and all. Would you want to eat this kind of food at double the price in a shiny and sterile space on some fancy Central London street? I certainly wouldn't which makes Oldroyd such a true local gem- cosy, unpretentious, affordable and most importantly bloody damn good to the point where you don't really want to to tell your friends about it knowing how few tables are there. Well done Mr Oldroyd and welcome to my favourite (and now even better) neighbourhood.
draws to a close I thought it was only fitting to look back at some of my
favourite foodie highlights of the year, a year that saw me fortunate enough to
travel to some amazing places around the world including New York, Helsinki and
there will be a lot more tasty things to come in 2017 with some excited trips
in the pipeline as well….
I was over the moon when this little gem opened just around the corner from me. Why? Well the fusion of tapas and Middle Eastern dishes served here works a real treat with every dish bursting with unusual, fresh and vibrant flavours. It is food made for sharing and one that will make you want to try the entire menu and come back for repeat visits when your belly doesn’t fit in anymore.
Morito for me stands for the best of London's restaurant scene- it is affordable, doesn’t play it safe when it comes to flavour combinations and unusual ingredients and puts a big fat smile on your face with every bite you take. The must try dish? Basically everything but if I had to pick one it would have to be the fried aubergines with date molasses and feta – you will never look at aubergines in the same way again…
one of those things that is hard to get completely wrong but equally hard to
absolutely nail. I had heard a LOT of good things about Roberta’s before my
visit but luckily for once this place was worth all the hype. Yes, it has all
the trimmings of a typical hipster dining spot- no reservations, achingly cool
waiters and an outdoors seating area with a slightly tropical vibe but boy do
they also know how to make incredible pizzas.
My choice of pizza here, the Cheesus Christ- a beautiful marriage of mozzarella, Taleggio,
Parmigiano, black pepper served on the most incredible of thin yet crispy dough base was out of this world. I have had some great pizzas in my time including in
Rome but this was something special. If you love pizza make this your first
stop on any trip to New York.
I have to admit I consciously limited my burger intake in 2016 after too many years of too many, in my case veggie, burgers- London it seems engulfed in a never ending craze for this type of food with the likes Meat Liqour, Honest Burgers and Lucky Chip commanding ridiculous queues to get your hands on what is essentially a greasy filling between two pieces of bread. However I couldn’t help but make a visit to Shiso Burger on a birthday trip to Berlin this February after I found out that the burgers served here came with an Asian and to my delight fishy twist.
Yes, of course there are meaty burgers on the menu too but where Shiso excels and ticks a box that barely any burger joints in London do, is in their offering of fish based burgers that really make this place a pescecatarian’s dream. There is a salmon burger served with cream cheese and miso sauce for that Asian twist, a tuna burger served with Shiso leaf lettuce, coriander mayo and teriyaki sauce or what I went for on this occasion the rather incredible Ebi burger- a huge and juicy black tiger prawn served in a delightfully fluffy burger bun and combined with a honey and ginger mustard sauce and chili mayo.
In fact if my tummy had allowed I would have happily sampled all three in one sitting - this was inventive and delicious cooking that made burgers exciting again. London burger joints take note, Shiso does something no one else is doing here at the moment and I sure will be back to try more of their (non meaty) burgers that are far from predictable.
champagne Papi at this super cool Japanese inspired basement cocktail bar in
Farringdon and you will be served quite the spectacle. I won’t reveal too much
but a vending machine, absinthe infused sugar cube presented in a baggy and a
kinder egg style plastic bubble are all part of the final drink which also
happens to be damn delicious. Not cheap at £15 a cocktail but worth every
Hands down the best dessert of the year has to be the frozen s’more from Dominque Ansel bakery. Enjoyed on a blasting hot New York summer day, this custard ice cream covered with crispy chocolate wafer and enrobed in modified frozen marshmallow is without exaggeration absolutely out of this world.
Luckily for Dominique Ansel has actually just opened his first bakery in London so all I can say is get yourself down there ASAP and be prepared to have your mind blown, I would even go as far that it is worth a trip to New York alone...
2016 also saw me
discover Thai food, in previous years being a little reluctant to explore this
type of cuisine after a bad takeaway experience. Well one only gets older
and wiser of course which is why I finally gave it another go and immediately fell
in love with the fresh, spicy and gluten free (all noodles are made from rice)
nature of the Thai dishes I began to try. Starting conservatively by ordering
pad thai’s, I soon discovered Thai curries and quickly became obsessed
with the depth of flavour and spice in red curries.
I tried A LOT of Thai
takeaways along the way this year but Rosa’s stunned me with the consistently high quality of food delivered that allows you to have restaurant
type food in the comfort of your own home. I am still ordering my way across
the menu but their salmon red curry and signature aubergine are absolutely to
die for while their pad thai is a classic executed perfectly here. I will be
making many more hungover orders from Rosa's in 2017 and hope you will too.
tiny island off Helsinki’s coast that only has enough space to house a pizzeria
and during the summer months also happens to serve some of the finest pizza and Aperol Spritz’s around…. sound too good to be true? Well Skiffer is
very much reality and probably the most special spot that I have enjoyed food at this
If ever you want that true holiday feeling here is the space, away
from civilisation (well a 4 minute ferry ride from the mainland at least) and
overlooking the vast coast this is as unique of a setting as you will ever enjoy
pizza in. I already can’t wait to return next summer!
have been a little rude (or maybe just Parisian who knows..) but I absolutely
adored the brunch “package” offered here that allows you to enjoy both sweet and savoury
flavours as well as some of the most delicious bread I’ve had in a long time. For around
25 euros each you get a hot or cold coffee, a fresh juice of your choosing, a
big bread basket full of unusual flavours and textures that is served with some
fantastic jams and a homemade peanut butter and too finish things off a savoury
main that comes with a sweet treat on the side. Sounds like a lot of food? Oh
it is and you will eat until you physically cannot fit another bite in, so delicious
is every component served.
My eggs royale were cooked to perfection and shared
the plate with an equally fantastic slice of thick and juicy banana bread that
was topped with peanut butter, banana and whipped cream. This isn’t your every
day, run of the mill brunch or fry up and it is all the better for it in my eyes.
We need this kind of inventiveness in London when it comes to brunching and I can only recommend an early
morning trip here for anyone going to Paris in 2017 before the inevitable queues
of local Parisians that know what’s good begin to form outside.
continued to be quite the coffee snob this year, more often than I would like
to admit sending back a badly prepared cappuchino (if you care to know it has
to be skinny and extra dry for me), but to my positive surprise I’ve had consistently great coffee at
every single of the Grind outlets around London. What’s more they don’t only
serve great coffee but each location has a unique and very well conceived concept
with my particular favourite being the Wes Anderson-eqsue Clerkenwell outpost
with all it's luscious pink velvet seats and pastel tones. Don’t waste your time getting a
terrible coffee at Starbucks and the like- there is likely to be a Grind near
you wherever you are in London serving some stellar coffee.
visited some amazing rooftop bars in New York with views over the impressive NYC skyline, Le Bain in particular being located so high up a
skyscraper itself that you felt almost able to touch the clouds, but Netil 360
is where I had some of my favourite memories this summer.
It’s rooftop views
may be a little more humble, just about able to see our more subtle high rises
in the city and a not so glamorous view of London fields, but this place just
has a certain vibe about it with its fairy lights and open plan feel that makes
it utterly charming. Enjoying the
stars over London with one of their Aperol Spritz pints in hand ( a drink
basically invented for me) this was the perfect place to start many nights out
in London and I cannot wait to return when they open their doors again in 2017.