08 February 2011

Shortlisting Time Out's London Restaurant Longlist

Time Out has just published its latest list of the top 50 restaurants in London. "And, sorry Gordon and Jamie," it adds cheekily, "but you didn't make the cut." I haven't been to any of Ramsay's restaus but I've been to Jamie's Italian in Covent Garden, which was good as long as you can cope with the overly effusive menu copy -- let the people tell you the grilled chicken is lovely, Jamie, don't make them suspicious with pervasive positive adjectives.

Of the Time Out top 50, I've been to ten (although I've almost been to Bocca di Lupo and Ottolenghi on numerous occasions and will hopefully go to both at some point) and I've been to five of those ten at least twice:

#47 Rosa's (Soho and Spitalfields). I had been meaning to check out this Thai restaurant for a long time but the original branch is near Liverpool Street and I don't go that way very often. As soon as the Soho branch opened in Dean Street, I rushed to it like, well, Bexquisite to pad Thai. I've been a few times now and I have had pad Thai on all of them (it's good, although they seem to specialise in pumpkin curry and duck curry and my dining companions have always approved of those dishes). The Soho branch is small but I like the decor, which is very modern and funky. You can get cheaper Thai food in the 'hood but the quality at Rosa's is good, the food is beautifully served and at no expense to the portion size.

#44 Comptoir Libanais (Marylebone). You might say (and indeed, I have said) that someone who lives a five-minute walk from the Edgware Road has no need for a cafĂ© like Le Comptoir Libanais and sure, you can get similar food for a lot cheaper in the numerous establishments. But I like the funky vibe and the food is reasonably priced (I've eaten a chicken tagine for lunch, macaroons and assorted sweetmeats, and the juice combos are tasty too). For the location, anyway, which is great (at the foot of Marylebone High Street and just around the back of Selfridges).

#34 Providores (Marylebone). This is my favourite bruncheria in the quartier. They're also open for regular lunch and dinner but the queues form at brunch o'clock -- and it's worth the wait, even when it's cold and rainy. I used to be partial to the sourdough French toast with bacon and maple syrup (minus the mushrooms in my case) but of late, I've tended to go for the sweetcorn and blueberry fritters that are served with tomatoes and rocket. However, the online menu suggests they might have disappeared this item (the closest I can find is the "Thai basil and lime waffles with tomato, sweetcorn, rocket and avocado salad and jalapeno chutney," which I'll probably try next time). Their coffee is also the tastiest on Marylebone High Street. I'm sad to say they've renamed "hokey pokey" ice cream as "Golden Crunch" ice cream (at least, I think they're the same); part of the fun of ordering the former was in the mystery of what it would turn out to be.

#21 Polpo (Soho). I first visited Polpo, soon after it opened, on a day when I had spent 48 hours in January without heating at home. Nonetheless, I had a great time, which says a lot. Polpo specialises in regional Italian small plates, from the bite-sized cicheti (I like the potato and parmesan crochetta) to larger dishes like duck ragu, peppercorns and gnocchi, that are designed for sharing. The food is good value for Soho and the wine is also reasonably priced and most wines come in carafes too. The main Beak Street branch is often packed and has long queues but there's a cute zinc bar where you can linger over a glass of Prosecco; a second branch, Polpetto, is down the road, above a pub in Dean Street. Both serve the eponymous (or nearly eponymous) polpetti.

#12 Hix (Soho and others). Mark Hix's empire now consists of several London restaurants (and one on the south coast), including one in Selfridges and one in the City. I go to Hix Soho in Brewer Street most often and it's quite easy to miss the restaurant apart from the fact it has a giant, heavy door. The steaks are good, as are the posh fish fingers with chips and (posh) mushy peas. The focus is on regional British food with some quirky ingredients, which is why a relatively fussy easter like me tends to stick to the steak. Thus far, I've always been too full to manage a pudding but the Bakewell pudding has often tempted me. [Edit 9 Feb 2011: the Amedei chocolate meringue is delicious.]

The other five restaurants I've been to are: Salt Yard (#48) on Goodge Street; the Wolseley (#46) on Piccadilly; Arbutus (#32) on Frith Street; Busuba Thai (#29) in several central locations; and Koya (#2) on Frith Street. I'm surprised the latter ranked so highly; I enjoyed the (mainly noodle-based food) but it was really expensive for what it was and the service was as spotty as you'd expect in many cheaper a restaurant, even on a quiet, rainy Thursday.


  1. Thanks so much for mentioning Rosa's. Really glad to hear you like the our new place in Soho. Next time you pop in please say hello. Alex & Saiphin Moore

  2. Thanks, Alex and Saiphin. I'm sure I'll be back very soon! :)

  3. I love it when they release lists like this, I always try to make my way through them before the next similar thing is out, not yet made it through an entire list yet but a top 50 restaurants in London could be quite possible to get through long term if I take into account the restaurants I've already eaten at. Hix in Soho is my favourite place for steak aside from Santa Maria del Sur in Battersea, great meat.

  4. @Timothy I hope that by the end of the year I'll have been to at least half of the restaurants on the list. The trouble is that I really like the ones I've already been to so I keep revisiting them. I haven't heard of Santa Maria del Sur but it looks great. Le Relais de Venise in Marylebone is one of my favourite steak restaurants, although the queues are usually pretty bad.