I’m a big foodie. But there are many different types of foodies. I’m not the kind that digs out the hidden gem deep from some nondescript neighbourhood, but only because I don’t have the patience. I’m not the kind of foodie that frequents a different Michelin star restaurant each week, but only because I get irritated with too much faffing about. I’m not the kind of foodie that has their finger on the pulse of the new and upcoming cult restaurants, but that’s because again, I don’t have the patience, and there’s too much faffing about.
I’m the kind of foodie that loves homely, well-cooked food, that’s delicious and isn’t asking too much of you. You don’t have to sit there for 10 courses, you don’t have to guess what’s on your plate, you don’t have to eat your meal directly out of the chef’s hand, and you don’t have to queue for hours and hours to get a table.
Call me lazy, sure, and for sure, each of those types of meals above have their correct place and time to be appreciated. Do I love Michelin star food? Of course I do – everybody does. That’s why they have a Michelin star! But I almost prefer the low-key way of dining of chatting for hours with your friends over yummy food and good wine in a great atmosphere.
So here are my favourite restaurants in London right now. The ones where I can show up with my mates and not have to worry about the food, because I know it’ll be good. The ones where I feel cosy and at home, and don’t have to try too hard. Frequent them on a casual night in your fat jeans and a loose t-shirt, because you know at the end of the meal, you’ll be popping open the first button of your trousers, and feeling satiated by good conversation, good friends, good wine, and good food. Enjoy.
With their first outpost in Spitalfields and a new location opening up on Poland Street in Soho, Bubala is my favourite restaurant to go to for excellent vegetarian food. Look, I’m not normally one to jump at vegetarian restos (and I know meat-eating is bad for the environment, but I try to make up for my failings in other ways) but Bubala is one of my favourite restaurants to go to as a meat eater. Which means it blows most of the other restaurants out of the park. My usual order? The pickle plate, labneh, hummus, halloumi drizzled in black seed honey, decadent potato latkes, and caramelized cauliflower. Don’t forget to order extra plates of their laffa bread to scoop up all the labneh and hummus you can fit into your little tummy.
Emilia’s Crafted Pasta
For someone who lives in West London, getting to Emilia’s Crafted Pasta restaurant is so far it’s almost not worth it. Key word: almost. Usually, I like to go when I’m over east London way, but if I’m really craving a good bowl of pasta there’s just no substitute. I’m not even a Carbonara girl; I’ve never liked it and if I see it on the menu I’ll never go for it – except at Emilia’s Crafted Pasta. Honesty I struggle to choose, so I like to go with friends and order extra bowls to share in between us all. The unmissables are: the Truffled Cacio e Pepe (creamy, cheesy, and deliciously truffle-y), the Pancetta Carbonara (again, creamy, cheesy, rich and light, all at the same time), and the 4-hour Slow-cooked Béchamel Bolognese (no words other than the best Bolognese I’ve ever had). If you’re feeling a little heavy, the Tomato Radiatori or the Pesto Cassarece are both also delicious and simple. There’s just no losing.
An airy location but still a cosy atmosphere, Lurra is one of my favourite places to go for a good chat over food. A Basque menu, expect lots of steak, with their chargrilled sirloin being one of their signatures. Unlike your average steak restaurant, Lurra serves it up already sliced for sharing so you don’t need to go hacking into it shaking the table like I know you do, you “I-like-it-well-done” barbarian. Whole grilled wild Turbot is also a signature, if you’re so inclined. For starters the sourdough and bone marrow is always a winner, along with the jámon croquétas and of course, the jámon. It’s natural for your cholesterol to rise a little by the time you walk out of there. An excellent wine menu, I always happen to be extremely satisfied by the time I leave (perhaps too satisfied if you know what I mean, glug glug glug), but you’re able to BYOB too which is great for my wine aficionado friends, and great for me because I get to drink the Château Lafite that they bring along.
Copita has been in Soho since 2011, and it’s always busy. You can book a table, but if you haven’t, no stress, it’s worth the usually 10 minute wait to get a barstool at this fantastic Spanish joint. The menu changes frequently, but I recommend ordering basically everything on the menu to try. Pair it with a bottle of their red wine from the region – or even better, get drunk on their homemade sangria and you’re in for a banger. If you can’t get a table at Copita, you don’t have to look far, as their sister restaurant Blanchette is just opposite, and serve delicious French fanfare to scratch your itch for juicy duck leg confit and excellent plates of cheese and honey. Not something to miss.
Set in the old London City Bank designed in 1884, Zaika is an imposing restaurant, with excellent professional service, and Indian food to match. It’s actually the sister restaurant of the Michelin-starred Tamarind Mayfair, and how it doesn’t have a Michelin star itself, I don’t know. Sometimes the butter chicken isn’t on the menu, but they’ll make it for you if you ask, and you better order it. Decadent, wholesome, fragrant, smooth and creamy… what more could you ask out of a curry. For starters you must get the Raj Kachori, and the Tandoori Paneer Tikka, and if you’re out with some hungry people, the Lamb Seekh Kebab is excellent too.
I frequent this restaurant at least once a week, and have been plenty of times on my lonesome when my friends are sick of eating Korean barbecue. Not a fancy resto, but favoured by groups of long-lost friends, people on first dates, or me by myself (lol). I love to get the gim gool to start for my salty fix, or if I’m in a group, the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is always a winner. Followed up with plates of thinly sliced ribeye (even better if you can get the marinated kind) and some veggie soy fried udon on the side, I’m rolling home a happy camper.
Six Portland Road
My local, Six Portland Road always delivers on home-cooked beautiful food. With the menu changing every day, it’s always a surprise. I’ve had a fantastic Caponata there, along with a great Chateaubriand, and a fantastic lamb rack. Cosy, warm, and homey, you feel like you’re back at your mum’s, except that she’s become a phenomenally better cook than you remembered. A great location on a cold, rainy night, or when you’re a little bit home-sick and need a cheering up. I’ll be in the corner, nursing a bottle of red and making my way through a couple of lamb chops, dreaming of my motherland Aotearoa.
Image via Instagram @brutt.a