A deceptively low-tech device – a hand-powered plunger and paper filter system – that has united coffee fanatics (a factional and dangerously obsessive bunch, it should be said) in admiration. An unsurpassable way to make an Americano at home, though coffee shops increasingly offer the service (which seems vaguely redundant given that if you care remotely about your coffee you already own one). Order a traditional pour-over instead, and permit your barista the joy in describing the differences between the V60 and Chemex methods until you stab yourself in the eye with an artisan pastry.
Globally revered sushi master and triple Michelin-starred proprietor of the eponymous Araki in Tokyo, which has now closed following the chef-patron’s move to London. Araki’s speciality, as all self-respecting Japanese food bores know, is Edomae sushi, a simple, traditional and flavourful take on the cuisine. In Tokyo, his restaurant seated only nine diners, each of whom was served by the master personally, and he’d sometimes place the delicacy directly in the hands of dinner guests. In London, Araki’s new outpost, The Araki at 12 New Burlington Street, again offers nine covers, though the restaurant does also have a private dining room for an additional six. Sell out.
Banal, utterly pointless word now stripped of all meaning through overuse. Intended to conjure visions of 17th-century farmhands toiling diligently over whichever blameless foodstuff has been prefixed with the adjective (including but not limited to: bread, cheese, cider, burgers, vodka, pasta and jam). Given the frequency of “artisan” (and its anal cousin, “artisanal”) on packaging and signage at quirky independent coffee shops, cafes, Nomadic food markets and farmers’ markets, we have surely reached “peak artisan”. In practice, the term is used indiscriminately to mean “small batch”, “overpriced” or, in the case of Domino’s Artisan Pizza, “a large pizza”.
Inaugural hotel venture from the estimable Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, London’s pre-eminent restaurateur duo. The pair began their careers reinvigorating the fortunes of faded institutions Le Caprice, The Ivy and J Sheekey before branching out on their own and launching some of the capital’s grandest restaurants. Since 2003, they have opened The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Brasserie Zedél, Colbert and Fischer’s to nigh-on unanimous acclaim. Their grand new Mayfair hotel offers a US-style cocktail bar and accompanying grill room (called The Colony), a spa with hammam, an ambience of old New York, and a waiting list that all of fashionable London is attempting to claw its way to the top of.
Baffling, mystical, homeopathic approach to farming that has been dismissed as pseudoscience by critics, but which nonetheless seems to produce bloody good wine. Pioneered by wide-thinking Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the Twenties, the “preparations” required for biodynamic farming are many and detailed. They include fermenting the dung of a lactating cow, placing it in a cow horn and burying it over the winter months, before spraying it on the field during the descending phase of the moon, and stuffing yarrow blossoms into the bladders of red deer, drying it in the sun, burying it during winter, recovering it in the spring, before applying to compost in statistically insignificant quantities. Yes, really.
A perfect means of remaining both cool and superior in the summer months. Cold-brew coffee is by no means iced coffee (pah!). Rather, it has been painstakingly steeped in cold water for a minimum of eight hours, before being filtered and served straight up. London proponents include Artisan Coffee in the south and west, Timberyard of Shoreditch and roving cold-brew evangelists and coffee consultants Sandows London, whose name and packaging is inspired by a Victorian strongman, and whose company headquarters are quite possibly a giant waxed moustache made of irony.
Or, rather, “Ollie” to those trying to appear on first-name terms with the young wunderkind when attempting to secure a table at his eponymous restaurant. Dabbous in Fitzrovia is one of London’s most in-demand dining experiences, which is why any faux-foodie worth their rosemary-infused salt must profess to have had a near-religious experience while consuming its experimental cuisine (if you’re struggling, mention that you particularly enjoyed the coddled hen’s egg). Ollie has since opened his second Fitzrovian eatery, Barnyard, which is different to an almost preposterous degree – it’s a no-bookings, hipster hangout serving comfort food and boozy milkshakes. Oh, and it is, of course, pronounced “Da-boo”, and not anything else.
Phrase designed to assuage the guilt of lapsed vegetarians, by dressing up their occasional transgressions as being cool and accommodating. For example: “This cheese was made with animal fat? Don’t worry, I’m a flexitarian”; “The salad actually had lardons in, but I ate it because I didn’t want to make a fuss, and anyway I’m a flexitarian”; “Oh dear, I appear to be in Hawksmoor ordering the beef tasting menu. That’s OK, I secretly crave vast quantities of red meat, and have finally given in to my basest impulses. Did I say that out loud? I meant, er, I’m a flexitarian.”
A means of acquiring food favoured by survivalists and hermits that has been brought to the attention of the world at large by René Redzepi of Noma, who selfishly uses the technique to enhance the world’s best dishes and has thus convinced everyone else that it’s worth them having a go at it, too. Ollie Dabbous hasn’t helped, and nor has Simon Rogan of L’enclume, both of whom incorporate ingredients such as mugwort and medlar into their meals with pyrotechnically brilliant effect. As a result, inner-city foraging courses are now enthusiastically attended, though much of what can be found growing in towns is at best tasteless, and at worst probably highly carcinogenic.
As it sounds: champagnes produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards in which the grapes are grown. They tend to be smaller, more independent houses producing quirkier, more distinctive flavours. Favoured by the faux-foodie, who can point out the initials RM (Récoltant-Manipulant, the designation that identifies growers’ champagne) with a quiet pride when uncorking a bottle. Sparkling oenophiles can also deliver sparkling disquisitions on the artisan nature of the wine, and – crucially – to remark upon the importance of the terroir to the end product. (Acceptable comment: “The clay and chalk soils in Le Mesnil-le-Huttier have really allowed these Pinot Meunier grapes to come into their own.” Unacceptable comment: “Cor, cracking terroir on this one.”)
Spectacularly acclaimed Indian restaurant in Mayfair awarded a rarely seen five stars by the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler, doyenne of food critics (Ollie Dabbous was another to receive the blessing). In fact, it wasn’t just Maschler who liked it: Giles Coren, Tom Parker Bowles, Grace Dent and co all turned in gushing notices in praise of the colonial-themed restaurant (the logo features polo mallets), citing the creativity and zest of chef-patron Karam Sethi’s cooking and the quality of the cocktails in the beautiful subterranean punch bar. All aspiring gastronomes are in agreement – it really is all that and a bag of venison keema naan.
iPad wine lists
In theory: sure. In practice: absolutely not. iPads are starting to infiltrate the culinary world, and a certain type of aspiring high-end restaurant – including the Jumeirah Carlton Rib Room, Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and umpteen places in Las Vegas – is digitising its wine lists (presumably to “optimise content” and “leverage” the “power of social”, or something). It doesn’t work. The apps are rarely intuitive and, even if they are, tend to be accompanied by an unwanted lecture from the sommelier, triumphantly explaining its groundbreaking simplicity. It’s also entirely un-British to tap in one’s selection and instantaneously beam the demand off to some panicked waiter wearing an Oculus Rift headset. It feels far more appropriate to gingerly hand the iPad back to the waiter, say, “I’ll have a bottle of that one, please,” and smile weakly. Or, in other words, what most people do with a normal menu (unless, of course, you’ve recently discovered Biodynamic wine, and have decided to drink nothing but).
An awful phrase meaning a cocktail made using fruit preserves or purées. That’s presumably “kitchen-driven” as opposed to, say, “garage-driven” (made using engine oil and paint stripper) or “bathroom-driven” (made using toothpaste and old prescription painkillers). Technically speaking, kitchen-driven could also include hummus cocktails, gone-off cereal and Birds Eye Potato Waffles (and, God help us all, it probably won’t be long before it does)
Officially the UK’s best restaurant says The Good Food Guide. Lesser mortals will know the Cumbrian venue from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s visit in their TV series The Trip. True gourmands, however, have followed chef-patron Simon Rogan (he’s also behind Fera at Claridge’s), since he emerged from mentor Marco Pierre White’s shadow. Boasting an unimpeachable reputation, two Michelin stars and five AA Rosettes, L’Enclume’s biggest (only?) flaw can be found on its website, with a menu description that reads: “Menu, What Menu? The violent frequency of raw materials available to us dictates our offerings.” This was either knocked together by a palpably disinterested Shoreditch creative agency before departing for a Friday team lunch, or Rogan is very cleverly testing us all.
Locally sourced cuisine
Nigh-on essential claim for any restaurant menu – even if it isn’t remotely true. A trading standards investigation in 2010 found one-in-four claims of local provenance are misleading. Absurd examples included a Fareham pub that advertised “Hampshire spring lamb” actually reared in New Zealand, “local samphire” sold in Lancashire that was imported from Israel, and a “home assured” apple pie from a restaurant in Fylde that was actually bought from the local supermarket. Luckily, fragrant Hampshire hotel The Pig (a foodie favourite) retains its integrity, offering a “25-mile menu”, on which nothing is sourced from outside that radius. (The inevitable backlash to this trend will presumably see normcore Peckham restaurants offering “internationally sourced” cuisine, featuring chicken nuggets proudly freighted in from China.)
Tequila’s cooler, smokier, more versatile cousin. Ticks plenty of boxes – it’s still produced in a laborious, artisanal manner with locally sourced agave plants in tiny Mexican towns – and allows for much casual expertise to be displayed when sipped in company. “Mmm. Yeah. Yeah, that’s really special. It’s got the depth of a good single malt whisky, hasn’t it?” “What really sets it apart from tequila, which can only be made using the blue agave, is the variety of agave plants that can go into making a truly superb bottle of mezcal. And to think, they’re all handcrafted using 200-year-old techniques by tiny family-run production houses, mainly in the mezcal heartland of Oaxaca.” Any mention of the zany, “hallucinogenic” worm that comes as a marketing ploy in cheaper bottles, however, will see you immediately excommunicated from elite foodie circles.
Nomadic food markets
The only acceptable place to eat street food in the capital, given that Borough, Broadway and Maltby Street markets have been thoroughly colonised by normos. Major players include Street Feast, which has run its “nomadic street food circus” since 2012, and Kerb, founded by Petra Barran, which appeared in Peckham last year and took up residency at the Southbank Centre throughout the summer of 2014. Its traders (or, ahem, “Kerbanists”) include the superior Big Apple Hot Dogs; Anna Mae’s, which offers superb Southern Cooking; and Batch Bakery, which sells almost offensively desirable brownies.
These days famous as BBC Two’s The Restaurant Man. The discerning foodie, however, has been pals with Russell since he was just “the nice bloke who runs Polpo on London’s Beak Street” (or, for bonus points, in his previous incarnation as operations director at Caprice Holdings). Now, though, he’s quietly assembling a culinary empire, with additional Polpo outposts in Covent Garden, Smithfield and Notting Hill, while his much-feted Polpetto (boasting the magnificent cooking of Florence Knight) has relocated to a larger space in Berwick Street. If that doesn’t leave you stuffed, Spuntino offers no-bookings Brooklyn diner food on Rupert Street; his Jewish(ish) deli Mishkin’s continues to entertain in Catherine Street; while his first pub, Ape & Bird, is feeding the masses on a corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. In short, he’s affably taking over the world.
Opium’s bartender’s table
The current epicentre of stylish freeform alcohol drinking. Opium itself is a winning dim sum parlour and cocktail hotspot located through an obligitary faux-secret Chinatown entrance (the Experimental Cocktail Club on the same street offers more of the same). The bartender’s table, if you can get a seat, offers something rather more special: head bartender Matt Green will mix you nameless drinks far beyond the limits of your own imagination, while simultaneously hypnotising you with his Caucasian looks yet strong Trinidadian accent.
Brilliantly named chef specialising in fish. Outlaw cut his teeth with Rick Stein, earned his first Michelin star at 25 and now holds two at his eponymous restaurant in the St Enodoc Hotel in Cornwall – all self-respecting sea-foodies must thus hold an opinion on Outlaw’s cooking. If you can’t get a table at his main restaurant, try the more relaxed Outlaw’s (it’s in the same hotel) or his Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac. Alternatively, Knightsbridge’s Capital Hotel offers an Outlaw’s restaurant, too, which holds a Michelin star and, insanely, allows you to BYO on Thursdays.
Wildly popular Stone Age throwback diet, particularly favoured by CrossFit enthusiasts. Celebrity followers including Matthew McConaughey, Freddie Flintoff, Tom Jones and Miley Cyrus (so extrapolate from that what you will). The aim of the weight-loss plan is to emulate the eating patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors – cutting out dairy, grains and salt, while allowing for plenty of unprocessed meat (grass-fed, apparently), fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Scientists remain divided on the long-term benefits of the diet, but, then again, you won’t be on it for that long, so perhaps it’s best not to worry.
Nice boys done good. James and Thom Elliot, the brothers behind Pizza Pilgrims, started out serving pizzas from a van on Berwick Street in London’s Soho to a rapturous response, before swiftly upgrading to a permanent location (which is permanently rammed) on Dean Street. The pizzas, made with traditional Neapolitan sourdough, are light, reasonably priced and mouth-wateringly flavoursome. Now, a second pizzeria and “friggitoria” (vendor of fried food) has opened on Kingly Street while the van continues to service Leather Lane Market throughout the week. More recently, they’ve teamed up with Chase Distillery to launch their own brand of limoncello, Sohocello, and, alongside trendy burger specialists Patty & Bun, are appearing in a pop-up (as all young restaurateurs are contractually obliged to do) called Swingers, a Twenties-style golf clubhouse-cum-cocktail bar in Shoreditch. Faux-foodies politely applaud their deserved success, while privately yearning for the glorious Berwick Street days when only they had heard of them.
Ubiquitous. Unavoidable. Impractical. Still here. Sure, they can work well – Russell Norman's Polpo does it so flawlessly it makes you forget how hateful the experience can be elsewhere – and Barrafina’s tapas ranks comfortably among some of the best food London has to offer, but all too frequently the small plates dining experience is an ill-conceived, unnecessarily expensive mess. To experience small plates dining done badly, simply visit any of the 635 restaurants utilising the “concept” that have opened since you started reading this sentence.
A means of slow-cooking meat, fish or vegetables by placing them in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag and immersing in a temperature-controlled water bath. Renowned as a simple way to lock in the nutrients and leaving meat jaw-easingly tender, the technique was pioneered by chef Georges Pralus in the mid-Seventies at Troisgros in France (“sous-vide” is, as we all know, French for “under vacuum”). It was, formerly, the preserve of the restaurant industry, but the equipment is now available to all with the time, money and inclination. Enthusiastically endorsed by the faux-foodie (who owns a SousVide Supreme and thinks nothing of braising a pork cheek for 72 hours), despite – as critic Jay Rayner angrily pointed out in The Observer – the outcome being often somewhat mushy and tasteless.
The latest manifestation of the capital’s endless obsession with unrepentantly unhealthy food (eg, burgers, ramen, hot dogs). Southern food is everywhere, be it chef Brad McDonald’s excellent shrimp and grits at The Lockhart (see p128), One Sixty’s US smokehouse offerings in West Hampstead or Brooklyn Bowl adjacent to The O2 , which serves endless fried-chicken platters to all and sundry. The faux-foodie enjoys the sensation of slumming it when gnawing at a rack of ribs, as it proves the breadth of their culinary understanding – that they can enjoy both Michelin-starred haute cuisine in a sublime setting, and good honest down ’n’ dirty soul-food (a truly heroic display of versatility).
The unstoppable march of mixological progress continues, with bars aplenty serving up cocktails infused with teas. The perennial innovators behind London’s Worship Street Whistling Shop (whom cocktail insiders immediately recognise as the team behind Purl and VOC) offer Chase Marmalade vodka combined with smoky flavoured lapsang souchong; Esquire’s very own chef Mark Hix has teamed with alcohol deity Nick Strangeway to serve Breakfast Martinis made with black tea downstairs in Mark’s Bar; while the signature punch in the Edition hotel’s clubby Punch Room bar features gin infused with jasmine tea (and oak moss – why not?).
Surreal London pop-up restaurant-cum-design installation, which only serves tinned seafood. Really. Conceived by architectural practice AL_A following a trip to Lisbon, during which they stumbled upon a fishing tackle shop converted into a tiny restaurant exclusively serving seafood from tins. AL_A have transposed the experience to Upper James Street, where they’ve designed everything from the light fittings to the chairs and tables. It opened during the London Design Festival, is running until March 2015 and has a no-booking policy (of course).
Portmanteau brainchild of the Wonka-esque Dominique Ansel, who previously sired the all-conquering Cronut (croissant-doughnut) and its sequel, the mug-made-of-chocolate-cookies-and-filled-with-a-shot-of-milk. The Waffogato (waffle-affogato) combines a waffle-shaped block of ice-cream with a shot of hot maple espresso – the melted ice-cream then reveals bits of actual Belgian waffle contained therein. Dessert-buffs eschew all of the above in favour of the DKA (that’s Dominique’s Kouign Amann, obviously), a more obscure yet still tasty croissant-like pastry served at Ansel’s New York bakery.
No-longer-banned Japanese meat. BSE put a stop to the importing of any Japanese wagyu, meaning – as red-meat aficionados will point out – any “wagyu” one might have consumed in the UK in the past three-or-so years will have been from herds in America, New Zealand, Scotland, Australia or Canada, not the Far East. Wolfgang Puck’s Cut took delivery of the UK’s first cuts of Japanese wagyu. Reverential gourmands descended immediately, and breathlessly whispered about the meat’s intense marbling and foie gras-like texture (before paying £125 for the privilege).
Taken from the December 2014 issue of Esquire – on newsstands now. To get Esquire delivered to your door every month, check out our subscription offers.