1 | Temple & Sons
Jason Atherton does Victoriana with this eccentric mock-up of an old-school grocery store. Housed in an undeniably random glass box of a building that is dwarfed by the looming city towers all around, it used to be a Wagamama, but this is a much more pleasing incarnation for such a quirky venue.
Now, you enter through heavy black curtains, announcing yourself with the ding of a bell above the door. The downstairs deli and bar serves sandwiches and 'tidbits' all day long, including a game and truffle sausage roll that is gaining notoriety by the day, in no small part due to the accompanying creamy mash doused in rich and tangy HP gravy; it's how all mash should be served forever more.
Drinks are served with tongue firmly in cheek – the cocktail menu features a range of classics each given a flash of something sassier. Try the cucumber Negroni made with Hendricks gin, or the piquant Martinny: a Lea & Perrins-infused dirty martini. There's a Manhattan made with Glenfiddich and Cadbury's bitters, and a Bloody Mary pepped up by a Gentleman's Relish distillate; nothing too bewilderingly far off-piste, but all intriguing nonetheless.
The upstairs dining room is a little more conventional, with dishes that are generally shareable but needn't be if you're feeling antisocial. Just make sure to check the prices as you go to get an idea of portions. Meat is gloriously meaty and in sumptuous supply, with a nice lot of fish and shellfish too (particularly in the starters). It's all done in a relatively traditional manner, with bold, satisfying flavours. So if you've had a bad day, Temple & Sons will set the world to rights.
22 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ; templeandsons.co.uk
2 | Bread Ahead
If you're a Borough Market regular, Bread Ahead won't be a new name to you. Or, at least, it really shouldn't be. Their doughnuts are the thing of legend: light and bright pockets of fluffy dough, filled with all manner of sweetness – caramel custard, crème patisserie, or just the traditional jam, and topped with its and bits like a twist of candied fruit or a fragment of fresh honeycomb. Make sure to stop by now that their Christmas special is on the go: a chocolate orange affair that beats your old friend Terry by a mile. It's a treat, to say the least but, hey, we're officially into the season of overeating, right?
If these take your fancy, then you may also like to know that Bread Ahead now offers a plethora of masterclasses – it has done a few downstairs for a while, but now has two swanky new kitchens upstairs where you can learn how to recreate these little balls of sugary joy at home. Book in now.
Borough Market, Cathedral Street, London, SE1 9DE; breadahead.com
3 | Lutyens
New chef alert at smart City haunt, Lutyens. Tucked just off Fleet Street, next to St. Bride's, this is one of those properly swish restaurants where the waiters attend your every breath without you ever fully realizing they're there – the most unobtrusive service.
Despite still being a veritable spring chicken, Daniel Mertl has already won cooking acclaim at Le Gavroche, The Savoy, La Trompette, Chez Bruce, the Oxo Tower and more. He does good, classic food done with polish and incredibly well balanced flavours. Everything is comforting and yet elegant, especially things like the quail pithivier with celeriac puree, which tastes like a proper roast dinner despite its daintiness. This is your sophisticated option for the week.
85 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AE; lutyens-restaurant.com
4 | The Gardening Society at John Lewis
Winter pop-ups deserve hearty fare to compensate for the cold, and atop Oxford Street's John Lewis is the Mac & Wild forest, where you can warm up with hot toddies and spiced Negronis before tucking into one of their famous Veni-Moo burgers (a mix of venison and beef) or, indeed, their Christmas special: a buttermilk fried turkey steak with venison stuffing, gooey melted brie, cranberry, and truffled bread sauce in a brioche bun.
If you thought Christmas dinner put you into a coma, you clearly haven't tried this delightful beast with a side of chips. The perfect fuel for battling the crowds you'll forget were circling outside. You can even book the little lodges in the garden if you want a private dinner for up to eight people – they're like tiny ski chalets, equipped with board games and cables to plug your smart phone into for your own, private sound system.
John Lewis Roof Garden, 300 Oxford Street, London, W1C 1DX; johnlewis.com