From caviar to crocodile, Cambodian to Chinese: London is rammed to the rafters with choice for foodies.
Having the world’s plate on your doorstep is great, sure. But sometimes don’t you fancy checking out complicated menus, long lists of ingredients and chef-speak about ‘concepts’. Now and then, simplicity is king.
Restaurants, pop-ups and street food stalls that specialise in simple cooking or a single dish, and execute it brilliantly, are an easy way to ensure you’re going to get a great lunch/dinner, cut out the hassle and give you a stress-free dining experience. Here’s our round- up of the best.
Dirty Burger/ Chicken Shop
The Soho House Group's latest venture is a banging combination of two of their single dish concepts. A Dirty Burger (dishing up filthily delicious patties and buns with a choice of melted cheese along with some pretty sensational fries) is banged in one venue with a Chicken Shop, which serves up free-range chicken, fresh from the spit, along with crinkle cut chips, corn-on-the-cob or butter lettuce and avocado salad. Finish off with deep-filled apple pie plonked straight on your plate from the serving dish.
Big Apple Hot Dogs
We’ve long bemoaned the lack of anywhere decent to get a hot dog in this city, and with this Old Street based cart, our sausage-shaped dreams have been answered. Hand-made in London using only natural ingredients and 94-98 per cent quality meat, these are juicy, succulent and magnificent. Top with onions fried in butter and thyme, pickled cucumbers and Polish sauerkraut.
Bit of a cheat, as technically this new West End pop up offers lots of dishes (all of them utterly fantastic). But the theme here is still simplicity. Michelin-star veteran David Moore has put together a menu of dishes that contain no more than three ingredients and virtually no cooking. Yet the complexity and variety of flavours is exquisite – the ‘slow cooked egg, potato, belper knolle’ and ‘12-hour slow cooked pig belly, potato, carrot’ are particular highlights. Strong contender for the best London pop up of 2013.
Le Relais de Venise
This concept started with the original Parisian premises, serving a no choice menu of traditional French bistro favourites: a salad starter, followed by steak frites and a special recipe sauce. It’s now expanded under the entrepreneurship of its founder’s daughter, who has taken it to New York, Manchester and London, where the informal buzz, prompt service and general ease have made it seriously popular. Tell your waitress how you want your steak cooked, and have two-thirds brought out at first, followed by the last bit later, to maintain its optimum temperature. A slight draw back is that no reservations are taken, so allow up to half an hour waiting at peak times.
Aracini (deep-fried risotto balls) are as goo-ily insane as they sound. Creamy, melting pearly rice is encased in golden breadcrumbs, and served with a homemade chilli chutney or garlic mayo. Get on their own as a snack, or encased in a whole-wheat wrap with salad for a next level lunch. Stop by one of the Aracini Brothers Kentish Town or Dalston shops, or monthly markets listed on their website.
Tounge N’ Cheek
Bringing under-rated cuts of meat to the fore is Italian turned Londoner Cristiano. His ox tongue and cheek based concoctions include the Heartbreaker burger (made with half ox heart and half dry aged beef) and meltingly slow cooked pork cheeks with a port reduction, served on a toasted sub with a spicy 'slaw.
This shellfish stall turned pop-up restaurant is getting the capital excited about mollusks. Serving moules, skinny frites and prosecco in Hackney café Brewfor2 this October, they also still take their van – the aptly named Salty – out for a spin every so often. Beautifully succulent mussels in a white-wine sauce, delicately crisp chips served in a buzzy, informal location make the food and venue both winners. Get the meal deal for two to share: a kilogram of Shetland mussels, frites, a bottle of prosecco and a waffle with fruit, cream and chocolate sauce.
Go to musselmen.com to book for Friday, Saturday or Sunday this month
The Rib Man
Probably the best street food stall name in Britain. The Ribman trained as a butcher, and now supplies those who pilgrimage to Brick Lane for his baby back, outdoor reared, British ribs with some of the best pig in town. Served as a rack or in a roll, with homemade smoky BBQ, regular hot, or "too hot to put on the table" Holy F**k sauce, this is stick-your-face-in-it eating at its finest.