Food corner

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Entries in bistro (7)


Les Papilles, Paris

“So what are your plans for Paris? Where are you going to eat?” asks sis.

“I don’t know. I haven’t looked into it.”

“Ha! Whatever.”

"I thought since Mum’s taking me I should let her choose.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything…”

… and this wouldn’t be it.

Sis was right. I simply cannot go on holiday without spending an inordinate amount of time researching what I am going to eat – street food, restaurants, cafes, bakeries. You name it – it’s on my list.

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My restaurant recommendations: North London

We have finally reached North London, the place I call home. This is where I dine most often so I have plenty of recommendations.

I noticed when writing this that almost half the suggestions are pubs. I would like to think that says more about the type of place one chooses to dine locally than my drinking habits. When you eat locally you are usually looking for something easy, convenient and good value with a relaxed atmosphere; a pub is generally all those things. 

For the most part, the restaurants included here also fit that description; all are good value and convenient if you live locally, but some of the more popular venues require booking in advance which makes them less ‘easy’ though certainly worth the effort. None of the restaurants are as relaxed as a pub, but none are stuffy and formal either; even the romantic, candlelit Bistro Aix is without pretention.

There are six venues that I haven’t included at this time, which are worth mentioning. Selale and Hala are my favourite kebab houses on Green Lanes, but I have only ever eaten the take away; Isarn was my favourite Thai restaurant for a time but was disappointing on my last visit and I haven’t been in a while. Mosaica at the Factory, Seasons and The Oak and Pastor were all great first time round, but I’ve only been that once so need a repeat visit to decide. I will revisit all these in time and include those I feel confident recommending.

These are my tried and tested local favourites. Get stuck in.

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My restaurant recommendations: East London

We are getting closer to my home turf and with that comes some more tried and tested favourites.

All of these restaurants are cheap to mid-range and some even let you bring your own alcohol, which brings down the bill significantly. You will notice that Vietnamese features heavily; well it is one of my favourite cuisines and London has some great stuff to offer. Further down the Kingsland Rd there are lots of good Turkish restaurants to choose from. I am yet to include any as I am still trying to decide which are best, but they will come in time. 

I hope you will enjoy these restaurants as much as I have.

Next stop North London, the place I call home.

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My restaurant recommendations: Central London

It won’t come as a surprise that I am regularly quizzed by family, friends and colleagues for restaurant recommendations. It is one of my favourite topics so I don’t mind at all and I always give a very detailed response. You may well regret you asked.

It is helpful to give me some parameters, for example, where? and what price range?

If your answer to these questions is a combination of the below:

... then you will get an essay on the subject. If you can narrow it down a bit then you will get a more concise response.

Where I fall down is when the answer is something like:

When I first moved to London I was more adventurous. I couldn’t believe Londoners were so reluctant to travel beyond their corner of the city, especially given the efficiency of the transport system. Now I am a Londoner and it has to be a very special occasion for me to travel West. Don’t even get me started on South of the river. It’s another world down there.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think it important to explain in advance why I have so many more recommendations for Central London and the North East; it is not because of a lack of gastronomic flair in the West and South, I just haven’t explored them fully.

You will also notice a weighting towards mid-range in terms of budget because that is what I can afford most of the time.

I start here with Central London and will follow with North, South, East and West, though not necessarily in that order. 

I am always open to new recommendations so please leave comments with your favourites. If I try them and like them, I will add them to the list.

Happy dining.

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Angels with Bagpipes

It is the sign of a good menu when you really can’t choose. I could have happily eaten any of the six starters at Angels with Bagpipes and really struggled to narrow it down from my top four to one. If only I’d had a companion to talk into ordering all my favourites and sharing. Ha.

The Good Food Guide describes Angels with Bagpipes as modern European, but the focus is strongly on local produce and the menu is peppered with modern takes on Scottish classics. Take for example Cullen Skink with warm smoked haddock and Mull cheddar or Haggis with kohlrabi, potato, mushroom and whisky sauce. Eventually I settled on the Haggis since I hadn’t had any in Scotland yet and I felt I really ought to.

I had only had haggis once before and I remember liking it but nothing more. This, on the other hand, was really memorable; rich and slightly spicy, similar in flavour to a typical pork sausage but with more depth. The whiskey sauce brought creaminess without being too heavy and the mushrooms earthiness. The only real downfall was that the potato cubes were not crisp because the dish really could have been lifted with some more defined textural contrasts.

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