Archive for the ‘A bite of London’ Category

Favourite restaurants in 2022

18 January 2023

My favourite discovery in 2022 was CARAVEL, because it was so unexpected. I booked a table immediately after seeing a picture Margot Henderson posted on Instagram of Bruno’s, Caravel’s just opened sister cocktail bar. I hadn’t heard of Caravel, and found little information online (at the time) — it sounded tempting. Caravel is ensconced in a barge on Regent’s Canal, it can be a bit hard to find at first — buzzed through a nondescript metal gate, down steep steps to the canal, then directed by a genial host to walk a few minutes along the water passing two or three other moored boats (including the aforementioned cocktail barge Bruno’s) — which all just adds to the fun.

Once there, the space is warm and welcoming, and everything we ate was very, very good. (With the exception of the gnudi, perhaps, but April Bloomfield once of the hallowed then fallen Spotted Pig in New York and much more, has forever ruined gnudi for me as her version can never be improved upon and has left the bar way too high.) The plate of pickles and bread and butter to start was excellent. The rösti, perfect. The sesame prawn toast — astonishing, in the best of ways. And I noted that the roast hake, chickpeas, cavolo nero & saffron aioli was one of the best things I ate last year. It was an excellent evening. Caravel has, since then, received a bit of attention and been included in a number of ‘best of London’ roundups — now is the time to go before a major national newspaper wields its magic/curse and reservations become impossible.

172 Shepherdess Walk
London N1 7JL

But looking back, we often ate very well in 2022. At home too but also, specifically, out. There were new places, and some we returned to. Here are my favourite restaurants in 2022, which I look forward to again in 2023.


The restaurant we returned to most often in 2022 is Tenmaru in Finsbury Park. It is a short bike ride away and we discovered it by chance, on the way to the cinema, because the place we had intended was closed. Coincidentally, it happened soon after finally watching the film Tampopo — often high on lists of best films about food — and it seemed an apt response to the film’s quest for the perfect ramen, with a deep multi-layered broth and delicate chewiness of the noodles. I love the tori paitan with its clean, clear broth, but everything on the menu is very good, and the fried chicken karaage not to be missed

8 Clifton Terrace
London N4 3JP


Every newspaper seems to have written about The Plimsoll, the ‘grotty’ (?!) pub close to Finsbury Park that serves exceptional food, and the best burgers. It’s always irritating when a local place gets so much attention that it becomes impossible to get a table, but with some foresight and on a weeknight things can be arranged. When I went for the first time last February I wrote that I loved it all, ‘the food, the mood, the staff, the playlist, the windows, the tiffany lamp on the counter of the open kitchen.’ After a few more visits, all of that still hold, plus the very best negronis.

The Plimsoll
52 St Thomas’s Rd
London N4 2QQ


Andrew Edmunds is usually touted as a romantic spot — I can see why, though every time I’ve been it has been with friends, and I am at least as impressed by the food as by the low-lit, old London, cramped and crooked space. I sometimes forget about it in favour of new places to try, but in Soho it remains one of my favourite.

Andrew Edmunds
46 Lexington Street
London W1F 0LP


Last January I wrote that I couldn’t ‘wait to return to Brutto, already in my personal firmament of favourite restaurants in London. The warm, dusky atmosphere perfect for its easy and delectable dishes. Their “philosophy is simplicity and quality, authenticity and big flavours, in a fun, convivial environment.” Nailed it.’ — I have been back, and I stand by that initial impression. I order the anchovies on toast, always, and the bollito misto.

35-37 Greenhill Rents
London EC1M 6BN


I nearly didn’t notice Top Cuvée, which opened practically down the road, until a knowing friend (not incidentally, a friend with whom I have been to at least three of the other restaurants listed here) fortuitously suggested it for our next date. This may, finally, be a true neighborhood restaurant. The staff and atmosphere are just the right side of low key. The food is simple — carottes rapées, leeks vinaigrette, steak tartare — and very good, and, it being one with Shop Cuvée, the wine shop around the corner, the wine list is great too!

Top Cuvée
177B Blackstock Road
London N5 2LL

Mangal II is the heir of the first ocakbasi restaurant in London, opened in Dalston by Ali Dirik in 1987. The initial Mangal Ocakbasi became Mangal II, and since 2020 has been run by Ali’s sons Ferhat and Sertaç, who, in their own words, offer a ‘more refined dining experience,’ by ‘pairing the modern dining experience with an exceptional Anatolian menu.’ The tone is set immediately, with the sourdough pide with cultured kaymak butter, and it is difficult to single out favourite dishes, but the chopped beef ezme with fried bulgur and smoked pastırma (essentially tartare, with a crunch) is one that still dances brightly in my palate memory.

Mangal II
4 Stoke Newington Rd
London N16 7XN


Such good place for sushi. It’s mostly for take out though there are six seats at a counter overlooking the street, and a few tables outside. Excellent.

Sushi Show
28 Camden Passage
London N1 8ED


This latest venture feels immeditaly entirely like St John. Our meal on a Wednesday evening in early December included ox liver with radicchio, lentils with squash, sea bass with fennel salad, cold roast Tamworth pork with dandelion, skate cheeks with aioli, and a celeriac & bacon broth. There were capers everywhere and no more anchovies or deep fried rarebit, but we had perfect Fergronis to start.

And eccles cake with Lancashire to finish.

St John Marylebone
98 Marylebone Lane

Eating out | All the way across town to The Brackenbury

22 May 2014


I’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant less conveniently located from where I live. Try as I may, I couldn’t figure out a way to get there in less than an hour. Miraculously, the Picadilly line would take me all the way; I guess I could find less conveniently located places, after all.

This is something one learns quickly about London. As any experienced Londoner readily points out, the city is huge, travel is inconvenient and slow. Choose your neighborhood well, because that’s where your life will unfold, it’s where you’ll stay. I was determined not to get trapped by this insularism, at least hold out as long as I can.

I might admit that the friend who suggested The Brackenbury lives much closer to the restaurant. I could have lobbied for a more practical choice, somewhere half way; but I know her well, and I trust her hunch. This was the place she’s really wanted to try. And anyway, on principle, I am game.

On the way toward the tube I began questioning whether being so open minded really is such a good thing; after a good 40 minutes on the train I began grumbling that this place better be very good indeed; partially lost and sidling into deserted dimly lit streets I concluded this probably wasn’t such a great idea.

Finally I arrived. From the street it looked bustling and warm and inviting. I relaxed.

The Brackenbury feels very much like a neighborhood restaurant, and resolutely untrendy. The space is a bit drab. With carpeted floors, comfortable seating, and starched tables arranged in nooks up and down steps in adjoined rooms that resemble an expanded home.

Most importantly, the food is great. The calf’s liver was probably the best I’ve ever eaten; perfect texture, cooked beautifully, impeccably accompanied by the most delicious polenta and kale. The starter was a simple salad of bitter lettuces whose name I can’t recall and it was very good (though when my friend ordered the same later as a main course it was a bit sloppy and overdressed). For dessert there was sweet, tart, ethereal rhubarb Eton mess.

Simple, and one of the very good restaurant meals I’ve had in a while.

Would I try to convince someone to trek all the way across town, late at night, for dinner at the Brackenbury? Perhaps not. But if I lived a bit closer I’d go again in a heartbeat.

The Brackenbury

Open for lunch Fri-Sun 2.00-3.00 pm
Dinner Tues-Sat 7.00 -10pm
Closed Monday

A bite of London | Saturday in Stoke Newington

11 January 2014


My sister told me about the Stoke Newington farmer’s market even before we moved to London, so I’m not sure how to explain that, though we’ve lived here for over four months and despite the fact that Stoke Newington is very close to where we live, I’d not yet been. Well, maybe I can explain. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say we’ve had other things to do.

But as January sauntered in, magnificently nonchalant as it is wont to be, with no other plans last weekend we decided to finally visit the market. Oh but first, breakfast.


There are many tempting cafés and restaurants in Stoke Newington. The Haberdashery had caught my internet perusing eye, so we strolled up Stoke Newington High Street in its direction, peering into other possible options on the way. None beckoned.

I admit I have an incorrigible penchant for the time worn, run down, and artfully decaying, and immediately loved the place, its battered tile walls and seventies crockery. Service was kind and the coffee was good, unfortunately the food wasn’t great.


The English and vegetarian breakfasts were uneven. Free range eggs, nicely confit-ed tomatoes, amazing sausages. But the baked halloumi was hard and very salty, the bacon salty too and rubbery (I realize bacon preferences are highly personal. I like it crispy, but not burnt). French Toast was the most disappointing — weirdly drab, the bread too lightly battered and, somehow, dry.

But I would go back for something simpler. Maybe just a fried egg with those amazing sausages, and perhaps, like Balthasar, a side of perfectly sauteed spinach. Or just coffee.


And so to the market.

The Stoke Newington farmer’s market is my type. It’s not very big but has just the right selection: meat, fish, vegetables, mushrooms; someone sells buffalo milk products — amazing yogurt!; another raw milk — oh, to be back in Europe… There are a couple of very good bread stalls. In the fall there are fruits stands. All of it organic and local.



After this long overdue reconnaissance trip, the ice has been broken, and it’s sure to become a regular Saturday excursion.


A walk up High Street and along lively Stoke Newington Church Street away lies Clissold Park, which is lovely as London parks know to be. For children there’s a brilliant playground, skateboard fun park, deer enclosures, and a butterfly house in the warmer months. For a more leisurely time or a ball game there are huge lawns and shady trees. Worth spending a few lazy afternoon hours.



Stoke Newington farmer’s market
St Paul’s Church on Stoke Newington High Street
Saturdays from 10am to 2.30pm

The Haberdashery
170 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 7JL
Tel: 020 3643 7123
Open Mon-Wed 9am-6pm; Thu-Sun 9am-9pm

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