Sunday 17 December 2017

Donal Skehan shares the gems of London's bubbling food scene

Chef and author Donal Skehan divulges his favourite spots in London for a bit of scrumptious grub.

Dock Kitchen
Dock Kitchen
Fernandez & Wells, Beak Street. Picture courtesy of Tricia de Courcy Living
The Marshmallowists
The Marshmallowists
Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan

London's wonderful and vibrant food scene is a constant source of inspiration for me, and thankfully my work takes me there quite a lot.

With such a wide selection of restaurants and cafés, it can be hard to choose. I have an ever-growing list of places to try, but I want to share just a selection of the ones that get me excited about a city that has so much to offer.

Dock Kitchen
Dock Kitchen

Butchies

A pop-up street food stall at various food markets throughout London, run by a group of Irish lads, serving up some of the best fried chicken the city has to offer. Their point of difference: it's served in a delicate and sweet brioche bun with chipotle mayonnaise, fresh guacamole and crispy bacon, and they marinade all the chicken in Irish buttermilk. Best eaten outdoors with lots of napkins! Ours were guzzled late one Friday night in the summer, beside a thumping live band and with a mojito in the other hand. Find them on Facebook.

The Dairy

A tip from London-based Irish food blogger, Niamh Shields, brought me to The Dairy earlier this year, and I've been back a number of times since. The interiors are rustic and vintage with low lighting, old school chairs and salvaged fittings. The food is seasonal and subtly impressive: freshly-baked sourdough bread loaves, served warm in burlap sacks with a side of rich, whipped bone marrow butter, set the scene for dishes like goats' cheese with courgettes and basil, drizzled with honey from their own beehive; chicken oysters with crispy chicken skins and burnt kale; velvety soft pork belly served with heritage carrots and cavalo nero, all garnished with leaves and vegetables from their rooftop garden. A must-visit. Clapham Old Town.

Fernandez & Wells, Beak Street. Picture courtesy of Tricia de Courcy Living
Fernandez & Wells, Beak Street. Picture courtesy of Tricia de Courcy Living

the-dairy.co.uk

The Frenchie

The Frenchie is another street food stall that is incredibly popular in London at the moment. The queue is always long and filled with folks wanting to get their hands on the drool-worthy duck confit burgers, rich with red onion marmalade, served on a brioche bun and finished off with some crispy duck "scratchings" for good measure. The tough decision you will have to make is whether you want yours served with smoked cheddar, goats' cheese and truffle honey, or blue cheese. Deliciously indulgent. At food markets across London. Find them on Facebook.

Dock Kitchen

The Marshmallowists
The Marshmallowists

Stevie Parle is an excellent food writer and an inspiring chef, who uses ideas and recipes from his travels across the world and showcases them on the vibrant menu at the Dock Kitchen. Dishes like chicken livers, boasting seven spices and dredged in sweet sticky pomegranate molasses and grilled quail with Middle Eastern za'atar, served with bulgar wheat pilaf, excite the senses. They're all greedily mopped up with freshly-baked flatbreads, made in a traditional tandoor oven. Well worth a visit. Portobello Docks. dockkitchen.co.uk

The Clove Club

A recommendation from Little Paris Kitchen's Rachel Khoo and one I can't wait to get back to. It's a sophisticated restaurant and bar in the old town hall in East London's Shoreditch area, which serves food that offers a tremendous showcase of seasonal British ingredients. With a clever menu that celebrates produce like wild trout, wood pigeon, Cornish skate and Hereford beef, the Clove Club delivers a refreshing take on British cuisine. thecloveclub.com

Leila's Shop

The Marshmallowists
The Marshmallowists

While I was staying in London this summer, I opted for Air B'n'B accommodation, a stone's throw away from the effortlessly trendy Leila's Shop & Café, just off Shoreditch High Street. My Saturday morning ritual was to eat their baked eggs with prosciutto and sourdough bread. Simple and delicious. The café offers up wholesome, simple salads and sandwiches, using the brilliant selection of organic produce that is beautifully displayed outside the shop everyday. A wonderful bit of food tranquility amongst the bustle of the city. Find them on Facebook.

Ceviche

A real food revelation this summer was Peruvian food. It's a cuisine that is creating quite a buzz worldwide. A solid introduction for me came at the bar in Ceviche, a trendy Peruvian restaurant in Soho. After easing us in gently with a frothy and sharp Pisco Sour, a cocktail originating from Peru's capital city, Lima, the bartender ran through the menu. We tucked into fresh seabass ceviche with tiger's milk (a lip-smacking mix of lime juice, chilli paste, garlic, coriander and ginger), and sweet potato and grilled tender beef heart on skewers marinated in aji panca (a Peruvian chilli pepper). This was served with choclo corn kernels (a giant corn that is starchier with more of a nutty taste). cevicheuk.com

River Café

After watching Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray speak passionately about Italian food in their highly-acclaimed series, The Italian Kitchen, in the late 90s, I knew one of my first visits to London would have to take in a meal at the River Café. Almost a rite of passage for anyone with a serious interest in food, my first experience there did not disappoint. Peach Bellinis, sweet and creamy courgette and buffalo mozzarella ravioli, chargrilled smoky and sweet leg of lamb, served with creamy and peppery horseradish and, to finish, the famous Chocolate Nemesis cake. Epic. Thames Wharf, Rainville Road. rivercafe.co.uk

Donal Skehan
Donal Skehan

The Marshmallowists

The Marshmallowists have been on the London street food scene for the last couple of years with their striking displays of colourful chunky squares of handmade marshmallows. I spotted them in Portobello Market one Saturday morning in the summer and gorged on a selection of their well thought out flavours, including strawberry and basil, pear and elderflower, and blueberry and Portobello gin. Now, I always make a beeline if I spot them. themarshmallowists.co.uk

Fernandez & Wells

 

A lot of my time in London is spent filling time before or after meetings, and one spot that I always find myself plonked in is Fernandez and Wells, a small café in Soho - perfect for people-watching and good coffee. There is a vibrant array of sandwiches made with sourdough bread with fillings like Dorset ham and Westcombe cheddar, beef and horseradish and Bologna mortadella, prosciutto, finocchiona, Parmesan and aoili. Don't leave without trying the pasteis de nata, a flaky Portuguese custard tart. fernandezandwells.com

Fernandez & Wells, Beak Street PIC: Tricia de Courcy Ling

 

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