Stepping into Mayfair’s Park Chinois is a true feast for senses that extends well beyond the food. Opulent décor provides an otherworldly touch while the amazing DJ playing during our visit would not be out of place at an exclusive venue in Ibiza. We dined on exquisite Jasmine Tea Smoked Chilean Wagyu Beef, a melt in the mouth creation you¿ll still be dreaming of days later. The delicate New Zealand Lobsterette is tender and moreish while the Baeri Royal Caviar makes for a decadent topping. Standouts on the creative cocktail menu include a bespoke Negroni with hints of ginger, grapefruit and lemon. But the real star of the show was dessert ¿ a chocolate bombe that melted under a deluge of hot pistachio sauce while tart raspberries cut through the sweetness. With performers to entertain you between each course, it¿s a night out that will live long in the memory.
Nobody visits a zoo for the quality of food on offer and it’s why these attractions, much like museums, often neglect their on-site dining options, leaving guests with tasteless canteen fare. But ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is changing all that, now that it has opened a branch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s famous River Cottage restaurant brand. Perched on top of the beautiful Dunstable Downs and opposite the enclosure of the magnificent white rhinos, guests can tuck into exquisitely cooked food that is both sustainable and seasonal. My wood-fired hake was flaky and not too overdone, and sat on a bed of moreish nutty celeriac with a delightfully salty seaweed tapenade, while the venison ragu with macaroni was rich and cheesy. The zoo’s improved its main Base Camp restaurant too but River Cottage is where to come for a surprising, interesting and delicious meal.
WIFE OF BATH
City dwellers who need to escape the hustle and bustle don’t need to travel far to escape to rolling hills and exquisite food: in fact, they only need to travel 90 minutes to reach the village of Wye in Kent. There lies The Wife of Bath, a historic building which has been lovingly and luxuriously renovated. You’d expect the restaurant to serve traditional British gastropub fare but in fact, truly mouthwatering Spanish fine dining is on offer. I sampled a starter of earthy wild mushrooms topped with a perfectly runny duck’s egg, and anchovies from Ortiz which taste like a different fish compared to the overly salty tinned variety. The main of chorizo-crusted flaky lemon sole on a bed of pea risotto with a deep-fried oyster was lavish. I finished it off with a rewardingly rich bitter chocolate tart. Luckily the Kent Downs are only a short walk away so you can exercise off the excess.
Almost every location offering afternoon tea in London is theming its traditional treats around Wimbledon and iconic The Dorchester is no exception. Honouring one of the UK¿s most celebrated sporting events, The Dorchester will serve its annual Wimbledon Afternoon Tea at The Promenade for the duration of the tournament until July 15. Executive chef Henry Brosi and his award-winning pastry team have created exclusive pastries for the occasion, including the Wimbledon Tennis Sponge, made with lemon verbena, strawberry, white chocolate and cream ganache. They will be accompanied by a glass of champagne, traditional strawberries and cream, finger sandwiches and homemade scones.
I am not a vegan, nor even a vegetarian. But there’s been so much buzz around Vurger Co, which just one year ago was crowdfunding investment for a permanent location, that I just had to try these much-hyped burgers. I’ve never found a veggie buger that matches up to a beef patty for flavour. However Vurger Co gives meat a run for its money. I sampled the Auburger: a patty of aubergine, red onion and chipotle chickpeas topped with pickled red cabbage, gherkins, tomato and coconut-based cheese, drizzled with cumin mayo. I instantly forgot there was no meat or dairy inside, as the gooey cheese coated the inside of my mouth and the umami flavour, together with a pleasant chilli heat, made my lips smack together with joy. Veganism might be the latest hot new thing because it tends to be better for you but Vurger Co is ensuring there’s space for indulgence too. Hot tip: You won’t be disappointed in the crispy skin on fries.
For a taste of old-school London, Le Caprice hits the spot. This classic restaurant, tucked away in the heart of Mayfair, oozes sophistication without being stuffy. I hit the eatery on a Monday night and the place was abuzz, with a bubbling of chatter and jazz piano setting the tone. The martinis at this place are perfectly-prepared and the fresh-baked bread also proves to be very moreish. There is a delightful selection of meat and seafood on menu and vegetarian options available. One of its signature dishes – the duck salad – is a must-try, and it’s the perfect pick for the warmer summer months. On the dessert front, the sweet sorbets are deliciously cooling but the real winner is the chocolate mousse with salted caramel pretzel ice cream. Next time, I will book in advance to snag a spot on the terrace and I’ve been told the piano jazz brunches are a feast for the senses. If you haven’t been to Le Caprice, add it to the list.
London is a hubbub of the chicest, most innovative and experimental restaurants in the World ¿ but sometimes, all you want is a really good sausage (and you don¿t want to be judged for it). Behold, Sergeant’s Mess, the answer to truly fantastic pub grub but by no means is it fuddy duddy. Set back in the walls of Tower Bridge, the restaurant boasts views of the Thames that you would pay eye watering prices for elsewhere. I rarely say this but I could have eaten everything on the menu, so much so that I had the waiter pick for me, resulting in the king of comfort ¿ Toad in the Hole, and me oh my it is enough to rival both mine and your mothers¿ put together. The staff are charming and armed with fascinating stories about the buildings history and a few ghost stories to boot. Round it off with a Bakewell tart and trust me not even the sniffiest customer will turn their noses up.
It is almost impossible to eat like local when visiting a new city so for those heading to Edinburgh I have the perfect place for lunch bursting with Scottish regulars. Set in the heart of the lovely Old Town I found it filled with old friends, family gatherings and welcoming staff. Not does it boast a comforting atmosphere but it dishes out the goods food wise too. In 2016 the restaurant was voted the best outside London in Food & Travel Magazine¿s Reader Awards, beating the likes of L¿Enclume and Sat Bains and it¿s not very hard to see why with an every changing menu that is eager to please. And yet despite its accolades the menu is surprisingly thrifty with a three course lunch costing you under £20, nay bad pal!
A health spa might not sound like the most obvious choice for fine dining, but if you¿re in the market for a pampering weekend you¿ll be pleasantly surprised by the culinary offering at Champneys. BuyaGift offers a host of purse-friendly weekend packages that include breakfast, lunch and dinner along with an irresistible menu of relaxing treatments. While healthy eating is high on the agenda (this is not a place to visit if you like butter) their team of talented chefs and nutritionists have worked hard to create a tasty, balanced menu with something for everyone. We loved the green juice, teriyaki beef noodles, and even their uber-healthy twist on a chocolate brownie
It may be better known for its chicken shops but Dalston is seeing a flock of foodies descend in search of the next big thing and in this case that’s Untitled. Each month the Executive Chef, Rob Roy Cameron devises a one-off tasting menu, which is kept a surprise for guests until the evening ¿ and surprised you will be. Each menu will bring a selection of dishes that use the most seasonal ingredients available to the restaurant, using Japanese cooking methods to create something unique and inventive. Every dish that is set in front of you is as intriguing as the one before both in taste and aesthetic. Nothing tastes quite as you anticipate but it is gloriously tasty! The next tasting menu will be held on 12 July so get booking! Untitled has also opened its Moon Garden ready for summer serving specialty drinks list especially designed for it as well as our grilled yakitori menu.
Mezze is best suited to hot and sunny weather, and Ceru with its colourful salads, creamy dips and tender meats makes it feel as if you literally eating sunshine. The restaurant has just opened in Soho’s D’Arblay Street, and inside the decor is a fresh, modern take on traditional Levantine design. Health addicts will adore the mostly gluten and dairy-free menu, and you certainly feel virtuous tucking into the roast beetroot Pancar or the flaky sea bass marinated in Middle Eastern spices. The houmous, for there has to be houmous, was divinely creamy. We washed it down with a sweet-and-sour Turkish Delight which had flavours of apple and rose and was all too drinkable. Perfect for a light but long lunch if you work nearby.
You can pay large sums of money for a restaurant meal, but only a few will make you feel like every penny was worth it. Gaijin Sushi, a 10-seat bar in Birmingham, is one of those places. Michal Kubiak, a Polish master who has honed his craft over years, is the head chef and co-owner here. Formerly of the also-excellent Sushi Passion, Kubiak has now moved to this tiny establishment, where you feel like you’re in the presence of one of the Japanese masters. The sushi is prepared in front of you – the only way it should be eaten – and you will realise this is how fish should taste. The Crispy Prawn with Eel is orgasmic, and the Sweet Prawn Nigiri are true to their name. You know sushi is good when you don’t need to add any soy to it. The pieces are equal to restaurants charging £300 a meal. But at Gaijin? You can be very well fed for under £40, with almost every dish priced at under £10. A Michelin star can’t be far off for Kubiak.
DUCK & WAFFLE
High on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in Shoreditch, Duck & Waffle is most famous for the carnivorous dish it is named after. But the restaurant is currently experimenting with vegetarian fare, and for a limited time, it is offering a Veg & Waffle alternative to its meaty signature dish. I was sceptical before I tried it. The sweetness of the waffle and syrup needs a gamey meat, and duck suits sweet flavours so well. But meat lovers don’t need to worry as the vegetarian version is just as tasty. Cubes of cauliflower cut through the sticky sweetness of a gorgeous date puree, as well as the richness of a thick dollop of marscarpone that coats the waffles. The star of the show, they hit that sweet spot of crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. Tamarind adds a pleasant spice that runs across the back of your throat. It is moreish, and lick-the-plate-clean good. A shout out also for the deep-fried polenta with truffled celeriac cream too.
QUEEN OF ROSES
Get a crash course in 500 years of British history at The London Cabaret Club¿s new, immersive cabaret show, the Queen of Roses. Hosted in the iconic Bloomsbury Ballroom, the new show aims to take guests on a sensational tour of British heritage, celebrating Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, with saucy cabaret performances and delicious dishes inspired by key moments from each of their reigns. Start your evening with a cocktail and be transported back in time as you feast on hot smoked salmon, roasted chicken breast and goat¿s milk panna cotta while watching the eye-popping display.
South America meets Asia on this delicious fusion menu overseen by head chef Andras Katona and tucked away in the heart of St. James, just a stone¿s throw from Green Park. Cocktail lovers will feel right at home as there¿s a different drink to pair with just about every dish, big or small, plus an in-house sommelier to help diners navigate the wine list. Highlights on the à la carte menu include the smoked duck salad, Herefordshire dry aged fillet of beef and Asian slaw. And if you¿ve got enough space, finish off with a show-stopping chocolate pave with hazelnut ice cream.
APEROL BIG SPRITZ SOCIAL
Whether you and your friends want to row on the ¿Aperol orange¿ canal in the sunshine, relax under the pergola before riding down the slide, take a turn on the Vespa carousel, or simply celebrate the start of the end of the working day, everyone can raise a glass of Aperol Spritz at Aperol’s annual Big Spritz Social in Shoreditch from May 31 until June 9. Tickets (£10 per person) include two Aperol Spritz cocktails and traditional Italian aperitivo from food partners Arancina.
SMITH & WOLLENSKY
If you think you¿ve had a top-notch piece of steak, I¿d urge you to head to Smith & Wollensky, and compare your feed to one of their colossal cuts. My friend and I were left silently in awe after a recent visit to the smart New York-styled spot, located off the Strand. Our knifes sliced through our steaks with ease and the pink meat was dripping with flavour. I¿d ordered a 680g Signature Bone-In Rib-Eye, while my friend had plumped for a ¿melt in the mouth¿ USDA Fillet 280g. Both pieces of meat were almost as big as our dinner plates. But it¿s not just the beef which Smith & Wollensky is popular for, and its seafood also reels patrons in – as does the chocolate cake. Feeling positively defeated after our meat feast, we opted to take the giant dessert home in a doggie bag. It proved big enough for the whole family! So, go armed to Smith & Wollensky with an ample appetite, as guarantees to satisfy the largest of stomach rumbles.
If you want to sample a slice of Italian food with a theatrical twist slap bang in the centre of London, look no further than Bunga Bunga¿s Matinee Brunch in Covent Garden. Between 11.30am and 2pm at the weekend, guests enjoy a bottomless prosecco or Bellini served with a side of camp theatre performed by the waiters. They keep you regularly topped up as they serve an antipasto starter with a selection of meats to get the taste buds flowing, followed by a whopping metre long pizza with three different toppings ¿ sausage and mushrooms, Parma ham and hollandaise sauce, and goat¿s cheese with caramelised red onion – to share with your party. The entertainment is the main focus of the brunch with the food long forgotten as karaoke rounds off your two hour afternoon session.