Zoe Strimpel

London’s best restaurants for British food

London's best restaurants for British food
Lamb Shoulder at The Fat Badger
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There was a moment, about 20 years ago, when Londoners began to realise, and then boast about, the transformation in our food scene. No longer deserving of mockery compared to other global centres, our restaurants were suddenly producing delicious food every bit (well, almost) as good as that associated with the likes of New York. The revolution began with fresh takes on exotic cuisines, especially South and East Asian, Spanish and Italian. But soon another, delightful development emerged: the reinvention of British food. Gastropubs began taking ploughmans and sausage rolls and roasts very seriously indeed, and posh restaurants began to show that homegrown food, when it comes from domestic seas and soil, can be sophisticated, innovative and richly satisfying.

Now, fuelled by green fervour for sustainability, the new generation of British restaurateurs has taken its game up a notch, with splendid, creative takes on classics and impeccable sourcing. Here are five of London’s finest.

Trivet, Bermondsey

Artichoke truffle, Trivet

A Bermondsey jewel, this is the Michelin-adjacent end of the spectrum – both the chef and sommelier are formerly of the Fat Duck. It features wonderful British ingredients from which magic is made. Bread isn’t just bread: it’s heritage wheat sourdough bread from Coombeshead farm served with kefir cultured butter (made with cream from a Somerset farm), if you please. The bread was outrageously good; warm, enveloping, substantial but not gluey – a mix of 'heritage wheats', principally ‘Hen Gymro’, from near Somerset. Starters range from £25-£38, with mains from £32 to £46 (told you it wasn’t cheap), but it’s worth it for those craving something a bit more exciting than a posh sausage roll. Wood-roasted squab pigeon with spiced heritage carrots and kale was perfect, as was the venison (fallow deer from Aynhoe park in Oxfordshire), noodles with Newqay lobster and chicken from Worcestershire. Honey from Bermondsey bees, whose hive is five minutes’ walk from the restaurant, makes a nice appearance in the ‘turkish breakfast’ (yogurt and sesame cake) dessert. By contrast, the 350-strong wine list is pleasingly global and strongly biodynamic.

36 Snowsfields, London SE1 3SU, trivetrestaurant.co.uk

The Cadogan Arms, Chelsea

The lunch set menu at The Cadogan Arms

Out in the Chelsea badlands – which is to say the bit of Chelsea that is most appealing but also furthest from both South Kensington and Sloane Square tubes (about 20 minutes from each) – this recently redone and reopened 138-year old gastropub is worth the schlep. Softly lit and warm, with the luxuriant feel of a 19th century aristocrat’s dining room, the Cadogan is a classy joint venture between publican Dominic Jacobs and sleek restaurant group JKS. The dining room is just right: this is pub food, but high-octane, almost arrogantly high-quality pub food, with game from Swaledale farm in Yorkshire and beef from biodiverse British and Irish soil (served with Isle of Wight tomatoes). I swooned over (and returned for) the cheese toastie with house pickles and ham hock, while buttermilk-fried chicken with blue cheese sauce was extravagantly good. But at its heart the menu is a feast of good English pork, with hand-raised pork pie and a strangely wonderful, sharply flavoured and tender signature dish of ham, egg and chips with spiced pineapple ketchup. Desserts are all tempting, but fresh figs with mascarpone was my favoured way to draw proceedings to a close.

298 King's Rd, London SW3 5UG, thecadoganarms.london

Berner’s Tavern, Soho

A muscularly British offering in one of London’s most gorgeous dining rooms, the ironically-named 'tavern' is a soaring hall of gilt-framed portraits of paintings and stucco cornices, draped in chandeliers and with closely packed tables that give it a cosmopolitan, Continental buzz. Set in Ian Shrager’s Edition hotel, it’s a regal setting for a glorious tour of British food, with the excellent flourish of a champagne trolley that appears while you wait for your cocktail (in my case, the Spring Cup, a bouncy, fresh gin concoction - delicious). House highlights include a pork and pistachio pie with all the trappings served tableside (piccalilli and mustard), roast New Forest mushroom focaccia with Harrogate blue cheese, a house salad with salt beef and poached Clarence Court egg, a Cornish battered cod and chips and a menu of beef from Buccleuch Estate in Scotland, whose superlative ‘conscientiousness’ is flagged on the menu. For dessert, do not miss the baked Alaska, which comes flaming to the table soaked in pistachio and honey. It's a spectacular end to an opulent meal.

10 Berners St, London W1T 3NP, www.bernerstavern.com

The Chelsea Pig

Scottish Scallops, Caramelised Celeriac, Blackberry and wild mushroom

Another successful pub reboot in the heartlands of Chelsea, this is a cosy spot with interiors by voguish furniture designer Timothy Oulten – well, cosy except for the somewhat shocking presence of Oulten’s Derek the Diver, the life-size metal suit of deep sea diver in its own aquarium. I found it disconcerting, and chose to focus instead on the inviting fireplace and enveloping soft furnishings at the other end of the room. Leaving Derek in peripheral vision allows one to focus on the food, which is excellent and inventive, locally-sourced British fare. We loved it all, from the warm ‘ancient’ loaf with herby butter, to a bulging silver chalice of sweet cheese mousse studded with icy, fresh endive and radish, to a glazed fig salad with butter lettuce, goat’s cheese and almonds to an outstanding stargazy pie – an updated version of the Cornish classic with buttery crust and delectable prawns and fish in cream, and a langoustine head and claw poking up through the crust, served with a ramekin of samphire. Rabbit pie would be a good alternative and, as you might expect, the Chelsea Pig takes its roasts seriously: think Salisbury chicken with spiced bread sauce, Hampshire pork belly and crackling with toffee apple sauce and a Hereford rib of beef served with all of the trimmings.

35 Old Church St, London SW3 5BS, www.thechelseapig.co.uk

The Fat Badger

The Lamb shoulder roast ready for Easter

The latest from the Gladwin Brothers, of the beloved Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit on King’s Road and the Nutbourne in Battersea, the Fat Badger has come as a boon to Richmonders, for whom any new opening that isn’t a chain is a cause for celebration. The most eco-aware of this selection, the food here is sourced from the Gladwins’ family farm and often foraged from the natural habitat surrounding their vineyard in West Sussex. There is an unusually excellent selection of Sussex wines, and a fresh and healthy seasonal rotation of food: smoked whipped cod’s roe with endive was fresh and nourishing, as was “biodynamic” green leaf salad and a salad with smoked trout, horseradish and Jerusalem artichoke. Our mains were a light, healthy haddock with samphire warmed up with the piquancy of chorizo, and a somewhat curious pork “parmo”: an elongated piece of meat topped with the odd but irresistible combination of mustard and cheddar, undergirded by a pickled walnut, chopped fennel and sage mixture. This is a pleasant rather than a glamorous dining room, but it is full of local diners enjoying healthy British food they can feel virtuous about ordering.

15-17 Hill Rise, TW10 6UQ, www.thefatbadger-restaurant.com