As the weather warms up, it’s time to swap heavy dinners for fresh, light salads and outdoor dining. Often unloved and reduced to the role of a side dish, a good salad should be colourful, filling and able to take centre stage in any meal. Follow our guide to London’s most exquisite options.
The signature salad at this Latin American restaurant is a fiesta of textures. Melt-in-your mouth duck encased in a crispy batter contrasts perfectly with crunchy peanuts, silky leaves and a sticky sauce of cinnamon, cloves and fennel.
The Ibérico duck is slow roasted for hours, before being rolled into balls and flash-dipped in a light tempura. The flavours are zingy, and draw on Chinese influences too, with the citrusy tingle of Szechuan pepper and sweetness of raspberries and watermelon alongside the salty nuts. The salad costs £13. Zuaya also does a vegetarian option, with quinoa and pomegranate, for £9.50. Expect Latin American music and flamboyant cocktails.
Sticks n Sushi
It is a rare thing to find a salad that leaves you fully satisfied. But Sticks n Sushi’s Jungle Fish salad manages to achieve just that. Grilled salmon, shrimp and seared tuna are piled high on a bed of green leaves, broccoli and quinoa with crunchy red cabbage, edamame and radishes. Soft, ripe avocado is scattered throughout. The melange is topped with filigree-like lotus chips and a moorish miso-mustard dressing.
The £19 price tag may seem high but the helpings are generous and fish super fresh.
The restaurant also does a chicken salad, with soy-soaked egg and wasabi caesar, and a vegetarian option with sweet potato and Jerusalem artichoke crisps.
Don’t forget to order Sticks’ hotate kataifi alongside - an addictive combination of buttery scallops lightly fried in a kataifi, a pastry spun into fine strands like angel’s hair, and smothered in miso aioli and trout roe. Sticks has outposts across London and does delivery.
A plump burrata drizzled in extra virgin olive oil, flecked with garlicky pesto and the sweetest datterini tomatoes...Como Garden’s signature salad embodies the ethos of Italian cooking: top-notch ingredients executed in a simple but exquisite fashion.
Portions are tapas-sized and designed for sharing – so follow the salad up with some more tempting vegetable medleys including Como’s moorish smoked aubergine and prawn carpaccio and roasted peppers stuffed with slow-cooked beef.
The small collection of al fresco tables here spills out onto Kensington High Street and on a sunny day it’s as if you really are enjoying a lazy lunch on the edge of a piazza in Rome or Venice.
A South American take on salad, the ceviche bowls at Crudo are stuffed with healthy goodness including fresh sea bass, avocado and leche de tigre. The latter is a Peruvian citrus-based marinade that cures the fish and is believed to be both a hangover cure and an aphrodisiac.
You can pick from one of the cevicharia’s signature bowls and build your own, starting with a base of either quinoa, sushi rice or crunchy lettuce. We recommend topping it with tiger prawns, charred corn and chili-lime popcorn. Bowls cost around £10.
Crudo also does a selection of small side salads, including a zesty beetroot and avocado tartare with orange-ponzu sauce, and an excellent Pisco Sour cocktail.
It has one outpost in Fitzrovia and one tucked away behind Old Street.
This relaxed Capri-style trattoria in Shoreditch is known for its big flavours, big portions and even bigger personality.
A favourite among locals is its classic beef carpaccio salad. Almost a metre long and enough to feed three, the cured beef is topped with peppery wisps of rocket, a treacly balsamic reduction and big flakes of parmigiano that has been aged for over two years. The dish is so big it comes on its own stand. It also sometimes has a burrata with a pesto heart on the menu that oozes green when you cut into it and is well worth a try.
The restaurant’s exterior is covered top to toe in plants, so you won’t miss it.
The sweetheart food columnist among Guardian readers, Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants typically feature a sumptuous salad bar, overflowing with rainbow dishes.
The salads change daily, depending on which ingredients are freshest that morning, but are guaranteed to convert even the hardest salad sceptics. Regularly recurring favourites include a roasted aubergine number doused in lemon-lime yoghurt with harissa and a sprinkling of masala peanuts and another made up of smoky cauliflower with pomegranate and pistachio.
A side salad that steals the show: The Petersham’s lobster catalana ‘cestino croccante’ may be small but it is likely to be one of the most memorable salads you ever eat.
Lobster, fresh from the boat that morning, is delicately cooked and paired with spring vegetables and herbs. The ensemble is served in a crunchy, edible pastry basket and costs £22. The Petersham is part of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond.