More Than Just Fish and Chips: Must-visit Restaurants in London
The impact of covid on the UK people’s life has become trivial as they can continue to live and work as usual even if they test positive. For the country’s F&B industry, rising prices are not a problem for fine dining restaurants, some of which, however, have had to reduce the number of tables due to staff shortages, making it even more difficult to book at popular places.
People are already making plans to travel abroad as many Asian countries no longer require quarantine for returning travellers after October. London has always been popular with tourists and now with the devaluation of the pound and a tourism potentially boosted following the Queen’s death, it could possibly become one of the most-visited destinations by then.
British food has a poor reputation, as you may have heard the national stereotype: Hell is where the cooks are British. But London is in fact a city with a diverse and rich culinary culture. Like Hong Kong, London is a financial hub with highly developed economic prosperity to support fine dining. It is also a treasure chest of international flavours, where you could easily find some of the world’s most versatile restaurants that are nation specific, such as above-par Indian cuisine and best Chinese restaurants in Europe.
The Clove Club: British Seafood Cuisine Reinvented
On top of being awarded two Michelin Stars in 2022, The Clove Club, a modern British restaurant specialising in seafood, has won a raft of awards including the 35th place on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurant list where it is the highest-placed UK restaurant to this day. Born in Orkney in the Northern Isles of Scotland, Head chef Isaac McHale took up a job at the local fishmonger at the age of 14 and later worked in restaurant kitchens with Mark Best, Rene Redzepi and Brett Graham. He is smart and super fun. Sometimes he would hide by the stairs while customers were on the way to the lavatory and he would chat with them before letting them in. I wasn’t lucky enough to be spared either.
Starting with fried food was a bit surprising yet not so surprising if you are having British cuisine, but seafood was the absolute starring role of the whole menu. Isaac McHale requires exceptional quality of seafood, perhaps influenced by his North Sea background and work experience. I had thought richness would be emphasised, but he approaches his dishes with airiness and subtle elegance. I’m very strict when it comes to sardines, but the sardine sashimi with ginger was stunningly fresh and tasty, exuding oriental flavour and a sense of class from top-notch sushi restaurants.
The chilled salad of charcoal grilled aubergine was served with brown crab meat, ginger and cinnamon oil, light as a kaiseki dish but with depth of flavour. The less-is-more philosophy was evident in the raw Orkney scallop and hazelnut, placed on top of homemade black truffle sauce and coated in clementine dressing. The native Cornish lobster was also perfectly cooked with tenderness and served with summer berries. The hazelwood grilled red mullet next on was rich in fat and paired with an aromatic sweet corn sauce. Although the charcoal cooking creates smoky aromas in the restaurant, it is not a problem for Asian diners. The chicken soup with the century-old Madeira wine was unforgettable as well.
You could almost find no fault in its cuisine; meat dishes were also given the room to shine. The restaurant well deserves two stars recognition.
Set within the 150-year-old Shoreditch Town Hall, the restaurant reveals itself through a modest entrance and a laid-back bar area. The dining experience was way beyond expectation: the blue-tiled dining room had a relaxed East London vibe with a beautiful cloud of dried flowers on the ceiling, an open-plan kitchen, warm-hearted service and impeccable ingredients. Isn’t it fascinating that moments of joy become even clearer when they re-emerge from the nostalgia? A must-visit restaurant in London.
IKOYI: Indefinable West African Cuisine
London has something for everyone: from history and culture to fine art and exotic food. One of its most popular restaurants, IKOYI, ranking 49th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and a newly crowned two-Michelin-starred restaurant, is helmed by Canadian-Chinese chef Jeremy Chan and Nigerian chef Iré Hassan-Odukale. The cross-cultural collaboration between the knowledgeable and talented duo is also widely talked about.
Born in the North West of England, Jeremy grew up in Hong Kong, England and the United States alongside his Chinese father and Canadian mother, living and working throughout Europe. After graduating from Princeton University in Languages and Philosophy, he took up a career in private equity but realised this was ill-suited to his interests. Jeremy’s obsession with cooking continued. He fell in love with food, avidly reading, analysing and researching everything about chefs and gastronomy, until he knew in what direction his career should take.
IKOYI’s cuisine is the crystallisation of his life experience around aesthetics, culture and gastronomic interpretation of West African ingredients. At IKOYI, they generate new and original dishes based on regional produce, flavour combinations and historical influences.
I wasn’t able to book a table at IKOYI this time, but I remember trying Jeremy’s signature dish – Plantain, Raspberry & Smoked Cauliflower – at an OAD 2019 event in Spain. The plantain was sliced into strips and deep-fried before being rolled over in raspberry powder and salt, served with bell pepper mayonnaise to present a lovely contrast of bright red and yellow colours in exact geometric specifications. The silky mayonnaise was elevated by crunchy texture and spicy notes, super rich but very enjoyable.
Supported by a vast collection of spices with a focus on sub-Saharan West Africa, IKOYI’s cuisine is intensely colourful and richly flavoured, organized in a way that’s as picturesque as abstract art. The appearance and texture of the dishes have a strong artistic impact, reminiscent of the awe-inspiring red sculptures by the renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor. Acquiring two Michelin stars and a place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants just a few years after opening, IKOYI is already one of the toughest restaurants to get a reservation in London.