By Chrissie Walker
There are plenty of inexpensive restaurants in London and many of them are near places that tourists want to see. There are also many eateries that know that tourists will be filling their tables anyway, so they don’t even have to try to produce good food. It’s the same the world over. But here is a selection of a few restaurants that are frequented by discerning locals. There is an afternoon tea for which to die (for the day you want to treat yourself), a famous Indian restaurant and the chance to meet a TV chef, some casual celebrity burgers, James Bond’s favourite Martini, and a breakfast laced with history. I will be presenting another list of more formal restaurants shortly.
You are in London and want to wander some smart streets where locals shop. You want Kensington High Street, with an Underground station of the same name. Nearby Kensington Gardens are worth a visit and it’s there you will find the famous sculpture of Peter Pan, as well as Kensington Palace.
Perhaps you have to be over a ‘certain age’ for the name Bill Wyman to mean much. But for those of us who are, we know him as the bassist for the Rolling Stones, and everyone surely knows who they are/were. But a new generation might know him better as a restaurant owner.
Sticky Fingers Restaurant is just off Kensington High Street and is aptly named after the eponymous album by the Stones. There are quite a few dishes on the menu that will be best tackled with digits rather than silverware.
This is an American-themed restaurant with a focus on ribs, burgers and some rather fine steaks. There is a motorbike in the window which towards the end of the year sports a Father Christmas! There are red-upholstered booths, which seem to be the most popular tables in the place. Might be a good idea to book if one wants one of those, but this is such a popular spot that it’s probably wise to book for any visit.
1A Phillimore Gardens
London W8 7QB
To Learn more: http://www.stickyfingers.co.uk
Just as Elvis Presley was affectionately known as ‘Elvis’, Princess Diana will always be ‘Diana’, and the Singer Formally Known as Prince is still ‘Prince’, so ‘Fortnum’s’ will only ever be associated with Fortnum & Mason. It’s been around long enough to enjoy its own diminutive.
Fortnum & Mason was founded, in part at least, by William Fortnum. In 1761 his grandson Charles went into the service of Queen Charlotte, and that association did the business no harm at all. The store flourished and attracted the very best class of shopper, and has held Royal Warrants for the past 150 years. It’s now a ‘department store’ but its core business remains food.
This emporium is conveniently located on Piccadilly not far from Green Park Underground station. The street is filled with high-end boutiques, cafés and The Royal Academy of Art. The huge Waterstones bookshop is also worth a visit. But Fortnums is the place to buy any number of food souvenirs such as Christmas puddings, Earl Grey Tea and cookies. All these goods are beautifully packaged and tempting, but you will be here for the afternoon tea. The tradition of taking tea and that little bit of something between lunch and dinner has long been a feature at Fortnum & Mason. The tranquil Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was opened by HM The Queen and has since become a stylish destination for the most traditional of afternoon teas. Don’t miss this one. Granted, it’s not the cheapest afternoon tea in the capital but it’s an experience, so treat yourself.
Fortnum & Mason
To Learn more: https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea
James Bond has always been associated with London but his ties are deeper than one might think. Dukes Hotel has a legendary bar which is internationally renowned for its famous martinis.
Frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, the bar is said to be the inspiration for the classic line, ‘shaken, not stirred’. One can order the classic James Bond cocktail and watch it being shaken before one’s very eyes. A popular and bijou spot so it’s advisable to come early. The nearest Underground station is Green Park. This is St James’s and one of the smartest neighborhoods of iconic shops, hotels, and restaurants such as the Ritz.
DUKES St. James’s Place London SW1A 1NY
To Learn more: http://www.dukeshotel.com/dukes-bar/
The Tower of London is one of those must-see London attractions. It’s striking even from the outside and one gets the best view from Tower Hill Underground station. But where to eat? In truth this area is something of a gastronomic wasteland, with one notable exception: Café Spice Namaste is one of the UK’s most respected and popular Indian restaurants, owned and run by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala, with Mrs. Pervin Todiwala (also a trained chef) managing front of house.
The food here is unique, offering a taste of their delicious Parsee heritage. You will likely find the Chefs Todiwala touring the tables and shaking hands with their guests. You could get a cookbook signed. No better souvenir than that!
Café Spice Namaste
16 Prescot Street
London E1 8AZ
To Learn more: http://www.cafespice.co.uk/#!homepage/mainPage
Simpson’s-in-the-Strand is one of London’s most historic eating venues. There are two main restaurants, The West Room, and the ground floor Divan Restaurant, and it’s to the latter that you will be heading. It is a striking vision of oak panels, high ceilings, marquetry, and the celebrated high-backed booths along one side, known as divans, from which the restaurant takes its name. These were the chairs of choice for Victorian chess players and there are still mementos throughout Simpsons to remind the visitor of that unique intellectual association.
I couldn’t have written this recommendation a few years ago. It was only in 1984 that Simpson’s dropped its rule forbidding women from using the panelled street-level dining-room. Before that date, ladies were asked to use the dining room on the floor above. It still has a comfortably masculine ambiance down here. The dark upholstery on the original divans, the pillars and mouldings create a scene where formally-suited gents puffing cigars would not be out of place.
In 1994 Simpson’s broke with tradition and started serving breakfasts for the first time. A light menu is available, but the popular items are traditional English breakfasts.
London WC2R 0EW
To Learn more: http://www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk
Read more about Chrissie Walker and her travels at Mostly Food & Travel Journal http://www.mostlyfood.co.uk