Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Aside from fish and chip shops there are few English restaurants in London worth a light, that won't break the bank. But however adequate the chippie they are rarely places to dawdle.
Forget pie and mash shops - they're a rarity and only tourists eat in city centre steak houses. This leaves cafes, which serve variations of the full English breakfast all day - the permutation of egg, sausage, bacon, and baked beans only varies past noon with the substitution of chips for toast in the menu. Even here the 'specials of the day' often reflect the foreign nationalities of their owners and are usually the best bet.
There are hamburger joints but I classify these as American grub. For the rest when eating out out it's French, Italian, Indian, Greek, Turkish, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese. There are English cuisine restaurants in the centre of town, which are often paparazzi-magnets and ridiculously expensive.
This leaves pubs. Twenty years ago you would be lucky to get a toasted cheese sandwich in a London pub. Now most can manage a half-decent sandwich at the very least. But beware some so-called gastropubs have lost sight of their pub roots and become pricey bistros in a stripped-down setting.
The best food pubs are those whose menus are not too ambitious but the dishes offered are cooked well with fresh ingredients.
The test of these pubs is their Sunday Roast. With shades of traditional family life - even Christmas lunch itself - the Sunday roast (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding) with chicken, lamb, and pork alternatives plus roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and a selection of condiments provides an opportunity for communal dining unlike any other in the week.
I have had some ropey Sunday roasts - and disappointments in pubs I rate - but for the most part my experience is good. I would expect to pay £10 ($16) or more for the main course. Decent meals for less are a 'find'. To discover the best in any area just ask a local - most Brits have an opinion when it comes to ranking pubs. Go early though - portions start to shrink as the day progresses.
My current favourite for Sunday lunch is The Flask in Flask Walk just five minutes from Hampstead tube station. On your walk it may or may not aid your digestion but there is always a chance of bumping into Russell Brand who lives locally.