Eat London

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

All eyes are on London, as the host of the Olympic Games. But there’s plenty of action in the capital to keep you entertained in the evening. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, pack your appetite as world leading restaurateurs Peter Prescott and Terence Conran take you on a culinary tour of Chelsea, Fulham and South Kensington

Several centuries ago, about the time when Charles II would travel from Whitehall to Hampton Court along a specially constructed private road – known as the ‘King’s Road’, and later to become the retail mecca that we know today – this area was known as a village of palaces. In recent years, with the arrival of Roman Abramovich as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, it has become home (or one of them, anyway) to numerous Russian oligarchs and to billionaires from all over the world, living in palaces for the 21st century. Before venturing to this manor, a glance through Peter York’s Cooler, Faster, More Expensive, an updated version of his Sloane Ranger’s Handbook, will provide entertaining insights into the psychology and behaviour patterns of this most distinctive of all social groupings.

Highlights of the area today include the Saatchi Gallery, housed in the former Duke of York’s Headquarters. There is a small food market immediately outside the gallery on Saturdays, and the nearby Pimlico Farmers’ Market is also good. The V&A remains a huge draw, as does the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion every summer in Kensington Gardens. Recently, controversy has surrounded the proposed redevelopment of the former Chelsea Barracks on Chelsea Bridge Road, in the shadow of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital. It will be interesting to see how the area matures over the coming years.

The South Kensington hub that is Brompton Cross has become a destination for chic fashion emporiums – think Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Joseph – plus designer furniture retailers, with the Conran Shop and Bibendum at its heart.

Bibendum Restaurant and Oyster Bar
Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 6RD
020 7581 5817

Bibendium Restaurant

With its handsome architecture (the main headquarters of the Michelin Tyre Company from 1911) and its excellent location, Bibendum is one of the most sophisticated places to dine in the capital. (TC) Since 1987, when Paul Hamlyn and I created its new format and reopened the building, Bibendum has offered a sense of joie de vivre that is still hard to equal.

The Coffee Bar on the ground floor opens early to serve freshly baked viennoiserie and milky bridge rolls, the house speciality. A small counter selling wet fish and a variety of crustacea, plus a working florist and the Conran Shop next door, help establish the forecourt as a hub of activity.

Lunch at the Oyster Bar is an essential for anybody visiting London.The original tiled floors and walls depict motor-racing scenes from the Art Nouveau and Deco periods, while the French overtones add a touch of pure class. The sight of plateaux de fruits de mer served by well-trained staff in their indispensable black-and-whites are irresistible.

The menu also includes salads, smoked fish, and a house terrine, with decadence in the form of Sevruga caviar and a good selection of Champagnes. Upstairs the atmosphere is elegant, but without any pretentiousness. The armchairs are comfortable and change their colour every season. Diners are bathed in natural light, and the space between the white linen-covered tables is conducive to a sociable ambience. Colourful stained glass images of Monsieur Bibendum, the iconic Michelin man, keep an eye on things, and his distinctive figure is immortalized in the decanters, flower vases, table legs, bar, graphic art, coat stands and the butter dishes.

Simon Hopkinson, the founding chef who has inspired so many other top chefs, and his successor Matthew Harris have consistently delivered classic dishes with a French bias and the occasional contemporary twist. The portions are always generous and the flavours more so.

Bibendum (not to be confused with the wine company of the same name, with which has no connection) has an award-winning wine list. It also won Tatler’s ‘Most Consistently Excellent Restaurant’ award.


Cambiode Tercio
163 Old Brompton Road, SW50LJ
020 7244 8970

Cambiode Tercio

The Spanish government awarded the founders, Abel Lusa and David Rivero, the ‘Premios Alimentos de Espana 2003’ for being the best Spanish restaurant anywhere outside Spain. This is the flagship of Abel Lusa’s mini-group of four restaurants, and it certainly deserves recognition as one of the finest exponents of modern Spanish food and culture in London. As with all Lusa’s restaurants, the interior is awash with colour, with vivid yellow and pink walls and bullfighter art and references.

You could immerse yourself in Spanish food and drink by trying all three of Abel’s restaurants on the Old Brompton Road in one evening, as they are all just a short step away from each other. Start with a glass of fino and cured ham at Capote Y Toros, then cross the road to Tendido for some hot tapas or maybe a gourmet paella, before crossing back to Cambio to enjoy one of the chef ’s specialities of oxtail or suckling pig, finishing with a caramelized torrija (Spanish bread pudding) with crema Catalana ice cream or maybe some Manchego. What a night that would be.

Capote Y Toros
157 Old Brompton Road,SW50LJ
020 7373 0567

Capote Y Toros

The latest offering from Abel Lusa is simply fantastic. With just eight tables and some bar stools with dining shelves, it is small but perfectly formed. The offer is principally based on Iberico hams, Andalucian tapas and over 40 different sherries, though there is also a decent wine list. The shelves are lined with bottles of sherry, from the salty dry Finos and Manzanilla to sweet Pedro Ximenez, while hams hang from the ceiling and collages of bullfighting scenes and posters cover the walls.

020 7581 1101


Much thought and attention to detail have been devoted to this very upscale Provençal bistro. The interior design, menu, staffing and pricing all nod towards the young affluent crowd that it serves. As an example, the wine list includes over 700 bins – way over the top, but as the proprietor Marlon Abela is a wine fanatic, perhaps understandable.

The choice of art is also interesting. While the Julian Opie works are appealing and display his unique style of portraiture, if money were no object the quintessential artists of the light and colour of the French Riviera – Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Cézanne et al – perhaps would be more relevant.

The cooking is very technique-driven, and you can enjoy some really lovely food. The perfect meal here has to be pissaladière with a pastis, followed by bouillabaisse served with rouille, croûtons and Gruyère. The bouillabaisse at Cassis is very refined, with whole fillets of sea bass, red mullet and excellent clams. The service of this great dish is also noteworthy, and the front-of-house team, led by the genial manager Jean-Marie, is highly poised, especially when making steak tartare at the table.

Concertina doors opening on to the pavement, a long bar with cosy booths, and some carefully considered table positions (each with a fragrant pot of rosemary), all make this place a pleasant eating experience in the heart of a rarefied shopping district.

Extract taken from Eat London 2: All about food (Conran Octopus Publishing, £20)




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