It feels quite like London is getting more food-obsessed by the minute. Which is absolutely fine by me, as it means that we can now buy sourdough pizza at local markets where before there were only bowls of bruised bananas for a pound. In case you missed the memo and have some catching up to do, or your already overflowing culinary to do list could take some expansion, Milly Kenny-Ryder has chosen five secret London spots, one for each important meal of the day. And yes, brunch counts. Fetch a snack before reading to prevent embarrassing stomach rumbles. Ashleigh Arnott
The Espresso Room
Breakfast for me is all about a good cup of coffee, and in London I don’t think you’ll find better roast than at the Espresso Room. This tiny discreet shop is found on Great Ormond Street, and you’re unlikely to know about it unless you stumbled across it while visiting the Children’s Hospital opposite. There are inviting wooden benches outside, and enough space for about five or six cool kids to sit inside. A few trendy baristas serve; they have little equipment, but manage to make their coffee extra special: ultra smooth and roasted lightly to give a divine, subtle flavour and extra creamy; I savoured every mouthful. Cakes and other delights are stacked temptingly; I ordered a plump pain au chocolat for breakfast with my coffee. The pastry was flaky, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth, with a generous stick of dark chocolate running through. Not normally a breakfast gal, I really enjoyed the Espresso Room’s modest morning meal, in fact it was my dream breakfast.
Balham is the unlikely home to arguably the best Brunch in London. Hidden down a side street, this New York inspired diner is laid back and cosy. Brunch is a tricky meal to get right… you have to provide equally for the breakfast crowd and the hungrier lunch-lovers. I can particularly recommend the Buttermilk Pancake Stack. They are cooked to perfection, soft and light, plump and flavoursome. The fruity compote and dollop of rich crème fraiche are absolutely divine. I promise it is worth the trek.
The Corner Room is exactly what the name describes, a petite restaurant concealed in the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. I got totally lost for 30 minutes trying to find it, but I was enamoured by the eatery when I did finally arrive. Michelin starred chef Nuno Mendes presents vibrant, fresh and flavoursome food at a neighbourhood restaurant that is informal, affordable and very quirky. The menu shows exceptional creative flair with changing dishes that reflect high quality seasonal ingredients. Best of all, the Corner Room offers a fabulously reasonable lunch menu costing only £15 for two courses.
Afternoon Tease at Volupte
Cakes and cabaret make a fabulous combination, as you will find out at Volupte’s very special themed afternoon tea. While you butter scones and scoff sandwiches, you are treated to performances from cabaret singers and beautiful burlesque artistes. Located down a side street in Chancery Lane, you would never expect such a fantastical magical place to exist in the land of lawyers. Try the cocktails in the upstairs Bon Bon Bar, the ‘Miss Marshmallow’ is sugary but spectacular. When I visited, the show included famous fiery burlesque act, Miss Polly Rae, an utterly captivating and beautiful performer with whom you cannot help but fall in love. Afternoon Tease costs £42 pp including show, full afternoon tea and a glass of fizz.
Bermondsey Street is worth discovering. Though only moments away from London Bridge Station, inside Jose Pizarro’s restaurants you feel miles away from the city. While sitting in the atmospheric restaurant with a glass of sherry in your hand, it is impossible not be influenced by the infectious laughter and Latin vibe. This Spanish food guru has two tapas restaurants, Jose and Pizarro. Pizarro has only recently opened, a larger, sit-down version of the tiny tapas bar (Jose) up the road. The cuisine still encourages sharing but with larger, more substantial dishes to enjoy. Long communal tables, and picturesque window spaces seat forty; it is rustic yet stylish. Every dish is divine but a plate of Jamon Iberico Manuel Maldonado is unmissable, the most special and extravagant Spanish ham you could ever hope to try. Pizarro takes no reservations, except for the private room.