VIVA London’s Top 10 Unforgettable Restaurants Of The Summer

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By Tom Gatehouse
@tragatehouse

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For any food lover, summer is the time to set off out in search of adventure in the capital. VIVA London has certainly adopted this mentality, and while the sun still shines bright over London town, lavish summer dining remains one of the very best ways to enjoy life when not sprawled on a sizzling beach somewhere far, far away.

Unique summer brunches, futuristic Asian fusion, classic steaks, Korean barbecues, sophisticated seafood, crocodile and python delicacies, authentic Mexican marvels and the very best pizza in the capital- we’re pretty sure there’s something for everyone in our hard fought top 10; a list to make the tongue quiver, the stomach plead and the mind plot.

Take the plunge, pop along to as many as you can, and round of the summer in style!

‘Angler’ – Moorgate
Cuisine: Modern British
When to go: Lunch
www.anglerrestaurant.com

It would take a pretty damn long fishing line to reach the buzzing Moorgate streets from the lofty perch of the Angler Terrace. Opening up out of the main Michelin-starred British restaurant, situated on the seventh floor of the plush South Place Hotel just five minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street station, this cosy setting is a wonderful spot to take lunch, with aristocratic London rightly fawning over executive chef Tony Fleming’s exquisite summer menu, with modern tranquillity very much the catch of the day.

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Head on over in the early afternoon with a few friends (the main Angler restaurant takes over service from three o’clock), and treat yourself to the delights of artistic British fare. The food is lovingly constructed and beautifully presented, with every dish highlighting Fleming’s obvious passion for modern cuisine.

Keep watch on the swaying cranes beyond while enjoying the seaweed tartare-coated Cornish Cod with summer cabbage and a rather fancy ginger and carrot puree, or perhaps ponder your evening plans over an apple and celeriac salad with fluffy crab mayonnaise, hand-peeled grapes and a sprinkling of candied walnuts.

Specialising in the fruits of the ocean since his first stint in London at the Criterion under Marco Pierre White, Fleming had a hand in almost every part of the restaurant’s creation, with this a very tightly run, yet effortlessly guided ship.

‘Boulestin’ – St James’s
Cuisine: Traditional French
When to go: Dinner
www.boulestin.com

When Joel Kissin first launched this faithful rendition to the now defunct classic French restaurant of the same name in Green Park, without the help of financial backers, even he declared that it was a risk. But well he knew that he had a distinct advantage, even a head start, for the name Boulestin was very well remembered down the plush avenues of very central London, having once been synonymous with eccentrically lavish dining for a good 70 years; so impressive that it came with the largest price-tag in the capital.

Worry not, however, for the eccentricity of the late Xavier Marcel Boulestin, the first television chef known during the late 1930s and the originator of the restaurant, has been toned down, and the prices returned to a more-than-acceptable equilibrium. Now, during the summer months, Boulestin is known not only for its wonderful French cuisine, but for having one of the most relaxing alfresco dining areas in London; a secluded haven away from the roar of the traffic and the clip-clap of determined shoppers.

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Their traditional summer menu includes an exquisite rack of lamb, perfectly roasted and served with broad beans, asparagus and peas, while the roast cod, bathed in a saffron broth with artichokes and a dash of fennel is not to be missed. No decent French restaurant is without their selection of viandes, and I’d fight long and hard for the pleasure of one of their dry-aged rib-eye steaks with pommes frites.

Backed up by a superb wine list, and a rather naughty cheese selection, Boulestin is certainly back in the big time, but now everyone is invited.

‘Bob Bob Ricard’ – Soho
Cuisine: British/Russian
When to go: Dinner
www.bobbobricard.com

Probably the most classically decadent surroundings one could find oneself in on a bright summers evening in London, and perhaps the least obvious, for its partially drawn curtains, dimly lit interior and lavishly upholstered leather booths certainly do not scream ‘Pimm’s O’Clock’.

But for those who don’t know, Bob Bob Ricard may well serve you some of the best food you are likely to come across this summer (or indeed any time of the year), and if you’re looking for a night of pampered wonder, away from the sweaty hustle and bustle of its Soho surroundings, you should really look no further than this graceful British/Russian mainstay.

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With their trademark ‘press for champagne’ buttons situated on every deep-blue marbled table, an army of suited waiters ready for one’s every request, and a spell-binding menu chock full of Bob Bob exclusives such as Petrossian caviar (the finest available in the UK) and vintage Château d’Yquem sweet wine, proud owner Leonid Shutov has arguably the most luxurious restaurant in central London.

But while this may all sound a little too intimidating, the restaurant is far from an aristocratic hideaway, with families, friends and couples all regularly seen lapping up the luxury on a daily basis.

Their wafer-thin beetroot and goats cheese salad, served with broadbeans and mint, is surely the best of its kind I’ve had in the capital, while there are barely words to describe the savoury delights found in their truffled potato and mushroom vareniki. A portion of baked oysters Brezhnev, cooked in parmesan and black truffle, will make even your most stubborn of mollusc-scorning companions rethink his stance, while their lobster-tail burger with Mary Rose sauce is a real highlight of the summer; so naughty that the lemon arrives hiding in a velvet bag with twine.

‘Le Pain Quotidien’ 
Cuisine: European
When to go: Lunch
www.lepainquotidien.co.uk

Despite having an ever-growing armada of locations in the centre of town, this former Brussels bakery remains true to its roots, serving organic ‘boulangerie chic’ across the board.

Starting out in 1990 as the brainchild of one Alain Coumont, Le Pain Quotidien was (and arguably still is) all about bread, with its name coming from the exclamations of Coumont’s chef father when he was a child, a time where his unabashed love for baking began to blossom.

This focus remains today. Pop into the Waterloo branch and you may very well forget your initial lunch plans and gaze in wonder at the rows of perfectly criss-crossed rustic loaves piled on the varnished wooden shelves, the delightful selection of classic cakes and pastries, and start leaning towards an impromptu continental lunch of baguette and jam on the Southbank veranda.

However, a quick glance at their delightfully simplistic menu and you’ll be happily grounded.

Their selection of tartines – Belgian open-faced sandwiches on organic wheat bread – are just gorgeous, with the smoked chicken variety with roasted chorizo crisps, organic egg and smokey aioli, all washed down with a glass of their homemade raspberry lemonade, really an absolute pleasure. For those looking to pick and reminisce should indulge in the Tuscan platter, with prosciutto, parmesan, roasted vegetables, ricotta, artichoke and olive spread all accompanied, of course, by the freshest slices of organic loaf.

 

‘O.PPA’ – Kew
Cuisine: Korean
When to go: Dinner

When walking up to this newly opened Korean barbeque spot, some of you may become quite nostalgic after seeing their Notre Dame-style padlock terrace, where couples are encouraged to forever seal their love by way of an enduring golden seal after partaking in a dining experience some celebrities are starting to cotton on to.

Actor Tom Hardy and football coach Chris Coleman are known to frequent this little gem, which is part of an expanding medley of dining options in Kew under the eye of restaurateur Sammy Mak, with state-of-the-art grilling stations embedded in every table, making this a very hands-on experience.

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A recent meal there saw us indulge in kimchi pancake and sticky squid to start with, before diving head-first into the frying pan with the stunning O.ppa special selection, consisting of sliced pork belly, chilli marinated chicken, rib-eye and spare rib, king prawns as well as a plethora of vegetation and succulent baby octopus.

Situated right on the doorstep of the exquisite Kew Gardens, O.ppa has quickly established itself as a premier destination for the pollen-strewn, heart-sighing couples emerging from the warm embrace of the botanical wonder.

‘Inamo St James’ – Piccadilly Circus
Cuisine: Asian
When to go: Dinner
www.inamo-stjames.com

So we’re not quite at ‘Back to the Future’ hoverboards, self-drying clothes or overtly sinister hologram billboards, but the innovations at Inamo are certainly enough to give a contorting Christopher Lloyd a mild shock-induced stroke.

Powered by ‘E-Table’, this Asian fusion hidey-hole boasts the world’s only interactive ordering service, with each and every table coupling as a personal waitor, menu, and ambience enabler. Choose your every move via this pioneering piece of technology, with the full food and drinks menu dovetailed by tablecloth options, mood lighting, novelty games, a Big Brother-esque kitchen cam, and even practicalities like taxi service and an interactive map of the surrounding area.

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Fast paced, and eager to please, the waiting staff will happily guide you through your dining weaponry, which is beamed from a projector above, making this perhaps a brief peek into the future of restauranting.

Structured around a dim sum style dinner service, the menu glistens with a multitude of both small and large dishes, with their armada of sushi a real pull in the capital. Be sure to try their stunning black cod, marinated with spicy miso and served with pickled ginger and lime. Those of a curious disposition should plump for the Korean glazed pig cheeks (certainly a well-kept secret in Asian cuisine), while the recommended Nigiri set comes with stunning fresh fish.

Chotto Matte – Soho
Cuisine: Japanese/Peruvian
When to go: Brunch
www.chotto-matte.com

This West End marvel, from the mind of restaurateur Kurt Zdesar, is fast becoming the toast of Frith Street, offering stylish Nikkei cuisine amid a backdrop of jazzy Tokyo chic.

Opening up their grand glass walls during the packed summer months, no expense has been spared to bring a decidedly futuristic urban experience – from award-winning architect firm Andy Martin’s design – to the capital; so much so that they flew over three formerly jailed Tokyo graffiti artists to create a bespoke wall mural, which is just about as eccentric as you can get.

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Be sure to roll along at midday to soak up their live jazz, and sample the delights of Executive Chef Jordan Sclare’s very affordable, highly innovative brunch menu. Chicken and apricot sausages, Chorizo beans and BBQ toast make up just part of their unique ‘Chotto Breakfast’, while their fine selection of ‘Sangucheria’ – typically Peruvian-style sandwiches – are certainly worth a look in, as is their delectable smoked salmon and poached egg plate, with crisp tortilla, aji amarillo yogurt and baby water cress.

Their cassava fries, meanwhile, should and surely will someday become a staple part of every restaurants’ menu; a wondrous creation indeed.

Loosely translated to mean ‘wait a minute’ in Japanese, Chotto Matte is a great spot for late kick-offs, casual meetups, and family days out, with the delightful waiting staff bounding around in matching All-Star trainers, eager to please and proud as punch.

‘Archipelago’ – Fitzrovia
Cuisine: Global
When to go: Dinner
www.archipelago-restaurant.co.uk

If the well-loved children’s TV character Mr Benn went into a restaurant rather than a fancy-dress shop on one of his bizarre jaunts down Festive Road, then it would surely have been akin to the wondrous Archipelago.

Snuggled deep within the winding roads between Regents Park and Oxford Circus, this exotic eatery offers global delicacies of an exciting, stimulating and often unexpected nature. A truly hidden diamond and one that not many Londoners are familiar with, Archipelgo will make your jaw drop, your mind dream, and your eyebrows curl with every stunning plate.

Sample the delights of crocodile wrapped in vine leaves with honey poached plums and pickled samphire, or sweet-chilli smoked python carpaccio with green tea & wasabi crackers served with a splash of olive puree. Personally, I am quite partial to the succulent zebra jerkey served with boerewors (South African sausage), carrot & ginger fluid gel and biltong soil; and that’s just your starters!

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The interior will keep you hooked between meals, with peacock feathers, tribal masks, golden and jewel-encrusted trinkets, and miniature palm trees making up just some of the painstakingly detailed pan-global décor that dominates the two small dining areas.

It’s not all ‘I’m a Celebrity’ however, with their hot-smoked escolar fish steak with a tofu-chorizo & potato muddle, and Massaman chicken dish both big hitters. But this is a place for adventure, of discovery, and with kangaroo, alpaca and the peculiar ‘Love Bug Salad’ consistently trilling diners of every size and shape, Archipelago will leave you questioning your everyday necessities as you stumble off into the night, satisfied yet certainly eager for more.

 

‘Lupita’ – Embankment
Cuisine: Mexican
When to go: Dinner/Lunch
www.lupita.co.uk

Famous for its traditional tacos and unrivalled atmosphere, Lupita exploded onto the scene in 2010, bringing over 50 years’ worth of breakneck Mexican magic that made this authentic Taquería one of Mexico City’s premier hot-spots.

If you’re lucky enough to arrive during the mid-evening lull, you may just be able to squeeze into the dining area, either on your own table or perched on the bar watching the kitchen staff hurl themselves around full pelt, serving out classic Mexican cuisine straight from the streets of Colonia Condesa.

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This is not for those looking for a quiet night out, or a romantic candle-lit dinner, this is fantastic faux-street food lapped up daily by a rambunctious, eclectic clientele; but that’s not to say your date won’t love it!

Start your adventure with a sheath of their warm, crispy cheese (the portion will be wider than your head) with freshly pummelled guacamole, discover your new favourite vegetarian dish, the ‘Nopales’ – two grilled cactus tacos with refried beans and pico de gallo – and be sure to polish it all off with a fresh portion of churros and dark chocolate sauce before you throw yourself headlong back into the rat-race.

This is multi-cultural London at its best; a proud independent business taking the plunge and flourishing deep within the bosom of an affluent London district.

 

‘Santa Maria’ – Ealing
Cuisine: Italian
When to go: Dinner/Lunch
www.santamariapizzeria.com

Considering its secluded location and its unassuming shop front, you might wonder how Santa Maria has attained such a high profile among the echelons of London pizzerias; that is until you take that first bite.

First opened in 2010 by Italian pair Angelo and Pasquale, this tiny Ealing restaurant’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of meteoric, becoming known as the very top pizzeria in London within two years, with their absolute faith in the traditional and the authentic wholly rewarded. Packed to the rafters most evenings, despite not taking bookings, Santa Maria has taken classic Naples across to blighty in some style, trusting nothing English grown, and becoming fierce perfectionists in the quiet London suburbs.

Thin-crust, classic ingredients; there be no hot-dog stuffed edges here. My favourite of the small menu is the ‘Sant’anna’, made with Italian mozzarella, prosciutto cotto ham, artichokes, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan and fresh basil. The magic, for me, is in the dough. Soft, yet gorgeously chewy, the Caputo flour (imported, of course), lightly salted, makes when baked for the most satisfying mouthful, with just a hint of charcoal giving it that little classic kick.

Such is their unshakable pride in both their culture and their pizza (some may say they go hand-in-hand) that they will gladly point out a newspaper clipping stuck triumphantly on the wall which details how the duo once ejected a shocked couple for ordering just salad.

You may get an anchovy in the ear if you ask for pepperoni!

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Photography: Gigi L Mak

Restaurant Contact Details:

The Angler‘ 
Address: South Place Hotel, London, EC2M 2AF
Phone:020 3215 1260

Boulestin
Address: 5 St James’s St, London, SW1A 1EF
Phone:020 7930 2030

Bob Bob Ricard
Address: 1 Upper James St, London, W1F 9DF

Phone:020 3145 1000

Le Pain Quotidien
Address: Festival Walk, Belvedere Rd, The South Bank Centre, London SE1 8XX

Phone:020 3657 6925

‘O.PPA’
Address: 100 Kew Road, London, TW9 2TH

Phone: 0208 940 0240

Inamo St James
Address: 4-12 Regent St, London, SW1Y 4PE

Phone: 020 7484 0500

Chotto Matte
Address: 11 – 13 Frith St, Soho, London, W1D 4RB

Phone: 020 7042 7171

Archipelago
Address: 53 Cleveland St, London W1T 4JJ

Phone: 020 7383 3346

Lupita
Address: 13 Villiers St, London WC2N 6ND

Phone: 020 7930 5355

Santa Maria
Address: 15 St Mary’s Rd, London W5 5RA

Phone:020 8579 1462

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