London finally cares about great food. Here’s where to find it.
When novelist Jeanette Winterson bought a building and moved to Spitalfields in East London (think Bushwick or Bed-Stuy), she couldn’t find a decent grocery—so she opened her own downstairs. It’s the kind of market that Keith McNally would build, a simulacrum where the grocer—Harvey Cabaniss, former chef at the French House and St. John—wears a full-length apron tied at the waist and stacks fruit pyramids outside the door. Go and get the bresaola with Parmesan and lemon dressing made by “sandwich supremo” Taffy Jones (40 Brushfield St.; 44-020-7247-1924).
The South Bank’s answer to Manhattan’s gourmet-hot-dog trend is the chorizo-and-rocket sandwich in SE1’s Borough Market. It’s only £2.75, so people often order two, three at a time. Get there when the grill opens at 11:30 a.m.: Fans—including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—start lining up at eleven, and by noon the queue stretches around the block. Grill open Thursday through Saturday only (Floral Hall, Stoney Street; 44-020-7407-1036).
It’s an open secret that Neal’s Yard is experimenting with an unpasteurized Stilton. The Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association (which controls all Stilton production in the U.K.) insists all of the stinky blue cheese must be pasteurized to use the name, so when it comes out at the end of the year, expect threats of lawsuits—and an incredible-tasting cheese. If you make friends with cheesemaker Randolph Hodgson, you may just be able to get a taste of the work-in-progress (17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden; 44-020-7240-5700).
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England’s best olive oil, fresh and grassy-tasting, is available only at an electrician’s shop in Clerkenwell. Mehmet Murat sells the single-estate oil pressed from trees his parents planted in Cyprus 50 years ago. To keep the already low cost—£5 per liter—down, Murat packages the oil in plastic jugs, but he will help you decant if you show up with a couple of empty wine bottles and corks to leave at the shop overnight. Last year’s harvest will be available in a week or so (76 Compton St.; 44-020-7251-4721).
With three of London’s top restaurateurs now in the neighborhood, Mayfair is a good place to be hungry. Gordon Ramsay’s Maze serves Asian-influenced French dishes in a David Rockwell–designed space (44-020-7107-0000). Nobu Berkeley (pictured), the third celebrity-saturated outpost from Nobu Matsuhisa, has opened just a few blocks from the Nobu in the Metropolitan Hotel. This version distinguishes itself with a no-reservation policy and a lounge that’s open until 2 a.m. (44-020-7290-9222). Millionaire retailer David Tang, owner of Shanghai Tang and the London Cipriani, is getting raves for the classic Cantonese menu at China Tang in the Dorchester (44-020-7629-9988). Whole suckling pig and Peking duck served three ways are the house specials.
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