Belated happy new year! Hope you all had a good, hearty festive season and aren’t finding the return to ‘normality’ too tough. Regardless, I’m here to provide some food-based escapism and provide a few recommendations!
To kick things off, one of my first outings of 2022 was to a brand new spot in the heart of Covent Garden. Lilly’s Cafe is one concept of several within the new 3 Henrietta St development, and it sports some lovely decor to accompany its all day brunch menu. It really is like a secret garden removed from the hubbub of central London.
The whole menu looked appetising but we managed to narrow down the selection to their Cheddar & Mushroom Baked Eggs, Hot Smoked Salmon and Banana Bread Toast. The baked eggs were really well executed and moreish - perfect served up with sourdough toast - and felt just the right amount of naughty whilst still being fairly light. Perhaps in contrast to its name, the Hot Smoked Salmon was a refreshing salad dish with good quality fish and beetroot as the stars of the show.
On the sweet side I was very happy with the Banana Bread Toast. I’ve been disappointed by many a similar dish in the past, but Lilly’s have gotten the balance just right here with perfect sweetness coming from the granola and injections of tart fruitiness on the side. I was also impressed by how accessibly priced everything was! They have as many brunch items under £10 as they do above, which is a steal for the quality and the location.
From a new find to an old favourite - I returned to Gunpowder in Tower Bridge after far too long away. Gunpowder has been a consistent top spot of mine since I first discovered it oh so many years ago, and every time I visit it reminds me why I hold it in such high esteem!
This time was no exception. We had a particularly exquisite array of small plates for starters that blew us away with every bite! The Gunpowder chaat and grilled mustard broccoli are classic dishes that we order every time and always deliver. This time we branched out to their croquettes and a kale salad too - the latter of which was far tastier than it had any right to be!
Drinks and desserts are always top notch here too, with a super interesting array of cocktails and some of my favourite sweet treats in London, no joke. This time I opted for their famous Old Monk Rum Pudding which is always a winner, and I definitely recommend their chocolate & cinnamon shrikhand for the sweet tooths out there.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of brunch I think ‘pancakes’. That’s just who I am. And where better to deliver them than Where The Pancakes Are? With their classic spot in Flat Iron Square and a new opening in Fitzrovia, they are definitely a top destination for pancake lovers with a wide array of sweet and savoury options.
I take my pancakes very seriously, so naturally went in with maximum stomach capacity at the ready. On the savoury side we had their English Breakfast pancakes - one of the best English breakfasts in town in my opinion! Really great beans, bacon and mushroom, with plenty of syrup to get things lubricated. It had also been a long while since I’d had one of their Dutch babies - think pancake meets Yorkshire pudding! This savoury option with Montgomery’s Cheddar, goats cheese and samphire really got the saliva flowing whilst not sitting too heavily in the tummy.
On the sweet side of things I had to order two of my favourites from them: the Pear & Caramel and the Hummingbird. The former is a perfectly judged combo of fresh fruit and rich caramel sauce, the latter a tantalising concoction of cinnamon-poached pineapple, coconut and lime. Definitely worth a try.
On the subject of pancakes, it would be completely remiss of me not to mention a brand spanking new branch of Fuwa Fuwa, only my favourite dessert place in London! These purveyors of utterly delicious and Instagrammable cloud-like souffle pancakes have a new Chinatown-adjacent location on Soho’s Dean Street. Thousands of us rejoice as we no longer have any reason to visit Russell Square!
The new digs are a bit smaller than their original home, but are bright and charming. They’ve even introduced two new dishes to the standard menu and are promising some really exciting specials coming soon! Naturally I had to try the new additions: a chocolate & honeycomb creation reminiscent of a Crunchie in fluffy pancake form, and a miso caramel popcorn flavour with sauce that keeps pulling you back for more.
Sneaking in at the end of the month was a new opening from Japanese restaurant Hot Stone, who serve some of the best sushi and steak in town. Or perhaps I should say a ‘revamping’ as they have converted their Fitzrovia site into a brand new concept: RAI. They call themselves a modern Japanese restaurant and offer tasting menus and omakase primarily.
We visited on their grand opening and the baseline quality of food was certainly high, with a couple of true stand out courses from the 8 we tried. My top picks this time around were the Scottish salmon tartare and the fatty tuna maki - both sublime.
In addition to the basic 8 course tasting menu you can add supplements of sushi omakase and wagyu beef, as well as opt in for wine and sake pairings with each course. Definitely one for a fancy night out.
I’m sure we’re all looking to the new year with some amount of trepidation, and maybe we aren’t venturing out to restaurants and bars with the same frequency for a while yet, but there’s plenty on the horizon to get excited about. I’m also keen to continue to share some of my current top picks in London with you! Keep your eyes peeled for that, and have a good February.