Where Have All The Chefs Gone? (2008)
You may not have noticed but there has been something of an upset in the world of chefs. In his bid to 'Ramsay-fy' every pub and hotel in London, New York and, seemingly, the world, Gordon has managed to make his cheffy brethren homeless with his buy-out and refurb of the much-loved after-hours hangout Foxtrot Oscar. So, the question remains, where are all the chefs going now they no longer want to chill out at Foxtrot? Of course, where the chefs go, the rest of us should try to follow, because, like old lions out on the savannah, they know where the best watering holes are.
The hot place to be right now is Rowley Leigh's new joint, Café Anglais. Rowley is best-known for being the convivial chef's chef at Kensington Place and caused shockwaves in the food world when he decided to go it alone at the frankly unprepossessing Whiteleys department store in Notting Hill. But crikey, what a transformation. . .Both lunch and dinner see this long airy room packed to the rafters with punters enjoying genuinely good food from a menu you'd be hard pushed not to want to plough your way through there and then. A must-try is Rowley's new signature dish: Parmesan custard with anchovy straws - a heady, savoury appetiser from a choice of 14 to whet the appetite before choosing from fish, an endless selection of meat and game on the rotisserie at the back and a selection of puddings that might be termed nursery with Queen of Puddings making a welcome comeback. Café Anglais may not be cheap exactly, but it is turning out delicious food in a great atmosphere.
Alan Yau is a restaurateur par excellence. Having created Wagamama, opened Yauatcha -- revolutionising the London dim sum scene -- and Hakkasan -- doing the same for fine-dining Chinese -- he now turns his attention to the Japanese style of dining with Sake no hana. Japanese cuisine is undeniably complex and ruled by etiquette, so he's gone for a 'pick 'n' mix' approach of Japanese-style subtle dishes so that customers can really get an idea of what it's all about. There is no obvious format to the menu, so try not to get carried away in ordering or the bill will be a huge shock, and although there is some translation, you really need to just dive straight in and see what happens. Staff are sweet and helpful where they can be, but mostly it's just suck it and see. And mostly it's delicious. The drinks are equally uncompromising and this is the place to learn about sake, if you can bear the cost - there's not much else. There's nothing quite like it in London. To sum up, Alan Yau's restaurants are utterly divine, but always come at a price. But what price experience, we say?
Is it a pub? Is it a brasserie? Who cares. When French home cooking gets this good at Angelus under owner Thierry Tomasin, we'll eat it in a stable. Which you could do, as the Hyde Park Stables are just next door. There are two menus -- a more relaxed pub-style, offering charcuterie, beef tartare, smoked salmon and omelettes and the a la carte, which would be worth trying if only because the prices remain steadfastly reasonable, particularly in this part of town. Think egg cocotte with forest mushrooms and parsley emulsion, confit lamb shoulder or rump steak with vieux Comte cheese pancake. Soul food for the Francophile.
Chefs are mostly used to general shoutiness and abrupt manners, so Chinatown is a frequent haunt. However, Haozhan defies the trend and is serving rather cutting-edge Eastern cuisine a cut above your average Chinese restaurant. The chef is ex-Hakkasan and a master of the deep-fat-fryer, so expect everything from curry soft-shell crab to deep-fried ice cream, with flavours and textures subtle and accomplished. The menu ranges from huge comfort bowls of soupy noodles to elegant deep-fried - of course - tofu with flying fish roe, but the price is never astronomical -unlike the food.
If you can't get the chefs to come to the mountain, then surely the mountain must move to the chefs. Claude Bosi moved his epicurean Ludlow-based Michelin-starred restaurant Hibiscus (pictured above) to London late last year and Shropshire's loss is our gain. Londoners' sophisticated palate may be more used to his clever pairing of ingredients and textures, such as lamb sweetbread croquettes with oyster tartare, but there are simpler dishes to comfort as well as amuse. The wine list is comprehensive, French-based with an impressive 16 wines by the glass if you're watching the wallet.
All chefs need a holiday, but when can you get away? Luckily La Petite Maison has opened - a sister restaurant to the one in Nice - and there couldn't be a sunnier, more Provencal place to spend an afternoon, testified by the fact that it is almost always packed with both food critics and chefs. Most of the dishes are intended for sharing, but make sure at least one of you orders the much-lusted-after roast chicken stuffed with foie gras. The wine list is naturally completely French, but what else would you order but the rosé?
Tom Ilic is a bit of a chef's secret. Having come from Addendum, he's now opened up his own restaurant in Battersea where he originally began. Along the lines of an informal dining room - no white tablecloths here - it's a place for simple, well-cooked good food without any hype or pretension. Pork features in a major way on his menu - probably due to his Serbian background - and he understands the meat well, but isn't afraid to experiment with more delicate fish dishes. This is gutsy cooking for real food lovers - and the prices are akin to pub grub than cooking of this standard.
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