Hot concepts—the back catalogue 4
Peach Report’s monthly guide to the casual concepts most worthy of a visit at the moment - including bricks and mortar sites from some of the stars of the street food movement and interesting new formats from some of the country’s leading operators.
For those wanting to get a taste of the London street food scene, and particularly if you are from out-of-town, first stop should probably be lunchtime at Eat Street, situated on Kings Boulevard, which is wedged between Kings Cross and St Pancras mainline stations. Eat Street is a collective of traders serving up a startling variety of food, and four to six of its members fire up the stoves on a rotating basis. It is open every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 2.30pm. See www.eat.st.
Other examples of street food evolving into something more substantial include Meat Liquor, which has set up shop on Welbeck Street in Marylebone. It is the first permanent bricks and mortar venture from the people behind burger van The Meatwagon, which built up an enormous following for its perfected burgers. It is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays and prides itself on an egalitarian no-reservations policy—with no exceptions. The queue will put some people off, but judging from early trade it seems to have enhanced its appeal if anything. See www.meatliquor.com.
Also turning a food truck into a restaurant is the Pitt Cue Co, renowned in London for its unique barbeque and bourbon concept. Its first site off wheels is on Newburgh Street in Soho, which serves its usual range of American-style barbeque dishes, plus rotating extras and specials. Like Meat Liquor it can’t be doing with reservations and it has only 30 seats, so expect a wait at peak periods. See www.pittcue.co.uk.
Close by in Soho is Dean Street’s Duck Soup, which also makes a virtue out of its small size and has quickly picked up a loyal following. It pins a new scrawled menu to its door each day, mixing bar snacks, small plates and more substantial dishes, and is a good example of the new informality at play in London. See www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk.
A short stroll from the Eat Street collective is the Euston Tap, one of the leading lights in the renaissance of proper beer in the capital. It offers eight rotating cask ales plus 20 more on keg and around 150 in bottles, and bills itself as a craft beer house. It also runs the nearby Cider Tap, which promises to do for cider what the Euston Tap does for beer. Proof, if it were needed, that despite what the media sometimes says, pubs can still do very well out of beer alone—but only if they get the formula right. See www.eustontap.com.
In a similar beery vein is Mason & Taylor on Bethnal Green Road in east London, from the team behind Dalston’s Duke of Wellington. The drinks list is extensive and very cosmopolitan, but like most new boutique beer places it pulls it off without any snobbery. See www.masonandtaylor.co.uk.
An interesting beer-based concept beyond the capital is Living Ventures’ The Oast House. Situated on the Spinningfields development off Deansgate, this 16th century style wooden building is an incongruous site amid the steel and concrete high rises, but it seems to be standing out for all the right reasons. There is a range of changing ales, while food is served up from a barbeque hatch outside—a concept that Living Ventures thinks is going to be big in pubs. Al fresco dining in Manchester in January? If anyone can make it work, these guys can. See www.theoasthouse.uk.com.
Also worth a visit for a pint or two is the new Brewdog bar in Camden. This Scottish company has put a few noses out of joint in the real ale community, but it is not short on ambition and plans more openings south of the border. It’s an interesting, lively 21st century take on the brewer’s pub model. See www.brewdog.com.
The cocktail equivalent of BrewDog is Dirty Martini, a great example of the cocktail bar revival in the capital. It has branches on Covent Garden and Hanover Square and finds the right balance between authentic, well-made cocktails and an unpretentious, New York-style atmosphere. The Covent Garden branch is open until 1am from Mondays to Wednesdays and 3am from Thursdays to Saturdays. See www.dirtymartini.uk.com.
Covent Garden also has Mishkin’s, the fifth restaurant from Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the team behind the Polpo series. It’s modelled on the Jewish-American deli format, with stacked sandwiches, all-day brunches, meatballs and salads plus a range of cocktails. It calls itself ‘A kind of Jewish deli with cocktails’—a commendably accurate description. See www.mishkins.co.uk.
Another concept that does exactly what it says on the tin is Goodmans’ Burger and Lobster at the former Field pub on Clarges Street in Mayfair. Its blackboard menu offers just three choices—burger or lobster or lobster roll, with chips or salad for £20. It’s a good example of the no-nonsense, no-choice approach to eating out at the moment. See www.burgerandlobster.com.
Restaurant-wise in the capital, much of the talk is of Union Jacks, Jamie Oliver and Chris Bianco’s new venture. Is it pizza or flatbread? No-one seems to know for sure, but early reviews have been good and two more openings are already on the slate, on Chiswick High Road and Winchester, so all the signs are that it will follow Jamie’s Italian into chain world. See www.unionjacksrestaurants.com.
Nearby on Central St Giles is Cabana, Jamie Barber’s new Brazilian concept, which also has a branch at Westfield Stratford City. Brazilian food is likely to be a big deal this year, and Cabana is a pretty authentic take on it. Barbequed skewers and street food style sharing plates are its thing, echoing a warm, communal atmosphere. See www.cabana-brasil.com.
Also worth checking out in London is The Delaunay, the new venture from Rex Restaurants Associates. It’s an all-day café and restaurant concept on the corner of Aldwych and Drury Lane, modelled on the grand European tradition and serving up breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea as well as fuller meals. Early comparisons are with The Wolseley, though there’s enough that is different for The Delaunay to make its own mark, and few would bet against Chris Corbin and Jeremy King making this work very well too. See www.thedelaunay.com.
Another interesting new all-day concept is Granger & Co, the Notting Hill venture from Australian chef and ubiquitous TV personality Bill Granger. It is modelled quite closely on his Australian sites with a similar light, airy space, and dishes have an antipodean edge too. It might all seem a bit incongruous in the middle of an English winter, but perhaps that will be the appeal. Like many of the new concepts they don’t take reservations. See www.grangerandco.com.
Mitchells & Butlers’ long awaited south east Asian concept Tuk Cho is worth a look. Its menu is a tour of Asian street food, with curries, noodles, stir fries, salads and snack dishes side by side, and most designed to be shared. When even large pub groups are getting on board with street food, you know it’s a proper trend. See www.tukchoealing.co.uk.