Each month that lovely lot at olive Magazine, aka the gurus of all things food, bring you a spankin’ new series about the best places to get your boozy lunch on in the capital. The ultimate food porn, olive is to food what BarChick it to booze, so if you’re as into your sushi as you are your Sweet Manhattans, you should probably check out them out here.
OLIVE’S BEST BOOZY LUNCHES IN MAY
Light-flooded, understated and blissfully calm when Shoreditch pullulates outside on a Saturday night, James Lowe (St John Bread & Wine) and John Ogier’s new venture opened at Easter in the fashionable Tea Building. By night, all comers eat from a £39 set menu, which might start you off with bites of smoked eel and horseradish, then sweet, fat asparagus spears with whipped walnut mayonnaise, followed by turbot and wild garlic (foraged by chefs nearby) or aged Galloway beef grilled over charcoal. Vegetarians are handsomely provided for: there’s nettle soup with pheasant’s egg, and new season spring onions, three-cornered garlic leaves and yoghurt. It’s a very London set-up, with plates from a Hackney ceramicist, and royal-blue aprons by local textile designer Alexandra Mann; service is charming, and the atmosphere buzzy yet low-key and inclusive. Lyle’s gets going for coffee (Koppi from Sweden, Belleville from Paris) and pastries at 8am, and stays open all day, with the same sparkling, produce-led dishes appearing on the à la carte lunch menu. Don’t miss the baked Riseley sheep’s cheese from Berkshire, served with Chegworth leaves – simple yet elevating.
Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ
Fresh-faced and welcoming, even on the most blustery day (and it belted down when we visited), Bonnie Gull is a lovely slice of British seaside on Exmouth Market. Lunch here should be taken at leisure: you need time to dismantle a crab, and it would be foolish to leave without having eaten one. Start with a couple of oysters (Mersea rocks are £2.50 each), then try bowls of Dorset clams or cockles, the former coming ‘bulhao pato’ with coriander, white wine and lemon, and the latter with cider and pancetta. Next, ‘smash your own’ crab, or enjoy a beautifully cooked piece of fish (from £14.50) or Cockney po’boy (deep fried mussels and clams in baguette) (£8.00). Finish with a homemade ‘whippy’ ice cream. To drink, there’s Meantime on tap, a selection of cocktails including a Bonnie Mary topped with an oyster, and a wine list with a generous selection by the glass, from £5. As you are having a long lunch, you might also fit in a shot: the Arctic Ocean is Beluga vodka with trout roe.
55-57 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QL
Things we like: the person who owns the restaurant opening the door to welcome us. Especially if they're as affable as Max Graham, a chap who's on a mission to make port as ubiquitous in London as sherry. Well, good port, anyway – something he knows quite a bit about, as Churchill's Port is the family business. He kicks us off with a white port and warm almonds in the unassuming little dining room decorated with photos of the Quinta da Gricha winery. The menu is made up of tapas stalwarts like chilli garlic prawns, plates of ham and cheese, as well as more imaginative dishes such as salmon tartare with avocado and black olives, and pork belly confit that comes (surprisingly but successfully) with watermelon. Max is also keen to introduce us to Churchill wines from the Douro: a lemony white and the better known touriga national. The Port House also offers port tasting flights, from £10 to £20 (3 x 40 ml glasses), a good option if you want to be able to tell your tawny from your LBV.
26 Greek Street, London W1D 5DE
Knightsbridge is seeing quite a bit of foodie action these days, with a new specialist drink retailer, Amathus, and steak palace Hawksmoor set to open in July. Now there's also Rivea in the super-luxe Bulgari hotel. This is an Alain Ducasse venture, with his protégé Damien Leroux heading up the kitchen day to day. The menu is inspired by the food markets of Provence and Italy: small plates such as caponata and marinated sea bream are designed to share, alongside outstanding pasta dishes like artichoke and borage ravioli. Mains include rib and saddle of lamb, new potatoes and broad beans, and cornfed chicken with macaroni gratin. There's even some recognition of homegrown talent in the cheese offering: three British goat's cheeses. Prices are surprisingly reasonable for this part of town (starters from £6, mains from £11). Rivea salad, a version of niçoise, is served in a socca (chickpea-flour pancake). Staff – slick and super-gracious – wear Converse and bow ties: sounds odd, looks good.
171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW