I’m finally getting around to writing about my recent trip home to England and wanted to share some of the places I loved along with a few photos of some of the gorgeous things I ate and saw. So many places, so little time and stomach space. There are so many other places I could add, and I will next time I go home.
Barrafina Best tapas in London and where I bumped into my friend, Mr Bourdain.
Gymkhana Amazing new Indian restaurant. Not your usual high street job but stunning food that still feels like the real deal and scratched the itch I’d been having for Indian food for months. Beautiful colonial interiors and food I still dream of. Oh, and cocktails served in teacups.
Providores My perfect brunch spot on one of my top shopping streets in London. Only steps away from the fabulous butcher, The Ginger Pig and ultimate cheese shop and café, La Fromagerie. The only tricky bit is that I also love lunch at La Fromagerie so a visit to this area often results in squeezing in an extra meal that I actually don’t need (but want). On the upside, it is only a brisk walk to Regents Park so you can walk off your indulgence. Or if the weather was lovely, and it often is, you could pick up picnic supplies at the butcher and cheese shop then take them to the park.
Franco Manca I used to go to their original Brixton location when I lived close by. Since we moved Stateside they have mushroomed and expanded into new locations, including one which is handily a few minutes walk from my lovely friend, Fionnuala’s house. The pizza is still delish and I crave it constantly. My poor family have to cope with my dramatic sighs and ‘sad face’ whenever we try somewhere new for pizza and I tell them its not as good as Franco’s.
Bone Daddies Best ramen I’ve had so far. And I’ve had a lot.
Bills Cafe A chain but done in a good way. Their scone with jam and clotted cream washed down by a giant pot of tea in the Soho branch has become my re-charging tradition when I’m charging around town.
My secret cocktail spot is the bar at the Connaught. Its expensive so we used to go there and make one cocktail last for a very long time! It’s is the most beautifully decorated little bar and the bar staff are constantly voted the best. You also get free yummy olives and nuts. Go dressed up and prepare to speculate over who all the other customers are.
St John – Iconic and rightly so. This is the guy who got us all eating roast bone marrow back in the day. One of my fav places for dinner and where my now husband took me for my first year date-iversary.
Leon A lovely little chain serving healthy fast food. I really hope this is the future of fast food. A great lunch spot if you’re out and about with children.
The Dairy This is a newish place near where I used to live. The food is stunning and it is well worth the trip south of the river.
The Wolseley I don’t always remember leaving this restaurant which I take as a sign of how much fun it is. Breakfast is the time to go to see the deal makers in action. Afternoon tea is blissful. Dinner is naughty.
J Sheekey A lovely fish restaurant in theatre land. My girls and I once saw Orlando Bloom in there, fresh off stage. Have the fish pie.
Scotts A very grown up fish restaurant in Mayfair. Wonderful service – you and your tummy will feel very special.
The River Cafe – Where Jamie Oliver started out. One of the nicest places for a sunny lunch or a glam dinner. Stunning Italian food unlike anything that came before it. Also next door to where I used to work!
Union Jacks is a really fun spin on British food by Jamie Oliver, fab for kids.
Polpo Wonderful small-plate Italian place, they have a few locations – all are good.
Mishkins A really fun New York deli style place with an English twist. Fab cocktails and brunch. The corned beef mac and cheese is the perfect hangover food.
Pizza East This is where we had our leaving lunch with all our friends and where my oldest son had his first ever taste of pizza as a baby so a special place for us.
Borough Market Aim to visit mid-morning on a Friday or Saturday, grab an early lunch to go and eat in the grounds of Southwark cathedral. The chorizo sandwiches at Brindisa and the felafel wraps at the felafel guy are my favourites. You must get a brownie from Flour Power stall – probably best to share one with someone else as they are huge. Great coffee at Monmouth coffee and amazing cheese at Neils Yard (down the side of Monmouth coffee. Also a great place to grab fresh fruit and veg.
Cafe Boheme Grab a seat outside and people watch. They do yummy French inspired comfort food and are open till very late at night so you can either grab coffee or something stronger and watch the characters of Soho go about their business. If you are lucky you may get invited up to Soho House as night falls.
Hix Oyster and Chop House – English food made from local, seasonal food. Just delicious. Very cool design inside too. Prepare to eat lots and maybe plan a light lunch in anticipation.
Canteen A very reliable small chain of English comfort food places. The south bank and spitalfields branches are my favourites. Great with kids.
Itsu A great little chain of sushi and noodle places scattered around London. A good place for a healthy quick lunch.
Manchester and around
The city of my birth and where most of my family still live. When I’m not eating at various relatives’ houses I make sure to fill up on good Northern comfort food at some old favourites and new openings. Manchester has a brilliant food scene, despite what Londoners say. The city is surrounded by amazing countryside and wonderful locally produced food. I love the fact that now, when I go back, it is so easy to find places that are proud about their heritage and are serving fabulous food from close by. Here are some of my favourites.
The Yard, Alderley Edge A newcomer but my perfect kind of place. It has a butcher and grocer at the front and the café at the back. Very child friendly and tons of healthy, freshly made goodies.
Northern Quarter Restaurant When I was little, my Grandma, Myra, owned a ladies clothes shop called, mysteriously, Elvina. I used to accompany her and my Grandpa on their buying trips to the (pretty dodgy and Dickensian) garment district in Manchester. We’d enter huge Victorian buildings where clothes were hung floor to ceiling in plastic wrappers. My Grandma would pick her buys for the season and I’d often get a treat, like the delightful polyester shell suit I was so thrilled with one year. Those days have gone, and thankfully, so has that tracksuit. The area has now become the place to head to for good food and cocktails as all those old warehouses have been turned into fancy flats and bars. It has also been re-named the northern quarter. My favourite place to have dinner is handily called The Northern Quarter Restaurant. Their menu is sourced from local parts – Lancashire cheese, local meats and tarted up versions of lots of the dishes I had growing up.
Apotheca bar An old pharmacy now stocked with booze and a great place to start a night out.
Harrington Arms, Gawsworth. This 17th century pub is a beautiful, low-key place for lunch. Lovely English food, done well – pie and chips, scotch eggs, gammon – all the classics. It feels like not much has changed in the years since it opened. What makes it very special for us is that it in the village where we got married. We had lunch there the day before the wedding with all our family and friends and started the weekend of celebrations. I may be the only bride who had egg and chips the day before her wedding! We always make a point of going back, now with both our boys who love it too.
Applebys, Didsbury. This place couldn’t be more English. Not only is all the food the type of modern, well-sourced English food that I love, but they also sell English grown tea. I don’t want to sound like I’m being anti-foreign when it comes but, after so many years of England being the butt of jokes about food, its lovely to see so many places celebrating how good it really can be. Especially now I live away from home, I love that I can go and eat out at places where I can tick so many of my cravings off in one go. This place had just opened when I visited but the owners were lovely and deserve to do really well. Great breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, English beers and lots more.
The Modern Caterer’s café at Jodrell Bank When you travel with two small boys you have to balance the activities the grown ups want to do with things that will keep them happy. I must admit, our trip to Jodrell bank fell into the latter category I had last been to the space centre (yes a space centre in Cheshire) on a school trip but knew my boys would love it, and they did. What I didn’t expect was how amazing the food in the café would be. Attractions in England have really upped their game when it comes to serving healthy food for visitors. This place was fabulous. I’d go there just to eat. The fact that they also run a café and grocers in Chorlton, called Gabriel’s (the name of my oldest boy), sealed the deal. The food was all made in a tiny kitchen, on view to us from the dining room and it was delicious. Between us we had gorgeous homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and wonderful braised beef. Everything is seasonal, local and cooked by someone you know really gets flavours and combinations of textures – sadly lacking in lots of places.