Nb: Post contains a couple of blogger invites**/discounts##.
Or even, when your friends have left it up to you as the 'foodie' to pick a venue for dinner in an awkward part of town not known for gourmet credentials? That's when restaurant selection can run a little bit creative and come up some unusual discoveries. (Pssssssst. To jump on the thematic bandwagon, these would make great surprise Valentine's Day spots with partners, friends or family.)
Marble Arch - Kurobuta
Now, this little place really surprised me. Not far from the shisha bars of Edgeware Road, a few of us bloggers arranged a get-together (thanks to a Timeout deal) and enjoyed their bottomless brunch on a busy Saturday afternoon. The vibe is very informal Japanese, conjuring memories of the bright Izakayas we visited in Kyoto - but had better seating and happily provided knives and forks for those who haven't conquered chopsticks. Sushi, grilled items and build-your-own ramen bowls are served buffet style, with a maki platter and delicate pumpkin tempura slivers (they were divine) brought to the table, alongside a welcome cocktail and endless prosecco. But, my favourite dish of the day were our (extra charge) portions of BBQ pork belly enrobed by steamed buns and served with spicy peanut soy sauce. Founded by Australian Scott Hallsworth (formerly of Nobu) this 'junk-food Japanese' pop-up turned served alongside acoustic music definitely hit the Saturday afternoon sweet spot.
Leicester Square - Heliot Steak House at the Hippodrome
Despite popping up on umpteen 'best steak in London' lists, we were still rather unsure about visiting a casino in Leicester Square (especially one so close to the tourist infested tube station), but it turns out that the Hippodrome is a sure bet for a good meal. We visited early on a weekday evening, feeling a little a little Kenny Rogers (ie. that country music classic The Gambler "you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run") but left feeling more James Bond (Casino Royale) after enjoying the opulent surrounds of the former circus variety theatre. Oh, and cool facts - the restaurant is named after the famous female lion tamer who fed raw meat to her big cats over 100 years ago, the theatre featured a 100,000 gallon tank in which polar bears and sea lions would swim and Harry Houdini used to perform there.
Borough Market - Roast **
Stop laughing already. I know that Borough Market is a London foodie epicenter and has been for decades, but even living across the road from the market, I rarely ever thought to pop upstairs and dine in the restaurants that overlook the stalls once the market closes down. To be fair, my basket and bags would always be too heavy with fresh produce to need to. But Roast has always been on my 'to visit' list - and if their main meals are anything like the British-sourced canapes we tried at a blogger event, I need to visit properly, stat.
Trafalgar Square - Trafalgar Hotel's Vista Bar
Just. Look. At. The. View.
Southwark - OXBO Bankside Restaurant, Hilton Hotel ##
Somehow managing to corral a hashtag of bloggers together just before Christmas, Eppie introduced us to the delights of the Oxbo Bankside Restaurant. As there were a fair few of us around our generous table, we were proffered the group menu served en familie from heaped platters alongside a few cheeky glasses of prosecco which when down a celebratory treat. I particularly enjoyed the generous slices of Josper grilled sirloin steak and dark & white chocolate bavarois with spiced orange segments. There is a real focus on ingredient provenance which makes me want to revisit and I've recommended it to several friends looking for a good group venue that is just the right side of quirky quality. For a full review definitely check out Eppie's far more detailed post. (Oh, and while you're there, our favourite pub for a geezer-style, proper roast dinner is just down the road...)
Shepherds Bush - K West Hotel Glam Rock Afternoon Tea **
Across the road from the ginormous Westfield Shopping Centre in W12 and less than a mile from the infamous Hammersmith Apollo - a Grade II listed Art Deco music venue - the modern 4-star K West Hotel tucked in amongst plain brick flats, has played host to many of British rock music greats. Rather excited to visit the former BBC Kensington House building, now named after the building featuring on David Bowie's 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars' (both myself and Mr Kiwi couldn't live without music and have spent many an evening in the Apollo) not to mention housing Bob Marley and the Wailers, Bowie, The Kinks & Roxy Music. Nowadays the glass-skinned hotel is home to a luxury cocktail bar and afternoon tea that can be served until midnight.
North Greenwich - The Peninsula Restaurant
Tucked behind the maraudering hordes of concert-goers streaming into the O2 arena, the Intercontinental Hotel is a quiet haven of luxury. Our meal (full review of the Peninsula Restaurant here) was delicious, and popping for a city skyline post-prandial cocktail to the 18th floor SkyBar we discovered one of the best views of the Millenium dome roof from the other side of the hotel – in the Ladies bathroom of all place – that had us snapchat swooning. Such millenials.
Walthamstow - Gods Own Junkyard
Akin to waking up in a Baz Luhrman film - and shades of the real Moulin Rouge - it is simply impossible to taken in everything in one look. So, after settling in a corner of the Rolling Scone Cafe with a hot chocolate and tea respectively (we called it warding off the winter cold, but really any excuse will do) before another wander to two around the incredible space (and a visit around to the corner pub for a table full of fries accompanied by feline hosts.) A full love-in of Gods Own Junkyard can be found here.
Ok, I said a handful and I ended up sharing 8 unusual foodie destinations around London. And I have no regrets.