We’ve hunted down the best taco joints, moreish markets and cocktail-shaking hotels with help from our food-minded insider.
Dab hand in the kitchen Joe Laker originally hails from Hull, but over the past few years he’s made himself at home in London as head chef at Fenn restaurant in Fulham. Having lived in the British capital’s trendy East End before moving west to open his spot, he’s experienced the diverse sides of London’s dining scene and has his finger firmly on the culinary pulse. Here, he guides us around his favourite foodie haunts, from restaurants and cafes to markets and street-food stalls…
“My go-to London market is Bohemia Place in Hackney Central. It’s not just food: you get small businesses selling handmade craft products, such as jewellery and paintings. But, being a chef, I go to eat. The stalls are restaurant-quality – I’ve had some great vegan jerk ‘chicken’ there – but at street-food prices. Hackney Church Brewery is at the bottom and they serve really interesting small-batch brews that change all the time. Go on a Friday night, if you can, and you’ll also get live music and a great atmosphere.”
“A bar that will always hold a special place in my heart is Del 74 in Dalston. It’s full of locals, mostly younger people, and everyone is always having a great time. They make amazing margaritas – they’re super fresh because they juice fresh limes each day from fruit bought in the market – and I always order the one with the chilli-salt rim. The owner is Mexican and serves tacos made to his grandma’s recipe. Lamb leg, tilapia fish, chicken thigh… whatever you order, it’s fantastic.”
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“My restaurant is based in west London, but I think it’s more like the kind of place you’d find in the east. By that I mean that restaurants in east London tend to be more innovative, with unique flavour combinations and techniques; the west is a little bit more traditional. We’re a modern British fine-dining restaurant, with organic, biodynamic and sustainable producers at the heart of what we do. But, we’re also trying to be different; for example, I’m currently serving veal fillet with sweetbread, courgette, marjoram and black garlic.”
“I used to live a two-minute walk away from the Hoxton Fruit & Veg shop, so I was there a lot. They have amazing, exotic produce that you either don’t find in the supermarket or that is not very good-quality there: say, lychees, mangoes, wild mushrooms and heritage tomatoes. The dry larder array is fabulous, too, with olives and sundried tomatoes – quite a big selection that you wouldn’t normally get elsewhere.”
“I had one of the best meals of my life at this Pimlico restaurant. It costs about £500 for dinner but I would definitely go again for a special occasion – or at least the more affordable dim sum lunch. I had the Taste of China menu, which was quite an education. The tofu and pickled mushroom dish was my favourite – a shock as I’m not normally a huge tofu fan – and the wine pairing was incredible. It can be hard to pair European wines with Chinese food but the sommelier here is excellent.”
“During lockdown, Climpson & Sons was one of the few things open on Broadway Market, so I would visit almost every day for coffee or a green tea. They really put a lot of care into their drinks and are careful about where they source things from. The people that work here really know their coffee and how to make it, so can answer all your questions. They also make a mean focaccia sandwich with goat’s cheese and caramelised onion.”
“I used to walk by Madame Pigg often when I lived in east London. Finally, one day, I went in, and wow! This place is up there with the best neighbourhood restaurants in London. The wine list is solid; they source bottles from a place called Modest Merchant in Bethnal Green, which has interesting stuff from small vineyards. Plus, I really love the Sunday roast, because they put so much effort into it. The porchetta is the speciality; the herby stuffing is so flavourful and, of course, they make all their own Yorkshire puds and potatoes.”
“After great street food? Try Coqfighter at Boxpark in Shoreditch. I’ve worked here in the past for my mates, doing takeaway in their dark kitchen. Yes, it’s street food, but really high-end, with incredible chicken sourced really well. It’s some of the best fried chicken in London, I’d say. The most popular dish is the green chilli cheeseburger, for good reason; the pickled green chilli cuts deliciously through the cheese and chicken.”
“The Ned is such an amazing building in the heart of Bank – when you stay here, you really feel a part of it all. There are so many different restaurants and bars to choose from, but I like the Vault Bar best because it’s exactly what it sounds like: set atmospherically inside an old bank vault. There’s also a really nice spa, pool and gym area that you can access during your stay, though I didn’t have time; I was only there for an evening. But, there’s always the next visit…”
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