From dead hippy burgers to bone marrow salads to chocolate nemeses, here’s our definitive list of London’s classic signature dishes that define the capital’s dining scene.
It takes guts to name your restaurant after a dish you serve, knowing that forever more it will appear on your menu. Thankfully Dan Doherty’s eponymous dish is just interesting and tasty: a confit duck leg topped with a fried duck egg and served on a waffle with a little maple sauce. It’s the sort of total comfort food dish you can eat from brunch until the early hours of the morning – something you can actually do as the restaurant is open 24 hours a day.
The Roux brothers opened their restaurant in London in 1967, serving classic French cooking. On that first menu was soufflé suissesse, and it’s still there today. Béchamel sauce is mixed with beaten egg whites and lightly set in the oven, before being sat in a sauce of reduced cream, topped with cheese, and returned to the oven for a further five minutes. The result is a light, cheesy soufflé with a rich cream sauce.
Ahh the River Cafe chocolate nemesis, as indicative of the 1990s as ‘the Rachel from Friends’ hair cut. Famous at the time for being an entirely flour-free cake (in today’s gluten-free world this is no biggy, but back then, folks were amazed), it was also said to be nigh on impossible to make at home, and that the recipe in the first River Cafe cookbook contained an error. What’s more, you had to bake it in a bain-marie or water bath, which helped regulate the temperature and keep the cake moist. Such a cake was devilry and witch-craft to many home bakers raised on rock-solid Victoria sponge. But if you want a slice of the ’90s, it’s still on the menu at the River Cafe.
This omelette was invented at the Savoy Hotel, London, in the 1920s in honour of the writer Arnold Bennett who was a guest at the hotel. It’s still on the menu today. The dish features chunks of smoked haddock, cheese sauce, parmesan and of course eggs. Slightly outside London, but worth a visit if you can secure a table, is The Hand and Flowers pub. Here chef patron Tom Kerridge has had his version on the menu since the pub opened. The phrase ’signature dish’ is often overused when talking about food. A chef may labour for an entire career and never achieve a perfect combination of ingredients and techniques that defines them and their cooking style. But for those that do, these dishes achieve a certain life of their own, sometimes long after the chef who popularised them has gone.
So, how many of these dishes have you eaten?