St John Bread and Wine
This bright, white, canteen-like space has no-frills furniture, walls lined with coat hooks, and a bakery counter in one corner. The approach is an exploration of every under-appreciated British ingredient (especially gutsy meats), skill, imagination and freshness. Goat’s curd and grilled spring onions on a slice of superb own-baked bread is made exhilarating by dashes of fabulously fresh mint; lamb onglet with chicory and anchovy has a wonderfully rich, perfectly balanced mix. Generously sized puds are as big as mains. 94-96 Commercial St, London. +44 (0)20 7251 0848. Daily 9am-9pm. Tube: Liverpool Street.
With a no-choice list of nine courses (£47), there’s no possibility of a faux pas when ordering. Leeks are poached, slit, and smoked mussels were inserted like peas in a split pod. The best dishes aren’t trying quite so hard to impress. A dish of Ruby Red beef, ramson and potato has a generous piece of slow-cooked beef, very tender and moist. A desserts highlight is blood orange segments dried like prunes, then studded into a sheep’s milk mousse. The Clove Club’s cooking is avant-garde but what it does, it does very well. Shoreditch Town Hall, London. +44 (0)20 7729 6496.Lunch Tue-Sat noon-2.30pm; Dinner Mon-Sat 6-11pm. Tube: Old Street tube or Shoreditch High Street rail.
The legendary Pierre Koffmann came out of retirement and opened this good-value brasserie in 2010. First-timers tend to go for the signature dishes – rich and gelatinous pig’s trotter stuffed with sweetbreads and morels, or pistachio soufflé. We start with a smooth chicken liver terrine, with its flavours precisely balanced. Main courses of roasted monkfish with soya beans, and a tender roasted rump of lamb with aubergine stew, may not be the most adventurous, but the cooking never misses a beat. The meal ends on a high note with a raspberry soufflé that is sheer delight. The Berkeley, Wilton Pl, London. +44 (0)20 7107 8844. Lunch served noon-2.30pm Mon-Fri; noon-3pm Sat, Sun. Dinner served 6-10.30pm daily. Tube: Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge.
Former Sydney chef Brett Graham (Banc) betrays hints of East-West fusion going on – Japanese herb shiso in the unmissable signature dish of flame-grilled mackerel with smooth avocado sauce; salted cherry blossom with roast leg and confit breast of pigeon. But interesting ways with root veg (celeriac and beetroot baked in ash, for example) are just as typical. Wines start at £7 per glass; the charming sommeliers are happy to suggest wine. We finish with Turkey Flat PX sherry from the Barossa, but that’s the Ledbury for you: intriguing, classy and quietly Aussie-accented. 127 Ledbury Rd, London. +44 (0)20 7792 9090. Lunch Tue-Sat noon-2.30pm; Sun noon-3pm; dinner Mon-Sat 6.30-10.30pm; Sun 7-10pm. Tube: Westbourne Park.
40 Maltby Street
Gergovie Wines have had a kitchen fitted to the premises, hired some chefs, installed tables and opened it to the public. Choose from any of Gergovie’s warehouse wines at a £10 mark-up or let owner Raef Hodgson pick something interesting by the glass. Pumpkin with pisto and a fried egg sees perfect autumn squash paired with the Spanish ratatouille-style dish of stewed vegetables; tongue salad with orange, green tomatoes and parsley is a colourful and beautifully coherent plateful. 40 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA. +44 (0)20 7237 9247. Wed, Thu 5.30-10pm; Fri 12.30-2pm & 5.30-10pm; Sat 11am-5pm. Tube: Bermondsey or London Bridge.