London is one of the world's cosmopolitan cities - so where better to try a few different European restaurants than in the UK's capital, where they are all within easy walking distance of each other?
One of the great things about London is that, like many of the big cities around the world, it offers a veritable hotpot of international cuisines. There’s an almost infinite number to choose from – with a range of standards and prices to match – but here’s a selection of European restaurants and eateries to give you a flavour.
Le Cafe du Marché
Unapologetically French to its core, Le Cafe du Marché – off a small courtyard near Smithfield meat market, and on the doorstep of the chic boutique London Malmaison hotel - attracts a loyal following of Francophiles. The menu (wholly in French) offers up many classics – think moules provençales, and boeuf bourgignon, for example – alongside dishes with the merest nod to modernity and external influences, such as salade de tomates rôtis et haloumi grille and sauté de calamar aux chorizo et pois chiches. The wine list, while not cheap, is full of worthy bottles from around France, with fewer than half a dozen from elsewhere. And just to round off the whole experience, while being quite smart, the venue manages at the same time to be very ‘bistro’, warm and cosy. If you want to woo someone, this is as good a place as any in which to do it.
Le Cafe du Marché, 22 Charterhouse Square, Charterhouse Mews, Smithfield, London EC1M 6AH.
Tel: 020 7608 1609
www.cafedumarche.co.uk (£20-40/per person)
Over in the very heart of central London, just a short walk from Oxford Circus underground station and the contemporary Sanderson hotel, you’ll find Scandinavian Kitchen. Run by a Swedish-Danish couple, this is the place in which to satisfy all your Scandinavian food cravings, from meatballs, through crayfish and herrings, to punschrulle (or ‘vacuum cleaners’, as they’re more colloquially known – a wonderful confection of marzipan, rum, and chocolate) – not forgetting the famous lingonberries. Bright, light, and cheery, with staff to match, it’s a bold venture which has already proved itself as one that’s here to stay, having had the misfortune to open for business at the start of the recession. Ever popular with locals, visiting and resident Scandinavians, and other tourists alike, you can fill up healthily and inexpensively here, and then spend your remaining pennies on treats from their deli!
Sandinavian Kitchen, 61 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PP. Tel: 020 7580 7161
www.scandikitchen.co.uk (£10-20/per person)
The Salt Yard
Not far away, just off Tottenham Court Road and still within mere metres from the Sanderson, is The Salt Yard – a vibrant and stylish tapas bar known for its new ‘take’ on Iberian food. The classics are here in spirit, but revamped to create something altogether more contemporary. Examples of what you can find on the menu (which changes regularly) include pan-fried wood pigeon with crushed peas and morcilla, crispy squid with a salad of heritage tomatoes and black alioli, and courgette flowers stuffed with Monte Enebro cheese and drizzled with honey. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll also be indulged here as desserts are equally appealing: lemon and cinnamon doughnuts with coco nib ice cream and plum and almond cake with salted almond caramel ice cream are just two from the most recent menu. As you might expect, the Salt Yard also has some very good sherries, but its wine list generally is well chosen and priced.
The Salt Yard, 54 Goodge St, London W1T 4NA. Tel: 020 7637 0657
www.saltyard.co.uk (£20-40/per person)
The Gay Hussar
Five minutes away in walking time, but light years away in terms of style of food, is the Gay Hussar. It’s a real throwback, this restaurant, to an age in which bon viveurs, politicians, and literary types all held sway in the capital. You’d often find them here, in this little spot off one corner of Soho Square. Their portraits now adorn the walls, and the Gay Hussar’s hey-day has been and gone – but it’s still serving up good Hungarian food at very reasonable prices. In true East European tradition, meat features prominently on the menu, portions are generous to a fault, and the food is warming and hearty. Recommended dishes include crispy roast duck with red cabbage, Hungarian potatoes and apple sauce, veal goulash stew with galuska and, for pudding, turos palacsinta (sweet cheese pancakes), and poppy seed strudel with vanilla ice cream. And once you’ve finished, you can rest your head and sleep your meal off in the nearby and equally quirky Hazlitt's Hotel.
The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, London, W1D 4NB. Tel: 020 7437 0973
www.gayhussar.co.uk (£20-40/per person
Altogether different again is the small chain of Italian cafés, Carluccio’s was founded, though no longer owned, by the mushroom maestro himself, Antonio Carluccio. The bright, shiny caffés (to give them their Italian spelling), are always lively and busy, especially at lunch times and weekends (they have a child-friendly policy, too, making it ideal for family meals out). The menu still retains all the hallmarks of Carluccio’s style of cooking, not least because he continues to work for them on a consultancy basis. So you can expect – and will get – simple but delicious food, big on flavour. Try the antipasti before moving on to popular pasta dishes such penne giardiniera (Pugliese penne with courgette, chilli, and deep fried spinach, parmesan and garlic balls) and pasta con funghi, and secondi favourites of chicken Milanese and chargrilled lamb steak. And leave room for a cup of their delicious, rich bicerin – a north Italian hot chocolate, espresso, and cream drink. The perfect end to a meal! There are a number of branches – my own favourite is the one is South Kensington, a step away from The Kensington Hotel.
Carluccio’s, several branches across central London – see website for all contact details and locations: www.carluccios.com (£10-20/per person)