We all want to escape London from time to time but can’t always make it a reality. Here’s a good list of places which will teleport you out of the Smoke and away to a far off land without leaving the city.
Bienvenue a France
Les Deux Salons, WC2
The owners set out to create a brasserie that would emulate the Montparnasse classics in Paris. Well, they’re not far off. Robust French dishes, great fit out.
Bleeding Heart Bistro, EC1
The Bleeding Heart runs a mini complex in the courtyard, you’ve got the restaurant often voted the City’s most romantic spot. But the cavernous underbelly space is very London! But staying at ground level turn left in the courtyard and you ‘ll see the bistro – a big barn like space with many tables outside. This feels firmly French countryside.
Prince of Wales, Cleaver Square, SE11
Well this is a funny one. The pub couldn’t be more British but if you saunter outside you’ll find the biggest pub garden in town. Welcome to Cleaver Square, one of the prettiest and most unique in London. Whatever deal the residents have with the pub is respected – the noise levels are low bar the thud and chink of the petanque balls on the gravel. Boy does this feel like some rural French village.
Kyrgyz Kazakh House
Pasha is mini-plex of a hotel, a hamam and a Kazakh restaurant all in one incongruous location on a main road near Camberwell. The restaurant itself is set right at the very back – follow the winding red carpet round a series of bends, past lots of gilt frames setting the scene for the forthcoming silk road experience. Replete with live birds (not on the menu), a little bridge over a stream and a lounge area with magic carpets and cushions to recline on. The menu mixes Central Asian influences from the ‘Stan territories – best described as a cross between Turkish and Russian cuisine. Beware the portions are vast! We missed the roof terrace on our visit, but any roof action in London has got to score points. Live music on selected nights will only heighten the sense of having left Blighty for more exotic shores. MB.
Kyrgyz Kazakh House, Pasha Hotel, 158 Camberwell Road, SE5 0EE, 0207 277 2228
Good for – large hungry groups looking for some escapism
Bad for – those who only frequent exclusive post codes
Dive down a steep staircase beside Holborn tube and you’ll emerge into a lovely warm space in….Seoul. Lovely few nooks for group and a tactile wooden sculpture all along the wall. All the classic dishes including Korean barbeque.
Isabela Street, SE1
This strip of slightly average bars and restaurants under the arches behind The Cut in Waterloo collectively feel so overwhelmingly ex-pat. Once all the suits have populated the terrace packed with verdant foliage you could seriously be in some financial district of Bangkok or Singapore.
So this is where the Antipodeans come to work and play. Yep – more small plates but they kill it. The cornbread with smoked chipotle butter is stratospherically good. Lots of outdoor seating on Exmouth Market.
La Dolce Vita
Villa Bianca, NW3
Ooh slinky Villa Bianca. Lovely destination restaurant in Hampstead. White linen, white tiles, white piano and…white tuxes on the waiters. Classic Italian fare, once the ivories are tinkling away you and you tuck into some limoncello blow me down if you couldn’t be in Sorrento.
It’s all about the floor, a sublime striped marble floor. Inspired by Venezia but too modern to be authentic. Perhaps a little more Milano – busy and smart.
Victim of its own success you’ll have to get your elbows out here to grab a space in this tapas joint. Menu full of the usual suspects – Fino, Albarino, Iberico jamon, pardons pimentos. Ridiculously high ratio of chefs to punters.
I think it’s the terrazzo exterior, coupled with big paellas that the kitchen churns out. If you can turn up the heat a bit and crack open the Riojas and Verdejos viva Spain.
The United States of America
The Orange, SW1
Overwhelmingly Hamptons-eque this renovated pub on fancy Orange Sq is all distressed wood and posh pizzas. (As for rather better food and a bigger bill try Hunan a couple of doors down – cor amazing.)
Back to NYC. This big, raw brick seafood n steak joint looks and feels like the real deal.
Yeah baby/ciao bella, welcome to New York! By way of Italy. And the added bonus of this place is that its got some great retro touches that feel a little 50s. Raw brickwork, sultry lighting.
Can’t afford to go skiing? Don’t miss out, go to Switzerland anyway by way of this 70s perfection. Gingham curtains, horns on the wall, as much fondue as you can possibly cope with. And the most charming team of Romanian waitresses you’ll ever get to meet (really). I am now ready to profess, this is my favourite restaurant in London. Or maybe I should re-phrase that, I get more excited about coming here for the annual experience more than anywhere else. Book well in advance, I’m not alone.