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For the annual Square Meal Restaurants & Bars guide, we asked chefs and restaurateurs who work in different areas of London to tell us where they eat, drink and shop when off duty. Get a true insider’s guide to the London eating scene.
Best coffee: Benugo, which is next to Murano. I tend to go for their herbal teas as I always get the guys at the restaurant to make me a coffee!
Post-work pint: After a day’s hard work, I often make my way to Little House, which is on Queen Street, for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.
Quick bite: Delfino pizzeria on Mount Street. It’s hard to get really good pizza but these guys know what they are doing. Really delicious. I love the guys who run the place, too.
Foodie shop: Selfridges, which is near us on Oxford Street.
Insider’s tip: You have to go to Scott’s on Mount Street on a nice sunny day and sit outside. A great place for people watching, and delicious oysters.
Foodie shop: Soho’s full of delis and independent shops, so I zigzag all over just to do a weekly food shop. For Italian I’ll go to Lina and Camisa, Paul A Young for chocolate, Neal’s Yard Dairy for cheese, and Norman’s stall in Berwick St Market for veg.
Best coffee: The tea room in the Arts Theatre on Great Newport Street: 90 iced teas and 12 flavoured coffees – the macaroon latte is awesome.
Quick bite: Spud on New Row: amazing jacket potatoes, including pulled smoky pork and feta.
Foodie shop: Hardys Original Sweet Shop on New Row. I’m not sure if you would call it ‘foodie’, but it’s full of nostalgia. I can’t help but drop in for some fudge.
Insider’s tip: A favourite place to hide in Covent Garden is Le Garrick on Garrick Street. The steak and mussels are to die for.
Best coffee: Kaffeine – proper coffee made with care and attention to detail, and smiley Antipodean service!
Post-work pint: Either Crown & Sceptre (on the corner of Foley Street and Great Titchfield Street) for a quick gulp after service or downstairs at Dabbous for a civilised drink, then on to The Lucky Pig for a more underground experience.
Quick bite: Meatliquor, because it’s good value, consistent, a fun place to be and the food comes out quickly.
Foodie shop: Orrery Epicerie – it’s crammed to the rafters with ready-to-go goodies, such as excellent confit de canard, rillettes and other great snacks.
Insider’s tip: Bloomsbury Farmers Market, every Thursday from 9am. Head for the Giggly Pig stand, and you might get a taste of the Wow Wow Sausage, which is the spiciest sausage known to mankind.
Best coffee: Colbert in Sloane Square.
Post-work pint: Instead of a pint it would be a vodka and tonic or glass of crisp white wine in The Blue Bar. I’d need to finish work fairly early to get there though!
Quick bite: Bar Boulud, just over the road from me and great for a small, quick bite.
Insider’s tip: There are a lot of fabulous restaurants in this area. Although their diaries fill up very quickly, they do still get cancellations. Never be afraid to call on the day looking for a last-minute table. I do it all the time as I rarely plan my nights out very far in advance.
Post-work pint: It’s not very often that I get to finish work in time, but I do love The Surprise pub, which is very quaint and has a great local crowd that goes there.
Quick bite: Tom’s Kitchen has the perfect comfort food for a quick eat. I like that they support British farmers and use UK suppliers. And Partridges on Duke of York’s Square has an amazing wine bar and café.
Insider’s tip: Go and explore: the best things in Chelsea are tucked away off the beaten track and down the side streets.
Best coffee: Lisboa Patisserie – they really care about their coffee. They also have incredibly sweet, eggy pastries which are the perfect pick-me-up.
Post-work pint: The Cow, because of all the nice people that go there. I like to go and have a really good pint of Guinness.
Quick bite: Well, we’ve got Chinatown on our doorstep – there’s Four Seasons or Gold Mine. I love dim sum and my favourite quick bite has to be roast char siu.
Foodie shop: Tavola, which is full of fantastic produce, and they also sell very posh ready-prepared meals which are perfect for a lazy evening after work.
Insider’s tip: The best/hippest bit of Notting Hill is the east side, near the Idler Academy. Just move away from all the suits on the other side of Ladbroke Grove!
Best coffee: Al Santo on Vanston Place in Fulham does fantastic coffee and is full of character. They also have a good meat and cheese counter.
Insider’s tip: For one weekend in summer, the Cloudy Bay Shack comes to Parsons Green. You can drink great wine and eat fantastic food while sitting in the sun.
Best coffee: Leadenhall Market for the buzz and the beautiful architecture.
Post-work pint: Tramshed for its really cool look. Sit at the long bar and enjoy a beer while looking up at the massive formaldehyde Damien Hirst cow in the middle of the room.
Quick bite: Sweetings, for the history – it captures the essence of the City. I love sitting on the high stools facing the waiters in white jackets who serve you classically dressed crab – a great dish.
Foodie shop: Brindisa in Borough Market for its delicious and carefully sourced Spanish produce.
Insider’s tip: St John Bread and Wine, because of the wonderful bread they bake. They’ve also got some fantastic draught beers on offer.
Best coffee: Caravan Exmouth Market is in a league of its own when it comes to making coffee, which they roast on the premises.
Post-work pint: The Old China Hand on Tysoe Street just around the corner, with darts, ping-pong tables and late-night opening, is a real staff favourite.
Quick bite: Sushi Tetsu in Jerusalem Passage is a minuscule, unbelievably good sushi bar. It can be hard to get a space, but the food is delicious.
Foodie shop: Gazzano’s in Farringdon Road is an excellent, family-run Italian delicatessen. Their own-recipe panettone has won multiple awards.
Insider’s tip: Will Lander and Josie Stead have just relaunched the legendary Quality Chop House on Farringdon Road. We expect great things.
Best coffee: Monmouth in Borough Market. The service and knowledge of the staff is amazing. The communal table has big chunks of bread and jam to feast on in the morning.
Post-work pint: The Garrison on Bermondsey Street. There’s always a cool atmosphere inside, and it’s unlike most pubs in its service and character.
Quick bite: José on Bermondsey Street – good for a quick drink and a piece of tortilla, or a more substantial graze.
Foodie shop: Le Pont de La Tour shop in Shad Thames. It has everything for the larder, great fresh vegetables and bread.
Insider’s tip: Get to Le Pont de La Tour shop early and load up on their home-baked pastries, especially the almond ones.
Best coffee: Café Brera in Canary Wharf does a nice espresso. There’s always a buzz in there, and combined with the smooth coffee, it’s the perfect pick-me-up.
Post-work pint: The Grapes on Narrow Street – a historic pub full of charm.
Quick bite: Royal China is the ideal place to pop in for quick lunchtime dim sum. The service is always very good and the food of a consistently high standard.
Foodie shop: You can’t argue with a grocery store where you can stop for six oysters and a glass of Chablis...Waitrose it is!
Insider’s tip: Although most Londoners have heard about Billingsgate Fish Market, not everyone knows that it is open to the public almost every day of the week. There are excellent-quality fish and shellfish at very reasonable prices.
Best coffee: I like savoury food in the morning, and I enjoy a nice coffee with a couple of slices of cheese and bread at La Fromagerie in Highbury.
Post-work pint: The Woodbine in Blackstock Road. My business partner and I go there every time we have something to celebrate or just something to discuss.
Quick bite: Little Sardegna in Blackstock Road to have ricotta-and-spinach ravioli, or risotto with a nice bottle of Cannonau.
Foodie shop: Ottolenghi in Upper Street. They always surprise me with extraordinary combinations and new flavours.
Insider’s tip: There is a really nice pub called The Hemingford Arms on Hemingford Road. They have fantastic Thai food and Irish music on weekends. It’s a lovely place, but keep it a secret!
Best coffee: Allpress on Redchurch Street always gets the day off to a good start and they do tasty little breakfast items, too.
Post-work pint: Nelsons Head on the corner of Horatio Street is great. You may even see a dog fancy-dress show too if you’re lucky and there’s always a few familiar faces to have a drink with.
Insider’s tip: Try the mezcal bar, Mezcalaria Qui Qui Ri Qui, on Hackney Road, tucked out of sight behind a kebab shop.
Best coffee: Local Hero in Kingston. It has a great vibe, and they do the best babycino.
Post-work pint: The Pig & Whistle in Wimbledon Park – it has one of my favourite ales there: Wandle.
Quick bite: Sticks ’n’ Sushi in Wimbledon. I take my young son there and he loves it. He knows all the waitresses and gives each one a kiss and a cuddle.
Foodie shop: Chanteroy in Southfields, a little deli that brings back childhood memories of France. They stock excellent croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes, as well as my favourite biscuits.
Insider’s tip: There’s a place in Wimbledon Village called Bayley & Sage which does amazing Parma ham and hoummos baguettes. I try to allow myself 10 minutes in my day to go and have a cheeky bite.
Best coffee: I like going to Lola & Simón in King Street, Hammersmith. It’s a very small local shop that serves delicious Monmouth coffee.
Post-work pint: If I am completely honest, I never go to pubs and I definitely don’t drink pints!
Quick bite: My favourite spot for some gorgeous and authentic Lebanese food has to be Chez Marcelle on Blythe Road near Olympia.
Foodie shop: HG Walter – a family butcher in Palliser Road, Barons Court, that has been supplying The River Café for many years.
Insider’s tip: I love to visit Riverside Studios in Crisp Street, Hammersmith, especially when the Italian Film Festival is on in the spring.
These interviews were published in the 2013 edition of Square Meal Restaurants & Bars guide.