28 July 2014

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London’s best mac and cheese


mac and cheese montage - Nashia_Four_Mac_and_Cheese_photo.jpgSquare Meal asked its two American interns to work their way round the capital’s macaroni and cheese offerings to find the best mac ‘n’ cheese in London. Here’s their verdict…

by Nashia Kamal and Kayla Keegan

A comfort-food phenomenon originating from North America, mac ‘n’ cheese has made its way across the Atlantic and spawned a mini-trend among hip London restaurants. As Americans ourselves, both homesick for a good plate of mac ‘n’ cheese and curious about its cult status across the pond, we ventured off on an excursion to find the most unique, flavourful, and overall best mac ‘n cheese recipes the capital has to offer. Here are our favourites:

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Automat, Mayfair (pictured, left)

Although it’s located in central London, this noisy, bustling dining room makes you feel like you are in an old-style diner somewhere in America. Milkshakes, burgers, fries, and mac ‘n’ cheese are what this brasserie does best. Classic mac ‘n’ cheese was offered in a large portion and served piping hot topped with mild cheese. The sauce favours more cream than cheese and was milder in flavour than others we tried.

Kayla: ‘I couldn’t help but notice a peppery flavour to the sauce, which distracted from the cheese. If you prefer a buttery, creamy, and milder take on your mac ‘n’ cheese, and don’t want to stray away too much from the beloved original recipe, Automat is the place to go.’ 7/10

Hawksmoor Air Street, Mayfair (pictured, below right)

An upscale version of the quintessential diner, Hawksmoor lifts this homely dish with typical gourmet flair. The sauce has a distinctively smoky flavour from the blend of cheeses (Cheddar, Ogleshield and Stilton), which envelope the small morsels of macaroni. Hawksmoor has two takes on mac ‘n’ cheese: traditional, and with lobster. The second dish combines a large heap of the traditional mac ‘n’ cheese with tender lobster meat on the bottom and savoury lobster bisque offered on the side. The staff here are attentive and always ready with killer cocktail recommendations.

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Kayla: ‘Wow! The small portion doesn’t appear filling but, trust me, it is! The top layer of cheese, rich white sauce and pasta below it combine smoky, bold flavours with a wonderful texture. This is a rib-sticker of a dish, made even more decadent when washed down with a buttery old fashioned.’ 9/10

Mishkin’s, Covent Garden

A small retro bar-cum-diner, Mishkin’s is a British take on a New York Jewish deli. This is one hip destination, with low lighting, closely packed booths and tattooed staff, and the vinyl seating and Johnny Cash soundtrack add more than a touch of old-school cool. Its mac ‘n’ cheese takes a daring plunge, coupling Cheddar, Parmesan and mozzarella with mustard and salt beef. The mustard flavours really come through – the result provides a playful punch to the taste buds.

Nashia: ‘This take on macaroni and cheese is definitely unlike any other I’ve tried. The mustard flavour is pronounced, but not so much that it overpowers the cheese and beef. Despite the number of competing flavours, the finished dish is balanced and moreish. It was definitely a standout.’ 8/10

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Spuntino, Soho (pictured, left)

The location was hard to find, but this spot is a hidden treasure that’s well worth the search. The dim lighting, distressed tiles, loud music and young, friendly staff create a great, urban hole-in-the-wall vibe in which to relax and have a drink and a snack with friends. The classic dish arrives fresh from the kitchen sizzling in a large pan for two, with a thick layer of crunchy breadcrumbs on top, and a smattering of green peppers throughout. The result? A mac ‘n’ cheese with personality – much like the restaurant itself.

Kayla: ‘Spuntino definitely offers its own twist on this popular comfort food. Texture is what won my heart here – the breadcrumbs are a lovely foil to the hearty, cheesy flavours beneath. Try “going native” by eating this dish with a dollop of ketchup.’ 8/10

Tom’s Kitchen, Chelsea

On any given afternoon, Tom’s Kitchen is buzzing with energy. This bustling atmosphere is accompanied by a menu that is both tempting and playful: the mac ‘n’ cheese dish not only comes in the original cheese-and-pasta style but in a truffled version as well. A hint of nutmeg and mustard cuts through the Parmesan, Gruyère and Cheddar sauce, which – when paired with the black-truffle base and white-truffle oil – adds a unique flavour.

Nashia: ‘The truffle mac ‘n’ cheese has a deliciously earthy flavour that puts this dish in a class of its own – you won’t be able to stop until your plate is scraped clean. Even the classic version is phenomenal. The consistency of the sauce is the perfect balance of creamy and cheesy.’ 9/10

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More restaurants serving great mac ‘n’ cheese:

Bread Street Kitchen
Joe Allen
The Social Eating House

This feature was published in April 2013.

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