EATING LONDON // Dinner Time

Having already covered the breakfasts and brunches from our recent trip to London town, it's only right that I share my favourite dinner-time adventures as well.. ;)

1) Bumpkin 
With an emphasis on sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients, Bumpkin is all about good quality, seasonal British food. We managed to make a last-minute booking for Saturday night and arrived to find the restaurant packed out with a huge variety of people enjoying the homely surrounds - all bottled flowers and distressed-wood mirrors on the walls.

We kick-started our visit with drinks - mine the suitably British Pimm's Cup, in such a large glass that people turned to stare - and then got stuck into the menu of wintery food. I opted for the "Morn Dew cheese tart with honey glazed parsnips and roasted chestnuts" and, after being advised by the waiter that I would need a side, I ordered the "brocolli and toasted almonds" as well. As it turns out, the main would have been more than enough, but both made for a delightfully tasty and really quite healthy meal! 

Just to counteract all those vegetables, we ordered a "triple chocolate truffle cake with Cornish cream and winter berries" - and two spoons! - to finish off. It looked like a decidedly small serving when it arrived, but it was so deliciously rich that it turned out to be the perfect end to a lovely meal. 

Pimm's O'clock! (C'est moi, taken by Christy.)

102 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7 3RD
(Other venues in Notting Hill, Westfield and Chelsea.)

2) Jamie Oliver's (Pop-Up) Diner
I haven't had the best of experiences with Jamie Oliver's establishments before, never quite understanding the hype of his Italian chain (and possibly, but unconfirmedly, picking up a spot of food poisoning from the risotto), but the location of his diner in the heart of theatre-land made this an ideal, handy venue for a quick, late-night dinner after 'Thriller Live' on Sunday. 

Jumping on the American diner themed bandwagon (like so many other establishments in the area), the menu here is exactly what the name suggests: think hot dogs, burgers, steak and ribs with the occasional Jamie Oliver twist. Christy selected a beef burger with pulled pork while I opted for the 'Happy Cow Veggie Burger' - a patty of mashed edamame, chickpea, lima and pinto beans in a toasted bun with salad, pickles and rainbow slaw - and though it was served on a metal tray that reminded me a little bit of school dinners, it was probably one of the better veggie burgers (and there have been many) I've ever had!

Come to think of it, this may well have been the only vegetarian option available besides a salad. That's a tad disappointing, but the fact I've only registered that now shows something of my enjoyment of this visit. It's a bit of a cliched concept, but its so well executed that you don't really mind.

Besides, who doesn't want to eat in a restaurant with a life-size replica of a dinosaur (or diner-saur)?! 

(It'd been a long day and our phones were almost dead, so the only photo we have to show from this visit is the one below, which reminded us of a standing joke with our mum. D'oh!)
Photo by Christy.
23a Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7EF

3) Flesh and Buns
Actually our first dinner of the whole trip, this is a serious case of saving the best for last..

In a basement just off Seven Dials, Flesh and Buns is another ideally-located restaurant for an evening in theatre-land, but this one deserves considerably more time to be fully enjoyed. A Japanese-style eatery, they specialise in hand-steamed 'buns' (more akin to a Chinese dumpling than any bun I've ever tasted) stuffed with sauce, greenery and a 'flesh' of your choice. It's worth pointing out that if you're vegetarian you will not get the full experience here (while there are plenty of vegetarian sides, there's no veggie bun filling), but if, like me, you're willing to venture to the dark pescatarian side from time-to-time you'll be just fine.

Led to our seats at the kitchen end of a banquet table running the length of the room, we took one look at the menu and were immediately overwhelmed with choice! Starting off with drinks, Christy ordered a yummy-looking lychee and pomegranate martini, while I opted for a refreshing, non-alcoholic pear and chai cocktail.

When it comes to food, the normal protocol for two diners is to order one portion of 'flesh', two portions of 'buns' and two to three sides to share, but given one of us fancied meat and the other fish we disregarded this 'rule' straight away and ordered more food than two people could ever possibly eat: crispy piglet belly; teriyaki salmon; buns; edamame beans and tempura pumpkin. Messy and sticky, but seriously 'YUM!'

We didn't finish all of that, but having seen the menu there was no way we could pass up dessert, opting to share some kinako donuts filled with black sugar custard and some green tea s'mores which were brought to us with an actual fire pit - tasty AND fun!

This was an expensive meal (by my standards, anyway) but the food was so very good - like nothing I've ever eaten before - and I was happy to pay for the experience as much as the grub! So good.

(And the fact that we bumped into David Mitchell - of Peep Show/Would I Lie To You?/regular QI fame - only added to that.)

41 Earlham St, London, WC2H 9LX

As if all that wasn't enough, we also ate lunch at Wahaca - a Mexican restaurant on the Southbank - which was super busy but decidedly average, and at Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea where the food was excellent but the service, to me, sort of let them down.

By the end of all that, I think I could genuinely say that I ate more in a weekend than I did in the preceding three weeks.. but I don't regret a single mouthful. So very, very good!

 What about you - do you have a favourite London-based restaurant?

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