The very best things I ate…February 2018

February, you were a minxy little trickster. In you rocked on day 1 with your crisp blue skies and your diluted dappled sunshine and then off you bombed it four weeks later in a huffing, whirling, squalling blizzard of lash-tickling snowflakes and bone-chilling temperatures.

Thanks. No really. You were an absolute sweetheart.

However, despite leaving us quilted in the sort of thick soft snow that never fails to send Transport for London into the sort of screechy, shouty, panicky meltdown usually associated with the contestants on America’s Next Top Model, you did bless us with some really, really, ridiculously good-looking food like this…

1. Vegan Cheeseburgers

We have an insanely talented bunch of development chefs at work which means that when lunch rolls round and it’s stuff they’ve put together, you’d be crazy to miss it.

So I don’t.

Ever.

These cheeseburgers were served as part of a vegan inspired lunch that was uniformly splendid but it was these bad boys with their melty, plastic cheese, their soft seeded rolls and their charred-and-smothered-in-special-sauce patties that really dialed it up ‘Hello? Oh hi, this is ludicrously tasty here!’

Looking like the burgers of your childhood and all the better for it – no glazed brioche buns or artisan leafy greens squatting here thank-you very much – I’d defy anyone not to seriously love them.

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2. Rhubarb & Cardamom Pastry at Pophams, Islington

Islington has long been sought out as one of London’s most delicious boroughs and now with the arrival of Pophams, a petite artisan bakery that specialises in beautiful sourdoughs and uniquely gorgeous pastries, it’s even harder to narrow down where you want to eat at any given time, day or night.

With a beautifully light & modern interior, crockery you’ll find yourself ogling & ‘gramming voraciously and a chilled vibe just the right side of being cool, Pophams is the sort of place you’d be proud to call your local…and I am.

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Their peanut butter-jam pastries are a feat of viennoiserie engineering excellence, their sourdough ham & cheese toasties are perfect snow-day provisions and their rosemary-sea salt plaits are as light & delicate as butterfly wings but it’s their stepping-into-Oz Technicolor rhubarb & cardamom custard pastries that are really worth nipping over for. Crispily, flakily edged and softly, sweetly middled, if you’ve found yourself obsessing over new ways to eat spring’s prettiest fruit, here’s one of the nicest you’ll find.

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Turning Japanese in the heart of Soho…

Like the back end of the annual nativity donkey costume, the bottom end of Wardour St is not generally somewhere you want to find yourself. Littered with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets and thick with air that hangs ripe with the perfume of coloured sugar from nearby cultural landmark M&M’s World, it’s not a part of London I’d associate with cool, new food but recent opening Ichibuns may bring with it more fragrant winds of change.

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Despite having a name to make passing tourists snigger, if, like me, you’ve never been to Japan, then I imagine stepping inside here is like a sensory overloaded snapshot of what the centre of Tokyo might be if it had a brief, torrid, snogging-in-the-back-row affair with the heartland of Americana diner culture. It’s way cool, with an 80’s flavoured techno-pop soundtrack and it’s certainly not short of things to keep you entertained visually as you wait for food. Sat downstairs, we had walls of arcade games, plastic dollies behind metal mesh, the front half of a van surrounded by the oversized stereo speakers you had when you were 15 and a ceiling covered with black & white Japanese comic pages all vying for our attention.

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The menu offers a slightly curious mix of ramen, burgers, sushi & the sort of shakes that will slay a bride-to-be in her tracks as well as beers, whiskeys & juices. You’ll find the sour cherry with orange & lemon refreshingly sharp enough to cut through the richness of the meat & bread with ease. Read More

Feather your food nest with champion chicken at Clockjack Oven…

Chicken & chips. In the words of the world’s wisest piece of crockery, the all-knowing Mrs. Potts, it’s a tale as old as time and for good reason – it just works. However like many things that should just work, the potential is there for it to fail on a spectacular level but thanks to Clockjack Oven, you don’t need to worry about that in London.

This small but brilliant restaurant is 5 minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Circus tube as the chicken flies and wing on heart, I’d walked past it dozens of times before without ever stopping to take note. I shan’t make that mistake again. Picked in no small part thanks to a bunch of enthusiastic reviews from my frankly fabulous fellow Time Out Tastemakers, on paper Clockjack seemed to tick all the boxes for a mid-week supper; centrally located, takes reservations, reasonably priced menu, awesome sounding food. Trust me when I say that places catering to all of requirements in London are getting fewer and further between so if you find somewhere that does, make a note, share it with others, be thanked forever. Read More