A couple of plates at Stevie Parle's latest opening in Clerkenwell are compelling enough to plan another visit, pronto. Housed in a building of shared serviced offices run by (Fora prefer 'pro-working' to 'co-working'), this corner site on Central Street - the 'no-mans land' between The Barbican and Old Street - has the feel of a neighbourhood joint you may find tucked away off The Bowery, in New York.  Riffing on the dishes and flavours of Rome, the menu reads like a beauty: saltimbocca; chicken, pancetta and pistachio meatballs; rigatoni with veal pajata; tonarelli cacio e pepe. Ravioli of spinach and squash are ruddy good, a generous portion for £8, excellent lurid green pasta: the amount of butter they wallow in is reassuring. Pillowy bites of gnocchi alla Romana with brown butter and sage deserve a 'high five' and have 'order again' written all over their Parmesan and sage strewn pucks. Bombolotti ragù 'Marcella', inspired by cookery writer Marcella Hazan, who effectively 'blueprinted' the correct way to make a ragù bolognese, is also safe in the hands of this River Café alumnus. The open kitchen adds to the hubbub in the room which also serves as the entrance to the offices, plates of food being passed out for some kind of work 'do' or networking event going on the night I was there. The River Café begun life as the canteen for the architects next door –  not a bad precedent if the parallels begin to be drawn here. Next time, arrowing in on the saltimbocca...

This Week

Launceston Place,

Great Queen Street,

​Farang London, Grand Trunk Road

Ben Murphy was shaking the pans as Head Chef at The Woodford until recently, helping them win the Evening Standard London Restaurant of the Year award – never have so many food writers traipsed out to Woodford (my patch) for culinary fireworks. Now he's at the helm of Launceston Place in Kensington, and this young chef - a Pierre Koffmann protegé no less - is one to keep a track of. I turned up for lunch to see how he's getting on: monkfish, banana and Roscoff onion may sound mental, but...quite brilliant. His 'Pont Neuf' potatoes garnered a following in his former role, and make a welcome appearance here in all their crisp-mandolined-layered glory. Posh chips, yeah?

Spanking lunch at Great Queen Street leaves me admonishing myself for not having been back for far too long. Pheasant ragù and tagliatelle is a cosseting, soulful plate that makes me beam. Old Spot pork and duck terrine is the other reminder to give myself a slap next time I consider walking on by. This family of restaurants (The Anchor & Hope, Canton Arms, Camberwell Arms, The Magdalen Arms) never seem to disappoint: a rare trick to pull off.


Thai kitchen Farang London has secured a six-month residency at the former San Daniele restaurant in Highbury, with chef and founder Seb Holmes at the helm. Prawn and pomegranate miang wraps are a punchy start, bristling with sparky flavours with a sneaky chilli kick. Large plates of spring chicken with minced tiger prawn red curry, and an aromatic curry of braised beef are excellent...and HUGE. Doggy bag currently in the fridge – enough for another two meals.

Grand Trunk Road? Again?  Yep, it's local. Yep, it's good. Good and walking distance = visits on repeat. This time it's the Awadh Ka Achari Gosht that reels me in, boneless hunks of lamb in a rich yoghurt curry, adorned with pickling spices – the fragrant basmati rice here is really good, long slender grains speaking of Grand Cru quality rice.



Carry On


Carignan 'L'Angely' 2012,

Minervois, France

A partnership between St John Group’s Trevor Gulliver, winemaker Benjamin Darnault and Fergus Henderson, the wines of Boulevard Napoléon consistently offer some great value drinking. A 75-year-old single vineyard produces the fruit for this 100% Carignan, and this burly, dense, brooding wine has some serious cojones – its 14.5% ABV will sneak up on you and hand out a friendly slap on the cheeks (Morecambe and Wise style). The collaboration is named after the street where the winery is located in the village of La Livinière, and now produces a slew of great wines. A recent arrival on the list at Yardarm in Leyton, a wonderful little wine shop/bar and deli on Francis Road that has been part of the resurgence of dining and drinking options in E10.


Grand Indian Dining in Woodford

The Meghna Grill in South Woodford. Sunday. Some time in the 80s. A sprawling buffet, a pile of massive rustling onion bhajis. The eight-year-old me doesn’t know much about this kind of exotic scarfing, but he knows what he likes. Onion bhajis, yeah, those football sized (to me) fried things, are a right touch. Can I have another one, please?

Opened in 1972 by the Bangladesh High Commissioner, Mazir Uddin’s family run restaurant closed in 2013 when he retired, and a restaurant I grew up with was suddenly no more. The site was taken over by one of the most disastrous and doomed openings I can remember witnessing. Now what’s this in its place? A top Indian? Woodford? Go do one, mate. Not possible, not likely, it’ll never happen.

Read on...

Taste of Sichuan

Walthamstow has been stubborn. E17 is still gagging for more decent restaurants, while nearby neighbourhoods of Leyton, Leytonstone, Woodford and Wanstead are now ahead in the North-East London pecking order – so I'm instinctively pessimistic when I hear of a new Sichuan restaurant in the main drag of the market. Several visits later, and yep, it's a good 'un. After some digging I find out why – they have some some pedigree. They own The Sichuan on City Road EC1, which received raves last year from Giles Coren and Jay Rayner. Executive Chef is Zhang Xiao Zhong, originally from Chengdu, and was the Head Chef at Soho's Bar Shu in 2005, before moving to Hutong in The Shard. He has also helped Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop with her book Every Grain of Rice.

A classic Sichuan cold corn-fed chicken dish, fiery with the numbing thwack of Sichuan peppercorns and a peanutty 'special homemade sauce' is a ripper. Other highlights: Gong Bao chicken; Wontons in red chilli; Dan Dan noodles; 'Boiled Beef in Extremely Spicy Sauce' (not that palate scalding, really). The utilitarian box of a brightly lit dining room won't win any awards, but this is now on the 'once a week' list – E17 may be slow off the mark, but it's getting better.

A taco storm is sweeping London and the ones firing out at Breddos are Champions League quaility. Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney started their taco shack in a Hackney car park in 2011, before several pop-ups and residencies, an extended stint with Street Feast, and now to their first permanent home on Goswell Road. A first visit revealed a flurry of belting plates: Pig's head cochiita pibil; beef rib eye with shrimp chiltomate; kung pao pork belly. Corn for tacos, tortillas and tostadas are ground each day on the volcanic stone mill. A special mention for an infernal sea urchin and queenie scallop tostada, an iodine slap of sea urchin and sweet, sweet scallop, with a kick of spice and chilli heat. The masa fried chicken taco with roasted habanero may need to be ordered twice on each visit: sodding good.


Going Solo
Noble Rot, Issue N12

"Just for one please.” – How many times have I uttered this? A lot. I love it. I’m well up for this solo dining lark me...


No words, just names and links. A few places we're bouncing in
and out of... New openings, old school faves, our current hit-list

Zeren Wilson

— It started with venison medallions and a Barossa Valley Shiraz: the dish that sent me down the path of food and wine while living in Sydney. A career change from advertising began by joining Oddbins in 2003, then to independent merchant The Winery (specialising in German Riesling, Burgundy, Piemonte, California), moving to selling wine to London restaurants, and a stint as sommelier at Zucca in Bermondsey — the writing kicked in after all of this. I’ve written for various publications including The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Christie’s Magazine, The London Magazine, Noble Rot, Completely London, Caterer, and Ocado magazine. I consult on wine lists for restaurants, recent projects including Smoking Goat, Kiln, Coombeshead Farm, Bibo, Arabica Bar and Kitchen, Frontline Club, Cây Tre and Martello Hall.