UK is a fabulous foodlovers’ destination brimming with farmers’ markets, restaurants, super slick bars and exquisite country dining experiences – with London at its epicentre. We sat down with Creative Director Food, cookbook author and founder of Fully Booked Women Sharlee Gibb to talk about her top tips following her most recent trip.
By Natalie O’Brien
What makes London such an interesting city for food experiences?
The coming together of diverse cultures can best be represented in food. I find London very similar to Melbourne in that way – suburbs that are specific to one country or cuisine because of the community living there. On one day you are eating Japanese noodles for breakfast, jellied eel pies at a market stall for lunch, and then traditional Indian curries in the heart Soho for dinner.
When travelling overseas how do you source your restaurant recommendations?
I keep informed on the restaurant scene mostly via industry friends, where they are going and what they are posting on Instagram. Closer to departure I will have a big list of places and will chat to friends in that city and get their opinion on places they have been to recently. This quickly whittles the list down to five or six really awesome places with a strong hospitality focus.
Do you eat three meals a day in restaurants?
No way! I can’t eat like that. Also, I like to stay in apartments so we can cook meals ourselves, shop local and visit farmers’ markets. We might have a big lunch one day and simple meal at home that night, or breakfast out one morning and then visit a few places in a restaurant crawl in the evening.
What are the food trends happening now in London?
In no particular order cooking with fire and kitchens taking centre stage, fermenting everything (which is not always well executed), provenance of ingredients with British farms getting a hefty push, and nostalgic food with chefs cooking what they grew up with.
Are wine bars having a renaissance too?
Absolutely, this is a great way to eat and drink without feeling you’re in for a three-hour marathon. Wine lists are diverse and adventurous and changing more frequently so sommeliers can tap into small-yield vineyards. Also, craft distillers are ubiquitous on bar shelves, each vying for the most edgy label. Checkout places like The Laughing Heart, Peg, Furanxo or 40 Maltby Street.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in London for a fancy dinner?
My hot list for dinners would include my all-time favourites River Café (Italian) and The Clove Club (modern British) plus BRAT (open fire cooking), Kiln (Thai), Gymkhana (fancy Indian) and Pastaio (Pasta).
Best breakfasts in London?
On our recent trip as soon as we landed and dropped our bags, we headed to Dishoom for a bacon and egg naan. Be sure to stop by Beigel Bake for a salt beef or smoked salmon filled bagel (counter service only). At Koya Soho you can slurp a bowl of hot udon noodles with smoked mackerel and greens, and Caravan (various locations) has a familiar Melbourne vibe with baked eggs, jalapeño cornbread, flaky croissants and coffee just the way you like it.
Lunches with friends?
Sharing lunches with a group of friends is the best way to trawl the menu. Think mezze plates from Ottolenghi alumni at Honey & Smoke or Taiwanese dumplings and sparking tea at Xu. Tommi Miers’ Wahaca serves incredible tacos and margaritas all day long, Darjeeling Express has an all-women team running the kitchen, cooking home-style dishes from the streets of Calcutta (chef/owner Asma Khan featured on the latest series of Chefs Table on Netflix) and Holborn Dining Room celebrates all things British, taking great pleasure in elevating the humble pie.
For more details on Fully Booked experiences visit https://www.fullybookedwomen.com/events and for more on Global Food trends and insights visit the news section of Natalie O’Brien & CO.
Photography credit: Patricia Nevin