Sunday, 29 May 2016

The London Guide to eating your way around the globe


So it's one of those weekends when you've got a serious case of  the munchies but a bucket of chicken from the slightly suspect chicken shop round the corner isn't going to cut it. Instead you're dreaming of dining in Denmark, feasting in France, chomping your way through China and munching your way across Malaysia. You've mentally mapped out a route and then....... reality hits you like a ton of bricks that...........

1) Your bank balance won't get you past the M25
2) It's a Sunday morning and have to be back for work by tomorrow

[sigh!]

But before you fall into a bottomless pit of despair, be cheered by this thought -  you live in London, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, a city which people from every corner of the world have made home, where a smorgasbord of flavours awaits you just outside your front door. 

Of course good food is easy to find when money is no object, but wherever possible I am instead going to focus on cheap and mid-range restaurants which allow you to enjoy a champagne lifestyle on a bucks-fizz budget.

So let me be your guide, as together we head out into the world for a spot of gastronomic globe-trotting.


TURKEY

Address: Gokyuzu, 26-27 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, London, N4 1LG
Nearest tube station: Manor House
Price: Approx £12 per person for 2 courses




All aboard? First stop (Little) Istanbul, otherwise known as Green Lanes in Haringey, North London. There's a mind-boggling selection of Turkish restaurants in this area, so it's a testament to Gokyuzu that it is packed with people at all hours of the day. Gokyuzu has even been named one of the top restaurants in London on TripAdvisor, leaving Michelin started restaurants eating their dust. 

Your meal starts with an incredible array of freebies including a plate piled high with salad coated in a sweet dressing, a basket of bread cooked in the wood fired oven on the premises and a moreish tzatziki dip. I always get excited about free food but don't fill up too much as the best is yet to come. For main course my personal favourite has to be Sarma Kuzu Beyti (marinated mince lamb seasoned with garlic grilled over charcoal, wrapped in lavash bread with cheese and topped with tomato sauce, drizzled with butter and served with yogurt and bulgar), which is insanely good. Once you've licked your plate clean you'll be served a free little glass of Turkish tea to wash it all down. Perfection!!


JAPAN

Address: Misato, 11 Wardour Street, London, W1D 6PG
Nearest tube station: Leicester Square
Price: Approx £6 per person for one course



A tiny inconspicuous Japanese joint just of Leicester Square, Misato is known for serving huge portions at affordable prices. Despite the location, you won't see that many tourists here, as they are usually drawn like moths to the neon lights of nearby fast food joints or to the all you can eat buffets in Chinatown, but Misato has a faithful following of Far East students and locals alike which ensures that it does a roaring trade.

Sushi and sashami are a great value as are the bento boxes. My guilty pleasure is the chicken katsu curry which is absolutely HUGE, and served with a portion of rice and salad. It's not healthy but it is too good value and tastes too damn good to care. Photos are thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Marie as I was too busy tucking in.

Affordable restaurants are few and far between in Central London, and affordable Japanese restaurants that serve more than ramen are even more of an enigma, so for all this and more, Misato I salute you.



SRI LANKA

Address: Apollo Banana Leaf, 190 Tooting High Street, London, SW17 0SF
Nearest tube station: Tooting Broadway
Price: Approx £15 per person for 2 courses



Next stop Colombo, Sri Lanka. An Aussie Sri Lankan friend introduced me to Apollo Banana Leaf in Tooting describing it as her go to place when she was in need of a fix of authentic Sri Lankan food. It's a good 15-20 minute trek from the nearest tube station and some of the decor is undeniably questionable but fortune favours the brave and your perseverance will be rewarded by some top notch South Asian cuisine at very reasonable prices. My default is to start with the mutton roll, followed by the egg and onion fried stringhoppers and crab masala (served with whole piece of crabs cooked in the shell which is incredibly delicious and messy in equal measure). This place is so good that when I lived in North London I would make a 3 hour round trip to visit it when I couldn't resist the cravings any longer. Oh and did I mention it's BYO too. Cheers!


FRANCE

Address: Le Mercury, 140a Upper Street, London, N1 1QY
Nearest tube station: Angel
Price: Approx £15 per person for 3 courses 




Flying in the face in geographical convention, our next stop after Sri Lanka is of course..... Paris (naturally). I have eaten at several fantastic and expensive French restaurants across the city (courtesy of my generous siblings) so it would be disingenuous to say that Le Mercury is the best French food I have eaten outside France. That said, it is unsurprising that the owners needed to set up an overspill restaurant (Le Mercury Deuxieme) just minutes down the road because it absolutely hits the mark on French bistro food at affordable prices such as roast barbary duck with garlic mash, savoy cabbage and red wine jus (pictured). 

The service is friendly and welcoming and the interior has a quaint, faintly romantic air about it, with candles in green bottles with wax dripping down the sides and cosy tables. However this works just as well as a spot to catch up with family and friends as it does for date night. Oh and did I mention the prices? £4.75 for starters, £9.95 for mains and £3.45 for desserts - Sacre Bleu!!



USA
Address: The Lockhart, 22-24 Seymour Place, London, W1H 7NL
Nearest tube station: Marble Arch
Price: Approx £15 per person for 1 course (based on 2 sharing 1 portion)







The final stop on the first leg of this culinary jaunt is my favourite American restaurant in the city, the Lockhart, which serves mouthwatering soul food straight out of the Deep South. The grits (hard to describe but something between polenta and mashed potatoes), buttermilk fried chicken and cornbread are to die for. This is the kind of food which forces you to politely explain to whoever you are eating with that you won't be speaking to them for at least the next 20mins as you savour every mouthwatering morsel. Admittedly the Lockhart can't really be described as a cheap eat but my advice is to order one portion and split it between you. That helps keep the price down and also lowers the risk of you falling into the fried chicken induced coma which is the inevitable result of trying to eat a full portion yourself.



Hope y'all enjoyed the first leg of our grand tour. Tune in again for more globe-trotting gastronomic adventures around the Big Smoke. In the meantime, Bon Appetit!  


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