One of the best things about autumn in London is the London Restaurant Festival. Now in its seventh year, it lasts all October, and involves lots of limited edition menus, promotional deals and special events in all kinds of restaurants. There’s lots going on, but some of the best things on offer this year are the official restaurant-hopping tours, which take in six different venues in one giddyingly gluttonous day. I previewed some of the restaurants for the Carnaby Street tour at the weekend and ate myself senseless, so you definitely need to skip breakfast unless you want to cause a scene by exploding and splattering everyone with the undigested remains of the day’s feasting.
Alternatively, you could plump for one of the weekend-long passes, which cost the same amount and allow you to spread your visits over a longer period of time. These tours are focused on Japanese cuisine or tapas, and are spread a little further apart. The one-day tours concentrate on just one area, and are better suited to those who prefer to eat more and move less. You have between 12pm and 6pm to make the rounds, so it’s a sort of lunch/dinner combo, and you’ll get a small plate and a drink at every location.
On Sunday we visited Senor Ceviche, Pitt Cue Co and Pizza Pilgrims, all centred around Carnaby Street. (The three extra restaurants are ramen bar Shoryu, reviewed here, Rosa’s Thai restaurant and Antidote, a charcuterie and wine bar.) We started with Senor Ceviche because Peruvian is currently my jam, where we were given two glasses of extremely tangy ‘Lima Lemonade’ and an enormous portion of superfood quinoa salad topped with a grilled chicken skewer with aji amarillo, huacatay sauce and coriander yoghurt. The actual taster will be a choice of one or the other, and if you’re a meat-eater, the chicken is very good: tender on the inside and grilled crisp on the out.
You can buy additional dishes as you go along, so we also couldn’t resist trying some ceviche, the house specialty. Ceviche is raw fish cured in lime with chilis and coriander, and even Mike, who is violently phobic of any food that once lived in the sea, was sucking it down with violent gusto.
Next stop, Pitt Cue Co., which is ordinarily hidden behind the crowd of hungry carnivores queuing three-deep to get in. Fortunately it was relatively empty at 3pm on a Sunday, so if you can’t be having with queuing for food (as per my recent column for Time Out) this is the time to go. The place is tiny, and much of the space is taken up with bottles and bottles of bourbon and a strange, almost redneck-themed decor.
“I like the grandma curtains,” said Mike.
The LRF dish has been confirmed as Crispy Smoked Jowl & Pickles (my prediction: delightful), but Pitt Cue’s menu changes on a daily basis depending on what’s come up from the farm in Cornwall, so we tried a couple of things to get a flavour of what’s on offer.
“It’s a beef sausage,” said the pony-tail ferrying our food from the miniscule kitchen downstairs up to the ground floor. We looked at the sausage, which wasn’t a sausage at all but a inch-thick disc of meat. Almost like…a burger? Yes. It was a burger, sans bun or any of the other usual burgerly bits and bobs. It came topped with a mop of stringy sauerkraut that had been aging for seven months and smelt like it had a story to tell. We also tried a panko pork burger, laced with a mysterious and flavoursome blend of herbs and spices, and chaperoned by a rich smear of damson plum ketchup. The pork was my favourite, though I was disappointed not to have tried the famous ribs. Still, at least I know when it’s quiet!
Finally, we wound up at Pizza Pilgrims, which is my joint favourite pizza place along with Homeslice. P. Pilgrims make the most perfectly hot, sloppy pizzas, with a crust so light the thing is practically liquid in the centre.
Your LRF passport will get you a margherita pizza, which is already perfect in its simplicity. We tried a salami between two, and some deep fried mac ‘n cheese bites. They are not in the slightest bit good for you, but my God they’re tasty.
The cheese bites might actually not have been a very good idea; most of the pizza was boxed up for us and I had it for lunch the next day.
And so ended our Carnaby odyssey. With six restaurants to visit, you’ll be eating a lot of food, but it’s in the perfect location for a spot of shopping (before) and drinks (afterwards). Make your last stop Antidote, a wine bar, and celebrate your, er, hard work with a glass or two of vino.
Tickets are currently on sale for every tour, though some have very limited availability remaining. A passport can be yours for the curious sum of £58.03…for more details, click here. And don’t forget to follow @LRF2015 to keep up with all the delicious looking shit going down this month.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.