Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Whining & Dining: In Brief

A few restaurants, bars and the odd sandwich shop that haven’t yet graduated to full reviews but are still worthy of mention:

Dragon Castle
Walworth Road, SE17

I didn’t move to Elephant & Castle for its culinary promise, but in Dragon Castle we surely have one of London’s gems.  Housed in a vast palace on the Walworth Road, Dragon Castle is quite simply the best Chinese food I’ve eaten in London.  The service is brisk and efficient – if not as amusingly rude as most of Chinatown’s finest – and the food ranges from the delicious to the exquisite.

On our last visit, a damp Tuesday evening, we had a pile of magnificently sticky spare ribs, perfectly crispy calamari, the obligatory Peking duck – one of the best I’ve had – followed by a selection of main courses of which the highlight was a searingly hot pork belly stew.

It’s long been a maxim of travellers everywhere that the best food is often found in the most unlikely of places: next time you’re looking for top-notch Chinese, avoid the tourist deathtrap of Gerrard Street and venture instead down the Walworth Road: as long as you don’t mind techno versions of Happy Birthday at top volume, you’re in for a treat.


The Trinity
Borough High Street, SE1

One of my favourite pubs: traditionalists will complain that it is emblematic of the current vogue for modern décor, characterless beer and formulaic food, but this super pub just by Borough Tube belies its gastro-lite interior in offering an excellent range of beers and good food: they serve Addlestone's, which keeps the Blonde happy, and chilli crackers, which saves me having dinner.  High stools in the bay window and winged armchairs in the shadows at the back, The Trinity is one of those rare pubs that is as good on a Tuesday lunchtime as it is on a Friday night.

The Royal Oak
Tabard Street, SE1

One to satisfy the traditionalists: the only Harvey’s pub in London.  I feel right at home sipping a pint of Mild with the Guardian: can there be any higher praise?


Vinopolis Wine Wharf
Stoney Street, SE1

Vinopolis itself is an affront to wine, turning the finest and most ethereal of drinks into the subject of a sub-Alton Towers theme park, but its wine bar is a cut above.  A wide choice of wines by the glass, and a page-long selection of English wines.  Knowledgeable staff, good glassware (am I alone in caring about this?) and plenty of sofas make this an excellent hang-out after spending too much in Borough Market.

Blues Café
West Smithfield, EC1A

The best sandwich shop in London, bar none.  From hot pork loin and apple sauce to bacon & avocado, Blues Café offers a fantastic range of sandwiches, soups and – on a Friday – burgers.  Just south of Smithfield Market, Blues Café is slightly off the trail and all the better for it.  Friendly service, superb bread and generous servings all set this lunch spot far above the ever-predictable chains.

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