In its seventh year, the London Restaurant Festival is running for a full month with 250 restaurants city-wide offering 50,000 diners exclusive menus and special events from 1-31 October. Last weekend I tried out one of the restaurant-hopping tours for the first time, visting six restaurants around Seven Dials in Covent Garden to sample six different plates. Here's what we had...
To start off we met at Russell Norman's Polpo at Ape & Bird on Shaftesbury Avenue for a couple of sharing plates: stuffed fried olive anchovies and potato and parmesan croquettes. As is always the case at Polpo, naughty but oh-so-nice and made even naughtier as each plate was paired with a glass of the niche Belgian beer Affligem: a hoppy, fruity blonde at 6.8% which went down surprisingly well for early afternoon.
Next up was The Bowler on Monmouth Street which is a new restaurant from the guys behind the famous meatballs street food truck. We had a delicious Thai green chilli chicken meatball in a handmade pitta served up by the friendly staff. If it was a bit nearer my office, I'd definitely be back for lunch as they're really filling so good value for money - great for a quick pre-theatre bite too.
We then moved onto London's oldest French restaurant a few doors down, Mon Plaisir, for a tasting plate featuring a creamy shrimp bisque served with truffle oil, stuffed chicken with baby vegetables and tomato chutney, a terrine of ceps and red onion marmalade and a crab timbale (first time I've ever had crab in a French place) with avocado chantilly, tomato and basil reduction. These little dishes combined fine with modern French cuisine perfectly.
Next up was a stop at Marcus Wareing's Tredwell's on Upper St Martin's Lane for a harissa glazed aubergine, coriander and chilli (pictured at the top) which was the healthiest dish of the day and also the smallest - good job as we were already stuffed. Pacing ourselves, we moved slowly onto the next one.
The penultimate stop was the new Italian street food place Vico at Cambridge Circus from the owners of Bocca di Lupo. We could choose from a selection of dishes and went for the squid ink arancini, pizza slices and some mixed salads (the diced tuna tartare, boiled potatoes and black olives one was excellent) before moving onto the Neapolitan restaurant Rossopomodoro for a spicy massene pizza topped with spianata salami and basil. Finito!
The restaurant tours are themed around a location or a particular cuisine and are a novel way to sample lots of different dishes in a fun (and very filling) afternoon - I'm looking forward to seeing what they line up for next year.
Seven Dials Tour on 17 October: Polpo, Tredwell's, Vico,
Mon Plaisir, The Bowler and Rossopomodoro