At last, a government scheme with mass appeal: (the fabulously named) Eat Out to Help Out. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Tuesdays throughout August, diners will be entitled to a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks if they eat in at participating establishments. The likes of Sexy Fish and sketch are on the list, but here’s where we’ll be going to induce a lovely state of postprandial somnolence.
Of the infinitely long and exotic list of restaurants participating, which is tickling my taste buds the most you ask? A family-run Umbrian joint that dispenses flour fresh pasta? An otherwise inordinately expensive sushi counter that I'm baffled is partaking in the scheme? Not quite. Oh ok then, it’s Nandos. And it’s not so much tickling my taste buds, as drenching them in energetically spiced peri-peri chicken, washed down with a bottomless glass of Fanta. For a food snob like me, it's my last vestige of common sense where food is related. I don't care about the slightly tacky table or even the fact that there's someone from JLS on table two, just give me my macho peas.
1 Green’s Court, London, W1F 0HA
Us Taureans are creatures of habit. Stubborn to change, we love familiarity. Routine. Which probably explains my dining out preferences. If I have to vote on a place to eat out, I’ll likely choose Pizza Express. An adventurous choice? Perhaps not. Convenient and delicious? A resounding yes from me. Usually this suggestion is met with silence on my WhatsApp group. Enough time passing that it doesn’t seem rude that my friend - with a higher salary and a strict policy on boycotting establishments that do not serve organic wine - chooses somewhere a bit more bougie for us to congregate. Anyway, last year I gave some direction to my foodie friends: “Soho, not too expensive, delicious food, no sushi or ramen please!” Which is how we ended up at Yalla Yalla, in Soho, tucked into a quiet alley just off Brewer Street. It’s quaint, the Beirut-style street food is exceptional, and it’s non-pretentious. Like the best first date companion in restaurant form: charming and comforting.
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89 Regent’s Park Road, London, NW1 8UY
In restaurant terms, I was basically brought up at Lemonia. Any milestone or life event worth celebrating has been toasted there - no joke, I spent the night before my wedding at Lemonia eating moussaka in my favourite booth because where else would we have gone? My family is on first name terms with the owner (Hi Tony!), and I have argued with friends and strangers about how the restaurant makes THE. BEST. HUMMUS. IN. LONDON. I can’t wait to scoop a piece of warm pita into the creamy taramasalata, eat a chargrilled anything on an extremely hot plate that is also piled high with deliciously fragrant rice, washed down by a perfectly mixed gin and tonic.
Unit 5, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London, SE15 4QL
If I'm honest, there's not much I can say about Larry's from personal experience. It originally opened in March, but we all know what happened then. Throughout lockdown, I was besieged by a bitterness that I'd never got to go. Inspired by New York eateries and open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, the owners had described it as the "naughty little brother" of their magnificent Modern European restaurant Levan on the same street. Thankfully, it's reopened and obsessively poring over the PDF menus has brought some critical excitement into my life. So what am I having? For breakfast, Larry's all dayer (soft boiled egg, mortadella, emmental, pickle, foccacia); for lunch, pappardelle with pig's head ragu; for dinner, pork schnitzel, red cabbage and gochujang with a side of potato latkes and fermented chilli mayo; for dessert, white chocolate cheesecake with summer berries. To drink? Literally anything. Take my money!