Ever since reading Krista's take on the top 10 London restaurants, I've been thinking about compiling my own. And thinking, and thinking.
The trouble is that the places where I eat out the most tend to be near to where I live or work - yes, they are favourites, but some of them probably wouldn't be if I had to trek half way across town to get to them. As for further away places, many have only been visited one or twice, which I think is probably not enough to judge them fully. Then there are places which I like for reasons other than their food - like the Quecumbar, where the atmosphere, the gypsy jazz and the garden are all great but the food is very mediocre. Should I include them? Should I go for a varied list (a posh place, a lunch place, a music place, etc)?
In the end, I've decided to come up with two lists, in alphabetical order (so the numbering is arbitrary).
One is just the top 10 restaurants that I love in London and is inevitably heavily influenced by my location:
1. 19 Numara Bos Cirrik. For the glorious pide (Turkish pizzas), the chance to bring-your-own, the huge onion-heavy freebie salads. Unfussy, tasty and cheap dining and very handy for the Vortex or the Arcola.
2. Daquise. A little corner of old-school Eastern Europe in elegant South Ken. For the checked table cloths, immigrant clientele and huge portions of stodgy comfort food like pierogi. (You can take the girl out of Eastern Europe but...) Na Zdrowie (aka Bar Polski) near Holborn also does great pierogi.
3. The Eagle. For the huge piles of potato wedges smothered in cheese and chorizo and washed down with pints of interesting beer in their gloriously ramshackle garden. And the fact that it features in a nursery rhyme.
4. Le Gavroche. OK, this is kind of cheating as I've only been there once, but I loved it. It's the ultimate experience of old-fashioned elegant dining, and the lunchtime menu is a (relative!) bargain.
5. Le Mercury. For cheap, tasty food and dripping candles in a slightly ramshackle house.
(Little Bay comes a close second in this genre.)
6 .Portal. For posh Portuguese in a stylish, modern setting.
7. St John. Forget the restaurant and sit in the warehouse-chic bar, order some Greenwich Meantime beer and pig out on all manner of things on toast, especially the bone marrow. The branch in Spitalfields is also very good.
8. Venezia. My neighbourhood old fashioned Italian, where the bruschettas, the fillet steak with dolcelatte and the sauté potatoes are always perfect. Comfort food at its best (and hence one for the locals, as I think travelling rather defeats the point of comfort food).
9. Vinoteca. For the wine, the ever-changing food menu, the friendly staff - pretty much for every reason really. This is my favourite favourite.
10. Mela. For gorgeous, unusual Indian food - a real change from Brick Lane staples, and all the more surprising for the tourist-central location.
The second is a list of five places I tried once in the past year and really liked, but feel I need to go back to before I decide if they are worthy of promotion to the first list.
1. Angelus. For the foie gras.
2. J Sheekey. Don't think I ever actually got round to writing a review (so the link is to Time Out), but I was bowled by the fish, the pint of prawns served in a pewter tankard and the attentive service.
3. Metrogusto. For unusual Italian food.
4. Rules. For an eating experience from another era.
5. Shanghai Blues. For elegance, cocktails and jazz.
And what are your top 10, or even top 5?