Restaurants in London: My Experiences in 2022

Just the thought of writing about my London restaurant experiences last year makes me feel like a true food blogger (haha, who do I think I am?), when in reality, I am just someone who loves a meaningful catch up with friends over good food and enjoys writing about them. I am very blessed indeed to have friends who share the same passion for food, and who are willing to explore the London food scene with me.

In 2022, a few of my favourite restaurants sadly permanently closed following the pandemic, however I also saw the rise of newly opened restaurants and cafes in the capital. In fact, my list of "restaurants and cafes  to try" is growing rapidly as there are a lot of new restaurants that look really promising. And this is one thing I love about London - the restaurant scene is vastly diverse, you will never run out of options to choose from. Also last year, I revisited some of the restaurants that are close to my heart. I also managed to tick a few boxes on my restaurant list. And since J and I moved to South London in the middle of last year, we also explored the local restaurants in our new neighbourhood. So yes, my London restaurant experiences last year were definitely meaningful and worth sharing with you all.

1. Daphne's- 112 Draycott Avenue
- Daphne's in South Kensington was the first restaurant I visited last year. They're known for their authentic Italian food and spectacular display of seasonal ornaments. As it was the first week of January when we went, the restaurant was still adorned with some of the most beautiful Christmas baubles I have ever seen. It was our first time at Daphne's and the experience was great- from the ambience to the service to the food. For starter, we had the octopus carpaccio with pickled fennel and datterini tomato (£14). I didn't realise that my friend Damaris has not had octopus before, so Daphne's was the perfect place to introduce this delicacy to her. For the mains, I had the linguine- generously mixed with portland crab and perfectly seasoned with chilli and parsley (£22.75). Damaris had the delica pumpkin risotto with gorgonzola and sage (£22) which she said was good. For dessert, I had the pistachio ice cream with hot chocolate sauce which was divine (£7.50), whilst Damaris had the vanilla cheesecake with clementine (£8.50) which she said she enjoyed. Dinner at Daphne's was indeed a good way to start my London restaurant adeventure in 2022. I guess it is important to note that since last year, their menu has slighlty changed and their price has increased.

2.  Hakkasan, Mayfair - 17 Bruton Street
- My visit to Hakkasan Mayfair was to celebrate Chinese New Year with my friend Claudia. We opted for their Taste of Hakkasan three-course meal for £39pp including cocktail, which was definitely a bargain for a Michelin star restaurant. We had the steamed and baked dimsum for starter. The scallop and chicken siu mai I thought was an odd combination but they really tasted well together. I'm not a fan of venison, but I really liked their black pepper venison puff. For the mains, we had the stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef and the sweet and sour pork which were both really good. The signature dessert came with a candle as the waiter thought it was my birthday. Lol. And now that I have been to both Hakkasan restaurants, I think I'll give it a rest for a while because as much as I loved the food experience, I don't have appreciation for the very noisy atmosphere and kind of rushed service.

3. Marcus- The Berkeley, Wilton Pl
- I have been watching Marcus Wareing in Masterchef The Professionals for a few years now and I really admire his seemingly calm and positive personality on television. This is the reason why his Michelin-starred restaurant Marcus in Belgravia was on top of my list to go to last year. And to treat myself, I chose the restaurant for my post-birthday lunch. My friend Claudia and I had the three-course meal and every single dish that was served to us was memorable. The chalkstream trout with rose, cucumber, dill and gin was out of this world. The Herdwick lamb on a courgette, served with ricotta and sprinkled with pine nut and olive melted in my mouth- everything was simply perfect for me. For dessert we had the nutmeg and custard which was the best way to end an outstanding lunch meal. For £60pp, it was reasonable for such a truly wonderful food, impeccable service and elegant venue. My food experience at Marcus is definitely one for the books. Also, I was gifted with a signed menu by the chef, not Marcus though but perhaps next time.

4. The Foyer and Reading Room at Claridge's- Brook St
- It was a gifted voucher for an Afternoon Tea, however the Claridge's was fully booked for the days that I wanted to go. Luckily, I was able to convert the voucher to lunch. As Claridge's is a special place, I invited a special person to share this special lunch with me- my Manang Juliet. This was my way of expressing my endless gratitude to her for all the help and support she gave me whilst I was at Epsom General Hospital. So to celebrate, we opted for a three-course lunch from the A la Carte menu. For starter, Ate Juliet had their tomato soup which she said was delicious. I had their lobster bisque, one of the best starters there is- lightly seasoned and rich in lobster flavour. I went lobster all the way and ordered their lobster risotto for my mains. This was one of the best dining decisions I've ever made. The lobster risotto and the chicken pie are the most popular dishes at the Clardige's and I am definitely not surprised. The lobster risotto was superb, I could have had another bowl. Of course, our lunch wouldn't have been complete without treating ourselves to a Thibault Hauchard creation - the vanilla mille feuille was absolutely divine! The service was as always, outstanding from start to finish!

5. Winter Garden Restaurant at The Landmark- 222 Marylebone Road
- It was a reunion with my very dear childhood friend from California and her family, and it couldn't have been anywhere better than the Winter Garden Reastaurant at The Landmark. We were greeted by beautiful Christmas trees on each side of the steps to the garden. And then voila, the 24-ft tall Christmas Tree in the middle of the garden, flanked by palm trees under the glass roof- perhaps the only hotel in London where you can find this oasis. The sun finally came out at this time, so we had blue skies above us. The piano was played all throughout our meal and it was kind of magical. The staff were very helpful, but not intrusive. We opted for the 3-course set meal at £55pp (including a glass of champagne) which was really worth it. I had the butternut squash soup for starter which was creamy and sweet. Then for the mains, I chose the slow cooked short rib of beef which was so tender and juicy. The lemon thyme sauce complemented the whole dish. The dessert options didn't really catch my attention but I had the passion and mango opera which was just okay for me, but then again I am not keen on fruity desserts. Overall, it was an unforgettable dining experience because of the great food and even greater company.

6. Little Social- 5 Pollen Street
- It was I think my fourth Jason Atherton restaurant visit and my second time at the Little Social in Mayfair. I must say that the quality of food as well as the service in all Jason Atheterton restaurants that I have been to are consistently of high standard. Kuya Dennis and I were about 5 minutes early to the opening time but the staff accommodated us without hesitation. Yes, I often book the earliest booking available on weekends to avoid the crowd. The ambience was reminiscent of my younger years in the Philippines, with music from the 80s and 90s playing in the background. The staff was gracious enough to share the playlist with me when I asked. If you know Atherton's restaurants, you know that the quality of food even in his non-Michelin starred restaurants comes with a price. However, Little Social has been generous enough to come up with an affordable Pre-theatre menu which starts from £25pp for 2 courses. Kuya Dennis was all praises for his cured Loch duart salmon with salmon caviar (starter) and Little Social burger. I, on the other hand, was craving for some Italian food, hence I ordered the La Latteria Burrata for starter which was refreshing, and the Pasta Genovese for my mains which was al dente, and the peppery and nutty taste of the rocket went very well with the pasta. It was indeed another meaningful catch up with Kuya Dennis over excellent food.

7. The Ivy- 1-5 West St
- But of course. J and I have been going to The Ivy at least twice a year in the last 7 years. Last year was no different. This restaruant has been consistent on my blog since I started writing about my restaurant experiences because it's the only restaurant where everything has been consistent through the years. In fact, last time we visited the restaurant, we were sat across a man who has been apparently going to The Ivy for over 20 years, and he was still as happy as when he went to the restaurant the first time. Although there are now The Ivy Collection restaurants all over England, there is really nothing like dining at the original restaurant in Covent Garden. You must try it to believe it. Anyway, when we went in November, J had his usual Tempura Nobashi Prawns (£15.55) whilst I had the Bangbang Chicken (£12.50) - it was everything! We chose familiar dishes for our mains because we didn't fancy anything else from the menu. J chose The Ivy Cheeseburger (£17) and I had the Roasted Pork Belly (£25.50).

8. Applebee's Fish- 5 Stoney St, Borough Market
- Ate Elvie and I may not have found our perfect grilled crab, but we certainly have found the seafood feast of our lives! I basically came across Applebee's Fish randomly as I searched for best seafood restaurants in London on Google. Ate Elvie is my perfect seafood buddy and most (if not all) seafood restaurant experiences I've had in London have been with her. I chose to book for 12 noon (their opening time) as being located in Borough Market, I knew that the restaurant would be busier if we went later. The staff were very lovely and obliging. They seemed happy to be working there, and this added to our wonderful experience. Ate Elvie does not eat much but when she is with me, she has no choice. She's always wondered how I can eat so much. Haha. So, as we both love seafood, we ordered the Applebee's Luxury Platter For Two (£120). There is only one word for this- heaven! The platter consisted of 1kg lobster that was split into half, tiger prawns and scallops. The garlic and chilli butter was divine! The truffle chips and the samphire completed this truly amazing meal! This, I can honestly say, has been the best seafood experience I've had in London.

9. Aviary- Royal London House, 10th Floor Montcalm, 22-25 Finsbury Square
- I am not really keen on rooftop restaurants because I think they are overrated. Some of the rooftop restaurants I have been to in London before were very noisy, staff were unfriendly and the services were poor. Essentially, I paid for the view and nothing else. I suppose nowadays, it depends who's inviting me, then I will consider going. Just like when I went to Aviary with two of my closest friends in London- Damaris and Veronica. The experience was great because of them. I mean to be fair, the food was good. I enjoyed my roast chicken breast and the sticky toffee pudding. Damaris and Veronica also enjoyed their food. The view was beautiful and we had fun hanging out and taking pictures on the rooftop. So really, all in all, this restaurant experience was good, except for the screaming intoxicated youngsters on the other side of the room.

10. The Ugly Dumpling- 1 Newburgh St, Carnaby
- It was my friend Claudia who suggested that we should try The Ugly Dumpling as she apparently heard so many good things about their dumplings. And the rumours were true. The Ugly Dumpling is a corner restaurant in the busy Carnaby Street with only less than 10 tables. We made a reservation hence we didn't have to queue. The staff greeted us with a warm smile despite the fact that we were almost 30 minutes late. We were given a table in the basement, under the stairs. It felt a bit cramped and the table was rather small, but the dumplings and the service made up for this. Their menu is short and straightforward, with no fuss at all. We decided to order two platters, which at £15 each was reasonable. Their dumplings were nothing like the dumplings that I have tried in many Chinese Restaurants that I have been to in the past. Every single one of the dumplings were amazingly delicious, but it was the cheeseburger, the pork belly and the aromatic duck that stood out for me. Even the chips was good- it was crispy and I liked the sweetness in it.

11. Lahore Karahi- 1 Tooting High St
- This was my first experience with Pakistani food and I was not disappointed. J apparently has been there many years ago so he knew the quality of food. I loved their Chicken Tikka Masala, and for just £10.95, it was well worth it. Their Lahore Speciality dishes are actually all value for money, prices ranging from £10.95 to £13.95. Definitely one of the restaurants we would love to go back to.

12. Ghurkas- 1 The Boulevard, Balham High Road
- My first visit to a Nepalese restaurant and it was a good one. The lady who served us was very pleasant, she had a smile on her face from the moment we stepped in and until we left. As it was our first time at the restaurant, we asked the staff for food recommendations. For starters, we had the Momo Cha (£6.50) - apparently street snacks from Kathmandu. It's essentially steamed dumplings with some herbs and minced lamb served in sesame achaar. For his mains, J had the Rara Chicken (£12.25). It was a little bit too spicy for me but it tasted good. I had the Khasi Tang (£14.75) which essentially is a knuckle of lamb cooked for hours in their special sauce. The meat fell off the bone and the sauce was very tasty. 

13. Brasserie Zedel - 20 Sherwood St
- I was previously asked if it was still worth going to Brasserie Zedel and my simple answer is Yes. In my opinion anyway. Zedel was one of our local restaurants when we lived near Piccadilly Circus. Although we didn't frequent this restaurant, we always had a fairly good experience whenever we visited. Our last visit was unplanned. We just happened to pass by and saw their Prix-Fixe menu at £15.75pp for two courses. I had the shredded carrots for starter and on reflection, I actually think I never had carrots for starter. It sounded like a cheap meal (which it was) but it was actually okay. J and I both had the Chopped Steak Americain for mains which also was not too bad. I mean it was a cheap meal so we didn't have high expecations. We were satisfied to say the least, but perhaps won't have their Prix-Fixe again.

I also visited a few other restaurants last year but I didn't have a good experience. Perhaps I will write separately about them next time. 

I know this blog is very late for Valentine's Day, but you know, one does not have to wait for an occasion to celebrate in a good restaurant and have a beautiful experience. Remember, there are a lot of reasons to celebrate- small wins or big wins, friendships, love, create new memories, express gratitude and even self-care.

Tin x


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