London’s restaurant scene is often dictated by a constant want for the new. So what explanation do chefs and restaurateurs have when a dish stays on the menu for years, decades, or more?
Sometimes you’ll find these are the dishes that are such a draw, and become such a favourite, they daren’t take them off. If you’ve ever come across any of the following, would you?
Meat Fruit, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
As you’d expect from anything with Heston’s name on it, this orange-looking thing is not what it seems. Actually a conglomeration of chicken liver parfait and mandarin gel, it’s been Dinner’s poster boy dish ever since it opened.
Pici cacio e pepe, Padella
Padella’s crowd-pleasing cacio e pepe – a Roman classic literally translating to ‘cheese and pepper’ – jostles with the restaurant’s 8-hour beef shin ragu for favourite-dish status. Unlike the beef shin, diner’s can rest assured it’s pretty much always on the menu.
Black Daal, Dishoom
If garlic naan was ever formally wed to something, Dishoom’s black daal should be it. Simmered for 24 hours, it’s a rich and creamy concoction one can rarely do a visit to Dishoom without.
Smoked Eel Sandwich, Quo Vadis
London was once famous for its eels, and it seems to be up to the likes of Quo Vadis chef Jeremy Lee to remind the capital of this fact. His smoked eel sarnie – a centrepiece to the QV menu afternoon and evening – is delectably mellow in itself. It’s the accompanying pickled onion and horseradish cream that really sets it off.
Shepherd’s Pie, The Ivy
Can we really trust anyone, other than our mums, to deliver a good shepherd’s pie? If reputation’s anything to go by, go and try The Ivy’s take on this classic British dish. There’s every chance you’ll leave thinking mum will have to do better.
Confit Pork Bao, Bao
It’s the dish that, arguably, has put Bao in the venerable place it is now. And one that’s directly inspired other restaurants and street food traders to follow suit. Saying that, it’s unlikely you’ll find many, if any, who can quite match it.
Lasagne of Dorset Crab, Galvin La Chapelle
Just as football managers say a certain player is the ‘first on the team sheet’, the Galvin brother’s crab lasagne is the first item on the menu. A few years ago, Chris Galvin told me they get hate mail if they take it off. I’m still not sure if he’s joking.
Deep Fried Sea Bass, Som Saa
A great deal of remonstration is required for anyone thinking of not ordering the sea bass on their first visit to Som Saa, as Andy Oliver’s signature dish is one of the main reasons people go. If it isn’t the promise of the best Thai food in London in general, that is.
Guac Burger, By Chloe
Here it comes – America’s biggest restaurant export in recent memory, touching down on Russell Street in Covent Garden. There were some menu changes ahead of their launch in early February, including a vegan take on fish and chips, but brand classics such as their guac burger – the best-seller among their American audience – stay firmly put.
Mince on Beef Dripping Toast, Quality Chop House
It was the source of much consternation last year when US food site Eater referred to mince on toast as a ‘British classic’. If we don’t think of it as one, Quality Chop House’s signature dish is so good it makes a strong case that, at some point, it could be.
Churros, Santo Remedio
Deep-fried dough sticks, rolled in cinnamon and brown sugar, then served with a little bowl of ‘cajeta’ – a sauce made from condensed milk. Here’s a dish guests determinedly saved room for when eating at Santo Remedio’s first joint. Just like the restaurant, this dessert’s back with a bang.
Treacle Tart with Milk Ice Cream, Lyle’s
The only dish that’s been on this Shoreditch restaurant’s lunch menu since they opened in 2014, and hasn’t come off. Lunchtime regulars would rather it stayed that way.
Can you think of any other dishes that would cause a riot if they were taken off the menu? Let us know in the comments!