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Staying Local With Finn Bruce - LONDON

Every week one of the APPollo team will give their run down on their favourite city, trip or area

Again we have APPollo’s founder and CEO Finn Bruce taking us through his favourite London eateries and drinking spots. Finn has called London his home for the last 10 years and loves to discover the best tastes and flavours on home turf.


STAY LOCAL: LONDON

As places slowly begin to reopen, here is a quick-fire run down of my favourite places to check out in London ranging from street food and casual dining to some more fancy spots… including some of London’s best burgers listed at the bottom of this article as part of my 'LONDON’S BEST BURGER' list:

Gordons Wine Bar

Not sure how this will be with social distancing, but one of my favourite spots in London is Gordons, a 19th-century wine bar within the vaulted cellars of the Embankment and perfect for a glass of wine and cheese inside the candlelit Dickensian décor or outside on a balmy summers evening!


Duck and waffle

I dream regularly about one thing in particular, their Bacon Wrapped Dates! Simply an explosion of flavours… ask for a lot of extra sauce. Aside from this, order one or two of their breads as soon as you sit down and enjoy an amazing meal overlooking London in this restaurant open 24/7!


Sarastro

Their tagline “The show after the show" describes it perfectly, this place is a fantastical fusion and amalgamation of so many wonderful things. As you enter the Ivy covered building and get seated in Opera boxes with gold drapes you know you’re in for a treat! The bustling main floor is surrounded on three sides by ten distinctive opera boxes based on English, Gothic, Rococo, Ottoman and Byzantine styles. They have incredible live music every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings ranging from concert musicians to hilarious sing along famous opera songs. This place has history everywhere you look and fun from start to finish.


Sexy Fish

Some people are put off by the ‘In your face’ and ‘flashy’ nature of this restaurant and some of the ‘Instagram obsessed’ clientele it attracts, but I implore you to look past that and embrace the water fountains down the windows, the neon flashing cocktails and focus on the food. Their Salmon and Avocado maki is simple perfection at its best, while indulgence is also on the menu, try the Wagyu Beef Gyozas served with foie gras and black truffle.


Mr Foggs’s Residence and Cahoots

If you’re in the market for a fun and unique spot for a well-mixed cocktail head to either of The Inception Group’s Mr Foggs or Cahoots. Mr Foggs in Mayfair (up a back street round the back of Berkley Square) is an the home of renowned explorer, Phileas J. Fogg, Esq. Inspired by Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days, Mr Fogg's is a step back in time to 1872 accompanies by drinks, décor and specifically gins from around the world! Cahoots, in a similar fashion is a throwback to the 40’s and housed in the disused Kingly Court Underground Station. Once used as an emergency air raid shelter during the war, it had been a haven for all manner of folks, reflected in the bric-a-brac left behind. This vintage London Underground bar is a must before a dinner in the wonderful kingly court or an evening exploring Soho. Live 40’s music can be found on some nights also.

Here is a great video about post Covid opening: https://www.facebook.com/LADbible/videos/723063131812846/

Chiltern Firehouse

I fell in love initially with the building, the awesome old fire station and surrounding brick building towering over you… Then taken in by the glitz of the place when it first opened, and then my attention was held by the delicious food and atmosphere across the bars. Albeit, I have never made it to the famed club… But have heard some epic stories! Go for brunch and avoid the evening time.


Sky Garden

I love this concept, to have a garden in the air! So much greenery, plants and space at the top of such an iconic building, overlooking London and the Shard blows me away. The only negative is the crowd it attracts! But for a drink at the beginning of your evening, this is somewhere to experience once… or book into a yoga class in the morning! What a way to start a day! Anything is possible after that eh!!


Dans Le Noir

I first found out about this place from the incredibly romantic and hilarious scene in Richard Curtis’ film ABOUT TIME where they attend the restaurant and their love affair stems from that moment. So the hopeless romantic in me was straight onto google to see if the place existed… To my delight; it did… and off I went to meet my Rachel McAdams!! This place is fantastic, and although the food is nothing absolutely incredible, you’re going there for the experience. And you get an experience in multiple helpings! For those who don't speak French, the restaurant’s translation means ‘In the Dark’. You get taken through a series of heavy curtains led with your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you and into a completely pitch black room. Not the sort of dark in your bedroom at night where you slowly begin to be able to see, no this is void of any light and so you experience your full meal in the dark. You are served by exclusively blind waiters but the rest is up to you, getting food from your plate into your mouth is MUCH harder in the dark than anticipated! Pouring your drink becomes a new challenge! You choose your meal before, wither meat, vegetarian, fish or surprise! A night full of surprises!


Buonasera at The Jam

A lovely little restaurant with that small village vibe in Chelsea. Amazing pasta. You climb into these treehouse style tables stacked on top of each other! After dinner, shuffle along the street to Azteca for an after dinner cocktail, or two, or three!


Circus

This is pretty touristy and fairly ‘OTT’ for my usual fancy, however left such a lasting impression on me, I have to throw it into the mix. Especially for tourists coming into London, one to experience and enjoy the spectacle!


The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen

When in Hyde Park exploring the expansive park (there are gems and little beautiful sections round every corner and bush) make sure to plan your lunch at the Serpentine. Sit out in the sun, Pimm’s in hand, watching the world go by and order one of their delicious Pizzas.


The Wolseley

Talk about quintessentially British! Bang next door to The Ritz, you find this well renowned café-restaurant combining British heritage with European grandeur. It was built in 1921 as a prestigious car showroom for Wolseley Motors, then becoming a bank in the 20’s till it was turned into the restaurant that It is today. If you are in the west end, The Wolseley is a great spot for lunch or pre theatre dinner.


Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel and Colbert

Part of the same restaurant group as the Wolseley are two other favourites of mine. Just by Piccadilly Circus is Brasserie Zedel, a grand restaurant downstairs that ticks all the boxes of luxury, opulence and Parisian style while also being incredibly affordable and offering stunning food at fantastic prices. Additionally you can combine the evening with a post dinner performance at their cabaret club Crazy Coqs. A 20’s/30’s style live music venue with as exciting mix of cocktails as the jazz and music on offer. Also Colbert in Sloane Square captures the same French style and elegance at justifiable prices. Go there for an early lunch and have their Croque Mousier and Bloody Mary. It’s a fantastic combo, you’ll leave feeling very content and without a whole in your wallet!


Hutong

Quite the opposite to the above, you’ll leave here with a huge whole in your wallet, but for a special occasion or that special date when you’re willing to part with a fair amount of cash, book a dinner for that special person up at Hutong. You will be initially struck by the impressive and unique interior, transporting you away from your hectic fast paced life, into a tranquil Chinese sanctuary floating in the clouds. With the low lighting and lanterns throughout you’ll also experience the spectacular views that the Shard allows. The drinks and food are just treat after treat. Exquisite dishes jump off the page at you and you’ll want to order one of everything. I haven’t been there for a while, however I still regularly think about (and salivate think about), the famous Hutong ducks. Firstly cut at the table by one of their chef’s for duck pancakes with the most delicious crispy skin I have ever tasted. Then the rest of the duck comes back to the table prepared however you have ordered. I recommend this for your special occasion, but don't get too carried away otherwise you’ll end up re mortgaging your house to pay the cheque!


Oka

A really intermate and small sushi spot in Chelsea, again not sure how they will handle social distancing, but they also offer takeaway which can be enjoyed overlooking the river on Chelsea Embankment or taken the short walk to Battersea Park for a sunny afternoon. Some of the most delicious sushi and signature dishes in a very unassuming way.


Coal Drops Yard and KERB Street Food

Coal Drops Yard is a new development in Kings Cross with a really great selection of restaurants and bars. Also right next door you’ll find a whole host of different street food in Granary Square as part of KERB every Monday through Friday, 12pm-2pm (Temporarily on hiatus during COVID). Grab a bite and head to the seating area by the canal.


Café Royale – Oscar Wilde Room

London is synonymous with high tea and my favourite place to take visitors (especially American’s) to get their fix of Afternoon Tea is the Oscar Wilde room at Café Royale just near Piccadilly. As you can see in the pictures below its decedent, steeped in history and grandeur and provides the best afternoon tea in town! Champagne, tea, cakes and sandwiches all while listening to live piano music surrounded by legendary history. Dating back to 1865 and formerly known as the Grill Room till it was renamed in honour of its most famous patron becoming the Oscar Wilde Lounge. It is in this very room that Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas, Aubrey Beardsley debated with Whistler, David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger… and most impressively, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor danced the night away!! It will be reopening post COVID lockdown on 4th September.


Ziani

If you love simple, traditional Italian food, this is the place for you. It is hands down my favourite neighbourhood gem. Family run and owned since 1984 serving Venetian specialities on a quiet side street in Chelsea is unassuming, friendly and genuine. The staff are so sweet, friendly and funny and will look after you like kings and queens. My absolute fave is to get the Mozzarella in Carrozza to start, with their stunning tomato sauce, followed by their Tagliatelle Tartufate (homemade noodles sautéed with wild mushrooms, courgettes and truffle olive oil).


Honi Poke

In the heart of Soho, filled to the brim with incredible spots for food and drink, some grand, some famous, some buzzing… you’ll find a very small, blink and you’d miss it, Hawaiian Poke Bowl Restaurant. The most delicious Poke Bowls I have had in the UK. Get your take away and sit in the famous Soho Square to enjoy it.


Goat Chelsea

Another neighbourhood spot is the Goat in Chelsea, on the Fulham Road. With a restaurant on the ground floor and bar upstairs (featuring a hidden and awesome speak easy called the Chelsea Prayer Room)… You can enjoy this place for either the plethora of exciting cocktails or their incredible food. I go there for their wood fired pizzas, specifically the Gorgonzola, mushroom, Italian sausage and truffle oil. But their extensive menu of New York style Italian food is so worth the visit out west. Also check out their cocktail masterclasses they offer. Currently being offered virtually for a fun evening socially distancing at home!!


Sticks n sushi

There are a few locations, but Covent Garden is our favourite. Their menu is a photo album, not with pictures like in your local chippy(!), but the most stunning menu that makes you want to try everything. The amazing thing is the taste not only matches but exceeds your expectations from the pictures. They have combined sushi favourites with delicious meat and food combos on sticks to provide an amazing range of options. Getting hungry just thinking about some of their signature sushi rolls. Ask for a selection of their sauces too, they have a huge range and as someone who loves sauces this just elevates everything even higher! YUM!


Finn’s London Burger Guide:

1) Big Fernand

A favourite of mine that I used to look forward to every time I went to Cannes, France, but recently emigrated to the UK and now opened up in South Kensington. This French burger company knows how to bring good cheese and nicely underdone meat to us brits!! Gourmet French cuisine fused with burgers, allowing for sun dried tomatoes, rocket and elaborate cheeses to feature inside your lightly toasted bun! Also serving wonderful wines to accompany.


2) Tommi’s Burger Joint

Tommi’s burgers are classic! So much so, one year I decided for my birthday to just have a night on my own with one (or two) Tommi’s Burgers!! Call it a nervous breakdown or a burger obsession (both probably true!) but it was my favourite birthday to date!… The vibe is all about having a good time, on their website it says “good music and our friendly relaxed atmosphere makes a great burger taste even better” and I’d have to agree! Their restaurants have foosball tables in and they have a big, big counter of sauces you can help yourself to, with a pot of jalapenos for serving yourself an extra spice!


3) Burger & Beyond

Who loves a big, cheesy, saucy, juicy burger? If you do, get yourself to either their east London restaurant or find their street food location and get your hands (or try to!) around these deliciously crafted burgers; paired perfectly with a side of their Truffle Parmesan Tots… YES PLEASE!!! Also they are selling burger kits for you to recreate these scrumptious meals at home while in lockdown. Check out their website shop to order.

4) Bleecker St. Burger Victoria

Bleecker is delicious, admittedly not the same ‘wow’ factor to look at as some of these other huge and overflowing burgers, but in a different style, these flavours amazingly match the others in this section. If you prefer a simple burger without all the fixtures and fittings, Bleeker is the one for you. There are lots of locations over London, but my fave is Victoria.


5) Meat Liquor / Meat Market

As a massive burger fan I love the Meat Liquor chain of restaurants that were one of the first people in London to bring the underdone and dirty burger into the spotlight. Any of their sights are worth visiting but Meat Market in Covent garden is my favourite, with its quirky location above and overlooking the Covent garden market, and offering some bold culinary choices… Including a vegan fave burger!

6) Chick N Sours

Those of you, (like me!) who love a fried chicken sandwich as much as a beef burger, need to head to Seven Dials and pass the bustling open kitchen and head downstairs to get the best of fried chicken in London! A selection of other menu items to accompany will enhance further. You’ll thank me later!


Worthy Mentions:

Honest Burger, Mac & Wild, Shake Shack, Five Guys

I couldn't do my top burgers of London without giving these guys an honourable mention! Albeit not made the top 6 list, each are real contenders, and if you’d caught me on a different day, who knows, there may have been a slight change in order, so have to add some pictures of their juicy wonders below as if you haven’t tried the, then throw ‘em on your list too!:

Honest Burger

This is their vegan burger which includes the tastiest vegan bacon (ever) from the new London based company ‘THIS’. It is the epic creation from masterminds Andy and Pete who were the founders behind my previous favourite burger company Chosen Bun; however it has sadly gone downhill since they sold it, so is no longer on the list!!

Mac & Wild


Shake Shack


Five Guys



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LAUNCHING 2021


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