Autumn in London's Restaurants
However much we claim to admire light, healthy cooking and crisp organic vegetables, the LondonTown.com restaurant team have butter flowing in their veins, and our dreams tremble with semi-liquid cheeses and salty pork products. For most of the year, we reflect our readers' desire to avoid coronary heart disease, but as the cold autumn nights draw in, frankly, nobody much fancies sushi. Hot roasts, rich spices, and shameless gluttony are the order of the day (though there is also plenty of low-fat seasonal cuisine, particularly healthy fish and game dishes). Below are ten of the most comforting, warming places to indulge yourself on a damp autumn evening.
Best for Exotica
When it opened in 2001, The Cinnamon Club changed the way we look at Indian food. While most gourmet Indian restaurants focus on authentic regional cuisine, The Cinnamon Club glories in the endless possibilities that open up when you mix and match these dozens of cuisines, and throw in a few European ideas as well. The menu changes daily and at this time of year it's full of fabulous autumnal concoctions like a saddle of Scottish red deer subtly pickled in fresh Cochin spices, or grouse flavoured with cloves in a black lentil sauce. It's all housed in the old Westminster Library, a high-vaulted Victorian bastion of learning that feels bright and airy on the most miserable November evening.
Best for Tradition
From the moment you step into the understated elegance of the dining room, you know that you're in for a serious slice of traditional Britain. Unlike its sister restaurants The Ivy and Caprice, Sheekey's is welcoming and unpretentious, with charming staff and a menu that doesn't require fluent French or a food encyclopaedia. The gentlemen's club atmosphere is further enhanced by deliciously stodgy puddings - spotted dick, treacle tart and other nursery fare - and an insistence that smoking is allowed anywhere in the room, which makes it a favourite with actors and media types.
Best for Takeaway
The three major autumn food groups of meat, gravy, and pastry are all to be found in their most perfect form in the outstanding pies of this Spitalfields staple. There are usually a dozen or so different pies on the menu, currently including such oddities as Piri-Piri Chicken, and Mushroom and Asparagus, but on a chilly lunchtime in autumn, when breath steams and fingers freeze, there is nothing that can beat the classic Steak and Ale Pie. A light, flaky pastry bursts open to reveal a magnificent stew of British organic beef and nut-brown gravy.
Best for Haute Cuisine
Morgan Meunier set up his restaurant in an abandoned ex-pub at the wrong end of Islington, and worked a quiet culinary miracle. The French/British menu owes a great deal to the Ramsays and Rhodeses of this world, with simple ingredients combined in glorious ways. Meat is free range, organic and mostly from the UK, the fish is magically fresh, and there's even a full vegetarian tasting menu, with plenty of seasonal treats like pumpkin and fungi. The presentation is gorgeous too.
Best for Burgers
Summertime is for Soho and the South Bank, outside tables and busy street life, but in autumn, it's the packed pubs and smoky fug of Camden that draw us in. The area is still a little bit of a desert for fine-dining, but since Hache opened this hardly matters because there really is no reason to go anywhere else.
Best for Meat
This gory restaurant often slips into those "best 50 restaurants in the World" lists, as much because foodies love to shock the squeamish as through the quality of their cooking. And shocked you will be, if you're the sort of person who thinks it's disgusting leaving the heads on fish. Brains, marrows, snouts, whole heads, muscles, tails and odd little squiggly bits that even a vet wouldn't recognise form the basis of this rich and filling menu.
[date[Best for Relaxing
This is definitely more of a restaurant than a pub, with its efficient table service and no smoking policy, but they've managed to keep some of the friendliness of a traditional boozer, which makes it a fine place for a long weekend lunch, or for a sturdy fill in front of the open fire after a damp day admiring the autumn colours on Hampstead Heath. They've got a great selection of bitters, and they don't object to drinkers using the dining areas, which adds to the cheery atmosphere. There's also the chance to play in the most elegant pool room we've ever seen.
Best for Late-Night Dining
Short autumn days encourage you to stay up later in the evening, the bright lights and warm conversation drawing you into clubs, bars and restaurants. There's nowhere better for a post-theatre meal than this legendary French restaurant, hidden in a side-street behind the Royal Opera House and open until 1:00am.
Best for Breakfast
The immaculate restoration of this Victorian chop house - the 19th century equivalent of the greasy spoon - is a significant part of its appeal. The convivial wooden pews, shiny tiled floor and original fittings feel like a step back to an earlier era, when hot roast meat was a rare treat for most people, and a visit to a chop house was a celebratory occasion. The menu reflects both the working class origins and the current wealth of the area, with solid food and simple presentation married to top quality ingredients.
Best for Foodies
This year's most accomplished new opening has the crisp minimalist modernity that comes when a serious amount of money has been spent on design. Not exactly cosy, but comfortable, and a far cry from the usual Soho options of chintz or pointless bling.
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