Photo via Kai Mayfair
Where to eat, where to eat? This very question plagues many of us multiple times a day, especially when we travel. But who better to know the secrets to a city’s restaurant scene than the hotel concierge? No one, that’s who. After all, part of their magic is in holding the sought after connections that unlock seemingly impossible reservations at locales trendy and off the beaten path alike.
While more than generous with their Rolodex, I wondered, as people who live to share their list of recommendations, surely they must be keeping some to themselves. My mission: find out the hidden gems they hold so dear, they wouldn’t dare share them.
Luckily, I had a great place to start. I asked Alex, the feisty Israeli you may have read about in our Gramercy Park Hotel story, who also happens to be our Director of Hotel Relations, to dig in with our London hotels. Here’s what we found…
Anton Nordback, Concierge: My own personal hidden gem favourite is Bread Station– I promise you no one will know of it apart from a true east Londoner. It is PERFECT for breakfast. What to have? A simple piece of bread loaf with butter.
Violette, Events Manager: Cellar Doors is London’s best kept secret and smallest bar. It used to be a Victorian loo, hence the underground location. They have great cabaret, drag and free snuff (as in tobacco).
Jack, Publicist & Writer: Old Town 97. This small unassuming Chinese diner is open until 4am, so it’s perfect for a post-disco feast. Their alcohol license is only until midnight, but if you ask nicely they’ll serve you a “special Chinese tea” in a teapot.
Sylvia, Sales & Marketing: Bar Esteban is the best Spanish tapas place in North London (this is my opinion). They serve the most delicious and authentic tapas– think Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid style. Get arroz negro, pulpo a la Gallega, pimientos de padrón, and grilled Mahon cheese with quince and walnuts.
David Gelhaar, Front of House Manager: Luca is one of my favorite restaurants at the moment. It’s the second restaurant from the team behind Clove Club. The interior is sleek and elegant without looking too posh and the food is excellent. You must try the parmesan fries, they live up to the hype!
I also have to mention Kitty Fisher. It’s a tiny restaurant tucked away in Shepherd Market serving British dishes with a Spanish twist in dimmed lighting. The lamb racks are to die for and are best washed down with a Sazerac or two.
Lisa, Concierge: I would suggest the casually elegant restaurant Ognisko for dinner, or at any time of day during the summer considering they have a terrace overlooking a private garden. It’s Polish, Eastern European and Modern European cuisine. You go mainly for meat and fish, but can’t miss the homemade vodka!
Elliot Braham, Concierge: I would say my hidden gem is Kai Mayfair, a lovely Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant on South Audley Street in Mayfair. The best time to go would be after 9pm, as the restaurant gets very busy. In terms of food to order, I recommend the Wasabi Prawns to start, the Roasted Chilean Seabass for the main course and Chocolate Does Grow On Trees for dessert.
Mathias, Concierge: Macelliao RC Clerkenwell, an Italian restaurant from Genoa. I keep going back over and over again. Macellaio means butcher in Italian, and you can see the pride and passion of the Italian butcher in every dish prepared here. The best time to go is between 6-10pm, but advance booking is required as it is not a big restaurant. Order the Steak tartare, Stracciatella, and the famous Florentina. Don’t forget to choose a nice bottle of Montepulciano!
Another would be Miyama City, this is my favourite Japanese restaurant in London because it’s very authentic. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the City of London for Japanese food as it is a little difficult to find. Truly a hidden gem! Go at lunchtime, but book a table first and order the sashimi, salad, miso soup, followed by choice of Teppanyaki.
Mr. Ashley Harman, Concierge: A. Wong is located in a strange, transient part of Pimlico. It is an eye-opener for those used to provincial versions of the genre. Done out with blonde bentwood chairs and tables, it looks more Ikea café than Asian destination, and there’s plenty of bustle too. That said, there are expertise and precision in the kitchen, along with a menu of regional specialties that begs to be explored. Dim sum rule at lunchtime; some items such as Chinese chive potstickers are reasonably familiar, but we’re sold on the more esoteric stuff– both the rabbit and carrot glutinous puffs and the steamed-rice rolls stuffed with gai lan and poached yolk deserve to be tried. In the evening, you could go for gong bao chicken with peanuts and Szechuan aubergine, although Cantonese honey-roast pork with wind-dried sausage and grated foie gras or Yunnan wild mushroom, truffle, and red date casserole are hard to ignore.
The Concierge Team: Our personal recommendation would be Rules. Serving traditional British cuisine in an Edwardian setting- Rules is one of London’s finest, established over 200 years ago it is one of the longest standing restaurants in the city. They are famed for their game dishes and Rules is privileged to own an estate in the High Pennines, “England’s last wilderness,” which supplies training in game management for the staff and exercises its own quality controls in determining how the game is treated. We would recommend one of the signature pheasant dishes. Reservations are essential.
Jacques Conradie, Concierge Manager: You must try Philip Howard’s 1 Michelin restaurant, Elystan Street. My favourite time to visit is for Sunday lunch and I will have the following dishes:
- Cured organic salmon with celeriac slaw, sweet pickled apple, soused cucumber and lovage accompanied by a glass of Hush Heath Balfour estate, Brut Rose, Kent, England, 2013
- Roast rump of aged Cumbrian beef with Yorkshire pudding, crushed celeriac, roast potatoes and gravy accompanied by a glass of Anthonij Rupert, Optima, Western Cape, South Africa, 2013
- Smashed brownie with hazelnut ice cream accompanied by a glass of Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos, Oremus, Hungary, 2005
- Cheese accompanied by a glass of Sandeman 30 years old Tawny, 2013
Chef Sylvain Roucayrol: Kanada-Ya for ramen and Korean snacks in Tottenham Court Road, Social Eating House for great European British food with a nice cocktail bar, and Bao Soho for Taiwanese steamed buns and sharing plates.