The Sunday lunch is a British institution. Visitors to London should definitely check it out, writes Zuleika Sedgley
THE cult of the Sunday lunch began with the Sunday roast — an iconic meal that can allegedly be traced back to medieval times. The British are so obsessed with their traditional end of the week fare that the Yeoman of the Guard a.k.a. the royal bodyguard have been known as “beefeaters” since the 15th Century.
As London has become increasingly multicultural, so has its inhabitants’ favourite meal. The plethora of eateries offered in western Europe’s largest city can be exhausting for the visitor who is more focused on the Olympic results than hearty meals. To make things a little easier, here is a list of some of London’s best Sunday lunch spots for the food-obsessed but time-pressed visitor.
THE TRADITIONAL OPTION: THE ALBION
Situated in the vibrant area of Islington, The Albion is the place to go for all things roast. The pub itself is a relic from the Georgian period and with its large outside area that boasts a willow tree, it certainly has a laid-back country feel. A definite for groups who cannot find a consensus of what their favourite slow-cooked treat is, the chefs take the view that if it can be roasted, then it has been roasted.
After lunch it is definitely worth going for a jaunt through Islington’s most fashionable street — Upper Street. In the 1980s, the road became a symbol of Britain’s radical left, serving as a home for the Islington Action Group for the Unwaged and the site of the country’s first feminist bookshop. As the area gentrified so has its focal throughway. It’s now lined with boutique furniture and clothes shops, and an array of cafes that serve everything from upmarket Turkish food to French classics.
If you are still feeling peckish after your lunch, then head for Ottolenghi’s (287 Upper Street) for some dessert. Even if you haven’t heard of the universal adulation for chef Yotam Ottelenghi’s exquisite pastry creations, it is impossible not to be seduced by the sweet treats that practically burst out of his glass-fronted flagship restaurant.
Where: The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road, N1 1HW. Nearest Underground Station: Angel or Caledonian Road and Barnsbury
MEAT HAVEN: HAWKSMOOR
Opened to rave reviews from genuflecting food critics in 2006, Hawksmoor quickly became one of the most difficult tables to get in town. The chain of three restaurants has become fixtures in the London dining scene and it’s not difficult to see why. Guests flock in for the grand dining rooms, plush seating and most importantly, the best beef in London.
The roasts are huge, the steaks are expertly flavoured and the bone marrow starter is exquisite.
If you can, get a table at the Spitalfields branch, the first restaurant of the group that launched its own stylish bar in February. It is equipped with booths, expertly made cocktails and a mean late night burger, creating a decadent setting that reeks of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
After your meal go for a tour of Spitalfields market, which is an array of stores selling everything from brownies to Peruvian jumpers. Nearby Brick Lane is also a great place to walk off your post-roast fatigue. The cobbled street hosts Upmarket — an indoor treasure trove of art, jewellery and world cuisine — on Sundays in the Old Truman Brewery, there are vintage shops galore and plenty of bars to while away Sunday.
Where: Hawksmoor Spitalfields, 157 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ. Nearest Underground Station: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street
SINO-SUNDAY: BA SHAN
With the global spread of Chinatowns has come the internationalisation of China’s diverse culinary traditions. In recent years, London has fallen head over heels for the country’s spicier flavours, largely at the behest of restaurateur Shao Wei and food consultant Fuchsia Dunlop.
For those who want more variety than a slab of meat for their Sunday lunch, head for one of Shao and Dunlop’s three restaurants to sample some of London’s best Szechuan cooking.
Ba Shan is the third brainchild of the group and is especially unique because of its speciality in the lesser-known spicier cousin of Szechuan food, Hunanese cooking.
Before you step past Ba Shan’s door, a word to the wise: if you don’t like the idea of pepper-infused forehead sweats or chilli-plumped lips, this isn’t the place for you. This dark dining room prides itself on its relentlessly spicy fare. The entrance even displays a steely warning from Hunan Province native, chairman Mao: “If you don’t eat chillies, you won’t be a revolutionary.” If that doesn’t scare you off, you are in for an array of queerly named dishes including the “immortal” crab in the shell, dry-wok duck’s tongue and intriguing pock-marked old woman’s beancurd.
If you can’t get enough of Shao and Dunlop’s redolent creations, head over to their two other nearby collaborations. The delicious and sophisticated Bar Shu that serves Szechuan delicacies is across the road and the casual noodle dive Baozi Inn is a short walk away in Chinatown.
Where: Ba Shan, 24 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH. Nearest Underground Station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus
BUKA PUASA OPTION: TAYYABS
For those who are in London during Ramadan, Tayyabs — a delicious and affordable Punjabi restaurant in Whitechapel — is a great place to exhale and buka puasa. This family-run restaurant first began as a cafe in 1972 before its popularity transformed it into the cavernous but permanently stuffed dining room that it is today.
Situated on the same street as the East London mosque, Tayyab’s halal eatery is ferociously busy and unshakably loud but always worth the trip. The lamb chop tandoori is so good that it is a cataclysm for epidemic bone sucking and finger licking. The curries are varied and caters to every kind of eater while the roti is fresh and charcoal-grilled to perfection.
The service is quick and efficient, ideal for sports fanatics who have been wandering through the Olympic village without food or water.
Before you eat yourself into immobility, have a tour of the nearby Whitechapel Gallery. For the duration of the Olympics, this beautiful museum next to Algate East Underground station showcases an exhibition of the works of 35 London artists and an international artist’s film showcase.
Where: Tayyabs, 83-89 Fieldgate Street E1 1JU. Nearest Underground Station: Whitechapel or Algate East