‘Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup o tea, bad food…’ Dennis Farina
Known for certain delicacies, some of which are far from sounding appetising, the jellied eel to mention only one, makes walking the streets of London in search of a decent meal a leg-aching experience.
Why? Are there no respectable establishments in which to enter, enjoy a palatable meal and perhaps a fine wine?
For decades there has been a certain expectation that when visiting the fog-crowned city you will be able to indulge in a world of pie and mash, mushy peas, thick gravy, fish and chips and numerous other street-food type outlets. Add to this the growing trends of curry-fuelled nights out and the abundance of newer, eastern inspired, delights, and you will find that deciding where to eat becomes a testing experience.
Head into the West-End and these eateries are mixed in with Michelin starred restaurants leveraging extortionate pricing just because a famous chef has either once worked there or has their name on the sign out front. The allure of pretending to be a high-society for just one evening is enticing; the hope of spending a night rubbing shoulders with a famous actor or singer too much to overlook. In reality however, the chances of sitting next to the Beckhams, Tom Cruise or Prince Harry are practically zero. No restaurant with such exclusive clientele will allow you, the individual willing to spend a small fortune for an experience, the opportunity to see let alone sit within chatting distance of such well-known customers.
Foodies therefore, need to find somewhere where they can relax, enjoy their surroundings and also have fantastic tasting food at a price that won’t break the bank.
So where should they head?
Walk away from the streets dripping in tourists; take the underground and head out of the West End because this is where the hidden gems of the old city will be found.
North London in particular is an area that over the past couple of years, has discovered a new identity. The East-End is no-longer a place just for Jack-the-Ripper tours or retracing the footsteps of the infamous Kray Twins. Today, it is a hub of trendy bars, restaurants and fabulous loft apartments where both arty types and businessmen happily socialise together. Add to this the boutique luxury hotels, the modern market areas and the high-end fashionable stores and you will begin to question whether there is ever a need to return to the centre of the city.
If you decide to spend the day wandering the streets of Spitalfields Market or those of Petticoat lane it is worthwhile considering this area for a bite to eat, whether for refuelling at lunch-time or during the darkness hours.
Whether you are after a light snack or something more substantial this is the place to visit; the al-a-carte menu is an appealing mix of traditional meats, fish, rice and pasta dishes.
During a recent visit we were overwhelmed with the choice and the flexibility of the kitchen. Even for vegetarians, where fine-dining is sometimes a challenge, this menu offers plenty of choice and would appeal to all – whether experiencing fine-dining for the first time or for those with a more distinguished palate.
Whether you prefer a heart-warming soup to start or something lighter the choice is yours.
First up for ourselves, we decided upon the Croquette of Cod and Shrimps which arrived with a rather tasty, homemade tartare sauce, and the Beetroot Carpaccio which was accompanied with a light pasty filled with red onion and goats cheese.
The Croquette was cooked to perfection, with a slightly crispy outer coating and a fluffy centre. The choice of fish, neither overpowering but with plenty of flavour, was complimented nicely by the tartare sauce and the full-flavoured, ripe cherry tomatoes.
The Beetroot Carpaccio was delightful both on the eye and the palate. Light, flaky pastry wrapped around warmed goats cheese and caramelised red onions, surrounded by thinly sliced deep purple beetroot which had been pickled to perfection. The accompanied balsamic dressing, not only added to the mixture of flavours but helped to artfully decorate the dish.
After only a brief pause, we were then served mains of Sea Bass and Pheasant.
The sea bass fillet, accompanied with boiled new potatoes instead of the roasted fennel suggested on the menu, was flavour-some, meaty, well-cooked and contained no bones.
The honey-glazed pheasant breast, having been soaked in a strong red wine sauce for some time, was tender and rich in taste, and topped with crispy bacon that perfectly complimented the dish.
If these dishes do not appeal, why not try the wild mushroom risotto, the pan-fired red mullet or a Scottish sirloin steak. Each dish is accompanied with a unique side to compliment the flavours, using vegetables to suit the season.
If, like us, you have difficulty deciding on a main dish, speak to the waiting team who are happy to share their knowledge of each dish. They are also happy to change the dish to suit your preferred tastes. After asking more about the roasted fennel accompanying the sea bass, and deciding that the flavour would be a little too strong for my own personal preferences I opted to change this for a side of new potatoes – not a problem at all.
The chef and his team have clearly worked hard to source foods that work well together, and each dish has its own identity, with no two flavours being mixed. Chef has clearly shared knowledge with his team, meaning that they are fully able to communicate what may work well as an alternative to a dish without detracting from the desired outcome of each choice.
After two rich tasting main courses deciding on a dessert was almost impossible. With a sumptuous choice of rich puddings or lighter fruit salads once again there is something for both those with a sweet tooth or those seeking something to cleanse their palate.
On this occasion, we opted for a plum and almond tart with clotted cream and a freshly cut fruit platter.
The tart was not heavy as you might expect, but moorish and light. The clotted cream complimenting the sweetened fruit with almonds adding a savoury element to the dish. The fruit selection was varied and extremely tasty. Melon and pineapple mixing well with the ripened strawberries making it a great alternatively to a sickly sweet dessert.
After finishing our delightful meal, and feeling as if we had completely over-indulged we sat back in our seats to finish off our bottle of wine, that had been skilfully picked out by our waitress, and only then did we fully appreciate our surroundings.
Peacefully tucked away behind the stylish bar, the creamy decor is beautifully complimented with subtle shades of cocoa and mocha, leading to a relaxing environment. The mirrored partition walls lead to privacy for all, making this a great spot for either a business meeting or a romantic evening meal. If you visit during the day, the large windows will allow natural light to flood in so that you can enjoy your food with the sun slightly warming your face.
Either way, whether visiting before or after the sun has set you are in for a treat, enjoying the luxury surroundings whilst tucking into an Al-a-Carte meal at reasonable prices.
Afterwards, why not retire to the cocktail bar and try one of the main colourful cocktails available. Ask the bar staff if you fancy something different and they will happily mix up something to suit your taste buds.
Our Recommendation – the Mojitos reminded us of our time in Cuba they tasted both fresh and authentic. Alternatively, ask for their signature cocktail, a London Wall, which includes rum, ginger beer, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and a hint of pepper.
How to find Off The Wall
Near to The Bank of England, they are in the heart of the financial and business district, surrounded by London landmarks including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.
Address: 7-9 Copthall Avenue, London EC2R 7NJ
To book a reservation either call: (0)207 562 3060, email: email@example.com or book directly online here.
We would like to thank all of the staff at the Apex London Wall Hotel in London for their fantastic hospitality during our visit. We received a complimentary meal courtesy of Apex Hotels, but all words and opinions are our own.