Touristic facts you don’t know about London


Touristic facts you don’t know about London



As capital cities go, London is one of the greats – if not the greatest. It’s got it all: an illustrious history, iconic and centuries-spanning architecture, a diverse cultural offering and, without doubt, the most eclectic and exciting collection of restaurants you’re likely to stumble across anywhere in the world.

A number of London restaurants have been satiating the hunger of their patrons for generations – some for hundreds of years. They have defied the odds by surviving wars, revolts and political turbulence but, perhaps most importantly, the often fickle and constantly evolving food scene. And yet, they have continued trading, many with menus that only deviate slightly from when they first opened and interiors that have been tastefully updated but remain true to their historical roots and their place in London’s culinary timeline.

But it’s not simply days ticked off the calendar that sets these stalwarts apart; so much more is involved. It’s the consistency of the food and service, the painstaking attention to detail, the dedication to excellence and the dose of unadulterated and life-affirming joy that accompanies each meal. That’s why this collection of greats has a loyal following – patrons who dine here regularly; settling down to a meal with the relaxed familiarity of stepping into a favourite pair of slippers, coupled with the absolute certainty that the meal will be sublime.

Bentley’s has been shucking oysters since 1916 and remains one of the best seafood restaurants of the capital; The Ivy is the dinner joint of choice for the capital’s glitterati; and Le Gavroche has been turning out Michelin plates of food for half a century under the proprietorship of the Roux family. And there’s no reason to believe that any of them will be hanging up their aprons any time soon.

Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill :

What is arguably London’s best-known fish restaurant is hidden between the tourist thoroughfares of Regent Street and Piccadilly, where it has been quietly, elegantly and successfully serving its loyal clientele since it first opened its doors in 1916.

When you step inside, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled back in time – although the restaurant and bar has undergone many incarnations and makeovers, the opulent interior still pays homage to the halcyon days of early twentieth-century drinking and dining. Bentley’s has always drawn a sophisticated crowd – from theatregoers and shoppers popping in for drinks and snacks in the ground-floor bar, to those entertaining guests or conducting business meetings in the more formal upstairs dining room.

As the name of the restaurant suggests, it’s the oysters that draw in the diners above all else on the menu. The kitchens were originally stocked with oysters from the Bentley family’s Colchester oyster beds and the restaurant can lay claim to taking what had been considered a staple for London’s poorer classes and transforming it into a sought-after culinary superstar.

By sticking to a short and simple menu, Bentley’s has succeeded in maintaining its well-earned reputation for no-fuss food of exceptionally high quality. While it has witnessed the rise and fall of many neighbouring establishments, Bentley’s has stayed the distance by pleasing returning customers with its consistency and quality. The Oyster Bar menu is all about the oysters – which are sourced from across the British Isles and Ireland – as well as caviar and ceviche. The grill menu centres on fish, with enough meat dishes to satisfy carnivores, while an ever-changing market menu showcases the best seasonal ingredients.

Bentley’s has seen a number of owners over its lifetime, the most recent being Bentley’s custodian, Michelin-starred chef Richard Corrigan, who bought Bentley’s in 2005 with a view to upholding its fine reputation. His ethos of sourcing the best-quality ingredients and offering a fresh, simple menu has ensured the continued success of this London stalwart. A sympathetic updating of the interior has kept the original design features prominent, with the era celebrated rather than dumbed down by a modern overhaul. With such careful conservation of its history and culinary values, it’s easy to imagine diners still enjoying the delights of Bentley’s in another 100 years.

Cut into quarters and pan fry in the remaining butter until the sandwiches turn golden on both sides.

The Ivy :

The go-to haunt of film executives, publishers and anyone who wants everyone to know where they’ve been for dinner, The Ivy is the darling of Covent Garden. The restaurant has built a hugely successful reputation based on its perfectly executed combination of glitz and quality – patrons feel spoilt by the surroundings, the service and the food.

Its location in the heart of London’s theatreland certainly helps The Ivy to massage the egos and satiate the appetites of the rich and famous – bag yourself a reservation and you never know who might be sitting on the next table – but a restaurant is only as good as the food it serves. Having been around since 1917, it’s safe to say that quality is an ongoing theme with a menu based on classic and contemporary ingredients and dishes.

Original owner Abele Gandolini wanted to create a cosy enclave for discerning diners who didn’t want over-stylised dishes with lengthy descriptions and ingredients lists that required a dictionary. From the beginning it was all about quality classic dishes; comfort food with a Hollywood makeover. So, while you might choose an Asian sharing platter, you’re just as likely to be tucking into Shepherd’s Pie, Crackling Roast Pork or Grilled Dover Sole, and rounding off your meal with a Knickerbocker Glory.

Although the paparazzi might be hanging around outside, the interior is a welcome respite from glaring eyes and flashing cameras. The famous stained glass windows offer privacy to those who require it, and the warm, wood tones, panelling and luxurious furnishings create a welcoming and homely environment – a cocoon of cosiness in the centre of town. Regular guests are treated like old friends and it’s a testament to the service and food that so many return time and again.

Although part of the large Caprice Holdings group, The Ivy – and indeed all the group’s restaurants – has a unique identity and appeal. This famous restaurant has been filled with famous people for nearly one hundred years and it shows no sign of slowing down.

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