So, UKIP did pretty well in both the local and European elections last week, then. But Londoners largely bucked the trend, showing the anti-EU party much less support than the national average. Perhaps because as a city we’re cultural, educated and young.
If you enjoyed showing Nigel Farage a finger in the voting booths, then you might also like to show him a knife and fork when you’re out and about. In this selection, we pick out the best ways to celebrate the food and drink culture of the EU’s member states without setting foot outside the M25.
Here’s the first half of our selection, covering the first 14 EU countries in alphabetical order.
Tuck into schnitzels at Fitzrovia restaurant Boopshi’s, where the classic breadcrumbed meat dish comes in many guises, all matched with spritz, Viennese beers and martinis made with caraway-flavoured liqueur Kümmel. Alternatively, head to Fischer’s in Marylebone when it opens at the end of this week. It’s the latest opening from restaurateurs Corbin & King (who originally opened The Ivy and have since launched The Wolseley and Brasserie Zédel) and is styled on a classic Viennese café and konditori.
Drink your way through Belgium’s brewing history at The Dovetail on Jerusalem Passage in Clerkenwell. With more than 15 beers on tap and well over triple that in bottle, there’s no shortage of choice. And the styles are diverse too, with historic trappist brews sitting alongside wheat beers, sweet fruit beers, saisons, pilsners and many others. If you haven’t before, do try the sour red beers which are described as the Burgundies of Belgium: they have an acidic and acquired taste, but are well worth a go. Traditional food on offer includes mussels, Belgian cheeses and a Flemish beer stew.
Indulge in a meat feast at Arda 2 on Seven Sisters Road, one of a handful of Bulgarian restaurants in London and probably the best. Expect plenty of grilled meat, hearty stews, substantial salads and fried cheese accompanied by Bulgarian beers and live music most nights. A shot or two of plum flavoured rakia spirit wouldn’t be unusual, either.
Get a taste for this country’s foodie side at the Taste Croatia shop at Borough Market, where you’ll find artisan products mainly from the Istria region. Oils, truffles, honeys and cheeses are all available alongside smokvenjak: traditional fig cakes made from figs, lemon juice, almonds, herbs and raisins. You could also pay a visit to Riviera, a Croatian restaurant in Acton which we’ve heard good reports of, serving the country’s Mediterranean-esque staples such as grilled fish, calamari and steaks.
Tuck into Cypriot meze at Kolossi Grill in Clerkenwell, where the likes of humus, dolmades and grilled haloumi are accompanied by all manner of kebabs and grilled seafood. As Cyprus is divided between its Greek side and its Turkish side (the latter not in the EU), London’s restaurants follow suit. Cyprus Mangal in Pimlico is a very different cuisine with more Turkish and Middle Eastern but less Mediterranean influence.
If drinking a couple of pints of Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser Budvar isn’t different enough for you, then pay a visit to the country’s unofficial embassy: Czechoslovak restaurant in West Hampstead. Beef goulash, roast meats and stuffed potato pancakes form a large part of the menu, and the fact that even the salads come with toppings such as goose or wild hog tells you something about just how hefty a meal you’ll have.
If you can’t stump up the cash (or get a reservation) to go to Noma in Copenhagen, which is currently rated as the best restaurant in the world, then you can still enjoy decent Nordic food in London. Visit Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street to stock up on pickled herrings, rye breads and other specialities or stay and enjoy an open sandwich or two. There’s also Nordic Bakery for a Danish pastry fix, too.
Eat top-level, modern food inspired by Estonia and its Baltic neighbours at Verru in Marylebone. Estonian chef Andrei Lesment cleverly combines the area’s traditional flavours with British ingredients and cutting-edge techniques to create picture-perfect platefuls such as juniper-smoked creamery cheese with beetroot, fruit purée, walnuts and lingonberries.
A shot or three of vodka is a typical Finnish libation, and if you don’t mind a raucous student vibe you can enjoy it in Fitzrovia’s Nordic Bar with similarly themed snacks. If that sounds a bit much, then pay a visit to the Finnish Church in Bermondsey where you can stock up on rye breads, cloudberry jam, salted liquorice and other Finnish staples. There’s a sauna, too.
There’s no shortage of places to enjoy the food and wine of our continental neighbours around town. Take a look at our list of London’s best French restaurants for a pick of those with a bit of je ne sais quoi.
Tucking into sausages and beer has to be one of the best ways to show your allegiance with Angela Merkel. Visit the excellent Zeitgeist pub in Vauxhall where you’ll find plenty of both, or try one of these options from our pick of where to find German food and drink in London.
There are lots of Greek tavernas across town, but more refined Greek cuisine is in its infancy in London. Tipped to be firmly on the rise (by us at least), two new spots have recently opened up in the West End that are well worth a try for a Hellenic hit. Ergon in Marylebone is the first UK outpost of a Greek chain that blends being a deli and a casual eatery, specialising in top-notch produce. Over in Soho, 21 Bateman Street serves meat and vegetarian grills to take out or eat in, along with rarely-seen beers brewed in Greece.
A legend of London’s restaurant scene, The Gay Hussar has been around since 1953 and was the first Hungarian restaurant in the UK. It even has its own Wikipedia page. The restaurant quickly gained popularity among Labour politicians and has been the site of many a party political deal over the years, now the caricatures of some of its most famous guests still adorn the walls. There was uproar late last year when it seemed like the restaurant was to shut due to lack of trade, but it now goes on under new ownership. In most cases, we’ve found the portions to be rather bigger than the flavours, but there’s something comforting and homely about the place all the same. Especially if you like potatoes.
Londoners have no trouble embracing the culture of our Irish cousins on a daily basis through the medium of a pint of Guinness. The Toucan in Soho, Crown & Cushion in Waterloo and The Auld Shillelagh in Stoke Newington are among our favourite Irish pubs across town, while the whiskey flows freely at Shebeen in Kentish Town where the craic comes to a hidden bar.
Can you suggest any more places to enjoy the cuisines of these countries? Let us know in the comments below.
We’ll round up the culinary cultural delights of the remaining thirteen EU countries tomorrow.