Modern dining may be a game of provenance, artisanal produce and the latest Middle Eastern foodie fad but in a simpler time we were positively wowed by the arrival of the chicken kiev, the spectacle of a baked Alaska and the sheer newness of fizzy drinks. And whilst the 1970s remains one of the most underrated decades in our gourmet history, it seems London restaurateurs are sitting up and taking notice. Slowly, but surely, the capital's menus are filling up with classic 1970s dishes — and in a pleasingly non-ironic manner that shows the mighty prawn cocktail is as relevant today as it always was. Forget scary SMASH, luminous desserts and dodgy preservatives, this lot are getting retro right.
Coming soon to foodie hotspot Exmouth Market, Coin Laundry promises to immerse you in the decade that taste forgot. Taking inspiration from British home décor trends of the 70s, expect wooden panelling, kitsch tableware and retro board games as a backdrop for serving up retro dinner party favourites using seasonal and local produce. The signature dish of chicken kiev — what else — is given a modern makeover with hand foraged wild garlic, and there are Soda Stream cocktails to wash it down with. We’ll have a Snowball, thanks.
Coin Laundry, 70 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QP
Friday nights in the 70s meant one thing: a fish supper. Get the absolute works from one of London’s undisputed champions of the chippy at Poppie's Fish & Chips, where proper mushy peas, jellied eels and battered fish are freshly prepared to order at their Camden and Spitalfields shops. Harking on owner Pat ‘Pop’ Newland’s decades of experience as master fryer in the East End, perfectly crisp yet fluffy chips can be taken away in newspaper or settle in and enjoy the quirky post-war surroundings with a hand peeled prawn cocktail and a nostalgic Cream Soda.
Poppie's, see website for locations.
Jones Family Project
Over in East London, why not celebrate the golden age of the dinner party with the Jones Family’s 1970s dining table? This quirky pop-up means up to eight guests can travel back in time with a special tasting menu featuring revised 70s favourites such as vol au vents, coq au vin and Black Forest gateau. The realistically retro dining room comes complete with a Formica cocktail bar to get things started, or perhaps you’d prefer some raffia clad Chianti? Ginger Pig sourced Sunday roasts are also worth a look.
Jones Family Project, 78 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3JL
Step back in time at this St John’s Wood stalwart where a block of flats is home to one of London’s most renowned retro restaurants, Oslo Court. Complete with timely blue carpet, plush chairs and pink tablecloths to match the swagged curtains, owner Tony is keeping the spirit of the 70s alive and well. Thankfully, the fayre on offer has proved timeless, and the menu of old favourites like duckling in orange, salmon en croute and chicken liver pate has a devoted fanbase in the North London locale.
All produce is sourced from local markets including Billingsgate, Smithfield and Nine Elms and the quality speaks for itself.
Oslo Court, Charlbert St, NW8 7EN
Modern European brasserie Jean-Jacques shows how the classics of the decade are still so right for now. With branches in Moscow, St Petersburg and Berlin, the simple menu of enduring French (and the odd Russian!) dishes like coquilles St Jacques, tuna nicoise, prawn cocktail and even stroganoff shows how there is still a demand for good, simple food that is well executed — even in the metropolitan melting pot that is Soho. Three floors of grade II listed townhouse are home to Jean-Jacques’ London outpost and there is a beautiful rooftop terrace equipped with heaters and blankets for drinking and dining whatever the weather.
Jean Jacques, 45 Frith Street, W1D 4SD
Designed to bring après ski to London town, The Lodge has popped up in Clapham for winter complete with cosy, alpine décor and the height of 1970s sophistication: the fondue. And not just any old fondue; a blend of impeccable British cheeses from Neal’s Yard combined with some imported from Courcheval and served with new potatoes and bread to get dipping with. Melted cheese not your thing? Jimmy’s Ice Cream Factory can’t fail to raise a smile with every pick’n’mix topping imaginable from mini meringue to jelly babies and tiny brownies.
The Lodge, 409 Clapham Rd, SW9 9BT
Kensal Green’s all day dining destination Parlour sees owner and chef Jesse Dunford Wood bringing back traditional British pub grub, reimagined with a quirky cosmopolitan edge. Chicken kyiv (kiev) features prominently alongside other nostalgic dishes like pork faggots and Arctic roll in a relaxed, cosy environment. Desperate Dan inspired cow pie is a must try, and it’s fairly hard to resist the lure of the fabulously lurid Battenberg too.
Parlour, 5 Regent St, NW10 5LG