The Revenge of the High-End Restaurant
Picture this - a sleet-whipped Friday night. After a long week at the electronic coal face, you're very much looking forward to a bite to eat with your friends. But hang on… what's this snaking queue of braying hipsters? Well surely the food must be worth the wait, you think. But fast forward two hours and you’re still ravenous. Teeny plates of risotto balls you could easily have created yourself have left you distinctly unsated. Or perhaps it's post-ironic super-pimped junk food you've paid through the nose and waistline for? Suddenly the realisation that it's cold, you're hungry and this is Clapton not Calabria hits you round the chops like a dirty fried chicken leg. If hanging around for titchy plates at no reservations places is starting to grate, then it's time to say welcome back to our trusty friend: the high-end restaurant.
I'm talking about places like Gymkhana in Mayfair, where you can feast on celestial Indian food, including the legendary muntjac biryani. At £25 a portion, it’s not cheap, but a lot of no bookings places can prove to be the falsest of economies when you consider all the small plates required to make an actual meal. And surely one of the greatest pleasures in eating out can be found in ordering the kind of dishes you can't easily make at home. Granted this still means sharing but, as we're talking about a large platter of guaranteed deliciousness, this is a dish you'll actually want to divvy up. As Rayner said “why do we balk at spending money on expensive Indian food? A meal at Gymkhana is an education."
There's no finer way to celebrate the end of a cash-strapped month than the knowledge that you're going to eat out at a proper restaurant with a table that has your name on it, a menu that’s more than just a scrap of paper, and a nice big plate of food to yourself. All this without feeling like you're trapped in a hipster rave or having to shield every mouthful from your fellow diners. Also, high-end doesn't necessarily have to equal stuffy. A visit to the Clove Club in Shoreditch isn't complete without sampling the buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt - a guaranteed good time on a plate if ever there was one. The "three bears porridge" at Story in London Bridge and the much discussed beef dripping candle also show how high end can be just as playful as any burger disco. Speaking of burgers, at the Berners Tavern you can tuck into an epic bacon cheese burger and fries for £14.50 or the much lauded "egg, ham and peas" in some truly jaw-droppingly grown up surroundings.
If you think grazing is best left to our bovine pals, if you would rather pay a bit extra safe in the knowledge that you're definitely going to have a decent feed and if you really don't want to stand around in the cold this winter waiting for it, then it's time to breathe a collective sigh of relief. The proper restaurant is Back with a capital B.
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Click here to read more articles by Rejina..Rejina Sabur-Cross is a blogger and freelance food writer. She started Gastrogeek back in 2009 and has written for various publications including The Guardian, Fork Magazine, Eat Me Magazine, Le Cool, Blogosphere Magazine, Channel 4 Food, Fire and Knives and BBC Good Food. She’s been featured in Red Magazine, the Evening Standard, The Independent, Olive Magazine, Waitrose Kitchen and more recently in the Sunday Times Magazine as one of the UK’s top food bloggers. She’s judged the Brick Lane curry competition, dined on bull’s pizzle pie on Jimmy and Jamie’s Food Fight and judged dishes for “The Perfect” on the Good Food Channel. Her first book “Gastrogeek” is out now. Click here to read more articles by Rejina..