You HAVE to have the...
July 10, 2008 2:30 AM   Subscribe

I would like suggestions for London restaurants that are worth visiting just for one unmissable dish.

I really like restaurants with a menu that is totally dominated by one stand-out dish.

Some restaurants that got me thinking along these lines:

Jen Cafe in Chinatown, where most of the customers just order the Beijing dumplings

Pham Sushi in Old St where the crunchy tuna roll is legendary

Atelier de Joel Robuchon, where everything is special, but the truffled mashed potato is actually world famous

I hope that makes it clear the kind of thing I am looking for.

Bonus marks for actual sit-down restaurants that only serve one dish.
posted by roofus to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: St John for the roasted bone marrow. Manzes pie and mash. Abeno on Museum Street for the only okonomiyaki in London (except for their sister shop in Cov Garden).
posted by holgate at 2:45 AM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: Great question! I've got the Ooze Risotto Bar (Goodge Street, Tott. Ct. Rd.): does only risotto, but you MUST take the ribsteak, rocket and red wine risotto that rocks the house.

Also, if you're out and about in the Brick Lane area (E2, nice restaurants, good clubs, great bars), the bagel shop at the top of the road is what you're looking for: take the boiled beef and mustard. £3, an entire meal. The thickness of the beef is three times this of the bagel, it's caricatural. Ideal as an after-clubbing.
posted by meso at 2:57 AM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: Don't tell anyone, but there's a Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road that defies description. This is it. It's the best food I've ever had in my life. (3 years as a chef and restaurant owner. This place is an order of magnitude better than anything I've ever experienced for the money.)

Its a fantastically busy and noisy restaurant, filled with trendy young things and Vietnamese folk. The turn over is very rapid, consequently everything is mad fresh and served with an efficiency that makes my jaw drop.

Turn up early on a saturday evening (like, say 5pm), bring along some beers, try the papaya salad, the special spring rolls or indeed anything from the starter menu and watch the greatest ballet you ever saw unfold before your eyes.
posted by Jofus at 3:07 AM on July 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: When I read the question the first thing I thought of was actually this Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsland Road, though now for a change I will definitely try the place Jofus recomends.
For us one dish there always stands out: No.14 'barbecue beef wrapped in betel leaves'. (of course the pho is amazing too).
posted by Flashman at 3:26 AM on July 10, 2008

Response by poster: I'm way down with pho at Song Que (and the summer rolls at Hong Viet), but I too will be checking out Jofus' recommendation.
posted by roofus at 3:50 AM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: S & M Cafe for bangers and mash. I've been to the Islington restaurant and it was fab.
posted by goo at 4:00 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Just to follow up on my last post)

I think I appreciate the drama and choreography of a meal more than what I'm actually putting in my mouth.

The time that makes it stick in my mind, it was one of those gorgeous summer evenings in London - hot but with a smattering of cloud, it had rained recently but it wasn't too humid, I was with 15 people and had been in the park all day, drinking and playing frisbee. We turned up without booking, sat down while the place was filling up and just started talking, ordering, eating and drinking more and more.

The place filled up around us until, at around about 7, I looked around and there were people everywhere. The setup in there is 4 or 5 long rows of tables with long benches. Every single place was over-occupied and there was a queue to be seated running straight down the middle of the restaurant and out into the street. Just then, I noticed that a couple of mates where in the queue and, drunk as we were, we ushered them over, got everyone to scootch down the bench and sat them down. The waiters didn't bat an eyelid - although there were some "tchahs" from the queue.

Anyway, my point is that there couldn't have been more happening: food, people, smoke, noise, heat, orders queues, the logistics of service in a restaurant that I just love. You could see that the waiters were on top of things and, if I'm any judge, were getting the only kind of satisfaction you can get out of waiting - that feeling that "Man, I am on fire tonight."

To sum up how good the waiters were in there - I couldn't tell you how many of them there were. I always know how many waiters there are.

Things could not have been more hectic, more noisy, more perfect.

I happened to notice a manky pigeon wandering around just by the threshold of the open door. It was fluttering about, darting nervously between the legs of the people queuing in the doorway and looking dangerously like it was just going to flap into the restaurant and start dive-bombing patrons.

It struck me that, Jesus, if that happened; the whole restaurant would probably just explode. It would be the perfect storm: heat+noise+concentration+pigeon = ka-boom! They'd find nothing but some charred chopsticks. At that moment, poised on the very edge of total disaster, I was able to recognise in that restaurant a perfection and clarity of purpose that I have never seen before or since.

Anyway, the pigeon flew off, the apocalypse was averted and I had a plate of chilli beef pieces wrapped in iceberg lettuce leaves that I have honestly had dreams about.

(You should try that too.)
posted by Jofus at 5:37 AM on July 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Courgette Flowers stuffed with Monte Enebro cheese and drizzled with honey at Salt Dog. They are justifiably proud of this.

Keeping on a Kingsland Road Vietnamese tip, Huong Viet specialise in barbecue dishes and the prawns wrapped in pork is a signature dish.
posted by ninebelow at 5:45 AM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: Pretty much anything traditionally British at Rules.

BTW If it was invented after 1800, that's "Modern Cuisine" and thus innapropriate in this context.
posted by lalochezia at 10:28 AM on July 10, 2008

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