John Underwood rounds up the best places to cool off with a chilled plate, or an icy glass, this weekend.
For all London’s advantages, it can be a grim place to be trapped when the mercury’s rising. Barcelona has its beaches, Bordeaux is replete with shady terraces and Geneva rejoices in its limpid lake… but regardless of the weather, an ill-favoured man on Westminster Bridge will still be popping chestnuts on a hot plate. We don’t, it’s fair to say, do summer well.
Fortunately, there are more things to do than head to your favourite restaurant and beg for a table in the walk-in fridge. Here are some of London’s most appealing new and established food and drink opportunities - all custom-designed for summer.
Gaucho Asado & Fish Grill at Richmond
Summer is the time for barbecuing, but there’s something discombobulating about your food being lifted off the heat and taken indoors. Enter the Gaucho Richmond, where breezy riverside tables are complemented by an alfresco kitchen and grill – all in the shade of a soaring plane tree. Apply yourself to a classic Argentine steak or some freshly prepared fish, or simply enjoy some salty Padrón peppers with a long drink and watch the hustle and bustle of life on the Thames.
The Distillery bar at the five star Hilton Bankside is playing host to this grass-floored pop-up, organised in collaboration with South London’s very own Little Bird gin. Bespoke cocktails developed for the residency, which lasts until early September, include a variation on Prohibition classic The Last Word and something boldly billed as ‘the perfect G&T’. To complete the Mother’s Ruin experience, a new tasting menu featuring Negroni prawns and gin and tiger milk-infused tuna will be available all summer.
You may not be in the mood for a full English or stack of pancakes when it’s pushing thirty degrees, but there’s no need to abandon brunch altogether. At The Woodford in E18, Pierre Koffmann’s protégé, Ben Murphy, has launched a new Saturday brunch menu where delicacy is the watchword (unless, that is, you choose to start your weekend with a bang and accompany it with bottomless champagne for £75). Expect dishes like raspberry granola with almond, ricotta and mint - or if you still want something that’s recognisably a cooked breakfast, eggs with ham, créme fraîche and chives. Plus, the cheese comes with ‘compressed celery’, which sounds very refreshing.
Social Eating House
It’s all too easy to befall the misfortune of dining with a companion who doesn’t approve of cocktails at lunchtime, but Jason Atherton has come up with an ingenious solution at Soho’s Michelin-starred Social Eating House: alcoholic ice cream sundaes. A variety of classic cocktails have been transformed into boozy frozen treats, with the Pimm’s (orange sorbet, No. 1 Cup Granita and all the usual foliage) and the Strawberry Daiquiri top of the list. If you’ve managed to go to lunch with someone who doesn’t approve of cocktails OR pudding, you’re on your own.
Sashimi, ceviche and gravlax have all had their day in the sun, but this year it’s the turn of Hawaii’s take on raw fish. Based on Percy Street in Fitzrovia, Ahi Poké is a casual restaurant focusing on fresh, Asian-influenced bowls of fish, sauce and vegetables on top of grains or greens. Diners can plan a bespoke dish from 23 ingredients (ahi tuna, confit ginger and citrusy ponzu sauce, anyone?) or choose a ‘signature bowl’ like the Heat Wave, which includes quinoa, salmon and kimchi cucumber dressed with spicy mayonnaise. And if you still haven’t cooled down after that, ask to move tables - with all that raw fish, they must have an extremely reliable fridge.