5 Minutes With: Stephanie BrookesBy Angelica Malin
Stephanie Brookes is a passionate foodie, writer and presenter. She writes a twice-weekly blog here and can be found on BBC Radio London talking food, restaurants and London. We caught up with Stephanie to discover her favourite eats in the city:
What food trend do you see emerging in London at the moment?
I definitely see a lot more focus on vegetables as the star of the show, even in restaurants that aren’t specifically vegetarian. I am a meat-eater myself, but I think it’s great that chefs are highlighting how versatile veggies can be, particularly when they are in season and have such incredible flavour.
I have also seen more focus on locally-sourced produce than ever before, and I’ve noticed a trend of restaurants and cafés making a greater point of letting the customer know where their produce originated from.
What new restaurant opening are you really excited about?
I’m really looking forward to the opening of Tamarind Kitchen in Soho later this month. The original Tamarind of Mayfair is one of the best restaurants in the city, and I’ve been a fan for years. I know this new restaurant is going to be a more relaxed dining experience, so I can’t wait to sample their menu which I’m sure will be fantastic.
Who’s your chef to watch in the capital?
Erchen Chang, Head Chef at Bao on Lexington Street, is certainly one of the up and coming chefs to watch. I think she has created a wonderful menu at this restaurant, and from the queues of eager diners waiting for a seat, there’s no doubt about its popularity. I just can’t get enough of the braised pork bao with peanut powder – simply heavenly!
What’s an underlooked ingredient that we should all have more of?
I think anchovies are often overlooked, and yet they’re so delicious, especially when fresh. If you spot fresh anchovies in a restaurant, do try them. You often see anchovies used as a pizza topping, but they’re incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways: everything from pasta, on toast, salads and in sauces.
What’s your favourite wine bar in London?
I’ve been going to the Cork & Bottle on Cranbourn Street for years, and it’s still my favourite wine bar in the city. It has a really cosy atmosphere and it’s the perfect place for a few late night drinks and nibbles. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable about their wines, so if you’re looking for the perfect pairing to go with one of their delicious dishes, they will have some great recommendations for you. I definitely suggest trying their famous Ham and Cheese pie, which is just divine. And I usually order a glass of Malbec or two!
Favourite afternoon tea in London?
I always find there’s never enough of those little finger sandwiches in an afternoon tea, so I’m always more inclined to choose a savoury option. I really enjoy the Gentleman’s Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel. It’s a platter of miniature comfort food classics, including: fish goujons and French fries, a steak sandwich with Béarnaise sauce, and a fudgey-centred Scotch egg. You also have a ‘cake of the day’, so you do get a little sweet treat for afters. You can pair this ‘tea’ with an ale, but I much prefer a glass of Prosecco.
Best brunch in London:
I highly recommend Balthazar on Russell Street as one of the top places for brunch. I always order the scrambled eggs with Cornish crab on toasted sourdough. It’s a fairly regular weekend treat that sets me up for the day. Also, their basket of mini pastries is a little bit of heaven. I would actually put Balthazar in my top five favourite restaurants in London.
Best coffee in London:
The flat white at Monmouth Coffee has been a favourite for a while now. I’m not a fan of those places where the coffees are so large they could last you a week, which is why Monmouth always wins for me on quality of taste and portion size.
Do you think street food is here to stay? Pop-ups?
I think the street food scene is definitely here for the long-term, and I couldn’t imagine London without it. One of my favourite ways to spend a weekend is discovering new food vendors around the capital, and it’s always great to see the communities turning out to support the local artisans. Pop-ups are also an important part of London’s food scene, and such a creative way for chefs to try out new restaurant concepts and introduce different cuisines – it’s a wonderful fixture of London’s ever-growing food scene.
If you didn’t live in London, where would you live?
I think it would have to be New York City. I’ve visited twice now and I’m looking forward to returning this year. I absolutely adore the food scene, as there’s always so many incredible restaurants, bars and cafés to discover. It’s definitely one of the most exciting cities in the world.