Staycation London: Let Your Tastebuds do the Travelling

We can’t bring you the Mediterranean coastline or the languid long days of a Balearic Island holiday, but we can show you some of London’s finest restaurants serving up the flavours and tastes of an overseas jaunt to warm you up in these last days of summer…

Photo: Legare

1 France: LPM Restaurant & Bar, Mayfair
A convivial spot on a corner behind billowy curtains, LPM Restaurant and Bar is fine-dining but not stuffy. The closely-packed, bustling restaurant plates up the taste of a southern French holiday- whole roasted artichokes drizzled in a lemon vinaigrette, escargots drowned in pools of garlicky herby butter, creamy dense burrata, grilled tiger prawns and smoky grilled lamb cutlets. The menu has small plates and mains which are designed to be shared and the indulgent desserts come in sizable proportions too – the creme brulee has heft. A sommelier is on hand to pair your wine, and do squeeze in one or two cocktails as an aperitif or digestif – there’s the vodka-based bloody Mary-esque tomatini or the contemporary creme de menthe grasshopper, both of which sound punchy but are in fact far more delicate in taste.
Wednesday 6pm-10.30pm; Thursday to Saturday 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm; Sunday 12pm-3.30pm; 53-54 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4EG;

2 Italy: Legare, Bermondsey
A stone’s throw from Tower Bridge and along Shad Thames’ cobbled street, Jay Patel (former Barrafina GM) and head chef Matt Beardmore (ex-Trullo) helm this compact, clean-lined restaurant. Understatedly stylish, it comes with a compact yet a considered menu to match. Seasonal ingredients and produce sing in unfussy Italian dishes done well – whole grilled sardines smothered in spicy nduja and a mess of burrata along side a summery salad of grilled nectarines and mixed beans mopped up with olive oil-heavy focaccia. Pasta is made daily and by hand – there’s the ricotta cappellacci (a kind of tortellini) rolled in brown butter with shards of crispy-fried sage and a smattering of pine nuts, or the spaghetti alla chitarra – a knot of al dente pasta, clams, chilli and garlic. Fill in any gaps with a cannoli, fat with creamy ricotta and dusted with pistachio and sugar, or the fairly decadent chocolate cremoso (a type of mousse) that comes with hazelnut brittle for crunch. There’s also a sizable wine list to to make your way through featuring Italian drops including natural wines from small producers.
Tuesday 2pm-10pm; Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm; Cardamom Building, 31G Shad Thames, SE1 2YR;

3 Spain: José Tapas Bar, Bermondsey
Relaxed and informal, José Tapas Bar has been serving up authentic simple Spanish cuisine since 2010. It’s the first establishment for José Pizarro’s whose built a reputation for himself as a bit of a tapas master. The bar’s menu changes daily and there’s 50 Spanish wines and sherries served by the glass. No tables? Around the corner is Pizarro Restaurant, José second London venture. Here too, you can also feast on tapas as if you’re living your best life in Barcelona, or mains such as Cod in Catalan sauce or cuttlefish and fried shrimp seafood noodles.
José Tapas Bar is walk in only; Monday to Saturday 12pm-10.30pm; Sunday 12pm-10pm; 104 Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, SE1 3UB;

4 Portugal: Volta do Mar, Covent Garden
Little Portugal, the Vauxhall, Stockwell Brixton nook, is the obvious destination if you’re in the mood for some solid Portuguese eating. A Toca, O Cantinho, and Estrela Bar and Restaurant all serve up authentic Portuguese dishes that will satiate any appetite. However, if you’re looking for something  a little more elevated, Volar do Mar in Covent Garden has been awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin, for its affordable Portuguese dishes which reflect the nation’s multiculturalism. The cosy restaurant and bar plates up meals that are Portuguese but with South American, African and Asian influences. On the menu you’ll find baked salt cod with cream and potatoes and chargrilled Iberico pork loin along side dishes with with roots in Japanese, Brazilian and Mozambican cuisine.
Wednesday to Thursday 5pm-10.30pm; Friday to Saturday 12pm-10.30pm; 13-15 Tavistock St, London WC2E 7PS;

5 Greece: Meraki, Fitzrovia
From the team behind Japanese restaurants Zuma and Roka and the revamped The Arts Club on Dover Street, Meraki pulls together seasonal dishes and ingredients from across Greece’s regions that should get you thinking about those lazy, Cretan, Santorini or Lesbos holiday days. Chargrilled meats, whole fish dishes as well as mezze plates to share (salty, sqyuidgy, hot saganaki, grilled meatballs in yoghurt sauce and barbequed octopus) will add a bit of Mediterranean warmth to your London evening. There’s also a sprawling bar should you feel like a cocktail on the terrace or perhaps be tempted to party like you’re on holiday in Mykonos.
Tuesday to Thursday 12spm-3.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm; Friday to Saturday 12pm-3.30pm, 6pm-11pm, Sunday 1pm-5pm; 80-82 Great Titchfield ST, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7QT;