Nose to Tail London Restaurant Guide
For years, the cookbook The Whole Beast was a quasi-myth outside of tight-lipped, fanatically-protective kitchen brigade circles in London. Conceived of and written by architect cum cook Fergus Henderson, it took the insistent nagging of soul brothers across the pond like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali to unearth the underground tome from the depths in 2004 and disseminate it to the appreciative masses, finally eager and ready to read about and yes, cook and ingest, recipes for deep-fried lamb’s brains and grilled, marinated calf’s hearts.
Fergus Henderson’s bone marrow and parsley salad at St. John Smithfield – Photo credit
“Nose to tail eating” – the byline of Henderson’s now widely available book, which, by the way, is hardly all “hooves and snouts and guts”, as Bourdain so gamely writes in the gushing introduction – is a term that gets bandied about by foodies with persistent regularity nowadays. The truth, of course, is that working-class peasant food, from the pintxo bars of Basque Spain to the hills of Sardinia, streets of Guangzhou to rural Oaxaca, has invariably featured stubborn, inexalted, glandular parts. A bit of ear here, a bit of spleen there.
Somewhere along the line, however, amid the clamour over hyper-immaculate molecular gastronomy and squeeze-bottled plate presentations, provincial victuals – serf-food if you will – rose to the fore. Call it the delirious dash to the other side of the culinary spectrum. We now trip over tripe and go absolutely mad for marrow. Offal is awful no more. It’s all for the greater good too, so long as adorably shy and humble champions like Fergus Henderson, and the rest of his bestial brethren, get their due.
With that, here are our picks for a rollicking nose to tail ride in London town, starting with the legendary bellwether of butchery.
St. John Bar and Restaurant
26 St. John Street, around the corner from Smithfield Market in Clerkenwell
Henderson’s Michelin star restaurant is now the flagship in a mini-business empire that includes St. John Bread & Wine, St. John Bakery and HG Wines.
Where to stay: Citadines Barbican London Aparthotel
152 Tooley Street, London Bridge
Sample elegant takes on classics like trotter pie, grilled ox heart and sweetbread terrine at this Tooley Street gem close to Borough market.
Where to stay: Hilton Tower Bridge Hotel London
Anchor & Hope
36 The Cut, Waterloo
Anchor & Hope shovels hearty and gutsy fare in a most convivial room. Try the devilled kidneys and duck fat potato cake.
Where to stay: Mercure London City Bankside Hotel
Massimo Restaurant and Oyster Bar
16 Northumberland Avenue, Westminster
Chef Massimo Riccioli of La Rosetta in Rome is the Fergus Henderson of fish and seafood. His eponymous Westminster restaurant puts fins and entrails to brilliant use.
Where to stay: Citadines London Trafalgar Square Apart’Hotel
63-64 Frith Street, Soho
Duck leg with cabbage at Arbutus – Photo credit
Arbutus earned a Michelin star in 2007 with dishes like gratin of ox tripe and braised pigâ€™s head.
Where to stay: Strand Palace Hotel London
28 Frith Street, Soho
The Chinese cornered the market on nose to tail long before anyone else. Soho’s Barshu is a shining embodiment, with fiery Sichuan-style heaps of heart, tongue, kidney and liver on tap.
Where to stay: Doubletree By Hilton London – West End Hotel
Hereford Road Restaurant
3 Hereford Road, Westbourne Grove
Sweetbreads, Hereford Road style – Photo credit
Hereford Road’s menu reads like an homage to everything St. John, what with quintessentially English items like nettle soup, cold veal and chutney, and cockles, cider and lovage. No small wonder: former Fergus Henderson apprentice Tom Pemberton runs the show.
Where to stay: Umi Hotel London