World Food In Connaught Village
By food and travel writer Sudi Pigott
The capital is made up of a series of foodie enclaves, making London now the most diverse food centre in the world. Even so, Connaught Village is an unexpected revelation. It is rare to find quite so broad a platter of the world’s cuisines, from the familiar European to adventurous Japanese, Persian and Argentinian menus, all in one beautiful area right in the centre of London. Refreshingly, the village’s restaurants, cafés, and specialist food stores are predominantly independently run by committed foodies.
At one of the oldest stores, Markus Coffee, I delight in an in-depth coffee bean consultation before creating my own bespoke blend combining Blue Sumutra/Negresco roast to order. They offer 34 varieties of coffee bean from 13 different countries.
Popping into Buchanans Cheesemonger, I admire the Roquefort wallpaper and inhale deeply as owner Rhuaridh takes me into the cellar maturing room to taste for a dinner party cheeseboard. There are bookable cheese tastings alongside the temptation of sitting down for a posh cheese toastie.
After picking up a huge sourdough loaf at Le Pain Quotidien, I pop into Connaught Cellars for some expert wine advice from David Farber to find competitively priced fine and rare wines from some of the most sought after French and Italian producers.
Deciding where to graze in Connaught Village is challenging even for those not as gastronomically curious as I am. It is possible to make one’s own world food safari, flitting from starters in Europe through mains in Asia to Middle Eastern desserts.
To start, antipasti from Stuzzico: their burrata is decadently rich and creamy and served with an intriguing aubergine, tomato and basil gel. I ask for a mini helping of their outrageously rich lobster spaghetti too. The mezze options at Pardis are irresistible, especially classic baba ganoush, hummus and homemade hung yoghurt with spinach. Out of curiosity, I order ‘tahdig’, the special Persian crispy rice crust that traditionally accompanies stews. From Abasto, I have to try the exemplary empanadas.
Moving swiftly on to mains at Al Maskoof Iraqi, I order their smoky chargrilled grilled river fish spectacularly cooked over an open fire and a wonderful piece of foodie theatre. It is served with Iraqi pickles and homemade flat bread slapped against the clay oven. By contrast, I sample internationally renowned Bombay Palace’s amritsari fish, fragrant and spicy, it is marinated in lime and caraway and served fried in crisp batter. I can’t resist their aromatic Punjabi chicken tariwala, a dish rarely found in restaurants, it is cooked on the bone in a sauce redolent with tomato, cumin, coriander and ginger.
I try an unusual dessert and Colbeh’s Persian faloudeh hits the sweet spot. It is cold vermicelli like noodles infused with a rosewater syrup and served frozen. It epitomises the exotic voyage of culinary discovery possible within Connaught Village. Now dining out is almost as much about photography as seeing friends, Connaught Village satisfies both the creative and the social.
Where am I? I couldn’t be anywhere but Connaught Village – it is a vibrant and sophisticated gastro destination for experiencing the world on a plate.