Not going on a summer holiday this year? Back from yours already? Never fear: London may not have the Med’s scorching sun or laidback lifestyle, but it does have a whole host of restaurants ready to escort you to foreign climes.
Whether you’re pining for the Tuscan countryside or the sunny beat of Barcelona, there’s a restaurant to take you there. No air travel needed – just take the Tube.
Go to… The South of France
Lyon in London: Le Café du Marché
Le Café du Marché
This quaint and buzzy French bistro has been pleasing those in the Smithfield area since 1986, and it’s barely changed in that time. Its family lineage leads back to Lyon and the cooking – overseen by executive chef Simon Cottard who has been there since the start – is about as close as you’re going to get to that of the south of France without crossing the Channel. The atmosphere is ramped up a notch with live jazz each evening, though at other times the well-priced menu du jour and extensive French wine list will easily suffice.
Holiday essential: Cote de boeuf with sauce béarnaise, chips and salad, for two to share
Find it: 22 Charterhouse Square, Charterhouse Mews, EC1M 6DX; cafedumarche.co.uk
Go to… Tuscany
Rural Italy via Liverpool Street: Enoteca Super Tuscan
Enoteca Super Tuscan
This charmingly cosy Spitalfields wine bar and restaurant pours out some of the Tuscan region’s best wines, served alongside gutsy rustic dishes of pasta, stews, cured meats and cheeses. Settle in for a night of Italian hospitality and conviviality whilst reflecting on just how dolce life can be. The restaurant’s nearest station, Liverpool Street, feels a long way away.
Holiday essential: Addictive arancini stuffed with smoked pancetta, mozzarella and n’duja
Find it: 8a Artillery Passage, E1 7LJ; supertuscan.co.uk
Go to… A Greek island
Kefalonia in King’s Cross: The Greek Larder
The Greek Larder
Sourcing much of its produce from Greece and embracing a simplistic approach to plating up, this deli come restaurant is an outpost of Kefalonia in King’s Cross. Tuck into the bright-flavoured mezze, wipe up peppery olive oil with grilled flatbreads and get stuck into some gutsy Greek wines. The greenhouse-like glass frontage magnifies whatever amount of sun London can muster, but you might have to turn a blind eye to the odd shower.
Holiday essential: Rich and creamy taramasalata
Find it: ArtHouse, 1 York Way, N1C 4AS; thegreeklarder.co.uk
Go to… Barcelona
A slice of Spain: Barrafina on Adelaide Street
London’s tour de force of tapas isn’t just a slice of sunny Spain, but a remake of specific corner of it. Owners Sam and Eddie Hart were left so inspired after a visit to tapas bar Cal Pep in Barcelona that they modelled Barrafina on it. Their London outpost is slicker, shinier – and dare we say – even better than the original muse, albeit not as kindly priced. Pop yourself on a stool, make your way through the array of small plates with big flavours and pretend you’re not in Londres at all.
Holiday essential: Croquetas in any form – especially the sobrasada versions at the new Drury Lane branch
Find it: Various locations; barrafina.co.uk
Go to… The Algarve
Portuguese pud: Taberna Do Mercado’s custard tart
Taberna Do Mercado
OK, so your average restaurant by the beach in the Algarve isn’t likely to have anyone like Nuno Mendes at its helm, but that’s one of the perks of actually being in London. From evening dishes of pork tartare and a cuttlefish and pig trotter stew to daytime beef sandwiches or delectably rich and wobbly Portuguese custard tarts, there’s plenty to choose from. Despite its gastronomic high reachings, reasonable prices and a walk-ins only approach ensure it’s not all that less laid back than Portugal’s coast – call in during the day for snacks and Portuguese wine for full effect.
Holiday essential: Those custard tarts
Find it: Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street, E1 6BG; tabernamercado.co.uk
Go to… Turkey
Get stuffed on Turkey: Gökyüzü
Despite there being more ‘urban beaches’ than ever this year, London can’t really compete with Turkey’s coastline. When it comes to its food, it can though. Gökyüzü stands out among the line-up of Turkish eateries that fills Harringay’s Green Lanes, serving all manner of juicy kebabs, warm freshly baked breads and hefty salads. The low prices feel pretty foreign, too.
Holiday essential: A minced adana kebab, washed down with an Efes
Find it: 26-27 Green Lanes, N4 1LG; gokyuzurestaurant.co.uk