When you want to look like you know about something, what do you usually do? Go on Wikipedia? Get a quick liberal view from The Guardian? Message one of your mates? Fair play. These are all standard moves in times of information desperation, as we like to call it (we literally just made that up). The problem with this approach is that it crumbles. And it crumbles fast. Like a digestive in an interrogation room. The error here is that you’re having to do the work. And you’re making it up as you go along. What you need is for something to do the work for you. To show that you know what you’re talking about. And that’s how we’ve chosen these restaurants for when you need to act like you know about restaurants. You won’t have to say anything because the food, the room, the whatever, will do it all for you.
“Where are we going tonight?”. “Oh, I’ve booked this little place in Brixton Village Market”. Bang. If you’re from north of the river, you already look like some sort of restaurant guru. You’re crossing the Thames, just to go to dinner. You maniac. If you’re from south, apologies and bear with us. Salon is a very nice wine bar and restaurant in Brixton Market that does some very interesting food. It’s the sort of place that you’d go to regularly if it was round the corner from you, but if it isn’t, it makes you look like you know your stuff.
Perhaps the biggest sign of knowing about restaurants is taking someone to a restaurant without a sign. As long as you know where the door is, of course. Smokestak is ideal for this as not only is it signless, but its huge dilapidated-looking door is also a beast to open. That said, when you do finally locate and manage to open Smokestak’s corrugated iron entrance, you’re immediately hit by meaty warmth, and it’s glorious. This place wants to feel a bit too cool for school, but, actually, it’s a slick operation that serves excellent barbecue in a more refined way than usual.
Pad Thai and a pint is as common as pork scratchings these days, but Greyhound Cafe is something different. Firstly it’s not a pub. Secondly it serves some really superb Thai food. And thirdly, it’s a bit mental. This is a place you’ll love or loathe or, like us, love bits and loathe bits. Most of the food is great but you may question the straight-out-of-a-fashion-blog-ness of the whole thing. Because of this, it’s definitely a place that will make you look like you’ve got some sort of intel. Either the food and atmosphere is enjoyed and it’s happy days, or you’re called up on suggesting a place that serves bread and dips for desserts, and then it’s Happy Toast.
“It’s actually food from the city of Xi’an, which is in the Shaanxi province of China” is exactly what you shouldn’t say before taking people to Xi’an Impression. Yes, you want to look like you know your shit, but this isn’t meant to be because you’ve spent a prolonged period of time up your own arse. Xi’an Impression is an unassuming place but the food is anything but. Don’t worry - it may look humble, but it doesn't taste it.
One day Padella walks into school. Its jeans are ripped and it’s blaring London Calling from its headphones. The other kids are obsessed. In this scene Burro e Salvia would be the kid at the back of the room who’s been listening to White Riot the whole time and shredding their jeans for years. Only none of the other kids have been following them around. That’s not to to say Padella isn’t great, it’s just a bit more obvious about it. Burro has been about for a few years longer and has been doing brilliant handmade pasta since day one. The accompanying sauces change monthly and the vibe is great. The coolest thing about it though? You can book.
The excellent thing about pretending to know about sushi in London is that you’re in very good company. For the most part, the capital of our glorious island nation is pretty bang average with providing us with decent sushi. As long as you’re not taking someone to a conveyer belt or a 50% off deal post 5pm, then you can probably convince them you’re some kind of expert. Luckily you won’t actually have to pretend when you’re at Sushi Atelier because the fish here is pretty, pretty good. It’s a very comfortable place and it isn’t crazy expensive like some of London’s better sushi establishments, but the thing that really makes it a destination is that it’s genuinely interesting. BBQ seared tuna with parmesan, really? And it tastes great? You really do know your restaurants.
Victoria is, at the best of times, a complete and utter hellhole. Admittedly this is mostly Southern Railway’s fault, but its general vibe isn’t exactly…chill. That’s why pulling a good restaurant within walking distance is the greatest act of all. It’s a crisis averting situation and best of all, you’re averting crisis by going to a palace. No not that palace. The Other Palace. It’s a theatre, and Brixton’s Naughty Piglets have their second restaurant on the first floor here. It’s a lovely small European plates thing with natural wines and a vibe unlike the rest of Victoria.