1. The Cinnamon Club, SW1
Located in the former Westminster Library, Vivek Singh;s Cinnamon Club is a beautiful restaurant and the one that I chose for a Boxing Day dinner with my parents. The library bar was a lovely spot for pre-dinner cocktails - I had the turmeric and pineapple infused Pisco Punch - and the main dining room walls are also lined with book cases from the original library. The food is Indian fine dining and the menu is very vegetarian and vegan friendly for a high-end restaurant. I had the banana chili which was unlike any Indian dish I've had before and just on the right side of spicy. Pictured are the flaming baked jalandhar desserts which were flambed at our table. For a special occasion or just a "treat yourself" dinner I'd definitely re-visit, the food is great, the service attentive but not too full-on and the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. A three-course meal and a cocktail is around £50-60 per person - not cheap but not extortionate for fine dining in central London.
2. Le Relais De Venise L'Entrecote, EC2
This restaurant is a City favourite - and for good reason. Stepping inside feels like you have crossed the channel for lunch and not walked a few minutes from Bank Station. The menu is very simple - walnut salad followed by either steak and chips or the vegetarian alternative which I had. The steak and chips is served in two portions so it's a really generous amount of food. The veggie alternative is a choice from five cheeses (I chose the two mild-looking ones) and additional salad and also includes a dessert. Despite not eating steak I really enjoyed the atmosphere and experience of this restaurant - waitresses walk between the packed tables holding platters of chips and the chips are some of the best I've had. Steak, chips and salad is £24 and the veggie option is the same but includes a dessert which are otherwise £5-6. The restaurant doesn't take bookings and was super busy when we visited on a lunchtime between Christmas and New Year.
3. The Drapers Arms, N1
This pub has been on my list for a while thanks to seeing it on countless foodie instagram accounts. When Eliza was in town earlier this month we headed here for Sunday lunch and it did not disappoint. The dining room is so cosy and our table was next to a roaring fire - perfect on such a dismal London day. The menu is heaven for meat eaters and giant roasts should be pre-ordered as they are so popular. I started with a negroni (no dry January going on here) followed by raw and roast cauliflower and a perfect piece of salmon. The type-writer typed menu changes daily so they'll always be something new and seasonal to try.
4. Romeo's Sugar Free Bakery, N1
For dessert, Eliza and I headed to Romeo's on Upper Street. This cosy bakery specialises in sugar free treats, many of which are also gluten free and / or dairy free too - perfect if you want a slightly healthier cake fix or have allergies. We shared the brownie, the red velvet cake and the banoffee pie with a giant pot of mint tea. The brownie was dense and moist with a coconutty flavour which did giveaway its healthy origins - still delicious though. The red velvet was my favourite - less sweet than the original but if I hadn't known it was sugar free I would never have guessed. Finally, the banoffee pie was light in texture and tasted seriously indulgent. The cakes do contain natural sugars so it's not an excuse to eat them all but they are so delicious I could be seriously tempted...
5. Hoppers, W1
The first week of being back to work in January required a new London dining fix to make it less painful. Eliza and I visited Hoppers which was closed over the Christmas break and is a relative newcomer to the Soho dining scene. Hoppers is named after the bowl shaped roti in the bottom left picture and serves Sri Lankan cuisine by way of small plates and sharing dishes. The restaurant is small with sharing tables - this can be hit and miss but here it really worked, we had a nice chat with our table mates, comparing dishes and making recommendations! The menu comes with a handy glossary as many of the food items are not so familiar... Sharing plates include bone marrow, freshly made bread for mopping up the juices and chill prawns (top right). For mains, I had the egg hopper with red pumpkin kari and Eliza had the chicken. The food was delicious but be warned - it is very spicy, everything I tried was so hot but really flavoursome rather than just pure heat - definitely a much-needed boost in dreary January.