There was a certain sense that Easter is the last public holiday on the calendar to resist ruthless co-opting by the London restaurant PR machine. And yet, it seems, nothing is sacred: as sure as rain in April, the seasonal gimmickry that plagues other occasions is seeping into press releases across the city. In the face of that, here is a selection of better things to do this weekend, including where to eat fish this Friday, where to have lunch on Sunday and, of course, where to find the best Easter bakes in town. Oh, and, some pointers on where to get chocolate, of course.
Eat fish on Good Friday
Their whole fried sea bass is one of London’s most iconic dishes — and one of its most flavour-packed plates of fish — but Som Saa’s “nu-thai” menus are packed with vibrant seafood dishes like gaeng om pla, a north eastern style curry of trout, banana blossom and dill, or gaeng juet aharn talay, a soup of clams, prawns, sea vegetables and young coconut.
Much to the joy of east Londoners, Towpath has just reopened for the season, and they’re starting strong: half a smoked mackerel, served with iridescent pickled rhubarb and crème fraîche has all the hallmarks of an insta(nt) modern British cafe classic.
A new opening, perhaps, but with proven pedigree: Tomos Parry’s solo debut melds his Welsh heritage with the cooking of Spain’s Basque country that he so admires. The hero dish here is a whole turbot, gently grilled over lumpwood charcoal to “maximise its meatiness and stickiness”.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack
A shrine to the British coast, the menu at Bonnie Gull is proudly unreliable: they work with a handful of day boats to supply the kitchen, so the catch is as fresh as it comes (and availability is dependent on “conditions at sea”). There are plays on chip shop classics like beer battered haddock and chips, as well as lighter choices like crab claws, chilli mayo, leaves and toast and a 4pm to 6pm “bonnie hour” with £1 freshly-shucked Dorset rock oysters.
Eat hot cross baked goods
The latest darling of Instagram feeds everywhere, the laminated lasciviousness continues at Pophams this week with hot cross croissants. Credit where credit is due: they likely owe their existence to the traditions of a certain Melbourne shrine to pastry, but short of crossing time zones, this is the place to go.
A new project from industry heavyweights Dee Rettali and Jorge Fernandez, Fortitude has forsaken the highly curated appeal of the Pophams et al in favour of a rough-and-ready sourdough approach to bread, cakes, and vegan bakes. Steaming fresh-from-the-oven sourdough hot cross buns lathered in (definitely not vegan) butter? Yes please.
The Good Egg
Hot cross babka. A questionable enough interfaith crossover to raise a few eyebrows, perhaps, though undeniably delicious looking. Pre-order for collection from Soho or Stoke Newington this week.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Of course, there are any number of extravagant chocolate treats to indulge in for Easter at Dominique Ansel’s Belgravia outpost, but sometimes it’s the understated classics that belie a master craftsperson. Hot cross buns are made from “soft brioche with warm cinnamon spice, orange and bergamot zest, raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, and candied orange peel, finished with a cinnamon star anise glaze”.
Eat chocolate (and other sweet goodness), obviously
13 of the Best Places to Eat Chocolate in London
Sometimes it’s best to just cut to the chase: here are 13 of the best places to eat chocolate in London — be it in ganache tarts from Violet, the phenomenally rich hot chocolates of SAID dal 1923, or the signature bars of Peckham’s Melange Chocolate.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
It’s fair to say that anyone who goes to a two-Michelin star restaurant to “eat dessert” probably needs to check their priorities, but nevertheless: Dinner by Heston have introduced an evolution of an old Fat Duck favourite for Easter. Eggs in Verjuice is a dessert of verbena and coconut pannacotta, coffee parfait, verjuice and citrus, all wrapped in dressed up to look like an egg in a nest.
Any visit to Terri Mercieca’s Spitalfields dessert bar is a welcome treat. Her ice-cream sandwiches are rightly famous, but this week it’s the combination of hot cross buns — made with a chocolate porter from Hackney’s Deviant and Dandy brewery — either filled with a Hong Kong milk tea soft serve ice-cream or dipped into molten hot chocolate, that will make for a seriously good Friday.
Have a special Sunday lunch
This popular big meat and chop restaurant serves one of the city’s best roasts. The City site is closed on Sundays, but try for a table at the original in Soho. The plating here is as generous as the sourcing of ingredients is impeccable.
Based on a recent Sunday menu, one could do a lot worse than visit this south London gem this weekend. Steak and ale pie for two; seven-hour Swaledale lamb with dauphinoise for three? Why not.
In a departure from British tradition, why not have a Thai feast this weekend? This Sunday (12pm to 4pm) nu-Thai star of Arsenal Farang will be serving a special feasting menu. The feast will be split between small and large plates, priced at 8 plates for £35 per head and 10 plates at £45 per head. Optional bottomless sparkling wine for the day will also be available.
Marksman Public House
The roasts here are a modern and minimal but are always among the most accomplished in town. (Reservations necessary.)
The Camberwell Arms
Check the website or call in advance to find out whether there is a sharing meat on the menu that day. There usually will be and it’s usually worth ordering.