Nice. Little. And independent. It's what I often crave from a meal out. There's something about the service, the attention to detail and the quality of the food that allows you to differentiate between a person who genuinely cares about their restaurant to a person who solely cares about their profit.
Here are three great, little local independents you should check out for exemplary food in three different genres:
Bar Estaban - Tapas - Crouch End
Taking tapas to a new level with combinations like black pudding and quail's eggs, this cute little place in North London has a range of dishes that all warrant a second shout.
Favourites for me were the crispy pieces of pork belly and the octopus, potato and paprika - an example of the cavalier attitude one adopts when ordering from different ends of the food pairing spectrum, because you're eating tapas so therefore you can.
Little touches stand out, like the delicate stylized wine glasses and the waiters who talk you through the contents of each dish as if it were a meal in itself. Pretty packed when I went on a Tuesday mind, so book in and enjoy.
Rosa's - Thai - Soho
This teeny weeny Thai is tucked away on Dean St in Soho, with other branches in Spitalfields and Westfield Stratford. It has somewhat of a cult following, as it is always, always full. One mouthful in and you know why - fresh, home cooked, delicious Thai food prepared by a husband and wife combo who know their chillies from their chives.
Dishes like Spicy Seafood Hotplate and Roast Duck Curry are bold with bang on flavours - no bland pastes or boring seasonings here. It's full on, it's tasty, it's delicious. Venture further than the normal Summer Roll and Green Curry and you might find a few surprises, like Black Pepper Highland Venison and Seafood Mousse in Butternut Squash. All unique takes on Thais classics which make this a far more original and inventive Thai restaurant than the bigger boys like Busaba.
My lasting memory though will be the Green Tea ice cream. Just too good. Too damn good.
Eco - Pizza - Clapham Common
We're spoilt for Pizza across London, with standard's raising ever more. But there's something about the pizzas in Eco that make them stand out from the others.
Apparently there's a secret recipe. Apparently it belonged to the owners friend / family / dead relative. And apparently it's shit hot. Well, I can vouch for the last bit at least. The base of the pizza is textured differently to others, making it lighter, softer, tastier. It's squidgy but not guey. It kind of bounces when you bite it.
The toppings are pretty original too. Gorgonzola, sausage, chorizo and potato all in one. You might not know this, but I'm a massive fan of sausages as it is, so a killer combo like this was always going to be a winner. Run by a father and daughter with a recent refurb to it's name, it's a pizzeria that puts your Expresses in the shade, and has a vast line up of salads, steaks and pastas should the secret dough not float your boat.