Jamie Rumbelow

Recommending restaurants is fun! There are few things that give people more unfiltered joy than the gut-swell of happiness after taking a bite of something delicious and surprising –– and the knowledge that you made that happen.

But recommending restaurants is also a little dangerous. If you eat out very often (~3 times / week) you can expect to have ~9,300 meals over a 60-year adulthood. So each meal has to count! You should respect the time and money that people will spend based on your recommendations.

Therefore, here is a tentative list of restaurant recommendations, organised by city. I optimise for deliciousness and consistency and inventiveness, in that order.

It is incomplete – and possibly inaccurate! – but I'll do my best to respect your time and money. If you have a disappointing meal at any of the places listed below, do let me know.

Finally, this list will invariably be a reflection of my own biases and cultural baggage, as well as my particular gastronomic priorities; your mileage may vary, or I may have committed a grave sin of omission. If so, you know what to do.


Biased to north-east London, which is where I have lived and eaten most intensely.

'Modern European' / Franco-Italian

St John in Clerkenwell is the beginning and end of London food, and for good reason. Michelin-starred food with absolutely none of the carefully manicured, tweezered plates. Ales, pies, classic British and French cooking. Nose-to-tail, so lots of offal, but don’t let that put you off(al). There is very little better cooking in London. My routine is a welsh rarebit and a pint of black velvet while I’m deciding what to eat, and you must always always have the madeleines with a glass of calvados or perhaps veille prune to finish a meal. No matter how full you think you are, you’re never too full for a madeleine.

The Quality Chop House is always a really special experience, and worth every penny, for classic anglo-franco-bistro fare. Emphasis on the meat, of course, but almost every dish is punch-you-in-the-face tasty. The neighbouring Quality Wines is a joyous Italian-tinted wine bar with really brilliant cooking, most famously these wonderfully sweet-savoury pig fat cannoli. The wine list, as you’d imagine, is extremely good at both.

Some of the better Italian small-ish plates in the city can be found at Bright in London Fields. It’s part of the P Franco group of restaurants, lots of natural wine and Italian-focussed food. You’ll have a lot of fun getting pissed on the terrazzo with a bottle of something weird and biodynamic, and eating your way through the bar menu. Lovely people, lovely negroni, lovely food.

Round the corner from Bright there’s Popham’s Bakery, known for very large baked goods and fancy flat whites. They’re less well known for their extremely good lunch pastas. Burro e Salvia a bit further south, on Redchurch St, is more deli than restaurant but similarly sells extremely good pasta fresca to take away. And in neighbouring Netil Market there's Sonora Tacquería, one of the few actually enjoyable Mexican restaurants in London.

Gun to my head, my favourite restaurant in London is Brawn, which is franco-italian and so much more. I don’t have much to say other than it makes me feel more at home than any other spot in the city. Eat here. Drink here. Be here.

Trullo is the closest thing in London I’ve found to Trattoria Cibreo (my favourite Florentine restaurant; see Florence section below). It’s not cheap, but the atmos, the wine list, the calibre of the cooking is extremely high. You may have heard of their sister restaurant Padella, which is also definitely worth visiting, but Trullo elevates the whole thing a bit and brings it more in line with the experiences of long lazy dinners in the Tuscan countryside.

40 Maltby St is nominally a wine bar, but, like P Franco, is really about the food. Brilliant small-plates orbit around natural and biodynamic wines. Also from the 4MS team (but really the brainchild of Anna Tobias, who, for a while took up the pans at P Franco) is the recently-opened Café Deco in Bloomsbury. Anna's cooking is St John-level good with the same lack of pretentions to fussiness.

Asian / Asian-inspired

Barshu is reliably good for proper Chengdu-style Sichuan cooking and hotpot, though make sure you take a large group as the portions are enormous (try the fish fragrant aubergine, dan dan noodles, ma po tofu and anything else with ‘ma la’ [hot and numbing] written in front of it).

My favourite takeaway-style Chinese takeaway in London is Lucky Dog on Brick Lane – order from the authentic menu (there are two different menus) and try the dry fried sweet-sour pork, pork mince with green beans and chilli, cold sesame noodles, cold chicken and chilli oil, also the BBQ skewers

Dumpling Shack in Spitalfields market is truly excellent (get the pork and leek jiaozi). There’s also a brilliant chongqing noodle soup (ma la again) popup at the Jackalope in Marylebone, which is a good pub independently of the food. Master Wei and Xi’an Impression are both from the same chef and both really worth trying, as is Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles, which is one of the finest quality-price ratios in the city. Finally, Silk Road in Camberwell for Uyghur / Xinjiang cooking, especially the skewers and tomato egg noodles.

An important place that might be suitable for a long boozy dinner is Smoking Goat (incidentally right next to my flat!) The food is thai, but it’s inspired by the street food scene in Bangkok, so there’s lots of regional thai dishes adapted in a London-friendly way. Lots of blues and rockabilly records, excellent Five Points XPA sold in frozen 2/3 pint glasses, a fancy cocktail list. The laabs – dry-fried curries – are always aggressively spicy and delicious (much like myself). The chilli fish sauce chicken wings is one of my top-five all-time favourite dishes, and the lardo fried rice cannot be missed.

I love Koya in soho for incredibly thoughtful, delicate udon. Cây Tre for Vietnamese and their Bahn Mi takeaway opposite are also extremely good. Black Axe Mangal, if they ever reopen, is a bizarre, hard to categorise, tiny sort-of kebab restaurant from a former St John sous-chef next to Trullo that I’m including in the Asian section because they do the best ma po tofu in the city. Also the flatbreads, and the heavy metal, and the negronis, and the graffito cocks drawn on the floor. Its lack of any sort of deference really belies some staggeringly good quality cooking.

Last, but not least, I really like The Laughing Heart, nestled on Hackney Road. More of a traditional tasting menu, ‘modern European’ with heavy pan-Asian accents. The food is really high calibre and the owner/sommelier, a charming Antipodean man (almost everybody in London hospitality is for some reason Antipodean), always gets me so wonderfully drunk that I can never remember his name.


It won't be a shock to learn that there are a bunch of really extraordinarily good restaurants in Paris. But, since your time there and on this Earth is finite, and there are only so many meals you can eat in a given day, you have to optimise properly, and therefore you have to be wary. A good rule of thumb with Paris is to make a plan, and stick to it, more so than many other cities (including London). You are rarely rewarded by stumbling across places, and most of the time you end up in a overpriced tourist hell.

There is some virtue to letting your nose and eyes guide you, but as you'll see below so much of the best food of the city is outside Paris Centre, in the sorts of places you won't naturally gravitate to if you're a tourist. (There's a whole other thing to be written about food outside of the périph, especially the Algerian, Moroccan, Malian, Congoese and côte d'Ivoirese diasporic communities, but I'm not best equipped to do so.)

Firstly, however, a quick disclaimer: I last lived in Paris in 2018-19. I visited recently, in October 2021, and did my fair share of eating; but it’s been a while since I've been immersed in the food scene, and I can imagine that lots has changed. As ever, please let me know if you spot anything on this list that can be improved. Finally, I'm only going to be writing about restaurants (and a couple of wine bars.) This is of course only one dimension of Paris's food, and there's a lot of love to be had in the pâtisseries and street food and bars-tabac beyond the more formal setting of the restaurants. As with so much in life, explore widely and keep your mind open and your horizons broad.

Rive droit

If you’re going for food and drink, the best place to orient yourself, the centre of gravity, the Schelling point of Parisian foodies, is the 11ème arrondissement. It's less familiar to tourists than the landmark-laden 8ème or the winding lanes and cafés of Montmartre or the Quartier Latin, but in its slightly more serious commitment to urban life lie its charms. This is real Paris, for real people and real food. It's akin to Hackney in that it is where chefs live and eat and where some of the most interesting, trendy new food is being cooked. So: look out for places on your map like Saint-Ambroise, Folie-Mericourt, rue Saint Maur, Bastille, blvd. Richard Lenoir, Ménilmontant (my old stomping ground).

My favourite resto in Paris is called Le Servan on rue Saint-Maur. Natural wines, franco-Asian food. Run by two sisters with French pedigree raised in Manilla and Hong Kong, Le Servan serves smart semi-sharing plates with a pan-Asian edge. Think boudin noir wontons, scallops with satay. The calibre of the cooking is superb, the wine list manages to be both concise (for Paris) and wide ranging. It's clever and thoughtful and lovely and you must go. Read my LLO review here.

Also in that style there’s Vivant II, which is just west in the 10eme arr. It's a little more difficult to classify, but it's a bar-like bistro with clever and delicious small plates, Led Zepplin blasting, a brilliant ésprit de corps, and wine-bottle candles built up into mountains of wax over the years. Le Baratin in Belleville, an industry favourite, serve more classic but extremely good French bistro dishes and have a remarkably good and cheap wine list. Also good to mention are Septime, the best most correctly-rated Michelin-starred resto in Paris, and its attendant Septime la Cave. I’ve been three times and had some brilliant meals. Finally, Aux Deux Amis, on the excellent rue Oberkampf, is the closest thing to 40 Maltby Street you can find in Paris – or should it be the other way round? – not just in format (a colourful mixture of small plates, charcuterie, sea urchin, oysters, any unfamiliarty in harmony with the good natural wine) but also in spirit and authenticity to the city it sits in. This is Paris's best answer to "what does Paris taste like?".

If you find yourself in the Marais, which you should at some point, then there are only one or two places you should visit. The rest is crap. Trois Fois plus de Piment do bowls of sichuanese noodle soup which are fucking killer – similar style to the Jackalope, but better, I promise you. They’ll ask for a ‘niveau d’épices’, get level 3; if they object, insist (it's really not that spicy, and you need the higher level to get the warmth of the Sichuan pepper). There’s a place similar to Servan round the corner from 3xplus, on rue au Maire, called CAM, and is also a brilliant evening place, pan-Asian/French cooking, natural wines (detecting a theme?) –– but on my last trip it looked shut down. Do check if you're nearby, however, because I remember it very fondly. Happy Nouilles is a poor man’s 3xplus but fun to watch them hand-pulling the noodles, and it’s cheap. And then go up to Arts-et-Métiers, there’s a little bar called Un Vinito? run by a Scottish woman and Argentinian man whom I got to know quite well. Finally, a little further south in the Marais is a very old-school bistro nestled on a touristy street called Au Petit Fer à Cheval, the sort of place in which Woody Allen's Gil would feel at home.

Now let’s move roughly anticlockwise over to Barbes/Poissonnière/Montmartre. I lived in Ménilmontant at the beginning, but moved to a little studio flat right next to Gare du Nord later. The area around the station seems pretty rough, but it’s actually okay (at least for a man), and if you go south and west of the station there’s a bunch of really good places with charm and character. First, right by my old flat, a place called La Pointe du Grouin. Breton small plates cooking, great cidre, loud music, nice people. Weird token system and they don’t speak much English so let me know if you plan on going and I’ll explain it to you. Just south of there, next to Poissonnière, there’s a cafe called Abri which I think has a Michelin star, but on Saturdays they do really great pork katso sandwiches. An absolute must-visit is Les Arlots, but it gets very busy, so I’d call long in advance of your trip. They open whatever bottles the somm decides he wants to give you and do a sausage and mash that I’d probably kill for. If you can’t get in there try Billili next door, their wine bar, which also does very good food. Just west of Les Arlots, off the rue Dunkurque, is a trio that was a pretty regular set of haunts for me. Faggio Osteria and their adjacent pizzeria are really fun understated Italian places, think London's Brawn, perhaps a little more pared back. And there’s Le Vin au Vert, a really great little wine-drinkers’ wine bar. West of there we’re in Pigalle and there’s a couple of good spots to try. Lulu White serves fancy cocktails and very moreish and expensive negronis (danger, danger). Bouillon Pigalle serves extremely cheap food and huge bottles of Côtes-du-Rhône – it’s a queue up for an hour Padella-style kind of place, that offers extremely cheap lunch menus and 40€ jeraboams of wine. They've also got a new place in République in much the same style. South of Pigalle is another must-visit: Le Bon Georges by Saint-Georges métro. One of the most agonisingly French bistros you’ll find, but very very high quality cooking. Go for a long boozy lunch and then walk down to the Tuileries.

Before we leave the rive droit there’s a couple of other places I’ve missed. In no particular order…

Racines, for really super good Italian food in a sweet spot in the passage de panoramas, Lavomatic for speakeasy cocktails by République, Moonshiner for an ACTUAL speakeasy (in the back of Da Vito pizza, whisky drinks and indoor smoking). Chez Prune on the Canal St-Martin for cheap carafes of wine and oysters. Yard and Yard la Cave are great wine bars near Père Lachaise, with some brilliant small-plates cooking. Finally, on my old road, Lou Pascalou, and, round the corner, Demain c’est loin, a sweet and cheap bar where you can drink pints of blanche and sit in a cloud of cigarette smoke as you spill out onto the church steps (if the weather suits.)

Last updated: 18/3/2022. Paris rive gauche, Florence, New York, and The Bay Area coming soon.