I’ll admit that 16,500kms is a long way to go for fish and chips, but dining at one of London’s most exciting Michelin-starred seafood restaurants was a major reason for my wife and me taking the UK long haul.
Britain’s coast may be one of the busiest and most fished in the world, but the quality and variety of the produce is still staggeringly good, and Angler restaurant, on the top floor of South Place Hotel, gets some of the very best for its kitchen.
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Fighting off jetlag on our first evening in town, we dined on shellfish ravioli with tomato and chive butter and fennel and ginger coleslaw, and scallops from the Orkney Islands (off Scotland’s north coast) perfectly seared, and served with a vegetable and coco-bean fricassee, and lemon thyme emulsion.
Heaven on a plate… but there was more: cod from the boisterous seas off Cornwall (in Britain’s far south west) prepared with curried cauliflower, mango and coriander, and a filet of halibut with shrimp lasagne and mushroom cream.
We couldn’t manage dessert and instead opted to move to the restaurant’s open-air deck to sip single malt whisky and watch the long summer evening shadows crawl across the London rooftops and the swifts soar and dive on the warm breeze.
We knew Angler would be spectacular but we had not realised the hotel would be equally as good. For our money, it is undoubtedly one of the very best small hotels in central London right now. It’s full of British art and design, a little edgy and very stylish (Conran interiors), yet quietly unassuming and without the pretentious air that some London hotels unfortunately give off.
It’s small, intimate, incredibly comfortable and perfect for couples looking for a romantic escape in a fascinating yet less-explored part of the city. We had a King Room with a large Bang & Olufsen TV, sumptuous bed with the softest cottons and a small but cleverly laid-out bathroom including a large bathtub that was a blessing after an exhausting day pounding the streets.
The 3 South Place Bar & Grill on the ground floor is excellent for brunch and a great place to indulge in a calorific Full English Breakfast (bacon, black pudding, sausage… the works).
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South Place is in the City of London, the capital’s globally important financial district that covers only about 3km2 and yet boasts thousands of years of history. This is where the Romans laid out and built the first planned settlement of Londinium, with huge stone walls to protect it. The walls date from roughly 200AD and there are still a few sections standing.
The City is its own authority within the far bigger metropolis and very proud of its individuality; it marks its streets with black bollards sporting a red and white coat of arms, and defends its boundaries with fearsome silver dragons.
Just beyond these dragons to the north lie the sites (now lost under modern buildings) of The Curtain and The Theatre, two of the first Elizabethan playhouses in London and where some of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed in the late 1500s.
Nearby are the hip streets of Shoreditch and Hackney, brimming with contemporary art, design and fashion, and a short walk away are the lively bars and restaurants around Spitalfields market.
When you’ve had you fill and want to stay ‘home’ at South Place, head for the book-lined Le Chiffre living room, sink into a comfy armchair and order cocktails, or, if the weather’s good, enjoy the hotel’s small outdoor courtyard.