Long gone are the days of big plated meals at dinnertime. Those excruciating moments where you have to choose which dish you want to commit to for the whole evening, hoping you don’t get a bad case of food envy when your dining companion’s meal arrives.
2018 is clearly the year of the sharing plate. What better way to prevent mundane culinary experiences and keep the green monster’s head at bay than going to a restaurant and ordering oodles of exciting little plates of various dishes for you and your favourite people to share?
I’ve always been that annoying person “grass is greener” person who will eat from other poor sod’s plates, curious as to what other people’s dinners taste of, so the sharing plate phenomenon was made for me. Read on for my favourite places in London to share your food and shun the culinary humdrum.
For that Spanish holiday feeling
This chic Spanish tapas restaurant is hidden away in London’s well-heeled Park Lane and boasts a loyal clientele who come regularly after work and on weekends in search of traditional tapas dishes that contour up memories of Spanish holidays on the Med. When we visited, it was a drizzly Tuesday evening, yet the restaurant was buzzing with people. After trying a selection of tempting dishes, it was easy to see why this place was so popular. We started with a Spanish cheeseboard and the golden-hued, crispy Croquetas de pollo (chicken croquettes) before we fought over enticing plates of grilled sardines marinated in white wine, sizzling king prawns and pan-fried medallions of steak drenched in a sauce of garlic, red peppers and parsley.
Vegetarians are especially taken care of at El Pirata, with dishes available such as patatas bravas (deep fried, seasoned potato wedges) and aubergine filled with vegetables and topped with bubbling, melted cheese.
The staff were warm and exceptionally attentive, making us feel as though were were experiencing a home-cooked Spanish meal in the comfort of a good friend’s home, rather than a London restaurant. We will return. Just with looser clothing this time…
For a taste of the Caribbean
Although not exactly a “sharing plate” restaurant, this Jamaican restaurant chain’s Shoreditch opening is one of my favourite places in London to sit with a group of my funnest friends and share a West Indian feast to end all West Indians feasts. The communal tables give off a relaxed, laid back vibe and the Wray-heavy Rum Punch will get you in holiday mode in no time. For those of you who don’t know about Wray (aka Wray and Nephews) it’s one of the strongest rums known to man and Jamaica’s national boozy drink. Cheers!
We shared a variety of traditional Jamaican dishes when we visited and ate in stunned silence due to the sheer tastebud wonderment they evoked. There was the perfectly spiced curry goat, slow cooked jerk chicken, home made slaw, rice and peas and even a selection to keep the vegans happy. Hello Ackee, spinach and callaloo – a specially prepared type of Jamaican green leafy vegetable. Who said Jamaican food can’t be healthy?
For a touch of oriental promise
Once an avid dim sum eater, I suddenly couldn’t bear to try another morsel after watching a traumatising Chinese horror called Dumplings. The film featured a scary woman who discovered the secret of youth by making and eating dumplings filled with something disturbing (Google it) and after viewing my dumpling obsession had abruptly ended. This all changed after a trip to Ping Pong, where I gorged on a variety of tasty steamed and deep fried delicacies.
There was the Shanghai Chilli Wontons – fluffy chicken dumplings cooked with chilli oil, chinking vinegar and sesame seeds, and the Beijing Quinoa Gyoza – a superfood-ish veggie combination of quinoa, mushroom and cabbage, delicately wrapped in pastry with a tangy garlic and vinegar dressing.
Carnivores will fight over the griddled Beef Kimchi Gyoza – a melt in the mouth mergence of beef, spicy kimchi and water chestnut. For those not that into dumplings (or who are still scarred from watching the Chinese horror), a selection of non dumpling dishes are available – I was obsessed with the crispy duck spring rolls and the “very now” fluffy Bao Buns.
For cocktails and cheeseboards
Archer Street, Soho’s quirky cocktail bar has always been loved by Londoners in search of cocktails, smorgasbords and a spot of X Factor style live singing performances. The bar is always bustling and features eccentric waiters who suddenly jump on tables and break into song whilst you nurse your drink. Although not exactly a restaurant, this cocktail lounge bar serves generous sharing boards piled high with fine cheeses, chutneys and cold meats – ideal for hungry post-work nibbles with booze loving buddies.
Cocktails include the not so virtuous Rehab – a dashing concoction of vodka, Chardonay, Apricot and St Germain served in a wine glass topped with Tiki Bitters, lemon juice and soda, and Sloe Hands – a naughty combination of Sloe Plymouth Gin, Pinot Noir and Grand Marnier muddled with cranberry juice, prickly pear liquor, lime juice and berries.
Always up for a fun singing shindig, the bar recently launched ‘Archer Street’s Got Talent’ – a series of events to help find new musical talent and showcase undiscovered artists. Â The final, hosted by eccentric singer Sinitta on the 10th April saw the winner being crowned ‘The Voice of Soho’ and a graced with a hefty £5000 prize. Sadly my singing skills weren’t deemed good enough.