In the shadow of St Pauls and a stone’s throw from the Thames, it’s no surprise that The Happenstance fills up quickly once offices start turning out in the evenings. The Happenstance is a lively eatery suited to all sorts of occasions. Post-work suit, jeans or sequined LBD – they are all welcome here.
The place has an industrial look - chunky metal pipework and an open kitchen - but with an artsy vibe. The furniture is varied – plush booths, benches and elegant chairs – as are the chic light fittings, while each table is topped with fresh flowers.
At the front, The Happenstance boasts a vibrant and busy bar with a young, laid back feel. It serves a selection of clever cocktails (even skinny options for the calorie conscious) and it’s no surprise that some of them come in jam jars. One concoction even arrives in a vintage jar of golden syrup and another in a goldfish bag with a grapefruit ‘fish’ and edible lily pads. A little gimmicky, but fun and they taste pretty good too.
Towards the back there is a quieter, more intimate space for dining. The menu is almost overwhelmingly extensive – pies, steaks, salads, sharing platters – and each of the dishes is presented in its own inventive way. Think enamel plates, tiny saucepans, mini casserole dishes and flower pots. Cute.
Go: For a candlelit date or drinks after hours.
Eat: Little London Meatballs. And anything with Roman Fries.
Pay: Around £10 for a main course
Ask For Janice
Gin fans won’t want to miss out on a trip to Ask For Janice. A new addition to the East End’s bar scene, the hotspot has nearly 50 gins on its menu, from Bathtub and Bloom, to Plymouth and Portobello Road. Each comes with suggestions for the perfect serve, whether that’s with cranberries and mint, strawberries and black pepper or a simple sprig of rosemary. There is no such thing as a standard G&T.
Ask For Janice conforms to the usual East End style, with classic hipster hallmarks like exposed cement, rough brickwork, white tiles, reclaimed furniture, simple filament bulbs swinging from the ceiling and a graffiti-covered hidden bar in the basement, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have anything new to offer.
It’s a vibrant bar with friendly service – and the pared-back, utilitarian feel ends with the décor. The menu is clever and creative, as well as flexible. You can share small plates or go for larger main dishes. Each option is plainly described and comes in simple enamel dishes, but the flavours, feel and presentation of the dishes is anything but basic. Seriously. Never has smoked salmon on rye bread or a grilled cheese sandwich tasted so good.
Go: If you love gin.
Eat: Chicken crackling and Chatsworth Road Smokehouse salmon with caper berries and horseradish buttered rye.
Pay: Around £7 per dish.
New King’s Road
When the days are short and kind of dreary it’s important to get as much vitamin D as possible. And that’s where Eelbrook, in a pretty corner of west London, comes in. The bright, light, greenhouse of a restaurant lets the outside in and is also geared up for year-round al fresco dining if you are brave enough. Don’t worry, there are patio heaters.
Sat on the edge of Eelbrook Common, the restaurant, designed by Haruo Morishima, is cool, clean and calm, with minimalist furniture and simple touches.
It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner - all crafted from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients - so the menu is changeable. But you can be sure that it’ll be exciting. From eel to wood pigeon, hake and haricot beans to bavette and mushroom ketchup, the menu is surprising and the dishes themselves don’t disappoint.
In my opinion every meal should be finished with the chocolate fondant with salted caramel and buttermilk ice cream. Heaven.
Go: For simple and stylish cuisine in a quiet corner of London.
Eat: Lincolnshire Smoked Eel with potato pancakes and horseradish cream.
Pay: Around £18 for a main course.