It sounds like the start of a terrible pun; two chefs walk into a shipping container and – spoiler alert – walk out with the best small plates I’ve had all year.

Alas, it’s the non-pun Smoke & Salt have made a reality. The micro-sized shipping container restaurant is the culinary chief of its POP Brixton neighbours, serving seasonal British small plates with an emphasis on smoking, curing and preserving.

From the arrival of their Old Post Office Bakery sourdough and smoky whipped butter I knew I wanted to try more than their absurdly affordable seven-course tasting menu (most gluttonous sentence ever?), so opted for a few suggestions from the owners and settled in for a treat.

Negroni Blanco in hand, I set into the roe deer tartare (with smoked gooseberries, rapeseed, and sorrels) to start, followed by a plate of tomatoes, smoked ricotta, whey, and toasted buckwheat.

Both dishes were undeniable unusual, yet phenomenally balanced. And the perfect amount for two people to share.

We moved on to new potatoes with beef heart (heightened with chimichurri and gorgonzola),
chalkstream trout (dressed with the most intensely delicious raspberry/chipotle concoction), chicken schnitzel (underwhelming compared to the other dishes, yet better than others I’ve had and a last-minute substitute for their typical veal schnitzel), and thick grilled chorizo (paired with aubergine and an exquisite burnt lemon mostada).

As the sun set, I watched an eager queue build up for late dinner reservations and smiled to myself. It has been quite some time since I’ve felt this excited to see what a new kid on the block does next.

Smoke & Salt is what London’s foodie underbelly is all about.

smoke and salt london pop brixton
smoke and salt london pop brixton
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spitalfields market london
Old Spitalfields Market really finds itself up against it. On one hand, you have neighbouring destinations of dreams for tourists and locals (Shoreditch, Boxpark, Old Street, et al). On the other hand, you have neighbouring destinations of dreams that mean you’re bypassed altogether.

What do you do to draw them in?

You get all the best hipster-loved culinary joints in London under one roof at The Kitchens – the market’s dynamic and developing street food hall curated by Nuno Mendes.

It’s a crowd-captivating concept in and of itself. One only heightened by the arrival of Summer’s seasonal wave of new traders.

The historic Victorian market now plays host to a phenomenal range of traders including High Mood Food – a health food concept with a unique focus on fermentation. Co-founder and chef Joey O’Hare makes the most insane, flavour-packed salads (and living dressings) which all prioritise gut health.

I genuinely had such a mind-blowing working lunch with them recently that I went back to pick something up for a dinner date. At the same time, I got so distracted by the signature shengjianbao (aka soup dumplings) from Dumpling Shack that I was temporarily diverted.

I mean, the Shack’s creators have spent three years perfecting their Shanghai-inspired dumpling recipes with regular immersive travel. It couldn’t be avoided.

My future trips (and yours!) will surely include Mazi Mas’ persian menu, Good Mood Matcha’s iced watermelon take on the frothy drink, Pleasant Lady Trading’s succulent Jian Bings, and the Insta-worthy Taiwanese treats from Wheelcake Island (for pancakes filled with everything from adzuki bean to Oreos).

spitalfields market london
spitalfields market london
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heliot steakhouse london
Two years ago, I found the holy grail – the actual best steak in London.

Yet, thanks to a demanding schedule, I haven’t had time to return to the Hippodrome’s Heliot Steak House since. It is a bit of a culinary tragedy.

The restaurant, named after infamous 1900s lion-loving performer Claire Heliot, is famed for its prime USDA offering but offers a diverse menu as stimulating as the casino which props it up.

That very menu’s new additions (pan-fried champagne salmon, grilled halloumi with orange, et al) seemed the perfect excuse to reserve my long-awaited return.

While the steaks are simply too good to skip, I decided to be an open-minded little food writer and start with some seafood to share. Unsurprisingly, both the theatrically-smoked tuna tartare (bathed in a delectable ponzu sauce & bonito flakes with a somewhat innocuous liquid cucumber sphere) and grilled octopus (perfectly balanced with charcoal mayonnaise & crayfish) were fantastic.

When the plates were cleared, I began to worry that my Surf & Turf would underwhelm me after two years away.

A wildly futile thought, it turns out, as my medley of rare USDA fillet, scallops, and prawns was perfect. At an insane £22, the S&T beats out every other steak at its price point – and double – in London.

Not that I didn’t steal a bite or five of The Mr’s rare rib-eye and lobster tail dipped in dry aged sauce. Or more than a forkful of his satueed field mushrooms. You don’t pass opportunities like that up.

To finish things off we almost literally jumped into a bowl of sugar with a visual spectacle Heliot have dubbed ‘Fairy Land’. The dessert is a bizarre treasure trove of chocolate coffee, raspberry lollipops, liquid gold with Baileys, and more. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t care. I have yet to find a different steak to take Heliot’s crown.

heliot steakhouse london
heliot steakhouse london
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how to set table
It’s no secret I take a lot of pleasure in food blogging my way around the world. I find joy in every little part of it – the unpredictable street stalls, the over-egged white tablecloth service, everything. For me, the experience is as vital as the food.

When we moved into our beautiful stone-walled home, I got incredibly excited to make the dining area something of an experience. To decorate a hella-investment of a reclaimed wood table in rectangular slate mats and a gorgeous arrangement of stainless steel cutlery (from my beloved Robert Welch, natch).

(In related news, I’ve been scouring this new site for affordable art and have to give it a shoutout – they have a delicious selection from emerging artists!)

Now, strap yourself in for some OCD realness:

How to set a table:

Dinner plates should sit in the centre of the place setting. Place your cutlery on the table in the order of use, starting from the outside and working inwards with each course.

Forks should be set to the left of the plate, with knives placed to the right, blade edges facing inwards. Soup spoons should be placed on the right of the knives.

Place the dessert fork and dessert spoon above the plate with the fork prongs facing right and the spoon bowl facing left.

Side plates always go on the left of the dinner plate.

Glassware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate and should include a red wine glass, a white wine glass and a water glass.

Naturally, do as little or lot with what you have available – even beautiful basics will forgive the rest (and get you a tonne of compliments from dinner guests)!

how to set table
how to set table
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evening of meat london
It’s not often I find myself with a half naked woman feeding me pancetta, bent on all fours atop a dining table, but it does happen. Most recently at the literal feast of femininity known as An Evening of Meat.

The Evening, equal parts immersive theatre and supper club, first tickled my tastebuds with promising international reviews of a provocative feminist narrative. A narrative which tackled the concept of “being treated like a piece of meat” with no more than music and dance.

With an indulgent six-course menu, to boot.

As the tabletop dancers struggle to take up space, guests are brought Michelin-quality beef carpaccio, braised mutton, pig cheek, and more.

The choreography was powerful, the food was incredible, and the experience was definitively unique. Leaving a lot up to personal interpretation, the experience handled the complications, vulnerability, instability, power, and sexuality of female existence beautifully.

An Evening of Meat can be seen at The Vaults until June 2nd (Tuesday – Saturday).

evening of meat london
evening of meat london
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