Hop ’til you drop in Seymour Place:
I was very concerned when invited to the Seymour Place Hop. Would it be an all-night danceathon with posh locals cheering on us weary participants as we frugged and gavotted our way up and down this chic W1 enclave? Or even worse a blindfold one-legged slalom run to the sound of Danny and the Juniors and the Ski Sunday theme…Imagine my relief upon realising that those enlightened landlords at Portman Estates had invited a select band of the bloggerati to participate in the Marylebone equivalent of the txikiteo – the Basque version of a pub crawl with nosh. Now there are two things to know about Seymour Place – it’s near to Marble Arch tube and is chock full of the type of restaurants that you actually want to eat in. I love how London has sprouted these new destinations in recent years. How Bermondsey St, Golborne Rd and now Seymour Place with its Italian, Corsican and Basque joints have emerged as gastro hubs for the surrounding areas.Our first pit stop was at SANDY’s Pizzeria, the first established Corsican restaurant in the UK and a specialist in authentic stone-baked pizzas. Whilst downing an enervating glass of Pietra Corsican chestnut beer we learnt that Corsican cuisine was a hybrid of Italian and French influences. The pizzas are made with French flour which is meant to deliver a lighter base than with the Italian variety and to my surprise gruyère is used instead of mozzarella.I chose the Sampieru Corsu pizza with toppings including crème fraiche, gruyère, sausage, porcini mushrooms, oregano and truffle oil. The nicely charred base did feel considerably lighter to digest than normal and the cheese added nuttier flavours than mozzarella creating a deliciously savoury plateful. Sandy’s would be a great place to kick back and relax with friends in an informal setting over a beer and some great food.Next stop was Lurra, which alongside its near neighbour sister restaurant Donostia offers acclaimed Basque cuisine. We tried delicious tapas from that most creative region of northern Spain. Some rather sexy croquetas turned up made from Ossau-iraty and Idiazabal cheese with the addition of a creamy bechamel sauce and black onion seeds. The meat version had the addition of Jamon for some added meaty goodness.Grilled 14-year-old Galician blond beef was the carnivores hop highlight. It had fantastic flavour and we washed it all down with glasses of a salty Agerre Txakoli, the famous Basque sparkling white. With their stylish interiors and sharing plates, Lurra and Donostia are perfect for that hot date with someone you want to impress with your global gastro sophistication.Third on our itinerary was Vinoteca – the award-winning restaurant, wine bar and shop. Originally inspired by the wine bars of Spain and Italy, there are now five restaurants in the Vinoteca group with the original having opened in Farringdon in 2005. All of the locations change their menu every day using the freshest seasonal ingredients and our charming chef sported an impressive CV that includes The River Cafe and Spring.We drank an excellent glass of Cotes de Provence No. 2, their house rosé, which was perfect with our vegetable fritto misto and aioli. Definitely a spot to take your wine loving friends.I’m really pleased that there is still a proper boozer in Seymour Place. The Portman is a traditional gastropub serving a host of British classics in a rather smart upstairs dining room. The carnivores enjoyed a tender and unctuous shepherd’s pie made with lamb shank that had been cooked for three hours.The healthy option was a not very British but vibrant and fresh quinoa salad with butternut squash, spinach, peas, pomegranate, cashews and seeds all cooked in a vegetable stock.Seymour Place now features an outpost of The Gate – London’s favourite vegetarian restaurant. I reviewed their Hammersmith restaurant a while back but this is a more contemporary space with an interior that is much sexier than the site’s previous incumbent The Lockhart (now reimagined in Soho as Shotgun). We started with the evening’s standout drink – a Jalapeño margharita – a citric, salty, exploding flavour bomb that blew all of our socks off. We had the opportunity to meet The Gate’s owner Adrian Daniel who explained the ethos of the restaurant and then we noshed on a butternut rotolo stuffed with potato, pumpkin and butternut squash and infused with thyme. I’m always impressed with the way The Gate creates substantial vegetarian main that are both delicious.
Seymour Place is a hip little street with some very cool retailers as well as the restaurants. If you’re in the West End, don’t want to be too formal and don’t want to do Soho crazy then you should check it out.