Christmas shopping is fun for some, burdensome for others. For almost all, it is a combination thereof. Either way, chances are you'll need something to eat while perusing endless shelves.
A day’s endeavour seeking out decent socks and the right perfume is hungry work and though a Greggs festive bake might sometimes suffice, there are credible restaurants found in many of London’s shopping malls and department stores. Here are some of the best.
The Corner, Selfridges
The Corner is the newest restaurant at Selfridges, a place for experimental and seasonal cooking from Jackson Boxer, the chef behind Brunswick House in Vauxhall and Orasay in Notting Hill. Dishes in the second floor dining room include smoked butter tagliolini with Comte and chives, a fried chicken sandwich with tamarind mustard, and delica squash with cavolo nero and turmeric. Elsewhere in Selfridges, and also good spots to grab food between Lego purchases, include Din Tai Fung — purveyor of famous Taiwanese dumplings — and Brasserie of Light, one of Richard Caring’s failsafe operations that happens to feature a large Damien Hirst sculpture of a pegasus, hooves and all.
The Corner, second floor, Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, selfridges.com
The Cow, Westfield Stratford
It will come as no surprise to learn that most of the restaurants at Westfield Stratford are chains — Wahaca, Rosa’s Thai, and Pizza Express among them. Also in the complex is a branch of The Cow, an offshoot of the original pub in west London. By no means is it the same — that famous and true haven to Guinness and oysters — but available are dishes such as smoked haddock fishcakes, sausage rolls and chicken wings, all ideal for filling up between purchases. Also worth noting is “The Cow half dozen”: six beef burger sliders and fries for £35.
Westfield Stratford, 4 Chestnut Plaza, Montfichet Road, E20 1GL, thecowwestfield.co.uk
Ember Yard, Westfield White City
Much the same as its Stratford sister, Westfield in White City is a haven for restaurant chains. There’s Busaba for Thai food, Mrs Chow’s, a Chinese concept, a branch of the Lebanese group Comptoir Libanais and a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi outpost for good measure. And plenty more besides. Your best bet might be Ember Yard, a six-site Soho original that serves Spanish-inspired tapas and small plates. It would be hard to go wrong with an order or two of croquetas — Ember Yard is well known for these — some crispy squid, and a bowl of chorizo picante. Comforting food for a little festive cheer.
Westfield White City, Ariel Way, W12 7GA, saltyardgroup.co.uk
Solis, Arcade, Battersea Power Station
There are so very many restaurants at Battersea Power Station. Many of them would be fitting indeed for lunch or dinner during or after Christmas gift buying. Over the road is Joia, Henrique se Passoa’s Iberian rooftop haunt, while above and around the mall’s shops are the likes of Brindisa, Tozi, Le Bab, Wright Brothers, Paris Baguette, and Bao Noodle Bar. A recent addition is Solis, from Arcade and the team behind TATA Eatery. The concept is solid, as the Standard's Jimi Famurewa noted: chicken or steak with fries; a handful of starters and sides such as gildas, huevos rellenos — boiled eggs with tuna — and grilled corn with crema dressing and Tajin spice mix.
Solis, Arcade Food Hall, Battersea Power Station, Circus Road, Nine Elms, SW11 8DD, batterseapowerstation.co.uk
Harrods Dining Hall, Harrods
Surely one of Europe’s most lavish and elegant department stores, it also boasts a new-look dining hall, an upmarket food court of sorts. Inside are multiple Michelin star chefs such as Tom Kerridge and Masayoshi Takayama, serving fish and chips and sushi respectively. There’s a pasta counter from Pasta Evangalists, as well as a Mediterranean grill, while in the bottom left corner is Kinoya, a ramen joint from Niha Mishra. Best-known for her supperclubs in Dubai, the chef has brought her truly excelent bowls of noodle-clad broths exclusively to Harrods. And don’t forget Bjorn Frantzen’s casual but high-end concept Studio Frantzen on the top floor.
Food Halls, ground floor, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL, harrods.com
45 Jermyn Street, Fortnum & Mason
As you might expect from Fortnum & Mason, its headline restaurant is all about glamour, refined service and high-end dishes. Champagne is a must before leaving heavily into a section of the menu dedicated entirely to asparagus — paired with morels for the risotto — and a trolley serving a selection of caviar that comes with blinis and scrambled eggs made tableside. After, starters might be Portland crab salad and steak tartare, while Dover sole a la meuniere, or fillet of Glenarm beef would each be a fitting way to follow. All in all, a dining room suitable for those buying a bounty of luxury presents.
45 Jermyn Street, St James’s, SW1Y 6DN, 45jermynst.com
Pizza Express, Leadenhall Market
There isn’t much new to say about Pizza Express. It’s just there on countless streets and in numerous shopping malls. But it remains a British favourite, almost timeless, and for many would make a perfect festive treat amid the hubbub of Christmas shopping, not least thanks to the chain’s annual festive menu. There is a branch in Leadenhall Market in the City, open late (until 11pm) Tuesday to Thursday, so those looking for Barbour, Windsor Flowers and Kandies cigars need not hurry: the dough balls are going nowhere.
Pizza Express, Leadenhall Market, Gracechurch Street, EC3V 1LT, leadenhallmarket.co.uk
Casa Pastor, Coal Drops Yard
Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross has fast become an ideal spot for those in need of retail therapy, with shops such as Aesop, A.P.C, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, and Space NK. As far as food options go, its restaurant list isn’t far behind: Japanese venue Okan is the latest addition, joining names such as Lina Stores and Dishoom. Also in town is Casa Pastor, the Mexican-style taqueria from Harts Group. Laid back and jovial, there’s a menu of tacos, quesadillas, snacks and cocktails, often set to the tinkle of live music. Its heated outside space would make for a lovely spot — wrapped up warm — surrounded by the Christmas lights.
Casa Pastor, Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, N1C 4DQ, kingscross.co.uk