World Cup fever has London firmly in its grasp. We’ll be sporting flags as capes and will hopefully find a mellower alternative to 2010’s vuvuzela: but what about the food? With the capital having one of the most diverse food scenes in the world, we’ve picked some of our favourite restaurants and street stalls serving cuisines from this tournament’s participating countries. Will you go for culinary glory and eat your way through all 32?
Brazil: Guanabara, Covent Garden
Playing on home turf and 5-times World Cup winners, you’d be a fool to bet against Brazil’s chances. Guanabara’s year-round carnival vibe is taken up a notch for the next month, with screenings of the host nation’s and most of England’s matches. Toast goals with Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, and feast on South American-style sharing platters.
Since 1982, Café Pacifico has brought a real spark of Mexican energy to Covent Garden, with its colourful menu and unbeatable selection of premium tequilas. Let’s not forget that the Mexican World Cup team are 2012 Olympic gold medalists, hungry to carry on their winning streak.
Cameroon: Maestro, Deptford
Nicknamed ‘Indomitable Lions’, the Cameroon squad are the most seasoned African team, having made the group stages of the tournament 7 times. Grilled meats and wholesome sides are the order of the day at Maestro in Deptford, with signature dishes including goat curry and spare ribs.
Croatia: Taste Croatia, Borough Market
No London food list would be complete without a Borough Market namedrop, and Taste Croatia brings an ever-growing stock of imported produce to the UK’s oldest food market. Croatia reached the semi-finals back in 1998 so have been within touching distance of World Cup glory: will they make an impact in 2014?
Spain: Jamon Jamon
Winners of the 2010 tournament, expectations will undoubtedly be high for Spain’s supporters. Soothe pre-match nerves at Jamon Jamon Soho with a bubbling pan of paella, meat, seafood and vegetarian tapas, or a jug of fruit-filled sangria.
The Netherlands: De Hems Dutch Café Bar, Soho
The only Dutch Café Bar in London, De Hems is named after its former proprietor, and mixes traditional British pub hospitality with its rich Dutch heritage. The runners up of the last tournament, expect a flurry of bright orange to take hold as The Netherlands go for their elusive first World Cup win.
Chile have a fight on their hands being drawn in the same group as 2010’s winners and runners up (Spain and The Netherlands), but we’ve no doubt they’ll put up a fight as fiery as their food. Las Iguanas Westfield serves up Latin American classics like lime chicken with plantain, alongside sparkly cinnamon sugar-coated churros and fruit-filled cocktails.
We all love an underdog, and as the lowest-ranked qualifier, support will undoubtedly be strong for Australia. Marylebone’s Daisy Green offers a winning formula of wholesome and healthy Australian snacks in a quirky neighbourhood townhouse setting. Try Marco’s famous banana bread with whipped honey butter.
Colombia: Floridita, Soho
Another team to continue the tournament’s South American domination, Colombia could have a fairly easy run through to the knockout stage. But, whatever the outcome, a salsa bar buzz will prevail at Floridita in Soho, where guests can enjoy contemporary twists on Latin American cuisine and Havana’s original daiquiri and mojito recipes.
Greece: The Real Greek, Spitalfields
Remember when Greece snuck in a Euros win in 2004? The odds of these fairytale ‘ultimate underdogs’ taking the crown may sit at around 200/1 this year, but this won’t dampen spirits at The Real Greek in Spitalfields. Enjoy grilled meze, souvlaki and regional sharing platters.
Drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ for the last 2 tournaments, (Argentina & The Netherlands in 2006, Brazil & Portugal 2010), it seems like the Ivory Coast’s time is now. An exuberant atmosphere and sumptuous west African dishes are worth the trip to South Norwood for the hopefully prophetically-named Gold Coast.
Japan: Tsunami, Clapham
We don’t want to jinx anything, but a fairly easy group draw should see Japan through to the knockout stages with relative ease. Suitably elegant Tsunami in Clapham brings a fashionable twist to classic Japanese cuisine, with a perfect balance of fiery signature dishes and expertly rolled sushi.
Uraguay: Gaucho, Hampstead
Uruguay will forever hold a place in history by being the first country ever to win a world cup in 1930 (they were also the hosts that year). At Gaucho in leafy Hampstead, enjoy succulent treats from the South American barbecue on the terrace, or their famous steaks in the plush, cowhide-clad dining room.
Costa Rica: Las Iguanas, Spitalfields
Drawn in the quadrennial ‘Group of Death’, Costa Rica need to see off competition from Uruguay, Italy and England to be in with a chance of progressing. Head to Las Iguanas Spitalfields for zingy mains from all over South America, and their delectably refreshing cocktails.
England: Hix Oyster & Chop House, Clerkenwell
A converted sausage factory serving sterling British dishes from celebrity chef Mark Hix, dining doesn’t get more quintessentially English than at the Oyster & Chop House. We won’t be premature in suggesting that there’ll be any 1966-style celebrations, but it’d be nice, wouldn’t it?!
Italy: Cucina Asellina, Strand
Set inside the 5* ME London Hotel, Cucina Asellina offers a stunning contemporary setting for its selection of traditional Italian delicacies. Undefeated in their qualifying campaign, the 2014 Italian World Cup team will equal Brazil’s record if they take home the trophy this year.
What will you eat this summer?
Established in 1974 and London’s oldest Swiss restaurant, St Moritz has survived 10 World Cup tournaments. Gooey fondues, juicy bratwurst and the best rosti this side of Bern are served alongside Swiss wines in this bijou tavern-style hideaway. Spot the blossoming plants and proudly billowing Swiss flag outside.
Ecuador: Chimichanga, Belsize Park
With what many see as an ‘easy’ group stage run, Ecuador could be in this for the long haul: so you’d better fuel up. Chimichanga Belsize Park evokes that classic South American buzz with its graffiti murals and menu of vibrant recipes: sample the smoky mountain burger, a foot long hot dog, chicken buffalo blasts and punchy jalapeno bullets, all washed down with heady cocktails.
France: Boulestin, St James’s
Plucked right out of Paris, Boulestin is named after the French food writer and restaurateur. This nostalgic hideaway conjures a France of yesteryear: a perfect spot for reminiscing about their last World Cup win (that’ll be 1998, the year of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous head butt).
Honduras: Santa Maria del Sur, Battersea
Another South American flag flyer, Honduras supporters are already feeling a celebratory vibe after they qualified for the World Cup for only the 3rd time since it began. Enjoy a host of succulent meat skewers and classic South American small plates at Santa Maria del Sur, all to the sounds of live renditions of some of the continent’s most famous songs.
Argentina: Gaucho, Piccadilly
Argentines do steak like Lionel Messi does football, and the meat at Gaucho is something of a marvel. Imported directly from South America, guests can feast on a plethora of weights and cuts in a setting decked out in plush cowhide, monochrome leather and twinkly chandeliers.
Despite being World Cup first timers, Bosnia & Herzegovina are bookies’ favourites to take 2nd place in Group F. A favourite in Shepherd’s Bush since opening in 2008, family-run Tatra offers a trusty Eastern European menu, bolstered by a stock of infused flavoured vodkas.
2014 will be Iran’s fourth World Cup and they’ve never made it past the group stage: though many feel they’re not to be underestimated this time. Bringing Persian history to Bayswater, Manoush restaurant will be serving up its time-honoured stock of stews, kebabs and freshly-baked Iranian breads, either indoors or out on the al fresco patio.
Nigeria: MTK, Brixton
Known as the ‘Super Eagles’, Nigeria kick off their 2014 World Cup campaign as champions of Africa. A stone’s throw from Brixton’s heaving Village Market, MTK is a homely, family-run Nigerian kitchen, serving up comforting helpings of yam porridge, goat stew and ‘chin-chin’ donuts.
Germany: Stein’s, Kingston
Resembling a traditional Bavarian lodge, Stein’s serves up German classics, sharing platters and an ‘all about sausages’ selection. Expect no impartiality here: all of Germany’s group matches will have special screenings, with all guests allocated a table for that added jump-from-your-seat drama when goals are scored.
Portugal: Portal, Clerkenwell
Portugal’s chances can never be underestimated, and they’re pretty much a given for making it through the group stages. We’re sure Portal in Clerkenwell would be slick enough even for the likes of ever-preened Cristiano Ronaldo: modern Iberian recipes serving in a boldly designed setting surrounded by glittering glass walls.
Ghana: Jollof Pot, various locations
With a run right through to the quarter finals in 2010, Ghana may be a force to be reckoned with at this World Cup: though they’ll have to fight past powerhouses Germany and Portugal first. For warming Ghanaian stews and west African favourites, find Jollof Pot’s stall at Exmouth Market, Broadway Market and Portobello Road.
United States: Joe Allen, Covent Garden
With a sister restaurant in New York City, things don’t get more stateside than at Joe Allen in Covent Garden, and if this was the burger world cup, the USA would leave the competition standing (Joe Allen’s ‘secret’ off-menu burger has become a thing of legend). The USA ‘soccer’ team could go far in the 2014 World Cup, having come top of their group in qualifying.
Belgium: Belgo, Covent Garden
Serving the UK’s largest stock of Belgian beers and a menu headed by their much-lauded mussels and chips, Belgo is set in an edgy warehouse conversion in Covent Garden. Many pundits consider Belgium a dark horse that could clinch victory this year: keep your tankard at the ready, just in case celebrations are called for.
Algeria: Souk Medina, Covent Garden
Filled with plush seating, intimate nooks, and a menu packed with aromatic mezzes and simmering tangines, Souk Medina feels like it was lifted straight out of north Africa and into London. Despite failing to score a single goal in the 2010 World Cup matches, Algeria have a fairly forgiving first 3 matches, so watch this space.
Russia: Baltic Restaurant, Southwark
A far cry from the traditionally ostentatious design of Russian restaurants, Baltic presents a crisp, whitewashed space, with a sky-lit, beamed ceiling letting light cascade onto the tables. Alongside dumplings, hunter’s stew and bozbash, select from over 60 vodkas infused with fresh fruit, herbs and spices, all served in frozen glasses.
South Korea: Korrito, South Bank Real Food Market
Immortal footballing legend Pele considers South Korean captain Hong Myung-bo one of the greatest footballers of all time, and the ‘Taeguk Warriors’ have truly lived up to their moniker in World Cups of late. Simplicity is often the best approach in football, and street food stall Korrito keeps it so: choose your type, your protein, and your rice, and away you go.
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