Off Menu Podcast with James Acaster and Ed Gamble: London restaurants picked by 12 of the best guests

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London restaurants have, understandably, featured heavily in the dream meals of Off Menu Podcast.

Ed Gamble and James Acaster’s Off Menu podcast has become a massive hit since its launch in 2019.

In it, Ed and James’s genie waiter invite a celebrity to create their dream restaurant.

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The guest chooses their favourite starter, main course, side dish, dessert and drink (not in that order). If they want, their choices can be a specific dish from a specific restaurant or chef.

Across nine Off Menu series the pair have chatted with stars including Sir Lenny Henry, Nadiya Hussain, Ed Sheeran, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Cox and, to some degree, Dan Aykroyd.

There have been 184 episodes and here we pick some of the best, featuring fantastic London eateries.

Bob Mortimer - New Dewaniam, Camberwell

For his main course, comedy genius and “national treasure” Bob Mortimer looks to the New Dewaniam in Camberwell Road “from 1990” for a “perfect chicken vindaloo”.

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The restaurant is still there and the vindaloo is on the menu for £7.95. Bob’s side dish of turbot is not on its menu.

Lolly Adefope - Heen’s Restaurant, Sutton; Park Chinois, Mayfair; Hakkasan, Mayfair; and McDonald’s.

Lolly Adefope. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)Lolly Adefope. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Lolly Adefope. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images) | Getty Images

“I would say I have quite good taste in food, but then when I was thinking of my favourite meals, they were very basic.”

Lolly Adefope begins with “anything from a Chinese starter menu”, opting for a platter including venison puffs, and picks out Park Chinois and Hakkasan in Mayfair, and Heen’s Restaurant in Sutton.

For a main Lolly considered a quarter pounder with chips (accompanied by the claim that McDonald’s is the greatest restaurant in the world, “because it is”). But the golden arches make the final cut with McDonald’s fries with garlic mayonnaise as the side dish.

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Krishnan Guru-Murthy - Ma Cuisine, Kew Village; Gaucho, various.

“Bread embraces so many things,” says Krishnan, sagely, opting for a selection basket.

A favourite in the Guru-Murthy household is Ma Cuisine, where Krishnan always has the baguette (and a steak). Argentinian chain Gaucho’s cheesy bread gets a look in, and a breadstick, and a parotta Indian flatbread.

Aisling Bea - Burger & Lobster, Soho

Aisling Bea. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)Aisling Bea. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Aisling Bea. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images) | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

“I honestly was so close to nirvana,” says Aisling Bea of being given a bib ready to try her first lobster, although part of the joy was down to the very specific circumstances of the meal.

Burger & Lobster has restaurants in Bond Street, Bread Street, Knightsbridge, Leicester Square, Mayfair, Oxford Circus, Soho, Threadneedle Street and West India Quay.

It sells burgers and lobster.

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Richard Ayoade - Gandhi’s, Kennington

There was a time when the IT Crowd star, author and Submarine and The Double director would visit the Kennington Road restaurant twice a week.

“Everything’s excellent. I always had the exact same meal. Lamb madras, pilau rice, half an onion bhaji, brinjal, bhindi bhaji, Peshawari naan, three poppadoms.”

To clarify the “half an onion bhaji”: “I’m having one. But if you order a bhaji potion from Gandhi’s it’s two disks of onion bhaji. I only want one.”

Phil Wang - C&R Cafe, Chinatown/Soho

C&R Cafe Restaurant, in Rupert Court.C&R Cafe Restaurant, in Rupert Court.
C&R Cafe Restaurant, in Rupert Court. | André Langlois

Phil’s main course selection is wat tan ho, with best the example from C&R Cafe, a Malaysian cafe restaurant tucked away near Piccadilly Circus.

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The dish is described on the restaurant’s menu as: “(Cantonese Style Char Kway Teow) broad rice noodles fried with king prawn, fish cake, squid fish balls, pork vegetables & egg gravy on top.”

Phil says: “The English translation can only ever call it egg gravy, which sounds disgusting...but it is genuinely delicious. There’s seafood all over it and it warms the cockles of my belly. It’s delicious and filling - it’s great.”

Josie Long - My Neighbours The Dumplings, Hackney

Josie Long reminisces about, for the first time since giving birth, eating in a restaurant while her partner walks the baby around a park: “I had dinner, on my own, in a restaurant and it was the most incredible experience.“

That restaurant was My Neighbours The Dumplings and the first thing she had was a “really peppery” prawn dumpling: “I remember eating it and thinking: ‘Is it more peppery today or am I noticing it more?’ It was bliss.”

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Having started in Lower Clapton Road, MNTD also has a restaurant and deli in Victoria Park Village.

Martin Freeman - The Wolseley, Piccadilly

Martin Freeman. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)Martin Freeman. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)
Martin Freeman. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

There are, no doubt, many reasons to visit the celebrated (and confusingly spelt) The Wolseley but for Martin Freeman the bread is number one.

“You know, it's a poncey West End London restaurant, but it's, well actually not poncey, it's just a very nice restaurant. And the quality of butter is just the right amount of saltedness, Oh man, so gorgeous. It's like a meal in itself. You know, sometimes when you have like tomato soup and just bread and butter dipped in it, and yeah, it doesn't get much better than that.”

Bimini Bon Boulash - Purezza, Camden

Bimini Bon Boulash. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for GAY TIMES)Bimini Bon Boulash. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for GAY TIMES)
Bimini Bon Boulash. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for GAY TIMES) | Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

“It's all vegan pizza. And it is the best pizza you will ever eat.”

A big claim by the RuPaul’s Drag Race star.

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The Parkway restaurant says: “We started with the goal of making our favourite Italian dishes sustainable and ethical, and that meant making them plant-based – without compromising on texture or flavour.”

Fern Brady - Bubala, Soho and Spitalfields

Bubala, in Poland Street.Bubala, in Poland Street.
Bubala, in Poland Street. | André Langlois

The recent Taskmaster star and author of Strong Female Character goes for confit potato latkes with toum (a garlic condiment) from Bubala as her side dish.

The restaurants, in Bubala’s own words: “Bubala (meaning ‘darling’ in Yiddish) is all about vibrant food, culture, and a passion for hospitality. We started as a pop-up which has since turned into two permanent restaurants, in the heart of Spitalfields and Soho.

“We take inspiration from across the Middle East with bold, complex flavours and textures. Our food is playful and champions the humble vegetable.”

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Joe Cornish - Moro, Exmouth Market

A guest this year was the former ‘Adam and...’ star and current Hollywood insider (Attack the Block, The Adventures of Tintin, Ant-Man), who recently developed the London-set supernatural adventure series Lockwood & Co for Netflix.

Cornballs opts for bread from his friends’ restaurant, saying: ”...they so wanted to become restaurateurs that even when they were at university they were breeding yeast. And they invented this sort of yeast, and it became the signature bread of their restaurant, which was called Moro in Exmouth Market.”

A yeast-breeding success story.

The Southern Mediterranean restaurant has been in Exmouth Market more than 25 years now, run by married cooks Sam and Sam Clark.

Cariad Lloyd - Miel, Warren Street

Miel, Warren Street.Miel, Warren Street.
Miel, Warren Street. | André Langlois

Cariad loves a pain au chocolat - I mean she really loves a “pain au choc”.

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For her bread course the comedian and Griefcast presenter picks a pain au choc from Miel, a boulangerie and patisserie tucked away behind Warren Street station.

“Everything from that shop is incredible. They do a very good pain au choc and they do a gianduja - however, you say that one, a Nutella type-pain au choc - a special one with chocolate lines all over it. That is very good but it's almost too much for the bread course.”

Off Menu Podcast is hosted by Ed Gamble (right) and James Acaster as the genie waiter. (Photos by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty/André Langlois/Gareth Cattermole)Off Menu Podcast is hosted by Ed Gamble (right) and James Acaster as the genie waiter. (Photos by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty/André Langlois/Gareth Cattermole)
Off Menu Podcast is hosted by Ed Gamble (right) and James Acaster as the genie waiter. (Photos by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty/André Langlois/Gareth Cattermole) | Getty/André Langlois

Off Menu Live

The Off Menu Live tour will be at the Royal Albert Hall on October 10.

General sale of tickets will start from this Friday (April 14), with London fans able to get tickets directly from the Royal Albert Hall website.

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Fans will also get a chance to bag tickets a day early through a presale which will take place on Thursday, April 13. You can register for the presale by joining the Off Menu mailing list.

Search ‘Off Menu’ on your podcast app, or visit the show’s website.

Aisling Bea is a big supporter of Hackney Foobank. You can back the charity with food or cash donations by clicking here.

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