There are several times a year when a seemingly unassuming ingredient goes wild in the restaurant world. The opening months of the year see a flurry of blood orange tossed into crudos or layered onto chocolate tarts, spring brings rhubarb and wild garlic to the menus of any British seasonal restaurant worth its salt, and the height of summer sparks reinventions of the humble tomato.
‘Although you’ll find tomatoes on supermarket shelves year-round, there is no match for a mid-summer tomato — silky, fragrant, and plump at this time of year,’ says chef Skye Gyngell, whose restaurant Spring currently stars a dish celebrating the best of British tomatoes.
Tomatoes of all kinds (including favourites like San Marzano, Tigerella and sweet, raspberry-like Berner Rose – Gyngell’s recommendation) can be grown in the UK, from Scotland to Cornwall, with some of the most popular producers based in the Isle of Wight – where the tomatoes for Apricity’s tomato-based dishes are grown.
This year, the British summer fruit (or vegetable, depending on which side of the allotment fence you sit) is experiencing a particular boom, with European produce shortages encouraging more restaurants to buy British. Need more proof that tomatoes are trending? There’s even a new cookbook, Claire Thompson’s Tomato: 80 Recipes Celebrating the Extraordinary Tomato, showcasing the best of Britain’s sun-ripened salad favourite.
If you’re on the hunt for restaurants giving space on their menus to the much-loved tomato while at its seasonal best, read on.
Top-notch summer tomato dishes at eight London restaurants
Whole grilled sea bream with marinated tomatoes
Perilla, Newington Green
Humble ingredients and modern European flavours are the pillars of laid-back north London restaurant Perilla, so it’s no surprise chef-owner Ben Marks is celebrating the humble tomato on his ever-changing seasonal menu. This dish features grilled European gilthead bream, with British tomatoes from Flourish Farm in Cambridgeshire, which are marinated in finely diced shallots and Perilla’s house vinaigrette.
Heritage tomato, green miso, samphire and almond furikake
Nopi’s take on a tomato salad celebrates summer produce in signature Ottolenghi style: with bold global flavours. The veg-focused Soho restaurant is headed up by David Bravo (who also runs a micro-business making pickles), who has paired together heritage tomatoes with an umami hit of green miso, saline samphire and almond furikake – the restaurant’s own take on a classic Japanese condiment typically made with sesame seeds, seaweeds, herbs, fish flakes, and salt.
Marinated tomato, pickled shallot and chickpea salad
New Zealander Chantelle Nicholson’s debut restaurant has been the talk of the town since it opened in April 2022, its vegetable-starring tasting menu and sustainable kitchen practices making waves with restaurant goers and critics alike. The restaurant’s current tomato-based dish includes Isle of Wight tomatoes marinated in passata and vinegar, with pickled shallots and English chickpeas.
Stracciatella with Cuore del Vesuvio tomatoes, aubergine panzanella and soft herbs
Clerkenwell restaurant Luca comes from good hospitality stock. Owned by the same people behind the Two-Michelin-Starred Clove Club and on the same stretch as the much-loved St John, Luca serves top-quality British produce with Italian flair. True to its concept, its tomato offering sees the summer fruit take on an Italo twist, thanks to Cuore del Vesuvio – a Neapolitan tomato variety – served with stracciatella, aubergine panzanella salad and plenty of soft herbs.
Nutbourne tomatoes, ‘Yesterday’s Bread’, Graceburn cheese and smoked salsa verde
Famous for its championing of sustainable cooking and foraging, dishes with ingredients made from food that might have otherwise gone to waste are commonplace at Native. In this one, seasonal tomatoes from Nutbourne Nurseries in Sussex are served with scraps of what the restaurant coins ‘Yesterday’s Bread’, alongside Graceburn marinated cow’s cheese and a smoked salsa verde.
Black Ibérico tomato kushikatsu
Dai Chi, Soho
Hidden away on a Soho side street is the Japanese-inspired restaurant Dai Chi. A venue serving a tasting menu of kushiage (deep fried meat and vegetables) skewers isn’t necessarily one you’d expect to find tomatoes the star of the show, but the menu from the brains behind Dalston’s Angelina celebrates the tomato with its rather indulgent sounding breaded and deep-fried Black Ibérico tomato kushikatsu with salsa verde.
Vesuvio tomatoes with tonnato, capers and basil oil
Spring, Covent Garden
Michelin-Starred chef Skye Gyngell is no stranger to a modern British menu (despite hailing from Down Under). Her Somerset House restaurant Spring features a constantly changing British seasonal menu, with a tomato dish using sweet Vesuvio tomatoes, capers and basil oil, all served with a punchy tuna, anchovy, lemon and garlic tonnato sauce. Get it while you can.
Tomato salad with lime labneh, parmesan crisps and basil granita
Another new London restaurant, Walters sits in the increasingly chi-chi suburb of West Dulwich, and has a ‘best of British’ approach, using UK producers for its brunch, lunch and dinner menus. Walters’ tomato offering comes in the form of a salad that stars labneh with a zesty lime punch, crunchy parmesan crisps and a basil granita on top. Summer on a plate.