Choice paralysis. Have you ever felt it, that overwhelming, over-indulged, over-privileged ennui of our times that comes from simply having too much of everything? I get it when I nip into the supermarket for a can of beans and find I’m still there 15 minutes later, staring down an aisle of beans with sugar, beans with no sugar, beans with a bit of sugar; beans with tomato sauce, with barbeque sauce, with sausages.
For the choice-paralysed, mono-restaurants – restaurants specialising in just one thing, be it steak, polenta, hummus, cereals or toasted cheese sandwiches, are the way to go. Though the concept has been around for centuries (what else could you call your humble fish and chip or pie and mash shop?) the past few years have brought an explosion of them to our cities.
Some have already been and gone. A porridge restaurant popped up for a few weeks, gave us our oats and disappeared before we could say “Please sir, may I have some more”. Tincan, which only served tinned fish, gave itself a six-month shelf life – considerably shorter than that offered by its produce.
Here are some master-of-one restaurants that are going the distance.
Orange Elephant: only steak, only £20!
Succulent steak cooked to perfection. This is the mantra of Orange Elephant steak restaurant in Fulham, London. There is no menu just delicious 12oz sirloin steak served with a special house sauce, a side salad and portion of hand cut chips for an impressive £20. There is also a ‘Tomahawk’ T bone steak on offer.
All the meat is aged for 32 days and cooked in the ‘big green egg’ – large BBQ style clay grills that monitor heat and ensure you get the most succulent steak there is. Orange Elephant is an incredibly well priced dinner with staff who know good steak and great wine.
Café Royal: the first dessert restaurant in London
From 3 March, Café Royal will be opening London’s first dessert restaurant. With menus created by Executive Pastry Chef, Sarah Barber, the dessert restaurant will feature a selection of exquisite tasting menus all served with optional wine pairing, available from 6pm to 10.30pm.
Themed dessert tastings will include the five-course Sarah in Wonderland menu which starts with savouries such as the Milky Way, with goat’s cheese, wild honey and beetroot snow; and Chicken Foie with quince and brioche, followed by Alice in Wonderland-inspired desserts: Queen of Hearts (raspberries, Champagne and roses); Mad Hatter (BFG, kirsch and cherries) and Eat Me, Drink Me (Snickers, chocolate malt shake).
Melt Room, London
Using the best of British cheeses, organic sourdough and free-range meat, Melt Room serves a tempting selection of sarnies, including the classic three cheese or one with Keens Cheddar, rare roast beef with Sparkenhoe red Leicestershire and a tuna bean salad sarnie with gooey mozzarella.
Your grilled cheesy sandwich will be toasted and pressed using hot bricks. Visit Melt Room.
Arancini’s golf-ball-sized fried risotto balls, crispy on the outside, oozy cheese on the inside, are a thing of culinary wonder. At Arancini Brothers they’re served in wraps, on their own with salad or dished up in a delicious chickpea and vegetable stew. The first mouthful is always the best – bite through the shell and enjoy the creamy, herby, cheesy filling. Branches in Kentish Town Dalston and Old Street.
La Polentaria, London
What better endorsement can there be for an Italian restaurant with no alfresco dining than to see it packed with Italians on the first beautiful day of the year? And what are they queuing for? Polenta.
Polenta as a starter, in a creamy concoction with egg, asparagus and truffle oil; polenta as a main, with wild boar or cuttlefish and polenta as dessert, in a heavenly combo with chocolate or lemon cake, mascarpone or Nutella. Owner Gabriele Vitali opened a cornmeal restaurant for many reasons. “First, it takes me back to my childhood when I would watch my grandmother making polenta, stirring for nearly an hour until she had the perfect consistency. Second, I liked the simplicity of using one basic ingredient and creating a full menu from it. And third, polenta is gluten-free.” So there you are, two mono concepts in one: the only polenta restaurant, and the only 100 per cent gluten-free Italian restaurant. Visit La Polenteria.
Tripadvisor’s third most popular restaurant in Leeds is Humpit, serving hummus. Humpit has got it right: smooth, made with the best olive oil, a tang of lemon juice and several smidgens of paprika. Delicious on its own with fluffy pitta, or elevated into a feast by toppings of tahini, pine nuts, falafel or mushrooms. Visit Humpit. Or try Hummus Bros in London, where the toppings include chunky beef, aubergine and tabouleh.
Le Relais de Venise, London, Paris, New York
Le Relais de Venise, a true master of one, has been serving steak frites for more than 50 years. Its website attests: “Customers come to enjoy just one dish – a salad with walnuts and mustard vinaigrette, followed by steak frites. There is no menu – simply tell us how you would like your steak. Two-thirds of our steak will be brought to you. The other third will be kept warm so that you can enjoy it at its best with freshly prepared frites.” Visit Le Relais de Venise.
Cereal Killer Café (London), Moo’d Cereal House (Leeds), Black Milk Cereal Dive (Manchester)
London’s Cereal Killer Café has been such a success that young entrepreneurs in Leeds and Manchester are following suit. The choice at these cereal emporiums is mind-blowing, with more than 100 from all over the world, 20-plus types of milk and dozens of toppings. It is possible to go healthy but why bother? The fun lies in having an all-out sugar overload: try Black Milk Cereal’s triple shreddies masterpiece with Caramac, marshmallows, caramel waffles and chocolate milk. Follow Moo’d Cereal House on Twitter or Black Milk Cereal Dive.