More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London’s Best Brussels Sprouts

Post originally Published December 23, 2023 || Last Updated December 23, 2023

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More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - The Brussels Sprouts Renaissance

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London’s Best Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have come a long way from being the most hated vegetable on the dinner table. Over the past decade, these little green globes have undergone a remarkable renaissance, transforming from a reviled side dish to a beloved seasonal delicacy. So what accounts for the newfound adoration of Brussels sprouts?
For starters, Brussels have benefitted enormously from advancements in vegetable breeding. New cultivars like Dagan have been bred to emphasize sweetness and minimize bitterness. They are smaller, sweeter, and more tender than the large, bitter sprouts of yesteryear.

Brussels sprouts have also profited from a general shift in attitudes towards vegetables. The farm-to-table movement has prompted diners to explore new flavors and appreciate produce at the peak of freshness. Chefs have begun highlighting humble vegetables in creative preparations, showcasing their subtle charms. In the process, Brussels sprouts have been rescued from the realm of overboiled boredom.
Food media has played a role in the Brussels revival as well. High profile chefs like Eric Ripert and April Bloomfield have shared recipes that transform Brussels sprouts into culinary stars. Social media has further amplified the buzz, with beautiful photos of caramelized Brussels making the rounds on Instagram.

As consumers have grown more adventurous and produce-curious in recent years, Brussels sprouts have become a darling of seasonal cooking. Their harvest window from late fall through early winter makes them a festive cold weather choice.
Home cooks have found new ways to dress up Brussels sprouts beyond the tired butter-and-salt treatment. Roasting brings out their natural sweetness, while pan frying adds crunch and char. Brussels pair beautifully with bold flavors like garlic, onions, bacon, and nuts. Even skeptics have been won over by new techniques for preparing this vegetable.

What else is in this post?

  1. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - The Brussels Sprouts Renaissance
  2. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - From Most Hated to Hottest Vegetable
  3. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Seeking Out Sweetness and Nuttiness
  4. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - The Best Brussels Haunts in London
  5. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Top Brussels-Serving Pubs and Restaurants
  6. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels with a Twist: Creative Preparations
  7. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels Sprouts Pairings that Pop
  8. More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels Sprouts Food Tours in London

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - From Most Hated to Hottest Vegetable

Brussels sprouts have completed a remarkable arc from reviled to revered over the past couple decades. Once the scourge of children’s dinner plates across Britain and America, these miniature cabbages have rapidly transformed into a beloved seasonal delicacy. So what accounts for the spectacular about-face in Brussels sprouts’ reputation?

For many years, Brussels sprouts were associated with the worst in institutional cooking – overboiled into submission or carelessly charred. They arrived on the plate mushy, sulfurous, and bitter – hardly an appetizing combination. Popular wisdom held that all sprouts were created equal in their capacity to disgust.

But the farm-to-table movement has prompted a thorough re-examination of many under-appreciated vegetables, Brussels sprouts chief among them. As chefs have sought out top-quality produce from local growers, diners have had their palates opened to the incredible range of flavors found within humble vegetables. Through creative preparations focused on enhancing natural sweetness, chefs have revealed Brussels sprouts to be far more than just miniature cabbages.
Advancements in cultivation have also played a key role in the rising popularity of Brussels sprouts. Newer hybrids like Dagan highlight sweetness while diminishing bitterness. Growing techniques emphasize consistent tenderness and small size over mammoth orbs. Far from generic, Brussels sprouts now come in a delightful diversity of shapes, sizes and shades.

Meanwhile, Brussels sprouts have come to epitomize the very best of seasonal eating. Their harvest window between late fall and early winter makes them a quintessential cold weather crop. As consumers have grown more produce-conscious and adventurous in their cooking, Brussels sprouts have become a darling of holiday tables and winter CSA boxes. Their festive green color brightens dark winter menus.
Of course, social media has also fueled the Brussels sprouts hype machine. Striking photos of sprouts still on the stalk or browned to perfection have inspired Pinterest boards, Tumblr pages and Instagram stories. Brussels sprouts bruschetta even went viral on TikTok! Trendsetters have ensured Brussels are anything but boring.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Seeking Out Sweetness and Nuttiness

Brussels sprouts contain a complex mix of flavor compounds, including the bitter glucosinolates and pungent sulfur-containing isothiocyanates. But the current generation of Brussels sprouts has been carefully bred to highlight natural sweetness by reducing bitterness. Seeking out the sweetest, nuttiest Brussels means understanding how growers achieve that flavor profile.

Many vegetable breeders select for smaller sprouts, as they tend to concentrate sugars and emphasize nutty notes. Large sprouts risk uneven cooking and bitterness. Popular new cultivars like Dagan were chosen for their honeyed flavor and dainty size. However, growing techniques also impact taste. Sprouts grown in cooler conditions tend to be sweeter due to slower maturation.

As sprouts photosynthesize, they convert more starches to sugars. Growers time harvests to capture Brussels at their peak sugar content. Sprouts picked after a frost are often treasured for extra sweetness. Likewise, sprouts harvested from the bottom of the stalk are most mature and sweet. Discerning consumers seek out sprouts still attached to stalks as proof of careful, timely harvesting.

Storage and handling after harvest also affect flavor. Brussels lose moisture quickly, so newly picked sprouts should feel firm and heavy for their size. Yellowing leaves signal older sprouts with more bitter notes. Refrigeration converts starches back to sugars, so sprouts gain sweetness after a few days. However, extended cold storage creates mushy, pungent sprouts. Flavor-focused cooks prioritize freshly harvested sprouts from local growers.

When cooking, methods that caramelize natural sugars while softening cell walls highlight Brussels’ inherent sweetness. High heat roasting, pan frying, or grilling are ideal techniques. Sprinkling sprouts with salt and umami-rich seasonings before cooking further amplifies savoriness. For a sweet and nutty profile, cook sprouts until deeply browned but still retaining some firmness at the core. Avoid overcooking into gray mush.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - The Best Brussels Haunts in London

With Brussels sprouts enjoying immense popularity, London’s dining scene has enthusiastically embraced these miniature cabbages. Creative chefs across the city are reinventing Brussels sprouts in whimsical new dishes that highlight their caramelized sweetness and nutty flavor. Where are the top Brussels sprouts haunts in London for those seeking out seasonal deliciousness?
Quality Brussels shine at The Ledbury, where one indulgent autumnal starter pairs pan-roasted sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and browned butter emulsion. Chef patron Brett Graham lavishes attention on each Brussels, caramelizing every surface while maintaining a tender heart. The Ledbury only sources sprouts during their brief late fall season for the very finest flavor.

Young upstarts Oxeye daisies also let Brussels sprouts steal the show in starters like bacon Brussels croquettes with oxblood ketchup. Their sprouts come from Cornwall for that extra kiss of sweetness imparted by the cold coastal climate. Even Brussels leaves get a dusting of nori salt before frying into crispy garnishes.
Simplicity rules at Noble Rot Soho, where a signature dish is Brussels sprouts roasted whole and then sliced and served in wedges. Grapeseed oil and Maldon salt allow the essential character of top-notch sprouts to shine. Noble Rot accepts nothing less than perfection in their produce. Their Brussels award-winning wine list provides worthy accompaniment.
For fine dining, swoon over Roulla in Shepherd Market and their pan seared gnocchi with Brussels, speck, and sage. It’s a masterclass in how sauce ties each element together harmoniously. Roulla is so obsessed with sourcing that their kitchen has an underground herb garden!

Seeking creative Brussels pairings? Try the curry sprout fritters at Seven Dials Market. Studded with chestnuts and paired with fruity mango chutney, it’s Brussels with a tropical twist. Or sate cravings at Flat Iron Square’s duck leg bon bons with Brussels slaw for a perfect protein match.
Of course, no Brussels crawl is complete without hitting a proper pub. At Marksman Public House, hen of the woods mushrooms meet pan fried Brussels sprouts beside a juicy lamb burger. Their sprouts supplier hails from Suffolk. Or at Covent Garden’s Lamb & Flag, sprouts eclipse boring chips as the vegetable sidekick to bangers and mash or fish and chips. For Brussels with your brew, London has you covered.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Top Brussels-Serving Pubs and Restaurants

Brussels sprouts have become so fashionable in London that seemingly every gastropub and neighborhood joint now boasts at least one Brussels-centric special. With so many eateries jumping on the Brussels bandwagon, where can diners go to find preparations that are creative yet respect ingredient quality? We've got the inside scoop on the pubs and restaurants truly doing justice to these tiny green orbs.

Let's start with a stalwart Brussels sprouts destination: The Marksman Public House in Hackney. Their lamb burger comes topped with pan-fried Brussels sprouts that have just the right amount of char while remaining tender within. The Marksman sources stocky, dense sprouts from a Suffolk grower, reflecting their commitment to sourcing quality British produce. They finish the sprouts with a sprinkling of minced garlic and lemon zest that highlights the sprouts’ inherent nuttiness. It's a well-composed match for their juicy lamb patty.
Nearby in Shoreditch, Ombra takes Brussels to the next level with Brussels sprout arancini. These fried risotto balls encase shredded Brussels, nutty Comté cheese and earthy porcini mushrooms in an ultra-crispy shell. The Brussels lend moisture while the cheese intensifies their inherent savoriness. Ombra makes these arancini in colossal golf ball proportions, ensuring you get plenty of the good stuff in each bite. They're indulgent yet strangely addictive.

Covent Garden is home to the cozy Lamb & Flag, where the Brussels sprouts side has almost eclipsed boring chips and mash. Their simple roasted Brussels, tossed in olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes, emerge with crispy charred edges yet tender interiors. The Lamb & Flag uses Brussels sprouts imported from Belgium herself for ultimate authenticity. Paired with a pint, it's everything a Brussels side should be.
Nearby in Seven Dials Market, Ful medames offers a curveball take on Brussels with their curry sprout fritters. They finely shred Brussels, fold them into a chickpea batter with spices and some chestnut pieces for crunch, then deep fry them into crisp morsels. Mango chutney balances the spices. The fritters show how Brussels can shine outside their comfort zone.
Carnivores delight in the duck leg bon bons at Flat Iron Square's Duck N Bun. They coarsely chop Brussels sprouts for the slaw topping, keeping plenty of crunchy texture. Brussels' slight bitterness pairs beautifully with the richness of confit duck. Flat Iron Square is a Kerb food hall well worth a dedicated visit.
Finally, well-heeled sprouts devotees head straight for The Ledbury, where Brussels get the full star treatment. Their autumnal starter matches pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and browned butter. The Ledbury only sources Brussels during their brief seasonal window for optimum sweetness. As you'd expect from a two-Michelin star spot, every component complements the next seamlessly.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels with a Twist: Creative Preparations

Brussels sprouts are so ubiquitous during the holiday season that they risk becoming boring and expected. But creative chefs across London are reinventing this vegetable in unexpected ways that highlight its nutty sweetness while keeping things exciting. From Brussels tacos to poutine fries topped with sprouts, Brussels are stepping outside their predictable preparation box.
One stellar example of Brussels with a twist comes from Shoreditch's Hacha, where chef Oli Williamson serves Brussels tostadas as a lunch special. He roasts halved Brussels sprouts until deeply caramelized and tops them with spiced pulled turkey, crunchy cabbage slaw and crema. The tostada shell adds textural contrast while the crema cools the spices of the turkey. Williamson says, "I wanted to feature Brussels sprouts in an untraditional way, letting their flavor stand out against the other components instead of being drowned in bacon or butter." By treating sprouts as the star and not just a side, his tostada breathes new life into this vegetable.

Young upstarts Oxeye Daisy in Covent Garden get playful with Brussels in their Bacon Sprout Croquettes starter. They finely chop and fold shredded Brussels into mashed potato along with cheddar, cream, and bacon lardons. The mix gets chilled, scooped into balls, then breaded and fried into golden nuggets of savory decadence. The crunchy croquette shell contrasts with the creamy filling. Chef Sam Lee shares, "We wanted to reinvent the nostalgic experience of bacon and Brussels sprouts through the lens of fun and approachable bar food." By reimagining sprouts in croquette form, Oxeye Daisy makes Brussels irresistible to even skeptics.
Seeking Brussels with an extra decadent twist? Head to Hackney's Clutch for their Loaded Brussels Fries, which top hand-cut fries with shaved Brussels, smoked cheddar, crispy shallots and pickled jalapenos. As owner Meredith Ellis declares, "Where most Brussels side dishes can seem pretty one-note, we wanted to pack our fries with lots of flavors and textures to keep you coming back for more." The Brussels lend char and crunch, an ingenious substitution for boring potato toppings. Clutch proves sprouts deserve to steal the fries show.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels Sprouts Pairings that Pop

Brussels sprouts contain complex flavors that require thoughtful pairings to truly make them sing. From proteins to wines that complement and intensify their notes of sweetness, umami and bitterness, certain combinations highlight why Brussels have become so beloved.

One classic pairing that needs an update is Brussels sprouts and bacon. Too often, cooks drown sprouts in creamy, fatty bacon sauce that mutes their delicate nature. For a more nuanced take, turn to The Ledbury, where bacon still plays a role but doesn't dominate. Pan-roasted Brussels get topped with just a sprinkle of pancetta chips and a bacon vinaigrette that accentuates the sprouts' caramelized edges. The Ledbury also adds cranberries, chestnuts and parsley to balance richness with tart, sweet, and herbal notes.
Seeking a lighter match for Brussels's inherent nuttiness? Try pairing them with tempeh or tofu, as plant-based restaurant Cook Daily does to delightful effect. Their Garlicky Chili Brussels Bowl features shredded, roasted Brussels sprouts atop marinated tofu and quinoa, then finished with crunchy cashews for textural contrast. The tofu's savory umami underscores the sweet Brussel notes without overpowering them. Chile oil ties it together with gentle heat.
Of course, cheese deserves consideration as the ultimate umami accent for Brussels sprouts. At Shoreditch speakeasy Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, the Raclette Brussels Salad cleverly melts the famous Swiss cheese over shaved raw Brussels for an improbable but oddly perfect match. The creamy, funky Raclette acts like the best cheese sauce ever to blanket the crunchy Brussels. Fried rosemary leaves provide an aromatic finishing touch.
Bold Brussels sprouts also thrive when paired with assertive beverages. At Noble Rot Soho, the wine bar's extensive wine list provides ample opportunities to pair Brussels with bottles both expected (Champagne) and less obvious (Chenin Blanc). Noble Rot's sommelier suggests a Loire Valley red Chinon to complement roasted Brussels' savory nature. Or try one of Noble Rot's seasonal mulled wines, where the spices echo the deeper layers within each Brussels wedge.

More Than Meets the Eye: Hunting for London's Best Brussels Sprouts - Brussels Sprouts Food Tours in London

For those who want to truly immerse themselves in London’s Brussels sprouts scene, several specialty food tours offer the ultimate Brussels experience. These tours take sprouts devotees behind the scenes to meet growers, vendors, and chefs who have fueled the Brussels renaissance. Along the way, participants indulge in Brussels-focused bites and beverages while learning what accounts for these little cabbages’ newfound fame.
The Brussels Sprouts Culinary Adventure takes travelers to Borough Market for an insider’s look at produce purveyors and Brussels-obsessed chefs. Guides share the fascinating journey Brussels sprouts have undertaken from reviled to revered while highlighting newer sweeter hybrids. Tour goers sample market stall offerings like Brussels sprout and apple salad with hazelnuts and sage pesto. At neighboring restaurants, the focus remains on creative Brussels preparations, like a Brussels dashi custard tart with pickled Brussels stems. The tour concludes with a cooking demo focused on roasting techniques to coax out Brussels’ natural sweetness.
For those interested in farm-to-table connections, the London Brussels Sprouts Trail takes guests out to an organic farm in Kent. The farmer explains his specialized growing techniques aimed at maximizing sugar content and minimizing bitterness. Visitors assist with harvesting Brussels right off the stalks and enjoy a farm lunch starring the day’s bounty. Back in the city, a restaurant visit focuses on noshing on Brussels in their freshest possible form. Menus feature shaved raw Brussels salads, roasted whole sprouts with trout roe, and velvety Brussels sprout soups topped with crispy leaves. It’s farm-to-fork in action.
Not merely a food tour, the Brussels Spirit experience incorporates cocktails too. This evening tour begins with Brussels-inspired craft cocktails that incorporate things like roasted Brussels sprout syrup and Brussels leaf infusions. Attendees learn surprising Brussels pairings that complement both the vegetable’s bitterness and its sweetness. Progressive small plates keep the drinks company, like chestnut honey lacquered Brussels skewers. The evening concludes at a buzzy gastropub featuring foams, rotisseries and molecular techniques for transforming Brussels sprouts. It’s Brussels gone avant-garde with liquid inspiration.
For the Brussels completist, London Brussels Tours offers an immersive three-day itinerary. The first day centers on Brussels at Borough Market and nearby restaurants. Day two brings a farm visit and field lunch outside London. On the final day, participants learn preparation tips during a hands-on cooking class focused entirely on Brussels sprouts. The intensive program grants insight into every facet of London’s Brussels food scene from seed to stunning final plating. It’s a Brussels master immersion.

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