Hot Chef: London Grill in Fairmount changes with the times

Michael McNally has run London Grill for almost 25 years. / Provided Michael McNally has run London Grill for almost 25 years. / Provided

Since 1991, Michael McNally has been the chef and co-owner at Fairmount’s London Grill. There are some aspects that McNally has adapted to keep with the times — a menu of small plates, for example — and some things that remain standard, like the restaurant’s annual Bastille Day block party which took place earlier this month, for the 20th time.

How was the Bastille Day celebration?
Fantastic. Everybody had a great time. [Co-owner] Terry [Berch McNally, Michael’s ex-wife] goes kind of crazy with it, and it’s always getting bigger. It’s become a big community thing for a lot of people.

You guys have been there for nearly 25 years. How have you seen the Philadelphia food scene change, and how do you keep up with it?
Oh it’s evolved a lot, especially in the last half dozen years or so. We’ve always been a restaurant with a classic appetizer-entree-dessert menu, but now there’s the small plate trend. That took me a little while to get used to! We’ve learned to change with what people want. Maybe we’ve even changed a little too fast over the years, but we’ve learned lessons from that, too.

Do you live in Fairmount?
I used to, but I moved to Roxborough. At first I just hated it, but I like it a whole lot now. I’ve adapted to it, and it’s gotten a lot nicer. And I like that it gets me away from the restaurant a little, rather than being right around the corner.

Are there any places out there that you like to grab a drink or a bite on your day off?
Not really. Well, there are some good spots. And it’s ever-changing. Something new is always opening up. I went downtown to Volver a couple of weeks ago. Now that was interesting. The food was phenomenal, but it is a show. We were there for about four hours and went through 15 courses. The waiter tells you a story about each dish, too. But it was great, and the place is beautiful.

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