2022 London restaurant openings
Akwasi Brenya-Mensa’s pan-African story-telling concept at The Africa Centre
The mission of Akwasi Brenya-Mensa’s new restaurant is to tell stories through food. The Africa Centre provides a vibrant backdrop, adorned in hand-woven Ghanaian kente cloth fabrics and African art, while Akwasi stands at the pass to add finishing touches to his succinct selection of creative pan-African dishes. Crisp ackee croquettes contain creamy, zingy centres, while buttermilk fried chicken wings are coated in peanut-based chichinga spicing and served with lip-smacking Ghanaian chilli oil. The red red black eyed bean stew is a comforting favourite from Akwasi’s childhood; a perfectly riotous amalgamation of textures and subtle spicing – creamy black eyed beans, fermented locust beans, tart pickled onions, crushed plantain chips and lemon balm drops, topped with a whole caramelised plantain to break into the stew. The most unique dish on the menu is the omo tuo, a perfect cylinder of mashed rice topped with black and white sesame seeds in a rich, silky moat of groundnut soup laced with parsley oil.
Chin chin is a favourite sweet snack in West Africa, that makes its way into dessert as a crumbly topping to a deconstructed apple cheesecake, that we recommend to share. Finish (or start) with a nectar negroni, that uses Bayab burnt orange and rose gin for a sweet and floral twist on the classic. tataleandco.com
Sudu, Queen’s Park
Malaysian restaurant originator, Satay House, branches out with a more casual concept in north-west London. Tucked away in a parade of local shops, Sudu styles itself on a modern kopitiam cafe of South-East Asia, serving a wide range of Malaysian hawker stall inspired noodle and rice dishes, curries, and salads. Everything we tried was generously portioned – the beef rendang was cooked slowly until pull-apart tender, rich from reduced coconut milk and fragrant from lots of lemongrass. The classic Malay frilly fried egg-topped rice dish, nasi goreng kampung (with prawns) lacked a little spice but that was soon put right with a side of the in-house sambal belcan (chilli dip). Since we visited, the layout of the menu has changed a little and is now easier to navigate but all the big hitters including the puffy pull-apart roti canai with a silky dhal are on there and, true to the kopitiam format, they are serving very reasonably priced Malaysian breakfast options until 4pm. Lucky people of Queen’s Park. 020 7624 3829
Bottle + Rye, Brixton
This intimate wine bar and restaurant from Robin and Sarah Gill brings a slice of European café culture to Market Row in Brixton Village. The team behind Sorella, Bermondsey Larder, Darby’s and Rye by the Water took the classic Parisian bistro as their starting point for the interiors, dominated by an elegant marble, brass and walnut bar. Nab a seat here to watch the kitchen and bar team whip up cocktails and plate dishes.
A menu of simple, deftly executed Gallic classics delivers. Succulent, well-seasoned pig’s head brawn terrine comes with cornichons, delicate rings of pickled onion and hunks of sourdough, and a luscious dollop of creamy smoked eel brandade is served with Pink Fir crisps for scooping. Veggie dishes also shine – especially summery pea and broad bean ragu and a salad of green beans and leeks with crunchy hazelnut praline. Don’t miss out on dessert – a beautifully made blackcurrant and fig leaf choux éclair on our visit.
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A mostly European list of minimal intervention wines includes plenty by the glass (try Judith Beck’s delicious Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch rosé) as well as natural ciders from the likes of Little Pomona, Brixton Brewery beers and a succinct cocktail list including a peach and jasmine americano. bottleandrye.com
The second spot from Marc Summers (Berber & Q) and Helen Graham (Palomar) is decked out in the same earthy-chic style as the original Spitalfields restaurant. Gather round the table at the back to get a slice of action from the open kitchen and peruse jars of ferments and infusions that make their way into dishes and cocktails. Peanut-infused bourbon is stirred with chocolate bitters for a warming old fashioned, blood orange syrup is shaken up with tequila in a rose petal and Persian salt-rimmed margarita, and citrus syrups are topped up with sparkling water and fresh herbs in the non-alcoholic gazoz options.
To start, order fresh laffa flatbread to dip into silky baba ganoush, followed by charcoaled leek swirl skewers and corn ribs, slathered in a punchy chipotle, Aleppo chilli, black garlic and cumin sauce. Lip-smacking mains include buttery hispi cabbage coated in a dried orange, nori and sesame crumb, and deep-fried, brined cauliflower served with caramelised spiced spinach bkeila. Potato latkes are given a modern twist, pressed with garlic butter into stacks and fried to order, and fresh vesuvio tomatoes and mango are soaked in a sweet and tangy tamarind and date syrup dressing. Finish with coconut and tahini fudge, subtly laced with blood orange and coated in crackly sesame seeds. bubala.co.uk/soho
Honey & Co, Bloomsbury
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich have created their own foodie tribe since opening the original Honey & Co in 2012. They recently had to move their much-loved Middle Eastern restaurant to a bright corner space on Bloomsbury’s Lamb’s Conduit Street, also home to La Fromagerie, Ciao Bella and Noble Rot. The latter provides the new restaurant with the likes of light and lemony Greek Retsina, fresh and piney Palestinian Dabouki and mountain herb-filled Galilean red. Start with the meze spread and try savoury madeleine-style halloumi bakes laced with black sesame, honey and mint, hummus topped with crisp chickpeas, and peach salad with grilled goat’s cheese, almonds and orange blossom dressing. Mains include slow-cooked lamb shoulder on crushed peas, topped with feta and an urfa butter dressing. Hake and smoked haddock are lifted with dill and caper sauce and baked in crisp filo pastry in the iconic fish pastilla. Speaking of iconic, save room for the signature feta and honey cheesecake: thick, tangy and smooth cheesecake cream sits on a crunchy Kadaif pastry nest for the perfect finish. Buy a bag of tahini and preserved lemon cookies from the shelf to take away for the next day. honeyandco.co.uk
Lisbon-born Nuno Mendes’s latest culinary venture is Lisboeta, which means ‘a person from Lisbon’. Nuno is famous for his ground-breaking restaurant Viajante, and Lisboeta is a return to his roots where an all-day snack menu is a homage to ‘salgados’ (salty, savoury snacks) and ‘petiscos’ (little plates of this or that) culture. Both are most commonly eaten in the late afternoon accompanied by a cold beer or glass of vinho verde. Other dishes are served family-style as they would be in the tascas of Portugal. Try Nuno’s recipe for Portuguese pão de ló cake here. lisboeta.co.uk
Head chef Chet Sharma’s selection menu is the must-try at his intimate Mayfair restaurant, comprising a dozen sharing plates using produce from the UK and India created with sustainability at its core. Formerly development chef of the JKS group (Gymkhana, Trishna, Brigadiers, etc), Sharma’s BiBi – an affectionate term for a grandmother in parts of India – is the realisation of his dream to open his own restaurant. To snack on, tangy Wookey Hole cheese papads have a melting yet crunchy texture; creamy Carlingford oyster pachadi is a refreshing segue to sweet, spicy, salty and sour chaats, including nashpati bhel – grains topped with a crunchy frozen pear granita – and Raw Belted Galloway beef pepper fry, hot with lots of black pepper. From the counter, marvel at the theatre of chefs grilling on the sigree: aged Swaledale lamb chops, as soft as butter, with a subtle smokiness. And our star among many stars, Sharmaji’s Lahori chicken: gorgeously tender chicken breast with a delicate creamy sauce made with whey that has been reduced to the point of caramelisation and then mixed with ground cashews and spices. Then finish with choc-ice-on-a-stick-style kulfis. bibirestaurants.com
Unlike so many box-ready restaurants, chef-owner Chantelle Nicholson wanted Apricity to be “not just sustainable but restorative, a closed-loop of use and re-use”. It’s an aim that requires effort – foraging nettles and hazelnuts in urban London, designing zero-waste cocktails, using up-cycled and repurposed furniture – and imaginative flexibility. Day to day, chef Eve Seemann executes dishes such as Cornish mackerel and Shetland mussels with sambal butter and pickled pear, or crispy sprouts with spent-beer vinegar and rosemary. Meanwhile, Chantelle, who first made her name at Tredwells, manages green energy issues, waste-minimal menu planning or gluts of hyper-seasonal produce from suppliers. Many of these hand-picked small producers practise “regenerative farming”, a buzz-term for traditional techniques that nurture diverse, natural landscapes and improve soil health. There’s no discretionary service charge to ensure staff are paid a reliable, set wage: “I want the guys to feel secure and rewarded.” apricityrestaurant.com
Roti King, Battersea
North London institution, Roti King, has finally opened across the River Thames to bring its famous Malaysian wares to the people of south London. Set in the new Battersea Power Station development, Circus West Village, the new Roti King brings with it all of the classics that have made it so successful. Fragrant nasi lemak, served with crisp fried chicken and a sambal stuffed full of chillies and shrimp paste, laksas with slippery noodles, nasi goreng and beef rendang made with the most incredible and fragrant curry pastes.
The rotis are as good as ever, crisp and flaky; we had the fish kari served alongside. Deep-fried fish pieces in a rich but light curry, with crisp roti for mopping, were sensational.
Another favourite was char kuey teow – stir-fried flat rice noodles with prawns and chicken, deeply savoury from kecap manis and that smoky essence of great wok cooking. The kangkong belacan, or morning glory, cooked in shrimp paste and sambal was the perfect accompaniment – veg with a nice bite that’s wrapped in the funkiest savoury sauce. rotiking.com
Caravel, meaning a small, light Spanish ship, is in a converted barge on Regent’s Canal near Angel in London. Restored by brothers Fin and Lorcan Spiteri, it features an open kitchen, bar and space for 40 diners. The menu celebrates slow cooking with braises and homemade pasta, as well as influences from their childhood, including prawn toast with chilli jam, pressed lamb shoulder with courgettes and tangy green herb sauce and almond tart topped with caramelised bananas. Plus, there are excellent cocktails (think blood orange margaritas, rhubarb negronis and hibiscus and ginger kombucha fizz) and a compact wine list. thestudiokitchen.co.uk
ACME Fire Cult, Dalston
Andrew Clarke and Daniel Watkins put the spotlight on vegetables in their live-fire joint at Dalston’s 40FT Brewery. Start by devouring umami-rich slices of marmite Ararat flatbread, blanketed in pecorino cheese. Vegetarian highlights include coal-roast leeks, that fall apart onto pistachio romesco, huge, herb-dressed cuore del vesuvio tomatoes on a bed of vibrant green Goddess sauce, and cauliflower slathered in spiced butter and served with umbrian lentils and pickled jalapeños. Pair with a meat sharing dishes, such as the doorstop of succulent smoked pork collar, charred at the edges into a blackened knobbly crust, served with charred onions and mustard sauce. Finish with rich hazelnut chocolate ganache topped with hazelnuts and beer molasses. Beer by-products feature in ferments and hot sauces, and 10 beers are available on tap, including a lager brewed with ancho chillies. acmefirecult.com
Penny Squares, Aldgate
Exposed pipes and light bulbs add an industrial feel to this modern British restaurant in London’s East End. Start with a selection of breads to dunk into hazelnut harissa dip and a zesty lemon and garlic tahini. The Little Crockery section offers dishes such as tender, smoky black charcoal beef fillet served with a smooth kale purée and charred broccoli. Sweet soft shell crab is coated in a delicate tempura batter matched with zesty coriander mayonnaise. The highlight on our visit were the makhni paneer samosas with a spicy, rich paneer filling coated in crisp filo and served with a zingy pickled red onion, lime and pomegranate sauce. On the Main Crockery menu, the crusted rack of lamb has a spicy, earthy balance, while red gurnard sits on a velvety lobster and ginger sauce, served on garlic spinach. Puddings weren’t as strong as the savoury options on our visit, but we enjoyed the chocolate mousse drizzled with a delicate, fruity mango coulis. pennysquaresrestaurant.co.uk
Lahpet West End, Covent Garden
From market stall to big, buzzy restaurant, Lahpet brings Burmese food to central London
Lahpet West End is set over two floors, with an outdoor mezzanine overlooking a courtyard. Fragrant from cardamon and turmeric, and fresh with lemongrass and coriander, this is one of the few places in the UK to champion the food of Myanmar. The menu is split into small and large plates, bowls and sides which can all be shared or enjoyed as more conventional courses. Cocktails are twists on the classics and the kumquat spritz uplifted a glass of prosecco with orange bitters, lime leaf and kumquat juice. Different fritters are made out of split peas, shan tofu and sweetcorn, and come with a tamarind dip. The grilled chicken thigh and tiger prawn skewers were plump, smoky and worked well with the must-try tea leaf salad – a masterclass in crisp and fermented ingredient layering. The fish noodle soup was packed with seafood, and aubergines are ingeniously served whole and stuffed with chilli, coriander and crunchy fried shallots. We wanted to be left with the flavours of the savoury food so we didn’t order anything sweet but the table next to us raved about the banana parfait with ginger crumble. lahpet.co.uk
Madhu’s Brasserie, Richmond
Neighbourhood brasserie serving contemporary Indian dishes
Madhu’s contemporary Indian restaurant has expanded from central London’s Harvey Nichols to a smart neighbourhood setting in Richmond. The glass-fronted brasserie is full of cosy booths as well a bar overlooking an impressive tandoor oven and robata grill, where you can spy on an array of beautiful looking food before you order.
Presentation is excellent, with food served in copper dishes with an array of interesting garnishes. For a very moreish appetiser try the palak patta chaat – British samphire and battered spinach leaves with chilli, turmeric, fresh coriander, yogurt and taramind, or the succulent robata chops that are marinated in aromatic spices and can be cut with a butter knife. Other highlights included the king prawns cooked in a creamy coconut curry with ginger, mustard seeds and curry leaves. There’s also vegetarian and vegan thalis on offer, which looked very generous when coming out of the kitchen. Finish off with a cooling badam kulfi – Indian ice cream made with clotted cream and almonds for a very satisfying end to the meal. madhusbrasserie.com
Chet’s at Rondo La Cave, Hoxton
Thai meets American diner pop-up
The team behind The Hoxton hotels is alive to trends across the world and always brings something new and exciting to London’s restaurant scene. Cue this gorgeous little basement bar in the Hoxton Holborn, with a regularly-changing rota of world-class chefs and focus on low-intervention wines. In residence now is Chet’s, an intriguing Thai-meets-American-diner hybrid, courtesy of Kris Yenbamroong of LA’s Night + Market where it’s all about natural wine and Thai food. At Rondo, fried chicken with ranch and red eye chili dips, pork and beef smashburger, a garlicky, blue cheese wedge salad and punchy pad-Thai inspired rigatoni (it works!) are balanced by lighter touches like a sublime crispy rice salad with coriander, ginger and chilli. Uniquely brilliant, the pop up looks likely to spawn a permanent restaurant in West London later this year. Keep an eye on the website and @rondolacave Instagram for the next residency. rondolacave.com
London outpost of an Istanbul institute serving wood-fired modern Turkish food
With most dishes at Yeni given the funk of fermentation or seasoned with smoke, this is food that’s big on flavour but handled with enough respect to let the quality of the ingredients shine. The open fire kitchen is centre stage in the tall-ceilinged room, start with a G and house-made T (tonic meets kombucha) then it’s all about choosing sharing plates for the table or letting the chef choose for you with a daily changing tasting menu. About half the menu is creatively vegetarian – beetroot is almost sticky from being slow braised in olive oil then punctuated with sour cherries, salty galomizithra cheese and a crunch of hazelnuts. Choose a filling of either beef or dried aubergine for the Turkish manti dumplings which come in a broth made so complex and creamy from using double-fermented yogurt that you’ll be ordering more wood-fired puffy tava bread to mop the bowl clean with. yeni.london
Dai Chi, Soho
This unique restaurant in Soho is slick, with comfy leather seats and nods to Japanese ryokan furnishings, such as bonsai, lantern-style lighting, plenty of dark wood and floor-to-ceiling prints of entrances to Japanese izakayas.
Cocktails at the team’s original Dalston restaurant Angelina are outstanding, and this spot doesn’t disappoint. Choose from highball-style drinks including Shoga Enlightenment with tart yuzu sake and lemongrass syrup, or a salty pear and ginger shrub with smoky mezcal. There’s also a tsukemono martini with sake and pickled carrot, and Japanese gin shines in the negroni-style Ponzi Scheme.
The six-course omakase menu is a succession of sublime ‘kushikatsu’ skewers and small bites. Things kick off with roti tacos topped with tobiko tuna tartare and raw Hamachi tuna with truffle soy. Deep-fried skewers are inventive, including flavours like bitter shiso leaf, black ibérico tomatoes, aged rib-eye steak and king trumpet mushrooms, the latter topped with fresh carabineiro prawns and spicy ‘nduja sauce. Other highlights include succulent karaage chicken, butterflied cod and sweet heritage tomatoes doused in 20-year-old balsamic, with matcha panna cotta with a burnt white chocolate crumb to finish. daichi.london
Walter’s, West Dulwich
A neighbourhood restaurant and bar in SE London from the team behind The Oystermen.
Named after Walter Hathaway, the master milliner and costumier who first owned the site, Walter’s certainly has a sense of occasion. Rob Hampton and Matt Lovell, responsible for Covent Garden’s seafood bar and kitchen, The Oystermen, wanted somewhere that locals could come to meet, eat and drink throughout the day as well as a destination for visitors new to West Dulwich. The large central bar has an extensive drinks menu with a focus on English wine in particular. For dining, a range of British-inspired classics deep in flavour are showcased, led by chef Khalid Hassan. These begin with snacks of smoked cod roe mousse, truffle and mushroom arancini, and smoked aubergine and sesame dip. Starters range from bloody mary crab salad to peanut glazed chicken salad with bang sauce, and tempura cauliflower. Stand-out main courses are the roasted lamb rump with cannellini bean ragout, and an eight-hour braised ox cheek with hickory smoked mash that was wonderfully tender with a gravy as deep as chocolate. Plans are in place for a private dining room for 12 in the wine cellar. waltersdulwich.co.uk
Bombay Delight, Wimbledon
Crowd-pleasing Indian cuisine in Wimbledon
A newly opened sister restaurant of Mumbai Delight in Vauxhall, Bombay Delight is a larger, more vibrant venue with a stylish bar area, space for private functions, and walls decorated with elephants and framed pictures of old Bombay. The offerings aren’t dissimilar to its sister’s, but there are some new dishes, including the excellent tiltala jhinga appetiser – juicy king prawns coated in a crisp sesame seed and gram flour batter, with a spiced mayo for dipping. Poppadoms arrive with two moreish dips – subtle beetroot, fresh mint and coriander – and a mango chutney with a hint of chilli. The menu doesn’t stray too far from well-loved classics, and the rich and creamy BBC (Bombay butter chicken) is proof that this restaurant does them well, with the freshest ingredients and no colourings. Finish with the Indian sweet, gulab jamun, soaked in sugar syrup and served with a smooth vanilla ice cream, along with one of the mocktail concoctions, such as a fresh masala thums-up with mint, cumin and black salt. South London-dwellers will be happy this restaurant has arrived on their doorstep. bombaydelight.co.uk
Fallow, St James’s
Sustainability-forward restaurant moves to a permanent site in Piccadilly
After 18 months at Heddon Street, ex Dinner by Heston chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray have moved their sustainable-focused restaurant down the road to St James’s. There’s a buzz from friends and colleagues catching up on tables beneath suspended planters of dried flowers, and chefs slicing, sizzling and charring ingredients in the large open kitchen. Beetroot lends the jasmine winter highball its vibrant pink hue in the colder months, while frozen margaritas make the perfect summer pairing to the iconic kombu-seasoned corn ribs. A rich, smooth swirl of mushroom parfait is topped with shiitake and grey oyster mushrooms, grown on-site above the kitchen, frills of fried cabbage and pieces of smoked venison and beef sit atop wood-fired flatbreads, and layers of potatoes are pressed together to create crispy stacks of boulangère potatoes. Ingredients otherwise destined for waste are elevated into exquisite dishes such as the large cod’s head soaked in pools of sriracha butter, served with spoons to seek out meaty pieces. This ethos continues through to desserts, which are worth squeezing in, with coffee-waste ice cream balancing a rich Pump Street chocolate ganache and surplus whey transformed into the silkiest caramelised tart. fallowrestaurant.com
Blacklock, Covent Garden
This great British chophouse opens its newest paean to meat and gravy in Covent Garden
The latest Blacklock is in a listed building just off Bedford Street in Covent Garden in what was once the location for the King’s Coachmakers and it’s their biggest yet. The mid-century modern/industrial feel is welcoming and the menu focusses on the affordable and sustainable approach to meat that is central to Blacklock’s approach.
A starter of Cull Yaw Crumpet signals what lies ahead. Dry-aged Cornish mutton shoulder and leg is slow-roasted overnight in a range of spices until it’s soft and ready to fall apart. This is then placed atop a crumpet with English mustard and pickled onions. A jug of gravy is offered to pour over the meal and soak deep into the crumpet, resulting in an impressive depth of flavour. Blacklock’s signature ‘All In’ option is a sharing platter of beef, pork and lamb skinny chops piled high on charcoal-grilled flatbreads, the juice and flavours of the meat flowing into the bread. There are also meat-free options, barbecued halloumi and coal-roasted celeriac. The drinks menu is extensive with a range of cocktails, wine and their own Blacklock Lager and Pale Ales, brewed with Harbour Brew Co. in Cornwall. theblacklock.com/covent-garden
Filipino chef serves modern twists on classics in slick Heddon Street restaurant
After stints in Michelin-starred restaurants and his own supper clubs, Filipino chef Ferdinand “Budgie” Montoya serves slow-roasted lechon pork, rice bowls and pulutan snacks from a nook in Brixton Market. His new restaurant residency at 10 Heddon Street is a slicker, smarter affair, complete with a statement concrete bar (serving unique cocktails such as a delicate rose and hibiscus-infused rum spritz), booths that glide beneath low lighting, and a mossy living wall past the large open kitchen.
Modern twists on Filipino classics include the ‘bistek’ – perfectly pink aged rump cap served with a bright calamansi and soy jus and charred leeks; crunchy, umami-rich charred hispi cabbage slathered in traditional bagoong fermented shrimp paste; and ceviche-like monkfish escabeche doused in a spicy coconut vinegar, calamansi juice and chilli marinade, with tiny spheres of cucumber and sweet and sour red pepper sauce. The highlight is pork trotter stuffed with a soy, ginger and pork stock-laced adobo rice, or, if you’re in a group, order the whole suckling pig ahead for a lemongrass and truffle-stuffed feast. There’s a savoury edge to the dense cassava cheesecake for dessert, lifted with sweet macapuno cream and pandan syrup. saraplondon.com
Previously Hot Stone, RAI is an elegant venue offering the same pared-back décor – wood panels, green tiling and a beautiful traditional mural – with chef Padam Raj Rai remaining at the helm. He makes his passionate presence known at each service when he comes out to greet diners in an enthusiastic flurry. Only the menu has had a makeover, now a set 10-course omakase tasting experience with the option of supplementary sushi and wagyu courses, showcasing exquisite ingredients of the highest quality; sweet amaebi prawns and hand-picked Maldon rock oysters are dressed with caviar; tiny cubes of homemade tofu are doused in 10-year-old soy sauce; and vibrant wasabi is hand-grated at the table. Presentation is stunning, with a sashimi trio balanced on a bespoke, hand-carved driftwood platter. Flavour combinations are playful and inspired, for example hand-dived Orkney scallops with British parsnips, and Scottish smoked salmon tartare served in a yuzu miso alongside slices of British pear then coated in a blanket of 60-month aged parmesan. Choose the sake and wine pairing and you’ll be treated to Baron de Marck champagne, (known for its tiny bubbles), a delicately tart umeshu plum sake, and a light and sweet Daiginjo sake. rairestaurant.com
Holy Carrot, Knightsbridge
Instagram-worthy vegan delights and a super-cool cocktail bar
Knightbridge’s new plant-based hangout’s highlight is the Holy Bar with moody lighting, stained glass focal point and dramatic drinks. Start in style by sipping on the aptly named Lovers cocktail. Made with Seven Hills gin and rhubarb liquor, it’s encased in a bubble of smoke that pops on the first sip. In the more functional restaurant, try the generous ‘seafood’ platter (inspired by Netflix’s 2021 Seaspiracy documentary) featuring sustainable natural plant-based ‘sushi’. Mains include sticky orange cauliflower which gives strong sweet-and-sour vibes; hearty and satisfying shepherd’s pie – made with tempeh and black lentils; and parsnip root risotto – featuring seared eryngii mushrooms, koji miso butter, black radish and homemade kombu dashi. Triple-cooked chunky chips lack the crunch we’ve come to expect from a good fried potato but purple croquettes filled with avocado and topped with a homemade basil mayo provide a unique blend of textures and flavours. Our first choice of oat and miso caramel ice cream was sold out by the time we got to dessert, but Sicilian lemon tart with sour cherry sorbet is a sharp-sweet end to a fancy meal that’s fun for all, not just vegans. holycarrot.co.uk
Le Petit Beef Bar, Chelsea
It’s a dilemma best solved by going with a ravenous dining companion or, better still, two: whether to start with the much-Instagrammed croque sando (four perfect toasted squares filled with dry-aged beef ribeye and mozzarella around a pool of its signature buttery, herby, truffle sauce); the KFC where chicken is deep-fried in kobe fat, or rock corn tempura with black pepper mayo. Because you’ll definitely want them all. The London outpost of Le Beef (it has homes in the world’s smartest cities) bustles with Chelsea locals who love its comfortable booths, flattering lighting and soft red wines. The menu is equally luxe, peppered with kobe and wagyu of top-class pedigree, sourced from Ireland, Holland, USA and Japan, and in guises ranging from the brisket in a bao to bolognese with pappardelle. For drama choose the miso black beef which arrives, in all its smoky glory, with truffle and parmesan fries. The dessert menu is satisfyingly short: French toast brioche or soft-serve ice cream, served in a big bowl for sharing, with fruit, toffee and chocolate sauces. The lunch menu at £28, including steak frites and a starter, is a steal. lepetit.beefbar.com
The Fat Badger, Richmond
The Fat Badger’s stylish farm-to-fork menu concentrates on excellent ingredients and an impressive list of English wines, all served in a fun and vibrant setting.
The Fat Badger is the Gladwin brothers’ fifth restaurant launch but the first outside central London, tucked at the bottom of Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames. The same ethos applies at all their restaurants, showcasing ingredients from their farm in Sussex, as well as their own range of English wines.
The menu is British but with a creative twist and centred around locally sourced meat and fish (although there’s plenty on offer for plant-based diets, too). Think roasted south coast hake with chorizo and lemon potato vinaigrette, or sticky spatchcock partridge with barley, sweetcorn and ground elder pesto. Don’t miss the Marmite and mushroom eclairs as a starter for an earthy but moreish start to your meal.
There’s a bustling vibe and the atmosphere is laidback and unpretentious, but feels luxurious too. The staff are charming and with a wealth of knowledge, they take their time helping you make the perfect selection of food and wine. gladwinbrothers.com
144 on the Hill, Richmond
144 on the Hill is an imposing Georgian Hotel just a stone’s throw from Richmond Park. While the interiors are opulent, the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. An outdoor terrace has been transformed with thick blankets, fairly lights and outdoor heaters to make for a cosy, alpine-like experience.
The fondue menu is £80 for two people and includes a warming glass of mulled wine to get you started. The artisan cheese fondue is incredibly generous and almost impossible to stop eating. It comes served with Parisian potato salad, steamed broccoli, a charcuterie board and bread. It’s easy to while away a few hours as the menu is so plentiful and the setting so comfortable. If you’re feeling up to it, you can finish with a rich Belgian chocolate fondue served with strawberries and marshmallows. Imagine the snow and you can pretend you’re just back from a day on the slopes. 144onthehill.co.uk/winter-wonderlounge
Chefs Chris Leach and David Carter opened Manteca’s first permanent home on Curtain Road, Shoreditch, in November last year to rave reviews. Inspired by Chris’s travels through Italy, the focus is on nose-to-tail Italian cooking, with hand-rolled pasta, house-made sal
ami, seasonal vegetables and wood-fired breads at the forefront. Expect hearty, knockout dishes including puffy clam flatbreads, a rich pig skin ragu, and rigatoni with a silky kale sauce served in a light, airy setting. There’s a carefully honed wine menu with classic bottles and bolder ‘down the rabbit hole’ wines, and an amari-focussed cocktail list making the most of the Italian herbal liqueur, featuring not-to-be-missed house-made amaro. mantecarestaurant.co.uk
Ekstedt, Great Scotland Yard
Tables are like gold dust at the leading Swedish chef’s new London outpost. Niklas Ekstedt’s tasting menus (three or seven courses) team British produce such as hay-smoked mallard, Cornish oysters and Sussex truffle with traditional Nordic ingredients including pine, venison and lingonberries. A wood-fired oven and open flame give dishes a delicious smokiness and create both warmth and theatre. ekstedtattheyard.com
Carmel, Queen’s Park
Josh Katz brings his sophisticated eastern Mediterranean cooking West
Josh Katz’s second London restaurant is nestled beside other neighbourhood joints in a converted stable on cobbled Lonsdale Road. Low lighting and mismatched candlesticks cast a glow across the eclectic, cosy dining space; a brushed coral banquette clutches a corner, stools line a white tiled counter bar, and a large wooden table glides down the centre. There are plants aplenty; suspended from the ceiling, in pots behind the bar and hanging over the pass of the open kitchen where Josh and his team work the tabun oven and grills to create sophisticated eastern Mediterranean dishes.
Scoop up thick, tahini-rich hummus alongside pillowy, chewy sourdough flatbreads topped with the likes of spiced lamb with Aleppo chilli and sumac yogurt, and wild mushroom with crème fraîche, s’chug and manouri cheese. Grilled harissa prawns are slathered in garlic and ‘nduja with a cooling courgette tzatziki, melting turmeric-roasted cauliflower is jewelled with pomegranate and walnuts, and charred, slow-grilled Urfa chilli chicken sits on a wedge of sourdough soaked in molasses-rich juices and caramelised onions. A statement wine rack showcases low-intervention bottles from Jerez, Sicily and beyond. Or the negroni bianchi has a luminous hue from the zesty gentian liqueur, while the sazaraki is spiked with arak for an eastern twist. carmelrestaurant.co.uk
Quality Indian street food in a romantic setting
With a pedigree like chef Rohit Ghai’s, expectations of the food at his new Mayfair restaurant are high – and it doesn’t disappoint. Rohit led the kitchens at Gymkhana and Trishna before opening his first venue, Kutir, in Chelsea. At Manthan – the Hindi word meaning to churn and reflect – Rohit takes inspiration from his mother’s cooking and the street food of India. The Maddox Street dining room is long and wood-panelled, adorned with beautiful paintings of exotic flowers. Even at lunchtime it feels romantic, and the sharing dishes reflect that vibe. If you’re here for the first time, have an overview experience and choose two dishes from the Gali ka khana (street food) section, one from Rassedar (curries), one from Chapata Chops & Tikka, plus a couple of sides. To start, ghati masala prawns are plump and tender, coated with sesame, peanut and coconut for a satisfying crispy crunch. Jackfruit tacos are a revelation – almost meaty in texture, stuffed into fluffy rice lentil pancakes with southern spice and chutney. Fall-off-the-bone lamb ossobuco sits in a silky, satirsfying sauce flavoured with jaffa spices and curry leaf, while sarson chicken, tangy and hot with mustard and chilli, is as soft as butter. If you have room for dessert, opt for the Classic Trip of sweet laddoo, sticky gulab jamun and creamy srikhand. manthanmayfair.co.uk
Bar Flounder, Hackney
Juicy prawn burgers, turbot tenders and Basque wine at a modern seafood shack in Hackney
Broadway Market fishmonger Fin and Flounder – supplier to top London restaurants such as Bright, Brat and Rochelle Canteen – has opened a seafood stall in Netil Market.
Bar Flounder uses the shop’s stellar British sustainable fish and seafood to create a moreish street-food menu, from scallop and bacon butties to lobster rolls, all expertly cooked by Ruby, daughter of Fin and Flounder owner Brendan O’Sullivan.
Sit at the counter and start with fritto misto – generous chunks of prawn and fish in a crisp, light, herb-flecked batter – and turbot tenders with a zingy buffalo hot sauce. Both impress, but the must-order is the moreish prawn burger, a chunky, juicy, bouncy patty served with melty cheese, chipotle mayo and pickles in a squishy brioche bun. Ordering another to eat straight after finishing the first would be entirely understandable.
Sides of chips and deep-fried pickles complete the line-up (there’s also a brunch menu featuring the likes of crab hash browns and lobster muffins), as well as a fun drinks offering of spritzy txakoli wine, pale ale and vermouth slushies with agave, Cointreau and soda. instagram.com/barflounder
Kudu Grill, Nunhead
Open-fire South African cooking and smoky cocktails
The latest in the mini London family-run south African empire, in a converted Truman’s boozer in Nunhead, focuses on braai-style open-fire cooking over South African coals. Elegant dark green velvet booths hug exposed brick walls adorned with vintage mirrors, and four burnt orange stools at the counter bar provide opportunity to watch chefs caress meat and veg with flames and shake up smoky cocktails. Try the smoky strawberry-infused bourbon negroni and a zippy, chilli-infused tequila margarita in a chilli salt-rimmed coupe. Share pillowy potato flatbreads with slivers of lardo, zingy chimichurri and fermented garlic. Nibble knobbly pork tails coated in sweet honey mustard. Plump, in-shell prawns are slathered in creamy peri peri and harissa beef tartare is topped with crispy onion rings and zhoug. For main, perfectly pink slices of pork chop are accompanied with south Africa’s iconic sweet and tangy BBQ monkey gland sauce. Both potato dishes are must-orders: a small cast iron pot keeps the creamy chicken-skin-topped smoked potato warm, while crunchy beef fat fingerlings encase piping hot fluffy centres. For pudding, the mint chocolate crémeux with whipped dulce de leche cream and a delicate sable biscuit is a perfect after-dinner tart. kuducollective.com
A Florentine trattoria with classic dishes for sharing
Refreshingly, this new Tuscan-Florentine restaurant isn’t one that values style over substance. Recently opened by Polpo’s Russell Norman, the relaxed, no-frills interior is reminiscent of more old-school Italian establishments, with red gingham tablecloths, walls lined with framed pictures and a wine menu that’s modestly stapled together, emphasising good Tuscan bottles. The menu is particularly good for sharing, with four small pasta plates that include a delicate rabbit pappardelle, and tagliatelle with a nostalgically rich, meaty ragu-style sauce. Start with the deep-fried dough ball ‘cuddles’ antipasti, paired well with thin slices of salty prosciutto and creamy stracchino. The mains, or secondi, are quite beef-focused, with a blackboard of perfectly cooked T-bone steaks to be ordered per 100g, and a hearty Tuscan beef shin stew. Alternatively, you can try the juicy pork and fennel sausages with lentils and a big dollop of dijon mustard. Leave room for a slice of the light, layered apple tart, or the ‘ugly but good’ cookies – these crisp hazelnut meringues originate from Tuscany, served here with smooth vanilla ice cream. Despite ‘brutto’ translating to ‘ugly’ in Italian, the food here is far from it. It’s simple, but it proves that good food doesn’t have to be stylish. msha.ke/brutto
Taqueria, Exmouth Market
Westbourne Grove’s taco specialist takes its Mexican snacks and cocktails east
Notting Hill’s popular taco specialist – originally a stall on Portobello Road – has branched out to a bright corner spot on Exmouth Market, strung with exposed bulb-wire chandeliers and filled with tables that spill out onto the bustling pedestrianised street. An elegant marble bar takes centre stage, lined with bottles of mezcal and tequila for cocktails (including a six-strong margarita list). Try the zippy classic cocktail served on the rocks in a salt-rimmed tumbler, a delicately floral hibiscus-laced twist, or the on-trend smoky mezcal margarita finished with a smoked chilli salt rim. The Mexican menu includes snacks such as frilly calamari with roast scotch bonnet mayo, lively salsas and vibrant, creamy guacamole with homemade tortilla chips. Tacos are a must – tempura cod is livened up with chipotle mayo, avocado crema and pico de gallo, while the popular al pastor tacos are filled with grilled pork and pineapple. Tostadas are beautifully presented with crunchy iceberg and toasted tortilla shards propped up in a plate of silky salmon, avocado, black sesame and burnt lemon. Save room for warm, crisp churros for pudding, with another margarita, perhaps. taqueria.co.uk
The London-born burger brand goes big on its latest opening
November marks 10 years since the first MEATliquor restaurant launched. Their origins from a burger van in Peckham, to a pop-up above an abandoned pub in New Cross, couldn’t be further from the latest venture – and biggest yet – in Clapham’s Old Town. The huge space has two bars, a heated outdoor dining area with TVs and a large projector and photo booth inside. Everything about MEATliquor is full-on – from the graffiti-led design and the music played, to the flavours on the menu, a mix of American diner specials, all with a MEATliquor twist. Burger aficionados will point to the Dead Hippie: a French’s-mustard-fried double patty with onions, cheese, lettuce and pickles all within a soft bun that soaks up the good stuff. Buffalo chicken wings are a match for any of those found in the US and the loaded fries on offer are a meal within themselves. There are a range of vegetarian and vegan options – from the Tempeh Tantrum patty to the Black Bean Chilli Dog. The drinks list is a mix of craft beers and cocktails, and that’s before you hit the ‘Poke For Jäger’ button on your table. meatliquor.com
Bisushima, Trafalgar Square
Lively and luxe Japanese in the centre of town
Find this slick Japanese restaurant on the top floor of the Page8 hotel, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, and see the full menu being prepared at the counter or ring-side booth. Its scale, DJ action, and imaginative cocktail list makes for a buzzing night out, but never detracting from top-class cooking from a large open kitchen. Along with classic sashimi and sushi, black cod, tempura shrimp and chicken kara-age there are more unusual, seasonal and signature dishes with luxe touches such as tuna sashimi with burrata and truffles, a lobster and cauliflower purée starter with tosaku jelly and grilled dry-aged eel and egg truffle risotto. The huge terrace make it a popular summer spot, too. bisushima.com
The Fuji Grill at Beaverbrook Town House, Chelsea
Counter dining omakase sushi menu
Take a counter seat to see sushi master Goemon Ishikawa at work as he prepares an exquisite omakase (chef’s choice) menu at this plush new Chelsea hotel. Around 20 bite-sized dishes are prepared with skill, precision and imagination and offered with short introductions and suggested wine pairings. From the first dish of red bream with pickled kohlrabi through to a dinky dessert of matcha cake with poached pear, there are intriguing combinations of Japanese and British ingredients. Highlights are hamachi with smoked aubergine purée and caviar; texturally interesting squid and cauliflower; home-smoked salmon and British finger lime; and six-day dry-aged akami zuke, chu toro and o toro (tuna). The meal closes with a ‘cheese’ course of ankimo (monkish liver) with chutney and fennel cracker and a bowl of delicate clear broth. While the entrance to the restaurant is through the lively hotel bar, the restaurant itself is quieter and soothingly art deco in style with walls featuring pictures of Mount Fuji. There are two sittings, 6pm and 8.30pm, with counter space for just six guests. beaverbrooktownhouse.co.uk
Joe Allen, Covent Garden
American classics with a British accent in Theatreland
Beloved by the theatre crowd – that’s those on stage, behind the scenes and in the audience – the USA-inspired all-day restaurant has moved into new premises off The Strand, with new (ex-The Ivy) chef Gary Lee on board. Playful touches kick off the menu; mini shepherd’s ‘tarts’, a truffled cheese toastie and ‘love it or hate it’ – a riff on Marmite. Classic dishes include slow-baked smoked ribs, strip steak with fat chips, hotdogs with or without chilli and a decent caesar along with seasonal mains such as hearty braised beef in barolo and roasted squash risotto. Dessert features the very American peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich and the very British eccles cake with cheese. What make Joe’s so special, along with live piano and great cocktails (try a New York Wasp with salt and paprika rim) is its brilliantly laidback but ever-efficient staff who make it seem as fun to work as it is to eat there. The set menu available until 7pm offers great value at three courses for £27.50. joeallen.co.uk
The Seafood Bar, Soho
Celebrated Amsterdam seafood restaurant arrives in London
Already a raging success in the Netherlands because of its commitment to serving quality, sustainably sourced seafood at a reasonable price, this is the first international branch to open in London on Dean Street, Soho. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of a Georgian townhouse and the grand dimensions, pale wood and white interior and high ceilings give the space a luxurious but airy feel. The menu is comprehensive with several different sections covering hot and cold starters, crustaceans, oysters, fruit de mer platters, mussels, mixed seafood grills, caviar and even fish and chips. We almost go for the full bells-and-whistles giant double-decker fruit de mer platter that every table seems to be ordering, but our waiter after a hunger check-in advises a smaller platter, plus a couple of hot starters, which are both winners; sweet, juicy clams in a delicate wine and garlic sauce, and plump creamy, gratinated scallops in the shell. Our fruit de mer platter is a shellfish-lover’s dream with some more unusual offerings such as razor clams, periwinkles and whole brown shrimp alongside mussels, cockles, clams, prawns, crab, seaweed salad and oysters. Everything is served simply on ice with lemon and mayo allowing the freshness and quality of the seafood to shine through – a perfect pairing with a crisp glass of Grüner Veltliner. theseafoodbar.com
Chourangi, Marble Arch
Buzzy Calcutta-inspired restaurant next to Marble Arch
Named after the district of Calcutta (as the owners refer to the city we now call Kolkata) and translating as ‘crossroads’, the food at Chouranghi is a curation of ‘unexplored’ surprises from the British, Dutch, Armenian, French, Portuguese and Chinese who have influenced its cuisine. There are a lot of high-end Indian restaurants in London, each with its own ‘well, that was worth the money/must go back again’ dish. At this bright and vibrant open-plan venue, where you can watch the theatre of the chefs at work from the street, it’s the black dal. Simmered overnight until the urad lentils break down, then finished with spices and butter, it’s an unctuous, creamy, perfectly spiced bowl of deliciousness. In the hands of Indian restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee and Aditya Ghosh, the dishes are simple yet intricately flavoured. Kamal Kakdi Chaat is a creamy, crunchy concoction with a fiery hit of sweet chilli-soy-jaggery. Nizami Makai Tikka, cooked with soft cheese, has an aromatic finish from aamada (mango ginger). Chingri Cutlets (beaten-out breaded prawns) are dense and ‘meaty’ while another star is blistering Paanch Phoran, Welsh rack of lamb seasoned with ‘Calcutta five-spice’. And have you heard of Bhapa Hilsa – Calcutta’s queen of fish? Think white salmon – soft, oily and flake-apart. chourangi.co.uk
Hackney Coterie, Hackney
Anthony Lyon, owner of Crouch End’s nose-to-fin restaurant, Lyon’s, has teamed up with sommelier Kelvin McCabe to open this minimal-waste brasserie in Hackney. Orange banquettes glide beneath vibrant artwork from street-artist friends, Panic and Wafa. Exposed brick provides a backdrop to the contemporary bar lined low-intervention wines (try the unique skin-contact Zibibbo for a citrusy, aromatic pairing). The white negroni is fragrant and bitter, while the Hackney spritz is a complex and refreshing take on the classic, infusing chamomile tea, clarified apple cordial and wasabi and apple sparkling wine. Highlights of the sharing plates include a mackerel fillet in an umami-rich mirin-Marmite glaze with pickled cucumbers, and a trio of crisp-layered confit potato stacks coated in Szechuan seasoning with black tea mayo. Our pick of the generous sharing mains is a dry-aged soy salmon steak, formed of two fillets of perfectly pink salmon with a lively sambal salad to boot. To finish, hot filo apple tart encases chunks of Bramley apple in a beurre noisette caramel sauce, topped with honeycomb-like pieces of hazelnut and koji butter. hackneycoterie.net
Royale, Bethnal Green
East London’s own Provençal rotisserie joint
Whatever the London weather, this Provençal-inspired restaurant from the team at Leroy under head chef Lucy Timm offers ‘cosy’ inside (bookable) or ‘sunny’ outside (take your chances) equally well. Set within the East London Liquor Company, cocktails come from its bar, while the wine list is of course French. Starters cycle through familiar and less so dishes including panisses (chickpea fries) served with aïoli, anchovies with Piquillo pepper and pecorino, and a memorable white bean dip complete with a pack of Bonilla crisps. You could easily make a meal of these small plates and return another day for the crisp skinned rotisserie Anjou chicken flavoured with herbes de Provence served with the dripping potatoes cooked below it. There was also a roasted lemon sole with brown butter and capers main course on the board the day we visited. Desserts include blackberry and almond tart or chocolate ganache with crème anglaise – a fitting end. royalelondon.com
The Engine Rooms, East Finchley
A hidden gem combining classic cars with revved-up all-day dining
There’s a hidden gem on the Great North Road and it’s called The Engine Rooms – a dining experience that combines classic cars with contemporary cooking. The entrance takes you into a showroom of vehicles of desire that would have any petrolhead drooling but it’s the food that takes the chequered flag: it is a revelation. The concept is the brainchild of Paul Michaels, owner of Hexagon, one of the best known classic car dealers in Europe. It marries marvellous motors with modern art and Med-inspired all-day dining overseen by head chef James Harrison, using seasonal, mostly British ingredients. Start with burrata – a creamy globe of unctuous cheese, with grilled plums, chicory, dukkha spice, plum and mint; or grey mullet ceviche with confit tomato dressing and cured egg yolk. Mains are so beautifully plated they could be sit alongside the art on the walls: robata grilled monkfish tail, meaty and magnificent (and nigh on impossible to cook at home) is glazed in miso and soy with samphire; giant king prawns are perfectly pink, charcoal smoky with roasted nori and yuzu cultured butter. Most dazzling of the desserts is the gin & tonic cheesecake: special enough, but made spectacular by minted Makrut lime sorbet. Delightful. theenginerooms.co.uk
Korean Dinner Party, Soho
Moreish snacks and creative cocktails are the highlight of this Korean-inspired Soho restaurant
Head to the top of Kingly Court in Soho to discover this this lively opening inspired by Korean flavours and LA’s Mexican food scene, with menus designed by prolific chef duo Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng of Tata Eatery, and craft sake from London’s only sake brewery, Peckham’s Kanpai. Inside, expect stripped-back interiors with concrete walls, neon lighting and Korean wall art. An eclectic menu covers everything from Korean corn dogs to tacos and kimchi pancakes. There are larger dishes on offer – go for the Korean tacos with 48-hour slow-cooked beef short rib, ssamjang, slae and homemade wrappers – but it’s the sharing snacks and cocktails that especially impress. Bacon mochi, fudgy chewy rice cakes wrapped in caramelised bacon with gochujang caramel are succulently umami, while ‘chikin’ turns out to be a mound of tender nuggets and rice sticks decadently blanketed in garlic cream and parmesan. The drinks list features fresh twists on classic drinks, such as a plum Americano made with Korean plum wine and Kanpai umeshu. We tried the pleasingly fiery Michelada Boilermaker – spiced Korean beer served with a shot of sake alongside – and the sultry and silky burnt rice old fashioned to finish. koreandinnerparty.com
Sessions Arts Club, Farringdon
Italian inspired small plates in arty surroundings
If you like to experiment, share and discover new ingredients and flavours, this is your dream menu. Chef Florence knight (formerly of Polpo) has created something very unique, with Italian-inspired small plates and mains that read very simply but are put together in such a way as to surprise and delight. Friggitelli (charred green peppers served with puréed cannellini beans lightened with citrus) and hearty pork belly, fennel and orange packs a punch. Our stand-out dishes were a fragrant, rich saffron and tomato tart, and eel, potato, crème fraîche and roe – a slab of thinly layered potato that’s both soft and crunchy, with the fish adding a subtle saltiness. The room is an easy place to lose an afternoon or evening with a high ceiling, distressed walls, comfortable booths and a mezzanine floor with outdoor bar. sessionsartsclub.com
Kalimera, Crouch End
Street-food favourite gets a permanent home in North London
Télémaque Argyriou has been sharing his modern Greek cooking from a food truck since 2015, but this year sees the first permanent site in Crouch End. The space is cosy, but fresh white tiles with accents of sunshine yellow give a breezy atmosphere. The menu is concise, divided into small and large plates. Feta comes in a filo pastry shell, fried until crisp then finished with honey and pistachios with creamy, crunchy, sweet and salty contrasts and a punchy baba ganoush on the side. Prawn saganaki – fat prawns cooked in a fennel and tomato sauce – has a metsovone cheese and spicy zhoug topping. Large plates are generous – the house moussaka is classically made with rich lamb and beef ragu layered with potatoes and aubergine, then topped with béchamel and given a little extra kick from harissa. Lamb kleftiko is a slow-cooked whole shank that falls apart onto a bed of crisp potatoes and peppers. For dessert, the mastic ice cream is dense, creamy and sticky, topped with crunchy kataifi pastry and sour cherry sauce to offset the sweetness. To drink, try the “very dirty” martini, infused with thyme and served with kalamata olives. The wine list is Greek-focussed with some great bottles, such as Dafnios Vidiano, a crisp white with peach and pear accents. kalimera.london
Sachi at The Pantechnicon, Knightsbridge
Intriguing events space with imaginative sharing plates
Top and tailing this destination design, shopping and eating complex is Elder, a Nordic-inspired rooftop space, and now Sachi, the atmospheric Japanese restaurant on the lower ground floor. While just a few moments from busy Knightsbridge, its dim lighting, Japanese garden decor and hidden booths make it feel like another world. Overseen by executive chef Chris Golding (whose experience includes Zuma and Nahm), the menu features regional Japanese dishes using the best British ingredients, such as Scottish scallops and lobster and Cornish monkfish, many cooked over fire on the robata grill. Among favourites such as sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls, agedashi tofu, tempura and a magnificent nasu (miso aubergine), discover some unique dishes such as seabass with lava salt and seabuckthorn, butinako – a rich pork belly braised in barley miso – shortrib with fermented mushroom and black garlic, and luxurious wagyu with beetroot and miso. The sommelier will guide you through each course, explaining the source and complexities of each saki as you go. Finish your meal with a sakura cocktail (gin, vermouth and peach) in Sakaya, the tiny whisky bar. pantechnicon.com/sachi
Koya Ko, Hackney
Superbly springy Japanese udon noodle specialist heads east
Tucked away off buzzing Broadway Market, Koya’s casual, friendly little sister follows suit from noodle bars found in Japan’s train stations, with a tachi-gui (standing-while-dining) element alongside seats for customers to slurp bowls of springy udon and tuck into donburi rice bowls. Pop in for the famous English/Japanese breakfast of hot udon topped with egg, bacon and butter soy mushrooms, or traditional neba-neba breakfast rice bowl with fermented soy beans, pickled seaweed and okra and onsen tamago egg. After midday, there’s crunchy chicken kara-age with spring onion sauce and steaming bowls of udon in dashi broth. Try new menu additions, such as slow-braised beef shin on hot noodles slathered in chilli oil, the KO salad of cold udon with pickled aubergine, and plenty of mini-don rice bowls to enjoy on the go. koya.co.uk
José Pizarro at Royal Academy of Arts
Daytime tapas in central London gallery
Chef José Pizarro’s beautiful new Mayfair outpost is a reflection of the chef’s lifelong love of art. With high ceilings and wood-panelling this light-filled room at Royal Academy of Arts is the ideal daytime spot to enjoy a quick glass of manzanilla and some acorn-fed cinco jotas jamón or a long, lazy lunch. Among José classics such as croquetas, pan con tomate, chorizo al vino and prawns with garlic and chilli are some new additions, including the must-order truffle and Ermenesada cheese toasted sandwich. On the ground floor he has also opened the walk-in Poster Bar, selling delicious bocadillos (sandwiches) and snacks. Both are open during the daytime only, closed on Monday. josepizarro.com
Madhu’s of Mayfair, Piccadilly
Indian dishes with a Kenyan twist in a sumptuous setting
‘Special occasion’ are the first words that spring to mind when you walk into the ornate dining room of Madhu’s of Mayfair, complete with enormous chandeliers, rococo-style architecture and marble tables. But far from feeling formal, the vibe is fun and friendly, bustling with birthday parties, tourists and after-work businessfolk. The design is the vision of Madhu’s founder Sanjay Anand, who wanted to “create an experience which engages each of the senses – not just taste”.
The food comes from creative chef Poonam Ball – Sanjay’s sister. She oversees the menus of the Madhu group’s four restaurants. It’s Indian, but with a Kenyan twist, including recipes handed down through four generations from her Nairobi-born mother Krishna and her father Jagdish Kumar Anand (nicknamed Madhu). Choose the signature dishes: palak patta chaat, a pile of crunchy marsh samphire and crispy spinach with warming spices and tangy chutneys; nyamah choma, succulent prime cut lamb ribs marinated in chilli and lemon; and Madhu’s machi’s – whole seabass in an onion and carom seed marinade – which is ‘special occasion’ luxurious. madhus.co.uk
BAO Noodle Shop, Shoreditch
Silky noodle bowls join the steamed bun line-up in this Taiwanese mini empire
The Taiwanese trio behind this mini pillowy bun empire have applied their signature style to this Shoreditch outpost – ruby red leather stools around blonde wood tables, soft globe wall lights and a white tiled bar, where staff in bespoke lab coats mix clever cocktails. An unusual sweet potato sour is creamy and silky with a sweet, earthy depth, and the old fashioned is given extra body from milk-washed whisky and Taiwanese tea.
Small plates include crunchy Taiwanese fried chicken pieces, boiled cull yaw dumplings and crispy spring rolls filled with stretchy cheese and soy-cured jalapeños. Pillowy steamed buns are filled with the likes of prawn croquette with black garlic glaze and slow-cooked pork with a peanut crumb. Three noodle dishes join the regulars – the richer Taipei-style broth is topped with slow-cooked beef cheek and short rib, plus a dollop of spiced beef butter to melt through the silky homemade noodles. A lighter Tainan broth features rare sliced beef with melting edges of frilly fat, while sesame fried aubergine sits atop an umami-rich vegan kelp soup. Downstairs, there’s a karaoke den adorned with bespoke wallpaper for those who want to book for a bao-fuelled sing-along. baolondon.com
Bar La Rampa, Oxford Circus
A taste of Cuba in central London
Exuberant interiors, live music and a crowd-pleasing menu define this vibrant celebration of 1950s Havana. The expansive site – minutes from Oxford Circus – marries a rich palette of warm neutrals and earthy hues with masses of tumbling, tropical greenery. There’s also an outdoor terrace, a wood and rattan bar, sleek mid-century furniture and velvet banquettes.
The food menu comes courtesy of Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng of TĀTĀ Eatery – expect modern spins on traditional Cuban and Central American dishes. Particular highlights include the juicy, succulent elote corn ‘ribs’ with a spicy vegan chipotle mayo, and a decadent Cuban sandwich with crispy pork belly, ham, raclette cheese and gherkins – it’s a must-order.
Designed by Sager + Wilde’s Marcis Dzelzainis, the drinks list is focused on classic rum cocktails, including plenty of mojitos and (pleasingly large) daiquiris. Alongside all of this is a live music programme that includes a house band and Cuban-themed nights during the week. barlarampa.com
Mr Ji, Soho
Taiwanese chicken, small plates and cocktail twists in a buzzy bar environment
This small Soho joint is, as it states on the brushed concrete walls, “a modern Asian eatery, all about chicken, small eats and cocktails”. Bottles of Taiwanese whisky sit on the minimalist shelves above the counter bar, while hanging plants juxtapose industrial piping at the back. Share a few small plates to start – unusual daikon cake drizzled with confit garlic soy paste, panko-crusted chicken hearts with a mild katsu curry sauce, and a deep-fried prawn toast brick topped with parmesan fluff that melts into a creamy sweetcorn, prawn and bechamel filling. There are four main chicken dishes to choose from, accompanied by fresh and zingy 24-hour fermented golden kimchi. Traditional Taiwanese tapioca-fried chicken breast is served with scissors to cut into manageable pieces as well as piccalilli mayo to offset the chilli heat. Tender chicken nuggets are slathered in a crispy chilli sauce, and silky poached soy chicken is livened up with a ginger and spring onion dip.
Cocktails provide Taiwanese spins on the classics; the refreshing spritz uses homemade grapefruit and hawthorn cordial to add an Aperol-orange hue, mezcal gives the salted plum negroni a smoky edge, and an umami-packed rum, sherry and fermented rice martini is served pre-bottled direct from the freezer. mrji.co.uk
Argentinian chef Fernando Trocca’s glamorous London outpost
There’s a lot to take in at Sucre: huge chandeliers made from glass decanters, a vast open kitchen with chefs cooking over charcoal, a very lively soundtrack and excellent cocktail lounge. But, nothing detracts from the food, centred around ‘fire cooking’. On the snacks and small plates menu, South American classics like empanada (cheesy pasty-shaped pastries) and scallop tiradito (raw) with jalapeño rub along with white beans with morcilla and romesco, and burnt aubergine with lemon and herbs. Monkfish tail cooked on charcoal with a punchy XO sauce and black beans, and veal ossobuco with saffron risotto are the main course highlights, along with black squid fideu (a kind of paella made with skinny pasta instead of rice). The peach and melon pudding sounds simple, but looks spectacular, and the must-try cocktail is the Campari di Spuma, made with Campari, egg white and gin. sucrerestaurant.com
Bustling Spanish tapas restaurant with a new home in scenic Richmond
Brindisa has made its first foray into the London suburbs, opening an expansive restaurant overlooking the River Thames in one of the prettiest spots in Richmond. The vibrant tapas bar has been refurbished with bright Spanish tiles, cosy booths, an impressive bar and an open kitchen. Despite its popularity, the staff are warm and generous with their time and knowledge, talking you through their recommendations and helping you order just the right amount. The menu is meant for sharing tapas-style and has all of the Spanish classics, such as crisp ham croquettes, patatas bravas and delicately sliced octopus served with capers, smoked paprika and olive oil. If you’d like to try something slightly more unusual, the creamy rice cooked with foraged wild mushrooms & truffle is incredibly moreish with a beautiful, earthy taste. Brindisa also serves Sunday roasts with a Spanish twist – think anchovy butter greens and jamon ibérico fat roast potatoes, perfect for a relaxed lunch with friends or family, they serve child-size portions for £8 too. brindisakitchens.com
Japanese yakitori and unique cocktails in a new omakase experience
Aman Lakhiani trained in the finest Japanese restaurants in Tokyo and Barcelona before opening his own yakitori venture in London. Junsei means ‘pure’ in Japanese, reflected in the restaurant’s cooking techniques – delicate chicken skewers are grilled over binchōtan oak white coal, coated simply in salt or the house-aged tare sauce. Choose the omakase chef’s table experience to watch the chefs spoon house tare sauce from the pot and hammer charcoal to create sparks. Start with a spoon of barley miso-topped cherry tomato, followed by the chef’s selection of delicate yakitori – chicken breast wrapped in a shiso leaf with fermented plum paste, yuzu-laced tempura mushrooms stuffed with chicken, and umami-rich tsukune meatball skewers served with an egg yolk and soy dipping sauce. Donabe ginger rice bowls take 45 minutes to prepare, being cooked from scratch on the stove in Japanese ceramic pots, then topped with the likes of sea bream, burnt orange and sesame seeds.
The Gin2 cocktail is a must-try for its unique combination of refreshing gin granita capped with a warm gin and ginger-infused meringue-like foam. Or the Bincho Sour is a twist on the classic with Akashi whisky and plum syrup. junsei.co.uk
JOO X Bunhouse pop-up, Soho
Korean cooking with an edge of modern European from Joo Won
There’s Korean fried chicken and then there’s JFC. Joo Won’s fried chicken is tender inside with a perfectly crunchy exterior sitting on a bed of savoury-sweet chilli sauce – the kind of dish you order again for dessert. Step past the ground-floor bun steamers and go upstairs to the pared back dining room to find this pop-up collaboration and order to share. Delicate slices of lightly cured grey mullet are dressed with sesame, chilli and plum soy, crisp battered hake is offset with beef heart tomato and a sweet-sour soy gastric, and a rich kimchi risotto with cheddar is topped with a poached organic egg to break and stir through. Desserts are by Joo’s wife Sujin and include a chocolate cremeux with yuzu compote and cream infused with hojicha (green tea) and toasted grains. Among the drinks selection, there’s a long green plum gin and tonic, and a lime and cherry Shaoxing soda, plus a natural wine list. From 5 August for two months, open Tuesday-Saturday 5-10, Sunday 12-4. bun.house
Al Mare, Knightsbridge
Sleek new Knightsbridge Italian
The revamped The Carlton Tower Jumeirah is home to a bright and buzzing Italian, focussed around a partially open kitchen that adds a sense of theatre. Butter-soft leather banquettes and crisp blue-and-white linens reflect the restaurant’s coastal theme. Start with snacks such as battuta di tonno – a spicy bite of tuna tartare on saffron arancini – over a glass of Franciacorta, the sparkling wine from Lombardy. There’s a selection of crudo, including white fish ricciolo (yellowtail) with lemon gel dressing for makes a light starter – a good idea if you’re up for a mid-course of pasta. Try agnoletti del plin – guinea fowl stuffed parcels – or the simpler cheese and pepper combo, fusilli cacio e pepe. Two further highlights are the saffron risotto, a classic recipe with the addition of a little liquorice, and the signature cacciuccio, a rich seafood dish with orecchiette. Desserts range from classic tiramisu to a glossy Peruvian chocolate tart and tonka bean and hazelnut affogato. Service is impeccable in this very slick new dining room. jumeirah.com/en/dine/london/carlton-tower-al-mare
An Italian institution opens a new ode to Emilia Romana in Kensington
Kensington High Street’s Italian family-run institution, Il Portico, has opened a new sister restaurant a few doors down. Fairy lights twinkle from an olive tree in the corner and balsamic vinegar ages in barrels at the restaurant’s centre. There’s an open kitchen at the back with a turquoise mosaic-adorned pizza oven, from which chefs pull wood-fired focaccia slices and crisp pizzas. Owner James Chiavarini and his staff couldn’t be more accommodating, telling stories of Emilia Romana while recommending wines and dishes. Pick a selection of tapas to share – fritto misto is a tangle of courgette discs, plump prawns and squid pieces all coated in a light batter, with a lime mayo for dunking. Burrata sits on a bed of chargrilled veg and bitter friarelli broccoli leaves, while soft salmon is cured with Campari and beetroot. Pasta is equally as impressive – frilly ribbons of homemade pappardelle soak up Forest of Dean wild boar ragù, and squid ink parcels are filled with monkfish and aubergine. British-Italian cocktails include the Cornwall negroni and a Modenese take on a Manhattan, incorporating Pino’s 25 year-aged balsamic bitters. Finish with a refreshing carpaccio of pineapple laced with refreshing yogurt sorbet, mint and fresh chillis. famigliaportico.co.uk
Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, Soho
Impeccable pizzas in laidback surroundings
London is no stranger to a good pizza – from Yard Sale to Homeslice, Theo’s, Vicoli dio Napoli and Voodoo Ray’s (and many more), there’s stiff competition for who serves the best slice in town. Rudy’s latest outpost in Soho (they have pizzerias scattered across the north of England, including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds) makes a worthy addition to the scene.
Start with an aperitivo of Campari and soda, which arrives premixed in a dinky little bottle alongside a bowl of salted crisps for snacking, before moving onto generous sharing platters loaded with deli treats and house-baked bread.
Pizza toppings are crowd-pleasing, from parmigiana with roasted aubergine to spicy calabrese with ’nduja sausage and cinghiale with wild boar salami. Our lavishly topped capricciosa with creamy fior de latte, prosciutto, mushrooms, Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts ticked all the boxes, but it was the base that really impressed – well-flavoured and pillowy while still being satisfyingly chewy. All of Rudy’s pizzas – baked daily using 24-hour fermented dough – are made by trained and accredited pizzaiolos and it shows. rudyspizza.co.uk/soho/
Sophisticated Tokyo-inspired izakaya for light bites and cocktails
Though its concept is a bit different from the more traditional, informal izakaya you might find in Japan, Apothecary does bring the social aspect of these Tokyo bars with its two softly divided spaces – a sophisticated dining area serving ‘drinking food’, spilling into a smart bar with live DJ sessions over the weekend. The spacious restaurant is contemporary and bright, with Shoreditch-worthy exposed brick, sleek crescent-shaped booths and wooden partitions, and a clear view of the kitchen assembling its Japanese-inspired small plates: buns, sushi, tempura, yakitori-style skewers and sashimi arrive promptly at the table as they’re ready. Highlights on the menu are yellowtail tiradito, combining the fresh fish with zingy yuzu-soy and jalapeños; prawn dragon sushi rolls with crisp tempura in the centre; and the vegan grilled cauliflower with a perfectly paired black sesame sauce. It’s worth trying a side of furikake rice, too, with its umami depth from the nori. Pair these with one of the impressive drinks offerings: plum wine from Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture, or a punchy cocktail, like the sweet pea spritz (tequila shaken with sweet pea syrup and absinthe) or sesame old fashioned. apothecaryeast.co.uk
Heritage, West Dulwich
Smart, modern Indian cooking at new rising star Heritage
A new restaurant in leafy West Dulwich, Heritage is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood from Dayashankar Sharma, previously head chef at Michelin-starred Tamarind. Inside, the restaurant is spacious and elegant, with gold accents adding a modern feel, much like the menu, where you’ll find contemporary versions of dishes from all over India. From the small plates, start with the venison badal jaam (if you usually find game too strong, you’ll love this) – grilled aubergine topped with a fiery tomato sauce, cooling yogurt, and spiced venison. If you’ve got room, share the paneer and pineapple kebab – thick slices of paneer pair perfectly with sweet pineapple. Highlights from the mains include murgh makani, tender chicken in a tomato and fenugreek sauce; Kashmiri lamb spiced with saffron; and the most indulgent version of dahl mhakani we’ve tried – outrageously creamy, it’s not to be missed. The floral tones of the pulao rice steeped in rose water cut through the richness of the other dishes, and be sure to order a truffle naan. Subtly flavoured, it has just the right amount of umami, and is a great vehicle for mopping up all those delicious sauces. heritagedulwich.co.uk
Modern, playful riffs on classic Greek dishes
INO is the latest opening from the team behind London restaurants OPSO and PITTABUN. Billing itself as a gastrobar, this compact venue has two snug, buzzy counters upstairs and some (slightly) calmer seats below and outside. Take a place at the bar to watch the action at the grill and get instruction on how to swipe a finger of pitta bread through the taramas topped with a slow-cooked egg yolk and bottarga without mixing it first. Like the taramas, the rest of the dishes are modern, playful riffs on classics – ceviche is dressed with avgolemono, souvlaki made from Iberico presa and octopus makes its way into a taco.
Drinks include a mastiha (a mastic liqueur) G&T with a hint of resin, an excellent selection of Greek wines and a range of barrel-aged cocktails. Don’t leave without trying the Greek salad, a juicy mix of tomatoes, olives and capers topped with chunks of 12-month barrel-aged feta. inogastrobar.com
The Tapas Room, Peckham
Buzzy Spanish tapas spot in the heart of Peckham high street
Going to Tapas Rooms in Peckham is like being in a glass bubble of a restaurant, smack bang on the high street. Buses and cars hurl by outside while delightful plates of carefully crafted deliciousness glide to your table inside.
Effortless wine recommendations from a well-assembled list and a menu full of Spanish wines ordered geographically.
Don’t leave without trying the confit fennel where the fresh and subtle fennel is transformed by the confit process and balanced by the sweet/sharpness of the pickled fig and intensity of the creamy yet punchy Asturian blue cheese.
The mixed cured meat and cheese platter is perfect for two if you’re still hungry. Split six or so dishes between two if you’re after a main meal but simply stopping in for some salt cod croquettas and a glass of sherry is a superb way to start any evening out in south London. thetapasroom.co.uk
Kerridge’s Fish and Chips at Harrods, Knightsbridge
Seafood counter classics in Art-Deco surroundings
Pull up a stool and have a glass of wine and some snacks or book for a full three courses. Chef Tom Kerridge’s new restaurant in the lively, Art-Deco-inspired dining hall of the food-focussed Knightsbridge department store is high-end casual, with a menu centred on the best British seafood. Around the counter watch chefs prepare deep fried Cornish brill, line-caught squid and hand-dived scallops – all served on retro blue-and white china – with chips, tartare sauce and pease pudding. If you’re feeling flush choose native lobster or Dover sole, served whole, with herbed butter. There’s a cheeky nod to chip-shop classics in cockle popcorn and malted beer vinegar and pickled onions, eggs and dill pickles as well as triple cooked chips with toppings ranging from curry sauce to lobster thermidor. There are two desserts to choose from; flourless chocolate cake or a seasonal syllabub. Lush, as Tom would say. harrods.com/kerridges
Cinder, Belsize Village
Mediterranean-inspired sharing plates cooked over coals in a cosy neighbourhood setting
Chef Jake Finn’s passion is for cooking over fire, so when he converted a former takeaway in the heart of Belsize Village, the first piece of kitchen equipment he installed was a charcoal-fuelled Josper grill – the hottest indoor barbecue available. It gives his dishes a subtle smokiness, or as Ritz-trained Jake puts it, “kissed by flames”. The Josper and open kitchen are very much part of the theatre at Cinder, a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant that has a special occasion vibe. The room is intimate and dressed with tumbling foliage, and there’s a smart outside terrace, perfect for summer evenings. The menu of 18 dishes is divided into nibbles, veg patch, raw, fish, meat, sides and desserts, and suggests ordering two-three to share. Fluffy, smoky flatbreads with a creamy nutty garlicky tahini introduce the Mediterranean influence, followed by crisp shredded hispi cabbage, textured with pine nuts. Revelations are grilled mastelo cheese with a sweet kalamata olive glaze; and crunchy triple-cooked new potatoes, scattered with black lime salt. For us, highlights from the mains are flattened chicken thighs, sharpened with confit lemon, which go beautifully with a glass of muscadet; and grassy, darkly-crusted beef sirloin, sourced from Cotswolds’ Paddock Farm, heavenly with rioja from the largely European wine list. cinderrestaurant.co.uk
Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, Soho
Syrian sharing plates with heart in Soho
Imad Alarnab’s story is a remarkable one. After spending years as a successful restaurateur in Damascus, his businesses were destroyed by the war, and he was forced to flee the country for safety. Shortly after arriving in London in 2015, he began cooking Syrian food at supper clubs and pop-ups (at which he raised thousands of pounds for refugee charity, Choose Love), before crowdfunding for his own permanent restaurant. Located on the top floor of Soho’s Kingly Court, the restaurant has the feel of a family-run taverna, with white walls accented by bright blue windows and tiles, dotted with heart-warming photographs from Imad’s past. As for Imad’s food, its every bit as uplifting as his story. Every dish we tried from his sharing-style menu of Syrian dishes was a hit, from the super-crisp, perfectly seasoned falafel with lightly pickled, sumac-dusted red onions, to the pool of chickpea-topped hummus with hot, fluffy pittas for dunking. Other highlights include the fattet macdous – a dish of silky soft baby aubergines filled with cumin-spiced minced lamb, served with tahini, crispy pittas, pine nuts, herbs, and juicy pops of pomegranate – and the shish tawook, which combines beautifully tender, charred chicken with homemade paprika crisps, tomato mayo and pitta. imadssyriankitchen.co.uk
Rudy’s Diner, Islington
Islington-based Rudy’s is the home of London’s first all-vegan diner and butcher
Rudy’s is a sleek American-style restaurant serving vegan versions of classic diner food. Inside you’ll find glossy retro fittings, with black leather stools, plush yellow booths and chequered tile flooring filling the space, with the sounds of show tunes humming in the background. Out the back, Rudy’s boasts London’s first all-vegan butcher, offering seitan or soya-based cold meats for customers to purchase such as baycon, mince patties, honey mustard turkey slices and pastrami. The 100% vegan menu covers fast-food classics, from burgers and mac ‘n’ cheeze to popcorn chick’n and buffalo wingz. Rudy’s take on a Reuben sandwich comes loaded with layers of seitan pastrami, grilled onions, sauerkraut, cheeze, dill pickles and a secret sauce, with flavours and textures closely mimicking the meaty original. The ultimate dirty burger, a stacked-high combination of soya beef, baycon, cheeze, lettuce and pickles, was cartoon-like in appearance though satisfying to chomp down, however the Southern-fried buffalo wingz fell short on imitating chicken due to its thick seitan texture. We washed our meal down with a surprisingly thick and creamy vegan shake – the banana and Lotus Biscoff being an obvious choice – and finished with a warm chocolate brownie which you’d be hard pressed to believe is dairy-free. rudysvegan.com
The Italian Greyhound, Marylebone
British produce is the star served in a beautiful, relaxed setting
Sipping a negroni infused with oregano in the sunshine-flooded room of the Italian Greyhound, it’s hard to believe you’re a stone’s throw from the traffic-heavy Edgware Road. The ambience is calming: light wood, long walk-in bar, plants and patio windows that open onto the villagey vibe of Seymour Place. This new spot is an evolution of the previous Italian restaurant, Bernardi’s. The menu, created by head chef Yohei Furuhashi – previously of the River Café – uses British produce, simply executed, divided into five sections: small plates, all day pizzette (light and thin with toppings ranging from courgette to Calabrian sausage to white peach), pasta, larger plates (choices: sea bream, John Dory, dry-aged ribeye and Herdwick lamb) and dolci. From the small plates, octopus is as tender as marshmallow, with chickpeas, crisp piattoni beans and tiny acid-burst Datterini tomatoes. A glorious discovery is panelle – crunchy-yet-melt-in-the-mouth Sicilian chickpea chips, dressed with sage and lemon. Pasta comes as a starter or main portion – the latter for the healthiest of appetites. Spaghetti is silky, coated with shreds of Cornish crab, fennel seeds, chilli and lemon. Beautifully soft slow-cooked pork, flavoured with vermouth and parmesan, is an unctuous sauce for tagliatelle verde. If you have room left, ensure you try the pistachio tiramisu, as fluffy as a cloud with a creamy nuttiness. theitaliangreyhound.co.uk
Pali Hill, Oxford Circus
A vibrant culinary tour of India in the heart of central London
After several covid-related false starts in 2020, Pali Hill recently reopened permanently just off Oxford Street. Named after one of Mumbai’s oldest neighbourhoods, Pali Hill’s menu reflects the diverse culinary heritage found there, offering regional dishes from all over India. After kicking off with cocktails, try the papadi chat. It harmoniously marries a myriad of contrasting flavours and textures, including soft chunks of potato and tomato, creamy spiced yogurt, crunchy papadi (wheat crackers) and sev (crispy gram flour noodles), tamarind chutney and sweet pops of pomegranate. The Mangalore buns are another top pick from the small plates. Two hot, bready pockets are served with a generous mound of spiced crab for loading into the buns. You can’t go far wrong with any choice in the tandoor & grill section, but our highlights included tandoori monkfish with lemony braised peas; tender aged sirloin with a peppery curry sauce, and beautifully sweet-fleshed grilled Scottish langoustines, coated in a punchy green sauce. As for the larger plates, the homestyle fish curry is light and fragrant, while meat-eaters shouldn’t miss the Chettinad-style veal shin, so beautifully cooked that it falls off the bone at the merest touch. To finish, if you think you don’t have room for dessert, think again, because the passionfruit ‘gola’ is a must. The ultimate palate cleanser, this Indian shaved ice dessert full of zingy passionfruit is so refreshing, it’ll stop any post-dinner slumps in their tracks. palihill.co.uk
Ave Mario, Covent Garden
Head to this buzzy, super-sized Covent Garden restaurant for lavish, camp interiors and superior Italian ingredients
Anyone who loved the OTT charms of Gloria and Circo Populare will find much to enjoy in Big Mamma’s latest opening. Loosely inspired by Florence, it’s a sprawling affair with almost 300 seats spread over three floors of kitschy, Instagrammable interiors, from the ground-floor dining room complete with soaring ceilings, green-and-white striped walls and a towering bar stocked with 3,500 bottles, to a louche, mirrored, 70s-style basement bar complete with an open kitchen where you can watch pizzaiolos work their magic. There’s campy Catholic iconography scattered throughout, pictures of Sopranos characters in the loos, pretty vegetable-shaped crockery and a 60cm marbled stracciatella ice-cream cake on the menu to rival Gloria’s famed supersized lemon meringue pie. It’s boisterously fun and undoubtedly a place you go to soak up the atmosphere, but the food – mostly crowdpleasing spins on classics – also impresses, from luscious carbonara ravioli filed with oozy egg yolk and flakes of guanciale, to the pillowiest of pizzas decadently topped with salty pearls of Venetian caviar. Ingredients, sourced from some 180 artisan suppliers, are top drawer – think 36-month-old prosciutto; dreamily creamy Puglian burrata; silky mortadella; and liberal clouds of umami aged parmesan. coventgarden.london/ave-mario
Modern small plates and complex seasonal cocktails
In the heart of Kensington opposite Hyde Park, Publiq offers a monthly changing menu with an emphasis on seasonality. The compact dining room, perfect for intimate date nights, is dominated by an art deco teak bar and offers mainly bar seating, plus extra covered seats roadside. The short menu is divided into snacks and sharing small plates, with four-five dishes being the perfect amount for two. Plates, much like the atmosphere, are refined and upmarket without being stuffy, and offer unusual global flavour combinations. While some are more challenging (such as a kiwi-topped burrata), others are expertly pulled off, such as sustainable cobia fish with striking pandan oil and tangy homemade kimchi. Simply named ‘mushrooms’ produces a deep bowl of a glossy fried mushroom medley, topped with pecorino shavings and sticky croutons. For a Mexican addition, ‘suckling pig’ includes a rich chocolatey mole alongside a crisp pork croquette and fluffy masa harina – all cleverly brightened with a squeeze of burnt lime. For drinks, take your pick from the natural wine menu or complex seasonal cocktails, many of which are made with freshly made ingredients, such as an in-house apricot cordial. publiq.london
The first of its kind in London, this Japanese hand roll restaurant is not to be missed
Temaki, standing for, Te (hand), Maki (roll) has an intimate yet lively feel to it, hosting only 18 covers at a time indoors. The open kitchen brings a sense of connection between the diner and the skilled, humorous chef (Shaulan Steenson) who multitasks, eloquently chatting through the menu while crafting the Temaki. There’s a prevailing joyful atmosphere as the waiting staff are brimming with enthusiasm and knowledgeable about the menu and even more excited to explain about the drinks. We were recommended the Sumi clear Junmai sake which was light with a savoury finish, followed by a sansho peppercorn gin which was topped with filtered lime juice – a sweet yet tangy dream. On to the hand rolls, there are eight to choose from, made fresh to order, alongside meticulously plated small plates. We loved the yellowtail sashimi, which was fresh and tangi from the ponzu with chillies sourced locally from the markets in Brixton. A standout was akami tuna temaki with a nikiri soy filling – not to be missed. If you’re in south west London, or are in the market for a new, fun experience to dive into an interactive Japanese cuisine, Temaki is the place to visit. instagram/temakihandrollbar
Tokyo Pizza, Little Venice
A funky fusion pizza, izakaya restaurant & sake bar
This cavernous, neon-lit little restaurant in the middle of London’s Maida Vale also has an outdoor terrace that was heaving on the warm evening we visited. ‘Japanese’ and ‘pizza’ might not be two words that instantly go together but when our attentive server describes the style of food as ‘izakaya’ – Japanese drinking snacks or bar food – it makes sense. The pizza is Neapolitan-style extra thin crust with a puffed-up chewy rim. It ranges from the safe option of marugerita (sic) to bling toppings like wagyu, short rib or lobster tail all given an extra Tokyo twist with toppings like mizuna, yuzu and sesame. They also pride themselves on ‘mochi’, a Japanese dough or dense bread made from pounded glutinous rice, and the incarnations we tried were a butter-drenched garlic bread version and a cracker-based nacho combo with raw salmon, guacamole, and green chilli. Lots of other snacks and rice bowls are available and alongside our well-priced and adequately potent sake and Japanese whiskey-based cocktails, we nibbled on sweet and sticky tabasaki-glazed chicken wings. tokyo-pizza.co.uk
Humble Chicken, Soho
Nose-to-tail yakitori and modern cocktails in a hip Soho setting
Humble Chicken’s name gets straight to the point. This intimate Soho restaurant, the first from chef Angelo Sato – formerly head chef of Michelin-starred Restaurant Story – is all about grilling every part of the bird (from gizzard to thighs) over binchotan charcoal (a high-quality charcoal used in Japanese cooking). Start with a selection of refined snacks, including a delicate, umami miso foie gras tart and creamy freshly made tofu with tangy kimchi, before diving into the yakitori menu with gusto. Skewers – smoky, juicy, delicious – arrive speedily from the open kitchen, with highlights including meatball with salty tare sauce and egg yolk for dipping, rib with spicy miso and chives, and (our favourite) absurdly tender chicken oysters with smoked garlic and ponzu. Larger plates include crispy chicken leg with rice, and save room for dainty desserts such as deconstructed strawberry cheesecake, and purin, a Japanese dessert akin to a creme caramel, and just as delicious.
There’s Asahi on draft and a small selection of sakes, wines and Japanese whiskies, but it’s the cocktails that deserve most attention on the drinks list, including a tangily fruity lychee martini; a silky Nikka whisky, coconut milk and oolong highball, and a sultry miso and coffee old fashioned. humblechickenuk.com
Mexican tasting menus and eastern European wine pairings from ex-Noma chef Santiago Lastra
Ex-Noma Mexico chef Santiago Lastra’s opening takes London’s Mexican restaurant scene to a new, fine-dining level. The vibe is kept casual, though, with clay pots of all shapes and sizes displayed against mottled red-orange walls, cute turtle salt pots (crafted in Mexican communities) sat on wooden tables, and Santiago and his mustard t-shirt-clad team calmly tending to multiple pans on the go in the open kitchen.
Order a mezcal negroni or Kol margarita to start, the latter made with Volcán De Mi Tierra tequila and verjus. Santiago sources the finest English ingredients (save corn, chillies and chocolate from Mexico) to create six or nine courses of Mexican dishes. Habanero chillies give a kick to roasted gnocchi, crab and gooseberries; a vibrant beetroot mole adds richness to salt-baked kohlrabi; and wild samphire and oxeye daisies sit atop hen of the woods and king oyster mushrooms. Squeeze sea buckthorn juice from a langoustine head over a sourdough taco stuffed with the crustacean’s meaty flesh and a smoky chipotle mayo. For the main event, fill handmade corn tortillas (kept warm in a bespoke leather pouch) with fall-apart 18-hour cooked short rib smothered in rich pasilla chilli mole along with lamb fat carrots and Mayan scotch bonnet pickled onions. Finish with chocolate tamales in hand-tied parcels and corn husk ice cream. Opt for the wine pairing to taste some unique eastern European natural numbers – aromatic, cloudy Slovakian orange bursting with orange blossom, bright Czech Republic riesling and a herbal German pinot noir made by a two-man operation in the Black Forest. kolrestaurant.com
Cin Cin, Fitzrovia
Casual Italian using the best of British ingredients
The specials board captured our attention immediately: crudo with orange, fennel rabbit cacciatore, green olive and soft polenta; bigoli with anchovy, lemon, chilli and focaccia crumb; lemon meringue pie, blood orange sorbet. Cin Cin’s menu uses the best of British ingredients such as Blythburgh pork and south coast crab, Italian style, along with twists on classics including gnocchi cacio e pepe with Trombetta courgettes, burrata with truffled prosciutto and a Marinda tomato salad with lambrusco marinade that’s a must-order. Start with a glass of Franciacorta (Italy’s answer to champagne and a step up from prosecco) or the house negroni featuring Australian Regal red vermouth and rhubarb bitters, a nod to the owner’s Sydney heritage. Décor is relaxed and there are plenty of outdoor tables in this buzzy part of Fitzrovia, not far from Oxford Street. cincin.co.uk
BAO King’s Cross
Bao’s take on Western-style cafés in Asia
This modern all-day dining spot, tucked between the canal and St Pancras, offers a chance to dine in and a take-away bakery option. As the name suggests, this is one of the Bao stable and its signature fluffy white bao is on the menu, along with two exclusive versions (giving you a good excuse to visit every venue), a hamburger bao (just as it sounds) and a seafood roll made from a decadent fried brioche filled with lobster, crayfish and mayo. The rest of lobster reappears as a no-waste dish, head split open with crisp fries to dip into the creamy filling. A Taiwanese breakfast staple is reimagined, the standout ham hock congee comes not with a side of youtiao (fried bread sticks) but a golden pastry topping to rip off and dip – if you only eat one thing, make it this. Desserts feature BAOfiterole and an exemplary pineapple cake (actually a pastry), and cocktails include a plum sake-based negroni. The bakery dispenses salted egg custard ‘sad face’ bao and cookie caramel bao alongside coffee – should you wish to take away. baolondon.com
SUMI, Notting Hill
Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda’s more casual sushi restaurant
The bright and airy space, with pale wood panelling, large windows and outdoor decking, perfectly suits the calm practice of SUMI’s sushi chefs. Watch them prepare stunning courses of fresh nigiri on bouncy and neat rice mounds, and wrap wafer-thin sheets of nori seaweed round the likes of minced red tuna and fermented mooli, or diced scallop with delicate purple hanahojiso flowers to make signature temaki rolls. Menu highlights are the seaweed salad coated in a creamy tahini dressing with toasted almonds, and a ceviche showcasing seasonal sustainable fish among a picture-perfect plate of peppers, corianders, marigold and a zingy yuzu dressing. Superb seared Japanese A4 wagyu is served with charred puntarelle and a jug of yuzu onion sauce. Finish by gliding a bespoke wooden spoon through the matcha mille cake’s thin layers of vibrant green, matcha-infused double cream and ultra-fine crêpes. Don’t skip cocktails – the popular kawaii ne is a delicate mix of sake, local Portobello gin, lychee and yuzu, while the smoky boulevardier offers a much punchier blend of peaty whisky, umeshu plum sake, Antica Formula and Campari. sushisumi.com
Bar des Prés, Mayfair
High-class Asian-French hybrid
Leading French chef Cyril Lignac has opened this sleek London outpost of his Parisian Bar des Prés in Mayfair, serving an all-day sharing menu from lunch till late. Key seats are around the counter where sushi chefs prepare Insta-friendly dishes which deliver on flavour, too, such as the signature crunchy crab and avocado galette Madras curry. Other highlights include crispy sushi salmon with chipotle mayo; satay beef fillet with lime and a silky mash potato with vanilla. Desserts, particularly the generous millefeuille with praline, are equally camera-friendly. A lemongrass-spiked margarita, made with mezcal and tequila rimmed with black salt, is the star of the cocktail list. More than two of you? Choose a booth or the high table nearer the entrance. bardespres.com
NoMad Restaurant, Covent Garden
New York meets London hot hotel dining
Housed in the infamous Bow Street magistrates court, the room is dramatic with its high ceiling – bright or moody depending on time of day. A long comfortable banquette divides the space that’s alive with greenery and London buzz. NoMad’s menu has NYC touches (a nod to its sister hotel) and spans the sublime – oysters with cucumber ice, a delicate sea bream crudo with radishes and teeny picked strawberries; to sturdy (but refined) suckling pig; 30-day dry-aged rib-eye, and a brioche-stuffed chicken dish to share between two – to the sublime again: cherry ice cream with mascarpone within a crisp chocolate shell. The hefty wine list is best navigated with the help of the young, friendly wine team. Dinner bookings are like gold dust so go early or late, but go! thenomadhotel.com
Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen, Covent Garden
Filipino sharing food in the West End’s hottest indoor food court
Head to Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen in the recently re-opened KERB Seven Dials in Covent Garden for some of the freshest, most delicious Filipino cuisine we’ve tried in London. This restaurant is made for enjoying with a bunch of friends, with the restaurants famed sharing dish of crispy pata pancakes taking centre stage. Sip on creamy, fragrant piña coladas before tucking into a generous feast of slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth ham hock with a crispy exterior (not dissimilar to hoisin duck), light paper-thin pancakes, fresh coriander and lime, as well as a lip-smacking Mang Tomas sauce. For veggies there’s a crispy mushroom version and an overflowing bowl of adobo-glazed cauliflower that we loved so much it had us ordering more. Round your meal off with a scoop of Bong Bong’s famous Milo ice cream, rich, creamy and malted. Bong Bong’s is everything we want from a sharing-vibe restaurant – big, well thought out portions, zingy flavours and moreish textures, and fab cocktails with some of the jolliest staff we’ve come across. I think one of the most joyful restaurant experiences we’ve had, we cant wait to head back. bongbongs.co.uk
Franks Bar, Piccadilly Circus
No-reservations French-inspired bar
This is one of those brilliant places – in the basement at upmarket French brasserie Maison Francois – to go when you haven’t made a booking. The lighting is soft and the music is uplifting. A concise cocktail menu (try the Dirty French, a riff on a dirty martini) is complemented by superior, substantial bar snacks. Must-orders are silky jambon noir de Bigorre (ham) sliced at the bar; tomatoes with anchovy, pâté du maison and an unmissable sourdough bread. The signature crispy calf brain bun is a brave choice and so rich it’s best shared between (at least) two of you. There’s a small choice of puddings, ice cream or sorbet with a glug of calvados, and a knockout rum baba. maisonfrancois.london
The Red Duck, Balham
Contemporary Chinese restaurant in leafy Balham
The Red Duck is a casual and fun dining experience, and makes a great addition to the bustling streets of Balham. Sit outside and people-watch, or inside where the tables are close but not uncomfortably so; and most spots have a great view of the kitchen. While there are nods to the kitsch, it’s quite a modern space with crispy duck shredded at the table, neon wall art, plastic serving baskets and paper chopstick holders. The menu is ideal for sharing; while you choose, it’s worth kicking things off with prawn crackers and an ultra-refreshing whisky highball. The ‘best selling’ fresh panko prawn balls are a must, and do not ignore the unassuming hunks of white cabbage on the side of the plate – these moreish pickles cut through the deep-fried snacks beautifully. Special fried rice comes loaded with edamame and curly plump prawns, and don’t leave without trying the hakka paneer with black bean sauce, where a sticky, savoury sauce combined with flash-cooked spring onions and shallots delivers an intense punch of multi-dimensional flavour. theredduck.co.uk
Galvin Bistrot & Bar, Spitalfields
A slice of Parisian eating in London’s Spitalfields
Cheek by jowl with its older, smarter sibling, Galvin La Chapelle, this bar/bistrot previously known as Galvin HOP serves impeccable food that you’d be hard pressed to find the likes of in France. Chef Patron Chris Galvin runs the kitchen, the menu is short with well-sourced ingredients and dotted with classics such as terrine de campagne, charcuterie, duck leg and entrecôte steak with beurre MaÎtre d’Hôtel. Must-order dishes include steak tartare, exceptional frites (have them with everything), and the rum baba sold by the ‘inch’ off a roll, doused in rum at the table and served with a quenelle of chantilly cream. There’s seating outside (with heating if necessary) or a cosier interior complete with a beautiful, very long zinc bar with copper tanks of fresh pilsner above it. The drinks list has some very reasonable wines by the glass, and you can upgrade to the La Chapelle wine list if you ask. galvinrestaurants.com/restaurant/galvin-bistrot-and-bar/
Stay tuned for more reviews of new restaurants in London
Restaurants opening in 2022
Restaurant St Barts, Smithfield
The unstoppable trio behind Nest Hackney and FENN Fulham is launching an interactive 15-course tasting menu concept that showcases producers from the UK in dishes that each focus on key ingredients. The experience guides diners through the restaurant for various courses, including at the chef’s counter and next to the floor-to-ceiling windows of the main restaurant. restaurant-stbarts.co.uk
Spring 2022 will see the launch of Mexican chef Adriana Cavita’s first solo venture, inspired by her grandmother’s open-fire roadside cooking in Mexico. Street food classics, namely tacos, corn tetelas and tostadas, will accompany chargrilled corn-fed chicken with herby mole verde and crispy fried lobster with ajillo sauce. A dedicated mezcalería and cocktail bar, Mayahuel, will be hidden downstairs, for drinking and live music. cavitarestaurant.com
This summer, two Michelin-star chef Claude Bosi and Jamavar’s Samyukta Nair will partner to transform the iconic Richoux building on South Audley Street into a modern bistro, with seasonal sharing plates inspired by Claude’s childhood in the French Riviera. soccabistro.com
Reviews by Christine Hayes, Lulu Grimes, Helen Salter, Hannah Guinness, Alex Crossley, Esther Clark, Miriam Nice and Marianne Voyle
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