Find and book great restaurantsFind a Restaurant
From crunch lunches to pop-up eateries, it’s been a fascinating year on the capital’s restaurant scene. Tania Ballantine spots the trends and takes London’s foodie pulse
British food has never had it so good. Everyone seems to be playing the nostalgia card and offering us a trip down memory lane. Now that top-end restaurants have started flying the flag for Blighty, patriotic diners can enjoy their potted meats and nursery puds in thoroughly smart surroundings.
Christopher Gilmour, the man behind Christopher’s, recently put his surname to an elegant yet convivial Chelsea dining room serving skilfully executed grill-room classics.
This third solo project from Mark Hix cleverly juxtaposes classically inspired dishes against a voguish setting that’s studded with Brit art. Prices are high, but so is the trendy celeb-count.
The team behind Belgravia favourites The Thomas Cubitt and The Pantechnicon Rooms have given Pimlico’s Orange Brewery an upscale makeover with
well-priced gastro dishes to match.
Boisdale Canary Wharf
Fans of the Belgravia and Bishopsgate originals will be delighted to hear that the whisky and steak specialists are due to open a third outpost in Canary Wharf in late autumn 2010.
Hix at Selfridges
Hot on the heels of his hugely successful foray into Soho, Mark Hix is due to bring his signature British grub – complete with lighter touches for lunching ladies – to Oxford Street’s shopping icon. A Champagne bar is part of the new deal.
Love ’em or hate ’em, we just can’t get enough of TV chefs and their restaurants. Sometimes we go to see what all the fuss is about; sometimes we go just to see our heroes and villains in the flesh. It can be chastening and awe-inspiring – or, if there’s no celeb hand at the stoves, plain disappointing (well, they do have telly programmes to make).
Street styling and menus written in Mr Oliver’s famous pukka-speak are to be expected, but it’s the roll-call of post-River Café hits from the nation’s cheekiest chef that have won over the sceptics.
John Torode’s new restaurant, café and bar housed in Spitalfields’ old Flower Market aims to repeat the canny formula that made Smiths of Smithfield such a hit.
Followers of laid-back Aussie chef Bill Granger’s no-frills cooking will soon be able to experience it first-hand: he is relocating to London and is hoping to launch a restaurant by the summer.
Heston Blumenthalat the Mandarin Oriental
A rare treat for Londoners. Maverick genius HB will be bringing his brand of controversial whiz-bang gastronomy to Knightsbridge’s swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel in the autumn.
After the public falling-out with Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay’s much-anticipated relaunch of Pétrus – this time with chef-patron Mark Askew at the helm – is expected as early as the spring.
Wallace & Co
A new chain of grocers-cum-cafés, courtesy of Gregg Wallace (MasterChef’s self-styled ‘ingredients expert’) and ex-Elbow Room owner Justin Carter. Expect to see the first green shoots in Putney.
This year has seen a welcome flurry of Italian restaurants, trading on our new-found need for honest, popular food. Whether it’s plates of cicchetti, slices of pizza by the metre, homemade pastas or sizzling meats from the grill, these newcomers have all the ingredients to nurture you ‘just like mama’.
With backing from Arjun Waney (of Zuma, Roka and La Petite Maison fame), it’s no surprise that this Italian arrival in Marylebone has A-list aspirations.
Once home to Gennaro Contaldo’s Passione, this Charlotte Street newcomer specialises in Sicilian cooking, serving up full-flavoured regional dishes in a diminutive dining room.
The Soho House group has given this Shoreditch warehouse space a relaxed Manhattan makeover, with a menu of modish antipasti and pizzas from the old country.
Themed on a Venetian ‘bacaro’ (wine bar), Polpo’s stunning interior makes a fine backdrop for the small-plates menu of expertly rendered regional specialities.
Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden
A central London branch of this burgeoning chain is due to open in the summer: think decent but affordable Italian cooking.
Backed by Milanese entrepeneur Livio Bisterzo (a partner in Maddox club) this celeb-friendly Italian is due to arrive in Mayfair in February 2010 complete with an ex-Harry’s Bar GM and an ex-Brunello chef.
River Cafe II
Rumours have been circulating that Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray have been on the hunt for a new restaurant site. Keep an eye on www.squaremeal.co.uk for more news.
While fledgling independents are relieved simply to ride out the financial storm, many of the big boys in the restaurant trade are actually gaining ground – no doubt helped by economies of scale, well-oiled PR machines and long-established supplier relationships.
Since selling parts of his restaurant empire to D&D London, Sir Terence Conran has joined forces with former ops manager Peter Prescott to create the smash-hit Boundary Project and, more recently, this commendable Fleet Street destination.
Rainer Becker’s twin goldmines of Roka and Zuma have been dropped successfully into moneyed enclaves across the world, so few eyebrows were raised when Canary Wharf was chosen for a new London site.
With the Fitzrovia original bursting at the lattice-worked seams, this glitzy Chinese is overdue a foray into wealthy Mayfair. Plans for a move to Bruton Street remain firmly in the pipeline.
After the runaway success of his Selfridges-based pop-up, the acclaimed chef is after a permanent site in Mayfair or the City.
St John West End
With butcher’s cuts all the rage, small wonder that nose-to-tail pioneer St John is opening a new site just off Leicester Square.
Once upon a time, eating in public institutions was a last-resort choice, but nowadays it’s becoming de rigueur – thanks to some enterprising players.
Simple Brit/brasserie fare is on order in the all-day café of Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery, which once served as the canteen for the Duke of York’s barracks.
The Restaurant at St Paul’s
In the crypts beneath St Paul’s Cathedral, this new restaurant and café serves a seasonal menu with a strong British slant.
Vacherin at the whitechapel Gallery
Fresh from refurbishment, the Whitechapel Gallery showed real savvy by opening a dedicated restaurant and putting ex-Delfina chef Maria Elia at the helm.
Roux at Parliament Square, RICS
Following his stint as a judge on MasterChef: The Professionals, Michelin-starred Michel Roux Jnr has significantly upped his public profile. Look out for his new fine diner, due to open at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in the spring.
Temporary ‘pop-up’ eateries are suddenly the flavour du jour. By definition, they come and go, so keep an eye on www.squaremeal.co.uk for the latest developments.