10 Market Row, London, SW9 8LB
Following an early life on London’s pop-up scene at the likes of Dinerama and Giant Robot, this fried chicken joint has now found a permanent home in Brixton Market.
Split over two floors and with room for around 40 diners, Thunderbird offers both eat-in and takeaway options, boasting electric blue interiors and gold thunderbolts on the walls. Expect dishes such as the Thunderbun and Chipuffalo Wings, served with sauces including buffalo, chipotle and a blue cheese dip.
Further options include the habanero wings which are slathered in roasted red pepper cream, habanero chilli peppers, tamarind and coriander, while a selection of meat-free burgers are available for veggie diners. Wash down your meal with an American-style milkshake, or a can of Brixton beer.
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17-18 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JE
Already operating more than 1,000 sites across Japan (as well as international outposts in South-East Asia and the US), alt curry house Coco Ichibanya has now opened its doors in London. Found in Covent Garden, diners here choose a curry topping and the level of heat they prefer (it ranges from ‘standard’ to ‘level five crazy hot’), before their dish is served at the table.
Unconventional options to choose from include a katsu chicken and cheese curry, a hamburger curry and a fried chicken dumpling variety. If you can’t make up your mind, you can opt for the tasting menu, which features dishes such as Devon crab and kokum berry salad on lotus root crisp.
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36 Neal Street , London, WC2H 9PS
Kazi Anis Ahmed’s dream, to open a sister Teatulia tea bar to his original in Denver Colorado, has come to the boil in Covent Garden. The venue is a jazzy book-lined 1950s-style reading room, where reasonably priced teas are served by the pot or cup using the finest organic leaves from Ahmed’s estate near Tetulia (northern Bangladesh’s ‘City of Dream’). Try a cuppa of oolong, jasmine or Bangladeshi builder’s perhaps; better still, come the evening, enjoy a snappy monthly edit of tea-based cocktails and mocktails.
The 30-strong repertoire has been created by Enrico Gonzato, whose CV includes gigs at both Dandelyan and The Coburg Bar. Typical calls include Hot Buttered Rum Chai, Tulia Negroni (a subtle bitter citrus variant on the classic that calls for honey and lemongrass vermouth) and a Champagne cocktail made with green tea agave and bergamot liqueur.
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2 Crucifix Lane, London, SE1 3JW
Kin + Deum’s name means ‘eat and drink’ in Thai and was more apt perhaps when it was a Thai pub, opened by expat Suchard Inngern in 1975. Now taken over by Inngern’s three kids, the emphasis is very much more on eating than drinking in a dining room where the plain decor (pale green walls, bistro chairs, random pot plants) give little to indicate that this is a Thai restaurant.
The younger generation of Inngerns have shortened the menu while keeping a focus on the familiar – there are none of the detours along the byways of regional Thai cuisine that have recently taken London by storm. Full houses suggest it’s an idea with mass appeal, although we found that some fairly humdrum cooking offered little that was different to the old style of Thai restaurant you can find on almost any London high street.
The peanut sauce, rich and deeply flavoured, accompanying chicken satay to start was the best thing we ate, and we appreciated the chunks of absorbent brioche to soak up what was left. Deep-fried garlic squid was springy and crisp-battered, but chicken and prawn dumplings encased in stiff pastry should have been steamed for longer and slices of fried aubergine tasted of nothing at all.
To follow, duck in a honey and coriander sauce and weeping tiger steak were ok enough, but like all of the food, we thought the portions seemed small for the prices. Service, meanwhile, bordered on the chaotic, although the staff were very sweet.
Suchard Inngern’s children are to be applauded for offering a contemporary spin on the cooking that they grew up with, and there will be diners glad to discover a contemporary Thai restaurant that doesn’t dynamite their heads with a chilli explosion. But we were disappointed to find a somewhere that instead of offering new takes on old favourites, simply offered more of the same.
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£30 - £49
6 Store Street, London, WC1E 7DQ
Just when you thought that London had tried and tested all possible food combinations, out of the leftfield comes this bold Italian, which gives equal billing to steak and tuna. But this is no gimmick, even though passers-by get a stop-and-stare window into the ageing cabinet, where whole fish and huge cuts of meat dangle artistically. The steaks are from Fassona beef, native to Piedmont and renowned for its low-fat content as well as its superb flavour, while the bluefin tuna is carefully aged for seven days and served in unusual ways (try it smoked, salted, in a ragù or served as meaty tagliata). But it’s not just about the food: Macellaio’s striking design, knowledgeable staff and fun atmosphere help make the experience even more memorable, while the wine list is peppered with big finds from small producers.
More about Macellaio RC Bloomsbury
South East Asian
104 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6SG
This Filipino restaurant and cocktail bar is the brainchild of chef Francis Puyat and 100 Hoxton founder Andrew Zilouf and offers flavours and ingredients that will be unfamiliar to most Londoners.
The pair have named their venture after the two staple dishes on the menu: kinilaw is a Filipino take on ceviche which uses palm vinegar and kalamansi instead of lime, while buko is Filipino-style ice cream served in a baby coconut shell.
Kinilaw varieties on the menu include the bagoong fisherman’s treat (daikon-fermented shrimp, green peppercorns and fried garlic), and the baboy bounty: pork belly, diced cucumber, chilli and mackerel. From the buko, you can enjoy flavours such as red bean butterscotch, lychee with sumac popping candy, and a sea salt and black pepper option topped with caramel popcorn. You can wash it all down with paired cocktails, alongside wines and craft beers.
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52-55 Dorset Street, London, W1U 7NQ
This all-day bar, restaurant and bakery owes a lot to sunshine, as its dishes are inspired by the sun-soaked shores of California and the Mediterranean.
The chic setting features marble floors and hand-painted silk wallpaper, while the seasonally changing menu is just as on-trend, being completely free from refined sugar and with limited amounts of dairy and gluten. Things kick off at breakfast with the likes of acai and coconut bowls, or blueberry pancakes topped with organic maple syrup and fresh berries.
Later in the day, you can snack on crudités served with a vinaigrette dip or colourful salads, while more substantial dishes include seabass ceviche, gluten-free gnocchi and barbecue lamb chops. Even the drinks menu has health-conscious diners in mind, with the offering including cocktails infused with fresh juices.
If you’re looking for a doggy bag, head downstairs to the on-site bakery, which serves a daily selection of pastries alongside a variety of speciality breads. The bakery offers dairy and gluten-free takes on classic baked goods, while custom bakes can also be ordered for special occasions.
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2-4 Hackney Road, London, E2 7NS
Many a middle-aged man dreams of opening his own pub. And that’s precisely what 1980s soul boy Rick Never Gonna Give You Up Astley has done – in collaboration with cult Copenhagen brewer, Mikkeller. The tiny tavern’s stripped-back decor is now a far cry from the high-camp days of previous occupant The George & Dragon. Astley’s poppy chart-toppers are memorialised in brass plaques set into tables, and the Top 20 draughts are chalked up weekly above the bar’s mighty beer wall.
A dauntingly long list is helpfully broken down by style: ‘dark & malty’, ‘light & hoppy’ or ‘sour & funky’, for instance. Homeboy hits such as Mikkeller’s Mexican-style lager, La Sirenita, and Hallo Ich Bin Berliner – a Germanic white beer brewed with either raspberries or blackcurrants – are backed up by worthies from the likes of Warpigs, Pressure Drop and bold Belgian lambic beers such as Tilquin’s wondrous Walloon gueuzes.
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5 North Hall, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8RA
Restaurateur Alex Zibi originally opened this bread-heavy concept in Miami (it has since closed), so he’s now trying his hand at a London location. Found on the old site of Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks, Buns & Buns features an open-plan kitchen and a dining counter where guests can interact with chefs.
The space is much like its Covent Garden location – slightly cramped, noisy, a little bit chaotic (service is well-meaning, but not slick enough) and full of tourists. Despite all this, there are some decent dishes on the menu.
We kicked off with a bowl of crunchy beer-battered sweetcorn fritters, which were soon joined by a lusciously fatty pork belly bao bun, rubbed with a sticky-sweet slick of Bourbon-spiked glaze (food arrives as and when it’s ready). The best thing we ate however, was the delightfully buttery brioche lobster roll, stuffed with fleshy prawns and served with a mountain of shoestring fries, although we’re not sure the taste justifies its hefty £24 price tag.
To drink, there’s the usual mix of wines and beers, while cocktails such as the Mandarin Spritz are refreshingly fruity. With Covent Garden’s cool-factor slowly on the rise, Buns & Buns trend-ticking menu and bustling atmosphere should draw in the crowds looking for a quick, casual (and overpriced) dinner.
Photo credit: Katie Hammond
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£30 - £49
3-4, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London, SE15 4QL
The atmosphere's about as buzzy as it gets at Peckham newcomer Levan, from the team behind Brixton’s well-loved Salon. The cosy-cool all-day bar and restaurant has an open kitchen at one end and open shelving in the middle, showcasing a turntable and vinyl – a nod, doubtless, to its namesake DJ Larry Levan.
The walls are a cocooning midnight blue, with tables a tad close, but the menu is a solid mix of snacks, sharing plates, cheeses and desserts. High notes were the Comté fries – not cheesy chips but light as air chickpea fries, dusted with that rich, full-flavoured cheese, and a punchy saffron aioli on the side; a plate of classic duck rillettes and gherkins; and Old Spot chop, cooked to tender perfection and boosted with buttery, mustardy greens.
Don’t swerve dessert: the gooey, crisp tarte tatin is pudding heaven. To drink, there’s a serious wine list majoring in organic and biodynamic to pore over, as well as a few interesting beers.
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175 West End Lane, London, NW6 2LH
Sleek design and lush cocktails are a winning combo at this neighbourhood watering hole that feels somehow more West End than West Hampstead. Chris Dennis (late of Disrepute and Sovereign Loss whose closure was Brixton’s loss) is on drinks duty across its two rooms. Heads - a cool sea green see-and-be-seen lounge with a sheltered urban garden off - favours lighter recipes: Suze, bergamot and mandarin-laced Aperol Spritz; Floradora, the 1900s chorus girl’s racy revival made with gin raspberry and ginger ale; plus a selection of low- and no-alcohol lites and two-dozen dapper wines.
Tails - a soupy 1930s film noir dive - goes for down and dirty Chicago gangster glugs with dark souls (a Chivas 12 Brigadoon, or Wild Turkey rye, Spanish brandy, vermouth and Bénédictine stir Santa Maria, say), as well as a range of bad boy boilermakers such as Fortified Wall (Goose Island Honkers and Evan Williams Bourbon). A late o’clock licence and the Night Tube at West Hampstead station, opposite, make Heads + Tails an easily doable weekend destination.
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£30 - £49
30 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5BB
This second site for aperitivo bar and kitchen Ritorno is a follow up to the Chelsea original, but sets its self apart from the Chelsea site’s small plates menu, instead offering brasserie-style Italian dishes.
Much larger than its sibling, this Ritorno features sleek teal coloured walls and jewel-toned accents. The dining room is livened up with flamingo-covered wallpaper, while the bar area comes complete with gold accents and an art-deco feel.
Open for lunch and dinner, you can expect the menu to be filled with homemade pastas, thin-crust pizzas and fresh seafood dishes. Chow down on the likes of tuna tartare with smoked aubergine cream and raspberry dust, or perhaps a pizza topped with burrata, red prawns and puntarella (a variant of chicory). Visit at lunchtime to take advantage of a well-priced set menu.
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Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road , London, N1C 4TB
Formerly bedroom suites, this jazzy lounge is the most recent of three bars at architect Lewis Cubbitt’s 1850s Italianate railway hotel, now lavishly refurbished and at the heart of buzzy, born-again King’s Cross. All coal black walls, honey and treacle-tone woods, flame blue upholstery and funky glass chandeliers, the dramatic chambers’ focal point is a zinc à la parisienne.
Elegantly presented vodka and gin martinis are to the fore: our Drumshanbo Irish Gunpowder Tea gin job, served near naked, a sexy new dalliance. Elsewhere, the umami appeal of a twisted Hanky Panky in which Hungarian herbal, Zwack, replaces the expected Fernet Branca - and the chilli and cumin kick of smoky mezcal and Tequila old-fashioned, Anticuado, are further testimony to competent mixology. From a limited menu of snacks that includes sustainable oscietra caviar with blinis, crab and saffron arancini dipped in a basil mayonnaise are less engaging, while jangly acoustics and rigid, cumbersome high stools mar an otherwise pleasant evening.
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22-25 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3RY
This Chicago-inspired joint finds its home in bustling Soho, and serves up a gut-busting menu of deep-pan pizzas followed by waffles and crêpes for dessert. Those expecting diner-style interiors might be surprised to find velvet chairs in jewel tones, green foliage hanging from the ceiling and an outdoor dining terrace.
From the tempting menu of pizzas, you can gorge on the likes of a Bolognese Pizza Pot (Bolognese sauce, mozzarella and mushrooms), or a Toscana: a deep-dish pizza topped with Mozzarella, prosciutto, rocket and parmesan. Diners will be glad to know that the waffles and crêpes are all made on-site, ensuring the absence of additives. Choose from options such as a Monkey Peanuts waffle topped with red berries, peanut chocolate sauce and home-made vanilla ice cream, or a Stachiola crêpe stuffed with bananas and grapes, and topped with home-made pistachio ice cream.
To drink, there’s a selection of cocktails and alcohol-spiked milkshakes. Signature cocktails include the Aztec Negroni, which is made with barrel-aged Mezcal, antica formula and Campari, while the ‘hardshakes’ feature an Espresso Martini made with chocolate ice-cream, vodka and coffee liqueur.
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Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street , London, W1B 4DY
The Café Royal’s new cocktail bar is inspired by ‘The Last Supper’ – the notorious party thrown here by David Bowie, the same night he stunned fans by killing off his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Fascinating portraits of Bowie aside, the bland room (a soupy tomato and pumpkin retro-chic lounge) needs decorative ch-ch-Changes if it hopes to replicate his swagger.
Undoubtedly, the real Heroes here are the Starman barman’s Rebel Rebel rinses: especially Femme Fatale (a generous vodka and Byrrh Saketini topped with edible silver pearls on a crimson petal), and a smooth Johnnie Walker Black whisky, Punt e Mes and Frangelico Manhattan. Service is Hunky Dory, snacks not universally so. We rate the yam, cucumber and avocado maki rolls, and the fresh, flaky Cornish crab on toast – but our barbecue Wagyu beef short rib in bao buns needed spikier seasoning and less unyielding dough to make it a Modern Love.
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£30 - £49
Old Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1LB
This meaty grill in the Metropolitan hotel (where you’ll also find Nobu) is the brainchild of Hawksmoor’s executive chef Richard Turner and former Nuala head chef Colin McSherry. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on flame-grilled cooking, with dishes including the likes of roast turbot with chicken salt and butter, and salt-baked celeriac with wild mushroom and brown butter crumb.
On the drinks side of things, you’ll find twists on classic cocktails, such as an Old Fashioned with pandan, and a Bloody Mary made with vodka, mustard, butter, stock and tomato. Gridiron also benefits from an open kitchen, complete with counter seating, where guests can watch the open-fire cooking that Turner is famous for.
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Hotel Café Royal, 10 Air Street, London, W1B 4DY
This desserts and sparkling wine bar is the first London site for celebrated Spanish chef Albert Adrià and is found at the glamorous Hotel Café Royal, where Adria hosted his 50 Days pop up in 2016 (in which guests were served a 30-course dinner). This time around, Adria’s menu is much shorter, but no less luxurious. The space boasts gold walls and marble-topped tables, while a wall of Champagne proudly displays everything from crisp English sparkling to Italian prosecco.
The desserts are surprisingly light, meaning it’s easy to sample a few on your visit. Fruity options such as mango rendered into the shape of a flower are enjoyable, but it’s the more indulgent desserts where Adria’s technical brilliance shines. We were also pleasantly surprised by the prices, which although not exactly cheap, are a bargain for the area.
Standouts include an edible ‘cork’ branded with Cakes & Bubbles name, which is served on a bottle of Champagne that has been cut in half and plated with gold. The bite resembles a miniature swiss roll and features a hollowed-out, coffee-flecked sponge filled with frozen chocolate ice cream. Elsewhere, a delicate flower-shaped biscuit of coconut and chocolate is cold to the touch having been dipped in nitrogen, while a gold-embossed egg flan (sitting in a golden eggcup) is elevated to another realm entirely by the sticky pool of caramel sauce secreted at its bottom.
We’d recommend finishing off with Adria’s famous signature cheesecake. This half-sweet, half-savoury dessert is presented as a miniature wheel of cheese, tied up in a branded ribbon. Using real cheese (coulommiers, to be exact) the cake is wrapped in a shell of hazelnut and white chocolate, resulting in an intense, creamy finish. Cakes & Bubbles won’t be everyone’s flute of Champagne, but you’ll have difficulty finding such technical, whimsical desserts elsewhere.
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£30 - £49
50 Canada Square Park, London, E14 5FW
Business folk rejoice: Canary Wharf’s reputation as an eating-out desert has been partially improved by the sprouting of a new Ivy. It’s no surprise, then, that the place was packed to the rafters when we dropped by early on a Tuesday evening. But despite the full house, the famed Ivy efficiency was working at full speed among the army of waiting staff weaving their way around the hubbub.
As at other outposts of the fast-expanding chain, the interior still maintains the exclusive feel of the Covent Garden original, making any visit feel like a special occasion. The twist at this Ivy is the lush greenery placed around the inside, which makes up for the lacklustre park outside – though a retractable roof and terrace will add heaps of alfresco appeal when summer rolls around.
But while the ambience and surroundings have transplanted the Ivy magic intact to E14, the cooking has rather less sparkle. The white onion soup with a creamy truffle mascarpone was perfectly serviceable and the crispy courgette fries with a smooth chilli, lemon and mint yoghurt went down well. A tender lamb shoulder was enjoyable enough, but a side order of green beans was far too salty. The chicken Milanese with a truffle cream sauce was decent, but nothing special and the recommended truffle and parmesan chips left us wondering whether everything really needed to have truffle on it. Puddings were better: a tart passion fruit baked Alaska and Instagram-worthy chocolate bombe.
And while the offering couldn’t be accused of being short on choice – there are breakfast, weekend brunch and vegetarian and vegan menus – the regulars that this place is so clearly aimed at may wish that the familiar line-up of tempura prawns, crispy duck salad, chicken Milanese and shepherd’s pie was refreshed more often.
That said, competitive pricing extends to cocktails and the Euro-focused wine list, and with glamour and fun in short supply in Docklands, The Ivy in the Park should put down deep roots in Canary Wharf.
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64 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LU
The second location for Japanese ramen joint Yamagoya (there’s already a site on South Bank) finds its home in Soho, beneath Chinese hotpot specialist Shuang Shuang.
The pared-back space takes inspiration from Tokyo’s ramen shops, with visitors able to perch on stools by the window or at the kitchen counter to watch the chefs at work. The menu kicks off with small bites such as fried pork gyoza, and chicken karaage with a yuzu mayonnaise.
For the main event, there’s bowls of steaming ramen, including the signature ‘Yamagoya’ – handmade noodles in a rich tonkotsu broth, garnished with Japanese chashu pork belly, marinated bamboo shoot, Kikurage mushroom and nori. New additions meanwhile, see a roast beef ramen, and a vegan rice dish featuring fried vegetables, pickled greens and a house curry sauce.
Finish up with desserts including mocha ice creams and the Insta-famous raindrop cake, which is completely see-through.
More about Yamagoya Soho
Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
New from the Harts Group (Barrafina/Quo Vadis), this unfussy, upbeat wine bar is at the heart of Thomas Heatherwick’s inspired transformation of an 1850s canalside coal depot, now a well-collated shopping/ lazing/ grazing ‘lifestyle quarter.’
Outside, a cod-Victorian barrow’s bi-valves beg to be hooked up with a classy, crisp white; Luneau-Papin La Grange, entry-level Muscadet a light, lively drop with The Drop’s briny fresh molluscs. The 50-strong, largely European list - from which a greater percentage by the glass or carafe would be welcome - features entertaining finds: gutsy Greeks; bosky orange wine, Pheasant’s Tears, a game Georgian bird; and an Austro-Hungarian Sopron red, a ripe ruby tart with a heart.
‘Broadly British dishes’ might mean English onion soup, viscous and unabashedly rich; unctuous chicken liver pâté; beetroot and gorgonzola salad; guinea fowl and girolles pie, or slabs of superior boiled ham slathered in intense salsa verde. Finish with a dark chocolate pot served with shortbread.
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37 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 2QS
The ‘man’ fronting bar group Mr Fogg’s has found his perfect partner. Mrs Fogg’s Maritime Club and Distillery is inspired by the wife of Phileas Fogg, of Around The World in 80 Days fame, and has set up home in a two-floor site in Broadgate Circle.
The bar comes complete with its own gin distillery, and serves up the Fogg group’s signature quirky cocktails and snacks. From the drinks menu, try Indian-spiced cocktails such as Ta-Ta’s Margarita, a twist on the classic which includes turmeric-infused Tequila, or opt for the Mumbai Donkey: cardamom-infused vodka, pear, parsley and ginger beer.
The food offering is also inspired by India, seeing the likes of Keralan fried chicken, sweet potato pani puri, and jackfruit biryani, all served in traditional tiffin boxes. Head here on the weekend to try the Tiffin Tea experience which features live music, or escape from the crowds on the expansive outdoor terrace.
More about Mrs Fogg's Maritime Club and Distillery
£30 - £49
39 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP
This fourth site from the expanding Out of the Woods Restaurant Group (also behind The Oak in Notting Hill and The Bird in Hand in Olympia) stays true to the successful Mediterranean formula with a large selection of cicchetti, pizzettas and small plates.
Kick off with some crunchy and sweet zucchini fritti or some well-flavoured croquettas made up of sobrassada and Parma ham, ahead of some pasta small plates. We especially loved the rich spinach purée that came with ricotta, lemon and spinach ravioli (kudos to anyone who manages to make spinach the star of the plate). We also liked our beef shin ragu with shaved parmesan, even if the pappardelle it was served on was a tad al dente.
Thin, crispy bottom pizzetta with a generous amount of toppings, are another crowd-pleaser, while desserts play it safe with the likes of polenta cake (so moist it became a bit too crumbly) and a heavenly sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream.
Friendly and knowledgeable staff offer personal recommendations without being pushy while the high-ceilinged, candlelit dining room has charm aplenty, making The Oak a good bet for romance on a budget.
More about The Oak SW11
£30 - £49
Coal Drops Yard, London, N1C 4AB
The atmosphere of creativity at Coal Drops Yard makes it the perfect fit for the high-energy buzz of the Hart brothers, who have opened three sites here, including wine bar The Drop and a branch of Barrafina.
Much larger than previous incarnations in London Bridge, this Pastor is split between a partially covered outdoor dining area (complete with a central grill) and a tightly packed indoors which boasts a bar and an imposing tree hung with lights. It’s also the first to serve breakfast, including the likes of huevos rancheros.
On our evening visit, we kicked off proceedings with a novel avocado and passionfruit Margarita, which was silky smooth and pepped up with a chilli rim. Food begins with tostadas: ‘apache’ is a Mexican take on steak tartare using flank, while a ‘cochinita’ sees shreds of juicy slow-roasted pork rubbed with an addictive mix of orange, garlic and red onion.
Tacos (two per portion) include the signature Al Pastor, which is a triumphant pairing of pork shoulder, marinated for 24 hours with sticky caramelised pineapple and finished off with a smear of guacamole. Surprisingly, star billing goes to the veggie option: oily, plump mushrooms paired with caramelised onion and wrapped in a crisp sheet of fried queso Oaxaca cheese. From the sides, a bowl of refried beans resembles a chocolate mousse, with a velvety texture to match, while crunchy toasted corn is topped with a thick dollop of cotija cheese.
Dessert servings are miniscule, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, go for the chocolate pot, which is served in a glass teacup and avoids being forgettable via a spiking of cinnamon. Lots of fun and fairly priced, this Pastor is a welcome addition to the brothers’ ever-expanding brand.
Featured image credit: Sam Smith
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12 Macclesfield Street, London, W1D 58P
Forget KFC, as China Town has added some TFC to its restaurant offering – that’s Taiwanese Fried Chicken. Monga already boasts sites across Taiwan and in the US, but this is the group’s first European site.
Although there’s naturally a heavy focus on grab-and-go here, Monga does boast a first-floor dining room which seats around 30. The interiors are a mix of gold, black and white, while the menu is centred round crispy Taiwanese fried chicken with five flavour options. Each of the chicken fillets are marinated in honey, and dipped in batter instead of dry flour, before being fried, ensuring a juicy and tender taste. Need something to wash your chicken down with? Choose from a selection of Taiwanese beers.
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109-125, Knightsbridge , London, SW1X 7RJ
Synonymous with each new season’s on-trend catwalk clobber, Harvey Nichols also regularly rings the changes at its popular lounge bar. We’ve lost count of the room’s various looks. For autumn 2018, it has been dressed in marshmallow, powder-pink, pumpkin and paprika hues. At the circular bar, order bling bubbles, modish cocktails and shakes, and snacks such as Moroccan-spiced fishcake, truffle fritters, superfood salads, club sandwiches, or Eton mess.
Premium cocktails – the know-how shared at weekend masterclasses – have a (sometimes tenuous) London theme. We’re at home in West London where drinks are supposedly inspired by ‘markets, culture, royalty and unity’; Yuzu Daiquiri works for us. In the East End, ‘edgy, hipster, success and movement’ translates, for instance, as a Fino Spritz (a fino sherry, cherry, and green-tea Bellini) – City bankers might not flinch at its cost, but Cockney salts could well have something pithy to say about the £17 price tag.
More about Fifth Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols
10th Floor, Assembly Hotel, 27-31 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0LS
The Bourne & Hollingsworth group are the brains behind this high-rise bar and restaurant found at the Assembly Hotel. Located on the tenth floor, Garden Room is kitted out with shabby-chic furnishings and a mass of plants. The space is divided up into counter tables, indoor and outdoor seating, and a private dining room which seats 22.
Floor-to-ceiling glass windows allow guests to make the most of a view which takes in landmarks such as Nelson’s Column and The Shard, while a low-key menu includes dishes such as grilled prawn and chestnut mushroom skewers, and duck confit with boulangère potatoes.
The cocktails meanwhile hint at the garden theme, making use of herbs and spices. Expect tipples such as the Bellevue, which blends Tequila and mezcal with elderflower liqueur, and is finished off with bubbles.
More about Garden Room at The Assembly Hotel
28 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0SR
This double restaurant features two differing takes on Thai food across its two floors. On the ground floor, you’ll find Wild Rice which features interiors inspired by Bangkok and offers a menu of small plates made with seasonal British ingredients. Expect to chow down on the likes of Thai ceviche made with raw seabass, red chilli, fish sauce and toasted rice, or opt for a pulled chicken leg soup.
Downstairs in the more intimate Mamasan, guests can indulge in Thai-inspired street food dishes, such as southern Thai fried chicken, seasoned with coriander root, garlic, and soy sauce and topped with crispy shallots. The beverage offering includes bubble tea and cocktails, while the décor is themed around Thailand’s Chinatown with lanterns and neon signage.
More about Wild Rice and Mamasan
SU48 London Bridge Station, Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 2TF
The two brothers behind these fun Neapolitan-style pizzerias have swiftly colonised London since setting up their first bricks-and-mortar outfit in Soho, off the back of their celebrated street-food van. Everywhere this Pilgrim ventures, it’s a hit – thanks to a simple concept and excellent ingredients, all sourced from Italy during the brothers’ initial fact-finding recce in search of the perfect pizza.
The results speak for themselves: impressively squidgy bases with beautifully charred edges topped with not-your-average combinations – think smoked anchovies, olives and capers or fennel-studded sausage and wild broccoli. If you can commit to more than one pizza at a sitting, then the dessert dough ring stuffed with Nutella and salted ricotta rewards gluttony; otherwise, order one of their digestifs (perhaps a Frangelico-laced Espresso Martini). Some sites are walk-ins only, but service is swift and takeaways are available.
More about Pizza Pilgrims London Bridge
269-270 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 2UQ
This new sibling to Covent Garden vegan eatery Wild Food Café is housed in a larger space which will allow the team to take bookings and serve an extended menu, featuring gluten-free wood-fired pizzas.
Expect dishes such as pulled jackfruit sandwich bites, which consist of raw walnut and courgette bread topped with little gem, black garlic cashew cheese and barbecue pulled jackfruit. Elsewhere, there’s a vegan twist on the Malaysian classic laksa, which combines a coconut broth with galangal, lemongrass, ginger, nori and squash, or you can opt for Queen of the Forest, a coconut and plantain stew.
Alongside the expected natural wines and superfood smoothies, you can also sip on seasonally changing herbal tonics and ‘medicinally-focused juices’ (perhaps best consumed with a pinch of salt). Weekends, meanwhile, see a ‘wild’ brunch, which focuses on dishes made with foraged ingredients.
More about Wild Food Café Islington
451 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9UZ
Following a refit, the ground floor of this 1840s Chelsea pub has been reinvented as a family-owned Italian bar and restaurant. Pristine in sage, pine and beige, it’s smart, comfortable, grown-up and decidedly unstuffy. Drop in for daytime coffee and pastries or reasonably priced cocktails such as Rossini, Negroni, Espresso Martini or After Eight (a rather nice concoction of rum, chocolate and orange juice).
To eat, eggs Florentine, pancakes and a fruity goat’s cheese salad appear among various weekend brunch staples, while the main menu is big on boldly flavoured Italian hits. Start with aubergine parmigiana or scallops in a wine and butter sauce served on a quenelle of potato and butternut squash. Follow with silken calf’s liver in sage and butter sauce, sea bream ‘purgatorio’ (with capers, olives and white wine) or chicken breast with mushroom and asparagus in rich brandy cream sauce. A dozen traditional pastas and risottos plus failsafe Italian desserts such as tiramisu and pannacotta complete the food offer.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Corner’s seasoned sommelier is on hand to guide diners through a global wine list that’s strong on indigenous quality – from highly affordable Puglian Primitivo, via classy Campanian white (from 100 per cent Fiano grapes) to stellar Sangiovese (a top-flight Tuscan with a correspondingly toppy price tag).
More about Chelsea Corner
£50 - £79
8 Haymarket, St. James's, London, SW1Y 4BP
Seven-strong Indian restaurant chain Farzi Café has launched its first London site just off Piccadilly Circus. Farzi is known for its modern interpretation of Indian cuisine, as well as its tableside theatrics.
Dishes to indulge in include tandoori wild mushrooms, sprinkled with a truffle and walnut dust, and the Raj Kachori (pastry shells filled with sweet and sour pumpkin, topped with chutney foam, and served with a crisp okra salad).
More about Farzi Café
3 Norris Street, London, SW1Y 4RN
Replacing short-lived Veneta in St James’s Market is this all-day Italian café and bar. The menu here kicks off in the morning with baked goods, accompanied by 100% Arabica coffee. Come lunchtime, you’ll find freshly-made paninis, while the evening sees charcuterie boards to share between two.
The evening hours will also see cocktails and live entertainment, courtesy of two baby grand pianos. From the bar, you can sip on a selection of classic cocktails, including Espresso Martinis and Negronis. Norris’s is currently slated as a six month pop up, set to run until spring 2018, but if successful, will become a permanent fixture of the market.
More about Norris's
Dickens Yard, London, W5 2BF
This ramen specialist is a great name to know, whether you’re after a Selfridges shopping pit stop (the London and Birmingham stores both house branches) or a post-pub dose of Japanese nourishment. Tonkotsu’s titular ‘stock’ in trade comprises a bowl of rich pork-bone broth, slow-simmered to creamy, cloudy unctuousness, then heaped with thin handmade noodles, slices of pork belly, half a gooey soft-boiled egg, and a handful of spring onions; other variations made with a soy, salt or miso base are also popular.
Impressively light gyoza and crunchy-coated chicken karaage are not to be missed either, but whether you can squeeze them in is another matter. Depending where you dine, you might be slurping your noodles in a narrow, no-frills dive or at a stylish counter within a swish department store – the only common elements being swift service and a coolly minimalist layout.
More about Tonkotsu Ealing
137-139 Lower Marsh, London, SE1 7AE
This rustic-style wine bar, shop and kitchen already has a site in Tooting, and has now set up home underneath the Stow-Away hotel in Waterloo.
The owners are enthusiastic oenophiles Laura and Kiki, who met while working at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen and started hosting wine evenings – A Grape Night In. As with that pop-up, the focus here is on ‘selling wine that over-delivers for the price paid’.
The concise themed menu changes monthly to coincide with the arrival of a new guest, while items on the food menu are inexpensive. On your visit, you might find the likes of courgette and fennel fritters, or perhaps pork rillettes with pickles and pitta bread.
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Olympic Way, HA9 0NU
Pop-up mall Boxpark originally launched in Shoreditch back in 2011, and has since become a staple of the east London scene. Featuring food, drink and retail options, Boxpark is a bit of a one-stop shop, but one that evolves, with traders changing periodically. Now, it has opened up an offshoot in Wembley, featuring plenty more drool-worthy food options. Read on for our pick of the best.
Cut + Grind
Following the launch of a permanent site in King’s Cross, Cut + Grind’s juicy burgers have made their way west. Baps to try include a double patty beef burger with cheese and Dijon mayonnaise, while a vegan option features miso-glazed aubergine with spiced ketchup.
Although these dumpling pros have a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Soho, they were street food veterans long before that. Nosh on fillings including pork belly, or truffle and mushrooms. Dessert dumplings (Nutella, pecan pie) are also worth a punt.
Already a fan-favourite in Brook Green and Holloway, this pizza joint is sure to draw in Wembley’s residents with its pocket-friendly pricing and delicious toppings, such as truffle honey, fresh Italian sausage, taleggio goat cheese, pecorino cheese and mozzarella.
This Halal burger joint impresses with its menu of small bites and burgers. Snack on the likes of grilled halloumi skewers and grilled chicken wings, before tucking into burgers such as the Haus, the Smoky Chick or the Falafel and Cheese. Wash it all down with a Smoky Boys milkshake.
Serving up high-quality sushi at affordable prices, Mitsuryu serves up a range of rolls, including those of the California and spicy tuna variety. Side dishes meanwhile, include edamame or tako yaki (deep-friend octopus balls in mayonnaise).
More about Boxpark Wembley
Belmond Cadogan Hotel, 75 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9SG
The Belmond Cadogan Hotel marks the first London property from the travel group famous for operating such luxury icons as Le Manoir aux’Quat Saisons and the Orient-Express. Legendary chefs such as Raymond Blanc (of Le Manoir) and Eric Chavot (whose much-missed two Michelin-starred restaurant at The Capital has acquired a near mythical status hereabouts) were rumoured to be in the frame for the plum job of running the new hotel’s F&B offering. In the event, the gig has gone to young Scottish chef Adam Handling of The Frog fame, presumably in a bid to inject some street cred to the bluechip Belmond brand.
For his part, 30-year-old Handling (who is shaping up to be a restaurateur of distinction) seems determined to show off an impressive maturity at his self-titled restaurant. The wood panelling of the two dining rooms has been painted a sombre shade of grey while instead of cut flowers on the unclothed tables there are potted plants and herbs to fit Handling’s commitment to sustainability – an admirable ethos, but one that leaves the room lacking in the joie de vivre that former inhabitants Lillie Langtry and Oscar Wilde might have recognised.
A sense of playfulness is however injected with the arrival of the amuse bouches and bread – luscious truffle cheese doughnuts, and chicken butter to spread on IPA sourdough – that serve as the opening salvo to the à la carte or seven-course tasting menu.
We found that the more classical dishes worked better with the high-end setting (and high-end prices: starters average £24, mains £35). Butter-poached king crab with carrot and sorrel was a lovely piece of crustacean, it sweetness amplified by the carrot and cut by the sorrel, a traditional pairing for seafood.
Lemon sole to follow, meanwhile, came with seashore accompaniments of monk’s beard and seaweed butter and a chunky slice of white beetroot to stand up to the soft texture of the perfectly timed fish.
But we weren't so taken with everything we ate. The chicken butter seemed more redolent of chicken fat, while the signature pudding of compressed cucumber with burnt basil and dill seemed more like a palate cleanser than a dessert proper. Yeast parfait with Earl Grey ice cream and pickled Granny Smith struck us as a more successful fusion of the classic and contemporary.
Still, Handling is a chef with ideas to spare and this junction of Knightsbridge and Chelsea undoubtedly needs a transfusion of new blood. And he’s already got off to a flying start with a cool bar that has instantly become the best place to go for a drink on Sloane Street, while afternoon tea in a dedicated lounge next door has pretty crockery to match the daintiness on the plate. Handling might not have seemed the most obvious partner for Belmond, but Adam Handling and Chelsea are names that belong together.
More about Adam Handling Chelsea
6 Rathbone Place , London, W1T 1HL
Like the similarly named New York venture, this Fitzrovia bar and bottle shop’s handy – make that downright dangerous – USP is its offer of DIY drinks to go. It will deliver bespoke bottled cocktails direct to your party. The ground-floor’s look is inspired by the 1950s superettes that lined US highways: a pleasing pastiche kitted out in utilitarian deco. Here, Martinis and Old Fashioneds on tap hit the spot, as do the pizzas (with veal sausage, lemon, broccoli, sage and mascarpone among the toppings).
Upstairs, a cosier, soft-focus lounge plastered in tacky 1970s nostalgia is the sort of low-rent joint where Starsky and Hutch might have hit on Charlie’s Angels. This is where chilled dudes dispatch disco drinks – the likes of Strawberry Blonde (Jameson whisky, jam and blonde beer) and Garibaldi (‘Britvic’ OJ, Campari, bergamot, lavender, lemon liqueur and bitters). Off-menu evergreens such as a Vieux Carré are ably accommodated too.
More about Genuine Liquorette
45 Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8TR
If you’re a fan of classic, simple cooking, prepared with care in a cosy space, then hotfoot it over to this friendly French-cum-American bistro on Camberwell’s main drag. In the open kitchen at the back, classically trained chef Phil Cooper (previously of Mirabelle and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir) serves up unfussy food with French and American influences.
Starters of pâté de campagne, English mustard and toast, and Burford brown egg with Cromer crab were both well executed, yolk perfectly cooked and the freshly picked crab deftly seasoned. The classic cheeseburger is just that: a tasty beef patty confidently grilled to medium, served in a soft white bun with no-frills garnish and fries.
A sublime main of flaky cod, new potatoes and green beans with a rich caper butter sauce shows off the chef’s high-profile pedigree, while the dessert list is short and perfectly formed, a crisp pear tarte Tatin with syrupy, caramelised fruit the star of the show.
Classic cocktails and a pared-down wine list complete the offering in this welcome new addition to Camberwell’s burgeoning food scene.
More about Fat Phil's
£30 - £49
Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Part of new retail quarter Coal Drops Yard, this branch of Barrafina is one of three planned openings from the Harts Group in King’s Cross. Alongside El Pastor sibling Casa Pastor, and wine bar The Drop, this fourth Barrafina will boast an outdoor terrace and a private dining room for 20. Coal Drops Yard opens as a whole in autumn 2018, following an extensive redesign from its old use as a Victorian coal house.
More about Barrafina Coal Drops Yard
£50 - £79
Opera Terrace, The Piazza, London, WC2E 8RF
The second London location for glamorous international brand Sushisamba has landed on top of Covent Garden’s Opera Terrace, and there’s one major difference to the Liverpool Street debut – it’s missing the City site’s spectacular view. Overlooking the tourist-heavy crowds of Covent Garden’s piazza instead of glimmering skyscrapers and famous landmarks, the restaurant may have lost some of its ‘occasion dining’ flair, but it is still a thrilling ride.
Stylish interiors and a buzzing atmosphere compensate for the initial lack of spectacle. Make your way to the restaurant via a spiral staircase which is (naturally) decked out in the brand’s signature bright orange hue. Once inside, you’re greeted by the sexy bar, which looks like a grown-up Rainforest Café and features a high-maintenance ‘living’ ceiling of foliage. Elsewhere, there are plush red velvet booths for groups, and a sushi bar-cum-dining counter for those looking to get close to the cheffing action.
All the Sushisamba hits are present on the menu: moreish green bean tempura served with a slick of black truffle aioli makes for a decadent snack, while springy gyoza are stuffed with intensely meaty Wagyu beef and served on a neon yellow pool of sweet-tasting kabocha.
From the selection of vibrantly coloured sushi rolls, the El Topo was our favourite: a tightly-packed roll layered with strips of salmon, a splodge of melted mozzarella, jalapeños and a dusting of crispy shallots. More sizeable dishes include fleshy, wobbly pork belly skewers from a robata grill which are glazed with a sticky-sweet butterscotch miso sauce, and flaky black cod which melts on the tongue.
Cocktails are fun, flirty and expensive, while there’s more opportunity to splash the cash via upmarket wines and Champagnes. We followed our switched-on waiter’s recommendation for dessert and were not disappointed by the arrival of a gooey chocolate and banana cake, finished off with a scoop of rum-spiked ice cream and a sugar-dusted plantain chip. A place to see and be seen, this latest Sushisamba won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s bang on the money for its target audience: and boy, do they have a lot of money.
More about Sushisamba Covent Garden
60 Bartholomew’s Close, London, EC1A 7BN
Originally set up in Cambridge following a successful crowdfunding campaign by founder Louise Palmer-Masterson, Stem + Glory is now a mini chain of plant-based vegan restaurants.
Thoroughly accessible, Stem + Glory is open throughout the day and serves upscale food with a global accent. Breakfast and brunch are good calls, with everything from banana bread to scrambled tofu, while lunch and dinner move up a gear for the likes of gluten-free lasagne, and a barbecue jackfruit burger. There are also some clever desserts, such as vegan riff on dark chocolate marquise, and a mango cheesecake.
The fine-dining inspired tasting menus (served in the evening only) are also hugely popular, while those looking to get their juice fix can head to the bar, which dispenses fresh juices and smoothies, alongside more grown-up craft beers, wines and cocktails.
More about Stem + Glory Bart's Square
10 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7SP
This American-inspired restaurant and bar takes its name from the popular acronym used to describe the sitting US President. POTUS features a striking bar at the centre of the room, which serves up wines, spirits and beers alongside cocktails inspired by past and present Presidents favourite sips.
The kitchen meanwhile turns out US favourites with contemporary twists, such as New England clam chowder, dry-aged steaks rubbed with cayenne pepper and paprika, and bananas foster, a classic New Orleans dessert. If you’re really looking to pledge your allegiance, you could always pop in to the neighbouring US Embassy on your way to dinner.
More about POTUS
224 Graham Road
, London, E8 1BP
Having shut the original Shoreditch incarnation of Scout, acclaimed drinks consultant Matt Whiley – aka The Talented Mr Fox – is now introducing Hackney to his cocktail credo. Simplicity, seasonality, sustainability, foraging and zero-waste are the watchwords in the spartan spearmint ground-floor bar.
Here an evolving drinks list is split into short chapters: Sea, Ground, Tree and Plant. Try a clean, light Highball combining gin, elderflower, samphire and honey. Alternatively, choose edgy Manhattans or modern Martinis that call for the recherché likes of acorn milk, oyster shell distillate, button syrup and hemp-based ‘whipped CBD oil’. By contrast to the main bar’s asceticism, Gold Tooth, Whiley’s pitch-black, graffiti-daubed basement gangsta dive, resembles an LA hip-hop joint, circa 1988. Beers and house ferments plus four simple kegged pre-mixes on tap – cascara and tonic, say – keep things sweet until fashionably late.
Food (snacks and small plates) is tailored to Scout’s seasonal drinks menu.
More about Scout
17-19 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2QH
This upmarket Mayfair Indian is the result of a joint effort between renowned chef Atul Kochhar and restaurateur Tina English, and specialises in dishes from India’s lesser-known regions.
The large space is split across two floors and includes a bar, a street-facing terrace and an intimate garden room. Opulent interiors see a blue colour scheme paired with lush foliage and topiary elephants, while the menu makes use of British produce where possible.
Starters include the likes of venison tartare with mustard oil mayonnaise, naan crouton and onions, while mains feature Samundri Khazana Alleppey – a dish of pan-seared seafood, Alleppey sauce and smoked cabbage poriyal.
Desserts stick to tradition with examples including a milk-based dessert of chocolate rasmalai, while drinks are a key element here too – sip on a Roast Banana Old Fashioned or try a whisky from a selection of over 50 varieties.
More about Kanishka
14 Handyside Street, N1C 4UZ
This casual pizzeria is found in King’s Cross, and serves up a short, crowd-pleasing menu of Italian-style pizzas, made using 72-hour fermented dough.
From the pocket-friendly offering, you’ll find traditional pizzas such as a Marinara (tomato, oregano, garlic, basil) and a Pepperoni: tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni. You can also customise your pizza, with additional toppings such as mushrooms and olives. Vegan cheese and gluten-free pizza bases are also available.
You can finish up your meal with gelato, while those looking for a liquid dessert can head to the basement cocktail bar Supermax. Here, you’ll find retro-inspired cocktails alongside 70s-style interiors such as velvet wall hangings and a glittering disco ball.
Interior image: Andrew Meredith
Food image: Lucy Richards
More about Happy Face
31 Duke Street, London, W1U 1LG
Found on the former site of Tony Conigliaro’s ill-fated Bar Termini Centrale, this bar and kitchen is an intimate operation, only seating 50 guests indoors, and a few more on the street-facing terrace. A notable feature of the interiors is a wall filled with vinyl records, which guests can choose from and request to be played.
The cocktail menu seek to champion local producers through sips such as the Sir Duke, which uses London potato vodka and pastis made at the nearby Bloomsbury Distillery. The food menu encompasses bar snacks inspired by family favourite recipes: try the likes of a Dingly Dell ham and cheese toastie served with tomato compote, or ‘Cup a Soup’, which blends butternut squash, roasted garlic and white truffle oil, and comes served with buttered milk-bread soldiers.
More about FAM Bar and Kitchen
54-56 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3QR
Few restaurants successfully manage to transport you back in time without feeling like a clichéd relic from an earlier era, but this UK debut from French hospitality group Big Mamma does just that. Despite its Gallic roots, Gloria’s shtick is Italian food, billing itself as a ‘70s Capri-style trattoria’.
A tiny bar area leads into a buzzy dining room decked out in the kind of flowers, wicker furniture and other faux-distressed details that make Gloria feel like it’s been around for years. There’s another dining room in the basement, this time with a mirrored ceiling and ruched drapes that feel more like an old-school Parisian bistro, although it’s so dimly lit that you’ll need your phone torch to decipher the menu; we’d recommend you book upstairs if you’re eating during daylight hours.
The food at Gloria is, in a word, extra. The menu ripples with over-the-top, Instagram-baiting versions of Italian classics – think a lasagne which is ten layers high, or a slab of lemon meringue pie which looks like it could do serious damage to the Titanic.
Beyond the frivolity, though, there is skill. Pasta al tartufo involves bouncy ribbons of house-made malfadine pasta, rubbed with mascarpone and flecked with black truffle shavings and button mushrooms. We also loved the profiterole Napoletana – a single, gleefully rich giant profiterole which swaps out the traditional cream filling for ice cream, topped with lashings of warm chocolate sauce.
Gloria’s quirkiness – including mismatched crockery and naming a dish ‘Brexit-alia truffle’ – might prove irritating to some, but its infectiously vivacious atmosphere completely charmed us.
More about Gloria
The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3V 4AB
There’s nothing subtle about this all-day Vietnamese in Finsbury Square, including its location at the base of ‘The Cheesegrater’ building. Boasting loud floral wallpaper and patterned furnishings, lunchtimes here are geared towards time-poor and flavour-hungry City workers, with dishes including Bahn mi baguettes filled with the likes of pork meatballs and vegetables.
Later in the day, the evening menu works for quick and easy dinners, featuring sharing small plates such as chicken wings and vegetable gyoza. You can also chow down on bao buns, filled with hoisin pulled beef perhaps, or maybe pumpkin croquette. The cocktail list meanwhile, sees Asian twists on the classics: take the Hot Damn Vietnam, which is a spicy Margarita with a sriracha salt rim.
More about Hop Vietnamese City
Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Found right at the back of glamorous King’s Cross development Coal Drops Yard, is Anthony Demetre’s (of Wild Honey fame) latest venture, Vermuteria.
The concept for this intimate venue is inspired by cafés and bars on the cycling Grand Tour routes in France, Spain and Italy, which is immediately apparent when you spot the vintage cycling memorabilia that adorns the walls. Despite being packed on our Friday night visit, the atmosphere was nonetheless relaxed and languid – had time allowed, we could have stayed for hours.
While Vermuteria has a strong wine and cheese selection, it’s the cocktails which are not to be missed. Although, these punchy sips are not for the faint of heart: for a drink that really puts hairs on your chest, go for the Bicicletta, which is a mix of Campari and Picpoul de Pinet.
When it comes to food, expect lots of sharing plates at pretty reasonable prices. The ox cheeks in red wine are impressively tender, while other dishes include bitter and salty Padron peppers, as well as a gooey, creamy chilli and tomato croquette. The best thing we ate though was the indulgent duck confit, which was served with starchy white beans. A refreshingly caramelised and fleshy roast quince with crème fraiche is the only pudding option, but rounds off a meal nicely.
Vermuteria is a great addition to Coal Drops Yard’s roster of dining options, but be sure to get there early, as it doesn’t take bookings.
More about Vermuteria Café & Bar
Unit s38 Pop Brixton, 89 Brixton Station Rd, London, SW9 8PQ
Irish chef Simon Whiteside proved his seafood credentials at Hook in Camden, after Bia Mara, his wildly popular seafood stall in Dublin, spawned two restaurants in Brussels and Antwerp. Roe is his first solo effort – and it’s a resounding hit.
Located in one of Pop Brixton’s shipping containers, there’s space for just 32 diners at the communal tables inside, plus an outside terrace for walk-ins. The menu is equally bijou: a changing one-page list of small and large plates. Despite its size, Roe has a big heart; its flavour-packed dishes are prepared with commendable skill and attention to detail.
Highlights include crisp and creamy cuttlefish and ink arancini served with a punchy pecorino foam, pan-fried ray wing paired with rich autumnal flavours of Jerusalem artichoke, wild mushrooms and a red wine jus, and spiced pollock on a textured bed of fermented lentils, roast onion, squash and baby red chard. Even the bread – black slices of ink and Guinness soda bread with addictive seaweed butter and whipped smoked cod roe – is knock-out.
A sustainable ethos extends from the well-sourced ingredients to the drinks list, which features organic wines, craft beers and Karma Cola softs, plus hard liquor from the Sustainable Spirits Co – including potent shots of Ban Poitin (Irish moonshine).
More about Roe at Pop Brixton
17, 2 Churchill Place, London, E14 5RB
With 30-plus UK outlets (and more dotted around the globe), plus a stonking range of punningly titled beers, and a penchant for in-your-face publicity stunts, this ‘punk’ Scottish brewer is leading its own self-declared beer ‘revolution’. Brewdog’s bars are, understandably, dominated by its bestselling craft brews, from Punk IPA to Vagabond Pale Ale, but the owners’ all-out passion ensures a wide selection of guest pours on draught– perhaps Yuppie Wheat from Danish brewery Mikkeller or the eponymous brew from Michigan-based Flying Dog. However, don’t expect to find old-school beer nerds stroking their beards over a warm pint – Brewdog’s arrival on the scene has brought craft beer out of the closet, ditching beams and horse brasses in favour of exposed girders, concrete pillars and graffiti art. Burgers, wings and fries provide ballast, which you’ll definitely need if you opt for Brewdog’s super-strength Hardcore IPA, at 9.2% abv!
More about Brewdog Canary Wharf
17 Farringdon Street, EC4A 4AB
An avalanche of Heidi-hi-kitsch props and vintage winter sports memorabilia on loan from the Ski Club of Great Britain just about buries the bare bones of this three-storey new-build dragged up by owners Hippo Inns as an off-piste alpine chalet. From a full-size 1950s cable car cabin suspended on high, survey the après-ski action below as the post-work Haus party heats up with Hot Toddies and vin chaud with cinnamon and orange.
From the cocktails, we enjoyed the likes of a Salted Caramel Old-Fashioned, while beer cravings were sated via Swiss 1936 Tank Bière, one of six draught brews. Food-wise, early risers can make the most of a full Bavarian and a croque monsieur at breakfast or brunch, while later in the day sees dishes such as onion soup or ham hock and cheese croquettes. For something more substantial, opt for chicken schnitzel Holstein, pasta or pizzas, while apple strudel or hot chocolate with Chantilly cream are on-hand to finish with. Post-meal, slalom down to a toasty basement bierkeller for further drinking, but beware of the pungent whiff of fondue.
More about The White Haus
13 Cosmo Place, London, WC1N 3AP
This Chinese restaurant, exceptionally well located for the students of UCL and SOAS, is the third site from the team behind the much-loved Xi’an Impression in Highbury, following the launch of Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles in Spitalfields in 2018.
As with its siblings, Master Wei specialises in dishes from Xi’an City in Shan Xi province in central China, and the restaurant serves many of the popular dishes seen at Xi’an Impression, alongside more traditional offerings. Master Wei also benefits from an alcohol license, so you can expect London-brewed beers.
More about Master Wei
Unit 2, Eastern Coal Drop, London, N1C
Hicce (pronounced ‘ee-chay’, not ‘hicky’) is the first solo restaurant from Pip Lacey, the former head chef of Murano and 2017 finalist from Great British Menu. Officially it is part of Wolf & Badger, although if you approach it from the first floor of Coal Drops Yard, you’d be completely unaware that you were dining in a luxury lifestyle store – except, perhaps, for the fact that the sleek, Scandinavian-style furniture filling the light, warehouse-feeling space looks exactly like the sort of covetable stuff you’d find for sale in a luxury lifestyle store, and the smart young staff are as smiley and eager to help as any high-end shop assistant.
The kitchen’s speciality of wood-fired cooking includes not just grilling but also steaming and smoking. Highlights for us among the sharing plates included terrific breads – dense rye bread, sweet beer bread – to act as a base for superb pork rillettes, so smooth it tastes almost puréed, and well-sourced cheeses.
As well as cheese, charcuterie, fermented veg jars and cured fish, there are three fish, vegetable and meat dishes apiece; we enjoyed our lamb neck with mojo and tomatoes, but the side order of miso potatoes was even better, as comforting as a plate of mini jacket spuds with a flavour intensified by the miso.
Not only is this food that tastes good, it is also good for you – there is mackerel with radicchio and kumquats, or octopus with seaweed and fennel – though anyone feeling that they’ve eaten too puritanically should try the crème caramel to finish, made with condensed milk for added richness.
Lacey herself can be seen calmly beavering away in the open kitchen that runs along one wall of the dining room, while her business partner Gordy McIntyre heads up front of house as a charming host. Our only criticism would be that all of our food arrived pretty much at once, so we ate all of our hot dishes first – first week teething troubles, we’re sure.
If you’d like to try Hicce without committing to eating, a standalone bar offers beers from Hackney Brewery, biodynamic and organic wines and great cocktails including some creative non-alcoholic versions.
We’re big fans of what has been achieved at Coal Drops Yard, even if several of the restaurant concepts feel like highly accomplished re-treads. With Hicce, however, Lacey has brought something genuinely new to London’s hottest dining destination.
More about Hicce
£50 - £79
20 Queen Street, London, W1J 5PR
Tamarind has been one of the most famous names on London’s restaurant scene since it became the first Indian ever to win a Michelin star in 2001. Now it has re-opened after an eight-month refurbishment with a pair of émigrés from two of London’s other most famous Indian restaurants: Karunesh Khanna, former head chef at Amaya, and Manav Tuli, former head chef of Chutney Mary.
Neither chef, however, has managed to replicate the allure of the cooking at the restaurants they have left behind. We loved the roti-like pastry case of a chicken biryani, but the contents within tasted more like casserole than curry. A Keralan prawn curry, meanwhile, seemed similarly under-powered on the flavour front, although there was no faulting the quality nor generosity of the king prawns.
Vegetable dishes may be a better way to go – we adored a dish of caramelised Brussels sprouts with chestnuts that would make it taste deliciously like Christmas all-year round – while an excellent non-alcoholic drink involving molasses made it a pleasure to stay sober.
Khanna and Tuli both have terrific CVs, and we hope that our meal – competent rather than compelling – was a result of them settling into new premises that have more than doubled in size and been completely re-modelled by superstar designer David D’Almada.
The basement dining room has been lightened, brightened (overly so, we felt) and an open kitchen added, while there is a new, more loungey space upstairs; each is linked to the other by a high-shine street-level lobby that looks like the entrance to an especially lucrative private-wealth manager.
Still, we’ll give Tamarind a second chance. This is a restaurant that convinced Londoners of the sophistication of Indian cooking, and it remains a name to conjure with. Fingers crossed the new team can add the magic on the food front.
More about Tamarind Mayfair
1-3 Avery Row, Mayfair, London, W1K 4AJ
Onima’s website breathlessly tells us that its ridiculously good-looking founder Alexandros Andrianopoulos ‘spent 10 ardent summers lending his expertise to the glamorous restaurant scene’ on Mykonos, managing some of the hedonistic island’s best-known party spots. It’s only appropriate, then, that for his London debut Andrianopoulos has opened a five-story members’ club in a Mayfair townhouse that was formerly the HQ of Cartier’s watchmaking division.
The ground-floor restaurant (dress code: 'smart-chic') is no less opulent for being open to non-members, who can dine in a romantic setting softly lit by orange and yellow orb-like electric lanterns, with an impressive-looking bar as the centrepiece. It feels like a Disney-esque vision of what an exclusive central London hotspot should look like, but Onima just about pulls it off, not least thanks to some pretty accomplished cooking.
Much as you’d find on Mykonos, the food is a mix of Mediterranean dishes and fashionable Asian influences. For our starters we stuck to the Med with a spanakopita that was pretty faithful to the original Greek spinach pie, even if the saganaki cheese was a touch rubbery. Courgette flowers with feta, ricotta and anchovies, meanwhile, was impressively salty and sour, while the hummus and pitta was some of the best we’ve ever had.
Our mains didn’t re-invent the wheel either, but they were technically flawless. Lamb ragout featured a satisfyingly rich sauce and al dente penne, while baby chicken marinated in miso sauce was perfectly cooked and tender.
Puddings were the real standout, however, with the chocolate cookies semifreddo served with a salted caramel sauce poured from on high, while the soft meringue and mix of textures in a reconstructed lemon tart brought a smile to our faces.
Much like a holiday on Mykonos, a meal at Onima does not come cheap (several starters top the £20 mark) and if dining among the glitz of the international super-rich is not your idea of a good time, then walk on by. But Onima does deliver a pretty faultless experience when it comes down to it and definitely makes a safe choice for a swanky date.
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90 Bartholomew Close , EC1A 7EB
A former linoleum warehouse doesn’t sound like the sexiest of spaces to open a restaurant, but that’s exactly where Lino has decided to set up shop, with its chic all-day restaurant and bar. Lino’s name is one of few subtle nods to the venue’s past life, including exposed pipes and sanded-down wooden doors. Mostly though, this is a stylish proposition, completed by powder-blue and salmon-pink furnishings, and brass fixtures.
The menu is a timely snapshot of London dining culture: it’s big on fermentation and pickling (Lino cultures its own butter and bakes excellent sourdough in-house), it champions vegetables alongside meat – seen in the pairing of flank steak with the humble likes of watercress and horseradish – and the menu lends itself to sharing-style dining.
From the snacks, we were most taken with the crisply-coated croquettes which burst with the umami taste of sauerkraut and Montgomery cheddar – they’re served in a portion of three though, so prepare to fight over the last one. From the more substantial dishes, a lean fillet of grilled mackerel is complemented by oyster mayonnaise and sharp discs of house pickled cucumber, while a velvety meat-free lasagne makes the most of autumnal ingredients: buttery folds of pasta conceal puréed pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke, topped with a generous helping of parmesan shavings.
At dessert, the school dinner staple of bread and butter pudding is given a much welcomed update, swapping out standard bread for a croissant base and glazed with shimmering marmalade, resulting in a delightfully playful mix of sugar and stodge. Fair pricing and cool, casual staff add to Lino’s appeal – perhaps it’s a little too on-trend or a little too manufactured, but unlike some style-over-substance offerings in the Square Mile, Lino backs itself up with a considered and well thought-out menu.
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Tonight Josephine, 39a Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NN
This play-pit is the second site to pay tribute to the famous French emperor’s wife (there’s also a Tonight Josephine in Waterloo): ‘a 19th-century fox’ we’re told by its owners, the team behind the Adventure bars and The Escapologist.
All powder pinks, soft greys, funky neon signs, brash strip lighting and silvery banquettes, the basement lounge could be a 1990s nail bar – and women tend to predominate. Pamper sessions start sedately with two-for-one happy-hour hooch from a list of ‘party cocktails’. Aviation fans might fancy a (Parma) Violet Femme; fruity, tropical Midori and banana June Bug is a familiar 1990s Hurricane; and we like Loch Negroni Monster, which substitutes Buckfast for vermouth in a tartan twist on the Italian classic. Alternatively, trade up to a premium range that has Toasted (Jack Daniel’s) Popcorn Sour and Flaming Zombie, or order bubbles, boy beers, Pinot G and anything from the plethora of shots, shooters and bombs as the disco vibe cranks up.
Not a fan of millennial pink? Head upstairs to the far grungier Nikki's, a bar which is inspired by "the nightmare girlfriend your mother warned you about."
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140 Fetter Lane, EC4A 1BT
This modern British restaurant is found on the old site of a 28-50 wine bar, and is overseen by young chef Gemma Ellis, who previously worked at the Harwood Arms.
The candle-lit basement dining room features midnight blue walls and raw timber tables and chairs, while the regularly-changing menu champions the best of British. On your visit, you might find starters such as goose rillettes with cranberry sauce, or brown shrimp on an English muffin, while mains include the likes of roast chicken with creamed leeks, mushrooms and bacon.
For pudding, try the traditional dishes such as almond cake with figs, while those with a savoury tooth can choose from a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses. If you’re after a liquid dessert, stop by Clifford’s late-night bar, which serves cocktails which are made using local produce, and luxe bar snacks such as cacklebean devilled eggs and buttermilk fried rabbit.
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£30 - £49
Unit 25 Battersea Power Station, 25 Circus Road West, London, SW11 8NN
As well as wrangling the queues for its magnificent chorizo sandwiches on Borough Market and selling a range of stellar food and drink in its shops, Brindisa also finds time to run a switched-on group of tapas bars. This Spanish importer’s restaurant arm began in Borough in 2004, and each outlet follows the original blueprint, with menus structured around a splendid range of cured meats, Spanish cheeses and classic tapas (croquetas, Gordal olives stuffed with orange, and so on). There are also various small plates – perhaps gazpacho, grilled octopus with mash and paprika, pluma ibérica with fresh figs and pomegranate. Just add a nifty choice of sherries by the glass and a very reasonable all-Spanish wine list for to complete this authentic tapas experience.
More about Tapas Brindisa Battersea
10 Lincoln Street, SW3 2TS
Number 10 Lincoln Street is an address with an impressive pedigree for Indian restaurants. Its previous resident was chef Vineet Bhatia’s Michelin-starred Rasoi; now it’s home to this first solo restaurant from chef-patron Rohit Ghai, who trails a comet’s tail of starry Indian establishments behind him, having been head chef at Gymkhana and launched Jamavar and Bombay Bustle.
‘Kutir’ means ‘a small cottage in the middle of nowhere’ in Sanskrit and while the location on a side street near Sloane Square is hardly off the beaten track, it does feel homely, although this being Chelsea, it’s the sort of home that World of Interiors might splash on its cover. Diners must ring a doorbell (or rap the silver elephant door knocker) to gain admittance to a series of dining rooms tricked out with Zoffany wallpaper and fragranced with a rose-scented diffuser.
It’s an entrancing setting for modern Indian cooking that beguiles with spicing that is delicate and distinct. Take the 24-hour lamb rogan josh, involving lamb shoulder slow-cooked for a whole day at 90C and spooned with a glossy brown sauce made from the bones, and served alongside a cigar-shaped samosa of lamb’s offal rolled inside the thinnest, crispest pastry. Nose-to-tail eating doesn’t get any more refined.
Roast duck breast, meanwhile, comes with a cashew sauce as creamy as anything you’d find in French cuisine, although it’s not all so sophisticated: lamb chops are as primal a thrill as you’d find anywhere, but it’s typical of Ghai’s thoughtful approach that the palate-refreshing dish of sprouts on the side demands equal attention. Vegetarians, meanwhile, are well served by inspired combinations such as soft paneer offset by the crunch of sweetcorn.
Diners who find much modern Indian cooking too dainty are unlikely to be won over by the likes of a pair of perfectly cooked scallops presented on a silver banana leaf, and still less, perhaps, by the series of ‘Expeditions’ tasting menus with matching wines. And while prices are not outlandish for the quality of cooking or location, Kutir is unlikely to become a home-from-home for all but the most well-heeled of Chelsea locals. But for anyone interested to see how one of London’s foremost chefs is evolving the Indian repertoire with individuality and ambition, 10 Lincoln Street remains an address to remember.
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26 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DD
A quirky rococo picture windowed salon and a dark post-punk Dickensian downstairs lounge in the author's 1860s former offices – that’s whimsical new wave wine bar Grays & Feather summed up. A showcase for owner/ importer Andrew Gray's passion, top notch sparkling wines are the compelling tale here. Competitively priced, his 50-strong global selection deliberately excludes Champagne in order to place emphasis on sparkling wines from other regions, but a few more by-the-glass options wouldn’t go amiss.
However, with classy crémants, elegant Italian bubbles and rapidly improving English fizz, alongside Japanese and Brazilian Bruts, Canadian cuvées, super South African Krone Borealis and an ace nutty, peppery, ripe pear and greengage-y Grüner Veltliner (representing Austria) to brighten your day, who needs Champagne? Limited kitchen space dictates a menu of cold assemblies that are not yet as consistent as the wine list: smoked salmon tartare, and smoky, spicy miso-cured aubergine work well enough, and cheese and vegetarian sharing boards are adequate, if over-priced. However, crab meat which is overpowered by nduja and spread thin on a brioche briquette, fails to pop our cork.
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£50 - £79
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1AB
Department store dining is often a no-go for discerning Londoners, but then again, most department stores aren’t as legendary as Selfridges. Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, (responsible for The Ivy Collection, Sexy Fish and several other restaurant behemoths) is the group behind Brasserie of Light and it’s managed to create a pulsing, rip-roaringly electric atmosphere that feels every bit as glamorous as the luxury goods on display next door.
From the moment you’re greeted by a doorman gussied up in top hat and coat tails (with diamanté detailing), you know that Brasserie of Light is going to be a little bit ridiculous, but bags of fun. The jaw-droppingly gorgeous dining room has as its centrepiece a wall-mounted Damien Hirst sculpture of Pegasus, which looms over diners with its 30-foot wing span.
If at any point you forget you’re dining beneath a crystal-encrusted mythical creature, there’s still plenty of eye candy to drool over – banquettes and bar stools are upholstered in shades of mustard yellow and azure blue, and practically every surface is mirrored, from the table tops to the walls. Even the loos have been designed as a selfie haven, a seductive mash-up of marble and mirrors: black for the gents and dusty pink for the ladies, natch.
Compared to so much visual stimulation, the menu of Ivy-esque brasserie classics initially looks pedestrian. And while no one is ever going to come here for the cooking, the food at Brasserie of Light is better than it needs to be. Take a starter of popcorn shrimp, which sees plump and smoky prawns smothered in a tongue-tingling chilli sauce, or a main of lobster spaghettini, replete with generous chunks of fresh-tasting lobster, thick spaghetti and a welcome kick of chilli.
Desserts are made for Instagram: pick from a galactic-themed take on The Ivy’s signature melting chocolate bombe, or a Pegasus pie with a yuzu coconut filling and sesame biscuit ‘wings’. The wine list is also surprisingly accessible, although there are still plenty of options to bulk up your bill.
With breakfast, brunch and afternoon tea all taken care of, Brasserie of Light caters to every indulgent whim. Embrace its silliness and extravagance and there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
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98-100 Shepherds Bush Road, London, W6 7PD
In London, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to French haute cuisine, but the more rustic, family-style food of Provençal cooking is a little harder to find. Enter Le Petit Citron, from husband and wife team Lawrence and Emily Hartley.
Le Petit Citron does a great facsimile of a French bistro, right down to the paper tablecloths. French posters are plastered all over the walls and soft lighting makes it a romantic spot for dates. The food is delightfully uncomplicated: from the starters, a red onion and goat’s cheese tart was different from what we expected, appearing in the form of what looked like a Pop Tart and boasting a buttery croissant-like pastry, rather than the usual shortcrust. This worked brilliantly with the sickly sweet red onion, and the sour goat’s cheese.
For mains, we had the confit belly pork, which as a confit should, fell apart at the touch of a fork, while the addition of lentils cooked in Dijon mustard really added an extra kick to the dish. For pudding, there’s pain perdu au chocolat, which is a very homely (and chocolatey) French version of bread and butter pudding. We mostly enjoyed everything we ate, although our side dish of potato dauphinoise could have done with a little more sauce.
Haute cuisine this restaurant may not be, but with affordable prices and delicious food, Le Petit Citron is the kind of place you’ll want to make a regular haunt.
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South East Asian
73 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3HR
This Shoreditch joint is a sibling to the Peruvian-leaning Pachamama in Marylebone, but this time around, there’s an added emphasis on Asian ingredients and flavours. The split-level, plant-strewn space has a cosy, romantic vibe thanks to shabby-chic interiors, even more so in the evening, where the space is lit by candlelight.
Dishes arrive as and when they’re ready from the open kitchen, and there’s a tasting menu if you don’t want to deal with the burden of choice. We kicked off with fatty cubes of pork belly chicarrones, before moving on to miso-cured carrots resting against a pool of crunchy black quinoa and a bundle of sharp-tasting Peruvian kimchi.
Larger plates include the modestly named ‘duck on rice’: a hunk of crispy, smoky duck resting atop a mound of aromatic rice. The duck went down nicely with our fragrant Earl Grey-infused Pisco, which arrived topped up with Prosecco. From the desserts, a yuzu-spiked ice cream with oat crumble was rather forgettable, whereas a bowl of crumbly corncake with vanilla ice cream and sticky poached pears fared much better. Amiable service and a tempting weekend brunch are further draws.
More about Pachamama East
47-51 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9BU
With its bare-brick walls, reclaimed wooden furniture, bare filament bulbs, blaring rock soundtrack and pared-back menu, Flat Iron was among the first wave of hipster eateries to pitch camp in the capital. Originally an East End pop-up, its permanent incarnations now give London’s posher steakhouses a run for their money. As you might guess from the name, this mini-chain specialises in thick-sliced perfectly charred featherblade (flat iron) steaks, served with salad, beef-dripping fries and a jokey miniature cleaver. That’s the extent of the menu, unless you count daily burger specials or visit the Shoreditch branch, where beef fore-ribs, rumps and sirloins are roasted on a huge spit. The user-friendly no-reservations system uses pagers to free wannabe diners from waiting in line: most punters head to the bar for a stiff cocktail until their spot at one of the shared tables is ready.
More about Flat Iron King's Cross
11 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HL
This all-day restaurant and wine bar comes from the team behind Bethnal Green’s Sager + Wilde. At first glance, Fare seems like a pretty casual operation, with the buzzy ground-floor bar the only thing visible to passers-by. However, the basement dining room is where you’ll find the real action, in an industrial-chic space which is made rather romantic thanks to candles on tables and foliage hanging from the walls.
The regularly changing menu reads simply – ‘smoked anchovies, pickled peppers’ – but there is hidden depth and complexity to these dishes. Take the puffy, charcoal-grilled sesame bread, which is presented half folded over like a calzone, and paired with a blob of thick-set curd and slices of pickled carrots to mop up. Elsewhere, a meaty, lamb-flecked beef kofte is perfectly paired with its bed of hummus, and a smattering of crunchy chickpeas which create a perfect balance of textures.
The best thing we ate was the supremely tender lamb shoulder, with the succulent meat complemented by a mush of courgettes and garlic, and served with more charcoal-grilled bread (bread is part of practically every dish at Fare).
A 250-strong wine list is the stuff of an oenophile’s dreams, while you can pair one of the sweeter wines with a dessert such as a golden, sugar-dusted doughnut concealing chunks of pear, and teamed with a deliciously naughty dark chocolate sorbet. Service is occasionally forgetful, but fair prices and a cosy atmosphere make Fare a welcome addition to Old Street’s thriving restaurant scene.
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£30 - £49
21 Great Marlborough Street, London, W1F 7HL
Majoring in Indian street food, this casual restaurant is part of the Courthouse Hotel Soho, but has its own entrance on Great Marlborough Street.
Colourful interiors are designed with an Indian marketplace in mind, while the menu offers small sharing plates which arrive at the table when ready. Dishes you’ll find on the menu include chicken with green chilli, lime and root ginger, and crispy lotus root and okra. Desserts feature Assam tea brûlée with vanilla ice cream, while the cocktail menu adds Indian twists to classic sips and includes a Chai White Russian.
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9-10 Waterloo Place, SW1Y 4BE
The Imperial Treasure brand might not yet be well-known in the UK but it’s a huge deal in Asia, where the Shanghai flagship holds two Michelin stars and the Hong Kong and Singapore branches have one each; 20 further restaurants extend to Guangzhou, South Korea and a Paris outpost scheduled for 2019.
It’s the sort of heritage that means the brand’s founder Alfred Leung has had the confidence to launch a three-storey restaurant occupying 8,500 square feet of prime St James’s real estate. And with a 25-year lease, Leung is in London for the long haul.
That confidence is well and truly deserved. For make no mistake: Imperial Treasure is the best Chinese restaurant to have opened in London since A Wong. Wagyu beef, Iberico pork, Scottish lobster and sea cucumber feature heavily, while Peking duck is carved tableside with all the theatre you would expect. But there are plenty of other treasures on the menu.
Dim sum contains superior ingredients encased in the most delicate of wrappings. Classics of har gau and cheung fun set a new benchmark for London (try the char siu har gau, which tastes of the most beautiful barbecued spare-rib meat imaginable) while there are new treats to discover such as the snow pork bun: basically a sugary, savoury doughnut that, like all of the cooking here, keeps the balance of salty and sweet in perfect balance. Then there’s prawn toast served as a fat coil of deep-fried king prawn encrusted with sesame.
Full-sized dishes are handled just as deftly – kung po prawn keeps its chilli heat in check as deftly as any temperature-controlled thermostat – while lemon chicken is reinvented as juicy blocks of breast meat, coated in almond flakes and with a citrus-sharp lemon sauce on the side – although we preferred a blob of chilli sauce for seasoning. Even the fried rice would make a sumptuous meal by itself.
None of this comes cheap (the Peking duck is £100, dim sum around £8 a plate), but nor would you expect it to: the setting is luxurious without being ostentatious and there’s an army of solicitous staff to cater to your every need. Our only criticism was that the gap between dishes at lunch seemed to drag – but at these prices and with this quality of food, this is a ceremonial experience that you won’t want to rush.
More about Imperial Treasure
£30 - £49
30-34 James Street, London, W1U 1ER
Inspired by Caprice Holdings’ private member’s club of the same name in Mayfair (and a cousin of Harry’s Dolce Vita https://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurant/harrys-dolce-vita in Knightsbridge), this open-to-all iteration of Harry’s Bar is in the rather less exclusive environs of St Christopher’s Place, home to Côte, Nando’s and Carluccio’s.
One inside, though, it’s old-school glamour all the way. The 50s-style interiors mix burnt orange banquettes with dark-wood panelling and splashes of gold, while low lighting adds a romantic touch.
An extensive menu of classic Italian comfort food (pizza, pasta, salads, steak) begins with tempting cicchetti, including balls of arancini which ooze truffle and parmesan, while puffed-up garlic and rosemary flatbread is a doughy delight. More substantial dishes might include ribbons of velvety pappardelle tied up with hunks of tender slow-cooked beef.
Our pizza was less successful. A dry disc of squid-ink dough topped with smoked salmon and sliced avocado smothered in an excess of dill sour cream wasted ingredients that should have been left for brunch; a simple margherita might have been a better bet.
Stick with the classics, though, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed, while thoughtful service from smartly dressed staff, luxe details such as pasta scooped out at the table from copper pans and playful touches like gold-dusted chocolate flakes scattered over decadent profiteroles make the size of the bill easier to swallow.
A list of classic Italian cocktails impresses (Negronis, Bellinis etc) while Champagne and by-the-glass wines are also available. Weekend brunch meanwhile, offers the perfect opportunity to take advantage of Harry’s charming outdoor terrace in the warmer months.
More about Harry's Bar
£50 - £79
209 Westbourne Park Road, London, W11 1EA
You don’t need an A level in French to work out that ‘caractère’ is the French word for ‘character’, though ‘famille’ might have been just as good a name for this first solo project from husband and wife Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari. Roux is the daughter of Michel Jnr and met Ferrari when he was head chef of her father’s restaurant, Le Gavroche. At Caractère, Roux is front of house, Ferrari in the kitchen.
The couple’s ambition was to open somewhere ‘casual and contemporary’. It is determinedly contemporary (the menu is divided into six character traits) but unless you spend all your time in Michelin-starred restaurants, not most people’s idea of casual, though it is certainly striking.
Velvety, dusky pink chairs are set at marble-topped tables in a brick-walled room, with herringbone on the floor, dramatic lighting on the ceiling and picture windows running down two sides. The tableware is notably thoughtful: elegant, slimline cutlery, a butter knife that stands up on its base and a miniature ceramic bread board for excellent butter are all covetable items to add to a Pinterest board for a foodie’s Christmas stocking.
We didn’t find the character theme added anything to negotiating the menu beyond dividing it into meat, fish and vegetable sections, but cooking as good as this doesn’t need any gimmicks. Cacio e pepe has strips of celeriac in place of strands of pasta acting as a subtly flavoured foil to a full-throttle Pecorino sauce, a few drops of intensely concentrated balsamic vinegar, added at the table, cutting through the richness (there is much finishing of dishes at the table).
The same balance of savoury and sharp worked equally well in a beautiful slice of roast wild duck breast sharing a plate with fondant chervil root and blackberries, though you don’t need to order such big flavours: roast diver scallops with salsify purée, mustard and beurre blanc and grilled monkfish with parsley root, grapefruit and aniseed sauce were both appreciated for a gentle lunch. To finish, we preferred a magnificent warm chocolate cake with pecan praline and salted caramel sauce to a rather virtuous-tasting ‘millefeuille’ made out of sliced fig.
An exclusively French and Italian wine list reflects Roux and Ferrari’s family heritage, and while a focus on big names and big prices from Piedmont and Tuscany, Burgundy and Bordeaux reflects local wallets, there are enough interesting wines under £40 to make for rewarding drinking for anyone not on a banker’s salary.
With The Ledbury almost next door, the recently closed Marianne down the road and Core by Clare Smyth a short walk away, Notting HiIl has a well-established appetite for sophisticated modern cooking served in a high-end setting. Judging by their assured opening weeks, Roux and Ferrari have passed their test of Caractere with flying colours.
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152-156 North Gower Street,, London, NW1 2LU
The original USP of this ultra-modern round-the-clock diner (VQ, Vingt-Quatre, geddit?) was to serve food (and booze) 24/7 – although the Notting Hill and Euston branches call it a night in the early hours. Wherever you hole up, expect indulgence all the way, from buttermilk pancakes or eggs florentine (favourites from the all-day breakfast menu) to gargantuan lamb burgers, beer-battered fish & chips or super-sweet banoffee pie.
It’s tricky to design a restaurant that feels right at any time of day, but the graphic lines and clean, minimalist feel of VQ’s outlets are on the money for both morning coffee and late-night liquor, backed by staff who are adept at shifting gear during busy periods. After more than two decades on the scene, VQ has earned its place as a neighbourhood go-to – you’ll find burned-out party girls and bright-eyed families breakfasting side by side at weekends.
More about VQ Euston
£30 - £49
139 Upper Street, London, N1 1QP
Found on Islington’s restaurant-crowded Upper Street, this Pugliese eatery features rustic-chic interiors, including sanded-down walls and wooden chairs, complemented by a colourful tiled floor and lime green banquettes.
On the menu, you’ll find a short selection of southern Italian fayre, alongside a run of pizzas including the classic Margherita and a seafood-style creation topped with prawns and smoked salmon. If you don’t fancy pizza, you can instead opt for starters such as grilled octopus with a chickpea purée, while mains see homemade gnocchi served with a clam and basil sauce, or perhaps chargrilled sliced steak completed by rocket salad and parmesan shavings.
A three-course set menu offers good value, while classic Italian desserts include the tempting likes of tiramisu and lemon sorbet.
More about Terra Rossa
159 High Road, London, E18 2PA
This modern British is a two-floor restaurant found on the former site of short-lived The Woodford, which was headed up by chef Ben Murphy (he’s now at Kensington’s Launceston Place).
The Gallery boasts an open kitchen complete with a chef’s table for four, as well as a ground-floor cocktail and wine bar, and a private dining room. Glitzy interiors see a dark velvet colour scheme, dim lighting and artwork on the walls, while a gold sequin wall at the entrance provides a suitably glam backdrop for selfie-snapping. While being regaled with soothing tunes from a live pianist, guests tuck into a menu which mainly deals in steaks and seafood, but there are vegetarian and vegan options too.
More about The Gallery South Woodford
27 Saint Anne’s Court, Soho, W1F 0BN
If you haven’t already guessed from the name, the shtick at this Soho joint is that all of the food comes served in bowls. Found in Saint Anne’s Court, the colour scheme here is all bright turquoise, olive green, and salmon pink, while you’ll also find a collection of quirky bowls from around the world displayed on the walls.
The international menu takes influence from the Caribbean, South America and South East Asia, with dishes including the likes of jerk chicken with jollof rice, quail’s egg and fried banana, and braised pork belly with flat rice noodles in a homemade broth. Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find soups and salads, while you can wash it all down with prosecco on tap. Cocktails meanwhile, include sips such as the Aloha Royal, which blends rhubarb liqueur with bitters and prosecco.
More about Bowls
£30 - £49
28-30 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3DZ
The third site for wildly successfully Blacklock is housed in a New York loft-style space a short walk from Old Street station.
Anyone who’s visited the Blacklocks in Soho and the City will know the drill. Kickstart your meal with the pre-chop bites, which consist of three bite-size crackers, stacked with egg and a curl of salted anchovy, a hunk of cheese topped with pickle, and chicken dusted with shreds of strong horseradish.
From the starters proper, we loved the tangy pig’s head on toast, a messy mush of meat topped with sharp gherkins and chillies, and served with a boat of thick gravy. For the main event, Blacklock’s signature ‘all-in’ option remains a must-order: a perfectly cooked, vigorously seasoned stack of beef, lamb and pork chops served atop fluffy, herb-flecked flatbreads which soak up the meat juices.
Desserts add to Blacklock’s homely feel with a vanilla cheesecake served tableside out of a tray. It’s the ultimate indulgence, a crumbly base of crushed Digestives topped with cloud-like levels of fluffiness and curls of white chocolate.
Genuinely friendly staff add to the homely vibe, as too a real mix of diners, from suited business folk to couples on dates and families with young children. Blacklock’s mass appeal is a key part of its success, and with its democratic prices and fun vibe, it truly has something for everyone… except vegetarians.
More about Blacklock Shoreditch
22 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 5QY
This relaxed bun shop is the brainchild of Paul Sarlas, a former CEO of dim sum chain Ping Pong.
Bao & Bing specialises in steamed bao buns, but other dishes on the menu include Taiwanese pancakes and ‘wheel cake’ made from adkuki beans. Sides take in the likes of grilled corn on the cob and sweet potatoes, while drinks include bubble tea and cocktails.
More about Bao & Bing
2 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 9JU
The Bankside Hotel’s chic new all-dayer comprises a wraparound main dining room and a standalone bar, all hung with plenty of contemporary art (hence the name). The bright space features wooden furniture and patterned tiles, while the menu takes guests through from breakfast until dinner.
In the morning, the kitchen turns out a traditional full English, alongside the likes of buckwheat tabbouleh with tahini yoghurt and poached egg. Later in the day you’ll find hearty offerings from the wood-fire oven, including chargrilled cuttlefish with black rice and chorizo, or baked bone marrow with curry sauce.
At the bar, you can sip on complex cocktails such as a honey-washed Negroni, or sip on-draught taps from a local Bermondsey brewery. The bar also offers snacks and small plates, such as anchovies with lemon and sage, and spicy lamb with aubergine and egg pide.
Image credit: Ming Tang Evans
More about Art Yard Bar & Kitchen
207 Ferndale Road, London, SW9 8BE
This casual Italian café and late-night bar is the second Brixton opening from the team behind Canova Hall and Hackney’s Martello Hall. Like its siblings, it’s a crowd-pleaser, serving up bottomless brunch at weekends, plus late-night DJ sets, cabaret shows, hands-on gin masterclasses and Super Soul Sunday sessions.
The varied menu includes cicchetti and small plates such as burrata and heritage tomato salad, deep-fried anchovies and pecorino croquettes with pea and mint pesto. Elsewhere, you’ll find spaghetti and meatballs, gnocchi, filled pasta and ragus. Our ‘slow and deep’ beef ragu with pappardelle didn’t quite live up to its name: the tough meat should have been melting. However, the house ‘nduja-fried chicken with jalapeño mayonnaise fare far better and was the best thing we ate.
Italian wines and Brixton Brewery beers are on the drinks list, alongside a tempting range of spritzes and cocktails. Try the In House, made with Cattivo’s own small-batch gin, kirsch, Chambord, maraschino syrup and elderflower tonic, or maybe a seductive shot from the absinthe list.
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2 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9AT
If there was ever a way that the movers and shakers of London could both live and party healthily, Redemption might just be it. Its handful of London branches are packed with hip yogis – positively glowing with health and wellbeing.
Cocktails are presented so prettily that you almost forget the lack alcohol; a Cocorita is certainly more than a pale imitation of its mother, Margarita. If you’re hungry, dive into a vegan menu of kelp noodle and lemongrass laksa with shiitake mushrooms and chilli, or raw beetroot spaghetti with almond pesto. If it all seems a bit right-on, just remember those fresh-faced customers who mark out this out as one of their favourites – and get back to drinking that green juice.
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£50 - £79
66 Baker Street, London, W1U 7DJ
On the former site of the Galvin brothers' Bistrot de Luxe, Ooty is a south Indian specialist headed up by chef Manmeet Singh Bali. The restaurant is named after a hill-station town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and combines three separate spaces: an 80-cover dining room, a basement bar, and ‘Ooty station’ – an all-day casual dining space and cocktail bar.
Expect dark woods, colonial-style interiors and, on the food front, a seasonally changing menu. Starters might include the likes of Tellicherry crab fry with coconut crab relish and tomato chutney or Goan chicken with cucumber rolls. Mains meanwhile range from fennel lamb shoulder with pickled baby shallots to guinea fowl basmati rice with egg salan and cucumber yoghurt.
Vegetarians are looked after, too, via the likes of an almond and pea cake, or fennel paneer served with fritters. To drink, there’s a selection of cocktails inspired by railway journeys through India; signature serves include the Rose Garden, which pays homage to the rose garden in the town of Ooty, which houses over 20,000 varieties of the flower.
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6 Greek Street, London, W1D 4DE
Unless you live the lifestyle of a 19th-century colonialist, kangaroo, zebra and ostrich probably don’t feature in your diet. Such off-piste ingredients, however, take centre stage on the menu at Gamma Gamma, a new pan-Asian restaurant with a Greek name which sounds on paper like a Soho quirk-fest but that we found surprisingly underwhelming.
Things started promisingly, with a refreshing smoked burrata salad benefitting from some deliciously sweet rainbow beetroots. Next up was Wagyu beef, tenderised with soy sauce and encased in a ribbon of dumpling, which created a really top-notch sour and savoury taste. Best of all was a lamb bao bun with a mint and feta sauce, which, like the restaurant’s name and its culinary inspiration, was an unexpected mix of Greek and Asian flavours.
Sadly, our meal went downhill after this. A very average curry of minced ostrich tasted like pancetta flavoured with lemongrass and chilli, while a Filipino-style kangaroo steak was chewy and bitter. Singaporean lobster was nice enough, but in texture not dissimilar from Chinese takeaway chicken balls and certainly not worth the £28 price tag.
The restaurant’s funky, offbeat vibe works well with the experimental menu and also a drinks list touting the likes of a Smokey Eyes cocktail. Served in a smoking bottle of whisky, dry vermouth, plum wine and chilli syrup, it manages to be sweet, bitter, smoky and spicy all at once.
There are good dishes to be had at Gamma Gamma, just not the ones which are likely to attract all the attention. Stay inside your comfort zone, however, and you should eat well.
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£30 - £49
190 George Lane, London, E18 1AY
This stylish Lebanese restaurant and cocktail lounge is found near the end of the Central Line in South Woodford, and comes complete with an outdoor terrace round the back. The glamorous interiors include teal booths which are perfect for groups, and marble-topped tables, while Middle Eastern-style lamps and tiled floors are subtle nods to the kitchen’s Lebanese roots.
The extensive menu is made up of sharing plates, flatbreads and halal meats. Homemade falafel, hummus, and motobaal are made freshly for each service, alongside the likes of grilled halloumi and stuffed vine leaves. Charcoal-grilled meats served with dips and flatbreads are at the heart of the mains, but there are also dishes for vegetarians and vegans, including a selection of vibrant salads.
You can finish your meal with homemade baklava, or if you want something more substantial, there’s the likes of chocolate fudge cake and a rose-scented milk pudding. To drink, there are cocktails and a dedicated Gin & Tonic menu, while teetotallers can opt for a fruit-based mocktail.
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£50 - £79
5 Henrietta St, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PT
Din Tai Fung was the most-searched restaurant on SquareMeal in 2018 – not bad for somewhere that didn’t open until December. The Taiwanese dumpling specialist is famous for making what many say are the world’s best xiao long bao, for its Michelin-approved Hong Kong outpost and for having 150 outlets spanning Asia, Australia, North America – and now London, where it has become famous primarily for the size of the queues. It’s worth noting, though, that if you arrive off peak (4pm on a Monday in our case) you'll be able to walk straight in, with only Asian students and curious tourists for company.
We enountered a pleasantly dated experience not unlike the upmarket Chinese restaurants of old, with a neutral wood decor and echoey acoustics spread over two floors where the only natural illumination comes from a skylight. Suited and waistcoated staff deliver notably cheerful service, though the dumplings themselves are brought to the table by chefs wearing white coats and hygiene masks and who can be seen crafting dumplings in the glass-walled kitchen (each dumpling reputedly takes 40 minutes to make).
The classic pork xiao long bao are a marvel of engineering, their contents held in place with a pliable dough case, pleated 18 times, that trembles like an unexploded water bomb and doesn't burst at the first jab of a chopstick. The contents are less mesmerising: a pleasant pork stock designed to mingle with the vinegar and ginger the dumplings should be eaten with.
Prawn and pork shumai, opened out at one end like a flower unfurling around a pink filling, were equally well constructed but just as underwhelming on the flavour front; the only dumpling we ate that lived up to its savoury-sounding billing was steamed chilli crab and pork buns. Our favourite dish was a non-dumpling one involving rolled-up slivers of cold pork which acted as a conduit for a pungent filling of crushed garlic. The tough meat in a braised beef noodle soup, however, impressed far less.
We enjoyed our meal here, but to be blunt, we couldn't see what the big deal about Din Tai Fung is. The preparation of the dumplings is technically accomplished, but the results taste no better than those served at London's other dim-sum specialists and, given the spartan surrounds (cheap-feeling glassware, tea served in bags rather than loose leaves), we were surprised by the size of the bill; figure on around £50 a head without booze. If you hate queues but love Chinese food, we'd suggest you wait for the second London branch of Din Tai Fung to open at Centre Point, by which point you hopefully won't have to take the afternoon off work to eat here.
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19 Percy Street, London, W1T 1DY
The brainchild of Instagram micro-influencer Loui Blake, this intimate vegan restaurant finds its home in Fitzrovia. Naturally decked out in millennial pink, with neon signage and foliage-lined walls completing the look, Kalifornia Kitchen serves up an all-day menu of plant-based dishes.
Early risers can enjoy breakfast plates including beetroot puree on sourdough, while lunchtime options see burrito bowls and veggie burgers. Come evening, more grown up dishes take to the stage, with the likes of rainbow beetroot carpaccio, and aubergine katsu curry.
Drinks meanwhile include wellness shots and super juices, alongside a latte made with Cannabis oil. Takeaway is also available.
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68 Alie Street, London, E1 8PX
At this casual joint, the focus is mainly on decently priced steaks (choose from five cuts of pampas-reared South American beef), but the rest of the menu draws inspiration from around the globe (crispy beef salad, chicken Kiev etc).
To start, we suggest bypassing the (“soggy”) empanadas in favour of, say, garlic prawns, which go brilliantly with the house Bloody Mary. Rumps, rib-eyes are sirloins are there for the taking, although the flavoursome spiral cut is a better bet with a couple of sides (beef-dripping chips and the heritage tomato salad, for example). Gargantuan churros sundaes are the pick of the sweets. The drinks list features some punchy South American wines, on-trend craft beers and Aperol Spritzes, which chime perfectly with the bare brick and neon design.
Interior images: Tom Joy
Food images: Steven Joyce
More about Bar + Block Aldgate
46 Great Eastern Street , London, EC2A 3EP
Cocktails, small plates and vinyl grooves from a DJ suspended above the main room give a buzz to Iron Bloom. Set in a converted Shoreditch ironworks, the bar is aptly furnished in quasi-Edwardian industrial attire. Slink into a booth or slot-in at a communal table – we prefer the high-ceilinged ground floor to the stuffy basement with open kitchen.
To drink, launch into sure-fire sharpeners from the team behind the Looking Glass Cocktail Club: perhaps the house (pisco) Sour or a Manhattan featuring Chivas Regal whisky, Oloroso, rosé and petal liqueur. Stand-out sharing dishes include smoked cod’s roe with crab butter on caviar-topped crumpets; and Wagyu beef and bone-marrow burger (a juicy joy). Our perfectly judged pink lamb cutlets, however, were let down by a tepid creamy curd topping and bland tabouleh. Prop up the bar until 3am, or rock up for bottomless brunches soundtracked by old skool anthems at weekends.
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£50 - £79
28-30 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA
This third restaurant from the team behind critically-acclaimed The Clove Club, following the launch of Clerkenwell’s Luca in 2017 , is a casual, stripped back space with only a handful of covers. Two Lights gets its name from the national park in the US state of Maine, where Clove Club head chef Chase Lovecky was born.
Lovecky also heads up the kitchen here, serving a menu of what is touted as ‘modern American’ cuisine. However, we found the food offering to be more European, with playful injections of Asian influence. Take the katsu sando, a novel twist on the on-trend dish which swaps out the typical pork filling for a slab of dense fried sardine, coated in breadcrumbs and completed by a smattering of sharp pickled lettuce. Asian techniques are also seen elsewhere, via sashimi-style strips of flamed mackerel, given extra fattiness thanks to a slathering of bacon fat.
From the more conventional dishes, we loved our starting snack of ‘crab on beef fat chips’: served canapé-style, this dish consists of two proper, thick-cut, chip-shop style chips, elevated by their beef fat dripping and a hefty scoop of succulent shredded crab. A larger plate of sticky-glazed shortrib also impressed, melting on the tongue and well paired with husks of earthy grilled beetroot.
The only bum note was pudding, with a slice of perfectly good custard tart let down by its overpowering smoked caramel sauce. With its extremely knowledgeable servers, ingredient-led dishes and a curated wine list which champions small producers from around the world, Two Lights is a restaurant for people who know (and love) their food – it’s safe to say, we’ve fallen head over heels.
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13-14 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JR
This first solo project from Italian chef Carlo Scotto (ex-Murano) shuns the food of his home country in favour of best-of-British produce fashioned into some very fine-dining modern cooking. As at another contemporary take on haute cuisine, Hide in Mayfair, the restaurant operates as two distinct spaces: Xier is the tasting menu-focused first floor, while downstairs, XR has a slightly more casual, accessible and slightly cheaper offering.
We dined from the 10-course tasting menu in Xier, which lasted over four hours. Needless to say, this is occasion dining, replete with theatre, sleek service and Michelin-baiting dishes that are turned out with assembly-line precision. Prices are high, portions are small and jugs of water are kept away from your table, because pouring one’s own drink here would be unthinkable.
Despite the fussiness, there is some real flair on show. Highlights from the 10 courses included a slither of sparklingly fresh rose-cured salmon, paired with a fatty blob of foie gras which is dusted with an earthy beetroot powder. Blobs of Bramley apple dotted along the edges add extra bursts of vivid freshness.
Another stand-out is the sublime black cod, which is supremely flaky, sleek with oil and brushed with a caramel miso. The accompanying best-in-class vegetables – crunchy asparagus spears and dried parsnip crisps – only added to our enjoyment.
The reward for reaching the end of the dining marathon is a cheese course featuring mouth-puckering fizzy grapes on the side, then a selection of desserts which the menu simply labels ‘Sweet tooth’. They’re not kidding: the caramel tart comes with a sticky, sugary centre sandwiched between a chocolate top and crunchy biscuit base.
Unlike many new London restaurants, Xier is a dining experience that demands your full attention and requires you be to totally present. If you’re a fan of this increasingly rare kind of full-on fine-dining, you’ll be more than happy to give it your full attention.
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45-47 Hoxton Square , London, N1 6PD
Welcome to Adam Handling’s permanent Stag do, the darkened lounge bar in the basement of his modish British restaurant, The Frog. Decor – a highland fling of brunette leather chesterfields, black and gold baroque fittings and numerous nods to the titular horny beast – recalls a Cool Britannia-era take on the hot-shot chef’s native Scotland.
Cocktails are sanely priced and modern in outlook. The whisky-led list features a watermelon-infused bourbon Manhattan, and a diverting combo that calls for fermented pepper shrub, sencha tea and Balvenie Caribbean cask single malt. Other notable, if quirky, ingredients include a shortbread-infused gin, and Irn Bru (for a Scottish Porn Star). For a flat fee, cocktails on tap to share are an economical option. Snacks also have an innovative, and occasionally Caledonian, slant: cheese doughnuts or haggis bonbons, for instance, as well as that other noble Scottish beast – battered Mars bar with honeycomb ice cream.
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