£30 - £49
2-3 Rocks Lane, London, SW13 0DB
Manoj Vasaikar’s latest venture has proved an instant hit with locals. On a recent Monday-night visit, the restaurant was comfortably busier than all neighbouring eateries. Vasaikar, who has cooked at Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy, has produced a pan-Indian menu that lists such classics as Malabar chicken, lamb rogan josh, and thalis, alongside more unusual offerings: mussels simmered in tamarind and tomato, and Khyber Pass raan (lamb shank with poppy seeds). Start with poppadoms and chutneys, before a robust stew of prawn and aubergine kharphatla, or vegetable bhanavla (a superior onion bhaji), both beautifully presented on betel leaves. Spicing is vigorous but not overpowering. Look to Zilla’s specials for what the kitchen considers its top dishes – a beef curry, perhaps, or pork vindaloo. Those wanting a palate-cleanser to finish should try the wonderfully fragrant paan.
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£30 - £49
94 Church Road, London, SW13 0DQ
Barnes locals who came here as teenagers with their parents now bring their own kids to this much-loved neighbourhood restaurant: the room may have changed its colours over the years and the kitchen has moved in different directions, but a happy, comfortable atmosphere still prevails – thanks to joint owners Rebecca Mascarenhas and multi-gonged Phil Howard. Menus change every session and the kitchen’s ambition is obvious: marinated octopus with burnt lemon and dots of dill-flecked squid-ink taramasalata makes an original and very moreish starter, while breast of guinea fowl sits indulgently on a luscious bed of sweet shallot purée with shimeji mushrooms. For afters, check out the peanut bar with banana ice cream. Old World labels dominate the wine list, with plenty by the glass and enough curiosities to keep the inquisitive oenophile happy. Set menus and simple Sunday suppers are the real bargains, although everything is terrific value.
More about Sonny's Kitchen
£30 - £49
117-123 Church Road, London, SW13 9HL
The entire neighbourhood has been given a lift by this bijou new cinema club and restaurant. The Olympic is already the venue of choice for Barnes folk going to the pictures, and the comfortable first-floor club is gaining a strong membership among smart, savvy locals. Its ground-floor restaurant has the same menu and a similar feel to the club-room, yet doesn’t require membership or a visit to a film – though screening times are organised to allow for dining at either end. The statutory cinema burgers and hot dogs are present and correct, but we find it more rewarding to head slightly upmarket. Start with duck rillettes, perhaps, or a simple heritage tomato salad, ahead of deeply flavoured roast loin of venison, or cod with char-grilled leeks, mash and shrimp butter. Drinks are gratifying too: either cocktails or a wine list laden with fashionable bottles such as Albariño and Picpoul.
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88 Church Road, London, SW13 0DQ
This small chain of modern Japanese restaurants (there are three so far across London) has plenty to recommend it. Each has its own menu, but the vibe is the same in all three – simple, clean cooking using the best ingredients and freshest fish available. Visit the Primrose Hill or Chelsea restaurants for pan-Asian favourites, gung pao chicken or grilled miso salmon, or Kingly Court has a robata grill where Mongolian rack of lamb with homemade kimchi and spiced mayo or garlicky king tiger prawns are more the order of the day. Decor and style are hardly cutting edge and service can be a little unfocused, but at the price they’re charging, diners aren’t expecting Nobu.
More about Oka Barnes
£30 - £49
£50 - £79
28 Cross Street, London, SW13 0AP
If The Brown Dog were any easier to find in the backstreets of Barnes, it would be even harder to get a table here in busy periods. Drinkers are welcome to prop up the bar in one room with a pint of well-kept local ale (Sambrook’s Wandle, Twickenham’s Autumn Blaze) or a glass of wine from the decent list. Diners make their way to the other room for pleasing seasonal soups (white onion with black olive tapenade, say) and a daily roster of dishes running from wild garlic, ricotta and lemon ravioli to chicken and chorizo pie with mash or whole grilled sea bass with samphire and Jersey royals. Steaks and burgers also have their say, while desserts might bring baked rhubarb cheesecake with ginger crème fraîche. The garden come into its own on sunny weekends, when staff often light the barbecue.
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£50 - £79
169 Church Road, London, SW13 9HR
An institution much loved by its elegant local regulars and occasional celebrities, Riva is renowned for simple, well-prepared Italian cooking. It’s not wildly better than others, nor wildly more expensive (though the menu and notable wine list take no prisoners), and its unassuming, slightly scruffy terracotta surroundings are no more chic. What distinguishes the place is its charismatic owner, Andrea Riva, who has a knack of remembering names, faces and food preferences. He’s prepared to go off-menu for favoured diners, recommending whatever he knows will suit them – so dinner can be exceptionally personal. The rest of us must choose from a list where risottos and the roast suckling pig attract praise, and the tiramisu provides a satisfactory ending. The pallyness can wind up some newcomers, who feel excluded from the inner circle and who know there are only two ways in – either become a regular or become famous.
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