SquareMeal's Hottest New Openings

Here at SquareMeal, we love nothing more than a new London restaurant or bar, but how do we separate the best from the rest? That’s where SquareMeal’s hottest new openings comes in. This specially curated list only includes restaurants and bars which we feel are worth your special attention, featuring London restaurants and bars which have opened in the past 12 months.

Posted on 12 March 2019

SquareMeal's Hottest New Openings

You can expect the most talked-about chefs, the biggest comebacks, white-hot pop-ups-gone-permanent, or simply brand-new restaurants that are knocking it out of the park. If you want to visit the new London restaurant that’s on everybody’s lips, guaranteed to leave you satisfied and right at the centre of the capital’s cultural zeitgeist, this is the only list you’ll ever need. Scroll this way for London’s hottest new restaurants and bars and be prepared to block out your diary for the foreseeable future…

Discover the very best restaurants to have opened in London recently with SquareMeal’s guide to London’s hottest new restaurant openings. Numerous restaurants open up in the capital each month, providing even more choice to London’s diners. SquareMeal has selected only the crème de la crème of these newcomers to London’s restaurant scene in their exclusive guide of London’s hottest new restaurant openings. Head to some of London’s most impressive new restaurants before tables become hard to come by with this handy SquareMeal guide.


Sorella

Sorella

£30 - £49
Italian

148 Clapham Manor Street , London, SW4 6BX

Along with Adam Byatt of Trinity, Robin Gill has done more than anyone to turn Clapham into a serious dining destination. It’s a mark of the chef’s confidence that he has closed his much-praised The Manor and opened this new Italian on the same site. The menu is split traditionally into cicchetti, antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci, but the best bit arrives before any of that: warm semolina sourdough served with three fabulous dips – ricotta given a silky finish by Jersey milk, pressed black olives, and a delectable melted parmesan.

This alone makes Sorella worth a visit, but we’d also recommend trying the £45 chef’s menu to get a small taste of everything else that the kitchen has to offer. Delicate starting snacks include juicy little balls of truffle arancini, olives fried in breadcrumbs, and turbot smoothly sandwiched between potato crisps and bursts of lemon. Elsewhere, standout dishes include a velvety crab linguine, a comforting bowl of fiery nduja ragu paired with strips of smoky pork, and light chocolate mousse served with vibrant fennel gelato. Italian-accented drinks, meanwhile, include Bellinis, spritzes and a cherry-smoked Negroni.

Sorella is the Italian word for ‘sister’, and with Counter Culture and The Dairy nearby, it’s a very welcome addition to Gill’s restaurant family.  

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Kin + Deum

Kin + Deum

Under £30
Thai

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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Berenjak

Berenjak

Middle Eastern

27 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5AL

This new Iranian restaurant is spearheaded by founder and former Gymkhana chef Kian Samyani and is inspired by the kebab joints of Tehran, Iran’s capital. The real influence, though, comes from backers JKS Restaurants (the owners of Gymkhana), who have created a Middle Eastern equivalent of their Sri Lankan smash-hit Hoppers.

Berenjak is a tiny corridor-like space, with seating for couples at stools at a counter overlooking the open kitchen, and tables for four in leatherette booths along a wall decorated with artfully distressed plaster; a small dining room behind has – what else? – a Persian rug on the floor. It’s atmospherically snug, with light and heat coming from a flaming tandoor and the coals of a mangal barbecue.

The idea is for two people to share half a dozen small plates, prettily served on silver saucers, before a couple of kebabs each. A dish of aubergine combined with onions cooked for so long they were almost caramelised was the real flavour revelation, scooped up with excellent bread from the clay tandoor; elsewhere grilled calf’s liver with onion salad added punch and a feta salad creamy freshness.

To follow, a kebab made with minced goat shoulder was terrifically succulent and beautifully seasoned, though the dish destined for must-order status is the kabab torki, the post-pub guilty pleasure of chips and kebab meat re-invented as a mixed meat shawarma atop a bed of fries drizzled with homemade chilli and garlic sauce that actually taste of the ingredients they’re made from. Order a side of authentically hot pickled chillis to cut through the richness.

Without drinks, you could eat very well at Berenjak for £30 a head, though that would be to miss out on the charms of the house-special fruit cordials (lemon and parsley, saffron and apple) that can be spiked with vodka, gin and Tequila. Two wines at £28 and two at £35 will bump up the bill considerably, but beer at £4 a bottle is more in the spirit of the cheap and very cheerful spirit of the place.  

As at no-bookings Hoppers, staff take your mobile number and text you when your table is available; waiting over a Martini at Kettners next door is no hardship when a meal at this Aladdin’s cave of a restaurant is the reward.

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Andina Notting Hill

Andina Notting Hill

Peruvian

157 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RS

Martin Morales, founder of the Ceviche batch of Peruvian restaurants, looks to have conquered smart west London with this latest outpost of Andina. Picanteria is a lively, colourful spot incorporating an authentic Peruvian bakery (Panaderia) next door. Inside you’ll find a busy open kitchen, flexible seating on banquettes, at counters or on regular tables, and large windows looking on to the street. 

The irresistible cooking ranges from dainty small plates of plant-based ingredients to gutsy meat and fish dishes. Snack on carrot fritters with a complex herb-based sauce, fresh bread from the bakery or cassava crisps with a broad bean dip. Braised aubergine laden with feta is teamed with a quinoa patty while sea bass ceviche arrives zinging with Morales’ signature tiger-milk marinade, punchy and unforgettable. Larger dishes include a fine piece of hake with seaweed in a fragrant broth, a typical Andean vegetarian stew featuring potato and roast pumpkin, and a lovely braised adobe pork leg. 

Pisco Sours head a spot-on drinks list of wines, beers, cocktails and mocktails. To finish, banish any dietary plans by ordering chocolate tart with dulce de leche ice cream. Notting Hill will love this newcomer.

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Freak Scene

Freak Scene

£50 - £79

54 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SL

Kurobuta founder Scott Hallsworth is back with a bang at this firecracker of a chef’s counter which started life as a Clerkenwell pop up and has gone permanent on the Frith Street premises last occupied by the original Barrafina. Looks wise, little has changed since the Barrafina days, although the stools at the counter have been joined by further seating along the ledge where the queue used to be – a tight squeeze when busy, but at least Freak Scene takes bookings. Entertainment comes in the form of a mosh-pit of an indie playlist and replays of Japanese gameshow Takeshi’s Castle projected onto the wall.

The food, meanwhile, offers some of Kurobuta’s greatest hits (the salmon sashimi ‘pizza’ remains as riotously flavoured as ever) and while the cooking is never subtle, the umami explosion of sweet and salty is sure as hell tasty. Several dishes are served in taco variants to be greedily scooped up with the hands – black cod and sushi rice tacos re-invent the Nobu classic as junk food – and almost all come with the sort of sticky sauces that leave you smearing ingredients around the plate chasing one last flavour hit, including our favourite dish of aubergine grilled to a meltingly soft goo offset by the sugar-rush crunch of caramelised walnuts. 

Come with a decent appetite and you could make a healthy stab at ordering most of the menu for around £50 a head. Wine prices will bump up the bill considerably (there’s iced tea for teetotallers and bargain hunters) but this is still great value for an experience that couldn’t be any more Soho, overseen by Hallsworth himself in the open kitchen.

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Kettner

Kettner's Townhouse

£30 - £49
International
Over £80

29 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5HP

Famous as the restaurant founded in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, the private chef of Emperor Napoleon III (Bonaparte’s nephew), and as the location of interval-time trysts between King Edward VII and Lillie Langtry, Kettner’s has been given the ‘Townhouse’ treatment by new owner Soho House. As at Dean Street Townhouse, there are now 30 or so bedrooms upstairs, while the downstairs restaurant and Champagne Bar have both been spruced up, and a fabulous Piano Bar added for good measure. The bars, in particular, look lovely, all low lighting and marble surfaces and conveying something of the metropolitan élan and exclusivity of the Soho House members’ clubs. The dining room, in contrast, feels rather provincial, an effect enhanced by the fussy plaster mouldings (original, and Grade II-listed) and a French-inspired menu that seems self-consciously special occasion but fails to rise to the occasion. Small plates and starters were the best bits: cheesy gougères, comforting French onion tart and bracingly wintry crab with celeriac remoulade and russet apple. Mains were far less assured: roast Banham chicken tasted only of truffle not chook and omelette Arnold Bennett was a very limp imitation of the Savoy classic. Breakfast (lobster royale) and pre/post-theatre (any three courses for £22) may be better bets, or eat small plates instead in the bars, with two dozen wines by the glass and beautifully served classic cocktails. 

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Scully

Scully

£30 - £49
International

4 St James's Market, London, SW1Y 4AH

The latest addition to St James’s Market comes from ex-Nopi head chef Ramael Scully. Cosy interiors include copper pendant lighting, potted plants and a treasure trove of a glass-fronted pantry, stocked with herbs and spices from around the globe (the staff will let you smell a few). A large sharing table and an open kitchen add a communal vibe, but the marble-topped chef’s counter is undoubtedly home to the best seats in the house, where you can watch Scully and his team slice vegetables with expert precision and artfully plate up dishes on pretty ceramics, without ever breaking a sweat.

This captivating kitchen theatre is backed up by a truly intriguing menu, inspired by Scully’s heritage, which includes roots in Australia, Malaysia, India and Ireland. Nearly all the seasonally changing sharing plates impress, from a veggie-friendly tomato and coconut salad with green strawberries (summer in a bowl), to barbecued beef tendons, hidden by a dollop of smoky oyster mayo and served with salty fried tendon puffs for dipping. Elsewhere, there’s lusciously fatty pork belly with house-made XO sauce concealing a subtle flash of heat, and an outstanding plate of monkfish rubbed with sambal belacan, a tongue-tingling shrimp paste. Desserts toy with the balance of flavours, with mixed results: witness the love-it-or-hate-it dish of parsnip and coconut ice cream, which was more sharp than sweet, followed by the more impressive bitter grapefruit sorbet which arrived paired with a scoop of indulgent caramel ice cream – a delightful mix of sweet and sour.

Fastidious sourcing, impressively well-informed staff and an unflappable kitchen team swapping jokes while turning out plates of pure wonder all help to make dining at Scully a thrilling and eye-opening experience – we can’t wait to go back.    

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Kricket White City

Kricket White City

Under £30
Indian

2 Television Centre, 101 Wood Lane, London, W12 7FR

This third Kricket (after Soho and Brixton) is part of the gleaming reboot of the former BBC Television Centre in White City. It makes the most of the re-developed surroundings with space for 100 diners, a separate bar, an outdoor terrace and counter dining for those who want to get up close and personal with the chefs in the open kitchen. Such a large space hasn’t translated into loss of atmosphere, though, with details such as cushion-laden banquettes keeping things cosy.

The menu is also bigger than at the other Krickets, featuring all the signatures (Keralan-fried chicken, crunchy bhel puris) alongside newer additions, such as the beautifully soft tandoori-roasted monkfish tail, which arrives massaged by a velvety coconut sauce. Elsewhere, sweet grilled pumpkin is matched to a thick makhani sauce and melted-down paneer (we’d recommend ordering some roti to mop your plate clean). Our top dessert pick is the gulab juman: miniature doughnut-style spheres which crumble in the mouth and are made sweet and fragrant by a carom seed crumble.

A strong selection of vegetarian options and an Indian-style Sunday roast are further reasons to visit, while prices remain relatively pocket-friendly. Cool, fun and served by friendly and knowledgeable staff, this latest Kricket hasn’t lost any of its rough-and-ready charm.  

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Bistro Mirey

Bistro Mirey

£30 - £49
International

98 Lillie Road, London, SW6 7SR

Bistro Mirey is a genuine original in this cheerfully unfashionable part of Fulham, where Lillie Road meets North End Road. It’s a French bistro with Japanese influences, reflecting the backgrounds of classically trained chef Gerald Mirey and his partner Ko Ito, who provides financial nous and charming front of house.

This surprising but successful combination has become much loved by the locals, drawn by excellent cooking and a great atmosphere. There are wine and saké tastings with a saké master, tricolour-waving celebrations for Bastille Day, and supper clubs with informal Japanese lessons and a quiz. The menu interprets bistro classics through a subtle Japanese prism. The signature steak tartare uses knife-cut Charolais beef, with ginger, carrots, black sesame seeds, chilli and soy sauce, plus a few edamame beans adding colour and crunch. A summer menu may have watermelon marinated in Roku gin and served with feta, cucumber and candied hazelnuts. There’s a fine pork cutlet too, served teriyaki-style, but as this area is west London’s vegetarian-central, you’ll also find plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes such as bonsai garden vegetables with wasabi pea purée.

French cooking dominates for puddings and cheese, while the drinks list reflects Gerald’s native Normandy, with cider, beer and Calvados appearing alongside French wines and Champagnes. But don’t miss the fascinating list of sakés and saké-based cocktails, which comes with clear explanations for beginners.

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Gridiron

Gridiron

£30 - £49
Modern European

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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Jolene

Jolene

Under £30
French

21 Newington Green, London, N16 9PU

From the outside, this new venture from the guys behind Primeur and Westerns Laundry looks like a candlelit private party – although appearances can be deceptive. Jolene is first and foremost a bakery but, come nightfall, it morphs into a restaurant with an ever-changing chalkboard of sharing dishes.

The simplicity of the Italian-leaning menu will be familiar to fans of the owners’ earlier ventures. Don't come here if you’re on a carbs-free regime, because their bread is as good as it gets; the sourdough almost chewy, slightly tangy and perfect with plates of jamón de Teruel or Tuscan salami so pretty it could pattern a dress.

Occasionally, simple veers into plain, as in a plate of romanesco with only a few almonds and raisins to add some interest, but almost everything else is stunning. Warm, rosemary flatbread slathered with herby oil is perfect with bowls of pasta made from home-milled flour – our buttercup-yellow ravioli filled with soft pumpkin and sage was unforgettable. Hefty mains such as an entire beef's cheek, bourguignon-style are designed for sharing, or you could go solo with a huge fillet of expertly cooked stone bass in a rich, satisfying retro butter sauce.   

As for the vibe, think Notting Hill minimalism meets Shoreditch warehouse with a Parisian jazz soundtrack and some cool customers (Nick Grimshaw was having a low-key dinner when we visited). Our advice: book ahead, arrive early and have fun watching the place fill up.

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The Drop

The Drop

Wine Bars

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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Evelyn

Evelyn's Table at The Blue Posts

£50 - £79
Modern European

28 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DJ

Roman Polanski might not be the most savoury inspiration in the current cultural climate so it’s a punchy move by The Palomar owners to name their new chef’s counter after Faye Dunaway’s femme fatale in the director’s 1974 film Chinatown. But that’s the only questionable note in the sort of accomplished offering that we’ve come to expect from siblings Zoe and Layo Paskin, who followed up The Palomar with The Barbary and Jacob the Angel, and who readers whose memories weren’t frazzled by the 90s club scene may remember from AKA restaurant at The End nightclub.

Evelyn’s Table sits in the cellar of the Paskins’ reinvention of Chinatown boozer The Blue Posts, beneath the ground-floor pub and first-floor Mulwray’s cocktail bar; it’s an intimate, romantically-lit space, with a ‘private’ sign on the door and 15 diners around the horseshoe counter.

Small plates with a southern European accent feature some top-notch suppliers: Hedone sourdough, La Fromagerie cheeses and fish from the dayboats at Looe, which delivered the biggest hit of the night: beautifully cooked hake with capers and olive oil-soaked croutons. Overall, fish dishes impressed the most: our croquette-like salt-cod beignets with punchy taramasalata, and subtly smoked eel on excellent blinis, had the edge over good (but just not as good) duck tortellini and presa iberica, which lacked the same clearly defined flavours – although there were no such complaints with a chewy tarte Tatin, sweet as a toffee apple.     

Food aside, how much you enjoy this experience will depend on how open you are to chatting to the friendly chefs and front of house rather than giving your companion your undevoted attention – this is not somewhere to come for diners who wish to be left undisturbed. “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”, Jack Nicholson’s character is told at the end of Polanski’s film – but this is a location to remember.

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1251

1251

£30 - £49
International

107 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN

Chef James Cochran’s departure from his eponymous restaurant in EC3 was a messy one, involving a legal battle with his former investors that has resulted in the site still operating under his name. However, the chef hasn’t let any of this dampen his enthusiasm, and the pay-off is 1251 – a confidently ambitious, two-floor site on Islington’s restaurant-heavy Upper Street.

Lunch brings a great-value express menu which promises three plates for under £20, while those arriving for dinner can choose between the carte or a five-course tasting menu. Begin with snacks such as a potato crisp topped with blobs of whipped oyster cream and seaweed, which eats like a pimped-up Walkers, before moving on to more substantial ideas, including strips of pork complemented by crumbly black pudding, a slick of smoked eel sauce and a shard of crackling that successfully avoids tooth-breaking territory.

We also liked dipping into a bowl of astonishingly good nugget-like bites – buttery chunks of rabbit in a coating of fried breadcrumbs, elevated by a potent smear of horseradish and pickled plum.  

Cochran may have earned his stripes at the two-Michelin-starred Ledbury, but 1251 sees him successfully blending fine ingredients with his Caribbean heritage in a casual setting complete with a hip-hop soundtrack. Make no mistake, this is a thoroughly modern restaurant with the charisma and individuality to stand out from the Upper Street crowd.

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Kerridge

Kerridge's Bar & Grill

British

10 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London, WC2N 5AE

After a false start with the Jumeriah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, Tom Kerridge has finally opened his first London restaurant at the Corinthia hotel. It’s in a slightly no-man’s-land location between Embankment tube and Trafalgar Square – both central and off the beaten track – but Kerridge’s fame and the skill of his kitchen should ensure this London outpost becomes every bit as hard to get into as his two Michelin-starred Marlow gastropub The Hand and Flowers. 

Some of the dishes we treasure from The Hand are reproduced here. The signature glazed omelet of smoked haddock and Parmesan is pimped up with lobster and even better for it, the meat so sweet that the fabulously decadent concoction eats like a souffle. Other dishes were new to us, but demonstrated Kerridge’s trademark of lifting classic British cooking with sophisticated technique without losing any of its lip-smacking gutsiness.

So while a pig’s cheek pie was basically a pork pie, the buttery pastry lifted it into another realm entirely, with a devilled sauce (taking the place of mustard) to cut through the richness. Brown butter tart with buttermilk ice cream, meanwhile, was a straightforwardly sweet delight.

Vegetarians get three starters and mains apiece, set lunch and pre-theatre menus should appeal to theatregoers from the nearby Strand (or anyone put off by the steep pricing), while bar snacks such as venison sausage rolls and Welsh rarebit are another budget-minded way in.

To drink, draught beers, gins and 20 English sparklers keep the flag flying for Britain; elsewhere, grower Champagnes join the classic houses while there are more big names from France and highlights from the rest of the world on a wine list that shows the benefit of hotel funding; a long trek to the loos across the hotel lobby is, however, a downside.  

David Collins Studio has done its best to make the high-ceilinged space (formerly Massimo’s) feel more intimate, with diners grouped around clubby horseshoe leather banquettes, but clattery acoustics can make conversation hard to hear. But make no mistake: this really is food to shout about.

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Neptune

Neptune

£30 - £49
British
Fish

Kimpton Fitzroy London, Corner of Guilford Street and Russell Square, London, WC1B 5BE

Neptune is the dining room of Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel, a grand Empire-era pile overlooking Russell Square that outdoes St Pancras for gothic drama. With high Victorian being about as fashionable a design trope these days as a noughties feature wall, Russell Sage Studio has gone for an almost mid-century Tiki look – rattan-backed bar stools, dusty pink walls, boldly patterned fabrics – although you can still spot plaster cherubs peeking from behind the fronds of tropical greenery like orphans in a Victorian ghost story. 

Neptune comes courtesy of chef Brett Redman and stylist Margaret Crow, who were a big hit on the east London party scene with The Richmond pub and its oyster happy hours. They’ve stuck with the seafood theme here, although with half the main courses involving meat from the wood-fired grill, the menu is not exclusively fish-focused.

A swimmingly fresh seafood platter accompanied by soda bread and seaweed butter was the best thing we ate, not least for the zip and zing of a trout tartare and mackerel escabeche; we were grateful to the waiter who took our crab legs away to be cracked by the chef so we didn’t miss a flake of the snowy white meat – a typically thoughtful touch from staff who showed consideration throughout the meal.

Nothing else we tried had such shimmering flavours; monkfish with white asparagus, brown butter and chicken sauce, and turbot with fennel, courgettes and an olive-oil hollandaise, were competent rather than compelling, while a plate of grilled red prawns had lost their firm texture, if not their sweet taste. There’s also a short vegetarian menu and, to drink, a wine list of natural and low-intervention wines – another individual touch at a restaurant that brings a welcome flourish of glamour and personality to Bloomsbury.   

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Wild Rice and Mamasan

Wild Rice and Mamasan

Thai

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.

 

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Sabor: The Counter

Sabor: The Counter

£30 - £49
Spanish

35 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BS

Nieves Barragán Mohacho was the breakout star of Barrafina, winning a Michelin star for the group’s original outpost and, by devising different menus for each successive branch, helping to transform Londoners’ attitude to Spanish food. She’s now taken that development even further with her first solo restaurant, Sabor, which while looking like a tapas bar – a long, L-shaped eating counter surrounds an open kitchen decorated with colourful Andalusian tiles – serves the sort of Spanish-accented small plates you won’t find anywhere else in the UK.  

Some of them involve tweaking the familiar. Oil-soaked pan con tomate is topped with a vivid ruffle of cured meat, piquillo croquetas are dusted with a fine shaving of Manchego cheese, while garlic prawns have a wobbly, barely cooked texture and arrive atop a squelch of saline-heavy seaweed. But there is much that tastes completely new, including a superbly cooked piece of presa Ibérica served with a mojo verde so fragrant with coriander it tastes almost Indian. The biggest surprise is that the best dish is left until the very end: bombas de chocolas, a trio of doughnuts dolloped with a sticky mess of chocolate and coffee sauces so sinfully rich they taste like the most grown-up profiteroles imaginable.  

Not all of it is so accomplished – the wild mushroom croquetas taste like deep-fried soup – and there will doubtless be diners who long for the straightforward comfort of chorizo and calamares. But we applaud Mohacho and her front-of-house partner José Etura for not simply Xeroxing the Barrafina formula. If you don’t want to queue for a seat, come early in the week for lunch, or book the upstairs Asador, specialising in lamb cutlets and suckling pig cooked in an open kitchen and served at communal tables.

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Cornerstone

Cornerstone

£50 - £79
Fish

3 Prince Edward Road, E9 5LX

When a chef with a background in Michelin-starred kitchens chooses a location for a solo debut, Hackney Wick is unlikely to top the list – but it has for Tom Brown. The former head chef at Outlaw’s at The Capital has sited Cornerstone, his thrilling new small-plates venture, just a few minutes’ walk from the railway station among a little group of recently developed retail spaces.

Don’t be disheartened by the locality: there’s ample space for diners, and the vibe in the restaurant is cool, with black tabletops, retro wicker chairs and black walls (complete with requisite scribbles). Mercifully, the place avoids crossing over into hipster-satire territory thanks to the friendly young team at the helm. Guests are greeted by the central dining counter, behind which you’re likely to find Brown beavering away. Unsurprisingly, given the chef’s pedigree, his regularly changing menu champions seafood. The run of small plates we sampled, served in terracotta tapas dishes, were exceptional.

Our bubbly waitress recommended eight plates between two and the meal kicked off with a pair of sensational oysters, pickled for two hours in gherkin vinegar and served with a subtle horseradish cream. Next up, a mound of juicy potted shrimps arrived piled high on a warm crumpet, soaked with shrimp butter that melted into the holes. A perfectly cooked strip of succulent bream followed, elevated to luxury by hidden chunks of lobster and saffron. Desserts, too, are a force to be reckoned with. A light, fluffy pistachio cake with vanilla cream and a sticky mess of raspberries preceded a heavenly peach crumble well worth the 20-minute wait time: its crispy top layer breaking to reveal tangy cubes of fresh peach, completed by a dollop of cream and hints of lemon.

The drinks list provides admirable back-up, informed by on-trend cocktails and classy European wines, but prices as a whole can add up (£10 desserts are rare in Hackney Wick), and some diners might consider Cornerstone rather out of the way. Nevertheless, this is an accomplished, exciting debut from one of the capital’s most promising chefs – we can’t wait to see what Brown does next.

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Gunpowder Tower Bridge

Gunpowder Tower Bridge

£30 - £49
Indian

4 Duchess Walk, London, SE1 2SD

Husband-and-wife restaurateurs Harneet and Devina Baweja opened cult restaurant Gunpowder in 2015 to long queues and heaps of critical praise. Now, three years later, the couple have opened the Indian small plate joint’s first sequel.

Transported from scruffy Spitalfields to the gleaming One Tower Bridge development, it’s fair to say that Gunpowder’s newer space has lost some of its rough-and-ready charm. The thrown-together feel of the tiny original has been swapped for a much slicker vibe, combining leather banquettes, plaster-washed walls and 70s-style tiling. It’s also much larger and split over two floors, although a fantastic team of well-drilled staff manage to keep the atmosphere friendly.

Signature Gunpowder dishes have been joined by some excellent new additions. Don’t miss the moreish Madras-style chicken lollipops – essentially a moderately spicy chicken winglet, in which the bone acts as a makeshift lollipop stick (no fussing around with knives and forks here, thank you very much).

Fans of the original restaurant will be relieved to know that the classic dishes still pack a mighty punch. Gunpowder’s take on a toastie oozes with cheese, chutney and tongue-tingling spices, while the melt-in-the-mouth kashmiri lamb chops will have you licking the bones clean like a ravenous caveman. For dessert, try the Indian take on bread and butter pudding, pepped up with a shot of rum. You’ll also find booze elsewhere in the form of spice-laden cocktails, but there’s masala coke for the non-drinkers.

Affordable, fun and delicious, we think that this second Gunpowder is just as tasty as the first, and the larger space means bookings are accepted. No more waiting outside in the cold then.

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Stem

Stem

£50 - £79
British

5 Princes Street, London, W1B 2LF

Chef Mark Jarvis’s third restaurant in as many years occupies a plum spot a minute from Oxford Circus. Neutral interiors are smarter than at Jarvis's Clerkenwell dining room Anglo, and prices are higher, too, although at around £25 for a main course, it’s par for the Mayfair course. 
 
Mains were the highlight of our meal: pan-roast halibut with fennel, grapes and celery, and roast saddle of lamb with artichoke, courgette and basil were both humdingers of distinct flavour and precise technique; starters and puddings such as asparagus (picked at the peak of seasonal ripeness) teamed with a smooth whip of duck egg and a gentle tarragon cream, and roast peach in a raspberry sauce with toasted almond, didn’t strike us as quite so compelling, although they’re beautifully plated.

Service was excellent, particularly on the finer points of an intelligently assembled wine list with an eye for the unusual, and the whole set-up feels very business-friendly – not least the three-course set lunch for £27. 

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Adam Handling Chelsea

Adam Handling Chelsea

Over £80
British

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. 

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RedFarm London

RedFarm London

Chinese
Dim Sum

9 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ

With Redfarm joining Balthazar a couple of doors up, Russell Street is turning into a mini Manhattan. This first international branch of Redfarm is just one of owner Ed Schoenfeld’s 56 restaurants and, with its gingham tablecloths and whitewashed brickwork, is a Xerox of the West Village original. Most of the seats on the ground floor are at a long, shared table, although there are banquettes for four; more civilised tables for two will be available when the first floor opens.

Redfarm’s schtick is to graft a frenetic fast-food ethos onto Cantonese cooking. It might not be the place for Chinese food purists, but it sure is a lot of fun; were it not for the rowdy, adults-orientated atmosphere (10 cocktails, 20 wines), it would be the perfect place to keep kids entertained.

The signature Pac-Man dumplings are already all over Instagram and involve four well-crafted har gau ‘ghosts’, tinted with natural food colouring and dotted with sesame-seed eyes, chased across the plate by a sweet potato Pac-Man, jaws agape. Xiao long bao soup dumplings cleverly come pierced with a straw to suck up the pork and prawn broth to avoid any chin burns. Daily specials, meanwhile, might include cheeseburger spring rolls: minced beef and stringy cheese encased in golden flaky pastry accompanied by a gherkin-flecked dipping sauce that’s a dead ringer for a Big Mac’s secret ingredient.

Other small plates include a pitch-perfect version of crispy chilli beef, and bao concealing strips of pork belly, as lusciously fatty as Wagyu. Don’t fill up on the dim sum, though. The best thing we ate was the banquet classic of shrimp-stuffed chicken, a yin and yang of a dish in which the perky blandness of the surf and turf is offset by the most divinely crisp seasoned skin.

Two big downers: peak-time queues are likely to be long and prices are twice what you would pay in Chinatown, although the novelty value of the presentation is backed up by serious skill in the kitchen. But refreshingly unpretentious Redfarm undeniably brings a bright flash of colour to the London restaurant scene and is right at home in the theatrics of Covent Garden.

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Barrafina Coal Drops Yard

Barrafina Coal Drops Yard

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

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. 

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Sabor: El Asador

Sabor: El Asador

£30 - £49
Spanish

35 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BS

Queue-averse diners will find solace – and the ability to book a table – in El Asador at Sabor, the third and final part of Basque chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s three-pronged Spanish concept on Heddon Street.

El Asador, one floor up from the fino-fuelled bar and tapas counter at street level, tells a traditional story of Spanish country cooking, long family lunches and copious quantities of Rioja. It looks the part too, with its wrought-iron staircase, tiled kitchen, communal tables and short blackboard menu. The Galician steak here has its followers, but most come for suckling pig (quarter, half or whole), cooked in a Castilian wood oven the time-honoured way, to produce crispy, tanned skin and tender flesh that needs only the slightest touch with a knife to fall off the bone. Enjoy with sides of chips (with espelette pepper or mojo rojo, perhaps) and a perfectly dressed tomato salad. For a feast, start with Galician octopus and potatoes or a slice of glossy cuttlefish empanada, its rich filling as black as night.

After that, a few spoons of refreshing goats’ cheese ice cream with a splash of liquorice jus is about all you’ll manage. The Spanish wine list is a pleasure to explore, with plenty by the glass from well-known producers, old and new – another highlight of this Iberian high-flyer.

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Hide Above

Hide Above

Over £80
British

85 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NB

Hiding in plain sight with a vast three-story location on Piccadilly, Hide is the hugely ambitious restaurant that chef Ollie Dabbous has seemed destined to open since his self-titled debut picked up every award going in 2012. Hide is actually three spaces – Above, Ground and Below – though it may as well be called Upstairs Downstairs for the hierarchies of exclusivity involved.

Below is a cocktail bar overseen by long-time collaborator Oskar Kinberg; Ground is an all-day modern British restaurant, affordable by Mayfair standards; while a swirling oak staircase leads to Above, which has the sylvan view through sound-muffling windows over the London bus rooftops to Green Park. Tables up here are spaced so you never need make eye-contact with your neighbour, let alone hear what they are saying, while inspired design touches include not only the expected handbag stools but mobile phone chargers hidden in the table and a leather-bound iPad that can access the 6,000 wines from Dabbous’ backers, Hedonism Wines, and have them delivered within 15 minutes and served with a £35 mark up. Well, what else would you expect in a restaurant rumoured to have cost more than £20m?

To eat, there’s a 10-course tasting menu for £95 (plus a four-course lunch for £42), bursting with inventive visuals such as charcuterie speared on the end of a feather, caviar-beaded tuna tartare prettily heaped at the centre of an ornamental, inedible leaf, and Dabbous’ signature ‘nest egg’ of coddled egg and smoked butter, a sort of savoury Creme Egg served in the shell on a bed of hay. Things didn’t get truly exciting for us until halfway through, though, with the arrival of a breathtakingly subtle red mullet in a bread and saffron sauce, and a gamey, dry-aged Goosnargh duck breast. Puddings were also best-in-class, from the ‘garden ripple ice cream’ that looked like a slice of Twister, to a swirl of coconut cream fashioned into a white rose petal.

Criticisms? Even allowing for 10 courses, we found the pace of the meal dragged, and while staff can’t be faulted for their enthusiasm and expertise, the constant interruptions and explanations a tasting menu necessitates does not make for the most relaxing experience. For make no mistake, this very much is an experience – albeit one that might remain in the once in a lifetime bracket.

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Sushisamba Covent Garden

Sushisamba Covent Garden

£50 - £79
South American
Japanese

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. 

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Temper Covent Garden

Temper Covent Garden

£30 - £49
Steak
South American
Barbecue

5 Mercer Walk, Mercers Yard, London, WC2H 9FA

Chef Neil Rankin has decided on Covent Garden as the location for his third Temper site, following branches in Soho and the City. It’s one of a growing number of decent restaurants opening in an area that’s keen to shake off its tourist-trap reputation. Although the decor here follows brand guidelines (note the central counter kitchen), the focus is on small starting plates of pasta followed by giant sharing pizzas for mains.

The pasta, especially, impresses: we enjoyed golden, nugget-like fried tortellini filled with melted St-Marcellin cheese and a stream of honey; and were also taken by the stringy lardo carbonara, a creamy delight that dissolves on the tongue. Next, Temper’s pizzas are all in good fun – even if they occasionally seem to favour appearance over flavour. We tried the Detroit, a rectangular sharing pizza with puffed-up dough, and opted for half-and-half toppings: the sinfully dirty ‘cheeseburger’ option mixes tender aged-beef ragu with a mouth-puckering combination of sharp pickles, tangy burger sauce and fiery yellow mustard, while the goat ragu choice is like posh spag Bol on a pizza: as homey and comforting as it sounds.

The calorific theme continues for afters, via desserts such as the indulgent, gooey deep-dish Nutella cookie. Keenly priced and plenty of fun – and with a well-stocked bar to boot (tuck into Vermouth, Negronis or Aperol Spritz) – Covent Garden’s Temper is a solid option for a night of ‘screw the diet’ feasting and drinking.

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Titu

Titu

£50 - £79
Japanese

1A Shepherd Street, London, W1J 7HJ

Kiwi chef Jeff Tyler used to be head chef of the Asian side of flashy mega restaurant Novikov, so it’s a complete surprise that his first solo project is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it corner spot in olde worlde Shepherd Market, with space for only 15 diners (tables are bookable). What isn’t a surprise is how good the modern Japanese food is. Titu is billed as a gyoza specialist, though there’s much more to the small-plates menu than dumplings: meltingly soft tuna blobbed with a subtle jalapeno mayo and dressed with an artful frill of salad leaves, deep-fried chicken popcorn that eats like a gourmet McNugget, or a citrusy salad of chunky soft-shell crab. The dumplings themselves are served linked like conjoined twins attached by a filigree of lacy batter; we preferred the warmly spiced chicken and foie gras version to Wagyu gyoza that seemed like an ostentatious intrusion from Novikov.

Prices, while not exactly cheap, are something of a bargain for Mayfair given the quality of the ingredients and cooking. And while the tiny dimensions mean this is not somewhere to come to discuss anything remotely confidential, the charming staff somehow find space to mix the likes of Pisco Sours and Espresso Martinis. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after a matinee at the nearby Curzon Mayfair. 

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Kanishka

Kanishka

Over £80
Indian

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.  

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The Mulwray at The Blue Posts

The Mulwray at The Blue Posts

Bars

28 Rupert Street , London, W1D 6DJ

The owners of The Palomar have now updated the adjacent Blue Posts, a perennially popular 300-year-old Chinatown tavern. Craft ales from the likes of Sambrook’s and Tiny Rebel, plus artisan draught ciders, keep the Georgian-style ground-floor tap room buzzing, along with quality wines and snacks of anchovy soldiers, rock oysters, or pukka cheese, onion and mustard toasties. Head upstairs for a complete change of vibe. Named after Faye Dunaway’s character in the film Chinatown, The Mulwray is a compact, mellowly lit cocktail lounge that’s a genteel 1930s study in powder blue and Champagne pink. The aura of retro sophistication is boosted by a fairly priced drinks list encompassing a mezcal Sour, a rum and pineapple Hurricane and a Tequila and orange sherbet fizz. Nevertheless, Linda Evangelista 51 (a Rittenhouse rye Manhattan) was heavy on the sherry, and the unyielding Prussian-blue velvet banquette won’t be popular with thinly padded supermodel posteriors.

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Gazelle

Gazelle

£30 - £49
International

48 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4DH

Gazelle is a collaboration between London’s foremost bartender and drinks expert Tony Conigliaro, of Untitled and Bar Termini fame, and the equally mellifluously named chef Rob Roy Cameron. The red-and-gold dining room is on the first floor of a Mayfair townhouse and the sultry bar on the floor above; a broken lift, alas, rather took the sheen off the louche members’ club vibe, making the drama of arrival high-impact for all the wrong reasons.

Cameron has worked with brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià, opening 41 Degrees in Barcelona for Albert. The time spent with the high priests of avant-garde haute cuisine is immediately apparent in the arresting presentation of the menu of half-a-dozen small plates, which seems intended both to delight and provoke. But on our visit we found that despite some prime ingredients, the striking visuals were not backed up by balanced flavours – or sometimes any flavour.

A deep-fried, edible anchovy skeleton was a new taste sensation for us, but was draped across an indifferent herb salad. Mushrooms with pine nut and wild garlic, and leek with chicken and chive, both tasted as beige as they looked. The innate superiority of Wagyu beef was muffled by the onslaught of a juniper and salted plum crust that gave it the appearance of an old piece of oxblood leather, while a blameless piece of presa was no match for an assertive purée of salted carrots, as vividly orange as an autumn sunset.

So many low-carb dishes, meanwhile, left us enthusiastically thanking the staff whenever they asked if we’d like more of the terrific fennel and spelt rolls.

The best things we ate were in the bar: a Parmesan crisp filled with frozen yeast butter that tasted like a gourmet Tuc cracker; a gamy cigar of marbled beef glistening with a dollop of caviar; and a spicy mouthful of tuna tartare. And while Conigliaro’s cocktails might be small, they pack an almighty punch. We wish the same could be said of the small plates downstairs.

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Gloria

Gloria

Under £30
Italian

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.

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Vermuteria Café & Bar

Vermuteria Café & Bar

Under £30
Bars
International

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.

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Indian Accent

Indian Accent

£50 - £79
Indian

16 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4HW

Few restaurants have arrived in the capital as garlanded with awards as the London outpost of Indian Accent. The New Delhi original is the only restaurant in India on the World’s 50 Best list and is regularly voted the country’s top place to eat; similar plaudits have rained down on its New York sibling since it opened in 2016. Here in London, we’re a little more used to the idea of a high-end Indian restaurant and there was a danger that Indian Accent, which has taken over the old Chor Bizarre site in Mayfair, might feel a little late to the party, but chef Manish Methrota’s sure-footed updating of traditional Indian cooking – respectful of heritage while being unmistakably individual – is a very welcome addition. And at four courses for £65, it is currently a bit of a bargain for the quality on offer in this location. 

Highlights for us included soy keema mopped up with soft little pillows of pao buns (vegetarian options are excellent); tenderly succulent pork ribs, beautifully marinated with onion seeds; an Indian spin on crispy duck, with ghee roast lamb proving just as juicy; and smoked bacon kulcha that we would gladly have made an entire meal of, dipping into the deeply flavoured dal. Service (especially from those staff flown in from New York) is on the ball, eye-opening wine matching is a strength, and the room is a stunner, with striking green upholstery set against a marble and pearl backdrop that practically glows with the expense lavished on it. In short, this Indian Accent is well worth adopting.  

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Lorne Restaurant

Lorne Restaurant

£50 - £79
British

76 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DE

Ex-River Café sommelier Katie Exton has taken full advantage of Victoria’s blossoming food scene with this 48-cover modern Brit, in collaboration with chef Peter Hall (formerly at The Square). Light-filled Lorne is a calming oasis of washed-out colours, with house plants lining the walls and a menu dedicated to seasonal, local produce. Dishes change daily, but we were impressed by an unashamedly rich starter of cuttlefish seasoned with fennel and pickled onions, coated in a creamy romesco sauce. Mains saw a generous serving of tender, corn-fed chicken, supported by a side of onion tart and a hunk of roasted cauliflower. 

Finally, a chocolate crémeux dessert avoided excessive heaviness thanks to refreshing drizzles of passion fruit and crisp mouthfuls of honeycomb: typical of what one reader calls “great on-point cooking”. Meanwhile, Kate Exton’s oenophile expertise shows in a globe-trotting list with some “spectacular” food-matching opportunities – there’s also a downstairs bar and wine cellar that’s worth perusing. With its chatty staff and truly relaxed atmosphere, Lorne is a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood.     

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Duddell

Duddell's London

£50 - £79
Chinese
Dim Sum

6 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY

We wonder if Hong Kong import Duddell’s was inspired to open in London Bridge by the success of nearby Hutong, from the HK-based Aqua Group. While Duddell’s might not have Hutong’s Shard views, it has an equally celestial location in the de-consecrated St Thomas Church, its soaring interiors cleverly divided by a mezzanine level and illuminated by covetable, World of Interiors lighting. Classy Cantonese cooking is what’s on offer from a kitchen team that has spent time at the Hong Kong original. Peking duck carved tableside is no longer the novelty it once was in London but done very well here. The lusciously fatty meat is dipped in fennel sugar, or rolled up with an array of piquant condiments into thick pancakes, before being stir-fried as a second course with a choice of sauce; the arrestingly flavoured duck in Martell Cognac and black pepper sauce was the best thing we ate all evening. We also enjoyed deeply succulent smoked beef rib with red wine soy beef, and chicken encased in pliable pan-fried dumplings. Ingredients are top notch – Bresse chicken, Berkshire pork – but prices seem steep for cooking that struck us as good rather than memorable, and you’ll be hard pressed to find much below £40 on the global wine list. Lunchtime dim sum offers a cheaper way in but we suspect that, budget permitting, all-out luxury – lobster noodles, steamed turbot, wagyu with spring onion – may be the best way to get into the glamorous spirit of the place. 

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Greyhound Café

Greyhound Café

£30 - £49

37 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NB

Greyhound Café is a side project from Thai designer Bhanu Inkawat that stretches to 17 cafés across Asia. Its London debut may look dark and minimalist but, once seated, you’ll find a riot of fun. An overwhelming menu (we counted at least 10 pages) features artily-shot food imagery, and we’d recommend ordering four to five small plates between two and then a large plate each. Zanily-named dishes include Complicated Noodles, which arrives as a DIY plate of rice noodle sheets and iceberg lettuce to be topped with spicy minced pork, a chilli-spiked lime sauce and chopped coriander. Much of the food is messy and designed to be eaten with your hands; a mound of crunchy, juicy pork knuckle arrives alongside fiery dipping sauces and a box of sticky rice, while crispy chicken wings are zingily marinated in fish sauce. The fun continues through to the signature Happy Toast for pudding: golden brioche toast next to the word ‘happy’ spelled out in flour, and a range of sauces to top it with – you’ll see it a lot on your Instagram feed this year. Luminous soft drinks, a buzzy atmosphere and staff wearing t-shirts that read ‘I don’t speak Thai, but I recommend good dishes’ are further pluses. Prices are on the steep side, but sizeable portions mean you won’t leave hungry.  

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Onima

Onima

Mediterranean

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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Kyseri

Kyseri

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern

64 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DN

Modern Turkish Oklava won legions of fans when it opened in Shoreditch back in 2015 and now restaurateurs Laura Christie and Selin Kiazim hope to repeat their success with this stylish and intimate follow up, right by Warren Street tube. The menu is inspired by dishes from the city of Kayseri; the ‘a’ has supposedly been dropped in order to show that Kyseri offers up Turkish dishes with a twist, although we suspect it’s also because it makes the restaurant easier to Google.

Innovative small plates to share include the likes of a canapé-sized lamb and loquat skewer: dainty, yet punchy, the sweet and juicy loquat providing a perfect contrast to the intense, spice-laden lamb. We were also impressed by veal sweetbreads, which saw meltingly soft meat massaged with creamy hazelnut yoghurt and brown butter. The Turkish pasta is another highlight: manti (dumpling-style pasta parcels) are stuffed with sour cherry-flecked beef and served with a blend of yoghurt and a peppery red sauce, which you’ll have to resist licking clean off the plate.

An intriguing wine list champions small producers from Turkey and the Middle East, while desserts also excite: we were particularly taken by the sweet-as-can-be honey ice cream, sandwiched between two crumbly crackers. Cool, calm and seriously delicious, Kyseri is a little slice of Turkish heaven.

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St Leonard

St Leonard's

£30 - £49
Modern European

70 Leonard Street, EC2A 4QX

St Leonard’s is the latest collaboration from chef duo Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, who oversee Brunswick House in Vauxhall. Butch, austere interiors involving an abundance of polished concrete look the Shoreditch part, while as at nearby Brat, St Leonard’s is a homage to flame-licked cooking, with an impressive wood-burning hearth tended to by a brigade of extravagantly tattooed chefs.

The menu of grilled meat, fish and veg reads simply but soon reveals its complexities. Take a dish of ‘flamed oyster’, in which the intensely smoky shellfish arrive flame-grilled under a heap of crisp, lardo-soaked fried breadcrumbs. Elsewhere, a daringly sweet set custard is topped with luscious foie gras and slivers of silky smoked eel then finished with a swirl of crunchy chicharrones (fried pork rind).

Not everything is so successful. A small plate of golden beetroot topped with almonds and crème Fraiche felt dull, while a dish of thick-cut, smoky pork jowl was too fatty to be enjoyable. There was no faulting side dishes, though, especially blackened hispi cabbage dipped in pork fat and topped with a scattering of breadcrumbs.

Desserts are more conventional but still impress. We were particularly taken with a sherry-injected salted caramel tart, perfectly offset with cardamom ice cream. If you prefer to finish your meal with a drink, head to the bar where you’ll find a 200-bin wine list available by the glass or carafe. Despite a few small missteps, we think St Leonard’s is well on its way to becoming a classic.      

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Bryn Williams at Somerset House

Bryn Williams at Somerset House

£30 - £49
Modern European

Somerset Hosue, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Bryn Williams of Odette’s fame is the latest chef (following Tom Aikens) to oversee the network of rooms that make up the restaurant occupying the south wing of Somerset House. It’s a dramatic and moody setting, featuring comfy booths and stunning food photography, but the awkward layout of the space rather takes the edge off the atmosphere. 

But what the restaurant lacks in good-time vibes, it more than makes up for in feel-good food. An on-trend menu makes vegetables the star of the show and, while the cooking might not be vegetarian, there’s no doubting where the focus lies in a dish described as grilled hispi cabbage with apple and pork chop. All the dishes we tried impressed, from a fresh-tasting dome of compressed watermelon topped with avocado and a generous helping of sweet Dorset crab, to a rich main of tagliatelle entwined with kale pesto and a liberal shaving of grated parmesan, and our friendly waitress’ dessert suggestion of lavender-scented meringue shards with tart blueberry ice cream. 

To drink, there’s a European leaning wine list, cocktails involving the likes of rhubarb and beetroot, plus a draught beer bar that gives a reason to visit even if you don’t want to eat.

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Cora Pearl

Cora Pearl

£50 - £79
British
French

30 Henrietta Street, London, WC2F 8NA

Covent Garden might not carry the same illicit cachet as Shepherd Market but the streets that would still be familiar to Nell Gwyn make an apt setting for this follow-up to Kitty Fisher’s, the most fashionable restaurant of 2015. Like Kitty’s, Cora Pearl is named after another of history’s good-time-girls, although the roles are reversed here: while Kitty’s has a bar above and a dining room below, here the bar is hidden away in the basement while the high-ceilinged, ground-floor restaurant is illuminated at both ends by big windows. Raffish without being scruffy and as suitable for romance as bromance, it’s the sort of room that is cosy in winter and sun-drenched in summer.

The menu might not have a must-order showstopper like the Galician beef that made Kitty Fisher’s the talk of the town, but there are several contenders. Starters of shrimp Ranhöfer – basically prawn cocktail on toast – and elegant-looking, naughty-tasting cheese and ham toasties are high-class canapés, begging you to lick your fingers.

To follow, ‘pork with onions’ turns out to be floppy slices of presa Ibérica draped with spring onions atop a deeply-flavoured onion purée, while veal fillet comes with an even better celeriac purée and a jug of Bordelaise sauce bobbing with bone marrow. Save this for dunking best-in-class chips made with layers of pressed potato: surely the most labour-intensive fries in London.

Cora Pearl is the sort of place where pre-theatre diners might consider missing the curtain-up for a creamy bowl of ‘milk and cookies’ and where tourists won’t believe their luck at having chanced upon that rarest of all pearls: somewhere in Covent Garden where both Londoners and anyone from out of town will feel right at home. 

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Chick

Chick 'n' Sours Islington

Under £30
International

62 Upper Street, London, N1 0NY

The third site for fried chicken purveyor Chick ‘n’ Sours finds its home on Islington’s restaurant crowded Upper Street, in a much larger space than the Haggerston original. Along with the normal tables, guests can grab drinks from the bar (including the signature Sours), or dine at the window counter, while groups can opt for the large round table by the open kitchen, which comes complete with a palm-print Lazy Susan.

Chick ‘n’ Sours’ sense of fun is felt through its quirky interiors, such as the large graffiti mural which sees the cast of Peaky Blinders depicted in drag. The menu is just as cheeky, featuring the group’s signature dishes alongside new additions such as chicken toast: described as “just like prawn toast, but with chicken”, this is a sticky, gloriously messy delight. Elsewhere, bang bang cucumbers arrive smeared in a tangy brown sauce, completed by a scattering of peanuts and a dash of chilli oil.  

For the main event, there’s a selection of ‘dirty good’ stacked burgers, all stuffed with crispy, well-seasoned chicken thighs. Options include the simple General, which is topped with mayo, lettuce, cheese and pickles, or go big with the Seoul Destroyer: a monstrously messy burger which is slathered in a bold mix of nacho cheese, schmaltz (melted down chicken fat) and sharp kimchi.

Such gut-busting dishes mean you won’t want to come here every week, but for filthy fried food with substance, Chick ‘n’ Sours is worth getting in a flap over.

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Kutir

Kutir

Indian

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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Kricket Brixton

Kricket Brixton

£30 - £49
Indian

41-43 Atlantic Road, London, SW9 3JS

Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell first launched Kricket onto an adoring public at Pop Brixton in 2016 before re-locating to an equally loved permanent site in Soho. Now they’re back where their success story first started with this new site under the railway arches by Brixton Market (they opened a flagship site in White City in the summer of 2018).

The new Brixton branch is larger than Soho and incorporates a separate bar where you can sample punchy cocktails such as the rum-based Dark Matter ahead of a table in the colonial-meets-industrial dining room (all dark-wood tables and house plants) – although as this Kricket takes bookings, you won’t have to wait to sit down.

As in Soho, the short menu has a core list of Kricket classics joined by dishes that change every couple of months. The now legendary Keralan fried chicken, dusted with pepper and served with a tangy curry leaf mayonnaise for dipping, is worth ordering whether this is your first visit or your fifteenth. The crunchy bhel puris also make a welcome appearance with their swirl of tamarind stickiness, puffed rice and dollops of yoghurt.

Elsewhere, Goan sausage pao are like intensely meaty mini burger buns with a mild afterglow of chilli heat, while a colourful bowl of juicy tomatoes livened up with hints of spring onion, ginger and sesame is one of several veggie options – although like all the cooking, spice levels are toned down for Western palates. A smooth lassi-style mango parfait is the sole dessert.

Pocket-friendly, cool and complemented by fun and chatty staff, this branch of Kricket is a welcome return to a buzzing Brixton restaurant scene it helped to kick-start.   

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Ham

Ham

£30 - £49
Modern European

238 West End Lane, London, NW6 1LG

Ham brings a welcome dose of sophistication to West Hampstead – perhaps unsurprising given the pedigree of a head chef whose impressive CV includes a stint at The Ledbury. The place was packed on our weeknight visit with vacated tables being replaced immediately by new guests (a bar acts as a holding area) and while there’s a definite buzz to the small dining room, diners aren’t rushed – just as well when the food and friendly staff provide reason to linger.

Five starters and five mains make choosing easy and vegetarians do particularly well here with two options in each section. Mains impressed particularly; aged beef was cooked tenderly and served with an innovative-tasting black sesame and soy sauce, while roasted root vegetables with almond, pear and parsley was a well thought-out combination of ingredients. Chocolate tart and blood orange pudding wowed as a finale, a decadent delight of richness offset by the fruit sorbet and, like all of the food, eye-catchingly presented. An intelligently composed wine list is worthy of additional mention, while brunches, a kids’ menu and cakes at teatime are proving hits with the locals. 

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Roganic

Roganic

Over £80
British

5-7 Blandford Street, W1U 3DB

Simon Rogan has had a busy year with two new London openings. He has diversified his London offering, first with chef’s table Aulis in Soho, and now with this resurrection of his much-lauded pop up Roganic, which ran for two years in 2011 and takes some elements from the chef’s two Michelin-starred L’Enclume. Roganic’s focus is on supremely fresh ingredients, often sourced from Rogan’s own farm in Cumbria, with head chef Oliver Marlow (part of the original Roganic line-up) overseeing 10- and 14-course tasting menus of dainty but dynamic plates.

Everything we tried was near perfect, from the intensely creamy starting snack of a preserved raspberry tart rooted with an earthy beetroot base, to a dessert of apple slices caramelised into a bundle of sweetness that is almost too pretty to eat. More unconventional dishes include ice-cold scallops which first freeze the mouth before giving way to a topping of sour apple and gooseberry chunks, and a ramekin of unassuming-looking custard, which surprises with its savoury, saline notes of seaweed and caviar. The only dud is the dry-aged duck that is hyped up with a tableside visit from Marlow, but turned up minus the super-crispy skin we were promised.

France leads the European-focused wine list (good luck finding much below £45), while wine flights are supplemented by a dozen by-the-glass options, and there are also Cumbrian beers and gin. Service is positively warm and friendly. The restaurant’s understated interior (complete with 80s-style cane Cesca chairs) may not be to all tastes – not least given the not-very-understated prices – but Roganic excels at remixing the fine-dining of old in an exciting, and most importantly delicious, way.

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Hovarda

Hovarda

£30 - £49
Greek

Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DW

Darting between Turkish and Greek cuisines, this Soho grill isn’t quite sure where its culinary expertise lies. Nevertheless, Hovarda (‘vagabond’ in Turkish) is an enchanting spot, its glamorous dining room decked out in aquatic blue and gold tones, its waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. Small plates may be commonplace in London nowadays, but the concept is welcome here thanks to such accomplished cooking. Rings of battered squid dipped in a sharp squid-ink sauce made a promising start to our impressive meal. Strips of coal-roasted red pepper were enlivened by hints of mint and lime; hollowed-out red mullet arrived uber-fresh and mixed with juicy chunks of tomato and avocado; and crispy rolls of filo pastry contrasted well with their delicate crab meat filling (although the tart lemon sauce that accompanied them wasn’t needed).

Dish of the night was an intensely smoky, delectably tender ox cheek paired with thick baba ganoush. We’d recommend not skipping dessert either – our pick being the miniature balls of fried pastry (lokma) that arrive drizzled with sweet-as-can-be thyme honey, a sprinkling of walnuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. On your way out, stop by the stand-alone cocktail bar that turns out plenty of diverting concoctions, including the signature Hovarda cocktail where yoghurt and coffee are blended to create a creamy mix that is more subtle than you might expect. Service is perhaps slightly too attentive and prices can add up, but overall Hovarda is a welcome addition to Rupert Street’s already impressive gastronomic line-up.

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Fare Bar + Canteen

Fare Bar + Canteen

Modern European

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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Imperial Treasure

Imperial Treasure

Chinese
Dim Sum

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.

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Caractère

Caractère

£50 - £79
Modern European

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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Blacklock Shoreditch

Blacklock Shoreditch

£30 - £49
British

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.

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Brat

Brat

£30 - £49
British

64 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

Brat' is the Northumbrian vernacular for a turbot but it’s also a knowing wink from Tomos Parry. The Welshman won the Young British Foodie Chef of the Year award in 2014, wowed in his first head chef gig at Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair and has opened his first solo restaurant in a former strip club in Shoreditch, with a logo whose font blends Celtic and Basque typefaces. While Kitty Fisher’s had David Cameron as its most famous regular, now it’s the likes of fashion designer Henry Holland and a nightly brigade of Parry’s curious chef peers (Fergus Henderson and Jeremy Lee on our visit) trouping up the stairs above Smoking Goat to see what all the fuss is about.

The house speciality turbot is cooked Basque-style in an iron cage over a wood grill until the flesh is almost melting; it’s already had more rave reviews than Hamilton but is a struggle for two people to finish, so we went instead for smaller plates followed by a beef chop. Some of the flavours were happy memories from Kitty Fisher’s – the smoked cod’s roe that is the perfection of taramasalata, piped on to a finger of toast like a savoury éclair; the almost gamey flavour of the beef – and some were new revelations: a sort of puffed-up naan bread slathered with oil, flecked with chives and draped with three intensely flavoured anchovies; oysters roasted to draw out their sweetness, topped with pickled seaweed.  

The flip side of the menu is printed with 35 wines by the glass, including seven sherries; there’s further fascination in the wine list proper. It is, without a doubt, very enjoyable cooking – Parry has an innate sense for how to extract the maximum natural flavour from high-quality ingredients – but what sets the place apart is the mood. The blurring of kitchen and dining room feels completely democratic, as too the eating counter and tables packed so closely they may as well be a communal bench, while right now the atmosphere crackles at that febrile pitch of diners who know they are in London’s hottest restaurant.

True, some may find the workshop machismo of cooking with fire in plain view a tad preposterous (it reminded us of Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court), and the sight of fanboy diners queueing up to congratulate Parry is cringe-inducing. But, overall, we were captivated by the spectacle.

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Pastaio

Pastaio

Under £30
Italian

19 Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BN

Pastaio is the newest site from restaurateur Stevie Parle, who already oversees the likes of Rotorino and Palatino. Here at Pastaio, the name of the game is to serve plates of handmade pasta at pocket-friendly prices. Tightly packed tables lend themselves to creating buzz, while we have a sneaking suspicion that the vibrant pops of colour and marble-topped tables were chosen with Instagram in mind. Other millennial-bait includes great lemon-dashed Prosecco slushies and a moreish fried ’nduja, mozzarella and honey sandwich which is satisfyingly ‘dirty’, if not the instant classic we’d hoped for. Where  Pastaio really shines is in its eight pastas. Soft shells of malloredus are served with crispy shards of pork and a thick sausage sauce, while supremely velvety agnoli is folded over a gamey filling of pheasant, rabbit and pork. Desserts stick to the Italian classics, with the likes of tiramisu and a selection of gelato, but we were impressed by a flaky cannoli, dotted with jewels of pistachio and completed by a fluffy orange and saffron filling. It may not live up to the giddy heights of the much-lauded Padella, but for affordable, fun comfort food in the heart of Soho, we reckon Pastaio is worth every penne.

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Southam Street

Southam Street

Under £30
Peruvian
Japanese

36 Golborne Road, W10 5PR

Housed in a converted Victorian pub in the shadows of the Trellick Tower, this second venue from the duo behind hot-ticket 108 Garage brings some much-needed glamour to Golborne Road – no wonder well-heeled locals are already packing the place for its take on Japanese/Peruvian fusion food. The proprietors have certainly done a good job in creating a cool destination, sparing no expense on decor (note the downstairs ceiling) and providing a buzzing soundtrack to keep the vibe upbeat. However, we found the on-trend (if somewhat unoriginal) menu rather hit-and-miss: a moreish heritage tomato and horseradish mascarpone dish stood out among the starters, while a tender piece of sea bass with yuzu koshu rub was the pick of the mains; by contrast, our flavourless soft-shell crab harumaki roll was instantly forgettable, and a Waygu rump needed its accompanying chilli ponzu to bring out the flavour. Drinks-wise, diners can pick from a handful of cocktails and a wine list that (surprisingly) favours the Old World. Beware: lots of small dishes and just six wines below £30 mean that the bill can add up quickly. 

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Brigadiers

Brigadiers

£50 - £79
Indian

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, London, EC4N 8AR

The headlining act of the Bloomberg Arcade, Brigadiers is the hotly anticipated new restaurant from JKS, aka siblings Jyotin, Karam and Sunaina Sethi, who have a Midas touch for whatever they choose to invest in (Lyle’s, Sabor, Bao, Bubbledogs) or front themselves (Hoppers, Trishna, Gymkhana – and now Brigadiers).  

Brigadiers is an Indian barbecue restaurant and sports bar, pitched in mood midway between the cheap thrills of Hoppers and the Mayfair flash of Gymkhana (prices, however, are definitely more Gymkhana). And like all the Sethis’ projects, it is precision-tuned to the location. Here in the City that means two bars, three private rooms, a pool room with a self-service whisky dispenser, plus TVs locked to Sky Sports. The inspiration is apparently the army mess bars of India, although it may as well be the fantasy of a teenage boy.

Except this being JKS, the food and drinks are far more sophisticated than that. The long menu is tailor-made for sharing in groups, not least because you’ll want to order as much as possible from the half-dozen sections, from ‘beer snacks’ and ‘sizzlers and kebabs’ to ‘steak, ribs and chops’ and ‘rotisserie and wood oven’.

There are two show-stopping must-orders. Beef chuck bone-marrow keema, sloppy and slippery, is scooped up with chilli-cheese kulcha, which taste like a stuffed pizza crust. We also put these to good use chasing the sauce left over from barbecue butter chicken wings, smeared with ghee and cashew cream like sublime, softly flavoured satay.

Other highlights included the flavour riot of masala chicken skins with lime pickle, and from the more substantial end of the menu, rib-eye steak beautifully spiced in a dry tandoori masala. Lettuce dressed in yoghurt and mint provided fresh relief.

To drink, there are lagers and stouts on tap, cocktails on draught, and 15 wines by the glass from a global list that quickly ascends past the £40 mark all the way to a pay-cheque blowing fine wine selection that, for once, doesn’t focus on Bordeaux and Burgundy – like everything else in this raucous newcomer, a hot blast of fun for City dining, especially if you’ve a glass in hand on the terrace when the sun hits at 5pm. 

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The Petersham Covent Garden

The Petersham Covent Garden

£50 - £79
Italian

27-31 King Street, London, WC2E 8JB

It’s only to be expected that Petersham Nurseries has lost a little something on its journey from bucolic Richmond to Covent Garden, but it has gained plenty in the process too, namely a wine merchant’s, café-bar (La Goccia), florist’s, delicatessen and sun-dappled courtyard. The business started in 2004 as a shabby-chic garden centre but is now a ‘lifestyle brand’, with the Petersham (the complex’s more formal restaurant) at its apogee.

The venue looks gorgeous, a World of Interiors centrefold of abundant cut flowers, Murano glass, artworks and glistening chandeliers. The courtyard area is somewhat less convincing, the presence of passing shoppers compromising the idyll. However, it only takes one Rose Petal Prosecco to shake off the feeling of dining in a mall – along with a glance at a menu that transports you to Italy by way of an English country garden. The kitchen observes the seasons with gusto: in early spring serving pea, lovage and quinoa tartlets with even more peas on the side; and in midsummer, introducing broad bean hummus to heritage radishes. Italophile starters such as risotto, or sopressini pasta with beef shin ragu, lead naturally into a shared main course of salt-baked hake; seasonal side dishes always include the Petersham garden salad.

Living the dream here is an expensive business, so dip a toe in first with the £29.50 pre-theatre menu and order carefully from the all-Italian wine list.

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Temper City

Temper City

£30 - £49
Steak
South American
Barbecue

2 Angel Court, 30 Throgmorton Street, London, EC2R 7HJ

Temper Soho opened to rave reviews in 2016, so we’re not surprised that BBQ-loving chef Neil Rankin has produced a sibling site in City development Angel Court. Next door to Coya, this much-larger Temper sticks to the meaty formula, serving up a range of tacos and flatbreads to share.

The name refers to Rankin’s commitment to tempering his meats, whether it’s Essex beef, Yorkshire pork or Welsh lamb. Take your pick from a high-octane cuisine-hopping menu that runs from must-order blowtorched mackerel tacos freshened with sweet white miso and mashed avocado to little bowls of Thai-style larb combining roasted rice with ‘burnt ends’ for a spicy clash of textures. We recommend ordering the full quota of sauces and finishing off with a gooey-centred cookie, baked in a cast-iron pan.

The wide-ranging selection of gins will entice booze hounds, but there are also soft options including a tart apple and grapefruit spritz. A pop soundtrack adds to Temper’s appeal, while enthusiastic, committed staff seal the deal at this thoroughly modern BBQ joint.

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The Coal Office

The Coal Office

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern

2 Bagley Walk, London, N1C 4PQ

Designer Tom Dixon clearly has a thing for canals. His old HQ was by the Grand Union Canal at the top of Ladbroke Grove and featured a restaurant where chef Stevie Parle shot to fame. For his new place he’s chosen a brick warehouse from 1851 that gently curves around the Regent’s Canal in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, immediately recognisable from the other restaurants in the new development by the Melt pendant lights that glow like illuminated amoeba from the windows of Dixon’s shop, studio and restaurant. 

Cheffing duties this time around fall to Assaf Granit, the brains behind the world-famous Machneyuda in Jerusalem and a collaborator on The Palomar and Barbary. Some of The Palomar’s greatest hits are here, including addictive kubaleh bread to scoop up the sweet and sour of tomato confit and reduced yoghurt, while The Palomar’s deconstructed shikshukit kebab has been reconstructed as a superbly juicy chunk of lamb and beef – the best thing we ate. 

Other dishes and flavours were new to us – ‘ironed chicken’ on a remarkable layer of violet polenta and black bulgur, by turns smooth and crunchy, and aubergine melted to a sticky pulp from the Josper oven so that it tasted transformed into essence of aubergine. 

Not everything is so successful – shish barak, a sort of yoghurt ravioli, was a bland disappointment, ditto a fig-leaf ice cream, made on site – and prices are punchy to say the least: £16 struck us as very steep for a starter-sized portion of kebab that provided about four mouthfuls; arrive with an appetite and expect a food bill of £40 a head for the food alone.  

And while the 160-seat site, spread over a restaurant, chef’s table, bar and roof terrace, might not have the hugger-mugger intimacy of Granit’s previous London restaurants, the vibe provided by global beats, shouts from an open kitchen and, especially, Dixon’s beguiling design imprint provide a seductively hypnotic buzz. If Coal Office is anything to go by, the rest of Coal Drops Yard is going to be smoking hot.     

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Din Tai Fung Covent Garden

Din Tai Fung Covent Garden

£50 - £79
Taiwanese
Dim Sum

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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Londrino

Londrino

£30 - £49
Portuguese

36 Snowsfields, SE1 3SU

Chef Leandro Carreira is the brains behind this super-sleek operation, which looks like an urban chic oasis tricked out by Oliver Bonas, all geometric tiles, soft greys and brushed concrete. Earning his stripes at a succession of East London hotspots, including Viajante and Lyle’s, Carreira’s style takes his native Portuguese cuisine as a base but adds international influences, with a particular nod to Japan. It’s inventive and surprising cooking that doesn’t always gel, but when it does, it’s glorious. Stand-outs on our visit included soft slivers of squid in a lip-smacking umami-rich miso broth with celeriac crisps, and moist presa paired with dry buttermilk and salsify. An unusual dish of fermented potato (it gives the humble spud an apple-like note) dipped in a glowing orange globe of egg yolk caused heated debate: love it or hate it? You decide. A dessert of grilled brioche soaked in sour caramel with crisp bites of hazelnuts was less contentious: it’s an instant hit. An on-trend drinks list keeps pace with the creative food, from the oh-so-hip P&T aperitif (white port and tonic) to new-wave Portuguese wines such as the red Vinho Verde from biodynamic producer Aphros. 

Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

£30 - £49
Italian

51 Greek Street, London, W1D 4EH

Opened in 1944, Soho’s Lina Stores delicatessen has managed to survive the sky-high rents and glossy redevelopments that have claimed all too many of the area’s Italian old-timers. Now, it has produced a bambino: a debut pasta restaurant just a few minutes’ walk away on Greek Street. Here, the exterior proudly displays Lina’s signature green-and-white colour scheme, which is continued inside the tiny space. Try to bag a seat at the counter and watch the chefs at work; all pasta is made on site daily. Alternatively, if you’re hoping for a chat, head to the basement – don’t discuss anything confidential, mind, as tables are packed tuna-can tight.

Charming, attractive staff explain the menu of sharing antipasti and pasta dishes. We were impressed by the lusciously fatty strips of pork belly sandwiched between slices of crisp ciabatta, and also by a vegetarian take on meatballs that came stuffed with silky aubergine and tomato. The stars of the show, though, are the comforting plates of pasta. Don’t miss the gamey veal ravioli: tender chunks of veal wrapped in delicate pasta parcels, given crunch with a smattering of breadcrumbs. A plate of sticky green gnudi was also heavenly, the smooth ricotta and herb filling melting on the tongue. In comparison, dessert disappointed: an overcooked, dry slice of cherry and almond tart. Much better was a zesty cocktail of Blood Orange Bellini. Our advice? Skip dessert and order another plate of pasta – your dough will be well spent on Lina’s.

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Leroy

Leroy

£30 - £49
French

18 Phipp Street, London, EC2A 4NU

This Shoreditch wine bar and restaurant comes from the team behind Hackney’s Ellory, which closed its doors in early 2018. Leroy was actually one of the nicknames the owners gave to Ellory, as many diners struggled to pronounce it correctly. This isn’t a carbon copy though, with the new site focusing more on wines and bistro-style food in the mould of a Parisian ‘cave’. A semi-open kitchen (with a few counter seats) turns out the likes of ricotta dumplings with peas and artichokes, and lamb sweetbreads with morel mushrooms and a nettle and wild garlic sauce. Desserts meanwhile, include chocolate mousse with hazelnuts, and poached rhubarb with milk ice cream. The real focus here though, is the 100 bin wine list full of international names, which is served alongside Leroy’s own-brand Vermouth. A worker’s set lunch is also available, at two courses for £16, and three for £20.

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Hide Ground

Hide Ground

£50 - £79
British

85 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NB

The latest venture of wunderkind chef Ollie Dabbous certainly lives up to its name. Despite its vast dimensions, occupying three storeys, Hide is easy to miss thanks to a discreet exterior featuring barely visible signage and a door that blends into the wall. Plenty of folk have already discovered it, mind: just look through the large windows and you’ll see a full complement of foodies, influencers and Mayfair suits tucking in to platefuls of visually arresting dishes – helping to confirm that this is one of 2018’s most talked-about openings.

With its three separate spaces, Hide aims to cater for all – or at least all who can afford it. Below is a cocktail bar overseen by long-time Dabbous collaborator, Oskar Kinberg; Above is the most formal room, where all diners must order the tasting menu. Between them is Ground: a more accessible, slightly more affordable all-day British restaurant. Taking centre stage here is the swirling oak staircase that connects all three floors, with the dining room’s brown colour scheme and oak furnishings providing neutral back-up.

Switched on, friendly staff suggest starting the meal with grazing dishes such as fried quisquilla prawns – so soft and delicate you don’t even have to remove their shells (though we opted to). To follow, both our starters impressed: a zesty, super-sweet crab tartlet given extra freshness by kaffir lime and smooth chunks of avocado; and a creamy burrata successfully paired with ripe apricot. Equally diverting was a main course of barbecued ibérico pork, elevated by slices of peach to produce a challenging yet effective contrast of textures.

After dipping into the colossal wine list (a truly exhaustive selection), move on to desserts: a treat for the eyes as much as the taste buds. Thrill to the likes of raspberry-flecked ice cream served on a bed of hay clouded by dry ice; or deconstructed strawberry millefeuille with pastry shaped like maple leaves.

There’s a palpable sense of occasion that goes along with dining here, and the accompanying feeling of exclusivity might lead some to limit this to a ‘one and done’ experience. That would be a pity, though: Hide needs to be seen to be believed.

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Zela

Zela

£50 - £79
Japanese
International

ME London, The Strand, WC2R 1HA

Savvy Londoners are hard to impress, but this newcomer should win them over with its playful interiors, remarkably good food and links to starry investors Enrique glesias and Rafael Nadal. Based in the Spanish-owned ME hotel (but with its own entrance on Aldwych), Zela comes tricked out like a fantasy tropical forest complete with a cheerful melange of bright-blue banquettes, bamboo furniture, Spanish tiles and wooden floors. There are also high stools at the sushi counter, plus a cocktail bar and a DJ station. It’s a little bit crazy, but great fun.

The food is billed as ‘Meppon’, Japanese technique coupled with Mediterranean ingredients, and Zela’s light, fresh, often raw dishes are bang on target for fashionable, health-conscious diners. Thinly sliced scallops are dusted with dried chorizo for contrasting taste and texture, while yellowtail tiradito is bathed in a punchy chilli ponzu sauce. Familiar maki rolls include soft-shell crab and avocado with cucumber, but we prefer the standout red prawns with sushi rice and shreds of radish. You must suck the head – utterly delicious.

Pricey mains involve Wagyu beef, grilled lobster and caviar-dressed luxuries, although those on slimmer budgets might prefer lightly seared tuna tataki with almonds and mojama or a quirky take on duck à l’orange served with steamed buns. Do leave room for the white chocolate ice cream with citrus and vanilla jelly or – better still – order the plate of mixed desserts, a real show-stopper. Local businesses will enjoy Zela for its power breakfasts and lunches, while theatregoers and hot dates will warm to the seductive mood at night.

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Parsons

Parsons

£30 - £49
Fish

39 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9BA

This seafood joint comes courtesy of the team behind The Ten Cases wine bar. Parsons is a jolly little spot, with green-and-white fishmonger-style tiles, tiny tables along one wall and a couple of eating counters poking out of the other – the sort of place that’s cosy in winter and breezy in summer, thanks to big windows that open on to Endell Street. It’s an appealingly individual set-up that, combined with friendly staff, decent prices and a brilliant location for pre- and post-theatre, have made it impossible to reserve a table for a couple of months ahead; try your luck with a walk-in instead.

But some hit-and-miss cooking took the edge off the good times for us. We loved Belgian-style potted shrimp croquettes filled with a creamy shellfish goo, salt-cod fritters encased in crisp, light batter, and a whopper of an octopus tentacle cooked to melting sweetness and accompanied by fabulously flavoured pork-fat potatoes. But chargrilled treviso with pomegranate and Pecorino was overwhelmingly bitter, sea trout tartare was ill-served by an assertive bloody Mary jelly, and brown crab pissaladière tasted acrid, as if the onions had caught in the pan – although like all of the dishes, it looked absolutely lovely. Larger plates of fish are available whole (plaice, sea bass) and by the fillet (turbot, gurnard), while around a dozen wines from the off-piste list are available by the glass and carafe.

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Rambla

Rambla

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

64 Dean Street, London, W1D 4QQ

Chef and restaurateur Victor Garvey has made a name for himself with a pair of restaurants (Sibarita, Bravas Tapas) cut from a different cloth from the Spanish norm. Rambla, his latest, is named after the most famous street in Barcelona and its breezy design is meant to evoke the city’s beachfront restaurants, although the people-watching is arguably more diverting here, through big windows looking onto Dean Street.

The menu deals in raw and cured meats and Catalonian specialities from the mountains and the sea, and Garvey is once again to be congratulated for attempting to wean Londoners off chorizo al vino and ham crouquetas. So while you will find croquetas at Rambla, they’re filled with spinach and topped with pine nuts; elsewhere there are meaty lamb chops with rosemary aioli, a Camembert-like navat cheese baked in a dish with bread and crudités for dipping, and excellent octopus grilled to almost-melting gooeyness, with crispy garlic and tarragon aioli. It’s all nicely dine, if lacking the high-octane culinary thrills of Encant, but ticking the box for a younger, more casual crowd. To drink, a gin and tonic served in a highball rather than the giant balloon glasses we’ve got used to seemed like a missed opportunity, although the bottle of white Idoia that the waiter recommended is the sort of wine you take a photo of to track down online when you get home.  

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Two Lights

Two Lights

£50 - £79
Modern European

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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Xier

Xier

Over £80
Modern European

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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Find out all about London’s fabulous new restaurant openings by checking out the SquareMeal Hottest New Openings list featuring only the very best of London’s latest restaurant openings. Of course London has an incredible portfolio of restaurants so if there isn’t anywhere that takes your fancy in this list, also take a look at restaurants in the West End including Soho, Covent Garden and Mayfair; restaurants in the City and restaurants in West London including Knightsbridge and Chelsea.

Every one of the best new restaurant openings in London featured in SquareMeal’s list of the hottest new restaurant openings have been tried and tested by critics and our own customers so check out the reviews with SquareMeal today. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.