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 London restaurants and bars which we feel are worth your special attention, and only features those restaurants and bars which have opened in the past 12 months.

Updated on 03 May 2019

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.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. Scroll this way for London’s hottest new restaurants and be prepared to block out your diary for the foreseeable future.

Orasay

Orasay

31 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2EU

Chef duo Andrew Clarke and Jackson Boxer are the men behind this Notting Hill restaurant, their third partnership following Brunswick House in Vauxhall and St Leonard’s in Shoreditch.

Orasay is named after an island found off the west coast of Scotland, spelled Orosay. The menu is inspired by the Outer Hebridean region surrounding the island, and focuses heavily on seafood. You can expect to tuck into the likes of scallops, oysters, crabs and lobster, while some produce (vegetables, honey, etc.) comes from the business’ own organic farm in West Sussex, which is also Boxer’s family home.

The simple interiors see lime-washed walls and antique French oak, while a 60-bin wine list features Euro-leaning bottles available both by the glass and carafe.

£50 - £79
British
Fish
St Leonard

St Leonard's

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.      

£30 - £49
Modern European
1251

1251

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.

£30 - £49
International
Lino

Lino

90 Bartholomew Close , EC1A 7EB

A former linoleum warehouse doesn’t sound like the sexiest of spaces to open a restaurant, but that’s exactly where Lino has decided to set up shop, with its chic all-day restaurant and bar. Lino’s name is one of few subtle nods to the venue’s past life, including exposed pipes and sanded-down wooden doors. Mostly though, this is a stylish proposition, completed by powder-blue and salmon-pink furnishings, and brass fixtures.

The menu is a timely snapshot of London dining culture: it’s big on fermentation and pickling (Lino cultures its own butter and bakes excellent sourdough in-house), it champions vegetables alongside meat – seen in the pairing of flank steak with the humble likes of watercress and horseradish – and the menu lends itself to sharing-style dining.

From the snacks, we were most taken with the crisply-coated croquettes which burst with the umami taste of sauerkraut and Montgomery cheddar – they’re served in a portion of three though, so prepare to fight over the last one. From the more substantial dishes, a lean fillet of grilled mackerel is complemented by oyster mayonnaise and sharp discs of house pickled cucumber, while a velvety meat-free lasagne makes the most of autumnal ingredients: buttery folds of pasta conceal puréed pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke, topped with a generous helping of parmesan shavings.

At dessert, the school dinner staple of bread and butter pudding is given a much welcomed update, swapping out standard bread for a croissant base and glazed with shimmering marmalade, resulting in a delightfully playful mix of sugar and stodge. Fair pricing and cool, casual staff add to Lino’s appeal – perhaps it’s a little too on-trend or a little too manufactured, but unlike some style-over-substance offerings in the Square Mile, Lino backs itself up with a considered and well thought-out menu.      

Modern European
No. Fifty Cheyne

No. Fifty Cheyne

50 Cheyne Walk, London, SW3 5LR

What was for 16 years the Cheyne Walk Brasserie has been refurbished and relaunched by Sally Greene, who was the founder director of The Old Vic and also owns Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Greene lives on Cheyne Walk herself, so it’s fair to assume that la patronne mange ici. And no wonder – she has created the sort of neighbourhood gem that Chelsea locals will lap up and anyone priced out of SW3 should bus it to on the number 19.

Forget about the trashy goings-on of Made in Chelsea. Fifty Cheyne is classy and grown-up - a little too much, perhaps, with the feel of somewhere to pull on a pair of smart trousers for Sunday lunch with your parents.

That said, it is supremely comfortable, with marble tables set on parquet floors and chandelier-lit interiors hung with striped curtains and stuffed with cushions and plump upholstery; attentive staff are no less cosseting. The overall effect is like a country-house hotel dining room, only with buzz and fun.

Chef Iain Smith is ex-Atherton (Social Eating House and Sosharu) so knows a thing or two about pleasing sophisticated palates without scaring them with anything avant-garde. Scallop and langoustine come in Champagne sauce, halibut with a roast chicken broth, while veal chops, pork cutlets and T-bone steaks are served up from the open grill.

A vol-au-vent to start involved a well of finely wrought pastry filled with a vividly green garlic and parsley sauce wrapped around a butch jumble of snails and black pudding: a beautiful contrast of prettiness and punch.

To follow, perfectly cooked and seasoned steak comes with bearnaise sauce for dunking fat fingers of fluffy beef-dripping chips. Classic puddings, meanwhile, include chocolate fondant and pear crumble, though we opted instead for a plate of well-kept cheese. Finish it all off with an Espresso Martini brought down from the louche cocktail bar, made with whisky instead of vodka and with a minty kick for post-prandial refreshment.  

Sunday roast with all the trimmings includes beef sirloin and leg of Herdwick lamb; while away the rest of the afternoon with the weekend papers in the upstairs Drawing Room with its views over the Thames, as des a res as you’ll find without moving next door to Sally Greene.

£50 - £79
French
Bao Borough

Bao Borough

13 Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AD

The ever-popular Bao (which already has sites in Fitzrovia and Soho) now has a third location right by Borough Market. It has branched out in its food offering as well as its location; instead of just bao buns, guests are able to enjoy various dishes from the grill, as well as late-night noodle plates with a bunch of accompaniments. What's more, there's also a hatch at the front of the restaurant serving grab-and-go dishes to take away.

But everyone is really here for the signature buns, with two recommended per person alongside two-to-three sides, ticked off on the laminated menu cards and brought out as and when they are ready by efficient, informal staff.

Stand-outs include Taiwanese fried chicken served with hot sauce - crunchy, fiery and finger-lickingly indulgent - and the spiced butter scallops, a touch of luxury in an otherwise casual meal. The signature buns didn’t disappoint either, and although the classic bao (braised pork with peanut powder) is a solid winner, it’s nothing compared to the chicken nugget bao, which comes complete with hot sauce and Sichuan mayo. 

Our only draw-back? The cocktails didn't impress; stick instead to the sake or grab a couple of Bao Oolong Lagers - just the thing to get your vocal cords lubricated ahead of belting out a power ballad in the 12-seater karaoke room in the restaurant’s basement. True to Asia's late-night bars, the room is decorated in monochrome tiles and multi-coloured disco lights.

With bookings only available for groups of five or more, queueing is still likely, but with diners seated elbow-rubbingly close to one another, you can't say they don't find room for as many customers as possible, though despite the close quarters, the mirrored walls, skylight and open kitchen mean it doesn't feel too cramped. And with prices kept refreshingly low, your wallet will be (nearly) as happy as your belly when you leave.

Under £30
Taiwanese
Xier

Xier

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.

Over £80
Modern European
Myrtle

Myrtle

1A Langton Street, London, SW10 0JL

Myrtle is the first solo restaurant from Irish chef Anna Haugh, who has made a name for herself by heading up some of the kitchens of the big names in London restaurants (London House, Bob Bob Ricard) without fully stepping into the limelight.

Myrtle, at the World’s End end of King’s Road, is very much her chance to shine, and if the narrow proportions of the two-floor restaurant speak of the constraints of a chef funding her own restaurant, details like the Galway crystal used for the Baron Albert house Champagne, the green marble bar and butter dishes, and pewter water goblets that wouldn’t look out of place in Game of Thrones speak of an attachment to Haugh’s home country that feels heartfelt rather than corny.      

Haugh’s cooking likewise takes Ireland as inspiration but filters ingredients such as Burren Smokehouse salmon and Crozier blue cheese through a modern Irish sensibility. So while potato comes with black pudding, it is delivered as an elegant cylinder of Clonakilty black pudding tied up in a thin twine of fried potato strings.

Roasted beef fillet with boxty, meanwhile, is presented as an elegant fan of sliced meat cooked medium-rare and spooned with a glossy tarragon and confit shallot jus; there’s more beef inside the boxty, a quivering dome of potato pancake that eats like a sublime savoury dumpling.   

If there are faults, it’s that the cooking displays a little too much of the intricacy learnt at the Michelin-starred likes of Pied à Terre and The Square, and while the pricing is reasonable by Chelsea standards, portion sizes seem too skimpy to encourage the sort of loyal repeat visits that the nearby likes of Medlar prove exist at this tubeless end of SW10; our most filling dish was the knockout veggie option of celeriac pithivier.     

That said, there’s generosity aplenty in the repeated offers of the homemade soda bread (made with treacle for a spoonful of sweetness), the friendly staff deliver warm, personal service while a bottle of Provencal rosé from the well-assembled wine list was perfect for a warm summer evening when the full-length windows were open on to the street.

 

 

£50 - £79
Modern European
Irish
Cornerstone

Cornerstone

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.

£50 - £79
Fish
Bagatelle

Bagatelle

34 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NG

It might have a French name but this glitzy import’s heart is in New York's Meatpacking District, where the original restaurant is famous for its brunch parties; this London outpost joins existing Bagatelles in Dubai, Miami, Punta del Este and St Barthélemy (among others). Mayfair feels almost dowdy in comparison.  

Interiors are much as you’d expect from a restaurant group with such a luxurious heritage. Plush blue velvet booths line the room, intricate chandeliers hang from the ceiling and Damien Hirst artworks scale the walls. Needless to say, this is not somewhere to come in search of a cheap eat: there’s a seafood platter for £450 and a Methuselah of Dom Pérignon will set you back £80,000.

In other ways, though, Bagatelle doesn’t conform to expectations. Just take the (impossibly attractive) staff, who are sweet rather than snooty and very well-versed on the menu. We were also pleasantly surprised by the standard of the cooking – people might be coming here to party, but the food is far better than mere stomach-lining. 

The sharing menu kicks off with smaller dishes such as a quartet of tender Angus beef sliders, slathered with decadent toppings including sautéed foie gras and black truffle mayonnaise. Elsewhere are pillowy pellets of homemade gnocchi and a creamy helping of burrata pepped up with fresh tomato.

To follow, diners are encouraged to order one of the larger sharing dishes, which easily fed our party of four. The whole grilled lobster linguine (de-shelled and served at the table) was a decadent treat of seafood chunks and juicy tomatoes entwined in ribbons of soft pasta. Desserts are more low-key; we’d recommend the light-as-air raspberry mousse served with a scoop of pistachio ice cream.

If you want the full, over-the-top Bagatelle experience, it’s best to visit in the latter half of the week, when French-themed parties and raucous brunches are the order of the day. A Mayfair party palace this may be, but it’s one with more substance than you’d expect.

International
French
A.O.K Kitchen and Bakery

A.O.K Kitchen and Bakery

52-55 Dorset Street, London, W1U 7NQ

If you judged this all-day Marylebone restaurant solely on its rather silly name, you probably wouldn’t be expecting to find such a stylish space. The truth though, is that A.O.K is home to one of the most life-affirming dining rooms we’ve come across in recent times – chocolate brown wallpaper with floral prints form a focal wall and there are mirrored surfaces galore. The real wow-factor though comes from a faux tree in the corner of the dining room, the branches of which stretch across the ceiling, festooned with white blooms.

The chic interiors are matched by an equally as refined menu of ingredient-led dishes, which will appeal to the neighbourhood’s well-heeled crowds. A.O.K makes much fuss about what it calls ‘inclusive dining’, meaning its dishes are free of refined sugar and that plenty of them are also gluten and dairy-free. Breakfast and brunch sees classic dishes including various egg-based fayre and gluten-free pancakes drizzled with organic maple syrup, while the lunch and dinner menus are largely the same.

We visited at dinnertime and kicked off with a starter of burratina: a wobbly dome of creamy mozzarella finished off with a handful of diced heritage tomatoes. Elsewhere, we loved fleshy wild tiger prawns dusted with lightly spicy chermoula, while a stand-out side of blended sweet potato ‘mash’ (more like a purée) was a moreish delight.

For dessert, expect novel twists on classic puds, including a pumpkin sticky toffee pudding served with ginger ice cream, and an ‘almost cheesecake’ which swaps out cream cheese for a set coconut yoghurt – cheesecake often feels heavy, but this version is both refreshing and light, and is all the better for it.

One of our few gripes with A.O.K is its punchy pricing. Although not dissimilar in price from restaurants nearby, several of the mains are over the £30 mark, but luckily the blow of the bill is softened by the sweet, friendly service. Wine and cocktails are all on-hand too, while we've already earmarked the chic street-side terrace as the place to lounge on sunnier days.   

£50 - £79
International
Imperial Treasure

Imperial Treasure

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.

Chinese
Dim Sum
Angelina

Angelina

56 Dalston Lane, London, E8 3AH

Angelina’s shtick of blending Japanese and Italian cuisine might seem like a novel one, but it’s been tried before – in 2003, Shumi in St James’s served ‘Italian sushi’ (and was widely mocked for its efforts) while in 2016 high-end Japanese Sumosan moved from Mayfair to Knightsbridge, rebranding as Sumosan Twiga https://www.squaremeal.co.uk/restaurants/sumosan-twiga_480 and introducing alternative menus of Japanese and Italian dishes.

Here in Dalston, Angelina takes things one step further, combining elements from both culinary traditions in the same dish from a weekly changing five-plate sharing menu. The combination of cuisines is gentler than anticipated – we found what we ate was mostly Italian food with welcome notes of Japanese influence.

Take the fritto misto/tempura, which involves cime di rapa coated in a crisp and lacy batter and served with a sweet soy sauce for dipping. Elsewhere, tomato linguine is pepped up with shavings of wasabi, while dense discs of braised pork are deep-fried and coated in breadcrumbs and served with a sweet-and-sour sauce. To finish, there’s an exemplary take on a rice pudding – a creamy concoction studded with chunks of tart blood orange, pellets of pistachio and finished off with chocolate shavings.  

It’s a chic and minimalist space, featuring streaked marble tables, hanging Chinese lanterns and an open kitchen complete with counter seating. Another ace up Angelina’s sleeve is its tiny in-house cocktail bar Golden Gai, which has just six seats and operates a strict no-phones policy.

Quirky and cutting-edge without feeling gimmicky, Angelina is a welcome and well-considered addition to Dalston’s burgeoning restaurant scene. 

£30 - £49
Japanese
Italian
Gridiron

Gridiron

COMO Metropolitan London, 19 Old Park Lane, London, 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.

£30 - £49
Steak
British
Din Tai Fung Covent Garden

Din Tai Fung Covent Garden

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.    

£50 - £79
Taiwanese
Dim Sum
Brigadiers

Brigadiers

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. 

£50 - £79
Indian
The Coal Office

The Coal Office

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.     

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Adam Handling Chelsea

Adam Handling Chelsea

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. 

Over £80
British
Kebab Queen at Maison Bab

Kebab Queen at Maison Bab

4 Mercer Walk, London, WC2H 9FA

Just when you thought you’d seen it all on London’s ever-eventful restaurant scene, along comes a high-end, kebabs-only chef’s table coming to London. Found underneath purveyors of pimped-up kebabs Maison Bab in Covent Garden, the brilliantly named Kebab Queen serves a seven-course tasting menu, with guests encouraged to eat with their hands (perhaps a homage to the humble, late-night kebabs of old?)

Diners sit front row around the kitchen, perched on one of 10 cobalt blue, leather-clad stools. Some design features echo that of a traditional kebab joint, such as the stainless steel walls, while others appear to have been designed with social media in mind – witness the pastel pink curtains and the pink tiled concrete floor.

The chef’s table is hidden behind the illuminated façade of a classic British kebab shop, with dishes cooked on a custom wood-fired grill, before being served directly onto a heated Dekton countertop (no fiddly bits like plates and cutlery here, thank you very much.) The multi-course menu kicks off with two starters, including the likes of a foie gras kebabito: a miniature, two-bite kebab of barbecued foie gras. Other dishes you’ll come across include a doner risotto (lamb jus risotto finished with classic garnishes and shavings of lamb tongue), and a fish course of chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish, served with chicken skin and ‘plated’ onto a charred cabbage leaf.

For your main course, you’ll enjoy a rum-aged Spit Roast Fesenjan Duck. Inspired by the dish of Iranian stew, it is served with a crust of crisp Persian rice, intended to be pulled apart with your fingers. Dessert meanwhile, will be presented as ‘Got Milk?’ – an ode to the head chef's childhood, this sweet treat sees freshly-baked, sticky milk buns filled with caramelised cream and topped with crème fraiche sorbet.

 

£50 - £79
Middle Eastern
Turkish
Peg

Peg

120 Morning Lane, London, E9 6LH

From the team behind the now-closed Legs, comes Peg (see what they did there?), a casual wine bar and restaurant. Peg is very much a product of its time, which means it won’t be to everyone’s taste – this is a frenetic, no-frills experience set in a minimalist room where all of the ‘tables’ are actually just dining counters equipped with high stools. Needless to say, Peg is no reservations, and there’s not a trace of the daily changing menu to be found online.

But Peg will be a revelation for anyone who enjoys bang-up-to-date dining, to say nothing of bold flavours. In place of sushi and sashimi, the Japanese food instead majors in fermenting, pickling and grilled yakitori skewers (liver and heart, mackerel and meatball).

Stand-out dishes on our visit included a seriously good bowl of tofu topped with a spicy pork mince. The tofu is served agedashi-style in cubes which are crispy outside and have wobbly innards, similar to the texture of custard.

We also loved the eel rice cakes – four canapé-sized bites formed of a cube of sticky rice topped with a slice of sharp pickled cucumber, sparklingly fresh eel and a fleck of nori. Meanwhile, fried chicken wings were dusted with an addictive togarashi spice mix, which encouraged caveman-like consumption with messy fingers and all.

Sweet, knowledgeable staff and a wine list exceeding more than 150 bottles are further draws, as is the competitive pricing. The restaurant was packed on our midweek visit, so it’s clear that a concept like this has got legs – expect to see copycats soon.

Image credit: Charlie McKay

£30 - £49
Japanese
Wine Bars
Brat

Brat

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.

£30 - £49
British
Gloria

Gloria

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.

Under £30
Italian
Kerridge

Kerridge's Bar & Grill

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.

British
Fare Bar + Canteen

Fare Bar + Canteen

11 Old Street, 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. 

Modern European
RedFarm London

RedFarm London

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.

Chinese
Dim Sum
Tayer + Elementary

Tayer + Elementary

152 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BW

This new bar and chef's table is split into two distinct areas. Elementary is a walk-ins-only all-day bar serving drinks on tap, snacks and unlimited coffee to a hip-hop soundtrack. Through a door at the back you’ll find Tayer, a large square room that feels like a secret space and where a substantial central bar dispenses drinks that are taken up a level. If you’re visiting as much for the food as the drinks you can book a place at the chef’s table.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Yeni

Yeni

55 Beak Street, London, W1F 9SH

You wouldn’t know it from looking through the big windows, but this small dining room, decorated in the standard Soho mufti of distressed walls, statement lights, colour-pop tiles and a central communal table, is an offshoot of one of the hottest restaurants in Istanbul, Yeni Lokanta. But the warmth of the welcome from the sweet young staff and a quick look at the menu (and prices) from star Turkish chef Civan Er makes it clear that, as its name promises – Yeni is the Turkish word for ‘new’ – we’re a long way from Green Lanes. 

The big break with trad Turkish is to have a menu drilled down to around a dozen dishes, with the idea that two people should share four starters and one main, though anyone as hungry as we were might want to add a second main – small portions are another thing that’s new about Yeni’s re-invention of the traditional Anatolian repertoire.

Cig kofte upgraded the usual raw beef meatballs to a full-blown steak tartare, the finely minced meat fragrant with herbs and topped with a deep-fried potato ball which cracked open to reveal a dribbling egg yolk. Pan-fried feta tweaked the familiar cheese-and-honey combo with the addition of hazelnut and samphire to produce a very satisfying dish of cream and crunch cut through by the iodine tang of the samphire.

Our main of roasted beef ribs, spiced with isot pepper and cumin and served on a bed of sourdough to soak up the slow-cooked meat juices also impressed; only a mushy starter of olive-oil braised celeriac tasted lacklustre, although we appreciated the occasional jolt of anchovies.

But although we liked nearly everything we ate, we felt that prices (for both food and wine) were hard to swallow given the homely surrounds and low-key vibe, not least if you were paying for the privilege of sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers rather than at one of the smaller tables. But like the toffee-flavoured smoked butter served with toasted sourdough, Yeni does offer an eye-opening taste of modern Turkish cooking and a welcome dose of originality in Soho.

Turkish
Berenjak

Berenjak

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.

Middle Eastern
Jolene

Jolene

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.

Under £30
French
Two Lights

Two Lights

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. 

£50 - £79
Modern European

Find out all about London’s fabulous new restaurant openings by checking out SquareMeal's Hottest New Openings list featuring only the very best of London’s latest restaurant openings. Of course, London has an incredible portfolio of restaurants but if you're looking for something more specific, you can check out our curated top picks for brunch in the capital, or afternoon teas that are not to be missed. 

Every one of the best new restaurant openings in London featured in SquareMeal’s list of the Hottest New 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 special menus and discounts.