January is a famously bleak month. No one ever writes songs about January: there’s no January of ‘69, and there was no January Nights in 'Grease'. For most Londoners, the first month of the year is all about the dreaded plod back to the office, and waiting for payday while relying on meal deals for cheap sustenance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We asked venue experts Hire Space for the top new spots to put the July into your January.
Bellanger brings the charm of Paris to Islington Green. Self-described as an 'Alsatian brasserie and grand café', the new Angel établissement serves up pastrified breakfast treats like double chocolate brioche and pain aux raisins, while à la carte specialities include the coq au Riesling and the continental inspired Baeckeoffe, which isn’t, incidentally, German for ‘back off’, but for ‘baker’s oven’. End by sweetening palates with such pâtisserie perfections as millefeuille and tarte flambé.
2. Le Bab
If you’re going the comfort food route, head to Soho’s buzzing Kingly Court, where Le Bab is opening in January. The kebab is one of the fast food favourites that’s yet to get a hipster overhaul, but it looks as though Le Bab will be the one to make the leap. It promises seasonal menus with such 'babs' as roe deer shish, barbecue paneer, and chicken shawarma with squash hummus, served alongside fine wines, craft beers and the signature Le Bab Old Fashioned. If that’s not enough to lure you in, you should know that much of the team is composed of former chefs of Michelin-starred French restaurant Le Gavroche.
Soho and comfort food once again combine at this fried chicken restaurant, recently opened by chef Billy Stock. Billy boasts local ingredients and free-range birds, and a menu that’s inspired by the nostalgia of the old-school chicken shop. All the necessary sides – gravy, slaw and mac ‘n’ cheese – make an appearance, as do apple and peanut butter pies for afters. The bar and DJ booth add to the vibe of the joint, meaning Red Stripe and Marvin Gaye classics help make for a well-rounded chicken experience.
The spirit of Bob Marley is alive on Brixton's Coldharbour Lane, where this Jamaican eatery is named after one of the reggae master’s classics – as are warming rum cocktails like Redemption Song and I Shot the Sheriff. The Caribbean cafe and rum bar is the newest venture from accomplished entrepreneur April Jackson, the former Miss Jamaica who most recently faced Lord Sugar and his sidekicks in The Apprentice. The menu features authentic island cuisine from both land and sea, such as curry goat and yellow-tail snapper, and chill-sounding chow like callaloo and 'bammy and beans'.
5. Forza Winter
Instead of waiting for winter to fade, the best way to attack January may be to embrace it, and hang onto those festive feelings. Peckham’s Forza Win, a communal eatery in a former cash and carry warehouse, has cleverly tweaked its name to reflect the season, and Forza Winter will bring merry mouthfuls to south London in the form of a ticketed dining event. Tickets will get grub-seekers a warming three-course meal featuring winter delights like chestnuts, pumpkin and a hot cheese fondue, plus hot chocolate and a ‘hot jug of booze’ to keep cheeks a-glowing right into spring.
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