Move over, Michelin. Time Out is back with our definitive online list of the 100 best places to eat in London. Check out the Top 100 and read on for Tania Ballantine's pick of the tastiest newcomers.
Some 'hoods have all the luck. Already blessed with 2013's hot newbie The Dairy, Clapham then welcomed its sister branch in November 2014. The Manor is larger and airier, with pale wood, clean lines and a grown-up elegance (even if the loos are graffitied to the point of vandalism). As at The Dairy, the cooking here will knock your socks right off, and probably the rest of your clothes too. Unusual ingredients, cutting-edge techniques: it's all here. Clued-up and cheery young staff are a bonus, as is the excellent dessert bar which affords you a front-row seat for some liquid-nitrogen-fuelled theatre. A third restaurant, Paradise Garage, has just opened its doors in Bethnal Green. Clapham, it seems, has got competition.
Top 100 ranking: #4.
When to go: Midweek, for the terrific-value lunch (four plates for £25) or any time you're with food-obsessed friends.
What to have: Everything is sensational, but the crispy chicken skins (pressed into layered 'chunks'), with a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce and lightly fermented ribbons of cabbage, can't fail to please. And dessert. Do not miss dessert.
The Manor is at 148 Clapham Manor St, SW4 6BX.
Jacqueline and Kell Skött are a daring duo. While struggling to recruit stylists for their second hair salon, they chanced upon a government initiative allowing retail spaces to be converted into restaurants for two years without planning permission. Having dreamed of running a Danish café (she's English, he’s a Dane), they called their lawyer on the Wednesday, agreed on the Thursday, told staff on the Friday and partied on the Saturday. Five months later, they were in business (daytime-only to begin with). They then took on Tania Steytler, a Cornish chef so exceptionally skilled that her £35 no-choice Friday-night menu is being extended to run from Wednesday to Saturday. Go before everyone else discovers it.
Top 100 ranking: #20.
When to go: At night when Settler’s exquisite dishes are on the menu.
What to have: Open sarnies and pastries by day, whatever you’re given at night. It’s light, high-precision cooking with a focus on cured, smoked and spankingly fresh fish.
Snaps & Rye is at 93 Golborne Rd, W10 5NL.
Forget Narnia. This is one wardrobe you’ll want to go through again and again. Okay, Bao isn’t actually a wardrobe, but the interior of this dinky Soho eatery feels like being inside a wooden cupboard. Its slightly dubious 'look' aside, Bao is a truly exceptional place. having started life as a tiny Netil Market stall before attracting the financial backing of Trishna's deep-pocketed chef-patron Karam Sethi, it serves award-winning Taiwanese street food with plenty of kick, the kind that’s great if you’re a little bit drunk. Not paralytic, mind - it's too good to be wasted on the wasted.
Top 100 ranking: #22.
When to go: If you’re in the mood for fiery food that you can eat with your fingers.
What to have: The fried chicken or confit pork bao, though the small plates are brilliant too.
Bao is at 53 Lexington St, W1F 9AS.
As with the eighteenth-century courtesan it’s named after, you visit this restaurant if you want to leave smiling but don’t mind paying for the pleasure. One signature dish, beef from ten-to- 12-year-old Galician milking cows, costs £80 for two. Fortunately, other dishes are just as good but easier on the wallet. The basement dining room is intimate and atmospheric; the street-level wine bar is best on a sunny day, as are the two alfresco tables overlooking so-picturesque-it-should-be-in-a-Richard-Curtis-movie Shepherd Market.
Top 100 ranking: #29.
When to go: Whenever you can get a table. Book ahead if it’s a special occasion.
What to have: The small plates, from 'posh things on toast' (taleggio with London honey and truffle shavings; whipped cod's roe on soldiers) to grilled dishes like lamb cutlets still pink in the middle.
Kitty Fisher's is at 10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF.
Having languished for years as a no-man's land between Marylebone and Fitzrovia, Great Portland Street has finally arrived. 'Smart dining' appeared courtesy of Picture in 2013, but it’s nearby Portland that’s really put this unloved area on the map. Run by school chums Daniel Morgenthau and Will Lander, everything about this small, stylish restaurant is a labour of love, shown in their meticulously good dishes. The pair travelled to Belgium to hire the chef and they handpick their bread, coffee and charcuterie from suppliers in Bermondsey’s Spa Terminus. Service is outstanding, with on-the-button wine-matching too.
Top 100 ranking: #30.
When to go: When you want to eat in a part of London you didn't really know existed.
What to have: Pretty much everything, but desserts such as semi-wild Marais de Bois strawberries with sorrel ice cream will blow you away.
Portland is at 113 Great Portland St, W1W 6QQ.
'Greedy piglet,' he'd call her. 'Naughty piglet,' she'd correct him, laughing. What began as a pet name between newlyweds has now become a philosophy for a tiny debut restaurant: as wife Margaux puts it, everyone should be a 'naughty piglet' now and again. Husband Joe is based in the kitchen, creating a daily-changing menu of beautifully composed seasonal eats such as creamy burrata over fresh peas and broad beans. There are cute touches (rock salt in shot glasses, water in vintage pastis bottles) and the place has a friendly atmosphere, with Margaux greeting every customer like a regular. Casual small-plates dining at its best.
Top 100 ranking: #42.
When to go: When you want West End standards without leaving south London.
What to have: If they’re available, get the Isle of Mull scallops, which sit in garlic butter with just a hint of Joe's home-made elderflower vinegar. The milk-chocolate mousse is disturbingly good too.
Naughty Piglets is at 28 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE.
You know the almost-saying: behind every great restaurateur is a great chef. In the case of mega-brand Polpo - which now boasts six branches - owner Russell Norman became a media star, while its chef-director Tom Oldroyd quietly worked the stove. But now the self-taught chef has finally got a place of his own, and rightly put his name above the door. It’s very small, and split across two rooms: the street-level space houses a teeny kitchen and handful of casual walk-in tables; the 'restaurant proper' is upstairs, in a deep blue-hued room so narrow you may well get bumped from behind. But lose yourself in the innovative cooking and you won’t even notice.
Top 100 ranking: #44.
When to go: When you’ve already been to every Polpo - twice - and now want to eat food from the chef that designed many of its dishes.
What to have: Small, sharing plates with flavours drawn from across the Med, such as the take on a panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) that also features broad beans, peach and fresh curd.
Oldroyd is at 344 Upper St, N1 0PD.
Love supper clubs, but can’t be bothered with the odd dates and dodgy venues? Then you’ll like Pidgin, one of a growing breed of polished eateries with supper-club souls. The debut restaurant from James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, one-time hosts of the acclaimed Secret Larder, is a supercute, convivial neighbourhood spot. They’ve hired Elizabeth Allen, formerly of Islington’s excellent Smokehouse, to run the kitchen, and the food, which costs £35 for four courses (and includes bread and burnt butter, chocolate truffles and a shot of ‘Pidgincello’), is terrific.
Top 100 rating: #66.
When to go: When you want inventive cooking with no affectations.
What to have: The menu changes weekly, and you don’t get a choice, but it’s always interesting, from baby gem lettuce with crispy chicken skin to succulent goat braised in its own milk.
Pidgin is at 52 Wilton Way, E8 1BG.
Every neighbourhood needs a Shoe Shop. No, not the loafer-flogging variety, but a community bistro serving great food at fair prices, like this Kentish Town newbie. Having made a name for themselves at Giaconda Dining Rooms, Aussie chef Paul Merrony and his wife Tracey decided to ditch the big city and set up shop closer to home. To keep it 'locals-only', the phone number was initially a well-guarded secret. But good news travels fast, and this former shoe shop, with its unflashy but excellent French fare, has become a destination in spite of itself.
Top 100 rating: #68.
When to go: When you’re after a casual mid-week supper par excellence.
What to have: Seafood’s a strong suit - but save space for the 'delice jacond' (chocolate and praline mousse with a hazelnut sponge).
Shoe shop is at 122 Fortess Rd, NW5 2HL.
Nuno Mendes is a man of great talent and even greater humility. Although better known as the exec chef of Chiltern Firehouse - where he cooks for the likes of RiRi and that one with the eyebrows - he’s happiest away from the paps in his modest little 'market tavern'. Here he gets to prove that there’s more to the cuisine of his native Portugal than peri-peri chicken, with a menu of terrific small plates that includes cheese, cured meat, 'tinned' fish (it's not really - they cook it first, then serve it in pretty cans) and griddled meat sarnies. Humble ingredients (battered runner beans in clam broth; cuttlefish with pigs’ trotters) are given star treatment, while staff couldn’t be more charming.
Top 100 rating: #73
When to go: When you’re craving a terrific takeaway, or a relaxed sit-down 'tapas' meal of the Portuguese variety.
What to have: The griddled pork and fennel sandwich is essential.
Taberna Do Mercado is at Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial St, E1 6BG.
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