Who the hell would open a restaurant or bar in 2020? Surely you’d have to have some serious guts to think it was an appropriate time to open the doors of a brand new venture. But, against all the odds, doors have been swinging open across the city. From favourites like Tandoor Chophouse, Swift and Club Mexicana opening new sites, to iconic venues like Barrafina giving their current venues total overhauls (its Drury Lane restaurant is reopening as a seafood spot), brave change has been happening on a major scale. But here we’re saluting the bravest of them all: the Londoners who’ve opened totally new joints this year.
The modern Punjabi one
Named after the family village of founders Ravinder and Amar Madhray, Attawa does Punjab comfort food that’s sure to cure your winter blues. Think: crisp amritsa khatta ladoo (fried lentil dumplings) and the creamiest black dal makhani in the city. It soft-launched as a takeaway in the spring but now it’s here in brilliant, full restaurant form.
6 Kingsland High St, E8 2JP.
The one that’s temporary
Ex-Moro man Stevie Parle is the brains behind Flora in Portobello Dock (the same site as his previous, much-loved venture Dock Kitchen). Once again he’s teamed up with designer buddy Tom Dixon to deliver a very easy-on-the-eye combo of outdoor dining space (summer flavours and a menu that changes daily) and shop (organic produce, honey, wine, that kind of thing). It’s only around for a few months so do not dilly-dally.
344 Ladbroke Grove, W10 5BU.
The long-awaited one
Akoko was supposed to open much, much earlier than this. But – due to reasons that I’m sure we don’t need to spell out – the hyped West African joint will now arrive on October 8. In the kitchen? ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ finalist William JM Chilila. On his menu? Smoked goat with jollof rice, yam with lobster agus and goat’s milk ice cream with uda burnt cream. Hell, yes.
21 Berners St, W1T 3LP.
The absurdly tasteful one
If there was an award for unfortunate timing, husband and wife team Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki would win it. They opened Sollip, an extremely cool European-Korean restaurant in Bermondsey, almost exactly as lockdown began. The menu is simple but sophisticated (the ‘catch of the day’ dish features white beef broth, timiz pepper and leek jangaji) and the wine’s curated by Noble Rot. Pick up a jar of homemade kimchi while you’re there.
Unit 1, 8 Melior St, SE1 3QP.
The one with all the veg
It might seem like there’s nothing that new about Turnips, a Borough Market fruit-and-veg retailer established back when Britpop was big. But while it’s already got a rustic caff in Greenwich Market doing top-notch toasties, the restaurant added to its Borough plot by night is different. It stars a £65 tasting menu – put together by Tomas Lidakevicius, formerly of City Social – that does all sorts of sordid things to seasonal veg.
3 Borough Market, SE1 9AH.
The one with a mezcal bar
Kol, the almost-opened restaurant created by Noma Mexico alumnus Santiago Lastra, has attracted a lot of attention. A five-course set menu will set you back £55, but there’s a £77 seven-course option for those wishing to really test the limits of human appetite. You can expect ‘Mexican soul, British ingredients’ which translates to dishes like langoustine tacos with sea buckthorn, kohlrabi ceviche and tamal served with corn-husk ice-cream. And there’s a mezcal bar.
9 Seymour St, W1H 5BT.
The one born out of a supperclub
Chef Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare has made the leap from supperclub to fully fledged restaurant with Chishuru, opening inside Brixton Village market. Nigerian-born, Bakare’s goal is to ‘bring pleasure’ to London with dishes from the West African region. The set menu moves from snacks like waina – fermented rice balls – to peanut-butter-laden desserts. And at £30 for four courses, who needs Eat Out to Help Out?
Unit 9, Market Row, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LB.
The one with a wall of wine
It’s a real all-star line up running the show at Rondo. For a start, it’s backed by Holborn’s bougie Hoxton Hotel. Then it’s got William Lander (Quality Chop House) and Chris Gillard (a St John stalwart) in charge. The plan? To do some best of British cooking – mutton, pork cheek, loads of seasonal local veg – all served up with rustic reds, whites and rosés plucked from a whole damn wall of wine in the dining room.
199-206 High Holborn, WC1V 7BD.
The one that does EVERYTHING
Yann Florio was one of the stand-out stars of ‘MasterChef’ 2019 (he was the one who looked like one of the Three Musketeers). Kreidel is his new co-venture in Hoxton. It is extremely post-2020: a restaurant with discrete four-person booths, a 12-seat bar, an events space and – get this – a media studio, so that if it all goes to shiiiit again, it’s all set up to do live-streamed demos etc. Oh, and it’s an online deli and wine shop too. So, a bit of everything, including (presumably) the kitchen sink.
227-229 Hoxton St, N1 5LG.
The one in an old cab office
Gordon McGowan’s mini Deptford bar empire has expanded both geographically and in spirit. Buster Mantis set the tone: an arch space that offered punch, Jamaican food and vital jazz event Steam Down. He added Stockton – more cocktails and more brunch options. Now The Watergate sees SE8’s bar scene creep riverwards into uncharted territory and a former minicab office. It’s très chic, with high tables, plants, a tiny isosceles triangle of back garden, plus benches out front. There’s a menu of mixed drinks, well-chosen wines and good beer. Just look at Deptford: all big and grown up.
7 Watergate St, SE8 3HR.
Want more? Larry’s launched in the very same week as lockdown began – now the restaurant’s back and it’s fully in its groove.
Black London restaurateurs – including Akoko’s Aji Akokomi – reveal how their industry needs to change.