I love a rebel. Temper gallops up to the ‘cooking on charcoal’ bandwagon, then sets it on fire. Imagine smoked meat and fish served over tacos and flatbreads, with pow-pow Asian and Latin spices. It’s one of those rare, holy-shit-I’ve-not-eaten-like-this-before places. This Soho joint, from Scottish chef Neil Rankin (Smokehouse, Bad Egg) sources top-notch whole carcasses, which are grilled or smoked in slabs – a cow’s entire ribcage, a legless goat (no jokes, please) – ahead of slicing or dicing. The most straightforward dishes are those served over a ‘flatbread’ (more of a basic roti, made with rendered animal fat and puffed up on the grill) in small, affordable portions. Try the impossibly juicy pork, or the full-flavoured smoked goat. To this bread-and-meat-combo, you add up to eight exotic sprinkles and salsas (all homemade). I loved the simplicity of their ‘green sauce’: just lime juice, coriander and garlic. But it’s with the tacos where things really get interesting. They grind the corn on site (of course they do), and because these rough, rustic little discs are hand-pressed, they’re thicker than usual, so you can really taste – and feel – the corn. But the fillings, oh, the fillings. I adored the soy-cured beef. This is a twist on a yukhoe (a Korean ‘steak tartare’), which they make by stripping off the outside of a half-smoked joint of beef to expose the uncooked bit underneath (sort of like using the inside of a medium rare steak), then hand-chopping and mixing w
Venue says Join us every Sunday for Family Style Sharing Roasts
Who needs stuffy old museums? The dining room of the Gallery at Sketch is one of the most playful – and most pink – places to be enveloped by art. The walls have around 200 original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning David Shrigley, their cartoonish quality adding to the sense of fun. He’s even designed some of the crockery: ‘ghosts’, say the teapots, ‘forget about it’, quips the inside of your cup. You can come here for dinner, but afternoon tea is what The Gallery has become famous for, so much so that you can get it before noon (it starts, specifically, at 11.30am). Service is outstanding. Once your charming host has talked you through how it works, you’re looked after by a dedicated ‘tea master’: glam gals in slinky cocktail dresses and baseballs shoes. Who happen to really know their brews. After you’ve decided on drinks and a menu (standard, children’s or – if notice is given – a special dietary needs option), the fun begins. First, there’s the caviar man, in a panama hat and pale blazer. You get a spoonful of caviar (Russian Sturgeon, cultivated in France) alongside Egg and Soldiers: two slim, cheesy toast strips and a fake egg in a very real egg cup (the white is an exceptionally good Comté cheese mornay, the yolk is from a quail and cooked to an ultra-soft 63 degrees). There’s a similar level of creativity throughout the sandwiches and cakes. Star of the sarnies was a black bread Croque d’York, or the salmon and soured cream on rye, while a perfect pear t
Hipsters: prepare to be outraged. There’s a new kid in town, with dishes as retro as a Rubik’s Cube, but without the side of irony. That’s because it’s the latest gaff from Corbin & King, the chaps behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel. Like those, it’s named in connection with classic cars (backstory: The Wolseley site was originally built as the showroom of the Wolseley Car Company). Bellanger is a nod to the Société des Automobiles Bellanger Frères, a French car manufacturer from 1912 to ’25 (fun fact: Monsieur Bellanger sold Delaunay cars). And once again, it pays homage to the golden era of all-day ‘grand cafés’. Formerly home to a popular-but-uninspiring branch of Brown’s, the site’s potential has at last been realised. The layout’s much the same (airy front section, intimate rear space, bustling middle to connect the two), but the refit by David Collins’s protégé Shayne Brady is all new. If you can call interiors straight from the Alsatian brasseries of turn-of-the-century Paris ‘new’, that is. (Bit of history: these were set up by refugees fleeing the Alsace after the region was annexed by Germany). It’s gorgeously art nouveau, all polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering golden lighting. An abundance of booths encourages group dining and café chatter. You can’t buy this kind of buzz. The food – a Venn diagram of French, German and Alsatian – is simple, yet flawless. If Angela Merkel and François Hollande embarked upon an illicit affair
Forget Tardises and DeLoreans. If you fancy a spot of time travel, step through the doors of Café Monico. This new ‘grand café’ has been styled in the manner of the belle époque, France’s so-called ‘beautiful age’ (pub quizzers: we’re talking 1870-ish until the outbreak of the First World War), a time when art, culture and ‘society’ flourished. So yes: wood panelling, cosy lighting and bartenders in crisp white straight-off-a-washing-powder-ad jackets. But this is no vintage bore: the music is loud and jazzy, the room bustling. It is, after all, from the Soho House crew, who know a thing or two about creating a buzz. But one thing they’ve never been strong on – as anyone who ever ate at Café Boheme will attest – is delivering plates of classic French food. Until now. It’s tempting to put this down to new group exec chef Rowley Leigh, he of Kensington Place (a fave of Princess Di’s) and later Le Café Anglais (a brasserie that proved shopping centre restaurants don’t have to be crap). Sure enough, when I look at the menu, his signature parmesan custard with anchovy toast waves hello. But of everything I ate, this was the biggest disappointment, a shadow of the original, with loose, wobbly custard and a plate of too-timid toast. Happily, the rest was elegant and comforting: think Chanel Slanket (relax, Herr Lagerfeld, it’s just a metaphor). The menu here plays to the crowd like a Vegas regular, offering up a greatest hits of Continental cooking, with French brasserie fare the
Any restaurant where you can say the words ‘Thai’ and ‘barbecue’ in the same breath gets my vote. Kiln is the latest gaff from self-taught chef Ben Chapman – of Smoking Goat fame – and aims to take its by-the-roadside cooking style to the next level. And yup, his Thai barbecue game is pretty strong. Smoking Goat has more of a dive bar vibe, with a handful of dishes and the kitchen out of sight. At Kiln, the ground floor is all about two things: cooking or eating. A stainless-steel counter runs its full length. Behind it runs the equally long open kitchen. There’s action and cheffery and drama at every swivel of your stool. Sit at the back for the pyromaniac seats: a view into the kiln itself. Inside this small, insulated furnace, chestnut and oak logs are sent to their fiery end, the glowing embers occasionally removed to ‘feed the grill’ (as in, the chargrill) or ‘feed the tao’. A tao, in case you’re wondering, is a round ceramic container: you keep adding embers until there’s enough heat to cook on, using either a wok or a clay pot. Want to turn the heat down? Simple: take out an ember. It’s brilliantly low-tech. The food is similarly stripped back. Dishes may be inspired by rural Thailand, but, where possible, they’re made with world-class British produce, mostly from indie Cornish suppliers. The lemongrass and Szechuan pepper, for instance, comes from a coastal polytunnel (a project Chapman helped fund). The pork loin – cut from rare breed, fully free-range pigs – s
More than a decade after it started wowing London’s big spenders with its classy Cantonese cooking, this Michelin-starred trendsetter remains a benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. The basement’s stylish interior (all dark wood lattice screens and moody lighting) still attracts the kind of beautiful people who might suppress their appetites – though there was little evidence of restraint on our midweek night visit. Plate after plate landed on tables around us, including signature dishes such as silver cod roasted in champagne, and jasmine tea-smoked organic pork ribs. We started with the dim sum platter, a basket of superbly crafted dumplings. The pastry was perfect in give and texture, just elastic enough to encase generous bites of flavour-packed meat and seafood. Sweet and sour Duke of Berkshire pork with pomegranate was equally good, the melting tenderness of top-quality meat turning the clichéd staple into a luxury – Chinese takeaways should weep with shame. Drinks run from cocktails via high-priced wines to specialist teas. The original Hakkasan that spawned a global empire (including a newer branch in Mayfair) retains all its appeal: cool enough to be seen in, yet authentic enough to dash pretension.
You can always judge a restaurant by its loo – which is why I was pleased to see the tapestry of frolicking nudes at Blanchette East. This toilet said: naughty but nice, fun with a certain je ne sais quoi. There’s another naked babe above the bar; clearly, this Shoreditch spin-off of popular Soho hangout Blanchette doesn’t take itself too seriously. Foodwise, think decent bistro fare with a few twists – North African-inflected, with Provençal and Basque overtones – rejigged into small plates you’ll want to share. I could’ve left happy after the snack alone, a merguez sausage roll with harissa mayo for dunking – spicy, flaky and ever-so-slightly sweetened by the onion confit. Ooh la la. A divisive-sounding escargot surf n’ turf of seared hanger steak topped with (shell-less) snails, parsley, garlic and a velvety onion purée was a highlight. Lamb tagine was no less gorgeous, speckled with almonds, its richness cut by whipped labheh. Green bean and comté salad and pomegranate couscous were also exquisite. My rose-tinted specs did have to come off when dessert arrived; a chilled peach and saffron ‘soup’ was redolent of shop-bought smoothie and a coconut macaroon was inedibly brittle. Zingy basil sorbet fared better, but I’d stick to post-prandial cocktails instead. Because hey, not everything can be perfect. Blanchette East is a solid-gold date night option; or, if you want to romp in a group, request the lovely back table, secluded by frosted glass and velvet drapes. Like I
Venue says We have a brand new brunch menu, every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm!
If you told your friends you were off to eat above a shop, they might not be that impressed. The shop, though, is fashionistas favourite Wolf & Badger, best known for showcasing up-and-coming designers. And, importantly, the restaurant has its own entrance, off the upper concourse of Coal Drops Yard (though you can take a lift from inside the store if you prefer). So you’d never even know – or care – about all those chi chi togs downstairs. Hicce is a buzzy, good-time place in its own right. The cooking is from Pip Lacey, she of ‘Great British Menu’-winning fame (class of 2017), who trained at Murano. It’s the kind of food you might serve at a party: pick-and-mix nibbles ahead of skewers, then small plates (obvs). To kick off, you’re meant to choose a bread (we liked the delicately yeasty beer bread), then a little cheese or cured meat, some pickled veg and perhaps a pincho-esque bite or two, like vibrant honey-drizzled, goat’s-cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers. Delicious, if a little predictable. From the ‘hot sticks’ section, the lamb adana (a long mince kebab) was the best, even if its salsa verde was too tame. Just steer clear of the rolled cabbage (on a stick). Unpleasantly bitter, it screamed ‘token vegan option’. At least it was only £6. But Hicce had a trio of grand finales up its sleeves. There was chorizo and cauliflower, the meat served in stubby chunks, its spice warmth offset by the pale, faintly sweet puree of veg, plus hits of fermented chilli and the rich crun
Venue says Michelin starred Pip Lacey & business partner Gordy McIntyre launch their first solo venture in the heart of Kings Cross's Coal Drops Yard!
It’s not easy to open a spate of brand-new restaurants and maintain high standards, but chef-patron Jason Atherton has clearly moved on from being the sorcerer’s apprentice (under Gordon Ramsay) to being the sorcerer himself. His Little Social deluxe bistro only opened in March 2013, right opposite his fine dining Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. He followed this up, weeks later, with an even more ambitious restaurant in Soho, by delegating the chef role to his buddy and long-time head chef at Pollen Street Social, Paul Hood. The ground-floor dining room has a mirrored ceiling to create the sensation of space in a low room; upstairs is a smart cocktail bar, called the Blind Pig, which also has a separate entrance. Most of the action is in the dining room, though, with a kitchen brigade who are clearly at the top of their game. Smoked duck ‘ham’, egg and chips is a dish that’s typical of Pollen Street Social’s playfulness. ‘Ham’ is cured and smoked from duck breast on the premises, served with a breadcrumbed duck egg that’s molten in the middle, but with an aroma of truffle oil. Umami – savouriness, the taste that enhances other flavours – was also plentiful in a roast cod main course that uses powdered Japanese kombu seaweed in a glaze, served with a creamy sauce of roasted cockles and just-in-season St George’s mushrooms. Presentation is a strong point of Hood’s dishes, just as they are for his mentor Atherton. A starter of ‘CLT’ – crab meat, a fan of blonde castelfranco
Just off the North Circular in Brent, the Ace Café is in its seventh decade serving up coffee, rolls and rock ’n’ roll to the leather-clad faithful. It’s the oldest biker bar in London. And the newest? Welcome to The Bike Shed: originally a blog and forum for custom bike nerds, now IRL and occupying two big railway arches right next to Shoreditch Town Hall. Alongside a shop selling biker bits and bobs (and a rockabilly barbershop) this Shed contains an upmarket cafe/bar/restaurant for bougie bikers and dedicated pedestrians alike. In fact, it’s only the faint smell of engine oil and the choppers parked up outside that give the game away. With a wooden bar up one side and red leather booths down the other, The Bike Shed looks like any other trendy arch-based London eatery. Burgers, bangers and other biker caff staples share a menu with superfood salads and detox juices. There’s an extensive breakfast/brunch selection, a long list of cocktails, and beers that range from Peroni to Beavertown, including non-alcoholic options for anyone actually on wheels. To drink after 8pm you need to either order food or become a member, which should keep the bikers safe from rowdy City boys. Both our burgers – one meat, one veggie – were accomplished and generous, piled high with onion rings and served in brioche buns with homemade gherkins and coleslaw. Crispy mushroom and polenta fritters made a great starter. Prices are decent for Shoreditch, and the portions are hefty enough to refuel e
Venue says With more than 10,000-square feet of restaurant, lounge, shop and event space, Bike Shed offers something for all. We also have a barbers!
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...