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The best new restaurants in London
What? A brilliant Mayfair restaurant we can actually afford? It’s true, people: because while this casual spin-off to swish Indian Jamavar isn’t exactly ‘cheap cheap’, it’s definitely decent value, especially at lunchtime, when you can get a three-tier ‘tiffin’ style set lunch for less than £20. Whether you do lunch or dinner, do not miss the goat keema: officially the best new kid on the block.
We loved the street stall, we loved the original bricks ’n’ mortar outpost, over in Clerkenwell, and now we love this Soho outpost of the taco makers. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in ambience, kick-ass ceviche and excellent elote. There’s a handful of standard tables, but we think it’s more fun to perch up at the micro counter (if you’re ‘a deux’), or down at the big communal table (if it’s Friday and you’re with your desk buds).
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who Henry Harris is (summary: a bit of a chef’s chef, whose Knightsbridge restaurant Racine was in its heyday one of the best places to do that brasserie luxe thing). All that matters is that his dishes – rustic yet beautiful; French-with-a-bit-of-Brit – are the perfect match for the elegant, conservatory-style dining room of a gorgeous old Clerkenwell pub. Be brave and try the calves’ brain: it’s sublime.
If you’ve loved Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana’s bars (White Lyan, Dandelyan, Super Lyan), you’ll love this friendly hangout with its party soundtrack and funky, recycled, retro decor. Chef and co-founder Doug McMaster (of Brighton’s Silo) is a no-waste supremo who creates food that’s as sustainable as it is stunning. The set menu may have gone up £10 since its September launch – it’s now £55 a head – but given that it still includes food and matched cocktails, it’s terrific value.
The food at Essence doesn’t look good. It looks frickin’ amazing. I mean, have you seen their Insta feed? But unlike so many of the clean eating joints taking over the capital, it actually tastes pretty special, too. It’s all raw, all vegan, and lots of it is gluten-free too. Oh, and they even do a raw, vegan take on ultra-trendy pasta dish cacio e pepe. How cool is that?
Playful – but never pretentious – Indian small plates? In an intimate and laid-back former townhouse, all unpainted plaster and exotic plants? From the crack team behind nearby Gunpowder and with charming service to boot? Yes, yes and yes (please). Don’t leave without trying the potted pig’s head (layered with onions cooked in pig’s blood, in a teeny plant pot with wheatgrass ‘growing’ out of the top). And the fiery mussels. Commercial Street never had it so good.
So you’re after all the old Hoppers favourites (plus a few new excitements), but you’re not into queueing? Then this is the Hoppers for you. On the north-western corner of St Christopher’s Place, the two-floor space is large and airy upstairs, but dark and lively downstairs. And you can book for any time of day (though in the evening, you still need to be a in a group of four, otherwise you’ll still have to chance a walk-in). Check out the jaffna beef rib fry while you’re there. Just trust me.
Got an expense account? Good. Get it out. Because this polished Mayfair restaurant isn’t cheap, but if you’re into Indian fine dining, it’ll be worth it. Whether you go with the three-course set menu or the full shebang tasting type, make sure the sweet pickle pork ribs (with sundried mango and onion seeds) and the Kashmiri morels, which comes with a poppadom-esque parmesan mega-crisp. Oh and the ghee roast lamb, which come with roti pancakes and chutneys for wrapping it all up. Mmm.
Venue says New additions include weekend brunch as well as a pre-theatre menu at £28 and express lunch at £19.
When the daughter of a veteran restaurateur (Amy Corbin, whose pa Chris is one half of the duo behind The Wolseley and more) and the former sous chef of a kick-ass small-plates place (Patrick Williams, previously at E2’s brilliant Paradise Garage) open a restaurant, you’d guess it’d be good. But when they introduce a South African flavour to the food and take the interiors beyond that of your typical neighbourhood restaurant, then it’s interesting too. Worth a trip for non-locals.
Leandro Carreira made a big splash at his Clipson’s Arch residency (the same site that originally put Som Saa on the map, food fans). Now he’s back, with his first restaurant proper, a stylish, contemporary space that still manages to be warm and informal (not least thanks to the awesome service). Go for cutting edge modernist plates with a seafoody, Portuguese edge. Stay for the brilliant brioche.
West Londoners: rejoice. MAM is here to save you from yet another gastropub. Exotic but stylish, the look – from the peeps behind Dalston’s Salvation in Noodles – is Saigon by way of Shoreditch (but of course you’re in W11, not E1). It does all kinds of Vietnamese street food, from huge (and I mean huge) rice bowls to snack plates to barbecue-slash-taco platters (lovely grilled things for wrapping up in lettuce or rice noodle pancakes). Friendly service, too. Big tick, W11, big tick.
Three pals. One teeny Hackney restaurant. A seven-course menu (eight if you count bread, which you should, ‘cos it’s delicious), all created from one in-season meat. Thirty two of your finest pounds to pay. Result? Something special. Not only does Nest’s focus on one animal at a time, changing every six-odd weeks, mean that there’s less waste and it’s therefore more sustainable, the dishes themselves are all frickin’ delicious. The team have an infectious enthusiasm, too. Quite right. Nest is charming.
You know the people behind 10 Cases? That cute Covent Garden wine bar? This is from them. Great wine (obvs) but cracking seafood too. It’s a dinky space, like a cross between a fishmonger and a wine bar (white tiles, finned things on ice, central service bar, a mix of tables high and low). Go for fresh-off-the-day boat grills or a mix of small plates and snacks, like kick-ass cod roe and the fantastic sea trout tartare.
You know that small plates pasta has become A Proper Trend when a big, snazzy, chain-in-the-making style spot opens just off of Carnaby Street. But Pastaio is actually better than that: it’s the latest gaff from chef Stevie Parle (he of now-closed Dock Kitchen, plus Craft, Rotorino and Palatino), so the pasta, especially, is brilliant (try the cacio e pepe if you don’t believe us). Vibrant and buzzy, it’s got great outdoor tables too. Come on, summer!
Always wanted to eat at L’Enclume, but don’t much fancy the schlep up to Cumbria? Well Roganic is its slick London cousin. It doesn’t have any Michelin stars (yet: I guarantee there’ll be at least one come September), but it does have plenty of panache. Given how technical the food is and how high the prices are (tip: go midweek, when you can get the shorter, cheaper menu), the vibe is refreshingly relaxed. Thanks, in part, to concrete floors and an informal vibe. But also thanks to the hugely charismatic GM: one of the best in town.
All those years you spent slobbering over Barrafina, one gal was at the helm: Nieves Barragán Mohacho. And now she’s gone solo with a place of her own. Actually, it’s sort of three-places-in-one: an upstairs room with bookable communal tables and epic sharing plates (think whole suckling pig), a small bar with vermouth on tap, plus – the real draw – this street level tapas bar. The look and vibe are more rustic and homely than at Barrafina, plus the huge counter doesn’t have dividers, so you really do get to watch the action.
Forget everything we ever said about the first Santo Remedio. The born-again-version of the Mexican restaurant, now moved from Shoreditch to south of the river (opposite the Unicorn Theatre on Borough’s Tooley St), is an absolute slam-dunk. A homely, gorgeous-to-look-at space, with wonderful staff and terrific cooking, it’s arguably the best Mexican in London. Do not miss the quesadilla or the guacamole. Grasshoppers optional!
Venue says A vibrant Mexican restaurant with an upstairs tequila and mezcal bar, serving authentic regional Mexican cuisine and cocktails.
Broadway Market just gets better and better. Not only does it have the brilliant Plot, but now there’s this seafood specialist on the same corridor, in the corner spot. As for the food – the seafood small plates are excellent, but there’s more to it than that, including beautiful veg dishes, the odd meat option (also good) and killer puds. Fun fact: that nice man looking after you is probably co-owner Jimmy Luttman, a one-time fireplace fitter who started up Sea Garden with his chef buddy Stacey Clifton. They’ve been pals since nursery. Aww.
Forget queuing for Dishoom: this is the buzziest, coolest, funnest (humour us) new place in Shoreditch. AND you can book. On a big corner site that used to be a pub, it takes the whole ‘Thai food in a pub’ vibe properly to the next level. We’re talking smoky Thai barbecue, the best fried rice in London and regional dishes full of bam-bam fire and fragrance. You know your friend who doesn’t really like spice? Yeah, don’t bring them.
A nice little Stokey newbie, Wander is the brainchild of aussie chef Alexis Noble, who has clearly done a fair bit of wandering herself. The menu is a fusion-y pick ’n’ mix of global ingredients, brought together in an organic, natural way – rather than a ‘let’s make a weird mash up for the hell of it’ way – star dishes include pork belly buns with pickled watermelon rind and black vinegar or pavlova with gin-infused strawberries and shaved wasabi.
One of the two best things at car-parked-turned-multi-use space Peckham Levels (the other is vegan/veggie spot Wildflower), West is a swish Cali fusion joint that also does a mean line in organic wines. Plates are small but flavours are big: charred tenderstem broccoli with coconut yoghurt and a fresh, herby pesto, say. A word of warning: the space is on the bare side and can get chilly. So go on a warm evening, when West is best.
The other of Peckham Levels’ terrific newbies (see Cali fusion joint West, above), Wildflower might just be one of London’s best new vegetarian joints. The look is of more of a slick canteen (don’t come here expecting comfort, basically), but the cooking is carefully composed and creative. It’s all seasonal and about the dishes happens to be vegan, and brilliant. Oh and did I mention? There’s some outrageously good bread, too.