The best new restaurants in London
Looking for an ultra-fancy but terrific-value lunch in a cool, laidback space? It’s here. 12:51 (named after a Strokes song – yes, we know, it’s a bit much) serves the kind of food you’d expect in a Michelin-starred restaurant, only with hip vibes and the doors flung open (if it’s sunny). And at lunchtime they make small-plates versions of the regular menu and let you pick three of them for £15. Bargain.
Love pasta? Hate queuing? Make a beeline for Bancone. Bang in the heart of Covent Garden, it’s a pared-back space with a short but stunning line-up of handmade pasta, the kind with names you probably won’t recognise, accompanied by sauces to make you slowly slide off your stool in a swoon. All from a chef who trained at Locanda Locatelli, no less. Tip: ask to sit at the bar, it’s definitely more fun.
Berenjak is to Persian cuisine as Bao is to Taiwanese, or Hoppers is to Sri Lankan: a casual little Soho joint where you can sample the street-food flavours of a nation in an atmospheric space where you’ll want to hang with your mates. There are booths in the front and a gorgeous back room that’s all bashed-up plaster walls, glossy foliage and exotic tapestries. Don’t miss the chargrilled poussin: it’s the best thing here.
One of the two best restaurants in the Bloomberg Arcade (the other being Kym’s), Brigadiers is a smart Indian grill from the folks behind Gymkhana and Trishna, to name two. Carved into a warren of different rooms, it’s a handsome spot with the intimate, welcoming vibe of a members’ club. We loved the Indo-Chinese chicken lettuce wraps, the fish-finger pao and the teeny ox cheek vindaloo samosas. You will too.
From the crack team at popular Dalston wine shop P Franco comes this small-plates joint in the glass-sided box once home to Ellory (RIP). The modernist menu is as eclectic as it gets: think crusts-cut-off chicken katsu sarnies or mussels in a mackerel-laced broth with kohlrabi slivers.
Chisou is a smart restaurant for people who are serious about sushi, but still want to have a fun time. You won’t find any fusion-y gimmicks here: it does, as it puts it, ‘Japanese food the way the Japanese like to eat it’. But neither is it a hushed ten-seater joint waiting to relieve you of a month’s salary. Go for terrific sushi and top-notch chicken karaage, stay for the signature baby spinach salad.
A joint venture from designer Tom Dixon and Israeli celeb chef Assaf Granit (whose group also gave us smoky Middle Eastern hits The Palomar and The Barbary), Coal Office serves up dishes you’ve seen and loved before – like the soft polenta with asparagus and truffle – and plenty you haven’t. The must-have Moroccan fennel salad will make you re-evaluate how you feel about salad. More impressive still, they’ve taken a tricky, tunnel-like site and given it gorgeous good looks and an electric atmosphere. Huge tick.
Theatregoers who are fans of the dangerously atmospheric Shepherd Market bistro Kitty Fisher’s will be thrilled to see that she’s now got a sister in Covent Garden. Once again named in honour of famous courtesan, it’s dark and cosy, dishing up elegant takes on vintage comfort food. It’s already a hit with the A-listers, and an instant classic.
He trained under seafood supremo Nathan Outlaw, but now chef Tom Brown is making waves for himself, serving meticulous fine-dining food – with an emphasis on the fruits of the ocean – in this ruggedly handsome Hackney spot. Raw things are particularly brilliant: don’t miss the pickled oysters (even if you think you hate oysters), or anything in uncooked slivers. They make magic with that stuff here.
Like dumplings? Then you’ll love Din Tai Fung, which deals in the best of Shanghai’s street food (it was originally founded in Taiwan by a Chinese immigrant and his wife). Xiao long bao – aka soup dumplings – are the signature (the crab and pork are the ones to get), but the wontons are terrific, too. And the prawn pancakes. It’s smarter than you’d expect for a street-food chain too: bring a date. Or maybe just bring yourself, twice.
It’s a collaboration with a stylish shop (which is just underneath – there’s a lift between the two if you can’t find the street entrance), so it figures that this King’s Cross newbie would be strong on looks. Arched windows, bare bricks and a high, vaulted ceiling, with whitewashed panels, like a beautiful barn conversion. It’s all going on. But happily, the food is pretty good too. Pick and mix the small plates (seafood and red meat is a strength) but don’t miss the beer bread. It’s great.
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!
While the street-level Hide Ground has its merits (like having an à la carte menu, meaning you can – slightly – reduce the pain of the bill), it’s this smaller, tasting-menu-only room on the galleried first floor that’s the real draw. Light and airy (it’s the feminine ‘yin’ to Hide Ground’s ‘yang’), it combines the exquisite food of super-chef Ollie Dabbous with service that’s as polished as it gets. But get someone else to pay: it ain’t cheap.
From Hakkasan to Royal China Club, you’ve already ticked off every high-flying Cantonese hangout in town. Now add Imperial Treasure to your list. It’s a special-occasion restaurant, not just because it’s brutally expensive (though there are smart ways to eat well here, like getting the roast barbeque duck plus a side of rice, or a plate of the magnificent beef ho fun), but because the food and service are in a league of their own. The grand, high-ceilinged building, with its sleek modern décor and low music, is more welcoming than you’d expect, too.
Kin + Deum – ‘eat + drink’ – is a modern Thai restaurant from three siblings who insisted on taking over their dad’s second site (this used to be home to Suchard Freehouse, a spin-off of local stalwart Suchard) rather than letting him sell it. And a fine place it is. The generously portioned Bangkok-inspired plates are packed with flavour, the high-ceilinged room is a study in minimalist chic, and the staff couldn’t be friendlier. Papa should be proud.
Home at last. Having started life in a Pop Brixton shipping container, then moved to Soho for its first bricks-and-mortar site, it’s fitting that the second branch of this Indian-with-a-Brit-twist small-plates restaurant should be right back in SW9, in the hood where it all started. Oh, and it’s brilliant, too.
Look, eating in townhouses is really lovely. It’s kind of like eating in someone’s front room, if that someone happens to be really rich, own a high-ceilinged Georgian building in a smart part of town, and have a brilliant interior designer on speed-dial. But what’s nice about Kutir is that the food – which is of the fancy Indian ilk – is just as fabulous as the setting. Get breads and dal to make your pennies go further, and the sea bass or nargisi curries. You won’t regret it.
Drumroll please: of all the restaurants in swish City development Bloomberg Arcade, this one’s the best. We’re talking regional Chinese street food from top chef Andrew Wong in a relaxed, buzzy space, plus a non-offensive price tag.
If you loved the original Lahpet, with its thrilling Burmese flavours (Thai-slash-Indian-ish), then you’ll adore this reboot. The space is larger and more stylish – we love the booths – but the food is as ace as ever. Don’t miss the yellow pea paratha.
Levan is more than just a spin-off of Brixton’s Salon. It’s a neighbourhood hangout with the full package: good looks, great music, the kind of staff you want to be friends with and modern European dishes that are special, but never too fussy.
The building used to be a linoleum warehouse. But then you guessed that, didn’t you? Now it’s a buzzy restaurant and bar, a huge semi-industrial space with its edges softened by plush armchairs. There’s a simple trick to eating well here: go big on the small stuff. The small plates are great, the snacks even better. Do not miss the cheddar and sauerkraut croquettes. And a grand finale of croissant and marmalade bread and butter pud. It’s divine.
Don’t be frightened of Native’s menu. Yes, many of the ingredients are wild, and occasionally they’re foraged, but the flavours are subtle and sophisticated. As is the brand new site: it’s like being inside the pages of a glossy magazine.
London is well stocked with ace little seafood restaurants right now, and Roe is the latest to wash up on our inland shores. A teeny little shipping container space at Pop Brixton (right across from Smoke & Salt, another of our fave places), it’s got a compact menu of reliably good main courses (fat fillets and such) and dazzling dinky bits. The menu changes constantly, but don’t miss the fermented hot sauce if it’s on, or the pickled mussels with ’nduja. Slap that sauce on to squid ink and Guinness soda bread.
From the cool cats that gave us laidback Michelin-starred spot The Clove Club comes this casual hangout on Kingsland Road. Don’t be fooled by the chillaxed vibe: the varied menu’s an absolute beaut (and the whole roasted artichoke a must).
Venue says A Shoreditch small plates, modern-American restaurant by Chase Lovecky and the team behind The Clove Club.
Fed up of Insta-food that looks pretty but doesn’t do the job when it gets into your mouth? The French House is for you. The upstairs kitchen of the iconic Soho boozer has been taken over by Neil Borthwick – a real chef’s chef (and Mr Angela Hartnett, to boot) – who dishes out a tres French menu of occasionally ugly but always delicious food. Be sure to bag the calf’s brains.
Biang Biang, you’re dead. That’s right, you’ve died and gone to noodle heaven. Because Xi’an Biang Biang, a lower Spitalfields spot from the same people that gave us Holloway’s cult hit Xi’an Impression, is all about the Xi’an food (that is, northern Chinese) but especially about biang biang. That is, noodles. The hand-pulled, wide kind. So wide they’re also known as ‘belt’ noodles. They’re insanely delicious. But so is most of the food at this large, but lovably no-frills, spot. Starve yourself in preparation.
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