Fickle much? You are. You know you are. You’re in London: home of the fickle flake. Don’t worry, here at Time Out Towers we are too. So now that we’re in spring (spring!) here’s a full score of restaurants, ranging from merely very good to downright game-changing, freshly reviewed for your fork-waving, try-something-new-why-don’t-you pleasure.
The best new restaurants in London
It’s the most-hyped West London newbie: a venture from Luca Longobardi, the so-called ‘mafia’s banker’ (he wasn’t really, though he was put in prison for 30 days while they checked). He hired a country hotel chef he found on Gumtree, who turns out technically exceptional cooking. The staff are lovely, the room relaxed. Pity it’s not cheaper, but you can’t have it all.
The only thing wrong with this Aussie-style café-slash-brasserie? It’s damn hard to get a table. Otherwise, it’s a sunny little slice of Melbourne life right in the heart of Kew ‘Village’, with cheery but smart staff, airy interiors and a knockout menu of all-day grub. Now if they can just organise some actual sunshine…
Leave your diet at the door: the burgers at this fast food joint – the first permanent, sit-down spot from these iconic patty-peddlers – are some of the most unashamedly meaty, greasy, calorific bad boys in town. Take the award-winning ‘Bleecker Black’, with lashings of American cheese and black pudding on top of those double patties. Don’t feel too guilty: they use the finest beef around. Just, well, lots of it.
This eaterie doesn’t just offer any old type of taco – these are vegan ones. Correction: these are mind-bendingly, prejudice-shiftingly delicious ones. Club Mexicana’s ‘to-fish’ tacos are one of those iconic, must-try street food dishes, but now you can enjoy them with a killer cocktail, thanks to the bartenders at hip Dalston hangout Pamela. Go while you can.
Tacos again! But this time from the bros behind Barrafina, teaming up with one of their old Manchester Uni pals, ex-A&R man Crispin Somerville. Result? A sexy under-the-arches space (it’s in Borough, course it is) with party tunes and terrific tacos to boot. Don’t miss the DIY shortrib and taco combo: it’s like crispy duck with pancakes, Mexi-style.
North Londoners: rejoice. Now you don't have to go down to SE15 or E1 to get your hit of regional Thai flavours (or into central London: horrors!)….. simply book into this Highbury pop-up, on the site once home to San Daniele. It's from none other than Seb Holmes, who worked at Peckham's Begging Bowl and Soho's Smoking Goat before doing the whole street-food-and-supper-club thing. Farang is due to run until summer 2017. Go for mussels, stay for kaffir lime sours.
Venue says: “Best business lunch restaurant in the City!”
Our man JC – you don’t have the initials JC without being called JC, sorry – earned his stripes at the critically acclaimed Ledbury. Now, boy’s all grown up and got his own gaff on the City fringes. The room’s a little dull, but the high-end cooking is pretty damn impressive. Bonus: staff are super-duper nice, even if you don’t turn up in a suit.
Remember how you all loved the food at Kricket when it first opened at Pop Brixton? Small plates, Indian-with-a-Brit-twist flavours (the name is a cute riff on the ultimate in Anglo-Indian sports). Well now imagine it in a proper restaurant, on an edgy Soho street, with a glam counter bar and hot (and we don’t mean spicy) staff.
The Naples original is oft described as ‘the best pizza joint in the world’. Y’know, the one out of ‘Eat Pray Love’. Where Julia Roberts goes all ga-ga for her pizza and tries to marry it, or something. And now it’s here. Doing what it does best: just two beautifully simple pizzas (three if you count the double mozza version), with a traditional chewy, blistered, wood-fired crust. Mmm.
If you’re basically bored of eating out in London (what’s wrong with you?) then I challenge you to eat at Lao Café. Sure, you could play it safe with crowd-pleasing, easy-to-love dishes that sit between Thailand and Vietnam (zingy fresh salads, whole grilled fish). You could do that. Or you could order those with fiercely fiery, pungent flavours and a broth with ant eggs. One for culinary adventurers.
I love Los Lobos. ‘La la la la la la bamba’ – yeah! Oh. Wait. This isn’t an LA Tex-Mex band. It’s actually a Spanish charcuterie and tapas restaurant. But that’s fine, because the food is brilliant and the welcome even better. Where else in Soho do you get this much love? (Don’t answer that).
From the same people who gave us the game-changing Clove Club comes this classy Clerkenwell restaurant. This time, the schtick is strictly Italian – from elegant antipasti to mouthwatering grills. Whatever happens, DO NOT MISS the parmesan fries aka ‘gossamer-light fingers of cheese’. They’re da bomb.
First came the pop-ups, in Dulwich and Clapton. Now, on an airy space just off Newington Green, Perilla is permanent. The cooking is casual yet creative – fish soup laced with blood orange, cuttlefish bolognese where the ‘pasta’ is actually strands of veg – and the staff treat each other like they’re one big family (in a good way). And you get to be part of that welcoming gang. It’s wonderful.
Venue says: “Enjoy the best of Sakagura with our tasting menu guaranteed to excite the senses with a harmonious balance of taste, texture and seasonality”
If you’re really, really into high-class Japanese food – and don’t mind paying for the pleasure – you’ve got to give Sakagura a whirl. Ask for one of the curtained booths, order a flight of saké and the show-stopping sashimi boat (where you can eat everything, right down to the leaves and flowers) and say, ‘Kanpai!’
Stuff outdoor queues. Now you can eat *that* beef brisket bun – you know, the one you coveted at Meatopia and Dinerama – in the comfort of the great indoors. This is David Carter and the Smokestak crew’s first permanent restaurant. It’s a big space (there’s even a bar downstairs) and looks a little like a medieval dungeon. Man-count: high.
Though it sounds suspiciously like a generic high street curry joint, TCH is anything but. This Charing Cross Indian has warm decor (think Dishoom: the early years), brilliant staff and, oh, knockout cooking. Do NOT miss the beef dripping keema naan. Or the lamb chops. Or the malted kulfi with caramelised banana and peanuts. So good.
Scottish chef Neil Rankin (ex-Smokehouse, ex-Bad Egg) has created something mega-thrilling at this huge fusion smokehouse in a Soho basement. Imagine deliciously charred meat on rotis or tacos (more tacos! More tacos!) with Asian or Latin spices. All to a backdrop of party tunes (MJ, Beyoncé etc.). You don’t have to imagine it: it’s real.
Find more amazing restaurants in London
In what is surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London, you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving cheap eats where you’ll have to eat with your fingers. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place.
100 Wardour St
With prices per square foot in Soho reaching ever more ludicrous heights, the D&D restaurant group (owners of 26 other prime spots in London) has turned its cavernous holding on Wardour Street into a high-end restaurant/bar/lounge/music club aimed squarely at well-heeled media types. No one’s going to miss mock-Cuban venue Floridita that was here before, though this big-but-slightly-bland replacement feels like a slightly missed opportunity to do something really exciting. After all, the site was once home to London’s rock ’n’ roll mecca, the Marquee Club. The basement area, now 100 Wardour’s ‘Restaurant & Club’, still has a stage for live music. It was loungey jazz on our visit, though the programme stretches to pop and electro (all unknown artists). The extensive menu has an intercontinental flavour, from decent robata-grilled skewers (baby octopus, grilled corn-on-the-cob) to a crisp-skinned salmon with sweet harissa potatoes that was downright delicious. The kitchen puts care into the little things: top marks for a side of pak choi garnished with subtle lemon and chilli. As the eye-popping champagne list suggests, this a place for belt-busting, diet-destroying client dinners. There was only one veggie option, but a gamut of calorie-stacked desserts. It’s all proficient, polished and pleasant, if a bit old-fashioned. And though there are plenty of places in Soho that are more cutting-edge than this, not many of them serve dinner right through to 2am. 100 Wardour Street:
Venue says: “Join us in the bar and lounge on Easter Monday for a twist on Soho's popular brunch! Great food, cocktails and DJ Dan Healy on the decks!”