London’s once-bustling restaurant scene may have taken a hit during 2020, but that hasn’t stopped a flow of new openings between lockdowns. London is now back in Tier 2 which means lots of our favourite restaurants have reopened – these are the ones to book now for December. For the latest al-fresco recommendations, see our pick of the best outdoor restaurants in London, and for those of you not travelling further than your sofa for the moment, these are the best London restaurants delivering.
Below, we round-up when some of our favourite restaurants in London, plus our expert reviews to help you decide where to go first.
London restaurant of the week
Having headed up the Noma pop-up in Tulum, this Mexico City-born chef has just opened his first restaurant in London
This place – whose name derives from the Spanish for cabbage, illustrating the potential of everyday ingredients – has been a long time coming. We first heard rumours that Santiago Lastra, the dashing chef who was handpicked by René Redzepi to lead the sell-out Noma pop-up in the Tulum jungle, was coming to London in 2018. In the meantime he’s managed to squeeze in a few sell-out supper clubs, including at Carousel in Marylebone where the reception was so good he thought it was a sign he should stick around. Since then Lastra has spent time foraging for the best ingredients, from the woodlands of Kent to the Scottish coastline. And after further, rather inevitable setbacks this year, his moody, terracotta-toned bistro has finally launched to much excitement – this is probably the most anticipated opening of 2020. Lastra’s plan is to introduce London to real Mexican cooking (he has stated that, so far, the city has only seriously got excited about tacos). Strict sourcing policies make this harder than it sounds because the Mexican chef is only prepared to use British ingredients (or those that can be shipped with minimal environmental impact), which means that two Mexican mainstays – lime and avocado – are out. Instead, he uses flavours such as fermented gooseberries and pine to season, and has collaborated with a British farmer to create a Oaxacan-style white cheese for his quesadillas.
Things are split into a couple of tasting menus, but it doesn’t feel stiff and lots of the courses are designed to be pieced together at the table. Lastra shows off an array of different textures, tastes and heat – the way in which he uses chillies is special, varying from course to course while never blowing your head off. Things kick off with a seaweed and chilli broth that has a warm and hearty spice, while UK-grown pistachios make up the mole served with homemade corn crisps and an array of pretty British herbs and pickled crudités. A delicate ceviche turns out to be made with kohlrabi – the strength of flavour coming from a peanutty chilli sauce which you can spoon on at your leisure. Tender langoustine is paired with an intriguing smoked chilli and sea buckthorn which guests pile into corn tacos themselves. And seared lamb is chopped and served with a subtle guajillo mayonnaise. Mains are made for sharing – short rib (the bone slides out) with a quince mole and roasted carrots or bone-marrow-roasted octopus with a seaweed salsa macha.
The house wine has been created specifically for KOL by Slovakian winemakers Slobodné Vinárstvo – expect a list that’s mostly biodynamic and sourced from Central and Eastern Europe. As with any good Mexican, there’s a carefully curated list of mezcal and agave spirits which also feature at the end of the wine flight.
Lastra’s dedication to the best of British ingredients makes for an inspiring tour of Mexico. Tabitha Joyce
Address: KOL, 9 Seymour Street, Marylebone, London W1H
Telephone: +44 20 3829 6888