The best restaurants in London right now

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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

KOL, MARYLEBONE

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.

The best restaurants in London right now

Santiago Lastra

Haydon Perrior

FOOD


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 best restaurants in London right now

Seaweed octopus at Kol

Haydon Perrior

DRINK


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.

VERDICT

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


Website: kolrestaurant.com

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    AKOKO, FITZROVIA

    Hotly anticipated West African fine dining from a MasterChef finalist

    London is riding a slowly breaking wave of West African flavours right now. Most buzzed about in recent years has been Ikoyi in St James’s, which won a Michelin star within a year of opening, as well as the original supper-club star Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Arriving on the scene in 2020 was the world’s first Nigerian tapas joint, Chuku’s in Tottenham, and Chishuru, a permanent Brixton address for home-cook-turned-chef Joké Bakare. Meanwhile, staples from the vast region, including sorghum, millet and moringa, are being championed as the latest superfoods.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    BBQ Quail Yassa

    And all the while bubbling away in the background was Akoko. It’s been a long 12-month wait for this just-opened restaurant, originally teed up for 2019 but delayed by building setbacks and lockdowns. But now its founders, British Nigerian Aji Akokomi and MasterChef: The Professionals finalist JM Chilila (ex Marylebone’s Orrery), are ready to add to that buzz. Their elevated yet rooted spin is immediately apparent when walking into the Berners Street space, where walls are covered in earthy terracotta clay, glassware on the wooden tables is a fine as a leaf and work by Niyi Olagunju, a Nigerian artist who creates pieces using the pods of ekpiri seeds, is a textural pop of black and gold.


    FOOD

    The five-course menu, developed by Akokomi and Chilila over many months (Akoko is the Yoruba word for ‘time’), is a reimagining of the traditional dishes found in Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana in particular – those they grew up eating. It kicks off with a generously portioned trio of starters, presented on a tray with bespoke ceramic plates inspired by mid-century-modern Nupe pottery. There’s a Ghanaian yam croquette piled with truffle shavings and filled with mushroom puree; grilled plantain topped with cashew cream and spiced peanuts (our favourite for its nutty crunch); and a savoury doughnut filled with beef cheek. Next comes a standout creamy Nigerian pumpkin soup with chunks of lobster, nutmeg, puffed wild rice, moringa oil and crispy shallots – a paprika heat dancing away in the background – served with chewy Guinness bread and yassa butter, based on the scotch-bonnet-spiked Senegalese recipe usually made with chicken. Jollof rice is underplayed as ‘just a popular West African dish’ by the waiter but here it appears in beautiful earthenware pots with a theatrical puff of smoke, served under sticky goat leg given smokiness from a blast in the Big Green Egg. Then it’s yassa again – essentially a rich onion stew with lemon and mustard – this time alongside a dainty barbecued quail. And finally, a not-at-all sweet lemon sorbet with mint and cucumber preps the palate for the delicious dessert; goat-milk ice cream with Ghanaian cocoa cream, African nutmeg and uziza oil for a peppery hit to cut the richness.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    Interiors at Akoko

    John Carey

    DRINK

    The wine list was developed by top sommeliers Honey Spencer (formerly of Sager & Wilde and Noma Mexico) and Ania Smelskya (Silo), so it’s big on organic and sustainable bottles. And the good-value (£55) natural wine pairing includes interesting finds such as the orange-tinged, natural Col Tamarie from Veneto in Italy, ‘the original prosecco’, and Mataborricos, a gorgeous Spanish grenache that is slightly acidic and the perfect foil to that very scoopable jollof rice.


    VERDICT

    Deservedly at the vanguard of bringing a whole new experience of West African food to London. Gráinne McBride

    Address: Akoko, 21 Berners Street, London W1T 3LP


    Telephone: +44 20 7323 0593


    Website: akoko.co.uk

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    BIG JO, Finsbury Park

    A new all-day bakery-restaurant from North London’s most on-point doughboys

    It’s all about the neighbourhood these days, isn’t it? Central London is being spurned, folk are holing up at home and venturing out locally for their flat whites and croissants, rediscovering the joys of a restaurant where everyone knows their name and their front door is just minutes away. Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell had a bit of a headstart on this, having opened three restaurants over the past six years in various north-of-the-river residential areas, and turning nondescript buildings into wabi-sabi foodie destinations in the process.

    Primeur in Stoke Newington in a former Twenties garage; Highbury’s Westerns Laundry in a… well, no prizes for guessing its previous career; and Jolene in an unlovely block of flats on Newington Green – not to mention playing into Cornwall’s burgeoning food scene with Fitzroy in Fowie. Big Jo, their fourth, occupies an old bakery that hid behind metal shutters for years on a down-at-heel strip between Finsbury Park and Holloway, which now sports the team’s familiar zinc-topped tables and DIY aesthetic – Jeremie’s design idols include the Shakers and Axel Vervoordt – with plywood counter fronts and a large basin on one side making a feature from the current need for handwashing. Visible through windows at the back is the bakery’s engine room, with grain silos, flour mills and a fermentation lab, while tanned, freshly baked viennoiserie and loaves bask themselves out front. The pair work with Groove Armada’s Andy Cato, who sustainably farms grains in Gascony, proved with buzzwords of ‘regenerative farming’ and ‘healthy growing food systems’. The cinnamon buns and sourdough Naroques, regardless, are exquisite. And the idea is to use this as a bakery HQ, eventually sending out daily batches to a number of small kiosks around the city – meaning other parts of London will get to taste what all the fuss is about.


    FOOD

    While those familiar with the team’s other addresses will feel comfortable at home with the industrial-rustic appearance, and regulars such as the creamy folds of speck and salame and house pickles, the dinner menu here revolves around pizzas, all served in large slices – one per person, accompanied by a recommended four other plates for two or three to share. We added a brace of single scallops to the order, served in the shell, and drizzled with crunchy butter-soaked breadcrumbs (there was also beef cheek, pumpkin and chard on the blackboard). As for the pizzas, the sourdough bases were pillowy yet with bite: a margarita with the holy trinity of basil, tomato and mozzarella all singing loudly; the ricotta, courgette and mint one almost like a lasagne, scattered with parmigiano, a pizza fritta crunchy and oozing with strings of mozzarella, a small pot of chilli aiolo for dipping. Puddings of deep-glazed apple tart and chocolate ice cream capture the nostalgia of childhood meals. And it’s an all-day joint, with the morning drama stage right with pastries to be snared for breakfast and sandwiches from midday – curried egg mayo, jamon and cornichon, mushroom and ricotta for instance.


    DRINK

    As aficionados of the three other addresses know, the wine list is all about the natural – with European varieties ranging from fresh Muscadets to fruity Tempranillos. But start with the house aperitif, the team’s take on Aperol Spritz, more autumnal with turmeric in the mix – and made specially for Big Jo by Bellewether. My son was more than happy with his sparkling pomegranate as a fresh alternative to orange juice. The over-sized earthenware water jug, meanwhile, gives biceps a good work-out.

    VERDICT

    A very good reason to get out of your WFH bed in the morning – come here for dinner and you’ll be queuing up for elevenses the next morning. Rick Jordan

    Address: BIG JO, 318–326 Hornsey Road, N7 7HE


    Telephone: +44 20 3915 6760


    Website: bigjobakery.com

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    SIX BY NICO, FITZROVIA

    Creative Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone is making waves with his playful and competitively priced six-course dining concept

    One of the first new restaurants out of the blocks after lockdown, Six by Nico London opened with a bang at the height of summer 2020, with tables quickly getting booked up for weeks. Since launching his first location in Glasgow, his home city, in 2017, Nico Simeone has whipped up a further five spots in three years, spanning the length and breadth of the UK – Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool and now slam-dunking into the capital. The vision at the core of his brand is both different and bold: a new six-course tasting menu every six weeks, each with a different theme, all riffing off ‘places, memories and ideas’. The decor, meanwhile, is smart-industrial, with lots of squiggly light bulbs, brushed copper and parquet brickwork, and the general vibe is upbeat, thanks to enthusiastic service and a nostalgic indie soundtrack, underscored by the soft clatter of the open kitchen.

    Ring-A-Ring-A-Roses — Savarin Creme, Raspberry, Lychee, Rose

    FOOD



    The menu entirely depends on when you go. New York is the selected muse from Monday 19 October to Sunday 29 November 2020: Buffalo chicken wings doused in blue-cheese royale serve as an ode to the city’s food trucks, a ham hough and quail egg sandwich is the menu’s Eggs Benedict, and the pudding, naturally, is apple-curd-based. We sampled the previous menu – a quirky, foodie take on childhood, which included a whizz-bang aperitif sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and drunk (loudly) through a straw, followed by extremely sophisticated Cacklebean egg and celeriac soldiers and black truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. The show-stopper, though, was the Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses dessert: creamy raspberry, lychee and rose served with a floral table decoration that billowed disco-esque dry ice.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    Interiors at Six by Nico

    DRINK

    The well-priced wine pairing option is hard to refuse, and each glass chimes with the flavours of the plate, without overwhelming your senses (or your sobriety). It’s worth asking about the Beaujolais that the sommelier has nicknamed ‘magic in a glass’ – with extremely low tannins, it’s light as a white.

    VERDICT

    Fun culinary exploration that tastes fantastic too, and at a decent price (£35 for the food, £33 for the matching wines). Go with someone you really like. Becky Lucas

    Address: Six by Nico, 41 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1RR


    Telephone: +44 20 7580 8143


    Website: sixbynico.co.uk

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    THE DAIRY BERMONDSEY

    A fresh home for one of London’s best-loved neighbourhood restaurants

    When Irish chef Robin Gill announced in mid-August that he was closing his first and flagship restaurant The Dairy in Clapham, there were cries from all corners of the food world; coronavirus’s crippling effect on the industry had claimed its latest victim. But fans of Gill’s clever British-produce-led cooking – most recently seen at Darby’s in Battersea’s Nine Elms development and The Zebra Riding Club at new creative retreat/community hub/co-working space/hotel Birch, just north of London – could dry their tears when it was announced a couple of weeks later that The Dairy was back: bigger, brighter and about four miles up the road in buzzy Bermondsey. On the ground floor of just-opened aparthotel Bermonds Locke, the restaurant’s new space is a departure from the small, low-lit, atmospheric original. It’s filled with plants and cacti, blond wood and pale-pink terrazzo tabletops, lending it a cool Scandi-meets-Mojave-Desert vibe, while the transplanted Clapham team behind the pass and front of house bring warm familiarity to their new home.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    Tasting snacks: beef nugget, cheese gougeres, seaweed cracker, fried anchovy, nori and celeriac roll, oat cracker & cheese

    FOOD



    The dining room of the new Bermondsey restaurant might not be, but the food is instantly recognisable as classic Dairy. Dishes are even served on the same chunky hulks of stone bowls, scooped – because sharing is encouraged – onto mismatched granny’s old side plates. There’s no £48 tasting menu on offer here as there previously was (undoubtedly the best 50 quid ever spent), but the à la carte is filled mostly with £7-12 smaller plates to load up on, multi-course-style. Tartlet of smoked roe, cuore del Vesuvio tomato and marjoram was a colourful, zingy last blast of summer in food form, the seaside tang of the whipped roe combined with the acid kick of red and yellow Scicilan tomatoes. The tartare of rump is switched up with an Asian twist: crisp cubes of daikon and the subtle spice of proper wasabi. What Gill does so masterfully is balance flavour and texture in intriguing ways. And, as ever, the veg-centric dishes are just as complex as their meaty counterparts: from softly tangy caramelised radicchio and creamy broad-bean purée to rich pulled aubergine with stracciatella and black garlic (which more than held its own against the other two larger plates – monkfish and lamb on our visit). Perhaps controversially though, the star of the night is the oozing ball of joy that is billed as ‘chocolate salted caramel… but not as you know it’, which turns out to be a choux-like parcel of intense, runny salted caramel sat atop crunchy cacao nibs. So good you would be excused for ordering two.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    Seabass, leeks, capers,sea purslane, Will’s granny’s sauce

    DRINK

    The large central bar shouts that The Dairy 2.0 is serious about cocktails, with a neat list of six house creations: the ginger wine, plum sake and cider brandy Somerset Spritz made it over from Clapham, picking up the SE1 Paloma and Bermonds 75 on the way. Like the food, the beers and ciders are Brit-centric, from craft breweries across the country (except German 0.5% Lucky Saint for the low-alcohol option), while the wine skews natural with interesting choices such as Slovakian orange wine and sparkling Bat Nat red from Bavaria.

    VERDICT

    The same old Dairy in soul, in a shiny new spot. Worth moving for. Fiona Kerr

    Address: The Dairy Bermondsey, Bermonds Locke, 153-157 Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 3LW


    Telephone: No telephone


    Website: thedairybermondsey.com

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    TACOS PADRE, BOROUGH

    The latest Borough Market restaurant opening is a taqueria from an ex-Pujol chef

    Pujol is the most sought-after reservation in Mexico City, if not the whole country, currently number 12 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. And since his time in the kitchen there underneath Enrique Olvera, chef Nicholas Fitzgerald has been cooking at London joints including Breddos Tacos and The Mexican at Annabel’s. His first bricks-and-mortar stall sells tacos by day, as well as homemade hot sauces and cocktails, but every Thursday, Friday and Saturday it opens up into the market space for a sit-down supper. Fitzgerald has named his pop-up All My Friends, and so the plates are made for sharing and the flavours are fun. Pull up a stool at the white-tiled counter – between the recently reviewed Turnips and Erev – and get stuck in; this is finger food.

    FOOD

    In the daytime, pick from beef-short-rib suadero, pork cochinita and cauliflower al pastor tacos. But come Thursday evening, the addition of crispy crab tostadas with guajillo chilli and tamarind, plus Baja-style fried-fish tacos with white cabbage and fennel, makes it the table to book. The red guacamole with circular tortilla chips is a step above most in London and all salsas, rubs and sauces are made in house. Sharing dishes include a smoked suadero short rib which slides off the bone, served with burnt onions and pomegranate, and a whole grilled brill with English peas and jalapeños. Whatever is on the menu, you can be sure it’s made with the best ingredients, and from scratch. But if you order just one thing, make it the corn doused in pasilla mixe and cheese shavings. It’s messy but delicious.

    DRINK

    Frozen Mezcal Margaritas and Micheladas, of course. The latter, a beer topped up with lime, tomato juice and chilli peppers, is a real taste of Mexico, where you’ll find it on every restaurant menu. There are also Mariachi Mexican Lagers from the more local, King’s Cross-based Two Tribes.

    VERDICT

    Great tacos, and a good open-air spot to know about. Take a coat. Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Tacos Padre, The Borough Market Kitchen Padre, Winchester Walk, Jubilee Place, London SE1 9AG


    Telephone: +44 7582 636186


    Website: tacospadre.com

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Fallow, Mayfair

    A new Mayfair restaurant opening with a sustainability focus in one of the city’s prime foodie spots

    Nieves Barragán Mohacho’s celebrated tapas-style joint Sabor has reigned supreme on bustling Heddon Street for a couple of years now – until the launch of this place. Will Murray and Jack Croft, who met while working the stoves at Dinner by Heston before teaming up to create their own venture with the spotlight on British produce, are the force behind Fallow. They pay as much attention to the sourcing of ingredients as their preparation; most come from less intensively farmed family estates and small day boats. The result is a small, ever-changing menu, written on paper made from harvested algae, that brims with a wealth of seasonal snacks and sharing places, all of which tell a story staff are only too happy to tell. It feels as much of an intimate dining experience as a masterclass in sustainable cooking.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    FOOD

    Dishes may be tweaked from week to week, but the big-hitters, sourced through consistent channels, rightfully retain prime position. For those who like charred morsels to start with, the corn ribs are great gnarled wefts of sweetcorn cut from the cob and fried swiftly on a high heat, dripping in spiced butter. We’d go so far as to say they’re better than their meatier siblings, the smoked-beef dandy ribs, which are served medium rare but still fall off the bone. Mushroom parfait with shiitake and black truffle (heavy on the latter ingredient, just the way we like it) is earthy in flavour and silken in texture and arrives alongside freshly baked sourdough. The signature namesake dish comes in the form of fallow tartare, peppered with flecks of hazelnut and pickled onion and, once more, a slab of the delicious bread that aids the all-important mopping. For a larger sharing option, order the whole lemon sole with bacon-butter sauce, brought to the table in its entirety and left to serve at your own pace. There are English beans and Isle of Wight tomatoes to consider, but we were rightfully told to head straight for the kombu fries – miso-heavy and so moreish you’ll end up finishing the entire bowl by yourself.

    The best restaurants in London right now

    DRINK

    Kick things off with the Jamie 2018 Bacchus Nat – bottled in Hertfordshire and produced using a wild-fermentation process. The additive-free, single-fermented fizz is the house’s go-to for accompanying Carlingford rock oysters. Cocktails aren’t the highlight of this spot – there’s a delicious Negroni for those looking to stick to tried-and-tested favourites, but we strongly recommend concentrating on the comprehensive wine list, which can be paired to your dishes. Many vintages are served by the glass, including a Kyra Sauvignon Blanc that we’ll be stocking up on for our own personal provisions.


    The best restaurants in London right now

    VERDICT

    Style and substance, in equal – and environmentally conscious – measure.


  • The best restaurants in London right now

    EREV/SHUK, BOROUGH MARKET

    This summer residency brings a spiced taste of the Middle East to Borough Market

    Tucked away at the back of Borough Market, this pop-up restaurant is serving up the flavours of Israel in London Bridge. Pairing Middle Eastern-inspired recipes with carefully selected ingredients from neighbouring market stalls, Erev – ‘evening’ in Hebrew – is the summer residency of food truck Shuk – meaning ‘market’. Inspired by childhood memories of lively family gatherings and mammoth feasts of pita bread, hummus, spices and tahini, the restaurant slots right into the heady chaos of Borough Market in summer.

    FOOD

    Split into five sections, Erev’s menu reflects the sharing nature of Middle Eastern food. Starting with pita chips as a humble amuse bouche, choose between toppings of spiced aubergine with mint and sprinklings of pomegranate seeds, or spicy salmon with coriander and lemon. We then tried a few of the small plates; the beetroot, spiralised into long ribbons, came on a bed of horseradish, orange and dill, and the smokey aubergine was covered in blended tomatoes and topped with dollops of creamy labneh, mint and toasted pumpkin seeds – but the beef carpaccio was the small-plate highlight. Minced smoked, pickled mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes are served on thinly sliced rare beef and sprinkled with zaatar and scoops of truffled pecorino.

    For mains, choosing between a whole 12-hour braised lamb neck with chilli yogurt, pickled red cabbage and steamed pitta and the salt-baked off-the-bone seabream in a lemon and ginger marinade was tough, but we went with the latter and were rewarded with tender, flaky fish full of zingy flavours. Plates of creamy hummus with various toppings are the perfect side – the spiced-beef brisket was our favourite. If you can muster the energy to order any more, the puddings are small enough not to push you over the edge, and tasty enough to warrant squeezing in a few more bites. We tried both the cheesecake with poached rhubarb and pistachio crumble and the coffee and cardamom crème caramel with sesame praline and a thick maple sauce.

    DRINK

    The drinks menu at Erev lists several white, red, rose and sparkling bottles (although only one option of each colour is available by the glass), but it was the Shuk x Drinksfusion bespoke cocktails that caught our attention. Drinks crafted from fresh produce mixed with spirits and liqueurs include the herbal-tasting, pisco-based Watermelon and Basil Shrub and the Strawberry Americano, a fruity vermouth and tonic cocktail.

    VERDICT

    A taste of Israeli summer in a quintessential London setting. By Olivia Morelli

    Address: Erev, Borough Market Kitchen, Jubilee Place, Winchester Walk, London SE1 9AG


    Website: shuklondon.com

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Tavolino, London Bridge

    Elevated comfort food set right on the river – without a hefty price tag

    Finding a restaurant with serious views of London often means committing to a fancy tasting menu on the top floor of one of the city’s skyscrapers. But this Italian joint, set right on the Thames, is more about hearty feasts than fiddly fine dining. The kitchen is overseen by Louis Korovilas, who used to be head chef at Bancone. Here, he’s cooking new versions of the simple plates that made the Covent Garden restaurant a hit: fresh pasta dishes and Romana-style pizzas using a mix of British and Italian ingredients. Bread and puddings are made in house daily by pastry chef Taylor Sessegnon-Shakespeare, who came with Korovilas from Bancone.

    The restaurant’s view is almost an afterthought rather than the main reason for booking, but it’s worthy of an honourable mention as it feels almost as if you’re on top of Tower Bridge on the summery terrace (with equally impressive panoramas from the first-floor dining room – ideal for when evenings turn chilly).

    FOOD

    Many of Tavolino’s producers have been working in Italy for generations, while elsewhere on the menu ingredients are sourced from around the UK, making for an Anglo-Italiano mix. The creamy buffalo mozzarella used for an antipasto with grilled zucchini is made on a family-run dairy in Campania, while the crab for a potato-and-ricotta salad is freshly caught in Devon. The pizzas are tasty – the Sicilian vegetarian option topped with aubergine is a winner – but pastas are the main event. Fat strands of bucatini are tossed in silky cacio e pepe and handkerchief-thin ravioli is stuffed with salty pancetta and smooth ricotta. The dish to order, though, is the orzotto – a risotto made with bigger, plumper orzo rice – with sweetcorn, marjoram and a crispy confit-chicken wing. Puddings include a handful of classics (tart Amalfi lemon-meringue pie, boozy tiramisu) but we recommend going off-piste with the balsamic chocolate mousse – sharp and rich, it’s an unexpected combination we’d come back for.

    DRINKS

    Cute ‘apericini’ are offered to start – teeny, shot-size versions of traditional Italian cocktails to sip on while you get to grips with the menu. On the full-size drinks list we especially liked the Triple Orange G&T, made with orange jam and bitters, and there are a couple of Italian beers on draft, too.

    VERDICT

    An affordable, crowd-pleasing Italian restaurant in London with a view that will wow out-of-towners and grumpy Londoners alike. By Sarah James

    Address: Tavolino, 2 More London Riverside, London SE1 2DB


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Turnips, Borough Market

    A market stall turned restaurant where vegetables are the star

    Unless you live nearby, you might not have ventured to Borough Market since lockdown began. While it would typically be swamped with visitors, these days it’s been reclaimed by locals, with room to move, shop and even dine as many of the stalls and food joints have set up al-fresco seating after-hours. The 30-year-old vegetable stalwart Turnips is one of these businesses. With the idea to make the most of the day’s leftover produce, owner Charlie Foster has teamed up with Tomas Lidakevicius, former executive chef of Jason Atherton’s City Social, to create a supper club. In the evenings, the Turnips shop transforms into a pop-up restaurant and bar turning out small plates and cocktails, while a tasting menu is also served under the arches between The Globe Tavern and Southwark Cathedral. The setting is, of course, rough and ready. The influx of outdoor dining options means it’s a buzzing, veering on noisy, place to be. But what you’re really here for is to see and taste what Lidakevicius can do with the day’s ingredients from his converted-shipping-container kitchen.

    FOOD

    If you’re skeptical about a vegetable-centred five-course tasting menu, don’t be. Meat, notably 46-day-aged Dexter sirloin or 48-hour short rib, is very much on offer. But it’s the vegetable creations – which change every week depending on what’s in season – where Lidakevicius really shines. The week I’m here, the staff are especially excited to tell me that Noirmoutier potatoes, also known as the caviar of the potato world, are on the menu. The dish, best described as the poshest jacket potato known to man, comes cleverly topped with vinegary shimeji mushrooms and a heavenly dollop of sour-cream butter (yes, that’s a thing). Fruit also plays a starring role; one standout is the plum-marinated barbecued mackerel, served with a plum sauce. And the simple slice of Philibon melon provided as a palate cleanser, beautifully served in a bowl of crushed ice and subtly infused with lemongrass and chilli for an extra kick.

    DRINK

    There are carefully curated English wines and local craft beers. Plus the bar in the Turnips stall has a classic cocktail list with a focus on seasonal ingredients, like a fig Negroni or a classic Bellini with homemade white peach puree.

    VERDICT

    The boom in socially distanced dining options at Borough Market is exactly what London needs right now, and Turnips is leading the way. By Lauren Burvill

    Address: Turnips, 43 Borough Market, London SE1 9AH


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Flora at JOY, Portobello

    Part hyper-seasonal restaurant, part summer garden and farmers’ market

    As he returns to the site of his first restaurant, Dock Kitchen, chef Stevie Parle’s latest vision takes the form of a hyper-seasonal restaurant on Portobello Docks. Parle has teamed up once again with designer Tom Dixon – the pair have collaborated on several initiatives including Dock Kitchen in 2009 and Craft London in 2015 – and their pop-up project aims to put the chaos of the year behind them, as they work with independent suppliers whose produce would have otherwise gone to waste due to Covid-19. Fresh organic fruit and vegetables from Kentish growers are on display at The Goods Shed, a farmers’ market at the restaurant’s entrance, where customers are also able to pre-order fresh meat and fish for weekend collection. Also available in the mini trade store are bottles of natural wine and craft beer from Uncharted Wines and Biercraft, jewellery from Goddess Charms and a honey shop selling the lockdown backlog of produce from Parle’s own urban bee hives. Outside the glass-walled market room lies the restaurant, on the banks of the river. Half outdoor eatery, half summer garden, it has tables dotted among pots of dahlias saved from compost after the cancellation of the Hampton Court flower show.

    FOOD

    The restaurant’s menu changes daily. We tried a platter of organic, colourful crudités from The Goods Shed served with a large dollop of cod’s roe, and a watermelon and feta salad topped with chopped red chillies and mint leaves – both exceedingly refreshing. Any vegetables that go to waste during the day are taken to nearby London Zoo to feed the animals. The Lockdown lobster – named as such due to the Welsh supplier having excess produce over the past few months – was sprinkled with sprigs of rosemary and spicy nduja sausage, while the bavette-style, wood-grilled beef was topped with a chimichurri sauce that perfectly complemented the meat’s distinct smokiness. Make sure to order sides (the lobster and steak come alone) – we opted for the Kentish tomato and basil salad and freshly picked new potatoes drizzled in smoked butter. The pudding list is also produced daily based on available produce – we were told that the American cherry pies were baked that morning to use up any remaining cherries before the end of the season, but the zingy strawberry sorbet was just the trick to round off the meal.

    DRINK

    It’s unclear if we were subliminally compelled by the advertising on the outdoor umbrellas, but sparkling Nyetimber was the order of the day. Of course, there are plenty of other wines available, including an Australian Riesling and a French Viognier. On your way home, don’t forget to buy some British craft beer from Biercraft, or a bottle of natural wine – try Ortega Rosé, a 2019 co-ferment of Ortega and Regent grapes from Kentish wine brand Westwell.

    VERDICT

    Making the most of a dreary year – which included the closure of Parle’s Hoxton restaurant, Sardine – JOY is the cheerful hybrid project we need right now. Olivia Morelli

    Address: Flora at JOY Portobello, Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5BU


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    CASA DO FRANGO, SHOREDITCH

    A sunny, Piri-Piri spiced spot branches out to east London

    When the first Casa do Frango opened in Borough Market a few years ago, it became a sleeper hit. The menu was simple – a Portugeuse-inspired chicken spot that could, to the untrained ear, sound a bit like a souped-up Nando’s. But the menu was a smash, and the reviews were very good – and now, a few years on, they’ve opened a second, sister spot in the middle of Shoreditch. The new outpost, which sits just round the corner from Shoreditch High Street, opened its doors right at the tail-end of 2019, and was forced to close them again soon after as Coronavirus shut businesses across the city. Now they’re back for a second shot. Inside, there’s a pared-back European coffee house look – plaster pink walls, burnt orange seats, polished wood flooring. There’s an on-site bakery, and an eye-catching bar on the ground floor. And there’s plenty of outdoor space too, with picnic tables set up on the patio – far enough away from the real thrum of East London to be able to hear your dinner date, but close enough to feel the buzz.

    FOOD

    Casa do Frango translates to chicken house, which vastly undersells what’s happening here. The menu kicks off with a round of sharing plates to start – ‘some of them really aren’t that small,’ our waiter warns us. We tried chewy potato sourdough served warm with whipped butter that was topped with chunky flakes of salt, smoky grilled chorizo which left a trail of scarlet oil in the dollop of black olive mayo that came with it, and Piri-Piri prawns that packed a garlicky punch. For the main course, there’s just one option – the house half chicken, brushed with Casa do Frango’s signature Piri Piri sauce, it’s charred on the outside and juicy in the middle, perfect for ripping into with a group. Load up on the sides – we particularly liked the African rice, which came with crispy chicken skin and soft plantain. For pudding, make like the Portuguese and order the Pastel de Nata – the chefs here have perfected the balance of flaky pastry casing and oozy, custardy filling.

    DRINK

    The cocktail menu is as Portugese-spiced as the food – a Sandeman white port and tonic is a seriously refreshing way to start, and comes loaded with mint and orange peel. When it comes to wine, we recommend the Muralhas de Monção, a vino verde which comes from the north-west corner of Portugal, which has a lovely apricot flavour.

    VERDICT

    Crowd-pleasing plates that will make you feel, if you squint hard enough, like you’re in sunny Lisboa. Sarah James

    Address: Casa Do Frango, 2 King John Court, EC2A 3EZ


    Telephone: +44 20 7654 3020


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    LARRY’S, PECKHAM

    Levan’s next-door neighbour and fun younger sibling is finally here

    Having opened for half a day pre-lockdown, this bright New York-style deli restaurant is finally open properly, and doing its thing. Created by the trio behind much-loved Salon in Brixton market and Levan in Peckham, this new arrival takes up the corner shop next door to the Peckham Rye restaurant and, like its neighbour, is named after Seventies DJ Larry Levan, who wrote the blueprint for modern dance music. A daily menu is scribbled on a lightbox above the counter and interiors are overtly retro with bright orange tables and green Eames chairs that wouldn’t feel out of place in a leisure centre from the same era. Designed to be slightly less refined than its older siblings, it’s as tempting for a long breakfast as a grab-and-go lunch – laid-back, fun and just a little bit naughty.

    FOOD

    While definitely taking cues from New York’s corner bars, the menu is short and varied and doesn’t obviously follow any rules. Start with giant pickles and ‘nduja-soaked focaccia or potato latkes drizzled in a fermented chilli mayo. Mains are hearty – chicken liver and ‘nduja pappardelle or crispy pork escalope with a tangy coleslaw; pair with the tomato and watermelon salad with mint and a punch of chilli. Puddings include a salty baked white-chocolate cheesecake or homemade Pump Street chocolate sorbet with an orange tang that’s served in a satisfyingly diner-style ice-cream glass. We can’t wait to go back for a breakfast of soft boiled eggs and Marmite-butter soldiers, or the salt beef and mustard sandwich at lunch.

    DRINK

    Much like a jukebox record selection, Mark Gurney’s wine picks change weekly, sometimes daily, with two wines of each type (white, red, orange, rosé, and sparkling) – all from interesting, low-intervention winemakers with bottles from the Loire and the Languedoc going back to back. The list of beers is also more inventive than the London favourites now on lots of menus, with a selection from new brewery Malt Coast depicting pretty watercolours of the Norfolk coast on its bottles.

    VERDICT

    It’s bright colours and banging flavours at this standout Peckham restaurant. Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Larry’s, Unit 5, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, Peckham, London SE15 4QL


    Telephone: +44 20 3795 7385


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    MANTECA, SOHO

    A pop-up pasta joint goes permanent just off Oxford Street

    When fresh-pasta spot 10 Heddon Street closed after spending a few months at the top of everyone’s social-media feeds in summer 2019, the central London restaurant scene felt the loss. The collaboration between Smokestak’s David Carter and Chris Leach, previously of Kitty Fisher’s and Petersham Nurseries, quickly made most of the city’s best-restaurants lists. It’s not as though there’s a shortage of next-gen Italian joints in the capital – we’d rank Lina Stores’s two restaurant outposts, the pasta-heavy supper menu at East London’s Pophams Bakery and the original legend Padella in Borough Market among its loveliest. In many ways, 10 Heddon Street offered much of the same: homemade dough, unusual fillings and a laid-back dining room. With super-affordable prices and a location just off busy, chain-filled Regent Street, this pop-up was perfectly placed within the London foodie zeitgeist. Now it’s back with a new name (Manteca) and a fresh HQ (on Great Marlborough Street, just down the road from Liberty London), but also with the same team and ethos. Inside, the long, thin room is dominated by a granite bar: decorated with matte-black tiles and plenty of greenery, it’s a cosy and pared-back space to settle in for the evening.

    FOOD

    The team here aims to offer nose-to-tail cooking. The menu is fairly simple: start with the house-made focaccia dunked in olive oil and topped with ribbons of mortadella, followed up quickly with some small plates to share. We tried the ’nduja mussels on our visit; with a hint of spice, they’re fresh and fiery, and the slice of bread that sits at the bottom of the tomatoey sauce becomes soggy and soaked in flavour. The main event is the pasta: order as many dishes as you think you can finish between your party. Silky pappardelle is served with rich ox-cheek ragu while tonnarelli is tossed in simple cacio e pepe sauce, elevated with the addition of brown crab. For anyone really hungry, the beef rib to share comes from a retired dairy cow (making it more sustainable as well as delicious). Finish up with the tart amalfi-lemon sorbet for a sweet kick of la dolce vita.

    DRINK

    Embrace the Italian way of life and go for a full-on aperitivo – most cocktails are made with amaro, an Italian bitter. The wine list is relatively short and there are also dry options, such as the jasmine-and-peach iced tea).

    VERDICT

    The pop-up of the summer is back for good, and every hungry soul in central London is better off for it. By Sarah James

    Address: Manteca, 58-59 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JY


    Telephone: +44 20 3827 9740


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Luca, Clerkenwell

    The Clove Club with an Italian accent

    The most talked-about restaurant of 2013 started as a simple supper club in a Dalston flatshare before taking a permanent home in Shoreditch Town Hall, where it was quickly awarded a Michelin star. Now The Clove Club owners Daniel Willis, Johnny Smith and chef Isaac McHale have set the foodie world on fire again with an Italian restaurant in Clerkenwell.

    Luca offers a more laid-back dining experience with an à la carte menu in place of Clove Club’s five or 10 courses. Interesting, then, that Luca feels more grown-up, more polished — from its prime location in Clerkenwell to the smart olive-green interiors by design-studio-to-watch Alexander Waterworth.

    FOOD

    Smith has taken up position front of house while Robert Chambers heads up the kitchen under the eye of McHale. Sit at the bar for fluffy Parmesan chips, truffley cheese toasties and pots of homemade hazelnut ice-cream. In the restaurant, glistening Parma ham aged for 28 months is a hard-to-beat way to kick things off. Some serious cash has gone into the antipasti: beef carpaccio with oyster emulsion; sea robin crudo with buttery Capezzana olive oil; turnip tops with smoked cod’s roe. Skip mains if you have to, just take the hint from the properly inviting open pasta kitchen and save space for the ravioli (right now filled with grouse).

    DRINK

    It can’t be said enough: start with a Negroni (and those Parmesan chips) at Luca’s brilliant bar. Italians dominate the wine menu, which you’ll appreciate the sommelier guiding you through.

    By Hazel Lubbock

    Address: Luca, 88 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1


    Telephone: +44 20 3859 3000


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    LAURENT AT CAFÉ ROYAL

    The country-hopping French chef lands in the centre of London with twists on sushi and steak

    It’s strange to think that Piccadilly was once the sort of area David Bowie would choose to retire Ziggy Stardust, before appearing to indulge in a French kiss with Lou Reed while Mick Jagger sat between them. Or the kind of district that Kings Edward VIII and George VI would regularly choose to take tea (not together). And yet, step off the tourist speedway careering between chain stores along Regent Street and within the seen-it-all-before marbled walls of the Hotel Café Royal, and you can almost believe such things and more really did happen, right here.

    The ‘Hotel’ part was added to Café Royal in 2012, and the lobby and restaurant further rebooted in summer 2018 with a £5million refurb directed by Italian architect and interior designer Piero Lisson. Breeze through its revolving doors now and you’ll find yourself in one of the largest hotel lobbies in London – double-height, softly-lit, a waterfall-like Murano glass chandelier shimmering at the centre. The same grand style sweeps and sprawls around the 100-seat restaurant upstairs one floor, around the mezzanine and into its own, more intimate main space. The statement piece here is the mesmerising bar, reminiscent of Jack Torrance’s in The Shining: up-lit by a whirling whisky-coloured wall, its reflection bouncing off the long windows, dark interiors and further bulbous Murano lights hanging at the back. Be sure to pick a seat facing it.


    THE FOOD

    French chef Laurent Tourondel has an impressive seven restaurants in New York, two in Miami and Hong Kong and one in North Carolina and the Caribbean – and yet few Londoners have heard of him. That may all be set to change, with this eponymous Piccadilly outpost and future London appearances from the charming man himself. He’s currently best-known for his BLTs – that’s Bistro Laurent Tourondels, rather than anything to do with Bacon Lettuce or Tomato – his stateside restaurants are named BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Prime, BLT Burger and so on and so forth. You’ll find all of the above on his Laurent menu, which has a focus on grill and sushi. Proceedings always begin, however, with the ‘popovers’ – an indulgent marriage between a French bread roll and English Yorkshire pudding, served toasty and with the reassurance that there are ‘100 more baking in the oven’ should you ever be able to manage a second.

    Following this with sushi feels out of order, but one look into gregarious Italian Maitre’D Mateo’s eyes and he’ll swiftly reassure you it’s all perfectly acceptable fine dining behaviour – especially if you have chosen the eye-opening crispy wagyu beef nigiri, served with surprisingly subtle truffle aioli and local wasabi. The gin-cured salmon and crispy lobster sushi make for both a very pretty table-top and luxurious whipped-up mix of flavours, while the Japanese wagyu kagoshima sirloin will set any carnivore both salivating and sweating. The frozen orange dessert is at once refreshing and creamy, and its dessert wine pairing particularly special (the 2013 Vin de Constance, Klein Constantia, Constantia), but it’s the mountainous hibiscus and red berry crepe soufflé with lime frozen yogurt that’s the real sweet showstopper.

    DRINK

    The bar isn’t just a pretty backlit wall – it offers a superb selection of timeless cocktails, fine wines, sake, beer and Champagne that may well leave you in a sorrier state the next day than you foresaw. Still, nothing a Corpse Reviver #2 (gin, lemon juice, cocchi, contreau and a little absinthe) won’t fix.

    VERDICT

    Laurent at Café Royal is laidback and lavish, serving up extravagant dishes and a little style in Piccadilly Circus.


    Address: Laurent at Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY


    Telephone: +44 20 7406 3310


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Frenchie’s, Covent Garden

    We visited Frenchie’s the week one of its two Parisian sisters – Frenchie Rue du Nil – won a Michelin Star. Rather than yapping and yodelling about this international feat, the London staff merely mentioned it in passing when we happened to ask them about the other Frenchie’s out in the world. So modest, so cool, so refined. Which sums up the vibe of Frenchie’s restaurant in London itself, really. Even the entrance – with a simple ‘F’ to signal its existence while a subtle ‘Frenchie’ spelt in tiles lies at your feet – is small, chic and unassuming. The long, thin interior continues the theme, merging New York and Parisian flavours in the low lights, exposed piping and subway tiles for a ‘smart 1920s train carriage’ sort of vibe. All together and we tip it as one of the most romantic restaurants in London.

    Frenchie himself, meanwhile, is actually a chef called Grégory Marchand – a Frenchman who hit his big break at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London, where the Naked Chef gave him his nickname (it’s easy to imagine it being shouted across a steaming kitchen in a strong Essex accent, non?). Following a year at the prestigious Gramercy Tavern in New York, Grégory returned to Paris to open two restaurants before hat-tricking with London’s own outpost in 2016.

    THE FOOD

    Creative, rich and French-infused – if we were to sum the dishes up in three words. The bacon scones with maple syrup and cream are an unexpected showstopper, likely to stimulate moans even before your mains. Duck foie gras, lamb ragu, Duck breast, pork – each is served in seemingly delicate portions whether for starter or main event. Don’t let their petite appearance fool you, however – every one is surprisingly dense. Stamina should be reserved, however, for pudding – just a little trio of sweet options to choose from, plus a full dairy of cheeses, obviously.


    DRINK

    There are wine bottles everywhere here – not just behind the bar but lining the banquettes as well. Rather than share a list, Frenchie’s stocks fittingly small, artisanal producers, and is keen to suggest the optimum grape for your particular meal, which only contributes to the general level of passive relaxation each visitor feels. Non-drinkers should try the olive-infused tonic – apparently it reminds our waitress of her home in the South of France every time she smells it.

    VERDICT

    Go for the intimacy, the food, the sexy je ne sais qois. Also – try the lunch and pre- and post-theatre menus; they offer many of the same dishes for half the price.

    Address: Frenchie, 16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH London


    Telephone: +44 20 7836 4422


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    SABOR, MAYFAIR

    Top-of-its-game Spanish from Barrafina’s former star chef

    There’s a whole lotta love on the restaurant scene for Nieves Barragán, the tousle-haired chef from Bilbao who made Soho’s Barrafina such a sensation. Modelled on Barcelona’s classic Cal Pep, Barrafina created classic tapas- gooey ham croquetas, salt-cod fritters, pan con tomate — like nowhere else, winning a Michelin star in the process and helping set the trend for informal, no-reservations places with serious kitchen clout. Now, along with trusted restaurant manager José Etura, she’s opened her own restaurant in little Heddon Street, which has become quite the foodie enclave recently. Sabor takes its DNA straight from the home country, adding Andalucian tiles to original wooden flooring: on the ground-floor level is the open kitchen, long restaurant counter and standalone bar, with a sweeping, iron-railed staircase leading to the asador upstairs, which has long communal tables and Hades-like grill. It’s all so authentically Hispanic that at 10pm there were two five-year-olds still up eating with their families.

    FOOD

    Ah, the food. Nieves has gathered recipes from all around Spain, Castile to Galicia, and downstairs plates include popcorn-like baby squid and prawns with fried quail egg, rabbit dumplings, meltingly soft Iberican ham, and a just-set tortilla of Jerusalem artichoke and jamon. The croquetas with black trumpet and truffles are crispy grenades of oozing savouriness. There’s a resident fishmonger with all sorts of scales. Upstairs in the asador is Nieves’ pride-and-joy grill and larger plates for expansive evenings or Sunday lunch. The empanada gallega — tuna pie with squid-ink — is a pie to out-pie the best steak-and-kidney. Suckling pig flies over, trotters outstretched, its Caramac-coloured crackling making like a porcine crema Catalana; seared octopus is fluffy soft. Plates of garlic-studded lamb ribs arrive, with the advice to eat the tomato first, then a slice of chorizo; a simple bowl of potatoes come smeared with paprika. Go to Seville and the best way of judging which tapas bar to try is to spot which has the most screwed-up paper napkins on the floor — if this was in the Macarena barrio you’d barely see the tiles.

    DRINK

    The drinks menu takes a similar region-hopping approach. We’ve been quite spoiled recently with bars serving good sherries and vermouths, but there are still surprises to be had. Start with a tumbler of straight Vermu La Cuesta from the tap, then try a cloudy cava, fresh txakoli, or one of the eight Spanish gins. If you spot José, he’s adept at matching wines to your order — there’s a very nice Biu Blanc made from Riesling and Viognier grapes that stands up to the olive oil, and excellent Tempranillos by the glass. For pudding, try a Cruz del Mar: a blend of oloroso and Moscatel that’s delightfully spicy with vanilla notes. And if you like Bailey’s, then try the Habeilas Hailas from Galicia.

    VERDICT

    José Pizarro reckons you can now eat better Spanish food in London than in Spain – and here’s a place that really proves he’s right.

    By Rick Jordan

    Address: Sabor, 35 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BR


    Book online

    Watch Sabor’s founding chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho have lunch with Tom Kerridge, of the UK’s only two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand and Flowers

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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Berenjak, Soho

    A reimagined Iranian kebab house from one of London’s most exciting restaurant stables

    The family behind some of the most talked about flavour powerhouses in London in recent years – Sabor, Gymkhana, Hoppers, Bao – have just added Persian to their spice-packed pantry. In a narrow little space, all sizzling grills and flaming tandoor, Soho restaurant Berenjak is inspired by the hole-in-the-wall kebab shops of Tehran – with the added poetic licence of low lighting, Seventies Iranian funk music and artfully crumbling walls. Heading it all up is baseball-cap-wearing Kian Samyani, who previously worked at one of London’s best Indian restaurants Brigadiers and Gymkhana. He wants to serve the traditional dishes he grew up with to the foodie punters of London, ‘with no cheffy touches’. But it’s still fancier than your average kebab, served on shiny metal plates as you sit among richly patterned cushions.

    THE FOOD

    Huddle in, elbow-to-elbow, in the candlelit covered courtyard with its wall of plants and hanging Persian rugs, or take a stool at the bar counter to feel the heat of the grills and start off with a snack of olives marinated in walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Next up is bread steaming from the tandoor – the wholewheat version cooked over pebbles – to dip into the most incredibly creamy hummus, made from black chickpeas and rapeseed oil with grated walnut on top. The kashk e bademjoon (coal-cooked aubergine with whey and dried mint) is so good it’s ordered by every table, smoky and rich and topped with crispy fried onions. For meaty mains, there are kebabs and stews; among the former, the koobideh (goat with onions and black pepper) is the dish that kebab shops in Iran are rated on – and Samyani’s version is delicious, served simply with chargrilled onion and tomato, lots of herbs and juice-soaked flatbread. Add a fiery kick with a side of marinated chillies. Among the stews, the guinea fowl with barberries and saffron perfectly nails the big flavours you taste in Iran – it’s earthy but with the sour tang of barberries. Order the house rice, which comes with a blob of goat butter and a sprinkling of tadiq on top (the crunchy bits from the bottom of the pan), to mop up the sauce. There’s just one dessert – a genius move of sandwiching vanilla ice cream between two pieces of baklava. It sounds simple but it’s one of the best desserts in London.

    THE DRINK

    Cocktails based on traditional non-alcoholic sherbets are given the night-out-in-Soho treatment with vodka, gin or tequila. The tequila and cherry is a brilliantly different, while the Sabah tonic with fresh herbs in super zingy. For another authentic hit, there’s also tea served from a giant brass samovar from Iran.

    VERDICT

    Persian with a twist from a great young-gun team. By Grainne McBride

    Address: Berenjak, 27 Romilly Street, Soho, London W1D 5AL


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Flor, Borough Market

    The second act from the team behind Lyle’s lands in Borough Market

    Shoreditch restaurant Lyle’s is not only one of the best restaurants in London, but it’s ranked 33 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list too. So, when, five years after opening, head chef James Lowe and GM John Ogier announced a second spot, ears quickly started pricking. But Lyle’s take two this is not. Flor, on Bedale Street, opposite the fruit-and-veg traders of Borough Market is billed as a bakery – a laid-back little sister to fine-diner Lyle’s. And the 19th-century market building comes complete with exposed brick walls and huge high ceilings. Downstairs, nab a spot at the open kitchen, or window counter (crane your neck and you can see The Shard), or head up the cast-iron spiral staircase for more table seating with views of the market through enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. In the mornings there will be brioche filled with sourdough caramel and birch-syrup kouign amann, at lunch sandwiches, and later on the two-storey spot swings into the night with wine and small plates.

    FOOD

    While Lyle’s pays its respects to Britain’s best ingredients, Flor is inspired by the buvettes of Paris and the pintxos bars in San Sebastián. First off, don’t skip the sourdough, which is tacky to the touch (they’ve upped the hydration level thanks to the deck oven), using British stone-ground wheat from Dorset, milled at Lyle’s, and a sourdough starter which is as old as the original restaurant. The butter, made with flora danica, a cheese culture, is served on a pretty disc of coral ceramic with a hand-whittled wooden knife. Next up, fine slices of coppa and wild boar are chased with an oyster that’s served with a jalapeño mignonette. A thick slice of toast is piled with anchovies and fatty slices of cured mangalitsa. One of the undisputed stars of the show is the trio of Atlantic scarlet prawns – served raw and topped with yuzu kosho, while on a second plate the bright red heads are served solo with some of the best meat still inside. Burrata is served with a tomato and soaked-bread panzanella salad and sprinkled with wild-fennel pollen, and a potato flatbread oozes with Taleggio and shavings of truffle. The puddings perhaps epitomise the whole menu: a Neapolitan ice cream slice made with tayberry, verbena and peach, or a bowl of thick clotted cream topped with chewy strawberries that have been dehydrated to replicate Maynards Wine Gums topped with an ice granita – fun, thoughtful and full of flavour.

    DRINK

    Flor is part bakery, part wine bar, so an approachable wine list was high on the list of Lowe and Ogier’s priorities. While the food offering might come as a slight surprise to a Lyle’s devotee, the wine – all sourced from agriculturally responsible locations – shares many producers with the Shoreditch restaurant. A straw-coloured orange Alfredo Maestro from Valladolid in Spain is crisp, dry and as refreshing as a Provençal rosé.

    VERDICT

    A light-hearted wine bar that is serious about its small plates. We’ll be heading back to try the croissants. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Flor, 1 Bedale Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AL


    Telephone: +44 20 3319 8144


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    STONEY STREET, BOROUGH MARKET

    A new restaurant from the team behind 26 Grains hits the fringe of London’s biggest food market

    In 2015 Alex Hely-Hutchinson created the first London restaurant to successfully reinvent porridge. After a year in Copenhagen studying the ways of the Danes, and off the back of an Old Street pop-up, she turned a tiny space in pretty Neal’s Yard into not just an early-morning destination, but a lunchtime spot too. In 2019, Hely-Hutchinson introduced a supper menu, and it was so successful that it has spawned a whole new all-day restaurant venture – in a prime spot on the edge of Borough Market. Porridge is still on the menu at breakfast (made with six grains and garnished with healthy-tasty extras such as almond butter, maple, oat cream and apple crisps) alongside wheat-milk crêpes with plums, Neal’s Yard yogurt and toasted nuts. But it’s the dinner offering that really sets the new spot apart. Double-fronted windows make the space look big from the outside, and there’s a window hatch from which staff dish out pastries and flat whites to doctors from nearby Guy’s Hospital, as well as a steady footfall of tourists.

    FOOD

    The menu is short, and you’ll have to look very hard to count more than two or three grains, because the set-up is all new. Everything is seasonal – for example, a pheasant terrine with damson jam and gherkins was the day’s special when we visited, served with homemade soda bread. And a peacock kale salad was a citrusy heap of fennel, candied walnuts and London raclette from the cheese stall next door. Mains are restrained – you won’t find any sides of chunky chips or butter mash – and chic: lemon sole encircled by steamed mussels on a bagnet vert sauce with wilted chard and a crunch of coriander seed; or a grain-baked beetroot with Graceburn cheese and kefir. If it weren’t for the puddings – a choice of just two – we might have left feeling virtuous, but a winter apple and pear hazelnut frangipane tart topped with cardamom-dusted cream and medlar syrup was a satisfying finale.

    DRINK

    The cocktail menu changes as frequently as the food menu, because it’s the ingredient leftovers that are used to flavour the drinks. On our trip, there was a bergamot and egg-white sour for those not wanting to indulge in booze, and a hibiscus Margarita with tequila for anyone who fancied a tipple. The wine list is short but reliable and bottled wine is available to take away through the window hatch.

    VERDICT

    A refreshingly short menu that’s constantly changing to make the most of its top-notch suppliers. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Stoney Street, 2-3 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AA


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    PADELLA, SHOREDITCH

    London’s most-coveted fresh pasta restaurant spawns a sibling

    When Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda (owners of classic Italian trattoria Trullo in Highbury) opened a fresh pasta workshop in Borough Market in 2016, no one could have predicted the level of success they achieved. Though there was hype at the time, four years later there is still a permanent queue around the corner and a waiting list that sometimes hits three hours. Building on the Borough hit, and thus not changing much at all, their third restaurant together is another Padella (meaning ‘pan’ in Italian). The new polished concrete spot might seem roomier – on one floor rather than spread across two – but is actually similar in size. The main point of difference here is that all queuing will be virtual, as there’s no licence for lines of pedestrians outside. We recommend the Walk In app to save you wasting time (Leroy and Green Room at The Curtain are less than a minute away if you need somewhere nearby to sit and drink – or check out more of the best bars in Shoreditch). The Borough-based bakery has also moved to Padella’s new site (the staple sourdough bread will be shipped to its other two restaurants from here) and there’s a rumour that breakfast pastries are in the pipeline.

    FOOD

    Still simple, with some big hitters that start from a satisfying £4. First up, the homemade sourdough served with bright, peppery Fiorano olive oil and burrata that has to be some of the best in the city – crucially not served too cold. Always on the menu, and always worth an order, is the famous worm-like pici pasta swimming in creamy cacio e pepe – a satisfying smack of flavour. But it’s the silky pappardelle with beef-shin ragu, made with eight-hour-cooked Dexter beef, that could potentially make a three-hour wait for a table seem worth it. Other highlights include fettuccine laced with Cobble Lane cured ’nduja, mascarpone and lemon and a new nobbly cavatelli with slow-cooked broccoli, garlic, anchovy and chilli – all arriving doused in a healthy layer of Parmesan. We’re sure puddings are good, but they’re not really what you’ve waited in line (albeit a virtual one) for.

    DRINK

    Classic Italian aperitivos are on the menu, created in collaboration with the cocktail world’s man of the moment, Mr Lyan. There’s a gin Martini that’s served with a Gorgonzola-stuffed olive but the Padella Negroni, made with lemon thyme, is an old favourite. Wine-wise, we recommend you order from the low-intervention wines served on tap – a 90 per cent reduction in the weight of packaging results in lower carbon emissions and a feel-good drink for you. There’s also an interesting English wine, Adrian Pike’s Ortega from Westwell in Kent, on the list. Padella takes a fully Italian approach to coffee, only serving espressos once it hits midday – though later on you can always top one with grappa or sambuca to make a punchy caffe corretto.

    VERDICT

    Still some of the best (and most affordable) homemade pasta in London. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Padella, 1 Phipp Street, Hackney, London EC2A 4PS


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    LEVAN, PECKHAM

    South London’s most-talked-about restaurant from the team behind Brixton’s Salon

    Nicholas Balfe has opened his second restaurant, taking over the space formerly occupied by Peckham stalwart The Refreshment Rooms, in a converted warehouse behind Peckham Rye station. In other words, it’s bang in the centre of South London’s foodiest hotspot – and has a reputation to live up to. Balfe is an alumni of the city’s Young Turk supper-club collective (other members went on to open Lyle’s, The Clove Club, Dabbous and Story) and his first proper restaurant was Salon, in Brixton’s Market Row. Like Salon, the menu here is dedicated to being as sustainable as possible – with 90% of waste and trimmings reused or repurposed. But unlike Salon it’s an all-day operation: starting at 8am with ‘nduja and miso-laced buns and substantial croque monsieurs made with aged Comté. The space has been completely reconfigured, with a huge open kitchen in the spot that was previously the main dining room, and walls painted in contrasting bright blue teal and lemon sorbet.

    THE FOOD

    The menu is inventive, and largely plant-based, but with seriously hearty French flair. There’s more Comté on the main menu to start – it comes dusted on the top of some of the fluffiest fries we’ve tasted, with a dollop of saffron aioli for dipping. Other starters include a soft slice of Boudin Noir (from Wales) with a tamari-cured egg yolk and sharp endive, and a bowl of creamy stracciatella paired with salted plums and crispy buckwheat. A caramelised-celeriac ravioli sits in a pool of butter and lovage oil, paired with a deliciously comforting crunch of roasted Jerusalem artichokes. Bigger plates, made to share, include a beautiful half pie layered with dauphinoise potatoes, black trompette mushrooms and a layer of vacherin. There’s a lot of cheese on the menu, but we’re not complaining. There is also a Gloucester Old Spot pork chop served with sweet potato and miso or roast halibut with sprouting broccoli. There’s too much on the list, to try it all, so if you can’t make up your mind, opt for the Chef’s Menu, a reasonably-priced selection of five dishes picked for the table to share. For pudding, the puffed half-moon tarte tatin or the doughnut choux filled with espresso cream and topped with caramelised hazelnuts are excellent.

    THE DRINK

    The restaurant name comes from the team’s love of Larry Levan, the legendary Paradise Garage DJ who tore up the rulebook and wrote the blueprint for modern dance music. And the team are aiming to share this freedom of expression with their wine list, in the hope that it will shift the way people think about wine. All wines on the list are low-intervention, organic and mostly biodynamic – supplied by some left-field winemakers who care as much about the environment as what ends up in the glass. We like the simple choice of cocktails to start: choose between white (Riesling vermouth and Tanqueray), or red (Croc vodka, Belsazar red and dry white vermouth with orange).

    VERDICT

    If Salon is one of the best restaurants in south London, then Levan is its slightly greedy big brother, and we love it. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Levan, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London SE15 4QL


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    Suzi Tros, Notting Hill

    Superb modern Greek small plates from the creators of Mazi

    When Franco-Greek couple Adrien Carré and Christina Mouratoglou opened Mazi on a quiet Notting Hill backstreet in 2012, it was a much-needed addition filling a gap in London’s Greek food scene. It bore more of a resemblance to Athens’ upscale restaurants than the gyros and souvlaki-fuelled joints Londoners had grown used to, championing modern Greek cuisine with meze presented in Kilner jars and deconstructed tiropita pastry parcels served with foams. Such was its success that when the site two doors down came up for sale, Carré and Mouratoglou snapped it up for their second act, Suzi Tros. The name is inspired by a character in the cult Sixties Greek film I Pariziana, translating literally as ‘Suzi, you eat’, and here most of the seasonally changing small plates are inspired by Mouratoglou’s hometown of Thessaloniki (there’s much more of a focus on fish and vegetable-led dishes here, whereas meat takes the lead at Mazi). The best seats are up at the counter, where diners watch head chef John Skotidas (who splits his time between the two restaurants) get to work on the open kitchen’s huge charcoal grill – but the cosy room at the back is the most lively. Exposed wooden beams and whitewashed walls lend the place a simple, stripped-back feel, while outside a tiny slither of terrace filled with tropical plants has a flutter of the Med to it (even if it’s raining).

    FOOD

    The menu is divided into five sections – raw, garden, fish, and butcher – and the advice is to order six plates between two, but if you’re feeling greedy a few more won’t do any harm. Nibble on fluffy croquettes stuffed with gooey metsovone cheese and bacon jam while you decide, before moving on to Cretan classic dakos – with its crumbly barley rusk base, layers of creamy whipped feta and sweet cherry tomatoes piled on top, it could easily pass as a strawberry cheesecake at first sight. A whole roasted and tahini-smoked aubergine oozes with bubbly cheese and sweet honey; enormous courgette flowers are generously stuffed with tomatoey rice, and a yuzu dressing gives wafer-thin sea-bass carpaccio a citrus kick. Then move on to the meat: grandmama’s meatballs – chargrilled and tender inside – are served in a pool of tangy tzatziki, while rosemary-studded lamb chops arrive on a wooden board resting in their juices. And don’t skip the prawn saganaki – plump, sizzling prawns swimming in a garlicky tomato sauce with a handful of salty feta crumbled on top. All of the fish served arrives fresh off a Cornish day-boat each morning – a deliciously simple grilled daily special comes with a pile of wilted greens doused in olive oil. There are just two puddings; a decadent plate of semifreddo jumbled with crushed meringue and salted hazelnuts, with a gallon of hot chocolate sauce poured on top, or a significantly lighter summery bowl of grilled peaches.

    DRINK

    Downstairs, a teeny-tiny bar offers a short menu of Greek-inspired cocktails that’ll transport you straight to a whitewashed taverna on the Aegean. Carré and Mouratoglou have snagged a couple of Athens’ top mixologists and less familiar Greek spirits take centre stage. Coco Mykonos muddles the pine-scented mastika with a tropical blend of coconut and pineapple, while tsipouro – an un-aged brandy found on most tables in Greece – makes for a punchy after-dinner tipple. The wine is entirely Greek; we tried a delicious Sauvignon Blanc-like Kydonitsa from Laconia in the south-eastern Peloponnese.

    VERDICT

    Carré and Mouratoglou have revolutionised the capital’s Greek food scene. By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: Suzi Tros, 18 Hillgate Street, Notting Hill, London W8 7SR


    Telephone: +44 207 221 2223


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Circolo Popolare, Fitzrovia

    London’s most queued-for restaurant

    When Gloria, the Big Mamma Group’s first Italian trattoria outside of France, opened in Shoreditch earlier this year, it became an instant hit. The chintzy, maximalist interiors and gluttonous portions appeared on countless social-media feeds, and queues for a table started to hit the two-hour mark, even in the middle of the week. Enter Circolo Popolare, Gloria’s just-opened-for-summer sister. In Fitzrovia’s peaceful Rathbone Square, double-height walls are covered top to bottom in liquor bottles of every feasible variety (they’re all full – we checked), six deep and covering the entire restaurant. Grabbing Gloria’s maximalism and turning it up another notch, the ceiling is barely visible beneath hanging trellises of ivy and wisteria. Any wall space left (and there’s not much) is plastered with old-school Italian posters. It takes a minute to assimilate to the bombastic madness of it all. Through the second room at the back – this time covered floor to ceiling in wine bottles – you’ll find the terrace, opening onto Rathbone Square, with room for 60 people – making this one of London’s best spots for supper in the sunshine.

    FOOD

    Big Mamma have made excessive their thing, but Circolo’s extravagant menu is a departure from Amalfi-inspired Gloria, looking instead to Sicily. Start with some antipasti – the burrata with pesto heart is creamy and stringy, pulling apart to reveal a freshly made, luridly green pesto oozing out. Order a few more dishes to share: we had the deep-fried courgette flowers, crisp and light, served with a golden saffron dip. Circolo’s show-stopper comes in the form of some of the best pizza in London, available to order as a giant one-metre stretch to split. The standout topping is the Orlando Blue: rich with gorgonzola, salty speck cuts through the cheese while sweet peach and honey add another level of flavour. The carbonara, made at the table in a giant wheel of Parmesan, is a crowd-pleasing transplant from Gloria, and the crab linguine – a huge portion with an entire crab sat plumb on top – is just as yummy. For pudding, it’s got to be the lemon meringue pie: a truly giant slice of crispy pastry and fluffy meringue that you’ll struggle to finish.

    DRINK

    The cocktail list is packed with fairly classic Italian staples, but the limoncello spritz is a great, southern Italian take on the better known Aperol. Some cocktails can be ordered in giant punch bowls to share – the Punch Drunk Love comes in a big strawberry-shaped vessel with sloe gin, apricot brandy and Lambrusco. The wine list is, like everything else here, pretty massive – we tried the house Vermentino from Sicily, which was light and fruity.

    VERDICT

    Circolo doesn’t shy away from its siblings’ larger-than-life reputation, and it’s a refreshing departure from the capital’s sometimes rather serious restaurant scene. By Sarah James

    Address: Circolo Popolare, 40-41 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1HX


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    Trullo, Islington

    A traditional Italian trattoria serving excellent homemade pasta

    It’s hard to get a table at Islington’s favourite neighbourhood restaurant. The set-up is based on a simple Italian trattoria, with net curtains that track halfway up the window, black-painted wooden chairs and white-paper tablecloths that crinkle (and quickly get doused in drips of the best olive oil). On the menu there might creamy ‘nduja on toast, burrata served with peach and basil or breakfast radishes with aioli. Everything is fresh and seasonal, and completely delicious. Go big on the pasta, which is all made in house: thick noodles of pici oozing with cacio e pepe and skinny tagliarini with crab, courgette and a chilli kick. And while there are main courses from the grill (black Hampshire pork chops with capers and rosemary borlotti beans; whole Brixham mackerel with Castelluccio lentils and salsa rossa) it’s the beef-shin ragu with pappardelle that keeps the locals coming back, and back again. By Tabitha Joyce

    Read more about the best Italian restaurants in London

    The best Italian restaurants in London

Address: Trullo, 300-302 St Paul’s Rd, Highbury East, London N1 2LH


Telephone: +44 20 7226 2733


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    Som Saa, Spitalfields

    The best Thai food in London

    Som Saa started life as a pop-up in the arches of a coffee shop in Hackney — although you’d never guess this wasn’t an import from the streets of Bangkok. Now Som Saa has a permanent place in an old fabric warehouse near Petticoat Lane Market; it’s still pretty industrial inside, with whitewashed brick walls, bare bulbs and steel girders. Chef Andy Oliver has an impressive history in Thai cooking, having worked in the kitchens of Nahm in London and Bo.Lan, just off Sukhumvit Road, where chef-patron Dylan Jones proves you don’t have to be Thai to run one of the best in the city — a legacy he has passed.

    FOOD

    Thai food is about balance — spicy, sweet, sour and salty. Soups are protein-rich and simple, and salads punchy with fermented pork and dried shrimp. The jungle curry with fish and baby aubergines is knock-out in every sense. Perhaps the only familiar dish to anyone who hasn’t been to Thailand is the sticky rice with coconut cream and poached jackfruit — which is totally forgivable when it’s this heavenly.

    DRINK

    If monsoon season could be bottled, it would taste something like the Muay Thai Kick, a cooling gin cocktail with a jolt of kaffir lime leaf, Thai basil and a showering of seeds. They’ve worked hard on the wine list, too, finding bottles which pair with the food almost as well as the ‘live’ unpasteurised, unfiltered Camden Tank Beer, stored in the restaurant’s rafters.

    By Hazel Lubbock

    Address: Som Saa, 43 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1


    Telephone: +44 20 7324 7790


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    SORELLA, CLAPHAM

    A superlative Italian from The Dairy team

    A cry went up across south London when The Dairy chef Robin Gill announced he was closing his Clapham off-shoot The Manor at the end of 2017. But the tears were short-lived as it was to be replaced, pronto, with Sorella: Gill’s take on a neighbourhood Italian restaurant. Aesthetically, there aren’t too many changes: the same roughly exposed brick walls, industrial pendant lights, twine-and-nail-art stag’s head; although the previously sombre grey awning has been replaced with a fresh blue. The menu has flown south, riffing off Irishman Gill’s time spent on the Amalfi coast — sandwiched between stints working under Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc — where he worked at two-Michelin-star Don Alfonso 1890, set high in the hillside between Sorrento and Positano.

    FOOD

    ‘Sorella’ means sister and there’s certainly a feeling that this is still a Dairy family affair: the favourite crispy chicken skins pop up here over cheese agnolotti; desserts (hay panna cotta and quince; Pump Street chocolate and fennel gelato) are never particularly sweet, and Gill’s love of charcuterie, fermenting, pickling, curing and smoking are ever-present (and subject of his first cookbook Larder: From Pantry to Plate). And, of course, there’s still the brilliant-value chef’s menu for £45. It’s all set up traditionally, Italian style: cicchetti — nibbles of fried Nocellara olives and unforgettably rich truffle arancini — followed by antipasti, primi and secondi. Antipasti might include plates of house-cured pork and fennel salumi, 20-month aged prosciutto Marchigiano and black-pepper coppa served with tangy ‘our farm pickles’. Or there are slightly larger dishes of jersey-milk ricotta mixed with crushed black olives and parmesan, scooped up on hunks of semolina sourdough, or delicate mackerel crudo, served with a fresh tang of salsa verde. Primi aren’t quite as pretty, but they are deeply satisfying, especially the hearty pork and ‘nduja tagliatelle. And when we visited, secondi — served family-style — featured gorgeously pink Yorkshire venison and beautifully flaky pollock.

    DRINK

    Naturally, the wine list is all-Italian: three whites and three reds — including a zippy little Sicilian Sauvignon and an intensely gluggable Primitivo-and-Negroamaro blend from Puglia – available by the glass and carafe. There’s a short cocktail line-up: a dangerously smooth House Negroni is made with their Vault Vermouth, developed in-house by Sorella’s own Dan Joines, as well as seasonal treats such as a Quince Bellini. The team also make their own limoncello, a world away from the sickly treacle-sweet, canary-yellow bottles mistakenly brought back from Duty Free.

    VERDICT

    There’s a great stable of London Italian restaurants right now — Luca, Padella, Palatino — with canny Brit chefs (Isaac McHale, Jordan Frieda and Tim Siadatan, Stevie Parle) playing with tradition. With Sorella, Gill confidently puts himself in that line-up and creates a worthy successor to The Manor.

    By Fiona Kerr

    Address: Sorella, 148 Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4 6BX


    Telephone: +44 20 7720 4662


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    Vardo, Chelsea

    A concept of globe-spanning flavours from the team behind Caravan

    When Kiwi trio Laura Harper-Hinton, Chris Ammermann and Miles Kirby opened their Exmouth Market café, Caravan, back in 2010, it proved phenomenally successful – a revelatory London brunch destination. Since then they’ve expanded across the capital, and even run their own ‘croissanterie’. But, deciding against just continuing the winning formula they’ve given things a fresh spin with this project – described as no-boundary dining. Their sixth restaurant, and first West London outpost, Vardo is just off the King’s Road, set in a doughnut-shaped building smack in the middle of Duke of York Square. Retractable glass walls create an alfresco feel even in winter, and the structure is topped by a garden. The name is inspired by the travelling Romani wagons of the 19th century and expands the Caravan theme of collecting influences from all over the world, prepared with locally sourced produce. Inside, it’s cosy, the glass walls giving the impression of dining directly in the square, and tables and banquettes are spaced at exactly the right distance from each other – close enough to take a peek at other people’s order, far enough so you can hold your own conversation without being distracted by others.

    FOOD

    Vardo is the ideal destination for people who can’t make up their minds. We kicked things off with garam masala labneh with fenugreek-chilli butter and spiced chickpeas, and pork and Chinese chive potsticker dumplings with black vinegar and chilli oil. Other starters include jamón and San Simon croquettes or San Daniele prosciutto, but it’s best not to over-order and move on to the main-sized sharing plates. The Moroccan-inspired spiced pulled lamb shoulder with pine nuts is a pretty bowl dressed with mint pesto and pomegranate seeds and utterly delicious; there’s also whole crispy seabass, a lighter quinoa and buckwheat-grain bowl with daikon, or bone-marrow pizza for the more adventurous. Choose from veggies such as the (very filling) Jerusalem artichokes with tahini and pomegranate in a mint sauce, charred aubergine with saffron buttermilk dressing or sweetcorn in salted pandan coconut milk. For pudding there’s an incredible dark-chocolate and rye custard tart with blackberry cream, which has the perfect consistency but is – like most things on the menu – best shared unless you’re starving.

    DRINK

    The drinks menu is taken as seriously as the food here, with a concise aperitif list – the Alpine spritz with elderflower is subtle and beautifully presented, taking the edge off a long day – followed by a proper cocktail menu which takes inspiration from the geographical regions along the Silk Road, with extra nuggets of information included: apparently coffee, now appearing in a Bedouin espresso martini, was once banned in Mecca due to its stimulating effects. The Medina highball is made with za’atar and sharbat; the well-named Pursuit of Happiness includes miso-peanut butter bourbon and aromatic coffee bitters.

    VERDICT

    We can’t wait to go back on a Saturday, bypassing the farmers’ market stalls outside for once, and fuelling up on their cornbread French toast. By Katharina Hahn

    Address: Vardo, 9 Duke of York Square, London SW3 4LY


    Telephone: +44 207 101 1199


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    Casa Fofó, Hackney

    A laid-back neighbourhood spot with an Italian tilt from Pidgin’s former head chef.

    Having cut his teeth at Hackney restaurant Pidgin, Italian Adolfo De Cecco has recently struck out on his own with Casa Fofó. It’s a small but smart spot on an unassuming residential street a short stroll from colourful Ridley Road Market. Any new addition to East London’s thriving restaurant scene has an uphill climb ahead, but De Cecco has put the odds in his favour by taking the best parts of the Pidgin formula (the no-choice-but-great-value tasting menu, and the short-but-sweet wine list) and adding his own spin. The end result is something both comfortably familiar and unique. Everything about the experience here is welcoming. There’s an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work, and different members of the team take turns to bring dishes to the table, allowing you to meet them all. The interiors are dominated by clean white walls, but exposed-brick features and wooden tables add warmth.

    FOOD

    There’s one option if you want a full meal – the six-course set tasting menu. It changes regularly to suit what’s in season, but is grounded in De Cecco’s Italian heritage and modern, inventive cooking. Home-made sourdough bread, served happily as its own course and in the mould it was raised in, starts our meal off, along with a salty, spicy, freshly whipped jalapeno and cod’s roe butter on the side. Next up, a complicated pile of tagliatelle is dressed with beef fat, monk’s beard (a grassy Italian herb grown in the restaurant’s own garden) and butter-soft chunks of cuttlefish. Then there’s a duck-confit potato, smothered in a savoury cream sauce, and a fresh take on dukka that has all the usual crunch and spice plus a hit of finely chopped herbs. For the main course, retired dairy-cow beef is rich and far from chewy. And for pudding there’s a punchy chilli sorbet with pickled rhubarb and a black-bean paste – strange-tasting elements on their own, but combine them in one spoonful and they create flavour alchemy.

    DRINK

    There are precisely 10 options on the wine list, each one carefully selected, all natural and low intervention. It’s worth taking the team’s suggestions by the glass to match the food, but for those who prefer a bottle, the Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon is mellow and fruity (and great with beef), while the Ortega Classic Ferment from Kent is dry, light and perfect for a hot summer’s day.

    VERDICT

    Bound to become a Hackney classic. Worth travelling to if you don’t live nearby and visiting repeatedly if you do. By Oliva Holborrow

    Address: Casa Fofó, 158 Sandringham Road, London E8 2HS


    Telephone: +44 20 8062 2489


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    Brother Marcus, Spitalfields

    A big-gun restaurant opening from a neighbourhood brunch favourite

    Three years ago, three friends – Tasos Gaitanos, Alex Large and Arthur Campbell – licensed a restaurant in Balham (now Little Brother Marcus) on a bit of a whim. Just three days later, though, they were dishing up plates of courgette and feta fritters to a queue of hungry locals. Next came their second joint, a tiny restaurant in Islington across the road from Oldroyd. But now their biggest opening yet is under way in Spitalfields Market: more than twice the size of either of the other restaurants, this place is a jungle of hanging plants and rattan lampshades with a pink-tiled open-kitchen bar that’s about much more than brunch. There’s an indoor-outdoor pergola-covered terrace (all within the market itself), which is a nice spot to bag even in winter. If you’re lucky, Alex’s brother, Marcus, might greet you at the door and explain that he is the restaurant’s namesake. If not, a member of the extraordinarily charming staff will greet you just as cheerfully.

    FOOD

    Gaitanos grew up in Crete, and so a great deal of the inspiration for the modern Eastern Mediterranean menu comes from Greece. To start, don’t skip the whipped date butter with pita hot off the grill and the shaved fennel tzatziki. Their pide flatbreads have been an instant hit with local lunchers: topped with feta, leek and sun-blushed tomatoes or satsouki sausage, kasar cheese and red onion. (Save some of the date butter for dipping the crusts into.) The rest of the menu is split between earth, land and sea. From the earth: burnt aubergine is served with tahini, but also fermented mango and an egg yolk cooked at 62 degrees; the crispy fried cauliflower florets sit on a bed of zingy tomatoes. From the land, the fried buttermilk spiced chicken with grated graviera cheese and muhammara came highly recommended, as did the octopus with torched orange and chorizo mayo from the sea. The courgette fritters of Balham fame are still on the menu, and brunch is likely to be heaving.

    DRINK

    Alex Large has been in charge of all things bar. And there’s an interesting cocktail list with Greek inspiration too: the Balkan Whip is made with rye whisky, ouzo, red apple and egg white, and there’s a Rakomelo Spritz with verjuice and Prosecco. There are some interesting concoctions for non-drinkers too, with a bitter barberry tonic doused in sesame seeds and mint, and iced tea made with cardamom syrup.

    VERDICT

    More than just a refreshing brunch option – ingredient combinations that really work and a fun atmosphere to boot. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Brother Marcus, 2 Crispin Place, Spitalfields, E1 6DW


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    Bubala, Spitalfields

    Vegetarian Middle-Eastern small plates with some serious flavour

    The word bubala (also spelled bubeleh) is derived from a Yiddish term of endearment, meaning ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’. Trickled down from ‘friend’, it is often used between close friends, family and loved ones. And love is at the very heart of Commercial Street’s latest and seriously brilliant menu at this aptly named Middle Eastern restaurant. The pedigree here is impressive, with Helen Graham (of giants The Palomar, Barbary and The Good Egg) heading up the kitchen, while manning the front is Marc Summers, fresh from Berber & Q, and they’re putting their whole heart into it. The space itself is a nod to the modern cafés of Tel Aviv with distressed pink-and-blue walls, Thirties-style wall lighting, lush foliage and a green-tiled bar at the centre.

    FOOD

    As it was with previous supper clubs and pop-ups, vegetables are the star of the show here, with each dish showcasing a playful twist on a classic Middle Eastern favourite. Each is made for sharing, so be bold and pick a good few from each section for a real taste. Kick off with fluffy laffa flatbread from Dalston’s Ararat bakery, to douse in smooth, paste-like hummus drizzled with burnt butter. Order with the creamy labneh, which comes sprinkled with za’atar and drippy confit garlic. Next, the sharing-style mains – fried aubergine with zhoug (spicy coriander sauce) and date syrup, a slab of salty anglum (halloumi) with black seed honey and ful medames (stewed fava beans) with lovage pesto, a dollop of yoghurt and homemade malawach (a Yemeni flatbread). Opt for a side of fattoush that comes with sliced fennel and kadif (shredded filo pastry) and the confit potato latkes, toum (garlic sauce) and Aleppo chilli. If you have room for dessert, the thick tahini, date and tangerine ice cream is served with flaky sea salt on top for that umami salty-sweet kick.

    DRINK

    The drinks menu shows the same attention to detail as the food. There’s a small number of cocktails, including the fig-leaf Martini made with Beefeater Gin, Noilly Prat dry vermouth and salty lemon, or a spiked almond horchata mixed with spent coffee liqueur, almond and coffee oil. Red and white wines are available by the glass, but give the orange AA Denavolo a go, not just for the tangerine colour but for the tart, organic and crisp taste that helps contrast the powerful flavours of the meal.

    VERDICT

    On a street which already boasts strong dining destinations (Thai favourite Som Saa, Chinese hand-pulled noodles at Xi’an Biang Biang and pub-with-rooms The Culpeper), Bubala has gone and raised the bar even further. By Katharine Sohn

    Address: Bubala, 65 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6BD


    Telephone: +44 20 7392 2111

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Kerridge’s Bar & Grill

    The hotly anticipated first London opening from one of the UK’s favourite chefs

    For his first foray in the capital, trailblazing chef Tom Kerridge has gone from multiple-Michelin-starred pubs in river-side Marlow to a lofty, dome-ceilinged room with white columns in one of London’s best hotels. The just-opened restaurant feels like the perfectly turned-out hybrid of a gentleman’s-club-meets-glossy-New-York-steakhouse, with low lighting glowing at the honeyed level of a Forties Hollywood studio hit. There are sleek leather banquettes to slide into (shiny as liquorice in the bar, red as Twizzlers in the dining room), two huge bronze sculptures by Kerridge’s wife Beth as centrepieces (the suited one is called Steve), and an art wall where contemporary pieces cosy up with more classic canvases. If you are coming with a gang, request one of the two bespoke tables, which are inset with menus from all over the world, hand-cut into beautifully ornate petals by artist Robi Walters. (Kerridge put a call-out on social media for people to send in menus they had saved from memorable occasions, including one from a burger bar in Japan where someone proposed.)

    THE FOOD

    To get your mouth watering, ogle the brass-edged meat cabinet and rotisserie on the way to your table: pork pies the shape of piggy snouts and prime cuts from Kerridge’s butchery in the former; three tiers of roasting garlic and revolving roasties in the latter. The rotisserie angle features a number of times on a menu that bigs up British classics such as fish and chips and roast chicken – but given the stellar Kerridge treatment, of course. Among the starters, a standout is Claude (Bosi’s) mushroom risotto and Daniel (Clifford’s) crispy egg, which oozes out from its tempura-like batter. There’s also a crab vol-au-vent with bisque to pour over the fresh-apple top, and a lobster Thermidor omelette with huge chunks of meat, served in a little cast-iron frying pan. For mains, the rib of beef is big enough to make Desperate Dan wink and comes with the best chips you’ve ever crunched on, to be dipped in green gherkin ketchup – a genius vinegary hit. Another highlight is the loin of venison, pink and plump with a delicious black-pepper cottage pie on the side. To finish, order the blackcurrant soufflé and you’ll win the dessert sweepstakes hands-down. It arrives tall as a tower, topped with gingery parkin, alongside a herby pouring cream made from blackcurrant leaf and a zingy lemon sorbet.

    DRINK

    Start pre-dinner with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne, or an English sparkling number at the marble-topped, mosaic-tiled bar. Assyrtiko Thalassitis, a white wine from Santorini, is a crisp choice with a fishy starter, and the Zweigelt Steiermark from Austria gives a hit of cherries with any of the meat mains. With dessert, try the syrupy 2006 Sauternes, which tastes of honey and saffron.


    VERDICT

    Big and buzzy with brilliant staff, this is the smartest restaurant to make an evening – or afternoon – of it. By Grainne McBride


    Address: : Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, No.10 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AE


    Telephone: +44 207 321 3244


    Book online

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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Wild by Tart, Belgravia

    An all-day farm-to-table restaurant from London’s best-connected catering duo

    Friends Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones made a name for themselves feeding the fussy fashion world in the early days of their boutique catering company, Tart London. They cooked for Stella McCartney and Kate Moss, catered for shoots for British Vogue and Dior and served on-location lunches to Tim Walker. And from there, they’ve grown: launching a weekly recipe column in ES Magazine; publishing their very own cookbook; and, last year, opening Wild by Tart, a part-deli, part-photography studio, part-event space and part-homeware store in a former power station in Belgravia. It’s a place to pick up a fresh juice or a jar of homemade chutney, to pop in for a yoga session or floristry workshop or to buy the pretty crockery used in the deli – and it’s an all-day restaurant too. The latest string to the duo’s bow is housed in a vast high-ceilinged space with an industrial edge; there’s exposed metal pipes, dangling pendant lights, long communal tables with warm-wood rattan wicker chairs and a long open kitchen cooking up Lucy and Jemima’s brilliant no-fuss (but not wholly virtuous) food.

    FOOD

    The menu doesn’t bow down to gimmicks or trends; instead, it’s a showcase of seasonal, locally sourced high-quality ingredients. Kick off with a few small bites – squidgy sourdough with whipped Marmite butter or crispy vegetable tempura with a herby crème fraȋche to dunk into are good places to start. Small plates include stringy burrata with sweet pickled grapes to offset the cheesy richness, crab served in a pool of buttermilk and tarragon oil, and wafer-thin slices of beef carpaccio with pickled Asian mushrooms and a drizzle of citrussy ponzu sauce. There are a lot of different components to each dish – some of which would probably be too fiddly to recreate at home – but they’re all packed with bold flavour. If you like to be in on the action, book a seat at the counter where you can watch the chefs crisping up ’nduja and garlic mascarpone flatbread pizzas in the wood-fired oven or smoking and searing rib-eye steaks before they’re slathered in chimichurri. Octopus is served with a sticky lemon and saffron marinade, while there’s a daily market fish special based on what comes in fresh each morning. Don’t scrimp on the vegetables; a dish of charred hispi cabbage with spiced coconut chutney and a tart lime dressing was one of the stars of our supper. And save room for pudding – the chewy, gooey, salty-sweet miso caramel skillet cookie is cooked to order and served piping hot, and is easily the highlight of the menu.

    DRINK

    Arrive early for a drink at the bar and order a cocktail; each one blends quirky flavour and botanical combinations with spirits infused with the likes of lemongrass, ginger and coriander. Two house wines are available on tap, while bottles of well-chosen red, white and orange wines are split into categories: ‘mellow’, ‘wild’, ‘timeless’ and – for those feeling flush – ‘big guns’. And if you’re keen to settle in, move over to the sofas by the bar and order a coffee-infused Negroni – it’s a great post-supper palate cleanser.

    VERDICT

    A wonderfully laid-back spot to graze or splurge on brilliant farm-to-table cooking. By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: Wild by Tart, 3-4 Eccleston Yards, Belgravia, London SW1W 9AZ


    Telephone: +44 20 3848 6240


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    TRIVET, LONDON BRIDGE

    A new neighbourhood spot helmed by alumni from one of the UK’s best-known restaurants

    When head chef Jonny Lake and master sommelier Isa Bal announced they were leaving Britain’s most famous – and probably most expensive – restaurant, The Fat Duck, after a collective 24-year tenure, expectations for what was to come next were sky-high. Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred spot may trade on its circus-meets-science-experiment brilliance, but diners at Lake and Bal’s new project won’t find any liquid nitrogen or snail porridge on the menu. In fact Trivet, squirreled away down a quiet side street a stone’s throw from foodie hub Borough Market, opened three months ago to little fanfare. There’s no kitchen wizardry, no theatre, no gimmicks; just a reassuringly simple three-course menu. With its muted Scandi edge, even the styling is restrained – bar the flash of colour from the yellow banquette seating and the warm glow of the open kitchen. And rather than keeping table-bookers waiting for six months or more – something The Fat Duck is known to do – there’s a bar designed for walk-ins, where passers-by can drop in unannounced for small plates of fried chicken, wagyu tongue and even a full-blown steak and chips.

    FOOD

    It’s hard to give the food at Trivet a particular identity; instead, dishes take diners on a globetrotting journey inspired by the duo’s love of travel. There’s reference to Lake’s work in Italy with his hand-made pici pasta served with red mullet; nods to trips to Spain with smoky Iberico pluma; and memories from a tour of Japan with the use of shiitake mushrooms and sake. Plump scallops come with pomegranate, black sesame and bitter endive; artichoke is served in a pool of sourdough broth and topped with a fan of black truffle shavings; and delicate pastry puffs are sandwiched together with sour cream and caviar. The chicken glazed with a vinegar sauce and plated up with mashed potato may sound deceptively simple, but the result is an impressive display of Lake’s precision. However, it’s the puddings that really show off his talent, fusing flavours that many people won’t have tried before. Mille-feuille topped with wafer-thin slices of baked sweet potato and filled with buttery white chocolate and sake mousse isn’t just delicious, it’s a revelation.

    DRINK

    With Bal in charge, huge attention is paid to the wine list, a coffee-table-like book ordered chronologically from the historic beginnings of viniculture, rather than by region. Expect some more unusual appellations among the 350-strong selection: there are bottles from Georgia, Armenia and Turkey, as well as a sizeable sake offering and a particularly interesting vegan sparkling wine from Enfield’s Forty Hall Vineyard. Lake and Bal’s partnership means food-and-wine pairings are crucial; Bal roams the room quizzing guests on their menu choices before guiding them through the list, so it’s best to be left in his very safe hands.

    VERDICT

    With genuine passion like Lake and Bal’s, this spot is proof that culinary brilliance doesn’t have to be showy, too. By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: Trivet, 36 Snowsfields, London SE1 3SU


    Telephone: +44 20 3141 8670


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    The Drunken Butler, Clerkenwell

    French food with a Persian twist


    This light-filled, high-ceilinged restaurant blends very nicely into its design-hotspot surroundings in Clerkenwell. The room is cool, with brass pipes as shelving, light-wood Ercol chairs, a marble-topped chef’s table, yet cosy and homely; colourful jars of pickles and preserves and bunches of dried herbs line the huge window. The larder staples give a clue to the Iranian roots of chef-patron Yuma Hashemi, who grew up in Berlin learning the Persian cooking of his family. After stints in top kitchens around the world, he has now opened the Drunken Butler in London, serving his take on French fine dining – flecked with zeitgeisty ferments and peppered with Persian flavours.


    FOOD

    There is a choice of tasting menus, from five to nine courses, as well as à la carte. For a bargain £40 you get to try five dishes that remain somewhat of a mystery until the chefs emerge from the open kitchen to serve you at the table (the menu simply lists single ingredients such as salmon; oyster; egg; beef; chocolate). Before all this there are thick-cut slices of sourdough, nicely charred and chewy and topped with fresh herbs. That ‘oyster’ in fact turns out to be two: one with tangy cucumber and sorrel plucked from the terrarium in the middle of the chef’s table; the other with pistachio cream – the taste-sensation surprise of the evening. ‘Egg’ – presented onsen-style, a Japanese method of cooking slowly in warm water for a soft white and firm yolk – is oozy and rich, sitting neatly in a saffron velouté alongside smoky aubergine, the recipe for which Hashemi learned from this grandmother. Other highlights include scallop in its shell with a squid-ink crisp, chorizo and roasted-courgette sauce, and a deliciously slurpable little bowl of clam broth with crunchy baby turnip. Top prize for plate-licking, however, goes to pudding: chocolate, pistachio and fresh Spanish truffle (yes, the fungus, not the chocolate).


    DRINK

    The wines are mostly natural and organic, although the menu doesn’t shout about it. Hashemi likes to seek out lesser-known producers from his supplier (who also stocks East London neighbourhood hits Pidgin and Brawn). There’s a regular list – which includes standouts such as the smooth-as-butter Grüner Veltliner (paired with the smoky scallop) and an almost fizzy Riesling to temper the brininess of those incredible oysters – as well the Butler’s selection of particularly special bottles. Finish with a dessert-course glass of sunset-orange Loupiac, to savour until the last syrupy drop.


    VERDICT

    A very lovely place for fine-tuned cooking with a surprising spin.

    By Gráinne McBride

    Address: The Drunken Butler, 20 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4SX


    Telephone: +44 20 7101 4020


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    CARACTÈRE, NOTTING HILL

    Franco-Italian with personality from a third-generation member of the Roux family

    The streets around here already boast some serious restaurant pedigree; The Ledbury – often voted one of London’s best restaurants – is just a block away, while the debut restaurant from Clare Smyth – the first and only British female chef to win three Michelin stars – is just a few minutes’ walk around the corner. And there’s a formidable team at the helm of Caractère – hospitality runs in the blood of its owners, Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari. Born to one of Europe’s greatest chef dynasties, Roux met Ferrari while he was working as head chef at her father’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Gavroche. And while the couple designed the Franco-Italian menu (a nod to their roots) together, it’s Ferrari who leads in the kitchen, while Roux runs front of house. This is nothing like the hushed, white-tablecloth confines of her father’s restaurants; instead, the modish interiors are stripped back and cool, with exposed brick walls, marble tabletops and dusky-pink velvet chairs. Cooking this good warrants a special occasion, but it’s worth knowing about lunch too – the £39 three-course set menu is an absolute steal.

    FOOD

    The quirky menu layout divides dishes into six short sections: curious (meaty starters), subtle (vegetable-led small plates), delicate (fish), robust (meat), strong (cheese) and greedy (pudding). Either order three courses or go the whole hog and try the clever pick-and-mix style tasting menu – which lets you choose a dish from each section. This is adventurous fine dining without any fuss; the star starter, cacio e pepe (inspired by Ferrari’s mother’s own recipe) is deceptively simple but the skillful precision is tangible. Instead of pasta, silky al dente ribbons of celeriac are twirled through creamy Parmesan and topped with a drizzle of sticky-sweet aged balsamic – but it feels every bit as decadent as its carby cousin. There’s a blushing-pink saddle of lamb, flaky Cornish cod draped in crispy lardo and a dainty pastry tart layered with meaty porcini mushrooms. Sauces are theatrically added at the table; a thyme jus cuts through the almost sickly richness of a quail and sweetbread pithivier, while ravioli stuffed with pulled pork cheek and fresh peas is finished with a light lemony broth. For pudding, order the mille-feuille stack of wafer-thin pastry that collapses into a puddle of tart blackberry sorbet, before digging into the basket of warm madeleines that’s passed around each table.

    DRINK

    There’s no bar, so head elsewhere for a pre-dinner drink, but once you’re at your table the focus is on wine. Staying true to the owners’ heritage, the list is exclusively French and Italian. Ask smooth sommelier Romeo Bisacchi to pair wines with each course – he joined Caractère from Florence’s three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri, so he knows what he’s talking about.

    VERDICT

    Caractère is buzzy and friendly with top-notch, self-assured cooking – it’s obvious that hospitality runs in the DNA of its power-couple owners. By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: Caractère, 209 Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1EA


    Telephone: +44 20 8181 3850


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    HIDE, MAYFAIR

    The Ollie Dabbous follow-up everyone’s talking about – with the biggest wine list in London

    London foodies have been eager to hear what chef Ollie Dabbous’ next move would be ever since his booked-solid restaurant Dabbous closed in 2017 with the promise of bigger, better things. Now it has arrived in the form of HIDE, an all-day restaurant in Mayfair. Teaming hot-ticket Dabbous once again with bar manager Oskar Kinberg, as well as super-impressive wine shop Hedonism Wines, based just around the corner, this restaurant is a three-storey, industrial-chic space with tons of natural light pouring in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. On the ground floor is casual restaurant GROUND, serving seasonal, British-sourced dishes, as well as an in-house bakery that supplies the tasty goods for the Aussie-inspired breakfasts (it’s one of the best brunches in London). Downstairs, in BELOW, is a dark cocktail bar and hidden wine cellar. But if you’re a true Dabbous fan and can handle an nine-course tasting menu, then head up the sweeping staircase to ABOVE, a huge mezzanine level with views of Green Park.

    FOOD

    Dabbous trades in (relatively) simple food done really well – and that shines through here. In GROUND the charcuterie is made in-house and served on a feather, for a touch of drama, and there’s rich butter to slather on the homemade bread. Toasted asparagus, grilled langoustines and charred octopus all feature here too, as well as a dish of chestnut parcels in duck broth, which is full of big flavours and has a wonderfully silky-smooth texture. Upstairs, on the tasting menu, the steamed ikejime turbot (using a Japanese fish-butchery technique) is cooked to glistening perfection, served in a sauce made from the bones; tail-to-gill cooking at its best. Other highlights include the roasted king crab with camomile honey, slow-roasted goose with birch sap and barbecued Herdwick lamb. And if you’ve a sweet tooth, order the lavender and wild-pea-flower religieuse (two choux buns filled with crème pâtissière): it’s light, dainty and completely delicious.

    DRINK

    As HIDE shouts about having the largest wine list in London, you can expect to be well looked after by one of its 15 sommeliers. Thanks to the collaboration with nearby Hedonism Wines, there are more than 6,800 bottles on offer – they must be employing wine runners to whizz them around the corner to your table. In BELOW, cocktails are mixed up by Kinberg, Dabbous’ go-to mixologist. The drinks list includes the Green Park Cabaret, made with BarSol Pisco, rhubarb, pink peppercorn and soda, and the refreshing Summer Solstice with Ketel One vodka, melon, shiso and olive oil.

    VERDICT

    Unfussy food that focusses on big-hitting flavours whether you’re after an easy supper or something smarter.

    By Sarah James

    Address: Hide, 85 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NB


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Daffodil Mulligan, Old Street

    A clever destination from Irish super chef Richard Corrigan

    Richard Corrigan’s latest venture is far removed from his clubby, marble-edged restaurants in Piccadilly and Mayfair. At this hotspot a few paces from the digital-nomad heartland of Old Street, he has eschewed starched linen to create an unbuttoned, after-work buzz. The retro black-and-red Guinness tap on the bar is a nostalgic sight for expats, as are the soft strains of Christy Moore (Corrigan chose the eclectic playlist himself) and the soda bread (baked in Bentley’s every day) served with buttermilk-whipped butter. But this is no Gaelic gastropub. It’s more modern brasserie with an Irish heart, where brilliant cooking and that can’t-be-bottled hospitality has further boosted the foodie credentials of already sizzling Shoreditch. It’s also very much a family affair: Richard’s son Richie is the manager, while Cormac Gibney, son of co-owner and legendary Dublin landlord Tony, runs the bar.

    FOOD

    Curls of orange flames from the wood-fired oven are a backdrop to the chefs’ whites in the open kitchen, while huge scallop shells, gnarly oysters and chubby pink langoustines are lined up in the raw bar. The latter supplies the seafood-heavy starters: whipped brown crab with purple sprouting broccoli and soda-bread-seaweed crumb; West Mersea oysters (listen to the chef who delivers them to the table and advises you to eat them after the other dishes to savour the bursting briny flavour); vongole with Daffy’s dressing, a rich, broth-like blend of chicken stock and white-wine reduction. But there are also meaty options to savour, in particular the crubeens, a twist on traditional Irish pigs’ feet made into crunchy croquettes and presented with a pot of Coleman’s mustard. Mains are equally hearty: sirloin steak, slices of pink laid out in a cast-iron dish, with chimichurri béarnaise sauce and chunky chips; baked back of sole with shavings of chestnut, tart black grapes, cavolo nero and bright smiles of squash (many of the vegetables come from Corrigan’s farm in Ireland). Throw carb caution to the wind and add a side of creamy bone-marrow mash. Then have a little rest – because you really should try a pudding. As soon as the waiter puts the brown-sugar pavlova on the table, a puff of Christmas aromas hit your nose; this cracker of a dish has layers of quince, cranberry and mascarpone under a crispy yet chewy meringue shell with hints of saffron and star anise. A wink from Richie is enough to recommend the dark-chocolate mousse with banana and milk jam, essentially a deconstructed banoffee pie and utterly delicious.

    DRINK

    Daffodil Mulligan is on the site of Nuala, the modern-Irish restaurant that closed last year after just a year. And the new owners have kept the existing basement bar much as it was, with a stage for trad music on Friday nights and the addition of booths with TVs for sports fans to book for big matches. Back in the ground-floor restaurant diners pair pints and Black Velvet cocktails with Carlingford oysters, while the list of white, red and orange wines covers vineyards from the New Zealand to Slovenia. And to finish there’s a cockle-warming apple brandy from Co Cork.

    VERDICT

    This is a big-flavoured menu that deserves more than one hit (next time: whole baked lobster with kimchi). And the craic isn’t half bad either. By Grainne McBride

    Address: Daffodil Mulligan, 70-74 City Road, London EC1Y 2BJ


    Telephone: +44 20 7404 3000


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Kolamba, Soho

    A punchy Sri Lankan arrival stoking the fire on Carnaby Street

    The slick charcoal façade of Soho’s latest opening, Kolamba – the name Sinhalese for Colombo, the owners’ hometown – belies the open-arms atmosphere and vibrant food that waits inside. This spot is knocking up smart Sri Lankan plates with a modern edge on Carnaby’s buzzing Kingly Street – the same strip as cool kid Breddos Tacos and Indian stalwart Dishoom. Indulgent home cooking is done up and done right here – the concept a nostalgic creation by Sri Lankan husband-and-wife team Eroshan and Aushi Meewella, first-time restaurateurs. Inside is a rustic set-up of cement and exposed brick, smooth wooden fittings, patterned cushions and rattan lampshades in tan hues. You are hit with an intoxicating, layered scent upon entering that hints at the spicy, sweet and sour flavours to come.

    FOOD

    Kolamba’s menu is a love letter to a Colombo childhood. Dishes are family recipes, and the intention is that you order multiple and share gleefully. The result is a feast – a series of colourful earthenware plates squeezed onto the table. Among the ‘short eats’, are sweet pilchards rolled into perfect spheres with crunchy breadcrumbs and soft string-hopper noodles topped with silky roast beef that has an almighty kick. Heat is key, and the chefs use it wisely, playing skillfully with turmeric, cardamom and chillies. It’s subtle in the larger plates, such as the slow-cooked beef rib – still bubbling, falling off the bone – and builds in the creamy monkfish and chicken curries. Meanwhile, juicy king prawns pack a garlicky punch that dances on the tongue. Vegetable sides are a soothing foil to the bold mains: earthy beetroot; tangy pineapple and aubergine; mild green beans. There are also hoppers, the bowl-shaped pancakes made popular by the Soho restaurant of the same name, and sambol relishes, the standout being a fiery pot of caramelised onions. Puddings take a different turn: coconut and lime sorbet is wonderfully cooling, while grilled arrack-infused pineapple with vanilla ice cream is rich and aromatic. But the highlight is the traditional kiri pani, thick yogurt drizzled with sticky kithul treacle.

    DRINK

    A dynamic wine list includes a selection of international bottles, with a helpful team on hand to advise on the best one to suit each dish. Beer drinkers are also well accounted for with classic Lion Lager shipped straight from Sri Lanka. But the real power players are a crew of cool cocktails. Each one puts a Colombo spin on old favourites: the Kadju Sour mixes up Colombo No 7 gin, pineapple chutney and cashew orgeat, while the Kolamba-Colada adds jackfruit and cinnamon to the usual ingredients. But be sure to order the heady 1948 – vanilla arrack, curry leaves, jaggery and Himalayan salt – and imagine you are sitting into a bustling portside bar in the South Asian capital.

    VERDICT

    Authentic Sri Lankan home cooking with a surprisingly heavyweight attitude. By Leah Craig

    Address: Kolamba, 21 Kingly Street, London W1B 5QA


    Telephone: +44 20 3815 4201


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Nutshell, Charing Cross

    Refined Iranian cooking amid the buzz of Covent Garden

    Iranian food has been quietly bubbling up on the London restaurant scene in recent years: Tehran’s kebab shops reimagined for Soho at Berenjak; Persian-French tasting menus at The Drunken Butler in Clerkenwell. And now, with the box-fresh opening of Nutshell on St Martin’s Lane, it’s getting even hotter. The light and bright space has nods to its Middle Eastern heritage with pops of rose-petal pink and pistachio green in the velvet banquettes, bar stools and intricate floor tiles, making it one of the most beautiful restaurants in London. Even the name is a reference to the pistachio orchards the family of co-owner Mohammad Paknejad have farmed in the southern province of Kerman for more than a century. Home-cooking is at the root of what this place is all about, as his partner Marwa Alkhalaf (who worked at two-Michelin-star The Greenhouse) tells us on our visit – but given a stylish, modern twist. With former Palomar head chef Jeremy Borrow steering the ship from the buzzy open kitchen, this place certainly seems to be succeeding in its mission.

    FOOD

    Kick off with crispy, buttery bazaar bread, piping hot from the brick oven, and as many mezze as you can manage: prettily plated chard and wild spinach with dollops of yogurt and strands of saffron; samosa-like pockets filled with turmeric-flavoured potato and with a fresh tomato dip; deeply smoked aubergine with walnuts and blackcurrant. Dishes get even tastier as you move down the menu. Highlights include qalieh mahi, charred prawns, mussels and pan-fried bream served with a chilli-spiked sauce (which is unusual in Persian cooking and is based on an ancient recipe from the south of Iran) and lamb cutlets with sour cherries and potato tahdig – slather them in the rich sauce and nibble to the bone. For pudding there’s an off-the-charts delicious chocolate dish fragrant with cardamom, rose and pistachio and zulubia, crunchy deep-fried pastry to dunk in fig cream.

    DRINK

    Be sure the order one of the imaginative cocktails here – either to start while getting stuck into that bazaar bread (the Negroni Irani is made with saffron gin and spiced Campari) or to end (the blush-pink Nutshell, mixed with nut-washed rum and cherry sherbet, is sweet, salty and sour all at once). In between, the team can help pair wines from the extensive list with each dish. An unfiltered, biodynamic Austrian Gruner Veltliner is fresh and ‘slightly funky’ with the seafood; a smooth, Merlot-blend red to go with the lamb tastes as velvety as a Bordeaux but is actually from Bulgaria.

    VERDICT

    Flavour-packed, authentic Iranian cooking with a cleverly light and fresh touch. By Grainne McBride

    Address: Nutshell, 30 St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4ER


    Telephone: no telephone number


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    CAROUSEL, MARYLEBONE

    Scene-shifting creative hub with a permanent restaurant for lunch

    Imagine going to school at Carousel. It would be brilliant, a sort of Hogwarts meets MasterChef where you could learn new skills such as calligraphy, book-binding and food photography, try your hand at wildlife drawing, and pick up tips from Japanese vegetable whisperer Toshio Tanahashi and professional dumpling makers. There’s yoga, and lectures, and live music and spoon-carving, but no homework or spotted dick. The three-storey Carousel opened in 2014 in a quiet spot just off Baker Street, set up by four youthful Templeton cousins, with the kitchen steered by head chef Ollie, who spent two formative years at Moro. He invites a rotating cast of foodie talent from around the world to stop by for a few days and cook up a storm – relatively few household names, but all interesting, many of whom look as if they’ve just stepped off stage at the Wilderness Festival (in 2019 the timetable has included the Babette team from Stockholm, Chantelle Nicholson and the ridiculously young Flynn McGarry from NYC). But at the heart is Ollie’s regular open kitchen, which fires up for lunch on Friday and Saturday, sending out plates to the rustic pine tables and bar counter, as well as the lovely herbaceous courtyard garden when the weather’s fine.

    FOOD

    Well, where to start? The guest chefs bring everything from plantain and black lime achaar (chef Chetan Sharma) and bone-marrow esquites (Colonia Verde) to burnt corn tart (Yuji Tani) to the table, traversing the Middle East and the Deep South. But Ollie’s regular lunchtime menu is a delight: pretty, flavour-led sharing plates assembled with an awareness of food waste and foraging, with the occasional surprise combination. Jersey royals with asparagus and rhubarb, for example, crab meat with gooseberries, pine with strawberries. There may be poppadom-sized curls of pork crackling, soft scoops of burrata with grilled courgettes, a reassuring take on fish and chips (hake tempura with mushy peas), or a simple salad of heritage tomatoes with slices of Brie-like London cheese. It’s usually best to put your trust in the kitchen and ask them to send out their favourites.

    DRINK

    Lots to enjoy here. Cocktails stir up tequila and white port for a Frida’s Crown, and there’s a nice twist on the Negroni with Suze and bergamot. And the wine list has enough by the glass to dally with, including a biodynamic prosecco, and an Italian orange that works nicely with some of the sharper flavours on the food menu.

    VERDICT

    A likeable mix of informality and considered precision cooking, with a favourite summertime garden. The weekend starts here. By Rick Jordan

    Address: Carousel, 71 Blandford Street, London W1U 8AB


    Telephone: +44 20 7487 5564


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Kitty Fisher’s, Mayfair

    The romantic Shepherd Market stalwart still has it

    When Kitty Fisher’s opened in 2014, originally with Tomos Parry in the kitchen (he has since launched the fantastic Brat in Shoreditch), it was a sure-fire hit, and one of the hardest tables in the city to book. So we snuck back in to see how they were getting on with chef George Barson (previously of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Nuno Mendes’s Viajante). The restaurant’s namesake is an 18th-century courtesan known for her self-indulgence, once rumoured to have eaten a 1,000-guinea banknote on a slice of bread and butter. But the extravagance at Kitty Fisher’s isn’t immediate – enter the cosy, dim-lit space on a damp corner of the Mayfair market behind Green Park to find cute wooden tables for two with simple posies of wild flowers in glass jars and a couple of bar stalls in the window. It’s lovely, but not overtly fancy.

    FOOD

    The real extravagance arrives (by the bucketload) on the plate. Barson is all about the wood grill, and the restaurant’s famous beef remains on the menu (now from Barson’s hometown, Devon) – but it’s the chef’s crispy potatoes that are creating the hype these days (sliced and cooked in butter and herbs, pressed overnight, cut and then fried). It turns out that the other dishes are pretty wonderful, too – starting with the sharing bites: a mouthful of oozing Welsh rarebit is topped with pickled onions (take our advice: if there are two of you, double up); ham and pig-jowl croquettes are packed with flavour and complemented by piccalilli; and the bread with soft-whipped whey butter is a simple crowd-pleaser.

    Thankfully, starters and mains aren’t made to share: the multicoloured dish of beetroot and goat’s cheese is elevated with a walnut ketchup; zingy smoked eel is served with celeriac apple and pine; and quail is paired with cauliflower in a veggie risotto. It would be remiss for you not to order the beef for main, but other highlights include cod with fennel and artichoke and Iberico presa pork with leek and apple. Along with the potatoes, a side dish of broccoli and smoked yogurt is a real winner. Let’s be honest, you’ll probably want to pilfer from your companion’s plate, too. Even if you’re too full for the brown-butter ice cream with chocolate and hazelnuts, you’ll likely have room for one of Barson’s chocolate truffles to finish.

    DRINK

    Kick things off with a Bad Kitty – gin with sloe, elderflower, lemon and cava – or a Smoke & Mirrors, made with Ilegal mezcal, grapefruit, Cherry Heering and Antica Formula. And then move on to the carefully selected wine list which has some entirely affordable options, including a house Bergerie de La Bastide for just £4.50, and a short, far less affordable reserve list that showcases unusual wines with limited supply.

    VERDICT

    This mini Mayfair restaurant is still top dollar, and these days you might even be able to snap up a table. Plus, it has some of the most genuinely friendly service in the business. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Kitty Fisher’s, 10 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London W1J 7QF


    Telephone: +44 20 3302 1661


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    JOLENE, STOKE NEWINGTON

    A North London baking star from the Primeur crew

    First came Primeur, which set up shop in a former motor garage in Canonbury and served up impeccably sourced, Italian-inspired small plates and natural wines with such infectious enthusiasm that people have been known to trek here from south of the river. Then came Westerns Laundry, in an obscure corner of Highbury, which did the same thing, albeit in a former launderette and with more fish, and was one of our restaurant highlights of 2017. Now co-founders Jeremie Comotto-Lingenheim and chef David Gingell have opened an all-day bakery-restaurant on Newington Green – which means it’s theoretically possible to have breakfast here, lunch at Westerns and dinner in Primeur in the same day. Imagine! Despite the name there’s no rhinestone here but bare walls etched with tiny bits of graffiti, more pencil-case than Banksy, and a raw-plastered, scented bathroom that wouldn’t look out of place at Amangiri. All three restaurants share a similar open-plan look, with long tables, blackboard menu and doors to be rolled open for a glorious blast of North London air – together, they form a brilliant example of just how assured the city’s food is right now, which would hold their own in LA, Paris or Rome.

    FOOD

    The idea behind the bakery was to encourage the use of chemical-free grains – working with an ethically minded farmer in France – which are milled daily to make a beautifully rounded harvest line-up of raisin bread, sausage rolls, financiers and cinnamon buns. The team care deeply about where every element comes from, with ceramics at Westerns commissioned from small-scale Cornish potters and meat from a farming collective in Yorkshire. If you were told the loo roll came from a panda cooperative working a sustainable bamboo plantation in the Forest of Dean, you’d just nod and ask how they find the climate. But the philosophy isn’t rammed down your throat – well, it is, but in the best possible way, via the food, which ranges from simple bread and butter, and fried eggs, jamon and potatoes in the morning, to pickled anchovies and grilled mackerel with fennel at night. Two early highlights: the gnudi with pumpkin and sage – gnocchi-like balls so good they’ll have you talking about them in your sleep; and the lamb shoulder with tomatoes and olives, wallowingly rich with perfectly crunchy-soft roast potatoes for dipping. The only grumble is the smaller tables can barely cope with the size of the plates.


    DRINK

    The team’s devotion to low-intervention natural wines has put some reviewers in a tizz, but they are wholeheartedly accepted by the regulars who dine here – thirtysomethings who wouldn’t be the types to insist on their favourite vintage of Puligny-Montrachet.

    VERDICT

    A place that takes its food seriously but has fun with it – and with its twinkly candle lights at night this is a lovely place to graze on autumnal flavours. By Rick Jordan

    Address: Jolene, 21 Newington Green, London N16 9PU


    Telephone: +44 20 3887 2309


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Bibendum, South Kensington

    Conran’s 80s power-lunch legend teams up with a French star chef

    Chef Claude Bosi came to London from his home town of Lyon via Ludlow in Shropshire where he won his first Michelin star at Overton Grange and two more at his own restaurant Hibiscus thereafter. Having been plucked and brought to London’s Mayfair nine years ago — pouf — Hibiscus is no more. Instead, we have Claude Bosi at Bibendum which occupies the landmark Michelin tyre headquarters, and has just been awarded its first two stars to boot. Sir Terence Conran says it’s his favourite restaurant in London, but as the owner he may be a little biased. The chef has transplanted most of his Hibiscus crew, who all wear toques, which bob like meringues behind the glass panels of the kitchen.

    FOOD

    The menu is unashamedly French in spirit and some plates are as pretty as a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. An olive pissaladière amuse-bouche pops in the mouth, salty green. Foie gras is handed round in mini waffle cones, sweetened with mango sauce, crisps of chicken skin disappear fast. Want to go really French? Order the tripe and cuttlefish gratin, made to Claude’s mum’s recipe and paired with a cake of pig’s ear and ham (he says he’s served more of these here in two weeks than in a year at Hibiscus). Or the veal brain, a scotch egg of texture, or the frog’s legs. Elsewhere there’s mousse-like Cornish crab and elderflower jelly, strewn with sea herbs; a perfectly cooked sweetbread dotted with black garlic and gremolata sauce; a well-tanned roast chicken for two. For pudding, the wild strawberry vacherin is already a favourite, anemone-like on the plate, the jus muddled with century-old balsamic.

    DRINK

    Bosi has brought back the original and very charming maître d’ John Davey, who opened Bibendum three decades ago when Simon Hopkinson was chef, and natural-wine champion Isabelle Legeron, who is in charge of the cellar. Classic cocktails can be made on request but really it’s all about the wine. On the list is plenty from France and the occasional South African bottle. Start with a glass of Champagne and then try the Johan Reyneke, an organic white from Stellenbosch; and, all the rage, there’s two orange wines on there too. Legeron’s recommended red is the Pierre Gonon San-Joseph from the Rhône. By Rick Jordan

    Address: Bibendum, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, South Kensington, London SW3 6RD


    Telephone: +44 20 7581 5817


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Westerns Laundry, Highbury

    Homespun seafood champ in Highbury

    Until now, Drayton Park has been blissfully untouched by the spiralised twists and turnips of foodie fads, but contented itself with something sliced off a rotating skewer from the sort of outfit even Chicken Connoisseur would pass by without a glance. It’s an unreconstructed spot in Highbury, and the area’s most famous address is a little place called the Emirates Stadium; but North London flavour-snufflers and fellow chefs have been getting excited about Westerns Laundry, the second fixture for the team behind Primeur. Primeur opened in 2015 on a tree-lined boulevard in Newington Green, and quickly became a local hero for its French-peasant small plates and low-intervention wines, all sourced and presented with a Kinfolk-style attention to detail. Co-founders Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and chef David Gingell have a bundle of experience (Galvin, Hix, Wright Brothers), basically, and Westerns Laundry has hit the ground running. The restaurant is a gallery-like space in a Fifties industrial block, opened up with steel-framed windows, cobbles and Jeremie-crafted benches outside; the long and vociferous communal tables inside illuminated by Dan Flavin-style neon dashes.

    FOOD

    Unlike Primeur, the inspiration at Westerns Laundry are the day boats that heave to around the Cornish coast, with occasional forays to Catalunya and Asia for spicing. Plates arrive in an irregular succession: a half-dozen Morecambe Bay oysters; panko-crusted fingers of cuttlefish and ham on a cushion of deeply dippy aioli; nicely flaky salt cod with peppers; chargrilled flat beans topped with creamy curd; a Japanese-style turbot fortified with miso and ginger. But the plate you need to order above anything else is the baked lobster pasta — vermicelli noodles in a rich stock with chunks of crustacean that’s quite as good as the lobster mac’n’cheese at Hawksmoor. Dishes aren’t enormous, so there’s doubtless room for the rum baba to share, an ample, sultana-pocked wodge of deliciousness. A special mention, too, for the funky Seventies-style earthenware, wood-fired in Ohio and Bristol (Jeremie’s an amateur potter and was keen to source something that reflected Primeur’s hand-hewn spirit. If there was a log fire, he’d be swinging an axe).

    DRINK

    The chalkboard has a dynamic roll call of biodynamic wines by the glass, from pockets of Italy, France, Austria and Greece, ripe with Carignan, Zweigelt and Cinsault grapes — but nothing too weird and all scout-mastered by Francis Roberts, who can also bring over the leather-bound spell book of serious bottles. By the glass, start with a rich, yeasty Alsace crémant, then maybe a flinty Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, and an intense Grenache blend from Roussillon. There’s also Belgian beer and a short list of vermouths and digestifs.

    VERDICT

    A convivial neighbourhood restaurant that’s opening up a neglected part of London. By Rick Jordan

    Address: Westerns Laundry, 34 Drayton Park, Highbury, London N5 1PB


    Telephone: +44 20 7700 3700


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    ROVI, FITZROVIA

    Ottolenghi’s first new restaurant since Nopi

    In those ever-increasing foodie circles, a new restaurant from Yotam Ottolenghi is greeted with the sort of squeal of excitement usually reserved for an Abba-inspired film sequel or a cockerpoo puppy. After all, the Jerusalem-born chef has become a patron saint of cookery books and broadsheet recipe pages over the past decade, his cafés are popular weekend hangouts, and his first restaurant Nopi, which opened in 2011 in Soho, is a poster boy for his clever-but-so-simple layering of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours. Rovi – the name is taken from its Fitzrovia location – is a big, bright space that eludes any over-riding influence, and therefore will look just as fresh in five years. It’s been carved out of travertine marble and pale unfinished oak, with lipstick-red seating arranged symmetrically, and strappy black Risom Knoll chairs. It’s a little bit industrial, a little West Coast (perhaps that was just the Fifties cool jazz on the speakers), with walls that resemble Japanese shoji screens. The first thing you see as you walk in is the horseshoe bar, where you can also order from the full menu from atop a mosaic-patterned stool. So, now we’re on nodding terms with sumac and z’atar and labneh and barberries, though, are there any more surprises to be had from Ottolenghi’s latest? Well, to borrow a title from his back catalogue, plenty more.

    FOOD

    There’s always been more to the story than Ottolenghi – at Nopi it was Ramael Scully, who’s since opened his own eponymous joint, and here the head chef is Neil Campbell, who worked with Bruno Loubet at the sadly departed Grain Store to develop a new vegetable vernacular. Vegetables, fermentation, fire: that’s the mantra here, though committed carnivores won’t get hangry. Start with crumpet lobster toast, set to rival the crab donuts at Chiltern Firehouse, served Asian-style with a dipping sauce of kumquat and chilli. If you see plates bearing curious melon-like curves of yellow, these are the corn ribs, and you should order them. Blackened over the BBQ, they’re paired with apricot sauce – corn and apricot, who’d have thought it? – and tingled with chipotle salt. The hot tomatoes are slathered in yoghurt and warmed with chilli, to be scooped up on hunks of sourdough. The squid and lardo skewers are as soft as fresh pasta; the Jerusalem mixed grill sounds like an Israeli fry-up but instead is a plate of bite-sized, flame-tanned chicken thighs and offal, mixed with onions and given Pop Art colour with pickles and relishes. The intriguing celeriac shawarma will just have to wait for a return visit.

    DRINK

    The cocktail list here is as creative as the food menu, drawing in spices, floral ingredients, vermouths and house shrubs (of the vinegar variety rather than the garden, made from leftover wine). The Violet Nebula is a nice spin on the Aviator, with lavender flower and fava water making a vegan sour foam, while El Chapo is a smoky but light mix of mescal, fernet branca, maraschino and honey, the tumbler seasoned with chilli that will make you want to lick the glass. Non-alcoholic mixes draw in spirulina, ginger and citrus for an All Is Wells, and the wine list is strong on natural, low-intervention wines that range from an easy-drinking orange Lovamor from Castile and more funky amphora Pheasant’s Tears from Georgia (great for chilli dishes) to a spicy red El Gat Ros from Treviso.

    VERDICT

    Ottolenghi’s second restaurant is a triumph of the senses – make sure you come back for brunch.


    By Rick Jordan


    Address: Rovi, 59 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London W1A 3AE


    Telephone: +44 20 3963 8270


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Petersham Nurseries

    London’s chicest garden café spawns a sibling in central London

    Petersham Nurseries Café – not really a café, but one of London’s most beloved restaurants – famously won a Michelin star under chef Skye Gyngell in 2011. Owned by Gael and Francesco Boglione, Richmond’s enchanting glass-house holds prime spot as one of London’s most romantic restaurants: one that’s as well-known for its rickety garden tables and mismatched crockery (for sale in the shop along with door handles and terracotta pots), as its seasonal ingredients and flowers (edible and otherwise). This, their second opening under the same name, is spearheaded by their daughter Lara (whose taste is as spot on as that of her parents) and was originally intended for summer 2017. While a wine cellar, florist and deli did make it to Covent Garden at the end of last year, the bar and restaurant have finally landed. Along with flower installations and festoon bulbs, there are wrought-iron tables and chairs (both inside and out), huge vintage chandeliers, Murano glassware and simple posies of freshly cut flowers. But it’s a brave move to make. Because, while this pretty courtyard is set to be the most sought-after outdoor spot of the summer, will a second Petersham steal some of the magic from the original? This is a tourist neighbourhood after all.

    FOOD

    Chef Director Damian Clisby (formerly of HIX and J Sheekey) has spent the last four years at the Richmond Petersham and works closely with Lara’s brother Harry, using ingredients from his farm on the Devon/Dorset border. Start with technicolour heritage radishes dipped in spicy crab, or buffalo mozzarella with shelled broad beans, mint and chilli. Next up: perfect green pasta parcels of ricotta and nettle and marjoram – all in a sauce so deliciously creamy you could eat it by the spoonful; or saffron gnocci with Cornish mussels and a sprinkle of spring flowers. Hake is served with fresh peas and al dente asparagus. And a Haye Farm chicken breast is seriously succulent, accompanied by Mayan Gold potatoes and mousseron mushrooms. This is simple food beautifully served and doesn’t end with the mains. For pudding a smooth slice of just-wobbly custard tart is delicately flavoured with spiced honey and the famous chocolate mousse with Zisola olive oil ice cream and honeycomb has survived the journey from Richmond.

    DRINK

    Head to the bar next door, La Goccia, for its Garden gin and tonic, zingy with fresh pea flavour and a basil tonic (and served with a small plate of skinny salty zucchini fritti). The wine cellar supplies a short, frequently changing list of wines from Italy to La Goccia, while The Petersham offers a more extensive list of around 300 bottles which is slightly harder to handle, so check in with a sommelier for advice on some of the country’s lesser-known vineyards.


    VERDICT

    Many have heard about Petersham Nurseries’ phenomenal food, but much fewer have made the trip – this Covent Garden location is set to change that. If you can get a table outside this summer, go.

    By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Petersham Nurseries, Floral Court, London, WC2E 9FB.


    Telephone: +44 20 7305 7676


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Salon, Brixton

    South London local hero

    To paraphrase Michael Bolton, love is all very well, but a decent neighbourhood restaurant is a wonderful thing. A place to pop by when you can’t face buying 25 ingredients for that Ottolenghi recipe, or for a quick bite before a film, or a lazy weekend brunch. Salon, which enjoys a prime people-watching position upstairs in Brixton Market, has gone from strength to strength since chef Nicholas Balfe (formerly head chef at Brunswick House, who ran with the Young Turks crew at The Ten Bells) opened here in 2013. Brixton has evolved over those five years, of course, and in many ways, Salon provides a snapshot of everything that’s brilliant about the current London food scene — its inventive, plant-based menu uses local suppliers and foraged ingredients, and the team (now joined by Oklava’s former GM Matt Bushnell) are dedicated to minimising waste by reusing leftovers and trimmings. They’re having fun with it, too, taking a clubland approach to dining with guest chef mash-ups (Joey O’Hare, who set up the Hare on the Hill supperclub, on August 8/9; Matt Osborne, one-time head chef at East Dulwich’s Toasted, on September 19/20) and running the backstage Beat Hotel kitchen at this year’s Glastonbury, stirring it up for Norman Jay and Seth Troxler. And this September, Salon unveiled a lovely, redesigned dining room (marine-blue with reclaimed timber and grey fabric) with a snacky menu for the groundfloor bar, which also sells syrups and preserves to take home.

    FOOD

    A recent move to make vegetables the main stars and meat an incidental player has sprouted two tasting menus of many textures, from lightly crisped kale tempura to pumpkin-seed pesto, saffron aioli to wood-smoked almond sauce, cow’s curd agnolotti and plump breads made in house. Signature snacks include fiery ‘nduja croquettes, which will disappear in a flash; for mains there may be courgettes three ways, or lamb lavished with sweet-and-sour aubergine, yogurt and nasturtiums. Rhubarb could appear with mackerel as a starter, with white chocolate and sumac as a pudding, or stirred into granola for brunch (alongside a dollopy homemade Nutella on banana bread, and three-cheese cornbread with ham hock and poached duck egg). The bar menu includes nduja croquettes and rabbit ragu.

    DRINK

    Front of house is marshalled by the erudite Mark Gurney, who you may recognise from his Café Murano days and who runs a dance-music label in his spare time (so blame him for the Salon soundtrack). He’s also a bit of a whizz behind the bar — ask him to make you one of his special pineapple-weed G&Ts. If that’s out of season, a lavender pisco sour will do nicely instead. The wine list has several interesting picks from Mount Etna, Hungary, Oregon, Lebanon and Swartland, with loads by the glass and a bottle of house wine coming in at just over £20. The team have just opened the Salon Wine Store next door, meaning you can buy a bottle here and drink it at the restaurant.

    VERDICT

    Salon is a role model for neighbourhood restaurants everywhere, and fizzes with community spirit. By Rick Jordan

    Address: Salon, 18 Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LD


    Telephone: +44 20 7501 9152


    Book online

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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    DA TERRA, BETHNAL GREEN

    Playful fine dining in East London

    Bringing some glamour to rough-around-the-edges Bethnal Green, the restaurant inside Town Hall Hotel earned itself a Michelin star just eight months after opening in 2019. Da Terra is Portuguese for ‘from the ground’, and the idea behind it is simple – bringing natural ingredients together to create innovative and unexpected dishes. The aim is to remove the seriousness often associated with fine dining, so playful, nostalgic touches are dotted around the venue and even throughout the dishes. Keep an eye out for a ninja turtle on the mantelpiece, or a lego scuba diver hidden among your scallops, while a playlist of Eighties and Nineties pop adds to the laid-back ambience.

    FOOD

    Aesthetics aside, Da Terra isn’t all about fun and games. Devoid of clanging pots and hollering chefs, an unusually quiet open kitchen exposes the focused dedication of the chefs as they glide around in an evidently well-rehearsed routine. Harnessing their South American roots and intercontinental experience, chefs Paulo Airaudo and Rafael Cagali add flair to European dishes with clever additions such as Argentinian chillies or 40-year-old Italian balsamic vinegar. Choose between the eight- or 11-course blind tasting menus (you won’t be given any kind of menu on arrival), and sit back to experience traditional recipes inverted and elevated – a sense of familiarity is retained as new flavours and techniques are introduced. The shorter tasting menu, for example, might include an Italian panzanella – a Tuscan dish, traditionally made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions and basil, instead involves a wafer-thin crispbread on top of creamy stracciatella cheese with a sprinkling of bright edible flowers. A punch-packing, crystal-clear tomato consommé is then poured around the centrepiece, followed by a vibrant green basil oil. Similarly, the Portuguese dish farofa, a toasted cassava or cornflour mix usually served with meat, is topped with sweet chillies and served with barbecued Hampshire pork and black-bean purée, and a herb bouquet wrapped in a sliver of melt-in-your-mouth pork fat.

    DRINK

    Begin the feast with a glass of sparkling wine. Our waiter recommended Rathfinny, from Sussex: the Blanc de Noirs 2015 with notes of peonies, wild strawberries and raspberries, for a sharp-sweet start. The drinks menu lists wine from all over the world – if you’re not opting for the pairing, ask for a glass of Italian orange wine (made with white-wine grapes but with the grape skins left in during fermentation), and follow with a Spanish bottle of Tempranillo from Navarra.

    VERDICT

    A Michelin-starred restaurant with a distinct lack of pomp, and lots of playful touches. By Olivia Morelli

    Now read: Town Hall Hotel, London: Muted glamour in Bethnal Green

    Town Hall Hotel, London: Muted glamour in Bethnal Green

    Address: Da Terra, 8 Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, London E2 9NF


    Telephone: +44 20 7062 2052


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Seabird, Southwark

    South London’s rooftop to know about

    The fact that Seabird is part of the Hoxton Southwark is only part of the picture. Because the quickly expanding design hotel group joined forces with buzzy Brooklyn joint Maison Premiere to create its fish-focused rooftop restaurant. And it shows. While the Hoxtons aren’t known first for their food, the New York bar is famous for its award-winning cocktails, seafood platters and party atmosphere. And this flashy spot comes with a palm-fringed terrace and views that stretch from The Shard across the river to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. But it’s also a much larger restaurant project than its Brooklyn brother. Inside there’s a huge marble-topped raw bar stacked with crab and lobster (the bamboo stools here are the ones to try and book). And an in-house oyster expert is on hand to guide you through a wide selection of bivalves – the perfect way to kick things off before diving into the Basque-inspired menu. This is an impressive date spot if you want to bring out the big guns.

    FOOD

    It would be rude not to start with a selection of oysters – the longest list in the UK, which is only set to grow. Some have been sourced locally (Jersey, Dorset, Ireland), others, more unusually, from Holland and Portugal. Opting for just one? It’s hard to beat the creamy Gillardeau from western France. There’s a charcuterie expert too, and the just-sliced Iberico ham is next level. Devonshire crab brunellos, or croquettes, are served with saffron aioli and while you could call the octopus roll a little gimmicky (one tentacle in a brioche hotdog bun topped with squiggles of sobrasada sauce), it’s part of the decadent scene on the 14th floor of this Blackfriars Road hotel. Mains are made for sharing – we loved the John Dory, which falls off the bone, with salt-baked new potatoes, and to finish the biscuit-less Basque-style cheesecake topped with a savoury hit of manchego, which is grated on in a theatrical flourish at the table.

    DRINK

    The wine is mostly biodynamic, made by some of Portugal and France’s best small-scale producers. But you’re probably here for the cocktails – all created by Maison Premiere’s bar director William Elliott with a focus on draught, bottled or frozen concoctions. The Ibis is a twist on the Spritz, made with bitter citrus, thyme and sparkling wine, and The Trembler resembles a Pisco Sour, but with pomegranate and walnut.

    VERDICT

    A splashy seafood scene that’s about more than the hotel it’s a part of. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Seabird, The Hoxton, Southwark, 40 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8PB


    Telephone: +44 20 7903 3050


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Smoking Goat, Shoreditch

    Authentic South-East Asian flavours in Shoreditch

    This is chef Ben Chapman’s third Thai-spiced hotspot. His first restaurant — which will close its doors in January 2018 — arrived on Soho’s Denmark Street in 2014 and marked the arrival of contemporary Thai food in London. Next, just down the road on Brewer Street, was Kiln — influenced by Yunnan, Burma and Bangkok — which opened in 2016 to critical acclaim. And while the location of his latest venture may be in a different part of town (a prime place on the corner of Redchurch Street), his methods are the same, bringing authentic flavours from northern Thailand to well-sourced ingredients. This restaurant is his biggest yet: a candle-lit joint that could pass for a pub if it wasn’t for the charcoal-smoke-filled open kitchen, and is already packed with a cool, young crowd.

    FOOD

    Chapman isn’t afraid of spice. A delicious duck laab has a searing heat that might make your cheeks sweat (a side order of the rich, lardo-fried rice helps cool things a little). The fish-sauce wings are a milder must-order (even if you don’t normally like getting your fingers sticky), while wild mussels are steamed and accompanied by naam jim, a sweet chilli dipping sauce. The mains are pretty super-sized. An enormous goat shoulder spiced with massaman paste could easily keep a table of four busy, as would the plate of drunken noodles with charred beef brisket. The Cornish mackerel with turmeric sells out every night, and the tom yam soup with crab and mussels is an unusual take on the Thai classic. The moral of the story is to go with a big group so you can try the lot. And order lots of water.

    DRINK

    The nice thing about Smoking Goat is you can just stop by for a drink. Plus, if you’re waiting for a table, there are dedicated counters to perch at and peruse the menu over a pint of One Mile End Brewery’s Juicy 4pm ale, served in a frosted glass. The simple list of Thai-inspired cocktails includes tequila mandarin and lime, bourbon and lemongrass, and rye and green chilli. For something more out there order a yuzu sake or Thailand’s favourite spirit, Mekhong, from the Odd Liquors section of the menu).

    VERDICT

    A fun, tasty and nicely priced Shoreditch joint. Order a magnum or two of craft beer and a couple of the large sharing plates, and settle in.

    By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Smoking Goat, 64 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Decimo, King’s Cross

    A trippy Hispanic-inspired retro rooftop grill

    Chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias has two restaurants in Bristol, both with Michelin stars. So when it was announced that he was opening his first restaurant in London – and at the top of much-lauded The Standard hotel in Kings Cross, no less – expectations were as high as the setting. From the immersive Seventies decor and the confident menu, to the lofty views and loftier prices, everything about Decimo is big, brazen and bold. Although it’s only 10 floors up in the red spaceship-style lift from the wheelie suitcase carnage of Euston Road, it feels a bit like a time warp: the opulent red and brown interior is intensely retro, with wicker ceiling tiles, mirrored columns and psychedelic carpets. The floor-to-ceiling windows are covered in crafty macramé curtains, which creates a cosy inward-looking focus – surprising, considering the impressive view (take a trip to the loo to enjoy it in all its glory). There are succulents and cacti everywhere, Mexican wall-hangings, open fires, wooden womb-like sculptures and a Seventies experimental rock, jazz and Afrobeat soundtrack conjuring up a hip pad in Laurel Canyon. Some staff glide round in long white, almost cult-like robes, while waiters wear futuristic yellow space suits – it’s surreal, silly and rather special.

    FOOD

    The menu is an experimental take on Spanish and Mexican classics, some sublime, others ridiculous. To start, dive into the para picar: elevated small bites including rich traditional jamon croquettes and a light crunchy manchego quesadilla canapé. Then there’s the Mexican-inspired aguachile – spicy marinated top-notch seafood. The crab was as unusual as it was delicious – a shallow bowl of sweet meat, sharp citrus, seaweed jelly and crunchy fresh jalapeño. Tacos were more like taquitos, small and blini-esqe, loaded with crunchy deep-fried cauliflower and smoky soft pork. Splashing out? There’s an exceptionally decadent ‘Decimo tortilla’ – a mini Spanish omelette stacked high with caviar. The kitchen is open, so you can see mains and vegetables being whisked off the open-fire grill: blackened soft leeks are the perfect pairing for the rich turbot, which comes slathered in pork fat (pescatarians beware!) and the Mangalitza pork chop was golden on the outside, entirely tender within. Your waiter might pressure you to up your order – resist unless ravenous, as we could easily have shared a main with a few side vegetables. Puddings are served in pairs at the very least (you can choose two for £11, three for £16 or all four for £20), but luckily are more tiny mouthfuls than actual dishes. The spicy set panna cotta with chunks of sea salt and a juicy warm spiced fig is worth saving space for.

    DRINK

    The Hispanic theme continues onto the drinks menus. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on agave-based spirits; mezcal and tequila feature heavily in the cocktails and there are three pages dedicated to them in the wine list, with 75ml sipping measures ranging from £10 to £25. Similarly, there’s an extensive Spanish and Latin American wine selection with h a number of low-intervention wines ranging from £39 to £990. Sommeliers are on hand to help guide and educate.

    VERDICT

    A memorable destination restaurant that will take you on a culinary and cultural journey, man. By Sonya Barber

    Address: Decimo, The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, London WC1H 8EG


    Telephone:+44 20 3981 8888


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    PARADISE, SOHO

    This contemporary Sri Lankan joint hasn’t had enough hype

    It’s been five years since Hoppers first got London’s restaurant scene excited about Sri Lankan flavours – largely with its namesake rice pancake bowls used to dip and dunk in curries. But with the JKS group opening its third Hoppers (in King’s Cross) at the start of 2020, it’s two new Soho spots that have really got the rest of us talking. First, there was Kolamba, and now, taking over Russell Norman’s Spuntino spot on Rupert Street, is Paradise. The moody monochrome bar-like space has polished concrete walls and a stainless steel counter lined with stools. But the table to book is the four-man booth through an archway at the back of the restaurant – settle in and take your time over the spice-packed small plates.

    FOOD

    ‘They didn’t hold back on chilli and acidity!’ says first-time restaurateur Dom Fernando of his childhood trips to visit family in Sri Lanka. His grandmother’s recipes are inspiration for the menu headed up by Charith Priyadarshana, who moved here from Colombo 10 years ago, starting his restaurant career as a kitchen porter. Seafood is procured from British dayboats and meat from small farms in Yorkshire to create the contemporary street-food-style sharing plates. To kick things off, there are mutton rolls with fermented chilli sauce and arrack-infused cauliflower roti tacos with coconut labneh. Then mix and match spicy sambal chutneys and hoppers with the various curries listed under vegetable, land and sea. Everything packs a complex flavour profile, and most dishes have some sort of a kick – it’s nice to feel as if you’re getting the real deal. Fried aubergine comes with jaggery moju, a traditional Sri Lankan pickle, and slow-roasted pork cheek with tamarind and Sri Lankan stout. A roasted baby squid curry cooked in cardamom and coconut is a good option for anyone trying to steer clear of too much spice. But the real show-stopper is the chopped chicken and Cheddar kothu roti – just try it. The Laverstoke Park buffalo ice cream tops most of London’s gelaterias’, crowned with a butterscotch and cashew brittle; and the chilli chocolate tart is more like a sophisticated Terry’s chocolate orange. What’s not to like?

    DRINK

    Classic cocktails with a Sri Lankan twist include a Coconut and Nutmeg Colada and a Ghee Arrack Old Fashioned. The Paradise team, together with Zeren Wilson (Bitten & Written), have put together a wine list that highlights growers who focus on low-intervention winemaking and whose work is grounded in biodynamic and organic principles.

    VERDICT

    A refreshing Soho dining destination with flavours that pack a punch. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Paradise, 61 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 7PW


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    BRAT, SHOREDITCH

    As well as reopening in East London, Brat will host a pop-up this summer at Hackney’s Climpson Arches

    The Basque-accented solo project from the trailblazing chef behind Kitty Fisher’s

    Walking up the stairs, past rows of wine bottles, to be greeted by the soft, camp-fire wumpf of wood smoke, bright chatter across long tables, the twirl of waiters… you’d be forgiven for scratching your head and wondering why you’d never stumbled across this place before. Tomos Parry is famously the chef behind Kitty Fisher’s, the celebrity hangout in Mayfair, where regulars alight on dishes such as lamb cutlets with anchovy and mint. While Fisher’s can seem too much like a private member’s club at times, the wood-panelled Brat is more open, more egalitarian even, with all the atmosphere of an upstairs Spanish asador at 11pm. The waiters’ station running down the side of the tables, with the red-eyed smoulder of the oven at the back, behind the chefs’ table. Arboreal connoisseurs will doubtless be able to sniff the air and identify English oak or cedar.


    FOOD

    Parry began his Basque obsession at Climpson’s Arch in Hackney, inspired by the Galician seaside village of Geletia, and embellished it at Kitty Fisher’s. London’s no stranger to chefs playing with fire, thanks to carne-quistadors such as Sabor, Ember Yard and Temper (there hasn’t been this much wood smoke since 1666); but Parry has less of the big swinging meat joints, more of the subtle, slow-cooked Cornish seafood. Brat is named not after any McEnroe-like tantrums but after an old English name for turbot, which here weighs in around £55, can feed three and is incredible – it ain’t no oil painting (well, maybe a pop-eyed Francis Bacon portrait) but is golden and tender and worth jettisoning the fork for your fingers. Lemon sole can be insipid, but here is a humdinger, flaky and sticky and fresh, accompanied by a simple bowl of smoked potatoes. There are some unusual but memorable combinations such as a bowl of cockles in chicken-liver sauce, and meaty oysters fire-roasted with seaweed – another highlight is spider crab, cabbage and fennel, the liquoricy notes riffing well against the crab meat. Much has been made of Parry’s Welshness, and while some have linked Celtic DNA with that of the Basques, his menu is firmly European, with only occasional nods (a plate of young leeks) towards the land of his fathers. You may notice the burnt cheesecakes cooling by the side of the oven as you walk in – the only disappointment is you don’t get a whole one for pudding.


    DRINK

    Noble Rot’s Dan Keeling gave a helping hand with the wine list here, with a changing monthly focus on small producers. As you’d expect, there are crisp, sappy Vinho Verdes and Albarinos, but also much to be loved from elsewhere in Europe. But you’d be advised to order a bottle of sherry – the fino en rama, perhaps – which goes well with everything on the menu. And toast the chef with a salty-fresh laverbread Martini, made from Welsh seaweed.

    VERDICT

    Brat is no upstart but an accomplished, full-bodied restaurant in the resurgent Shoreditch. You may spot faces such as Henry Holland here, but keep your eyes on the turbot.

    By Rick Jordan

    Address: Brat, 4 Redchurch St, London E1 6JL


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Passo, Old Street

    Italy by-way-of Los Angeles in east London

    There are a lot of big-hitters on the Passo team. At the helm are Jonny Boud and Alex Potter — the duo behind Rum Kitchen, Notting Hill’s cool Caribbean joint, and Foley’s, a cosy purveyor of small plates in Fitzrovia. Head chef Massimiliano laquinoto previously cooked at Shoreditch House, while the extensive wine list was put together by sommelier Zeren Wilson, who has come straight from Thai hotspot the Smoking Goat. The space — a huge, sand-coloured room with long communal tables and an eye-catching copper pizza oven — is by East London designer Alexander Waterworth, who created the dreamy aesthetic at Soho Farmhouse. So it stands to reason that Passo — a London take on California’s Italian restaurants — is in safe hands: and it shows. In the buzzy, boisterous main dining room there’s a DJ on the decks throughout the weekend, and a marble-top bar is the main feature of the no-reservations deli, which serves breakfast, lunch and pastries, as well as pre-dinner cocktails.

    FOOD

    All the starters are worth trying, so commandeer some friends to join you and order as many as possible. The burrata with basil oil and mint is delicious, as are the fried artichokes in a mysterious ‘green sauce’ which turns out to be salsa verde. The ravioli with langoustine packs a rich punch, and the orecchiette with octopus ragù is unusual, with an underlying briny taste of the ocean — surprising when you remember you’re on Old Street roundabout. The pasta is handmade daily, as is the pizza dough, which is the base for unusual toppings such as three different layers of truffle, and pumpkin with smoked scamorza and sage. For pudding there’s a lovely light olive-oil brioche with white-chocolate sauce, rich Nutella-and-ricotta ravioli, and warmly spiced panettone French toast with pistachio ice cream.

    DRINK

    The lengthy wine list is nicely priced, with some glasses costing as little as £5, matched by a handful of beers costing the same. The cocktails are a delightful palate-cleanser between mains and pudding: the Bang Bang Baby (Wray Nephews rum, cognac, red vermouth, honey and lemon) is perfectly sweet, while the Roller Coaster (absinthe, Aperol, lemon, rose and pineapple) gives a tart and tangy hit.

    VERDICT

    A cool joint that’s great for gatherings with a big group — the kind of restaurant you won’t shut up about for a week.

    By Sarah James

    Address: Passo, 80 City Road, London EC1Y 2AS


    Telephone: +44 (0)203 883 9377


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    LINA STORES, SOHO

    Wonderful homemade pasta from one of London’s finest old-school Italian delis

    For decades, the pistachio-green-and-liquorice façade of Lina Stores in Soho has been synonymous with selling the best Italian cured meats, cheeses and, above all, pasta in the capital. Now all these things are on the menu at the legendary deli’s first restaurant, a few streets away, which – with its peppermint-and-cream awning – is just as recognisable. The look here is retro, perhaps harking back to the 1950s when Soho was known for its Italian hangouts (now sadly just a handful remain, including Bar Italia and I Camisa on Old Compton Street). Walk past the shelves stacked with colourful bottles of liqueurs and settle in at the Formica counter to watch head-scarved chef Masha Rener and her team at work in the open kitchen. Masha has been a friend of Lina Stores’ owners since she was a customer craving the flavours of home when she worked in London in the late 1990s. A self-taught cook, she sold her agriturismo business in Umbria to come and lead the venture in London. And London is all the luckier for it.

    FOOD

    Kick off with antipasti of prosciutto from Parma (not too wafer thin so it has a bit of bite), fat little aubergine polpette with sticky tomato sauce, and radicchio and puntarelle salad with anchovy dressing. Mascha plans to add more greens to the menu as a balance to all the carbs – although, let’s face it, carbs are what you are here for. The pasta is handmade in the deli every day (as it has been since 1944) and push-biked over to the restaurant. Try to order at least two pasta dishes, even between two, as they are excellent. Highlights include ricotta-and-herb gnudi (a lighter version of gnocchi) with sage and brown butter, spaghetti with Dorset crab and chilli, and pici, a lip-smacking, rib-sticking recipe from the chef’s home town with Umbrian sausage and porcini mushrooms. The lovely Sicilian waitress brings bread at end of the main course so you can ‘fare la scarpetta’, the Italian ritual of mopping up the last of the sauce on your plate (as if she could sense we were about to lick them clean). Finish up with crumbly cannoli stuffed with ricotta and dipped in pistachio nibs, and lemon sorbet topped with a peppy shot of limoncello.

    DRINK

    All-Italian aperitivi are mixed up in the little cocktail bar downstairs: Americanos and Negronis come in chunky glass tumblers, the Italicus Sour (gin, bergamot liqueur and nettle syrup) in a delicately stemmed Martini glass. To follow there’s a crisp Verdicchio, a meaty Montepulciano, or a refreshing Sicilian lemonade.

    VERDICT

    A freshly rolled contender for the title of London’s best pasta restaurant.

    By Grainne Mcbride

    Address: Lina Stores, 51 Greek Street, London W1D 4EH


    Telephone: +44 20 3929 0068


    Book online

    Lina Stores: A Great Little Place We Know, with Masha Rener

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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Hoppers, Soho; Marylebone

    Sri Lankan food was relatively under-the-radar in London until the Sethis (the restaurateurs who brought us Michelin-starred Gymkhana, Trishna, XU and more) opened Hoppers in Soho in 2015. Fast-forward a few years, and there are crowds lining up around the block to get a table here. To solve this problem, the Sethis have launched a second Hoppers outpost in St Christopher’s Place where – unlike at the Soho branch – you can book ahead. Split over two floors with sleek wooden interiors inspired by the Sri Lankan architect and tropical-modernism pioneer Geoffrey Bawa, the bigger, brighter Hoppers is more polished than its little sister, and the food is just as delicious.

    FOOD

    You must, of course, order the egg hopper. Crisp around the edges and spongy in the centre, these fermented-rice-and-coconut-milk pancakes are best devoured with a full ensemble of sauces. We recommend the pol sambol, the coriander chutney and the seeni sambol, a caramelised onion relish. These edible bowls also make excellent receptacles for aromatic curry (cari) sauces, so if you can, do wait for your other dishes to arrive before gobbling up the whole hopper. Other standout dishes include the banana-leaf-roasted bream, which, stuffed with tart, fragrant green mango, is so succulent that the meat falls from the bones, and the cauliflower cari, a delicately spiced Tamil-style curry. In true Sri Lankan style, everything arrives when it’s ready, but among the short eats (aka starters), the fiery minced-goat-filled roti, served with a rich, dark and utterly delicious curried gravy for dipping, is particularly memorable. There’s only one pudding – the cutely named love cake ice-cream sandwich, which, although perfectly pleasant, isn’t worth holding out for. Savoury is king here – so much so that they’ve scrapped dessert from the smaller Soho menu altogether.

    DRINK

    Start with the brilliantly balanced sweet-and-sour Toddy Tapper cocktail, made from spirit-of-the-moment smoky mezcal, with tequila, pineapple bark, fresh lime and coconut- blossom pickle, before moving onto Hoppers’ take on a G&T: the George Gardner. The mix of Colombo No 7 gin, mango leaf, tonic water, grapefruit bitters and kaffir lime leaf is at once familiar and yet excitingly different. A lively refresher, it’s also a good companion to all the aromatic and spicy flavours of the food. Anyone who’s visited Sri Lanka should order a Lion lager. One sip and you’ll be transported straight back to the deep-yellow stretches of sandy coast and balmy evenings eating seafood port-side in Galle.

    VERDICT

    The St Christopher’s Place sister is the place to book for a taste of Sri Lanka in London

    By Kathleen Johnston

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    Address: Hoppers St Christopher’s Place: 77 Wigmore St, Marylebone, London W1U 1QE; Hoppers, 49 Frith Street, Soho, London W1


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  • The best restaurants in London right now

    SOUTINE, ST JOHN’S WOOD

    A triumph from the stalwarts of the capital’s brasserie scene

    As restaurateurs go, Corbin and King are a pair you know you can rely on. Their best-loved joints – including The Delaunay, Colbert and The Wolseley – all offer the same old-school elegance, unfaltering service and top-notch food – often woven in with a whimsical historical narrative too. At the quiet end of St John’s Wood High Street, right on the fringes of Regent’s Park, Soutine is a neighbourhood brasserie with bags of charm, where tables spill out onto the pavement just as they do on the boulevards of Paris and comfort food is served with a genuine sense of occasion. And it’s not just designed for the neighbourhood, but pays homage to it too; this is an area famed for its turn of the century artistic flair, when creatives from both sides of the Channel flocked to St John’s Wood Art School to hone their talent before bagging a place at the Royal Academy. Corbin and King wanted it to be a restaurant those artists themselves might have visited, and so a hand-painted floor-to-ceiling mural depicts life as it was, cricketers’ portraits hang from Art Nouveau panelling (Lord’s is just down the road) and Jeremy King dipped into his own private art collection to decorate the dark mahogany walls with vintage posters. It’s exactly how you imagine a grand French brasserie should be.

    FOOD

    Running the gamut of cosseting French classics, the menu is free from any pretension or gimmickry. The all-day format means you can tuck into eggs Benedict after a plate of oysters, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. There’s a hint of Russian influence – in honour of the restaurant’s namesake, Chaïm Soutine, the Franco-Russian artist who painted Parisian chefs in their kitchens in the 1920s – but it’s the French stalwarts that steal the show: onion soup with a glut of stringy cheese, doorstop slabs of chicken liver parfait and steak tartare topped with an ochre-bright quails egg. Mains are hearty: duck breast on a bed of lentils; beef in various incarnations (braised, perfectly-pink steak or a thick peppered fillet) and haddock goujons with a bowl of tangy tartare sauce for dunking. But the highlight of our visit was a steaming hot-pot of coq au Riesling, the baby onions, button mushrooms, salty lardons and slow-cooked chicken in a puddle of velvety velouté full of umami-rich flavour – best mopped up with a side of buttery mash. Puddings deliver a hit of nostalgia, with a Black Forest gateau and a towering banana split included in the line-up, but if you’ve overdone it – just order a macaroon or a sticky salted-caramel Florentine – perfect sweet hits that won’t tip you over the edge.

    DRINK

    There are a few stools up at the marble-topped bar for a pre-supper Kir Imperial (a splash of vodka adds a Russian twist), but we’d recommend going straight on to the well-thought out, entirely French wine list. Glasses start at a reasonable £4.95 and most are available by the carafe too. The menu’s featured region – Chablis the night we visited – was a lovely touch; it puts a handful of different vintages from one winery under the spotlight and you can learn something about the winemakers too.

    VERDICT

    Another triumph for Corbin and King, this is a place that works just as well for a casual weeknight supper as it does a full-throttle splurge. By Teddy Wolstenholme

    Address: Soutine, 60 St John’s Wood High Street, London NW8 7SH


    Telephone: +44 20 3926 8448


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Muse, Belgravia

    An innovative chef is back on the smart dining scene

    It’s been a few years since Tom Aikens has delivered his own brand of high-end cooking in London. The Norfolk native made his name at Pied à Terre in Fitzrovia where he became the youngest British chef to gain two Michelin stars, at age 26. More accolades followed at his eponymous restaurant in Chelsea before it closed in 2014. Now he has set up a very nicely turned out shop in a tiny converted Georgian townhouse down a cobbled mews in Belgravia, with room to feed just 25 people. First impressions on entering are of slightly surreal Guy Bourdin-meets-tropical-lagoon interiors: a bar fashioned from what looks like a giant shimmery oyster shell, driftwood holding up a misshapen glass bowl and a coral-like gourd on the counter. This is the place for pre-supper cocktails and delicately presented, one-bite snacks: milk curd with grated chestnut and almond; venison tartare with juniper salt and fresh hazelnuts; tuppence-size Berkswell cheese and biscuits, with tangy sheep’s-curd mousse and sorrel (like a posh Philadelphia with chives). Then it’s up to the intimate dining room on the first floor to slide into possibly the comfiest banquette in London, where a soundtrack of African disco adds to the evening hum.

    FOOD

    You know you’re on to a good thing when you spy a sous chef furiously kneading dough in one of the two open kitchens as soon as you walk in the door. Two batches of bread, made from Shipton Mill flour, treacle and stout for a crunchy crust, are baked during every service. And it’s a winner (we ate three baskets worth), served with chicken-skin-and-cep butter. The six- or 10-course tasting menus are peppered with nostalgic takes on moments in the chef’s life and are presented in a sweet pop-up card – is that Aikens as a boy sitting in the branches of a beech tree? So a starter of ‘Just down the road’ is a squiggle of ricotta made from Norfolk milk, with honey jelly and truffle shavings, while mackerel – reminiscent of childhood fishing trips – is served with pickled daikon and smoked mackerel bone broth. Playful touches help to loosen up what could be a serious-faced experience; Aikens tells you about his 30-strong collection of Toby jugs as he uses one to pour beetroot juice over a trio of beets (pickled, baked and brined) with pine oil. Turns out the grinning ceramics are just the right size for a single, tasting-course portion. A main of charcoal-cooked sirloin from a retired dairy cow is a highlight, dished up with smoked bone marrow, an onion stuffed with mince and fermented grains, and a triple-cooked chip flashed in beef dripping and topped with beef ‘Quavers’ (sliced and deep-fried tendons). It’s all followed by a combination of salted caramel, popcorn ice cream, malt yogurt and white chocolate to evoke that great childhood throwback: milk-splashed cornflakes.

    DRINK

    The very grown-up cocktails here have been dreamt up by mixing maestro Mr Lyan and are served in dainty stemmed glasses. The Martini – they insist on a caperberry rather than a twist – muddles London dry gin, vermouth, hogweed and yarrow, while the Sour is spiked with Loch Lomond Single Grain Whisky, sun-dried tomato and tarragon. Wine-wise, a 2018 Chardonnay from fourth-generation French vintner Bernard Defaix is crisp and aromatic with the vegetable and fish dishes and Le Paradou’s 2017 Grenache packs a rich black-cherry punch with the hearty beef.

    VERDICT

    Deliciously fine-tuned cooking in a space that’s surprisingly buzzy (and maybe even a little bit fun). By Grainne McBride

    Address: Muse by Tom Aikens, 38 Groom Place, Belgravia, London SW1X 7BA


    Telephone: +44 20 3301 2903


    Book online

  • The best restaurants in London right now

    Bob Bob Cité, London

    Press-for-Champagne buttons hit the Square Mile

    Five years in the making and after a 16-month delay, Bob Bob take two has finally opened its doors. The original Anglo-Russian-themed Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard which opened 10 years ago was modelled on the Orient Express and we’re definitely still inside a train here, all be it on the third floor of the Cheesegrater, with its yellow doors visible from the ground. This over-the-top spot is rumoured to have cost £25 million. And though there are similarities to the Soho outpost, this is not a duplicate. It was designed as a bistro and chef Eric Chavot (previously of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and Marco Pierre White’s The Restaurant) is dishing up French country classics in two all-booth dining salons (one red, one blue) panelled with mirrors and floor-to-ceiling rosewood. Twenty-four chandeliers and more than 1,000 lightbulbs create a soft glitz. And fans will be pleased to know that Bob Bob Cité has retained the press-for-Champagne buttons which ensured Ricard’s success. Here they are translated to match the French bistro set-up: presser pour Champagne, a button that quickly illuminates the correct table number on the ticker tape of LED numbers that dance along the four walls of the dining rooms when a customer calls for bubbles. Refreshingly (but not altogether surprisingly given the price tag) tables are not turned and guests can stay as long as they like.

    FOOD

    The menu may start with caviar (Siberian or Russian) and oysters (with shallots and lemon, or gratinée, baked with truffle hollandaise), but the rest of the dishes are more considered and marginally less showy. Escargots en persillade are perfect, pungent with garlic and vibrant with grassy parsley. A fried duck egg is served on a salt-beef hash that’s topped with gruyère and truffle foam; and heritage tomato salad is paired with fat, silver-skinned anchovies and a tart Niçoise dressing. Mains include steak tartare, rib-eye and spatchcock chicken but Bob Bob Ricard’s now-famous beef Wellington is still the star of the show: served perfectly pink and encased in a golden cable-knit crust, it could happily feed four but is recommended for two. Don’t skimp on the sides – all of which come with the optional addition of truffle – the pomme purée and grilled hispi cabbage are the standouts.

    DRINK

    Vodka shots are served at -18°C. Then, just press for Champagne. Two hundred of the bottles on the wine list are served up to Methuselah size (six litres to you and me). But for those not fussed by the fizzy stuff, there are also 50 vintages of Armagnac brandy, starting in 1888 – and vintage ports that go back to 1945. Ask for anything, and we suspect they’ll probably have it.

    VERDICT

    Flashy and splashy, the dining room at Bob Bob Ricard’s City sister is just as extravagant as the skills the chef shows in the kitchen. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Bob Bob Cité, Level 3, Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, EC3V 4QT


    Telephone: +44 20 3928 6600


    Book online

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