London Restaurants: Where to Go Next 2013
Yoshihiro Murata, who holds more Michelin stars than any chef in Japan, is serving beautiful modern kaiseki food at this new outpost from the owners of the haute-Chinese chain Hakkasan. In a minimalist, blond-wood-lined space in London’s financial district, Murata is taking a local approach, sourcing only ingredients grown nearby. The signature dish is called “Scotland meets Kyoto,” with Scottish lobster, scallops, mussels and yellowtail cooked in a dashi-miso broth. The drink list highlights whiskeys and wines from Japan and the UK.
Ollie Dabbous is the 31-year-old protégé of Raymond Blanc, of the famed Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and his first restaurant has been such a huge hit since opening in January that tables are tough to come by. In the industrial-chic space (sheet metal walls and exposed copper pipes), Dabbous, like his mentor, turns out highly refined seasonal dishes such as charred salmon with elderflower, or barbecued Ibérico pork with turnip tops and savory acorn praline. It’s updated, fuss-free British cuisine, done exceptionally well.
Momoko Mizutani has a degree in product design, and last fall, she opened this shop in Shoreditch (and recently changed the name from Objects for Use), stocking everyday utensils and ingredients from around the world. The twist: The utensils, each designed for a particular purpose in a specific cuisine, can all be used in multiple ways that span cultures. For instance, Mizutani can demonstrate how a Danish doughnut pan can turn out takoyaki (a typical savory Japanese dumpling), and a traditional sauerkraut pot is perfect for pickling kimchi.
The out-of-the-way neighborhood of Battersea—home of the old Battersea Power Station, as seen on Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover—is the site of a new food pilgrimage. People are crossing the Thames for beef tartare with rosemary and anchovies, and other items on the rustic, ingredient-driven menu at Soif, an intimate, French-inflected spot from the team behind artisanal wine-bar favorites Terroirs and Brawn. The owners have also opened another new spot, Green Man & French Horn in Covent Garden, specializing in seafood and Loire wines.
The owners of power lunch spots The Wolseley and The Delaunay score again with this new gilded Parisian-style brasserie, open from noon until midnight.
Art + Food
At the event space Sketch, artist Martin Creed designed a restaurant full of his work, including colorful large-scale paintings and geometrically patterned floors. Master chef Pierre Gagnaire cooks whimsical dishes, like duck with corn ice cream, served on custom plates. 9 Conduit St.; 011-44-20-7659-4500.
London Restaurants: Insider Picks
A wonderful East London wine bar with a laid-back approach, Brawn matches organic and biodynamic bottles with small plates that draw from France and Italy. The menu is divided into Taste Ticklers (bar snacks), Pig (charcuterie), Cold and Hot. The starters are delivered on small wooden boards, like the creamy pork rilletes and a fantastic Tuscan-style raw chopped steak with rosemary and salt. A small section of hot dishes usually includes a polenta, a hearty soup and some sort of simple fish. The wine list is organized by style and taste, from “stones, shells & sea” to “firm, structured reds.” brawn.co
The third branch of Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s trattoria empire is designed like a very hip classroom—filament bulbs, bare wooden chairs and benches salvaged from a chemistry lab. Well-located for pre- and post-theater dining, Da Polpo has a long menu suited for grazing, with excellent Italian bar snacks, superb thin-crusted, creative pizzas (pork shoulder with pickled peppers) and six types of meatballs. dapolpo.co.uk
Jason Atherton spent nine years cooking under Gordon Ramsay, most recently at the helm of the small-plates spot Maze. His long-awaited solo restaurant, in a sprawling Mayfair space accented with contemporary art, opened in 2011 to instant acclaim for its confidant cooking—a squid dish, for instance, comes with cauliflower that has been diced finely enough to resemble risotto and comes in a clear, squid-flavored jus. At the stand-alone six-stool “dessert bar,” diners can watch pastry chefs prepare inventive concoctions like a plum soup with figs and honey-milk ice cream. pollenstreetsocial.com
The first sit-down restaurant from star chef Yotam Ottolenghi (who runs the Ottolenghi take-out chain) is a glamorous, white-washed spot in the West End that straddles two floors (for a glimpse of the open kitchen, opt for the lower level). The small plates show more Asian influence than his take-out spots, with eclectic, complexly flavorful dishes like five spice tofu with a cardamom-spiced tomato sauce and braised eggplant, and burrata with blood orange and toasted coriander. The £25, three-course pretheater menu is an excellent value. nopi-restaurant.com
Located in a hip hotel called Town Hall that was once the town hall in an up-and coming section of the East End, Viajante is one of London’s most adventurous restaurants. Portuguese-bred chef Nuno Mendes, who worked at Jean Georges in New York, Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and El Bulli, incorporates elements from his diverse background into the menu. Mendes likes to call his food “playful modernism,” an apt description of a canapé called Thai Explosion, an Asian-inflected chicken mousse sandwiched between squares of chicken skin and a coconut tuile. townhallhotel.com
Nose-to-tail innovator and the founder of the famed St. John restaurant, Fergus Henderson expanded with this Leicester Square hotel in 2011. There are 15 simple rooms and a minimally adorned restaurant with an open steel kitchen. The succinct menu includes plenty of the offal Henderson is known for (lamb sweetbreads, duck hearts with snails) and dishes that reflect his pared-down take on British comfort food. stjohnhotellondon.com
London Restaurants: Splurge
One of London’s most venerable hotels has imported some serious French talent: Chef Hélène Darroze splits her time between her eponymous restaurant on Paris’s Left Bank and this superchic Mayfair spot, where her menu combines influences and ingredients from her native Landes region of southwest France with flavors from Spain, Italy, Britain and Asia. Duck foie gras, for instance, comes accented with gomashio—seasoned Japanese sesame seeds. Paris designer India Mahdavi has given the dining rooms a feminine, eclectic feel with boldly patterned carpets and wingback chairs. the-connaught.co.uk
At his first London restaurant, modernist chef and UK television fixture Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck in Bray specializes in historical British dishes, which he puts through his own quirky filter. The menu features a saffron risotto that dates to 1390 and Blumenthal’s take on the 16th-century dish “meat fruit,” a chicken liver terrine disguised as a tangerine. The décor reflects the historical theme, with sconces in the shape of antique jelly molds and framed recipes from 16th-century British cookbooks. dinnerbyheston.com
Tucked into a former stable with large arched windows that overlook tranquil St. Marylebone Church gardens, Orrery is calm and elegant, a very grown-up place where chef Igor Tymchyshyn prepares modern French dishes like red wine poached duck foie gras with pear and Riesling jelly. The next-door epicerie and casual eat-in spot offers house-baked breads to go, simple sandwiches and bistro classics (pot-au-feu, duck confit). orrery-restaurant.co.uk
This Italian restaurant (no relation to Mario Batali’s Babbo in New York City) in the heart of Mayfair is quiet, intimate and luxurious. Chef Douglas Santi has cooked in several Alain Ducasse restaurants, so he prepares his earthy house-made pastas (an incredible lasagna, reportedly from a 100-year-old recipe) and Italian regional dishes with finesse. babborestaurant.co.uk
British TV chef and cookbook author Silvena Rowe traveled extensively throughout Turkey to research her first restaurant, which is inspired by the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire and her own heritage. The inspiration for her signature lamb with tahini, black truffle and black sesame za’atar spice blend is a dish her grandfather used to cook. The extensive wine list also has Ottoman elements, including a section devoted to Lebanon’s Château Musar wines. quincelondon.com
London Restaurants: Classic
Opened in 1982, big, bustling Bombay Brasserie is still one of the most exciting Indian restaurants in the city. The decor is palatial—glass ceilings, marble everywhere and massive chandeliers. The food incorporates South India’s many culinary influences, in dishes like a halibut simmered in a Goa-inspired coconut red chile sauce and a Portuguese-inflected slow-cooked lamb shanks in saffron curry. bombaybrasserielondon.com
The rustic Italian restaurant opened by ingredient-obsessed Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray has been the training ground for some of the world’s most renowned English chefs, including Jamie Oliver and April Bloomfield. It’s still phenomenal, with constantly changing menus of antipasti, house-made pastas, wood-roasted meats and fish, plus the signature four-ingredient, ultrachocolatey Nemesis cake. The clean-lined space facing the Thames has royal blue carpeting and simple aluminum chairs, and in summer there are few more pleasant places to dine in London than at the outdoor tables among the quince, fruit and olive trees. rivercafe.co.uk
Hakkasan Hanway Place in Soho has spawned outposts in the US, India and the Middle East—and, in 2010, a second London location. But the 2001 original, designed by Christian Liagre, with intricate carved lattice screens and dramatic spotlights, remains perennially popular. The well-executed dim sum is joined by Westernized interpretations of Chinese classics like sesame prawn toast with foie gras and roast duck with black truffles. hakkasan.com
London Restaurants: Best Value
Israeli-born, British-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi is a hard chef to define, though “Mediterranean” is probably the easiest way to label the healthy dishes he serves at Ottolenghi, his London take-out chain. The dishes at his four stylish, white-on-white Ottolenghi shops are predominantly vegetarian, with dishes like roasted eggplant with wild garlic and sorrel yogurt, roasted cherry tomatoes and pine nuts. ottolenghi.co.uk
This noisy Notting Hill pub was founded 1856, but talented young chef Jesse Dunford Wood (who has cooked at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago) has revitalized the kitchen with daily-changing menus that center around refined takes on nostalgic dishes like chicken Kiev and a cow pie—a classic British savory pie filled with braised beef with a marrow bone poking through the golden pastry. Owners Jonathan and Andy Perritt have restored the space beautifully with reclaimed Victorian furniture as well as a few eccentricities, including Lady Diana–themed china. themalltavern.com
This small, understated restaurant has the feel of a neighborhood bistro, but it is as accomplished and interesting as London restaurants with much bigger reputations. Chef Joe Mercier Naine’s prix fixe meals (around $60 for three courses) center around reworked bistro dishes like a duck egg tart with red wine sauce, turnip puree, lardons and sautéed duck heart—a pull-out-all-the-stops interpretation of the simple Burgundian classic, oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce). The room is quiet, decorated with bright emerald green banquettes and patterned wallpaper that turns the restaurant’s name—an obscure Asian fruit also known as a loquat—into a design theme. medlarrestaurant.co.uk
Brett Redman and Rob Green started their casual, market-driven restaurant as a pop-up in Victoria Park and, in 2010, found a permanent home in Borough Market. The duo create nearly daily-changing menus using produce solely from neighboring purveyors; their one standby, a superthick burger made with coarsely chopped aged beef from UK celebrity butchers “The Ginger Pig” and aged comté, ranks as one of London’s best. Burger enthusiasts take note: It’s only served for weekday lunch. elliotscafe.com
For a city whose summers never get absurdly hot, London has a surprising number of top-notch ice cream shops and gelaterias. One of the most intriguing is Camden’s Chin Chin Laboratorists. Husband-and-wife owners Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and Nyisha Weber can usually be spotted behind the counter (clad in lab coats and protective goggles) creating creamy ice creams to order with blasts of liquid nitrogen, and adding ingenious toppings like honeycomb. Also on the menu: coffee brewed from cult favorite Monmouth Coffee beans. chinchinlabs.com
In 2006 Romee De Goriainoff abandoned a career in finance to open the Experimental Cocktail Club, which brought creative mixology to the previously staid Parisian cocktail scene. In 2010 he debuted this London outpost housed in an intimate, low-lit Georgian townhouse in Chinatown, outfitted with mirrored ceilings and velvet and leather armchairs. The complex, inventive cocktails range from the St.-Germain-des-Prés (Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur, egg white, chile, lime and cucumber) to mysterious premixed cocktails that arrive in a brown apothecary bottle meant to be poured tableside. experimentalcocktailclublondon.com; email@example.com (reservations only through email)
London Bakeries, Coffee Bars and Breakfast Spots
Bill Collison’s original Sussex produce shop-and-café became such a hit that restaurant mogul Richard Caring (Le Caprice, The Ivy) took notice, and in 2010 the pair opened an outpost in London’s Covent Garden. The result: a charming two-floor restaurant and shop, with long, rustic wooden tables surrounded by rows of immaculately displayed provisions. While there’s all-day service, including tea and dinner, breakfast is undeniably the highlight, with British classics like Bubble and Squeak (a fried potato-and-cabbage cake) topped with fried eggs and ham. billsproducestore.co.uk
In the late 1970s, long before the term “Third Wave” was coined in the early 2000s to define the current farmer-obsessed coffee movement, Monmouth Coffee founder Anita Le Roy was buying beans directly from single farms, estates and cooperatives and roasting them herself. Though Monmouth started as an importer, roaster and retailer, company now runs two cafés in London. The Covent Garden original is tiny, with communal wood tables. The Borough Market outpost has more room for lingering. Both sell excellent single-origin coffee pour-overs, espresso drinks and a small selection of pastries. monmouthcoffee.co.uk
Two huge French talents—restaurateur Mourad “Momo” Mazouz and legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire—are the brains behind this multifaceted eating-and-drinking complex in a Mayfair townhouse that includes two bars, a high-end restaurant, a brasserie and an ornately-decorated tea room, which is the true highlight. Called The Parlour, this later concept has bold-patterned furnishings (plaid, skulls, jungle animals) and heavenly cakes and pastries ranging from classic éclairs, to exotic concoctions such as the Scoubidou: panna cotta with soy milk jelly, pistachio powder and a strawberry marshmallow. sketch.uk.com