New dining digs in London town
The London restaurant scene stands still for no one. It feels like there’s a new opening every week. Here is a list of places I’ve been to that have opened within the last year which have got my tastebuds going. I’ll keep adding to this and updating it, so make sure to check back for the latest juice.
‘West African’ | Piccadilly | £££
Opened July 2017
Ikoyi London has been going for a while as a pop-up restaurant and was set up by school pals, one of whom is Nigerian. I first sampled their offering a few years back and was impressed at their vision to bring flavours inspired by West Africa onto the London dining scene in a sleek setting. Fast forward to July 2017 and the guys have realised their dreams opening up shop in swanky St James’s Market, neighbours to Aquavit, Anzu and the rest. If you go to Ikoyi expecting traditional Nigerian / W.African fare plated up nicely, you’ll hate it. It’s experimental and in no way trying to replicate things in an authentic way – somethings I loved (plantain with raspberry dust), others not so much (mackerel in tiger nut milk). I was kindly invited to the opening and got to sample a number of the dishes for free but when I return as a paying customer, I’ll certainly be watching my pocket as some of the dishes ain’t cheap e.g the prawn (x1) in banga bisque is £28 – wild.
Cocktail Bar | Bethnal Green | ££
Opened June 2017
Coupette is by Chris Moore, ex-head bartender at the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar, so you know you’ll be getting some quality shit right here. There’s a focus on French liqueurs, wine and food. All the cocktails I had were banging: Straight Outta Bethnal, Second Time Around + the Grand Master. Food wise – the gougères laced w/ truffle was sublime as was the salmon croque madame + the cheese plate. Guessing they’re into 90s hip hop from the playlist selection and wall hangings. An elegant space (deep blue hues + copper accents) with an eclectic crowd; it doesn’t get going till c.9pm when all the action is loaded up at the front. In some ways, the mixture of hi-low reminded me of Gravity Bar in Paris. Walk Ins & Limited Reservations
Taiwanese | Piccadilly | £££
Opened June 2017
Xu like bao is legit, it’s got style AND substance. A sophisticated space with no trace of snootiness; it’s bringing old school glamour into a cool modern context. It’s spinning out banging plates like the chicken wing with sanpei sauce and caviar and the ‘drop egg crab’, all delivered with happy vibes. In sum, the food is on point, the space is on point and the service is on point. Would I go back? Without a damn question.
Image: The Cool Hunter
Modern European | Drayton Park | ££
Opened May 2017
This is the second spot from the lads behind Primeur in Canonbury. It’s a similar set up – tucked away on a residential street, doors fully expanding out when the sun comes a shining, (with the added benefit of a lovely courtyard – perfect for knocking back some vino) communal tables and a chalkboard menu. The focus is on seafood here with a changing menu – when I went I had mussels (nice enough) ray wing swimming delightfully in brown butter sauce (solid stuff) and fideo pasta with a generous helping of lobster (interesting) washed down with some Riesling and Muscadet.
Italian | Belgravia | £££
Opened Mar 2017
Il Pampero is the new restaurant in the Hari hotel. A suave Italian spot with old school glamour but zero stuffiness. For the level of food, the fresh produce and beautiful setting, I think it’s keenly priced and actually pretty good value for money; you can get a cacio e pepe for £12. Oh and their cocktails are deliciously potent.
Italian | Clerkenwell | £££
Opened Jan 2017
The latest venture from Stevie Parle (The Dock Kitchen, Rotorino + Sardine) serves up enjoyable Italian fare. The ravioli, spinach + squash is so good as is the gorgeous lump of chocolate sprinkled with pistachio + chunks of honeycomb. However, bizarrely they’ve decided to shove this restaurant in a co-working space which kinda kills it. Read More
Mexican | London Bridge | £
Opened Dec 2016
El Pastor has had much hype probs because it’s by the guys who brought us the enduringly popular Barrafina. It’s a cool space – a converted railway arch with pops of colour via the table tops & woven chairs. There’s a fun outdoorsy vibe about it. I got the prawn taco (£3.50) & char-grilled stonebass taco (£3) – the ingredients were fresh and I particularly enjoyed the pineapple salsa that came with the stonebass taco. A great place to go with a group of friends but they don’t take reservations,,,
Japanese | Piccadilly | ££
Opened Nov 2016
Anzu, Tonkotsu’s posh big bro is in St James’s Square sandwiched by Veneta and Ole & Steen – 3 mins walk from Piccadilly and for you fashion folk, about 1 min from Dover Street Market. I am genuinely baffled why every time I’ve been (3 or 4 times) it’s been near dead; the dumplings are brilliant, the ramen decent, the staff good and the price point really damn good for the setting and the area. Piccadilly’s very own ‘hidden’ gem. Walk Ins & Reservations
Portuguese | London Bridge | ££
Opened Nov 2016
Decorated with beautiful azulejos, Bar Douro, is a little slice of Portugal smack bang in London Bridge, which has become a food destination beyond Borough Market. My must orders are the hake goujons and pastel del nata with cinnamon ice cream; I was less excited by the rice dishes and piri piri chicken. I would definitely revisit Bar Douro – it’s a gorgeous space and despite not every dish being to my taste, there are some very good plates to tuck into. Read More
Nordic | St. James’s Sq. | £££££
Opened Nov 2016
Aquavit serves up sublime Nordic inspired plates with 1st rate service – the Matje Herring dish is a winner – try that. Its New York outpost has 2 Michelin stars. The high ceilings and original pieces of artwork by Olafur Eliasson pieces give the space a feeling of modern grandeur. Reservations recommended. Read More
Vegetarian | Westbourne Grove | £££
Opened Nov 2016
This chic leafy spot in Westbourne Grove is very buzzy at the weekend but not in an overwhelming way. It’s an organic veggie / vegan menu – the vegan pizzetta is a delight – served on housemade sourdough with a tomato and artichoke sauce, macadamia cheese, olives, capers, spinach & cherry tomatoes. Read More
Thai Grill | Soho | £££
Opened Sep 2016
Kiln is by the guys behind Smoking Goat and got a rare 5* review by Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard and 10/10 from Chris Pople of Cheese And Biscuits. So it’s had hype, like big hype but I was still a bit surprised to turn up on a Monday early evening and the place was at capacity. Luckily we got in just before the queues began and got seated swiftly. The food is regional Thai apparently, with influences from Yunnan and Burman (I’m not going to feign deep knowledge of Thai cuisine, so gonna take their word for it). Dishes are fresh and fiery – the langoustines with kaffir lime, sweet mint and chilli was fabulous and novel for me in terms of preparation and taste; the clay pot baked glass noodles were nice enough but didn’t wow me. I left thinking yes I’d certainly enjoyed my meal a great deal but I have to admit Kiln didn’t totally bowl me over. I’d love to sample more of a menu and then make a more rounded assessment. FYI portions are tiny, so you do need to order a number of plates. Reservations 4+