Pairings | London restaurants
When I blogged about my Christmas in East Dulwich the other day and speculated where else in London would make a good place for a food lover to live I never expected it to trigger such a response.
It's hard to keep up with London restaurant openings these days. The latest hotspot seems to change from week to week but these four should definitely be on your radar in spring 2015.
It’s rare to find a restaurant that excites almost universal approval but then, like buses, two come along at once. Just before Christmas everyone was raving about the new outpost of Margot Henderson’s Rochelle Canteen at the ICA. This month there’s a general love-in for Parsons in Covent Garden
The best known fact about Alvin Leung the Hong Kong-based chef who has just opened Bo London is that he serves a dish featuring an edible used condom called Sex on the Beach.*
For the past few years French food has been eclipsed by more fashionable Italian and Asian but there are still some great places to go if you want a taste of Paris without having to cross the Channel.
There’s no doubt about it Balthazar is drop-dead gorgeous. You only have to see the golden lights winking through the windows to be drawn through the door like a moth to a candle. But how does the food stack up?
Have you noticed the number of restaurants which have started offering breakfast - and I don’t just mean a full English?
You’d think London had enough in the way of new French restaurants lately but along comes Boulestin in another bid to seduce the city’s Francophiles. Does it succeed?
With so much of what’s going on on the London dining scene happening east of the City it’s good to find a hip new restaurant opening slap in the middle of the West End
If you’re a reader of - er, hem - a certain age who longs for the days when French food was fancy and lunches lasted until dinner you’re in luck.
At first sight kale toast appears to be the only vegetarian option at Richard Corrigan’s new restaurant Daffodil Mulligan. Then I spot beetroot but still no mains. The veggie member of our party, having scanned the menu in advance is unimpressed. We’re worried - the other three of us, having heard good things about the restaurant which is named after the daughter of a famous Irish street seller, are gagging to go.
The hype that accompanies almost every new restaurant launch these days is crazy. We all swarm in, pronounce it the best opening this year then swarm off to the next hotspot.
One of the problems about being a food writer - though I’m not expecting much sympathy from you - is that you’re always chasing the latest new opening. Which means that restaurants you make the effect to go back you feel pretty special about.
I’m writing about Rovi in almost ideal circumstances. After two visits - one very shortly after opening, the other last week, two and a half months later. I could, of course, have reviewed it after the first visit. It was fully open not a discounted ‘soft’ opening yet there isn’t a restaurant that gets into its stride in the first month. American publications insist that their critics go three times before their review is published I believe. In an ideal world you would.
With dozens of restaurants opening every week in London what do you do to stand out from the crowd? The answer, it seems from James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy's recently opened Magpie in Heddon Street, is to pretend you’re a Chinese restaurant and wheel around the menu on a trolley.
“Eagerly awaited” is a well worn cliché but but aptly describes the opening of Nieves Barragan Mohacho and Jose Etura’s Sabor. Originally scheduled to launch last autumn it took a further 6 months to finally open its doors a year after they left their previous jobs.
The thing about neighbourhood restaurants is that they’re a pain to get to if you’re not a local. In general that’s not a problem. They’re nice for those who live nearby, you tell yourself, but you don’t envy them unduly. But Peckham Bazaar is another matter ...
With city centre rents unaffordable for most first-time restaurateurs there’s a growing trend for the most exciting openings to be happening in local neighbourhoods. That’s certainly been the case in London for a while.
I’ve been a huge fan of Brindisa, the Spanish food importer who was probably more responsible than anyone for putting chorizo on our culinary map. They have a great shop in Borough Market and a number of convivial tapas bars so it seemed good news when they announced they were opening Tramontana, a restaurant based on 'speciality dishes from the Spanish Mediterranean'.
I’d heard good things about The Dairy, not least from my son Will (of Hawksmoor*), one of whose favourite restaurants it is, but being south of the river it took me a while to haul myself down there.
Sometimes it pays not to look at the menu of a restaurant you’re thinking of going to. I was nearly discouraged from visiting Scully by the vast list of unfamiliar dishes and ingredients. Did I really want to eat puffed beef tendons or Welsh mutton with black barley and bisbas? I wasn’t sure I did.
My father, a sweet man who was never unpleasant about anyone had a phrase for people or places about which he couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm. "Rather nice."
No restaurant in London can have been more visited or commented on its first couple of weeks than Spring. Everyone seemingly has been there and has a view - not always complimentary - of the merits of chef Skye Gyngell’s return to London.
We got two important things right on our first visit to Oldroyd. We went before most of the reviews came out and there were four of us which gave us an excuse to try practically everything on the menu.
Even casual restaurants tend to have such good winelists these days that you might wonder whether there’s much of a market for wine bars. But from the heaving crowd at the newly opened branch of Vinoteca in Beak Street this week it looks like they’re on to a winner.
It’s a complete indictment of my lazy southerner mentality that I’ve never made it up to Simon Rogan’s restaurant L’Enclume despite glowing reviews that would have had me charging half way across France for a similar experience.
I may have been handicapped by knowing the building previously as an office block but even the name Sea Containers at Mondrian has a corporate ring that makes the heart sink.
As soon as I heard that one of my favourite chefs (Allegra McEvedy) was involved in a restaurant dedicated to one of my favourite ingredients (pork) I knew I had to get down there pronto. And you can’t try out a restaurant much sooner than its first full day’s trading.
It would be unfortunate if One Leicester Street became known as the restaurant that used to be St John’s Hotel. Not least because the chef Tom Harris, who used to front the kitchen there but has stayed on to run his own show, has put his own individual stamp on the food.
If you want to understand where the London restaurant scene is heading you need to go to Grainstore. Sure, the capital is still in thrall to pork, barbecue and street food but Bruno Loubet’s exciting and ambitious new project is a clear pointer to the way things are going.
It’s hard to talk about Merchants Tavern without telling the story behind it. Which is that it’s a joint collaboration between Britain’s most famous female chef Angela Hartnett and her boyfriend Neil Borthwick.
As the fourth restaurant in the Salt Yard Group which specialises in Spanish and italian food Ember Yard has a fine pedigree but does it live up to its stablemates?
Housed in Gordon Ramsay’s former restaurant in Claridge's, Fera is one of the most high profile restaurant openings in London this year which means that it’s burdened with a high level of expectation.
Anyone who doubts that London is one of the world’s most exciting cities to eat in should take a trip round Soho, once noted for its sleazy bars and strip joints. Now it’s become the epicentre of Britain’s food revolution - not with the smartest restaurants in town, admittedly, but some of the hippest.
I sometimes wonder if we value novelty too much. As an avid restaurant-goer the temptation is always to head for the the latest opening - but keeping pace with what’s new inevitably means you don’t spend as much time as you’d like in the places you actually enjoy.
If you want to open a new restaurant serve pasta. That seems to be the formula for success these days.
Those who were worried about incomers ruining the Gay Hussar, the iconic Greek Street restaurant whose site the new Noble Rot Soho now occupies, needn’t fret. The owners, Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling, are far too canny for that. True, the walls are dark green rather than the deep red I remember and the clientele more 2020s Soho than ‘80s politicos but it still has that warm clubby feel. And the staff - masked, of course - are much friendlier and more engaging.
If you’re not familiar with London Hackney sounds a heck of a long way to go for dinner. But believe me Mayfields is worth it.
It wasn’t easy getting to Duck + Rice. The first time I tried their kitchens were out of action because the extraction system was down ….
There was a time when Kings Cross was the last place you’d have gone to for a meal. Still now, despite the gleaming new station makeover, it’s hardly a destination to seek out if you only have a few days in the capital. But if you’ve done Shoreditch and find Soho just too tiresomely hip and crowded head up to Caravan.
What is it about the B-word at the moment? Every restaurateur and his dog seems to want to call themselves a brasserie, usually indicating the room is big and has red banquettes. But Brasserie Chavot would be better just called Chavot.
It’s hard to stand out amidst the flood of new restaurant openings that greet each week in London at the moment but the magical words ‘caviar trolley’ give you as good a chance as any.
When I was young I remember my grandmother endlessly telling me ‘Do all you can while you can’ or - even more irritatingly - ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’. At the time I found it hugely annoying but as I get older I can see the point.
Sometimes it’s good to go to a place without much in the way of expectations. The Newman Street Tavern sounded on the face of it like just another restaurant climbing on the fashionable Fitzrovia bandwagon . . .
It has to be said that no-one knows how to do glamour like Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the founders of the Ivy and the Caprice and, more recently, the Wolseley, the Delaunay and my current favourite, Fischer’s
There are two good reasons for eating at The Barbary. One is the Jerusalem bagel, a wondrous piece of baking. Served warm from the oven, encrusted in spicy sesame seeds it must be the best bread roll in town.
I’ve always been a fan of Francesco Mazzei’s cooking so when he suddenly left his previous restaurant L’Anima I couldn’t wait for him to pop up somewhere else.
From the outside, the re-opened Quality Chop House in Farringdon may look like yet another retro restaurant revival but the big draw is the wine list put together by its well-connected young proprietors.
I don’t envy Gordon Ramsay - or rather his head chef Clare Smyth - the 10/10 rating they received in this year’s Good Food Guide. It makes people like me think ‘Ha! I wonder if they’re really worth it?’ and book to find out.
If you’re the kind of sad, unreconstructed Francophile (like me) who thinks French food has gone to the dogs head not for Eurostar but the newly opened Brasserie Zédel in London’s West End. Housed in the late and not-much-lamented Atlantic Bar and Grill near Piccadilly Circus, it occupies a huge subterranean space which has been decked out at eye-watering expense in full fin de siècle style.
Marylebone has been regarded as a foodie mecca for a while but the action's been mainly at the northern end. Now posh wine bar 28-50 has conveniently established an outpost at the entry to Marylebone Lane, not far from Bond Street tube - a new haven for weary shoppers or workers in need of a restorative glass of wine.
What is a large palm tree doing growing in the heart of Hackney? Let alone INSIDE a building (a converted warehouse set in a railway arch). Well, it’s the latest outpost of hipster winebar Sager & Wilde, now with a fully-fledged restaurant, Mission.
Everyone I know who’s into food has a soft spot for St John. True, it has/has had its ups and downs but It’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking it was when it opened 19 years ago. And how absolutely right its values still are in terms of serving great ingredients simply,