What’s New & Great in London
Photo courtesy of the Ned Hotel
What’s New & Great in London
London reinvents itself at such a fast clip that by the time you finish reading this guide, we’ll probably be updating it. The most notable change in recent years has been East and Southeast London—these are the areas that are emerging as the capital’s newest pockets of food and culture. So much so that the residents of formerly hard-to-reach Hackney, Dalston, and Peckham neighborhoods are now jostling for space at their local haunts with West Enders. What were once desolate blocks and empty warehouses have been transformed into destination restaurants and impressive art experiences. So here is new London—with a few kudos to some longstanding greats we’d be remiss to ignore.
Artusi161 Bellenden Rd., Peckham | +44.20.3302.8200
Peckham has become London’s new neighborhood of reckoning, and Artusi—a small, sleek dining room on a Bellenden Road corner—leads the pack. The food is modern Italian; instead of big, heavy, saucy dishes, expect small neat plates of seasonal vegetables and twirls of house-made pasta. Try the sunchokes with hazelnuts and gorgonzola to start. And follow that with Artusi’s interpretation of pasta, which is the opposite of boring: fresh bucatini with chard, or Taleggio with the unexpected addition of raisins goes down surprisingly easy. Wine-wise, the list leans heavily on organic and biodynamic wines, sadly still a rarity in London. And across the board, the chef takes provenance seriously, listing all suppliers on the menus, which change daily. Reservations are essential.
Banh Banh46 Peckham Rye, Peckham | +44.20.7207.2935
When five first-generation siblings decided to bring 1940s Saigon to London, they weren’t messing around. The menu, inspired by their Vietnamese grandmother, is short and to the point. The prawn pancakes are unlike anything we’ve had: puffed turmeric pancakes, a king prawn embedded into each one, served in a piping hot skillet with a plate of fixings (you wrap each pancake in lettuce and herbs and douse it in fish sauce). And on a cold day, there is nothing better than the salty, spicy beef pho. The exposed-brick walls, simple wooden seating, and sprinkling of plants feel thoughtful. The servers always remember you like extra hoisin sauce, the Vietnamese coffee is better than any dessert, and walk-ins are generally accommodated.
Carousel71 Blandford St., Marylebone | +44.20.7487.5564
Carousel is a fairly novel concept: a three-story creative hub that hosts a turntable of food pop-ups with a rotating cast of stellar international chefs monthly. Most recently, Carousel hosted Scott Smith of Scotland’s Norn, followed by Turkish chef Esra Muslu. Smith created a menu that looked like Scottish classics, but each dish was dressed up with the techniques of the moment—kombu and salt-baked hogget loin, buttered wild leeks and fried seaweed. The space itself is industrial and raw to accommodate the various cuisines that pass through, and polished, with long communal tables meant to encourage conversation with strangers and a gallery upstairs.
Coal Rooms11a Station Way, Peckham Rye Station, Peckham | +44.20.7635.6699
The Coal Rooms is the latest in a slew of openings cementing Peckham’s unlikely status as London’s new gastro hub. The place is named for the charcoal used to cook the food and, (we imagine) an homage to the train tracks above the restaurant. The dining room is peaceful and sleek in a clean, stripped-back Scandinavian way—blonde-wood everything, even the fireplaces stacked with chopped wood. The food is smoky, and the plates are small: roasted cod heads, grilled zucchini and zesty yogurt, grits on the side. The Sunday roasts—an institution in Britain—are a thousand times better than the hunks of meat and soggy Yorkshire puddings served elsewhere. The slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with crispy beef-dripping spuds and coal-roasted cauliflower, rounded off with a glass of Sauternes, is weekend lunch done to perfection.
Evelyn’s TableThe Blue Posts, Cellar, 28 Rupert St., Soho
How do you create what is possibly the perfect restaurant? Take a beautiful grey marble bar, put the kitchen right there in the bar, slide eleven seats around it, and serve rich, fresh dishes inspired by southern Europe. Come with one other person or go big and book out the entire restaurant. Then order the mackerel with pickled carrots, the rich duck capelletti, and the unexpected cuttlefish ragu with tapioca crisps. Whatever you order, you won’t regret. And finish it off with a bottle of…sake. The selection is impressive and unexpected (there’s also a wine list if you want to go that route).
Gul & Sepoy65 Commercial St., Spitalfields | +44.20.7247.1407
Harnett and Devina Baweja have two successful restaurants already (Gunpowder and Madame D), and at this point they know what they’re doing. Gul & Sepoy is a newish concept, with “Gul” referring to the half of the menu dedicated to banquet-style Rajasthani dishes, and “Sepoy” to the more rustic dishes Indian soldiers would cook for themselves on the move. Order between six and seven small plates, and make sure the whole tandoor-roasted sea bream is in there—completely deboned and brightened with pickles. The space matches the food in terms of prettiness, with dusty-pink walls, slate tiles, and clean table settings.
Ikoyi1 St. James's Market, Mayfair | +44.20.3583.4660
Ikoyi is named for the swish Lagos neighborhood cofounder Iré Hassan-Odukale grew up in. The cooked-to-perfection West African fare is prepared by Hassan-Odukale’s school friend, Chinese-Canadian chef Jeremy Chan. Chan, who hails from the kitchens of Noma and Dinner, and Hassan-Odukale have put a great deal of thought into every detail, from the incredibly sleek, almost mid-century modern dining room to the unusual and fascinating cocktail list. Then again, this is St. James's—there is no room for error. Order the suya beef blade with rich, smoked bone marrow and jollof rice, get a side of the sweet buttermilk plantain, and if nothing else, order the Guinness Stone Fence. Guinness is popular in Nigeria, and this cocktail, with cacao-nib-infused rum and lime flower, elevates the humble pint to a sublime creation.
Indian Accent16 Albemarle St., Mayfair | +44.207.629.9802
Indian Accent started in Delhi, moved to New York, and settled, as all the cool kids eventually do, in London. As always, the Indian treatment of seafood hits the spot with perfectly cooked, aggressively flavored fish. (You will try to decode the mashup of spices so you can re-create the dishes at home—don’t bother; you can’t). Portions are small, but it’s mostly a tasting menu, and each course packs a serious punch. Order a few plates and share—this is the kind of food that suits a table of three or more. We humbly suggest the roast lamb with assorted chutneys and flaky roti, and the mixed medley of kulcha (breads stuffed with cheese, nuts, even black pudding) is absolutely necessary.
Jidori89 Kingsland High St., Hackney | +44.20.7686.5634
"Jidori" is the Japanese word for chicken. And the restaurant lives up to its name. Most pieces come on skewers, cooked over aromatic charcoal. Order an assortment and a few perfect onigiri, but save room for spicy ginger ice cream drizzled in a miso-infused caramel for dessert. The space is simple and unadorned, the perfect foil for food that appears basic but is actually deeply flavored and meticulously prepared. Dinner at Jidori is remarkably affordable unless you hit the sake a little too hard. Book immediately.
Jikoni19-21 Blandford St., Marylebone | +44.20.7034.1988
Jikoni owner Ravinder Bhogal is of Indian descent and was partially raised in Nairobi ("jikoni" means kitchen in Swahili). And her food tells the story of her geographic biography: prawn toast freshened up with pickled cucumbers, chickpea chips with Bengali-style chutney, a Scotch egg made with venison instead of pork, scallops and congee. British and African influence is evident, but at its core, Jikoni serves up flavor-packed comfort food that transcends culture. The restaurant itself is a refreshingly colorful break from the cool minimalism sweeping the capital’s interiors. The tablecloths are brightly patterned, the cushions are colorful, and the tapestries that cover the walls are loud and cheerful. Like the food, the décor feels fresh and hopeful, definitely a welcome addition to a stretch of town that often seems akin to a one-note French village of bakeries and cheese stores.
Kricket12 Denman St., Soho | +44.20.7734.5612
What started as two school friends operating a small enterprise out of a ship container at Pop Brixton has grown into a beautiful restaurant in the heart of Soho. Kricket does Indian—flecked with Anglo influence—small-plate style. The menu is direct, divided into declarative categories, like meat and fish, rice, and vegetables. Our favorite: Keralan fried chicken and kulcha bread with date and pistachio, which is perfect for sharing. The space is all industrial: exposed pipes and brick, unexpectedly softened with pink leather stools, and pretty tile floors. Just arrive early; it’s near impossible to get a seat after 6:30 p.m.
Little Duck Picklery69 Dalston Ln., Dalston | +44.750.307.7398
If three chefs wanted to abandon their basement kitchen and tinker around with jars and ferments and natural wines in an airy space, the result would look a lot like Little Duck Picklery. The restaurant was an experiment for the owners, and it’s a delightfully unexpected dining experience for the guests. Jars of pickles, fizzing kombucha, and vinegars line the windows; many of the contents perk up the dishes. We recommend gorgonzola and pickled quince for a (somewhat) light meal, saffron fettucine with bone marrow and butter for something more substantial—all washed down with biodynamic wine. Little Duck Picklery is the baby sister to Raw Duck and Duck Soup and is the immediate favorite. Take a spectator seat by the bar to watch the chefs at work, or commandeer a window seat for a breakfast sampling of the house-made tinctures and elixirs with a bowl of granola.
Margot45 Great Queen St., Covent Garden | +44.203.409.4777
Margot brings a ritzy, glitzy (expensive) Italian dining experience to the heart of Covent Garden. And the kitchen delivers. Despite the formality of the space, this is still Italian cooking: Plates are meant to be shared. Nothing dispels stuffiness faster than four people helping themselves to an antipasto board of bread, prosciutto, artichokes, and more. Then comes the pasta—thick ropes of tagliolini twirled around prawns and sweet tomatoes, pappardelle with wild boar ragu, you get the idea. For dessert, order the tortino de riso, rice infused with vanilla and Marsala, topped with silky almond cream. You won’t be sorry.
Meraki80-82 Great Titchfield St., Fitzrovia | +44.20.7305.7686
Meraki is the latest from Arjun and Peter Waney, the duo behind three of our other London favorites: Zuma, Coya, and Roka. The kitchen specializes in region-specific small bites, like salty cured fish roe and tomatoes from Santorini. In terms of décor, the look is clean and contemporary—not a whiff of the traditional taverna—which makes Meraki great for more buttoned-up lunches and dinners. In other words: This is not the spot for a raucous family meal with kids. Xenia (Greek hospitality) is key here, and the wine list is exciting, heavy on Aegean labels you won't see elsewhere. Everything on the menu is really well prepared; particular standouts include the dolmades served with a rich, lemony, egg yolk emulsion, and the barrel-aged feta, which is somehow creamy, salty, sour, and sharp all at the same time.
Nuala70-74 City Rd., Shoreditch | +44.203.904.0462
Nuala is named for chef Niall Davidson’s little sister, and every detail of the restaurant speaks to the deep thought Davidson has put into it. The staff is friendly, the room is warm (thanks to the fire pit), and the food tastes like home—if you grew up in a remarkably talented culinary Irish family. The sour sourdough comes grilled with a good heaping of salted butter, made saltier by the dulse seaweed whipped into it (the Irish are big on seaweed). The beef tartare (a small mound of aggressively seasoned raw beef topped with a cured egg yolk and drizzled in a Guinness-infused sauce, with a few thick-cut fries on the side) is the best we’ve ever had. The wine list is the work of sommelier Honey Spencer (who cut her teeth at Noma Mexico) and emphasizes organic and biodynamic wines, playfully under the “wild things” section. It’s a good descriptor for Nuala in general: The food is earthy, and the interior resembles the modernist cabin—firewood included—we all wish we could escape to. A solid attempt at representing a slice of Ireland in London.
Peckham Bazaar119 Consort Rd., Peckham | +44.20.7732.2525
Peckham Bazaar is still relatively undiscovered, which is bizarre given it is some of the best food in the city. Nestled in a residential square behind Rye Lane, the restaurant specializes in Balkan cuisine, coupled with Turkish and Greek influences. The menu changes frequently, but standouts, like the beetroot and chestnut manti (Turkish dumplings similar to tortellini) and zucchini fritters, are usually available. All the meat and fish have a strong, smoky flavor thanks to the charcoal grill in the open kitchen. Reservations are essential given the small size of the bright dining room. Start with a glass of sparkling Bulgarian wine, the perfect precursor to a spicy, smoky dinner.
Peckham Refreshment Rooms12-16 Blenheim Grove, Units 3 & 4, Peckham | +44.20.7639.1106
Just as much a community hub as it is a restaurant, Peckham Refreshment Rooms is a hard one to beat, perennially packed with locals who wish the place would stay a secret. The space has an industrial skeleton, warmed up by the ochre tabletops, stacks of cookbooks and bitters lining the shelves, mellow golden lighting, and most importantly, an electric crowd. The food is what we think of as new British: deliciously assertive in flavor and usually served on a wooden board. Many of the dishes—like the chargrilled sea bass slathered in seaweed butter and doused in burnt lemon, or the pancetta bacon sandwich (the best in the city) served between two crusty wedges of potato bread—are of the dig-in-and-get-your-hands-dirty variety. This is the type of restaurant where the OJ is always fresh, the newspapers are stacked haphazardly on the counter, and the staff rarely changes. It’s also affordable, and run consciously, sustainably, and with gusto by owner James Fisher.
Pidgin52 Wilton Way, Hackney | +44.20.7254.8311
Getting central Londoners to go east for dinner is no easy feat, but Pidgin—the brainchild of two former architects and a food writer—makes the journey beyond Liverpool Street one you’ll want to undertake again and again (if you can get a table). The four-course menu changes every week, and impressively, in the two years Pidgin has been open, no dish has ever been repeated. Pidgin has earned a reputation for pushing the gastronomic envelope in a delicious, if unusual, direction. A sampling could include beetroot with fermented tofu, cashew, and shiso or pork with nettle, Romanesco, and hibiscus. It’s daring food executed well in a tiny, eight-table space that is never empty.
Rochelle CanteenArnold Circus, Bethnal Green | +44.20.7729.5677
Behind a high brick wall of what used to be an old Victorian school (large glass doors open up to the playground in summer), you'll find a bright open space dotted with long wooden communal tables. The daily, seasonal menu is served to an artistic and fashionable East London lunch crowd, and the BYO booze policy keeps the atmosphere refreshingly chill. One of the owners, Margot Henderson, is the wife of Fergus Henderson of the St. John conglomerate—the restaurants share a similar feel and concept.
Roganic5-7 Blandford St., Marylebone | +44.203.370.6260
Finally, a brick-and-mortar manifestation of Simon Rogan’s beloved pop-up, with most of the original staff making a return. Roganic’s produce comes straight from Rogan’s own farm, with a sprinkling of greatest hits from the rest of the British Isles. The fourteen-course tasting menu makes for a long evening, so best to leave the kids at home. Nordic flavors abound, most in the desserts—smoked juniper fudge, iced dandelion seed snap, to give an idea. The rest is a mix of the most delicious things you can think of, one course after the other. Raw bavette, scallops, buttery poached halibut, duck—they all make an appearance. Salt-baked celeriac (is there anything better than this? No, there is not), artichoke broth, beet sorbet, and a clever use of herbs and fruits balance out all the richness. If you’re going to commit to the tasting, go big—get the wine pairing, too.
Sabor35-37 Heddon St., Mayfair | +44.20.3319.8130
Heddon Street is the closest thing Mayfair has to a back alley—and nipping down the side street for a feast of full suckling pig and one too many glasses of fine sherry feels suitably illicit. Sabor is flavor—and lots of it. The two-story space cheerily decked out in Spanish tile and exposed brick hits the sweet spot of having both the dip-in-and-out cozy seats at the bar for a few tapas and the communal table packed with your rambunctious extended family for several courses upstairs. From the same people behind Barrafina, the traditional food here is good, really good. Grilled bread with a scraping of smashed tomato; oily, garlicky prawns to tear into with your fingers; and a whole suckling pig (it comes in a half or quarter sizes, too) so meltingly tender it arrives with only a spoon to serve.
Sake No Hana23 St. James's St., Mayfair | +44.20.7925.8988
Sake No Hana turns out some of the best sushi in London. The Kengo Kuma–designed restaurant is an interpretation of what a forest of the future might look like: The ceiling and walls are made of interlocking bamboo and cypress tree rods, warmed up with the reflective glow of the amber lighting, like the sun peeping through the pines. This is a proper restaurant that has not succumbed to too-noisy, too-dark clubbiness. Sit at the bar to watch the chefs at work, and if in doubt, go for the tasting menu for Sake No Hana’s greatest hits, all beautifully presented. Skip the traditional desserts and get the Japanese whiskey flight—three tasters, each one accompanied by a lone chocolate that complements the flavors. Dining here, while undoubtedly a commitment, is worth every penny: The food is exquisite and the service faultless.
The Coach26-28 Ray St., Clerkenwell | +44.203.954.1595
French bistro meets British gastro at the upscale boozer the Coach. The dining area is English elegant, which is to say, oak-paneled walls, walls painted minty green, and haphazardly hung artwork. It all comes together to create a warm, cozy, quietly refined room you will happily settle into for many Sunday lunches to come. The owners have taken care to include all the classics when it comes to beer and wine, offset with a notable selection of craft brews and smaller labels. The cuisine is the kind of cold weather fare we always love: cidery mussels with thick fries for dipping, fall-apart braised ox cheeks with sharp horseradish, and the pork rillettes with crisp toast and vinegary pickles. All pair perfectly with a cold beer.
Trishna15-17 Blandford St., Marylebone | +44.207.935.5624
Rose, vermouth, cardamom, and cherry? That’s a Kerala. Fennel pollen, port, and mint: That’s the West Bengal. Welcome to cocktails, as envisioned by Trishna. (The drinks are named after the Indian states their flavors represent.) Like the cocktails, every item on the menu and every piece of furniture and décor was carefully considered. The food is, for the most part, Keralan coastal fare, all the bright, zesty curries and rice dishes brimming with scallops, king prawns, flaky white fish, and spices. If you order the seven-course vegetarian tasting menu you will never question the validity of vegetables as a main ever again. The velvet banquettes are perfect for groups, the mirrored walls and gold-hued lighting give a romantic edge, and skipping dessert for the rose petal lassi is never a bad call.