CLARE SMYTH, London
She held three Michelin stars for almost a decade for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, but now Clare is striking out on her own. At the time of writing, details were still sketchy, but keep an eye on Notting Hill this spring.
SAIPHIN MOORE, Lao Café, London WC2
You may know Saiphin’s mini-chain, Rosa’s Thai, but her new Covent Garden Lao Café is an exploration of Laotian cooking and the city of Luang Prabang where Saiphin’s family originate.
This landlocked country’s foraged jungle cuisine makes ingenious use of whatever’s available, from banana blossoms to freshwater fish, and Saiphin’s dishes, such as a fermented sausage and toasted rice salad, pack a full, authentic, bold and spicy punch. “My ants’ egg curry is definitely for the more adventurous,” says Saiphin. “It’s considered a delicacy in Laos, caviar of the East. Also the charcoal-grilled sticky rice is found everywhere in Luang Prabang.” laocafe.co.uk
MARIANNA LEIVADITAKI, Morito Hackney Road, London E2
Moro’s Moorish Spanish cooking takes on an Eastern Mediterranean flavour at its Hackney Road offspring. Head chef, Marianna, learned to cook in her family’s restaurant in Crete, where she cooked both traditional dishes and her own creations, such as grilled squid with a wild rocket sheep’s cheese pesto.
That blend of heritage and curiosity is now in play at the bright and buzzy, quietly swish Morito HR. Breakfast bougatsa (cheese-filled filo pastries with sugar and cinnamon) pay homage to a historic Cretan staple, while crispy fried aubergines with whipped feta and date molasses modishly riffs on Crete’s vegetable-led cooking. “I love that the beautiful vinegar I bring from my hometown, Chania, is the one we used in our family restaurant,” says Marianna. moritohackneyroad.co.uk. Try Marianna’s recipes – search for ajo blanco, Cretan salad and filo pastry with strawberries. moritohackneyroad.co.uk
Photograph: Issy Croker
MONICA GALETTI, Mere, London W1
Mere (pronounced ‘Mary’) is the MasterChef star’s collaboration with sommelier husband, David. About to open in Fitzrovia, it sounds more relaxed than Monica’s alma mater, Le Gavroche. “With no compromise on quality, the menu will be pretty straightforward. I want to create a welcoming, personal environment that guests can visit regularly.” @MGaletti01
SHAUN HURRELL, Barrio Comida, Newcastle
“The name means ‘neighbourhood food’ in incorrect Spanish; a nod to the fact I’m a white guy cooking Mexican food,” explains Shaun. A Californian, Shaun came to the UK in 2006 to hone his skills in various high-end kitchens, but now he’s serving tacos and specials such as pozole stew in a quayside shipping container.
“I’m applying the knowledge I’ve accumulated to a humble food that my friends could afford to eat,” he says. At Barrio, Shaun is using an imported machine to make fresh corn tortillas, and wood and charcoal grills to make taco fillings such as carne asada and chicken mole. Have them with tequila cocktails and homemade horchata. barriocomida.com
LUKE COCKERILL, The Rabbit In The Moon, Manchester
“Luke’s the most creative, dynamic chef,” says Michael O’Hare, who has installed his protégé as head chef at this spin-off from his acclaimed The Man Behind The Curtain. Part of the National Football Museum, the imminent Rabbit will serve a 17-course space age Asian tasting menu. @urbisrabbit, therabbitinthemoon.com
Photograph: Terry Parsons
NEIL BENTINCK, Skosh, York
Eating out in York can be staid but, at Skosh, think clever small plates, open-kitchen, lively hubbub. York-born chef-owner, Neil Bentinck, is livening up these ancient streets. A former head chef at Harrogate’s Van Zeller (RIP), Neil grew-up eating vadai and pakora with his Indian relatives, while a stint cooking in Australia opened his eyes to zingy East Asian flavours. Consequently the food at Skosh is, while pin-sharp in its execution, a fun, freewheeling global mash-up.
Neil flags-up his toasted goat’s cheese marshmallow with raspberries and lychee granita or tandoori partridge with a sharply dressed onion and mint salad, tomato chutney and a purée of herbs and yogurt, as indicative of his eclectic style: “The ingredients are local, however the influence is obviously Indian.” skoshyork.co.uk
BEN MARKS, Perilla, London N16
Now 24, Ben learned his trade in the high temples of gastronomy. He did his apprenticeship at Claridge’s. It says everything about the current retreat from ‘fine dining’, however, that – in its informal feel, if not its fastidious food (try the fried duck egg with chopped mussels and parsley sauce) – Perilla owes far more to Ben’s time at Noma and co-founder Matt Emmerson’s previous stint at Polpo.
“I’ve never felt completely comfortable in a formal dining environment,” says Ben. “We want an atmosphere that’s inviting and to keep prices as low as possible.” A former pop-up funded by such glittering names as Phil Howard, this Newington Green newcomer (set five course menu, £38), looks set to fly. Ben is particularly excited about his salad of Little Gem lettuce marinated in herbs, celery and grape juice. It embodies his ethos: “Taking humble, quality ingredients and thinking of new ways to serve them.” perilladining.co.uk
CLAUDE BOSI, Bibendum, London SW3
After closing Hibiscus, this is a fascinating left turn for the French trailblazer. Housed in an iconic Art Deco building, Bibendum was made famous by the chef/cookery writer, Simon Hopkinson, and Claude is promising to revisit some of Hoppy’s classics, such as fish soup and steak tartare. Opens spring 2017. bibendum.co.uk
BEN CHAPMAN, Kiln, London W1
A self-taught chef, Ben describes his first venue – the BBQ joint-cum-dive bar, Smoking Goat – as a “baptism of fire”. Burns healed and lessons learned, his new Soho diner Kiln is wowing gastro-nuts with its take on rural northern Thai food. Seated at the kitchen counter, diners eat facing the action as chefs feed glowing embers into grills and cylindrical tao burners (wood-fired stoves), to produce punchy, fiery dishes of, say, roast pigs’ head with Yunnan pickles.
High-quality ingredients are fundamental to these dishes and Kiln’s backbone is a network of Cornish suppliers who rear animals to Ben’s specifications and grow East Asian ingredients for him. “We do a herbal pork curry soup that, without our aromatic Cornish lemongrass, has no point. When we don’t have it, we don’t serve the dish.” kilnsoho.com
TOM GRIFFITHS, The Burgundy Rooms, Brighton
“I wanted to bring nose-to-tail to Brighton because it’s imperative to the future of cooking,” says Tom, whose Flank pop-ups won him many admirers. A conflation of BBQ, Nordic and East Asian influences, his food is exemplified by plates of Korean wings dusted with dehydrated wild garlic, flash-fried ox tongue with kimchi or braised short rib with bone marrow ketchup and dashi pan juices.
In spring, Tom will relaunch at the Burgundy Rooms, a new platform (“elegant, luxurious, informal,” promises co-owner Amanda Menahem), that will host long-term residencies from food’s rising stars. flankbrighton.com
DANNI BARRY, Deane’s Eipic, Belfast
Michael Deane’s Howard Street restaurant complex is 20 years old this year, and as vibrant as ever. Head chef Danni Barry, who bagged a Michelin star for chic Eipic within 18 months of taking charge, is emerging as one of the UK’s foremost talents. Schooled in classical technique by Deane, and in produce by Simon Rogan, her modest modus operandi (“I aim to maximise flavour”), rather underplays her smooth, sophisticated deployment of top-quality Northern Irish ingredients such as Peter Hannan’s Glenarm Shorthorn beef.
Danni’s crumb-dusted braised short rib with a smoked bone marrow emulsion and sweet pickled onions is a high-rolling crowd pleaser, but she pushes boundaries with her celeriac or fennel ice creams. “It’s a great way to use carrot tops or lovage stalks. Who doesn’t like ice cream?” deaneseipic.com
Photograph: Elaine Hill Photography
SCOTT GOSS, The Twenty Six, Tunbridge Wells
“Game birds, oysters, orchard fruits, Kent’s larder is incredible,” says Scott enthusiastically. “I walk through the woods every day and find wild garlic, mushrooms or rosehips.” All of which, as executive chef of the I’ll Be Mother group of restaurants, he gets to play with every day. “The Twenty Six is my test kitchen and there are no rules,” says Scott, who worked with Gary Rhodes and Anton Edelmann before returning to his native Kent.
Its curtains drawn against the chill and the log-burner stoked, Twenty Six takes on a secret-society atmosphere in winter. Although dishes such as sole with pistachio and raisins or honey and fennel crème brûlée, contain plenty of colour. Look out for Scott’s beef rib with onions and crème fraîche. “Smoking it in hay takes it to the next level,” he says with a grin. thetwenty-six.co.uk
MIKE BURGOYNE, The Whitehouse, Lochaline, Scotland
Many dream of leaving the big city for the good life. Few make that leap as successfully as Mike Burgoyne. After years cooking in London, a chance meeting with Whitehouse owners, Sarah Jones and Jane Stuart-Smith, led, in 2011, to Mike relocating to the beautiful remote Morvern peninsula in the Scottish Highlands. “We’re all mad about sourcing, using what’s available locally including foraged produce,” explains Mike, whose growing band of fans have to catch a ferry to this pretty dining room (closed in winter, open from late March).
His dishes, such as scallops with sea shore butter or rabbit cooked multiple ways – from pickled heart to roast loin – make technically adept, restrained use of kitchen garden ingredients and the wild Highland larder. The unpredictability of both means constant menu rewriting. “I might only have an ingredient like spoots [razor clams] in for one day each year,” says Mike. “I love that challenge.” thewhitehouserestaurant.co.uk
ROBBY JENKS, The Vineyard, Berkshire
Any olive reader worried that luxurious country house fine dining is in danger of being swept away by a wave of craft beer and gochujang will love Robby Jenks. Previously mentored by Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park, the 30-year-old spent 2016 refreshing the Vineyard menus to create the kind of ambitious, intricate, Michelin-courting dishes which, at their best, can still offer, as Robby puts it, “an unforgettable experience”.
Stand-outs include partridge, caramelised celeriac, pear and parmesan or cod with cauliflower and spiced coconut cream. The latter comes from a wine-matched Judgement of Paris menu which utilises the 30,000 bottles (!) in the Vineyard’s cellars. “I use classical cooking with modern techniques to produce flavour-driven dishes,” says Robby. “I don’t put things on the plate unless they have purpose.” the-vineyard.co.uk
SAM BUCKLEY, Where The Light Gets In, Stockport
Sam has stints with two of the UK’s most individual chefs on his CV (maverick genius Paul Kitching and Simon Rogan), and his solo venture is similarly distinctive. WTLGI is largely handmade, right down to its spoons, and this novel space – a stripped back warehouse dining room with a radical, totally open kitchen – serves a no-choice £65 dinner menu of ingredients sourced from a bespoke supply chain.
“Our forager is so obsessed it makes me bounce with excitement,” says Sam, who describes WTLGI as sustainable restaurant operating, “in reaction to a broken food system”. He refuses to be drawn on his cooking style (“I like to play and ask questions.”), although when WTLGI opened in October he served crispy ox testicles with homemade mushroom vinegar and raw ox heart with grated unripe quince and pine oil. “We served balls and heart because that’s what it took to open a restaurant down a dark alley in Stockport.” wtlgi.co
Sam is pictured far left
ELLIOT LIDSTONE, BOX-E, Bristol
Elliot sharpened his knife skills at the refined L’Ortolan and made a splash in a Hackney pub, The Empress, but at BOX-E, he and wife Tessa have created a restaurant which in every detail (from their beloved stove, ‘Sandra’, to ingredients from a relative’s allotment), is their personal vision.
Elliot’s seasonal, modern British food – hake with curried cauliflower and lime yogurt or braised venison with roast celeriac and horseradish – is technically elevated but approachable and the couple want BOX-E (housed in two converted shipping containers at Wapping Wharf), to be somewhere where they can share their enthusiasm for everything from making bread to quince vodka. BOX-E’s open-kitchen is crucial. “I like that diners can see what’s going on and ask me about the processes,” says Elliot. “Seeing people enjoy food you’ve cooked is special.” boxebristol.com
Photograph: André Pattenden