Looking for new restaurants in London? We’ve visited the hot new openings in the capital to come up with the best London restaurants list.
Here they are, olive’s top restaurants in London at the moment, expertly reviewed by our team…
In a nutshell: Darby’s has all the charm of a laid-back drinking den, with the benefits of one of London’s most assured chefs.
What’s the vibe? Inspired in name and nature by his jazz musician father, Earl ‘Darby’ Gill, the grand space houses a bakery (with bread, pastries, bagels and sarnies ready to take away), open kitchen (complete with open-fire stoves) and oyster bar. With a 1950s Manhattan feel, there are bottle-green tiles, fluted velvet banquettes and booths, herringbone floors, dark wooden tables and colonial-style chairs. Seating spills out onto the terrace, looking up to the embassy.
What’s the food like at Darby’s? The menu’s split into snacks, oysters, starts, sharing mains, daily specials, and sides. Things start off well with Dooncastle oysters (served with shallot vinegar, lemon, black pepper and Tabasco – depending on your penchant) from Galway Bay. They’re some of the best bivalves you’ll get in London (and we’ve done the rounds). Then, in quick succession, we make our way through “‘Gilda’ little perverts, witty and spicy” which we learn are Robin’s take on Basque skewers of pickled chillies, slivers of eel, juicy olives and chives.
Click here to read our full review of Darby’s
Jersey milk ricotta agnolotti with courgette sauce at Darby’s
Casa Fofó, Hackney Downs
In a nutshell: An exceptional, yet accessible, haven for Hackney foodies where continental flavours collide without breaking the bank.
What’s the vibe? Inside there’s stripped brick and white-washed walls, with tiny wooden tables, shelves of low-intervention, natural wines and trailing ivy, and an exposed, open kitchen at the back, where the chefs quietly beaver away.
What’s the food like? Casa Fofó is the baby of Italian head chef Adolfo De Cecco, who’s best known for his time at Pidgin, and is joined by alumni from his time here – sous chef Sam Coleman and chef de partie Giuseppe Pepe. Eight courses (for just £39 – here’s a contender for London’s new best-value tasting menu) are kicked off with a super-crisp potato cake finger with a spiced slice of pickled daikon and lardo, taken from a well-fed Middle White pig. The menu, which is tweaked daily, is Marie Kondo-esque minimal with only a few words to describe each finely tuned dish, making each arrival a pleasant surprise.
Click here to read our full review of Casa Fofó
Almond, Crab and Monk’s Beard at Casa Fofo
Casa Fofó interiors
Kanishka, London W1 (Mayfair)
Kanishka in a nutshell: The first Indian chef in the world to receive a Michelin star, Atul Kochhar reminds us why he’s been so decorated in his 30-year career, with his glamorous two-floor Mayfair restaurant centering on lesser-known, more remote regions of his homeland and neighbouring countries.
What’s the vibe? Upstairs there’s a trippy monochrome floor that will have you second guessing each step, an azure and chrome bar, and twinkly ceilings, while downstairs is a muted colour palette of pink and mint with a fake ‘living’ ceiling.
What’s the food like at Kanishka? Let chef guide you with the set or tasting menus, or explore via the à la carte. Try supremely light Tibetan lobster thukpa soup with a tangle of fresh egg noodles, ‘Dad’s’ mild and comforting murg makhani (otherwise known as butter chicken), and seafood Alleppey curry, which sees a gentle bathing of sweet, soft shellfish, kissed by heat.
Click here to read our full review of Kanishka
Orasay, London W1 (Notting Hill)
Modern, cool cooking in a posh end of town, with big flavours and the best British produce, particularly Scottish shellfish, from one of London’s most talked-about chefs.
Any meal that starts with little fried shrimp, dusted in celery salt, that you’re encouraged to eat whole – head, shell and all – has got to be good. And it was, right through to the posh rice pudding at the end, hiding sweet and sour, Pink Panther-hued stewed rhubarb, fired up with ginger, and topped with a crisp brandy snap.
Click here to read our full review of Orasay
Tamworth chop with stewed white beans
In a nutshell: Relaxed British fine dining with a South African twang in west London, from the same, hands-on trio behind Hackney’s Nest.
What’s the vibe? A long, gnarly sliced oak table and bar provide the focal points to this modestly decorated space. The music can feel a bit loud and muffled, if the restaurant’s not too busy, but otherwise there’s considerably more room to breathe than its cosy sister restaurant.
What’s the food like? There’s no à la carte here, instead a monthly changing set menu of five courses for £40. Crisp and bitter winter leaves salad crown a cream of salt pecorino and slivers of mushrooms, firm flakes of cod on a bed of ham hock and soft white beans, and duck with sticky dates and squash with spiced dukkah crumb.
Firm flakes of cod on a bed of ham hock and soft white beans
Gloria, London EC2 (Shoreditch)
A Paris export bringing top-quality Italian food to the streets of east London in its own quirky, seriously OTT way. All produce is sourced from Italy and it shows. Order smoked stracciatella (if you can resist burrata from Puglia), accurately described on the playful menu as “bloody godsent”.
If Instagrammable dishes are your bag then look no further than the La Gran Carbonara, for two to share, served in a giant wheel of pecorino, and the “incomparable” lemon pie with a promised 5.9-inch meringue layer.
Click here to read our full review of Gloria
Blistered pizzas and burrata
In a nutshell: From the team behind north London’s Westerns Laundry and Primeur comes Jolene, a restaurant and bakery using grains grown in Norfolk, Gascony and Goodwood, all milled on-site to retain their natural goodness.
What’s the vibe? A cool yet cosy neighbourhood joint in leafy Newington Green that attracts a friendly crowd of locals. Stripped back to basics, plastered walls, zinc tables and exposed pipes are warmed up by flickering tea lights, and single stems of red berries cast shadows onto white walls.
What’s the food like at Jolene? A daily changing menu displayed on a blackboard is split into nibbles, smaller plates, sharing mains, sides and desserts, all with a focus on seasonal ingredients and grains.
Silky smooth ravioli, generously filled with smooth pumpkin purée, soaks in a sage butter sauce, while the malloreddus and sausage ragu celebrates all that is great about carbs. Sweet, roasted carrots were a highlight, served with chopped hazelnuts, fresh mint and creamy whipped curd – so good we scraped the plate clean. Mains are made for sharing with a couple of sides, too. Flaky grilled stone bass basked in a creamy, salty butter sauce, while al dente bitter greens helped lighten the dish. Don’t miss out on dessert, where the flourless chocolate cake rivals that of The River Cafes, with an almost molten centre and crisp exterior.
And the drinks? An all-natural wine menu split into sparkling, whites and reds offers mainly European varieties.
Silky smooth ravioli, generously filled with smooth pumpkin purée, soaks in a sage butter sauce
EartH Kitchen, London N16 (Dalston)
It might feel as if you’re en route to a trendy Hackney gig, as you climb the stairs to EartH (or Evolutionary Arts Hackney to those cool cats in the know). And if you carry on, you will – there’s comedy shows, music, club nights, theatrical performances, flea markets and more. But take the first door into the former foyer of this hidden art deco cinema and you’ll come across the newly opened EartH Kitchen.
There’s a decent list of small plates and larger main courses to choose from, depending if you’re hitting and running before a show or settling in for the night. The plates are easy eating, focussing on a few good, seasonal ingredients jazzed up with a bit of kitchen magic. There’s veg (wild garlic soup), and fish (smoked mackerel with beets, watercress and horseradish), pork chops and confit duck, but the offal’s where it’s at. This is St John alumni, after all.
Click here to read our full review of EartH Kitchen
Wood pigeon’s subtle gamey flavour is mediated by creamy hummus, briney hunks of olive, crisp bitter leaves and by the sharp pop of pomegranate seeds.
EartH Kitchen interiors
In a nutshell: The trio behind Brixton Market restaurant, Salon, branch out to Peckham, focusing on rich French cooking in an ode to cheese, butter and meat.
What’s the vibe? A lick of deep blue paint, mahogany tables and twinkling tea lights add warmth to the small, industrial space. Shelves groaning with vinyl and a line-up of low-intervention wines separate the dining room from an open kitchen/bar area.
What’s the food like? Inspired by the new-wave bistros of Paris, Levan’s short menu is split into three sections – snacks, small plates and larger sharing dishes. Start with unique comté panisse that’s deep-fried to produce bouncy, cheesy domino fries to dip into saffron aioli. Move on to thick ravioli parcels filled with brown butter-caramelised celeriac, accompanied by knobbly, deep-fried Jerusalem artichokes and crisp cavolo nero. The vacherin pie is rich and cheesy, peppery and earthy – a shiny golden dome with frilly outer crust that collapses into layers of dauphinoise potatoes, slow-cooked black trompette and chestnut mushrooms, and, of course, melted vacherin cheese. Finish with tarte tatin – golden puff pastry melts away, with salted caramel-braised apple slices adding lip-smacking salty-sweetness.
And the drinks? The carefully curated wine list focuses on low-intervention and natural wines, heroing those from the Jura. In keeping with the fuss-free nature of the restaurant, there are just two cocktails, both wine-based. The simple ‘white’ mixes Tanqueray 10 with Belthasar Riesling vermouth over a large block of ice that sits snuggly in its tumbler, while the ‘red’ is served in a more elegant flute with wine-based Ciroc vodka, sweet and dry vermouth.
Thick ravioli parcels filled with brown butter-caramelised celeriac, accompanied by knobbly, deep-fried Jerusalem artichokes and crisp cavolo nero
In a nutshell: Following hot (literally) on the heels of the many other live-fire grill restaurants to open in 2018, Gridiron by Como caters to those who like to be well-fed and well-oiled.
What’s the vibe? Taking over the spot of the former Met Bar (cool cats will remember it was theplace to be in Mayfair in the Nineties and Noughties), Gridiron’s drama comes from its open kitchen, complete with real fire, flanked by a marble counter, dark woods, and blood-red and racing-green seating.
What’s the food like? The stuff of death-row dining dreams. Save room for the mains (simple but superb) and as many sides (outstanding) as you dare. There’s little for veggies and diddly for vegans – meat here reigns king. Highland sirloin comes served medium rare, as chef recommends, on the bone and with a just-right kiss of smoke. It’s joined on the menu by Middle White pork, Barnsley hogget and venison saddle, as well as a few more steaks, but we’re sidetracked by roasted turbot – sticky, gelatinous, and bobbing decadently in a creamy, roasted chicken butter sauce. Desserts are familiarly classic (and rib sticking), from sticky toffee pudding to banana eton mess.
And the drinks? The drinks here should get just as high a billing as the food, with brothers Max and Noel Venning of Dalston’s Three Sheets behind the cocktails, and esteemed food and wine writer Fiona Beckett all over le vin. We start with a clear, silky White Russian with smooth vodka, coffee made mellow by miso, and clarified milk. It’s the best interpretation of this classic that we’ve tried.
Gridiron’s cod and squid girolles
In a nutshell: A new neighbourhood restaurant in a corner of London that’s best known for its Vietnamese cuisine, Two Lights is the latest from the The Clove Club alumni with a sophisticated, so-called ‘modern American’ focus.
What’s the vibe? Décor is stark – whitewashed brick walls, clothless tables and not a soft furnishing in sight. But, a peek-through kitchen with a wood-fired oven glowing in the back, high shelves lined with weird and wonderful pickles, intriguing vintages, trendy creepers and ferns, and some intensely foodie bedtime reading keeps things interesting.
What’s the food like? Our favourite dishes were a sardine katsu sandwich – perhaps the least Instagram-friendly dish this side of Old Street station – and crab atop beef-fat ‘chips’. The former, a panko-battered fish (tail and all, poking out from one end) sandwiched between cheap, crustless, white slices, is brilliant. The chips, millefeuille-like, are super crisp fingers topped with delicately sweet picked and dressed white crab meat, with a welcome sharpness from tiny pickled elderflower buds, all served on millennial-pleasing blush-pink plates. Don’t skip the sides – carrots roasted, dusted with fennel pollen and draped in disappearing, melting lardo was simply ace.
Sardine katsu sandwich: panko-battered fish (tail and all, poking out from one end) sandwiched between cheap, crustless, white slices, is brilliant
In a nutshell: The latest restaurant from chef and restaurateur Andrew Wong (the London behind Michelin-starred A Wong), Kym’s takes a modern approach to the traditional roasted meats and flavours of China.
What’s the vibe? Millennial pink menus and a towering fake blossom tree clash happily with moody metals and dark woods in this fresh new restaurant in the critically acclaimed Bloomberg Arcade. Choose between crowding into booths or at-the-pass counter dining and expect to fight for space and attention with the rowdy City boys a location like this attracts.
What’s the food like? The menu is broken down into a selection of small plates (silken tofu, sichuanese aubergine, peppery pickled daikon), fritters, sharing plates, classics (Xian City ‘lamb burger’, crispy pork belly, Iberico pork char siu), sides and sweets. The idea is to order across the lot and expect them to come whenever chef says so.
The menu is broken down into a selection of small plates (silken tofu, sichuanese aubergine, peppery pickled daikon)
Hicce in a nutshell: Hicce is the latest addition to King’s Cross chic new development, Coal’s Drop Yard. Expect a cool and casual space serving up sensational hot sticks and moreish small plates taking inspiration everywhere from Italy to Japan and Norway, alongside draft wine and sprightly cocktails.
What’s the vibe? Sat above the new luxury Wolf & Badger store, Hicce has an East London restraint to its aesthetic. Clothless tables, exposed brick wall, strategically placed succulents, draped ivy hanging from a central bar, and an open kitchen pave the way for a relaxed menu of dishes designed to be shared.
What’s the food like? Try a selection of small plates. Brussels sprouts (with slices of crisp, cool kohlrabi) are deep-fried, topped with golden hazelnuts and a side of silky hazelnut mayo. Monkfish, on the bone, matches up to a triumphant plate celebrating jerusalem artichokes – roasted, sticky and sweet; puréed, nutty and smooth – trompette mushrooms, crunchy flaked almonds and charred chicory. The best, though, was a plate of pork collar (spiced and sliced) tossed through buttery hispi cabbage and slippery enoki mushrooms with a tartiflette-style, wine-spiked reblochon sauce. Pecan, chilli and chocolate tart – and a ricotta ice cream providing a cooling, milky contrast – is well executed, if a little safe.
And the drinks? Efficiently curated is the theme at the Hicce bar – expect a few choice local artisans for the spirits and nearby brewed Hicce beer, served as a schooner, by Hackney Brewery. Wine comes from a select choice of small-batch, indie producers and some are even on draft – the slightly chilled Sicilian Baglio Rosso hit the spot for us. Be sure, too, to check out the well rounded cocktails, including a zingy ‘hicce’ with Ketel One citron, sake, elderflower and yuzu.
Pork collar tossed through buttery hispi cabbage and slippery enoki mushrooms
Cornerstone – named after chef/owner Tom Brown’s favourite Arctic Monkeys track – opened in April in trendy Hackney Wick, in east London. Just minutes from the Overground, the restaurant is the first from Cornish Tom, who has worked for Rick Stein and most notably Nathan Outlaw.
What’s the vibe? There are succulents and wicker chairs galore, and a clattering of shellfish in pans competes with a soundtrack of Arctic Monkeys (pre-2013, thankfully) and The Smiths. It could feel cold but there’s a buzz and a warmth from the open kitchen.
What’s the food like? The menu is designed for sharing and changes every lunch and dinner, and asterisks are placed by Tom’s favourites. We take chef’s lead, after sourdough toast with dripping butter. It arrives ready buttered, bouncy soft. Butter pools in its crevices, but there’s an extra puck on the side should we want more. We do. Pickled oysters are matched beautifully with a fiery horseradish cream, cured slivers of monkfish wow with pimples of curried, sharp lime pickle purée and thick coconut yogurt, and a much Instagrammed potted shrimp crumpet is heavy with butter – crunchy, yet yielding, the shrimps sweet but with a proper wince of heat from mace and cayenne. It’s a dream.
A dessert of pistachio cake, fresh raspberry jam and vanilla cream is without fault but we’re still wishing we could order another portion of the bream with seemingly the sticky bits of a roasted chicken pan and a lick of forest garden (via wild garlic, leeks and spring onion greens) – it’s that good.
And the drinks? There’s a short, international and mostly low-intervention wine list, with lots available by the glass, some stellar home-infused cocktails, and a bespoke Cornish house gin, too.
Raw Orkney scallops with a minty salsa verde
In a nutshell: A modern reinterpretation of a Tehran hole-in-the-wall kabab house, in Soho.
What’s the vibe? This is a buzzy casual restaurant and tables are a tight squeeze. Out front, the open kitchen spills out its sights, sounds and smells onto the counter diners – there’s a flaming tandoor (oven), mangal barbecue, and vertical rotisserie. Out the back, crumbling brick walls, gorgeous mosaic floor tiles, reclaimed marble and bronze tables, and colourful fabric wall hangings and cushions keep things cosy and suitably Persian.
What’s the food like? The menu at Berenjak is broken down into mazeh that are designed to be mopped up with house-made flatbreads, kababs and khoresht (stews), and sides, including various pickles, rice and beans. Obligatory hummus exceeds expectations – made with black chickpeas, tahini and walnuts, topped with crispy onions and a pinch of sour sumac, and surrounded by a golden moat of rapeseed oil – it was as light as air and as moody as chocolate mousse.
You can choose from the likes of Cabrito goat, guinea fowl and whole poussin when it comes to the kababs, but we opt for a boneless chicken breast, marinated in a vibrant saffron, lemon and yogurt mix. It’s as juicy as you like, the saffron delicate in its flavouring if not its colouring, with grilled onion and tomatoes, and fresh herbs (coriander, tarragon and dill) on the side. Vegan aubergine stew with split yellow peas and crispy matchsticks fries – which you can take to the other extreme by adding beef short rib – is the kind of comforting that only comes from time. Don’t leave without ordering the rice – fluffy, peppered with crunchy tadig, and earthy from another subtle hit of saffron and goat’s butter. There’s only one dessert, a baklava ice-cream sandwich that’s as good as it sounds, sourced from Darlish, the UK’s first Persian ice cream parlour in St Albans.
And the drinks? Keep your palate refreshed with a sharbat – a non-alcoholic Persian fruit cordial, topped with sparkling water and ‘swizzled’ with sabzi (fresh herbs), which you can ‘spike’ with a complementary spirit. Preserved lemon and parsley, supercharged with vodka and bergamot, is so thirst-quenching, we order a second. Ok, and a third.
You can choose from the likes of Cabrito goat, guinea fowl and whole poussin when it comes to the kababs
Linden Stores, London N1 (Islington)
Linden Stores is the kind of relaxed neighbourhood hangout everyone wishes they had on their doorstep. The brainchild of chef Chris Boustead and Laura Christie, the wine shop and restaurant was conceived as place where Chris could cook part-time (it only opens evenings, Wednesday to Saturday) and still have time to spend with their young son, Ollie. The shop is crammed with mostly European bottles sourced from smaller winemakers by Laura (including plenty from Turkey) which are available to take away or drink in for £10 corkage. There is also a selection of wines by the glass each day at £5 each.
The space is small and cosy, with tables in the shop upstairs and restaurant downstairs. The frequently changing menu is inspired by British seasons as well as Chris’s Yorkshire heritage. Each eclectic small plate really packs in the flavour. Bread comes with a scoop of whipped Marmite butter; slow-cooked pig’s cheeks are glazed in a rich umami sauce and garnished with sweet and sharp pickled cherries, and a silky turnip purée. Lightly smoked creamy yogurt enriches a dish of long-stemmed broccoli with crunchy fried shallots, peanuts and cheese.
A must order are the crisp, deep-fried croquettes, filled with pea and Yorkshire Fettle – a feta-like sheep’s cheese with a zing. Elsewhere there is homemade charcuterie, fresh oysters and a British cheeseboard for those only wanting a snack with their wine. Top retro points go to a pud of chocolate bourbon biscuits filled with buttercream and served with sharp, creamy rhubarb ice cream.
Click here for our dinner party menu from Linden Stores
Pig Cheeks with Pickled Cherries and Turnip Purée at Linden Stores
Bancone, London WC2 (Covent Garden)
In a nutshell: A shiny Italian restaurant just minutes from Trafalgar Square, with a tagline of “pasta, prosecco, espresso”.
What’s the vibe? Sit at the marble-topped, brass-trimmed bar, overlooking Louis Korovilas and his team at work, or nestle into a booth for a casual dinner with friends.
What’s the food like? It’s those first little mouthfuls of arancini from the antipasti that you’ll be raving about, come home time. Created by head chef Louis Korovilas – whose CV lists training under Giorgio Locatelli, at Locanda Locatelli, and Pied à Terre – the arancini arrive as three golden nuggets. Their crisp armour gives way to the lightest rice, still just al dente, no stodge, and bags of flavour.
Fresh pasta, which is made and rolled upstairs, is flash-boiled before being tossed with any of the 10 sauces on offer. Chitarra – guitar-string like spaghetti – is slicked with cacio e pepe and topped with a crisp, peppered cheese wafer. Oxtail ragu, slow cooked for 10 hours until sticky and sweet, clings to bouncy folds of pappardelle. Simple, quality ingredients – the bedrock of good Italian cookery – are shown proper respect. Hispi cabbage is charred and dressed with red chilli, garlic and 2017 Planeta olive oil. Chicory and beans are held up with sweet and sour onions, and a deeply savoury anchovy crumb. Don’t leave without a palate-cleansing, retro-tastic Amalfi lemon syllabub (recipe below) and granita served in its original host. Holiday vibes for the win.
And the drinks? Classic negronis with the right amount of chunky ice and a twist of orange are just as well received as the prosecco.
Click here for our dinner party menu from Bancone
Oxtail ragu slow cooked for 10 hours until sticky and sweet, clings to bouncy folds of pappardelle.
Leroy, London EC2 (Shoreditch)
In a nutshell: A relaxed, affordable neighbourhood restaurant from the team behind the now (sadly) closed Ellory in Hackney – with sommeliers Ed Thaw and Jack Lewens, and chef Sam Kamienko at the helm.
What’s the vibe? The sort of place we want to hang out in every damn day. Olive-green tables are gold trimmed, school chairs have red-leather cushions, there’s dark, marble-topped counters and an open kitchen, which looks like a scene out of the Bon Appétit test kitchen. It feels like Brooklyn – but better.
What’s the food like? Simplicity and flavour are key – so everything on the menu appeals. One to two plates per person, with a couple of snacks to share for good measure, should do it. Quail skewers are so tender, still pink inside, with a sticky and hot honey sauce. Caramelised and moreish, the tingly heat that gently lingers is a reminder of just how good they were. Ricotta dumplings, under a cloud of parmesan, are like edible pillows sent from heaven, crashing down to earth in their bed of early summer peas and courgette. Muscat crème caramel was one of our favourite desserts of 2018 – explicit in its wobble, unapologetic with its boozy flirting.
And the drinks? Leroy’s home used to be a wine bar – and the drinks are definitely still a draw, from deliciously puckering rhubarb house soda and aromatic vermouth spritzes to a long list of low-intervention, natural wines (although only a few by the glass).
18 Phipp Street, Shoreditch, LondonEC21 4NU
In a nutshell: Cora Pearl brings modern British plates with Parisian accents to Covent Garden.
Who’s cooking? The latest project from the team behind award-winning restaurant Kitty Fisher’s, in Mayfair, chef George Barson (Dinner, Viajante) has moved from the latter to head up the kitchen.
What’s the food like at Cora Pearl? Dishes are simple but impeccably executed, using beautiful ingredients. The kitchen’s way with vegetables especially impressed; creamy goat’s curd, in a generous pool of grassy olive oil, came with lovage and perfectly seasoned tomatoes (click here for more goat’s curd recipes). After this came soft, yielding agnolotti filled with more curd – cow’s this time – on a velvety pea purée, with perfectly pitched earthiness from summer truffle. Best of all was a deeply savoury and surprisingly rich main of courgettes – pickled, puréed and charred –with aubergine, black garlic (roasted whole and as a gel) and Ticklemore cheese. Dessert, as per the rest of the menu, was expertly crafted, our poached peach lusciously rich, paired with an intensely flavoured yet delicate earl grey sorbet.
olive tip: Do start your meal with plate of on-trend yeasted butter and bread, which tasted like a luxe version of marmite on toast.
Cora Pearl interiors. Photo credit Alex Maguire
St Leonards, London EC2 (Shoreditch)
In a nutshell: A new, maverick fire-and-ice restaurant from Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, of Brunswick House, in the heart of Shoreditch.
Who’s cooking? Between chef-patrons Jackson and Andrew there’s quite the glittery culinary CV, having worked for Margot Henderson, at The Salt Yard, The Square and St John, amongst others. But their latest project together is unlike anything either have done before.
What’s the vibe? A far cry from the grandeur and antiquity of Vauxhall’s Brunswick House, St Leonard’s is a vast and underdressed space in the grungy end of Shoreditch. Living trees add a bit of colour to the sparse, concrete-chic decor – wooden tables adorned only with cutlery, crudely pressed linen napkins, and tortoiseshell tealight holders. Funky, industrial chain lights cast pretty shadows.
What’s the food like? Expect flavours and combinations here that you won’t have tried before and a lot of love for pork. There’s a dramatic, large, log-fuelled open fire which produces small plates of flame-scorched margarita onions, with a tuna bone (yes, you read right) caramel (sweet, umami, sticky) and specials such as Swaledale lamb leg, slow roasted and rosy, with Vesuvio tomatoes and anchovies.
There’s also a raw ice bar where oysters come natural, dressed or, with help from the hearth, flamed. Ours come warm from the fire with a lardo crumb – every bit as mind blowing as you might imagine – but still not as good as the single cherrystone clam. It’s worth its eye-watering £9 price tag – sweet, chubby and drinking in its szechuan oil dressing and fine dice of coriander stalks. There’s plenty more worth ordering. Smoked eel and foie gras custard with pork rind is like the punk sister to an elegant and restrained chawanmushi (a Japanese savoury egg custard). Sides, too, shouldn’t be shunned. Hispi cabbage – uncontested king brassica – is crowned with more pork fat and an XO crumb. Sprouting broccoli is slathered in delicious, dainty scraps of ham knuckle and aggressive smoked chilli.
And the drinks? Bitter is the theme when it comes to apertifs – Cynar and Kamm & Sons spritzes, and Suze, get star billing, alongside sherry and vermouth. The wine list is well annotated with full tasting notes, which make navigating the lesser-known bottles a dream.
olive tip: Desserts are no less ballsy, so don’t skip, even if you don’t think you have a sweet tooth: the salted caramel and East India sherry tart with cardamom ice cream is the best thing on the menu. And, trust us, it’s got a lot of competition.
70 St Leonard Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 4QX
Roast duck with olives at St Leonard’s. Credit Steve Ryan
Sambal Shiok in a nutshell: Mandy Yin has gone from street food stall to Malaysian pop up, and now has her own laksa bar in Highbury.
What’s the vibe? The cosy room is paved with wooden floorboards, dark-blue walls are lined with Malaysian street scenes in gilt frames and bright artwork posters. Mandy and her team hustle away behind a counter in the open kitchen, assembling bowls of comforting laksa and sprinkling fresh herbs onto veggie salads.
What’s the food like? Simple Malaysian dishes are executed very well. A vegetarian salad of shredded carrot, thin slices of mooli and pickled cucumber is tossed in peanut sauce with tiny cubes of fried potato, and Malaysian fried chicken is some of the best we’ve tried – super-succulent chicken pieces are marinated in turmeric and fennel seeds with cumin and coriander then tossed in chickpea gram flour and fried until extra crunchy and golden.
There are five laksas to choose from – tofu, chicken, prawn, and a special laksa encompassing all of the above, as well as a vegan special with charred aubergine and sautéed potatoes. Slosh around in the fragrant liquid to find succulent chicken pieces, huge plump prawns, spongy pieces of tofu and crunchy green beans. Slippery rice and springy egg noodles add to the various textures that are slurped up from the rich coconutty broth. Beef rendang is a melting concoction of tender beef in a deep and complex sauce, served with fluffy rice.
olive tip: Save your booze pennies for a glass of wine or two among the olive trees of Westerns Laundry’s terrace, just a few minutes’ walk away. Here’s our dinner party menu from Westerns Laundry to try at home.
Duke of Richmond, London E8 (Hackney)
In a nutshell: A newly refurbished Hackney pub with a whiff of French thanks to the winning Oldroyd touch.
Who’s cooking? Chef and restaurateur Tom Oldroyd made a name for himself at his eponymous Islington restaurant over the past three years. Formerly chef director of the Polpo Group, Tom’s signature style is to take British ingredients and serve them in stripped-back, easy-to-eat, European ways. At The Duke of Richmond, with Rory Shannon (previously of the Canton Arms in Stockwell) behind the pass, that European accent has a certain French twang but with the best of the local-ish larder.
What’s the vibe? A thoughtful restoration, including cool painted floorboards, calming accents of olive and cream on the walls, blue leather banquettes, and varnished wooden tables, make for a modern pub setting. Relaxed, a little bit rowdy (as all good pubs should be) and suitably stylish for its Hackney locals.
What’s the food like? The menu might be continental in its leaning but all of the dishes feel at home in their British pub setting – think seasonal giant vol au vents, rib cap burgers with confit shallots, roquefort, bearnaise sauce and fries, and tart au citron. Super-light Cornish crab soufflé in the dining room hooked us in from the start, cooled down by a rusty chilled crab bisque, and a nutty comté brioche bun. Stuffed and baked courgette was a plate of true slow food – sticky and soft, perked up with an aniseed punch of fennel seeds, on a bed of soft braised, winey borlotti beans, artichokes and basil pistou.
Sea trout in another bowl, sat in the buttery sauce it was poached in, flecked with wild fennel, would have been enough – but flashed-in-the-pan, super-soft Poole Bay clams, and succulent and salty samphire had us mopping up every last drop with the chewy, tangy sourdough and (we’re not ashamed) even more salted butter. Iced chocolate parfait with burlot cherries, simply stoned, and salted honeycomb gave us Friday feeling.
And the drinks? There’s a short, trendy cocktail list – with a bitter, herbal white negroni blending gin, lillet blanc and suze, and vermouth spritzes. The wine list isn’t as reliant on France as the food menu, although the old world is definitely well represented, and at good prices (the highest not even tipping the £80 mark). Although if you’re after a decent summer beer – you won’t go far wrong with the French Meteor lager on tap here.
olive tip: Don’t have time for a full dinner? Grab a bar snack, which are rather superior, too – from crispy pig ears, and rotisserie chicken baguettes filled with soubise onions and tarragon aïoli, to Cornish crab chip butties and whole baked Tunworth cheese with cornichons.
The Duke of Richmond, 316 Queensbridge Road, London, E8 3NH
Crab and chips brioche burger at Duke of Richmond. Credit Steve Ryan
Lina Stores, London W1 (Soho)
In a nutshell: A much-anticipated pasta, antipasti and aperitivi bar from Soho institution Lina Stores, an Italian deli that’s been the go-to for authentic produce since opening in 1944.
What’s the vibe? The white and mint striped awning makes the new restaurant easily identifiable to regulars at Lina Stores’ original green-tiled corner shop a few streets away. Pops of its signature pastels continue inside – leather bar stools at the ground-floor counter, shelves heaving with Italian liqueurs and produce, and striped aprons on the chefs who slice pink ribbons of prosciutto, plate up antipasti and toss handmade pasta in pans ofsauce in the tiny open kitchen. Downstairs is where you’ll find the atmospheric cellar room, wheremore mint green leather banquettes cling to whitewashed walls and Italian Art Decolamps cast an elegant glow.
What’s the food like? Head chef Masha Rener has kept the menu simple and seemingly authentic, with every ingredient hailing directly from Italy – from bright and buttery Cerignola olives right down to the sugar used in exemplary Italian desserts and cakes.
The antipasti menu includes silky aubergine fritters in a crunchy golden shell, crisp radicchio salad with anchovy dressing, and little bowls ofalmost-too-pretty-to-eat baby artichoke hearts. Start with a porchetta sandwich, served Roman-style, in a crisp ciabatta roll, stuffed with crunchy bites of golden crackling and soft, slow-cooked pork marinated in rosemary and fennel seeds. We’d return for this alone, but it’s quite filling for a starter so share, if you must.
Fresh pasta, handmade an hour before service, is given pride of place at Lina Stores, served as the main event rather than traditional pre-main primi. Bright yellow strands of pappardelle soak up light, gamey rabbit ragu, perfectly formed gnocchi is brightened up with popping peas, and a vibrant mint and courgette mixture is stuffed into little tortellini parcels. Pici alla norcina is the highlight, though – springy worms of pasta in a creamy, nutty sauce of porcini mushroom and Norcia sausage (often celebrated as the best in Italy).
Creamy lemon sorbet refreshesafter so many comforting carbs, the little half-lemon bowl a nostalgic nod to Italian holidays, and is served with a shot of limoncello to send you merrily on your way.
And the drinks? Colourful bottles of Campari, Cynar (a bittersweet artichoke leaf liqueur) and Cocchi Americano vermouth that line the shelves behind the counter tempt diners into top-notch aperitivi. Go for a classic punchy negroni (great value at £6, and made with aromatic red vermouth), or venture into a zingy limoncello and thyme spritz or a blood orange bellini spiked with aromatic Fernet Branca liqueur. There’s a succinct list of Italian wines by the glass and bottle, from well-priced house wines of the Veneto area to soft and creamy sparkling Ferrari Perlé and the Abruzzo mountains’ bold red Montepulciano.
olive says… Sit upstairs at the counter to soak up the buzz and ask recommendations from Naples-born general manager Stanni (the charismatic fella in the red-rimmed glasses).