The best new restaurant openings in London, expertly reviewed by the olive team. Keep up to date with the hottest new openings and find out which are not to be missed, plus which dishes to order in each restaurant..
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…
Two Lights, London E2 (Shoreditch)
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.
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.
Also, staff seem to be genuinely happy to see you. They care – whether that’s ensuring your glass of (great) wine is served at the perfect temperature, or guiding you through their menu highlights.
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.
Kym’s, London EC4 (The City)
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.
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.
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.
Hicce, London N1 (King’s Cross)
Pronounced ‘itchy’ and meaning ‘of the moment’ in latin, 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.
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 (check out Nathan’s guide to cooking fish here). After making a name for himself in his home county, he worked as head chef of Outlaw’s eponymous restaurant at The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, which was awarded a Michelin star after only one year of opening.
Aside from its similar penchant for fresh fish, though, Cornerstone is a far cry from Tom’s previous. Here a menu of plates designed for sharing are affordably priced between £5-15 (£45 for the chef’s choice of eight). You can eat at the bar, which wraps itself around the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant, sat across from the chefs or at one of the minimalist tables. And 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.
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.
The tagline for Covent Garden’s newest Italian restaurant, just minutes from Trafalgar Square, might be “pasta, prosecco, espresso” – but 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 – first (on our visit) earthy mushroom, next creamy dolcelatte, and finally saffron with a fiery heart of ’nduja.
It’s hard not to be mesmerised by the rest of the menu, though, particularly if you sit at the marble-topped, brass-trimmed bar, overlooking Louis and his team at work. 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 (best ever ragu recipes here), 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.
Classic negronis with the right amount of chunky ice and a twist of orange are just as well received as the prosecco, and 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.
Those followers of Michelin will recognise the team behind Shoreditch’s latest bistro from the now (sadly) closed Ellory in Hackney – with sommeliers Ed Thaw and Jack Lewens, and chef Sam Kamienko at the helm. Leroy (a pet name for their former gaff) is decidedly more relaxed, more affordable, and 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.
Its new 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). When it comes to the food, 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.
Finally, Muscat crème caramel could be our best dessert of 2018, so far – explicit in its wobble, unapologetic with its boozy flirting.
18 Phipp Street, Shoreditch, LondonEC21 4NU
Cora Pearl, London WC2 (Covent Garden)
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.
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
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.
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
Reviewed by Laura Rowe
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).
Reviewed by Alex Crossley
Sabor, London W1 (Regent Street)
In a nutshell: A buzzy regional Spanish restaurant tucked behind Regent Street, from Nieves Barragán Mohacho and José Etura, a pair that have been the driving force behind Barrafina’s success for the past decade.
What’s the vibe? With a friendly service style and nods to Andalucían tapas bars (colourful tiles, high tables), Sabor has the authentic feel of bars found all over Spain. Wait in the lively brick-walled bar area and whet your appetite with mushroom croquetas and cured presa Iberica. Charismatic José will then seat you at a counter overlooking the open kitchen, where conversation with the Spanish chefs is encouraged.
What’s the food like? Sabor means ‘flavour’ in Spanish, and there’s plenty of that in the restaurant’s small plates. First for us, camarones fritos – tiny shrimp, deep-fried, and served with a crispy, paprika-dusted fried egg, whose molten yolk acted as a natural sauce. Crisp, golden prawn croquetas were as good as any we’ve ever tasted in their homeland, and rich with that roasted shell, holiday flavour.
A crimson carabinero the size of an adult hand, its antennae tickling the edge of the plate, was tender and spankingly fresh. Table etiquette fell to the floor, heads were sucked. Chubby mussels ‘a la Bilbaina’ slurped up a light sauce of tomatoes, sherry, sherry vinegar and herbs.
Sobrasada, the soft paprika sausage from Menorca, came in a rusty rubble on top of lightly crushed new potatoes, bobbing in a garlic cream, which we learn is formed of thrice-blanched garlic (sweet, mellow and nutty) blended with chicken stock and cream. It was explicitly good.
Desserts ticked every box – chocolatey bombas, sharp and creamy rhubarb and mascarpone tartlets, and an inspired goat’s cheese ice cream with a liquorice sauce rounded off a perfect meal.
And the drinks? The all-Spanish wine list begins with txakoli, the lightly effervescent Basque wine that’s poured from a dramatic height. Our unusual bottle of rosé was fresh and zingy with a touch of red fruit and, along with a couple of saline fino sherries, were a welcome foil to the rich, fried food to come. There’s vermouth on tap, too!
olive says… To dine at the heart of the action at Sabor, you can’t book, and you can’t sit in parties bigger than four, but it’s worth any first-come-first-serve frustrations.
In a nutshell: If you’re looking for one of the best-value and most considered tasting menus in London – by some serious up-and-coming talent – look no further than Nest, in Hackney.
What’s the vibe like? Set up by long-term friends Luke Wasserman, Toby Neill and Johnnie Crowe, Nest found its permanent home in a corner of a former pub in November, after a year of pop-ups. With a handful of thick-topped wooden tables, modestly decorated with tea lights, linen napkins and antique cutlery, Nest’s set menus are scrawled on hanging blackboards.
What’s the food like? There are two set menus (one’s completely veggie), £32 for six courses, plus homemade soda bread and hand-churned butter. Head chef Johnnie, who ran a small catering company before running a pub kitchen and stints at The Harwood Arms and Anglo, has a commitment to sustainability and focusses on only one meat product in the kitchen at a time.
On our visit, sika deer, reared by Julian Stoyle of Red Oak Deer Park, is the order of the day. It first comes in a delicately layered potato cake, super crisp, super soft (the texture of Potato Smiles, if you know – you know), well seasoned, with smoked shoulder, and addictively good anchovy mayo. Later it reappears as venison wellington, ruddy, buttery, wrapped in a delicious duvet of pear, duxelle, savoy cabbage and crisp golden pastry, with pear, perry and parsnip purées on the side, and two rissoles impaled with liquorice root, drizzled with piquant Oxford sauce.
Every plate, be it meat, fish or veggie, punches, and the coins of soft, forest-scented juniper toffee served in a nest round the meal off perfectly.
And the drinks? The drinks list is also committed to sustainability, serving low-intervention wines, cracking English negronis made with Surrey gin, Hackney amaro and Highgate vermouth, and wild-yeast-fermented ciders.
olive says… This is one of the best value tasting menus in London at the moment, so book a table before everyone else catches on…
Reviewed by Laura Rowe
Scully, London SW1 (St James’s)
In a nutshell: Scully is Ramael Scully’s first solo venture after six years as head chef at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi. His new upmarket but unpretentious restaurant serves British produce cooked using techniques Scully has picked up from across the globe.
What’s the vibe like? Scully is impressive in its unapologetic eclecticism. The stark concrete décor is given warmth via a buzzy open kitchen and a wall stacked with colourful homemade spice blends, dehydrated herbs, seeds and flowers, vinegars, pickles, syrups, shrubs and preserves. Staff are very familiar, which helps because the menu will probably need decoding for most. Before we even sit down we’re talked through, even encouraged to smell, some of the jars that will make an appearance during our dinner.
What’s the food like? The menu focusses on seasonal British produce peppered with ingredients from Ramael’s Chinese, Indian, Irish and Balinese heritage.
With a layered heritage comes layers of flavours – it’s an ineffable collection of dishes, from the warm masala chickpeas served on arrival to the moreish fried South American arepas, used to mop up a scented bed of bergamot labneh and aubergine sambal, soft and silky, with a donkey kick of heat.
Vegetable achar (aka funky, pickled veg with proper crunch) is a highlight with a sweet/sour apple sauce and a rubble of salty peanuts. Monkfish, too, with a curried coconut broth and a slap of chillies, shrimp paste and lime juice (Malaysian sambal belacan), wowed.
The clash of influences doesn’t always work – and this is most pronounced in the desserts. Parsnip and coconut sorbet with pandan and coffee is unpleasant, but Piura Porcelana chocolate sorbet with pistachio is sublime.
And the drinks? Wine is sourced from Newcomer Wines in Dalston, which specialises in artisanal wines from sustainable producers – particularly from Austria. We order a bottle of Jurtschitsch Grüner Veltliner 2016, Kamptal: it’s a refreshing, almost saline foil for the powerful plates of food that keep coming.
olive says… The plates at Scully can only be described as aggressively flavourful, which some people will love but others may not. It’s like a rollercoaster ride for your senses – exhilarating but perhaps not something for everyday.
BRAT, London E1 (Shoreditch)
In a nutshell: BRAT could have been a difficult second for album for chef and Young British Foodie winner Tomos Parry – such was the affection for his former gaff and celeb hang out Kitty Fishers – but it seems he’s learnt lessons in his time “off”.
What’s the food like? Brat, slang for turbot – the much ordered and much Instagrammed star dish on the menu at this former Shoreditch strip bar – is grilled over an open wood fire grill to much dramatic effect, along with more prime ingredients.
We order the Cornish moorland beef chop after a hot tip – slices of ruby red meat with a darkly charred bark, come lined up like dominos, their border of gamey yellow fat almost better than the meat itself. Italian tomatoes, on the side, are simply quartered, seasoned and drenched in an olive oil so peppery it catches in your throat.
The rest of the menu follows the trend for sharing plates – small snacks up to giant platters. We regret not ordering the chopped egg salad with bottarga as we spot it on the pass, but a bouncy, blistered, pillow-soft grilled flatbread, topped with curls of salty anchovy fillets, a slick of oil and sprinkling of chives does the trick.
Sweet langoustines with earthy spikes of roasted rosemary are barely licked by the flames – still daringly see through. Spider crab, cabbage and fennel salad was refreshingly different – a careful dance between the sweet shellfish, brassica pepperiness and aniseed hit, lemon zest and chervil. Perhaps the most surprising, underdog dish of the night was a bowl of cockles, boldly served with a sharp, vinegary liver sauce, earthy, sweet – and (who knew?) the perfect partner for these salty little sea bursts.
Burnt cheesecake was granular and didn’t do it for us, but a Tomos classic, brown bread ice cream marbled with marmalade, was just right.
And to drink? The wine list lives up to its promise, too – curated with the help of the cool gang at Noble Rot – there’s plenty for the chipper team to recommend, from supremely sippable sherries, to the grown-up Koehler-Ruprecht riesling trocken we consumed numerous glasses of.
Reviewed by Laura Rowe
Roganic, London W1 (Marylebone)
In a nutshell: Formerly a pop-up in the same neck of the woods, Roganic is the latest fine dining restaurant from pioneering British chef and restaurateur, Simon Rogan (best known for L’Enclume and Rogan & Co, in Cartmel, the Lake District, and most recently Aulis in Soho).
What’s the vibe like? Those familiar with L’Enclume’s set up will feel at home in this new Marylebone address. The design is stark – polished concrete-style floors, brushed copper-style walls, contemporary wood-shaved chandeliers, starched tablecloths. But what the décor lacks in warmth, is made up for in spades by the team. The staff here are the kind of friendly that isn’t painted on – it’s genuine. They’re as passionate as the chefs they’re serving from and GM James Foster enthrals with his foodie trivia.
What’s the food like? Depending on which day you visit, and whether you’re in for lunch or dinner, there’s a choice of a ‘short’ tasting menu (£80, featuring 10 courses) and the regular tasting menu (£115) of 17 (18 if you count the bread and butter) courses, or a set business lunch, £40, of six courses. Dishes are explained with succinct description “raw beef and kohlrabi”, “scallop, gooseberry, apple”. British suppliers, including Simon’s own Our Farm in the Lake District, feature throughout.
Preserved raspberry tarts at the start are a burst of sweet and sour flavour – tastebuds are officially awoken. Just warm and wibbly with an additional pop of onyx caviar, a savoury seaweed custard is soul-warmingly comforting. “Pork, eel, hay cream” comes as a piece of bubble-wrap-like, super-crisp crackling with the smoky butteriness of the eel and cream. Mushroom broth poured over a golden Burford Brown egg yolk, gently smoked, and more ’shrooms of various shapes, sizes and textures feels like a culinary tumble through an Alice in Wonderland rabbit role.
For dessert a sorbet of yellow beetroot bathed in buttermilk and a vibrant, sharp, green oxalis (also known as wood sorrel – a familiar sight in the woodlands close to L’Enclume) oil, was rewardingly refreshing and palate cleansing and led on to perhaps the best, certainly the most Instagramed, dish of the night…
And the drinks? Drinks pairing starts at £25, up to £75 depending what menu you order – but definitely don’t skip this. The team care just as much about the drinks as the do the food. On our visit, wine jumps from a sparkling from the Limney Estate in Sussex to a rare (and wonderful) greenish-gold Italian Vitovska, to a sprightly pinot noir made in Oregan by Kelley Fox Wines.
olive says…You’ve heard of a doggy bag? How about a breakfast bag? Each guest is given a brown bag with bespoke-blend earl grey tea bags, slices of ‘breakfast’ cake (the best kind) and a mini pot of homemade jam.
Reviewed by Laura Rowe
Indian Accent, London W1 (Mayfair)
With New Delhi and New York before it, chef-owner Manish Mehrotra’s third outpost of Indian Accent is a lesson in diversification. In its previous homes, the restaurant won spots on the World’s Best and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant lists, and now in London its ambitious offering hasn’t dimmed.
Set over two floors, the décor has a restrained opulence – deep-green velvet banquettes, clothless dark wooden tables, parquet flooring, walls of smoky mirrors and accents of gold. It delivers its promise, too – a menu with a loud whisper of Indian flavours, breaking free from the confines of what diners might perceive ‘Indian food’ should be.
You can get a whisky or wine flight with your meal (we choose the latter), and things get started with a thimble of velvety pumpkin and coconut soup, flecked with garam masala, and a mouthful of blue-cheese naan. Buttery, full of flavourful hum, it leaves you wanting more. But fear not, there are far superior things to come.
A starter of Kashmiri morels are unlike anything we’ve tried before. A seriously packing mushroom marvel, the morels stood tall, stuffed with duxelle, dusted in walnut powder and baked, with an umami-rich cream and lacy parmesan crisp.
Soy keema – a veggie take on the street-food staple – has quickly become a signature dish and it’s certainly one of the best things we’ve tasted this year. So rich, so engulfing, so seemingly meaty and yet delicately nuanced with mustard seeds and fenugreek – it was lifted yet further with a creamy quail egg yolk to stir through and two tiny pau buns with kaffir-lime-leaf butter. A northern-Indian-style dessert of makhan malai was a cloud of saffron milk foam, bejewelled with rose petals, a rubble of jaggery brittle, almonds and gold leaf. Precise and elegant, and yet rich and intense, Indian Accent serves its diners well.
Reviewed by Laura Rowe
Freak Scene, London W1 (Soho)
In a nutshell: Scott Hallsworth’s Asian junk food pop-up finds a permanent home in the heart of Soho.
What’s the vibe? Scott’s take-it-or-leave-it indie-rock vibe has only brushed the surface of the restaurant’s previous life as swish tapas restaurant Barrafina. Punk-rock posters are pasted on the walls, sake bottles line the shelves, and there’s a huge robata grill in the open kitchen (not forgetting the signature slushy machine that churns out Japanese frozen beers on a hot day), but we’re looking forward when Scott can properly put his trademark stamp on the place.
What’s the food like? Australian ex-Nobu chef Scott developed a unique style of cuisine in his Japanese izakaya-esque restaurant brand, Kurobuta. He’s now moved on and evolved his trademark Asian junk food dishes to create Freak Scene’s bold, umami-rich menu.
A ‘Thousand leaves’ chips take their name from the French mille feuille cake, with layer upon layer of thinly sliced potatoes and clarified butter, pressed, baked and then deep-fried until crunchy and golden. Super-soft salmon sashimi sat on top of crunchy tortilla chips, garnished with a hint of truffle, punchy green chilli and bursting bubbles of wasabi-infused flying fish roe. Scott’s signature miso-grilled aubergine with candied walnuts was sweet, salty and supremely savoury.
Larger dishes include black beer and sesame-oil-marinated hanger steak in a colourful salad of pomegranate seeds, crumbled rice, fried garlic slivers and a ponzu sauce. Chicken-fried chicken was as moreish as it sounds, confined in its own fat until very soft, and served with a crunchy, sticky peanut soy glaze.
There’s only one pudding, but it’s a good’un – passionfruit parfait covered in a chocolate mousse of angel delight-like lightness, and studded with sweet and crunchy caramelised pecans.
And to drink? A short cocktail list focuses on sweet and refreshing concotions to complement the bold flavours in the dishes. There’s a short selection of wines to choose from, along with a few sakes. Try the yuzu sake to accompany dessert, it’s smooth and sweet, citrussy and creamy all at the same time.
olive tip: The restaurant is licensed until 1am at the weekend, so pop in for a drink or two after dinner in Soho and nod your head along to the indie/rock playlist. There are even homemade shots to knock back!
Reviewed by Alex Crossley
Core by Clare Smyth, London W1 (Notting Hill)
In a nutshell: After gaining a starry reputation (as chef patron at three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, and receiving an MBE for services to the hospitality industry), Clare Smyth has opened her first fine dining restaurant with a contemporary edge.
What’s the vibe? The tablecloths might be missing at Clare Smyth’s debut but the tone is undeniably formal. Don’t let that be confused with stuffy, though – Britain’s most lauded female chef has made her first solo mark thoroughly modern. Décor is stripped back and contemporary – via a small bar (where you can eat, too), you’re led to a dramatic chef’s table in front of the glass-fronted kitchen, and through to the bright dining room.
What’s the food like? Clare grew up on a farm in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, and she continues to work with farmers to champion sustainable UK produce. Along with head chef Jonny Bone – who has Geranium in Copenhagen on his CV – and Clare’s passion for the produce of her home soil, means menus that are surprisingly unfussy, ingredient-led and low-waste.
The à la carte promises three courses for £65 but delivers seven if you count four canapés – including the lightest tomato and basil gougère – tangy sourdough with ‘virgin’ butter (more like a sour cream cheese), a pre-dessert, and petits fours of mini, still-warm chocolate tarts and passion fruit and pepper fruit pastilles.
Colchester crab royale to start comes in three parts – a bowl of sweet white meat surrounded by a moat of brown meat, a crab doughnut and a flute of shellfish broth. A single Isle of Mull scallop is cooked over wood fire and delivered under a cloche of smoke. The short-but-sweet grouse season was celebrated with trimmed breasts, bread sauce and a faggot, revealed within a red cabbage jacket. It was the oxtail-stuffed Roscoff onion, though, that won: the onion, the meat and its accompanying gravy as rich, dark and glossy as treacle.
Desserts are fine and dandy – a chocolate and hazelnut crémeux is a masterful play on textures and Snickers flavours; while slithers of pear and meringue, with fresh verbena, and a poire Williams sorbet perfectly balance sharp with sweet.
olive says… Yes, the bill will be eye-watering but rest assured you’re in safe hands (lots of them). This is old-school British fine dining, updated.