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…
Davies & Brook, Mayfair
Claridge’s has welcomed the world-renowned chef Daniel Humm to London with new restaurant, Davies and Brook. It’s a return to the iconic London hotel for chef, who did a stint here as a commis aged 15. Now with the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York to his name – once named number one in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants – Daniel has entrusted the newly renovated kitchen within Claridges to Estonian exec chef Dmitri Magi.
Fans of Fera, the restaurant’s previous incarnation, will notice Davies and Brook’s lighter, brighter and all-together more modern decor. It’s definitely fancy – crisp white tablecloths, plush velvet chairs, seamless service – but it’s playful, too. Have a giggle at the suggestive photography of Icelandic hills by American artist Roni Horn.
At dinner time you can take the tasting menu (£145 per person) for the table or order from the à la carte (four courses, with extras, for £98) – do the latter if you want the biggest variety of dishes. This is special-occasion, best-meal-of-your-life territory, so make the most of it. Whether you order poached lobster and sweet squash or king crab in a slippery chawanmushi custard; the signature dry-aged duck with honey and lavender or the most tender, crisp-skinned parmesan-stuffed poussin with lemon and fennel; sugar-dusted doughnuts that sparkle like diamonds or soft-serve honey ice cream, you’ll be satisfied.
This is a meal you’re going to want to remember so, if you’re keen to pace yourself, or don’t fancy the full wine flight (at £95 per person), order one flight between two. And, if you’re as big a food geek as us, ask for a tour of the shiny new kitchen.
Kolamba brings aromatic, spice-laced Sri Lankan cooking to Kingly Street in Soho. Owners Aushi and Eroshan Meewella have crafted a nostalgic culinary hymn to the dishes they grew up eating in Colombo (or Kolamba, as the locals call it in Sinhalese).
Recipes from Aushi and Eroshan’s friends and family form the core of the offering at Kolamba, from Aunty Mo’s ‘chatti’ roast (chopped beef dry-fried with onions, green chilli and tomato) to Vaira’s jaggery beef (slow-cooked short rib stepped in unrefined cane sugar and spices). It’s a sharing-plates menu, divided into snacks, meat and fish, vegetables, rice and breads (think rotis, hoppers etc), sambols (small salads) and condiments.
Dishes are characterised by aromatic, complex spicing and heat that accentuates rather than destroys flavour. A snack of Nalini’s fish cutlets are crispy, breadcrumb-coated pilchard croquettes similar to Dutch bitterballen, the rich oiliness of the fish balanced by delicate spicing.
Manteca is a suitably dark and moody restaurant in London’s beating Soho, where fresh, hand-cut pasta and nose-to-tail sauces are the order of the day.
Tender orange-scented olives of every colour and size are fine fodder for browsing the short menu, while warm and bouncy, rosemary-flecked focaccia, damp with oil and salt crystals, staves off hunger before the main event. There’s house-made mortadella, which we’ll be returning for, but are tempted in the direction of the fresh pasta.
Rich and silky brown crab cacio e pepe clings onto tonnarelli – spaghetti’s squarer, rougher cousin – while fat, slippery ribbons of pappardelle hold the softest, well-seasoned ox cheek ragu and fresh, grassy parsley. The must-order, though, should you be lucky enough to still catch the season, is mushroom ravioli in a buttery sauce with crisp sage and shavings of marbled black truffle – they’re creamy, earthy, forest-floor-fantastic.
Stoney Street by 26 Grains, Borough Market
Stoney Street by 26 Grains is an all-day Borough Market restaurant that radiates passion for independent producers and hyper-local ingredients.
Small plates that celebrate the very best ingredients is the order of the day, but if you’re not sure what YQ pastry or Baron Bigod is, flip your menu over to read the page dedicated to the people growing the food. Cheeses are sourced from neighbouring Neal’s Yard Dairy, while YQ (standing for yield and quality) flour comes from Wakelyns, a Suffolk farm.
A good place to start is with a few slices of the soda bread – slather it first with whipped salted butter, then a top layer of punchy confit garlic butter. Share a wholegrain spelt tart, the nutty pastry crumbling under the weight of sweet roasted squash, Colston Basset stilton and shavings of russet apple. If you only fancy a nibble, there’s Greek unpasteurised olives and plates of silky charcuterie.
Decimo, King’s Cross
Decimo is the new playground of London’s cool creatives, serving a refined selection of Spanish and Mexican small plates and hard liquor.
One of Bristol’s finest exports, chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, has moved to the capital to steer the Decimo ship. Along with trusted head chef Josh Green, Peter’s left behind his internationally lauded (and family run) Casamia and Paco Tapas.
Marinated red peppers arrive blistered, minced and moulded atop a marble doorstop – sweet and smoky, they tell a story of a kitchen that respects its ingredients. Croquetas de jamón are well practiced. Spankingly fresh, clean white crabmeat is made addictive thanks to its decoration of fresh and jellied jalapeño, sprightly lime mayo and shredded coriander.
Darby’s has all the charm of a laid-back drinking den, with the benefits of one of London’s most assured chefs. 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.
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.
Casa Fofó, Hackney Downs
Casa Fofó is an exceptional, yet accessible, haven for Hackney foodies where continental flavours collide without breaking the bank. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Orasay, 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.
Expect relaxed British fine dining with a South African twang in west London, from the same, hands-on trio behind Hackney’s Nest. 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.
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.
The trio behind Brixton Market restaurant, Salon, branch out to Peckham, focusing on rich French cooking in an ode to cheese, butter and meat.
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.
Two Lights, Shoreditch
A 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.
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.
Cornerstone – named after chef/owner Tom Brown’s favourite Arctic Monkeys track – opened in April 2019 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.
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.
Berenjak is a modern reinterpretation of a Tehran hole-in-the-wall kabab house, in Soho.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cora Pearl, Covent Garden
Cora Pearl brings modern British plates with Parisian accents to Covent Garden.
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.
St Leonards, Shoreditch
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Photographs by Evan Sung, Philippa Langley, Tim Charles, Paul Winch-Furness, Matt Russell Group, David Cotsworth, Cedar Film, Alex Maguire, Ben McMahon, Lisa Linder
Stay tuned for more reviews of new restaurants in London