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2023 London restaurant openings

Saltine, Highbury

With clean lines and a minimalist interior, Saltine is new to the Highbury Park neighbourhood. Opened by Mat Appleton and Jess Blackstone of Fink’s cafés fame, and with head chef Phil Wood (ex-Spring and St John) at the stove, Saltine has a frequently changing menu, founded on named produce and producers. Expect dishes to look exactly as they are described: veg such as carrots may come whole, skin and all, for example, salad leaves are torn into decent chunks, like in the pumpkin scapece, and chicken with Borlotti beans and spinach has a properly soupy sauce. Desserts include a slab of sticky toffee apple cake that everyone is talking about. saltine.co.uk

Saltine's minimalist decor, including tall leafy plants, exposed brick and an atrium

Lórian, Sloane Square,

Located in the lively hub of Sloane Square, Lórian is the 45-seater bakery, café and deli sister location of Notting Hill members club, Laylow, headed by chef Emily Dobbs (formerly of Petersham Nurseries) in collaboration with fellow chef Johnnie Collins (chef in residence at 180 The Strand). Seasonality sits at the heart of the veggie-dominant menu and aims to showcase the best of British produce with an array of salads, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, sandwiches and daily pastries. Sitting alongside this is a succinct and well-curated selection of European wines and their much-touted barista station, as well as refreshing homemade spritz and cold-pressed juices. loriandeli.com

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The decor at Lórian, including furnishings, dark wooden flooring and foliage lining the ceiling

Nest, Shoreditch

The trio behind Hackney’s much-loved neighbourhood spot pulls off the same levels of intimacy in its larger Shoreditch restaurant, with various nooks carved out in the horseshoe layout. Pop into the cosy wine bar area before picking between gnarled wooden booths, a fireside table for six or a counter seat with a view of chefs adding their finishing touches. The eight-course seasonal tasting menu, presented in a tiny wax-sealed envelope, focuses on one hero ingredient at a time, allowing for superb sourcing – think Yorkshire’s Otterburn Mangalitza pork or Welsh Wagyu beef. Seafood season kicks off with a snack plate of tiny trout tarts, cod’s roe with seaweed tapioca crackers and oysters in pickled jalapeño foam, followed by treacly soda bread that hasn’t left the menu since it first featured. Other highlights include crab salad with sea buckthorn emulsion, silky squid noodles in a spicy, XO-laced broth and BBQ monkfish with roast carrot and ginger purée. Each menu is accompanied by an optional ‘one-region’ wine pairing; on our visit a showcase of the diversity of Loire wines, from sparkling pet-nat to a citrusy natural Pouilly Fumé and sweet chenin blanc to complement a delightfully surprising Jerusalem artichoke and chestnut dessert and made-to-order seaweed doughnuts to finish. nestfood.co.uk

The interiors of Nest restaurant Hackney with olive green walls, wooden tables, copper lights and candles

Sune, Broadway Market

Sommelier Honey Spencer and her partner Charlie Sims have curated hospitality experience from restaurants across the world to open their own place in Hackney. There’s a real neighbourhood-style buzz to the contemporary space, with a striking terracotta light installation casting a warm glow across the gnarled dark wood tables, prints of fresh produce and sweeping counter with floor-to-ceiling wine racks behind. Honey showcases natural wines, with plenty by the glass, from orange Czech pet nat to fresh Georgian Tsolikouri and South African Syrah. The menu is eclectic and bold, rotating dishes such as crisp potato cake topped with guindilla, anchovies and espelette pepper, sea bass crudo slivers in a vibrant borscht vinaigrette and the signature grilled pork chop bathing in a bisque-style prawn and lemongrass sauce, best paired with whipped brown butter emulsion spooned over pink fir potatoes. Head chef Michael Robins plays with his Canadian heritage in a homage to Montreal’s L’Express, where chefs meet after service for DIY beef tartare and croque Monsieur hybrids. At Sune, he tops a crisp, cheesy toastie with dairy beef tartare for a truly indulgent interlude between courses. sune.restaurant

A table at Sune Restaurant laid with a carafe of orange wine, a wine glass, a bottle of red wine and three plates of food – one pasta, one chips topped with a fried egg and one lamb fillet

Bistro Freddie, Shoreditch

Tucked in the quiet back streets between Shoreditch High Street and Old Street stations, almost another world from the hustle of east London that surrounds it, Bistro Freddie has a distinct classic neighbourhood bistro feel, offering generous, down-to-earth hospitality and a menu featuring the best produce of the British Isles. There’s an intimate 45-cover open-plan dining room and plenty of top-quality tipples focussing on small and predominantly independent producers and growers. bistrofreddie.com

The interior at Bistro Freddie, including white tablecloths on tables, a bookshelf filled with wines running along the walls and wooden panelling
Photograph: Oskar Proctor

Bébé Bob, Soho

Bébé Bob is younger sibling to Bob Bob Ricard (of champagne button fame), so high glamour is the name of the game. Ultra-comfortable and gorgeous to look at, the venue is a clever backdrop to what is essentially a menu centred around roast chicken (Vendée or Landes). But, what roast chicken. Rotisseried and served with roast potatoes (chicken fat, of course) and/or chips, and a salad, if you like. Super-luxe starters include three types of caviar or VSOP prawn cocktail, and desserts offer an option of lemon-infused vodka served at -18C, or a perfectly formed paris-brest. Drink champagne, or choose a wine, of which there are a commendable amount served by the glass. bebebob.com

The interior at Bébé Bob, featuring bright red carpets, brown leather booths and modern art pieces

Jamie Oliver Catherine St, Covent Garden

Catherine Street by Jamie Oliver marks the chef’s return
to the London restaurant scene. A menu of comforting classics includes starters of devilled eggs, oysters and mushrooms on toast; sharing dishes like ox cheek pie and Sutton Hoo chicken with stroganoff sauce; homemade pastas, daily fish specials, steak and Trevor’s chicken, named in honour of Jamie’s father. Desserts include sticky toffee pudding and the River Café Nemesis cake, a nod to the restaurant Jamie worked in when he was discovered as a TV chef. Enter through an impressive garden-like courtyard with twinkly lights into a dramatic, buzzing main room with comfortable booths, antique lamps and modern art and photography. Suppliers are name-checked, with meat from HG Walter, Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie and Coombeshead Farm bread. jamieolivercatherinest.com

The interiors at Catherine Street Jamie Oliver, including trees sparkling in fairy lights and rattan furnishing

Roketsu, Marylebone

Daisuke Hayashi, trained at Yoshihiro Murata’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant Kikunoi, learned the principles of kaiseki from one of its masters and has been delighting Londoners looking for an authentic taste of Japanese fine dining since opening Roketsu in 2021.

With a more relaxed à la carte experience in mind, Daisuke opened the Bo-Sen wine and dining room downstairs in 2023. With just eight covers, the experience is intimate, the wooden panelling and low mid-century furniture creating an atmosphere that’s just as refined as the minimalist counter-dining space on the ground floor. Daisuke’s handling of seasonal produce remains respectful, balancing flavours and ingredients precisely. Light dishes crafted to be enjoyed alongside extensive wine and sake lists include vegetable takiawase of simmered vegetables with dashi jelly, tsukuri of the day comprising four kinds of beautifully cut sashimi and flavour-packed homemade curry.

Plating is artful and every detail of the Bo-Sen space has been considered, from the elegant furnishings in rich colours to the bespoke Kyoto crockery. roketsu.co.uk

The lounge room at Japanese fine dining restaurant Roketsu

Origin City, Smithfield

Nose-to-tail restaurant in West Smithfield

Provenance is key to the offering at family-owned Origin City. Meat comes from the owner’s farm in Argyll, the seafood from their aquafarm, Loch Fyne Oysters, and the wine list features wines from their organic vineyard in Provence. Butchery and ageing happen in-house, which add to the validity of their promise of pasture to plate and nose-to-tail dining. The room is atmospheric at night, with wooden floors, crisp white tablecloths, and an open chef’s pass allowing you to see the team at work. The seasonal, daily-changing menu favours meat with a small fish and vegetarian selection. Starters range from grilled Morteau sausage, deep Puy lentils and mustard dressing or an excellent pork tonnato with a delicate tuna dressing and caperberries. Mains include a daily chef’s cut of steak, served with rich jus, hispi cabbage and crunchy onions, or a black pig cut of the day with celeriac purée, onion squash and sauce charcutière and diners are given a choice of knife. Desserts are classics such as sticky toffee pudding. origincity.co.uk

Cote de boeuf at Origin City, Smithfield

Pasero, Tottenham

After moving to London and starting a series of supper clubs around Tottenham, Genevieve Sparrow ventured into a bricks and mortar business. As a morning-to-night venture, Pasero serves coffee and pastries, breakfasts, lunchtime sandwiches and small plates with wine in the evenings, as well as a deli shop to pick up fresh local bread and high-quality charcuterie, among other things.

Its new resident head chef, Angelos Angelides – hailing from the likes of BRAT and Honey & Co – delivers a European menu influenced by his Cypriot and Serbian heritage that features simple but flavour-packed dishes. Start with revitalised classics, bright and vibrant tzatziki and – a particular highlight – the creamiest taramasalata with deliciously salty and crispy shoestring fries. Order plenty of Pasero’s sourdough to dredge through all of this; you’ll also need it for a molten disc of baked goat’s cheese topped with sweet roasted red pepper alongside a bitter puntarelle salad. Other veggie-forward dishes also impress: baked giant beans with feta are satisfyingly hearty while a brown chilli butter supercharges the nuttiness of roast jerusalem artichokes. Don’t miss out on afters – a choice of Neal’s Yard cheeses and luxurious desserts including delicate chestnut and nutmeg cake with poached pear and whisky caramel, and, our favourite, almond-based Daim cake with a thick topping of crunchy nut-flecked milk chocolate. pasero.uk

Pasero

Maresco, Soho

Following successful openings in Crouch End and Stoke Newington, the team behind local favourites Bar Esteban and Escocesa has ventured into central London with this intimate 48-cover space in the heart of Soho. Billed as a modern tapas bar (with a more formal dining room on the basement floor), expect a seafood-focussed menu at Maresco, featuring top-quality Scottish produce served with Spanish flair and (a lot) of Spanish wine. maresco.co.uk

The interior at tapas restaurant Maresco, featuring a feature brick wall, a blue neon sign and exposed ventilation ducts

Ikoyi, The Strand

Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale’s second iteration of their highly acclaimed West African fine-dining restaurant at 180 The Strand. The spice-focussed menu has evolved to new heights and cooking techniques courtesy of a much bigger space, while keeping the theme more than ever on micro-seasonal British ingredients. ikoyilondon.com

Ikoyi interior, featuring large plants, colourful abstract paintings and mustard coloured seats

Llama Inn, The Hoxton

Having built a cult following in New York, Juan Correa and chef Erik Ramirez have brought their critically acclaimed Llama Inn and its playful taste of Peru across the Atlantic, taking over the rooftop restaurant at The Hoxton hotel in east London. The menu draws inspiration from the chef’s Peruvian-American background and the drinks list features many of the original NYC signature serves alongside a wine list with a focus on low-intervention and biodynamic wines. thehoxton.com

A rooftop restaurant at The Hoxton hotel

Kima, Marylebone

Fin-to-gill dining concept from modern Greek restaurant OPSO

It’s all about the small details at this minimalist dining room in Marylebone; wave-inspired crockery is handmade in a studio in Corfu and the restaurant’s name, which means “wave” in Greek, is elegantly displayed on one wall. Whole fish glisten on ice at the front, while a selection of cuts for the gill-to-fin menu age in glass-fronted fridges. An example of this zero-waste dining style is sea bream crudo lifted by thyme and lemon zest followed by the ‘shank’ of the same fish served with bacon-studded cabbage fricassee. An elegant take on a Greek salad accompanies, with aged feta crowning a bowl of chopped tomatoes and cucumber, doused in Greek olive oil poured from a carafe to meld with the juices, in which diners are encouraged to dip homemade sourdough. The “wave” theme extends to dessert, where caramelised seaweed plays a glorious role in a crisp millefeuille-tiramisu hybrid layered with coffee cream and caramelised nuts. Cocktails are infused with Greek ingredients – mastic Votanikon gin adds herbaceous notes to a basil cocktail, while clarified feta is used to create a unique twist on a sour. The selection of Greek wines includes a minerally white from Santorini, thoughtfully recommended by one of the very helpful, friendly Greek servers. kimarestaurant.com

Kima Restaurant Marylebone

Sparrow Italia, Mayfair

From downtown LA to Mayfair, this plush modern Italian incorporates Med twists into its smart menu. Set over three floors with a secluded courtyard on the first, the menu presents luxe versions of classics including A5 wagyu carpaccio with pickled mushrooms and truffle, and lobster linguine with aqua pazza. sparrowitalia.com

The plush modern Italian interior at Sparrow, featuring large tree pots situated in the middle of the room

Manzi’s, Soho

Latest off the block from the Wolseley Hospitality Group, Manzi’s is as glamorous as nautical comes. Set over two floors and with bright, airy blue and white interiors, this is a place of comfort and attention to detail. Head chef Christian Turner’s menu encompasses a beautifully executed monkfish wellington and cioppino fish stew, as well as oysters and dressed crab, Galician-style octopus, fish finger sandwiches and lobster rolls. Non-fish dishes are also available, including leeks mimosa and devilled egg, and roast Landes chicken. manzis.co.uk

Bateman's lobster roll

Socca, Mayfair

The food of the Côte d’Azur is known for its sunshine and chic, effortless vibes, elements captured exactly in Mayfair’s Socca. The palette of pastels and baby blue inside and out, art from local artists and waiters are decidedly French, and the menu reflects that, too. Informed by Claude Bosi’s memories of eating the food in the south of France as a child, fish and seafood is celebrated, the aperitif menu is plentiful and, of course, there’s the namesake socca – a type of thin, unleavened pancake or crêpe made from chickpea flour. soccabistro.com

Socca's smart, light blue shopfront in Mayfair

Edit, Hackney

This hyper-seasonal restaurant has a real commitment to sustainability with a zero-waste menu that uses ingredients from small farms, producers and foragers. The Daily Edit tasting menu changes to suit what is available. Clever cooking, including a risotto made with British Carlin peas, oat cream and oyster mushrooms, elevates dishes beyond the ordinary. Tasting menu £55pp; edit.london


Chet’s, Shepherd’s Bush

LA chef Kris Yenbamroong has brought his tried and tested Thai-American menu to the lively Shepherd’s Bush Hoxton Hotel. Cocktails are unique, food is playful and flavours are punchy: its signature pineapple rice served in the shell, babka french toast and exuberantly garnished ice cream sundaes. Décor is La La Land chic – a soft warm pink palette, oversized plants, a huge skylight, open kitchen and retro booths – a nod to the American diner. Open from breakfast till late. chetsrestaurant.co.uk

Chet's signature pineapple rice

Akoko, Fitzrovia

Executive chef Ayo Adeyemi’s tasting menu is rooted in tradition but sharply executed with great imaginative flair. Dishes may include tatale (Ghanaian plantain pancakes) with cashew cream and caviar, or moi-moi (a steamed pudding of puréed black-eyed beans with onions, peppers and stock) served with the Afro-Brazilian seafood and coconut milk sauce, vatapá. Tasting menu £120; akoko.co.uk


Taku, Mayfair

The capital is currently enthralled by the intimacy and theatre of omakase dining; where, in sleekly designed counter-dining cocoons, highly skilled chefs prepare seasonal tasting menus for attentive diners. Chef Takuya Watanabe bagged a Michelin star within four months of opening this Mayfair 16-seater. Using mainly British produce, he is creating some of the city’s most elegant, flavourful hot seafood dishes and sushi. Tasting menu from £160pp; takumayfair.com


Harvest, Kensal Rise

Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlour, Six Portland Road) puts a fun, populist spin on seasonal British food. His latest venue, Harvest, offers a good-value lunch (three courses, £20) with mains including mackerel, fried potatoes, sorrel and apple ketchup, while at dinner, family sharing dishes for three or four include a whole roast chicken, chips and salad for £60. Mains from £19; harvestrestaurantuk.com

Interiors at Harvest, feautring green leather booths, tall plant pots and smart wooden chairs

Empire Empire, Notting Hill

The Indian disco era of the 1970s inspired this new opening from Harneet Baweja (Gunpowder). Eat traditional dishes such as bihari boti kebab, tandoori broccoli and chicken malai tikka from the open grill serenaded by 70s Bollywood bangers from the bespoke jukebox. For the ultimate in luxe dining order the showstopping lobster dum biryani to share, £42 – complete with the crustacean’s head emerging from the pastry lid. empire-empire.restaurant


Sushi on Jones, King's Cross

With omakase menu prices often heading into triple figures, it’s refreshing that this London outpost of a New York fave brings it in for £48 for 12 courses. It’s an intimate space with only eight seats at a counter, so you can watch as head sushi chef Mattia Aranini and his team prepare and explain each course. Tasting menu £48; sushionjones.com

A pair of hands assembling a sushi dish at Sushi on Jones

Bossa, Mayfair

Chef Alberto Landgraf has brought his vision of high-end authentic Brazilian cooking from Rio to Mayfair with punchy sharing plates such as seafood moqueca. But wine is equally the star here with one of South America’s best sommeliers, Laís Aoki, ready to guide diners through the perfect pairing. Small plates from £27; bossa.co.uk

Seafood moqueca, a dish served at authentic Brazilian restaurant Bossa

Speedboat Bar, Chinatown

Despite London having possibly the best nightlife in the UK, it feels rare to get a spot like Speedboat Bar. Open until late on the weekend (you can get your fill of fiery cuisine and party vibes until 1am), this Thai canteen in Chinatown, brought to you by Plaza Khao Gaeng’s Luke Farrell, has décor almost as bombastic as the flavours. Once you’re done looking at the framed pics of the Thai royal family or playing a game of pool, get your tongue tingling with a menu that would satisfy any chilli fanatic. And don’t forget to cool down after with a creamy cocktail or a tower of beer. speedboatbar.co.uk

The pool table and decorative wall art in Speedboat Bar in Chinatown

Pavyllon, Four Seasons Hotel at Park Lane

No one does comfort like a five-star hotel, and French chef Yannick Alléno has settled into the Four Seasons in London with the full weight of his 15 Michelin stars. Pavyllon (an outpost of the Paris restaurant of the same name) is run by executive chef Andy Cook when Yannick is away. There’s a huge counter overlooking the open kitchen – sit here for the drama. Try the curry man’ouché; the warm potatoes glazed with lovage mayo, with kombu broth, seaweed and cucumber; and the lamb (recipe, right). Plus, Bar Antoine’s cocktail list by Michele Lombardi can be enjoyed with a bar menu. pavyllonlondon.com

The bar at Pavyllon, featuring a large wrap around bar looking into the kitchen as chefs prep food

Fazenda, Bishopsgate

Modern take on South-American rodizio dining

Fazenda is inspired by the Pampas – the South American grasslands where cattle were raised by skilled horsemen known as gauchos. Co-founder Tomas Maunier, born in Brazil and raised in Argentina, is passionate about churrasco – the method of grilling and sharing meat from the rotisserie. The London restaurant is the latest in the six-strong Fazenda group. The main appeal is the rodizio overseen by chef Francisco Martinez: 12 grilled meats including picanha (beef rump), chuletas de cordero (lamb cutlets), barriga de porco (pork belly) and sobrecoxa de frango (chicken thighs), all carved tableside.

Help yourself from a central table with salads, cured meats and cheeses. A la carte appetisers include choripan de wagyu – wagyu beef éclair with chimichurri mayo – and a starter of tonnato vitello – yellowfin tuna with beef cream emulsion and capers. Desserts continue in a South American vein; caipirinha cheesecake or picada dulce (white chocolate, strawberry and raspberry shortbread). The venue features walnut wood panels, brass, leather seats and parquet flooring – all elegantly lit. At the ground-floor bar, sample the tangy Sour Birdie (pisco sour) and Baby Ferdinand, Fazenda’s take on an Argentinian classic, fernet con cola. There’s also a well-selected wine list, including the fruit-forward Montesco Parral. fazenda.co.uk

Fazenda's London restaurant interiors – wooden floors, candeliers and three tables set up for dinner

BAO Mary, Marylebone

BAO Mary is the fifth iteration of the much-loved cult Taiwanese steamed buns and xiao chi small plates concept which has been delighting Londoners since 2013 when friends Shing Tat Chung, Erchen Chang and Wai Ting Chung served their first gua bao on the streets of the city. They’ve made themselves right at home with modern, sleek interiors and knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff bringing plates out from the open kitchen.

On the menu, you’ll find the full range of bao (featuring the Classic, a lamb bao with garlic mayo and soy pickled chilli, and Taiwanese fried chicken bao with kimchi and Sichuan mayo), plus xiao chi (‘small eats’, including tender beef tendon nuggets with burnt chilli sauce). There’s also a dumpling menu, which draws inspiration from the dumpling houses around Taiwan, and is exclusive to this site. The succinct drinks menu includes just three Japanese and Taiwanese whiskies; three Taiwanese-themed cocktails; one fizz, red and white wine; and a handful of beers and softs. Don’t forget the signature Horlicks ice cream fried bao dessert. baolondon.com

A table with small plates – a bao bun filled with pork, five gyozas and a lobster roll

Bancone Borough Yards, London Bridge

Popular pasta joint Bancone recently opened its third restaurant in buzzy Borough Yards. The renovated railway arch allows lots of light to shine through onto diners, while the open kitchen and bar add a familiar but unobtrusive clatter of pasta tossing and cocktail shaking to the buzz. Kick off with a negroni – classic, white or floral orange blossom. Simple, elegant antipasti let hero ingredients shine – grilled artichoke hearts on crunchy romesco ends with a subtle chilli kick, while lardo is melted onto thick toast and drizzled in truffle-laced honey. Tarragon lends a hint of aniseed to duck ragu folded between layers of jaggedy fazzoletti pasta. Unique to the Borough Yards menu is the gorgonzola, Swiss chard and guanciale pappardelle – a rich, grown up, glossy take on carbonara. The signature silk handkerchiefs are a Bancone crowdpleaser, bathing in walnut butter and topped with a confit egg yolk to stir through. To finish, the praline cannolo is the sweet hit you need with a coffee, coated in crunchy crystallised hazelnuts. Or the flourless chocolate cake is just rich enough, balanced with an arty swipe of mascarpone and lime zest to lift. bancone.co.uk


Parakeet, Kentish Town

Being north Londoners and former Brat chefs, Ben Allen and Ed Jennings are the perfect pair to bring The Parakeet to Kentish Town. With dark interiors, stained glass windows and a warm glow cast over the intimate booths, there’s a church-like feel, which makes sense given the religious following from locals. With Ben at the helm as head chef, the menu is informed by the wood-fired oven and grill, and includes grilled lettuce and shrimp head butter, leeks with pecorino sauce, and smoked mushrooms with mackerel. theparakeetpub.com

Parakeet's interiors featuring a dark green bar, stained glass windows, wooden floors

Campaner, Chelsea

Set in a new building at Chelsea Barracks, Campaner provides a modern look at Spain, from the Barcelona restaurant group Los Reyes del Mango. Dishes make use of local ingredients or those sourced from producers of excellence. Seafood is a star, whether that’s oysters with bloody mary cream, Catalan socarrat with prawns, or fish from the Josper grill. Hidden away under the airy restaurant and accessed by an outer door is The Clandesti, a bar with the opposite vibe – darkly secret. thecampaner.com

Lobster and monkfish casserole

Chung’dam, Greek Street

Named after the bustling Cheongdam-dong district in Seoul, Chung’dam is a contemporary Korean restaurant combining modern Korean cooking with traditional cooking techniques, paired with the finest ingredients in a sleek and refined space that’s designed to facilitate an interactive dining experience taking you on a journey through all your senses. With an impressive cocktail list that features rice wine and soju alongside a global wine list, Chung’dam attempts to live up to the vibrant reputation of its namesake. chungdam.co.uk

An array of Korean dishes on a table at Chung'dam in Soho

Kapara, Soho

Inspired by the rooftop bars and vibrant dining scene of Tel Aviv, this is a new all-day restaurant headed up by Israeli-born chef Eran Tibi. With its airy, chandelier-decked room, plush banquette seating, punchy cocktail list and cool soundtrack, Kapara gives off a luxurious clubby vibe. Cocktails deliver – The Glory Mole is a perfectly balanced, invigorating mix of tequila, hibiscus, cardamom, ginger, lime and soda. Food is for sharing here. Snacks, small and large plates come as and when they are ready, and the flavours – although Israeli inspired – move easily around the globe. Don’t miss the Bala bake – a trio of warm breads served with whipped butter and tomato herb dip, and the star is the kubaneh a sweet almost briochy bread that was fought over. The baklava prawns – three huge crustaceans wrapped in a kadaifi pastry shell and served with a soured cream, Persian lime and nori dust was a texture sensation – are crunchy, sweet, soft and tart. Other highlights included a meltingly soft slow-cooked lamb belly with a sweet and sour plum ketchup, fresh plums and lemon thyme, and a carpaccio of coal roasted peppers with creamy house-made fresh goat’s cheese, basil and rose. If you have room for pudding, order the Gramp’s cigar – a playful chocolate, passion fruit and pastry-based dessert that was both surprising and absolutely delicious. kapara.co.uk

A selection of meat and salad plates at Kapara in Soho

Story Cellar, Covent Garden

The new Covent Garden restaurant from Tom Sellers (of Restaurant Story) is inspired by Parisian brasseries, with a specific focus on rotisserie chicken. A comfortable space with marble, plush red leather seating and dark, panelled walls, the emphasis is on countertop dining – sit here to feel the heat from the spit, and watch and interact with the team at work. Head chef Stephen Naylor serves up relaxed small plates which allow the ingredients to shine: house-cured meats; a salad of grilled roots, smoked onion and Old Winchester cheese; and snail bolognaise on toast with wild garlic butter – the bread is smoked, a detail that makes a food dish outstanding. A hand-dived scallop in rich, hot XO sauce is another highlight. Direct from the grill is fish of the day, such as red mullet with ratatouille and red pepper, and a half or whole rotisserie chicken, served with French fries and sauces including cowboy (buttery, peppery, garlicky) and a glossy chicken jus. Puddings range from must-order almond and dill soft serve, tart of the day, or trifle with preserved rhubarb and pistachio. Next-door neighbours Neals Yard Dairy supply seasonal British cheeses. A range of rare and fine wines can be ordered by the glass (thanks to the Coravin system) and is aided by expert, but never stuffy, service. storycellar.co.uk

A plate of rotisserie chicken with a side of chips and salad

Mayha, Marylebone

This Japanese omakase features just 11 covers – guests sit around a curved wood and stone bar, behind which chef Jurek Wasio sends out plate after meticulously crafted plate in a daily-changing tasting menu that, in keeping with the omakase tradition, is entirely the preserve of the chef. As a guest, all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ensuing feast.

Start with a sparkling sake and a round of raw dishes – blue fin tuna belly tartare on sourdough topped with a briny mound of Polish caviar is a particular highlight. Meat dishes include wagyu tenderloin dusted in shaved summer truffle, as luscious and deeply umami as you might expect. The sushi sequence of the meal is the highlight – a stream of plump nigiri that showcase the impeccable quality of the produce used at Mayha: creamy scallop; lightly seared, butter-soft salmon belly; delicately sweet langoustine; dry-aged blue fin tenderloin; the list goes on. Fragrant cups of bamboo dashi and lobster miso, and a palate-cleansing rhubarb sorbet punctuate the meal. It all ends simply, but effectively, with a scoop of chocolate ice cream in a grassy pool of Sicilian olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Head downstairs before or after dinner to Mayha’s intimate six-seater bar, which offers its own five-course omakase meal paired with cocktails. mayhalondon.com

A small dish of delicately sweet langoustine served at Mayha in Marylebone

Nessa, Soho

Nessa is a sophisticated bistro situated right in the bustle of London’s Soho. Enter the striking horseshoe bar and you’ll see a range of UK producers on display, including no- or low-alcohol options – as well as the option to order snacks and small plates. The space has been fully renovated with the style of the neo-baroque building in mind – it’s stylish with lots of marble, oak and brass fixtures, and fittings on the art-lined walls. In the dining room, you’ll find booths and an open kitchen, where Executive Chef Tom Cenci (formerly of Loyal Tavern and Duck & Waffle) has devised a menu of British influences with global flavours, focusing on seasonality. The ‘bread & snacks’ include the BBQ spiced crisps, and cheese and onion croquettes with a grape mustard mayo. Small plates range from aged beef tartare with beef fat and charred sourdough, to a deeply pleasing, Insta-friendly black pudding brioche with brown butter noisette, and Nessa’s signature celeriac carbonara with pancetta, confit egg and winter truffle. There are sharing plates on offer, too – a whole roast chicken with fries and gravy or rib of beef on gravy-soaked bread. Desserts lean towards the classics: baked alaska, jam roly-poly, and the ‘Nessabockerglory,’ all given an indulgent, modern, twist. nessasoho.com

Black Pudding Brioche dish at Nessa restaurant in Soho

Sohaila, Shoreditch

Sohaila is a restaurant and natural wine bar created by social enterprise Fat Macy’s (which supports people in temporary accommodation via culinary training), serving modern Middle Eastern food. It’s named after founder Nathalie Moukarzel’s grandmother and a lot of the recipes are inspired by her. Dishes use local and sustainable ingredients, and the menu changes often to minimise food waste. Plates often include labneh and chilli butter, deep-fried mussels, and halloumi and figs. Cocktails use similar flavours, such as the martini overleaf. sohailarestaurant.com

Lamb neck preserved lemon white bean and harissa

Lilienblum, Old Street

Israeli chefs Eyal Shani and Oren King have joined forces to open a theatrical ode to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, where large groups cheer at celebrations, fresh tomatoes hold down brown paper tablecloths ready to be filled with sharing plates, and a sage burner is paraded round to mingle with spices from the tile-and-copper backed open kitchen. Reserve a spot at the counter to watch chefs stir fresh tomatoes through homemade pasta, bake pizza-like focaccia and grate horseradish over charcuterie-style sliced beetroot. Waiters help decipher playful menu items such as “6 spicy instruments that will swirl your soul”, aka a palate of salsa and spices to lift your dishes, and silky, smoky signature hummus topped with whole chickpeas and green chilli salsa. Meat dishes range from minute steak, prepared crisp like bacon and slathered in tahini, to the “dinosaur bone” short rib cooked over 24 hours. Seafood fans should try the light yet comforting clams slow cooked with springy farro. Strong contenders on the dessert menu include zesty pistachio cake and silky chocolate mousse with salted butter cookies. Pair with a smooth, tahini-laced espresso martini, or refreshing Oren’s Memories cocktail that evokes the aromas of the spice markets in Jerusalem. lilienblum.co.uk

A restaurant with tables laid, an emerald pillar and an open kitchen with a chef chopping

Joia, Battersea Power Station

With a view that looks out over the transformed Battersea Power Station, Joia, with its floor-to-ceiling windows pouring light onto the warm pastel interiors, literally shines – which is apt, given that its name means ‘jewel’ in Portuguese. Perched at the top of Art’otel, Joia is London’s first offering from Michelin-starred Henrique Sá Pessoa, with the main restaurant, a vermouth and wine bar, and an additional rooftop bar spread over three floors. The menu, simply created using the best ingredients available, includes dishes such as bulhão pato mussels, suquet – a monkfish and red prawn stew – and hand-dived scallops with black aïoli sabayon. joiabattersea.co.uk

Carabineros prawns: Orzo, bisque, coriander

Maene, Shoreditch

Blink and you’ll miss the entrance to Nick Gilkinson’s latest restaurant, marked with a subtle ‘M’ on a graffiti-clad backstreet in Shoreditch. Head upstairs past the yoga studio to a stunning room that was once a textile factory; white curtains waft against floor-to-ceiling windows, filament lightbulbs hang from lofty ceilings, and rough floorboards are lined with sweeping blue banquettes. There’s a separate concrete bar for cocktails and a soon-to-open large terrace with city views.
Kick off with caramelised whipped brown butter to slather onto Snapery sourdough. Leftovers of the latter are used to make a syrup for a smooth rye whisky old fashioned-style cocktail that shares the line up with other zero-waste drinks (other ingredients include potato skin liqueur, spirulina cordial and used coffee grounds), each with its own thought-out non-alcoholic counterpart. Starter-size dishes include whipped Sussex ricotta with jammy pickled beetroot and citrussy lemon thyme, and multicoloured Nutbourne tomatoes neatly arranged into a wafer-thin tart case. Seared slices of pork loin are accompanied by a hazelnut pesto, and whole Cornish sole is lifted with pickled fennel and Spitalfields City Farm greens whizzed into a bright, grassy sauce. Complement with crispy Morphew Farm heritage potatoes with smoked yogurt. maenerestaurant.co.uk

A restaurant room with a large concrete bar at the back with wooden tables and blue banquette seating

Cinder, St John’s Wood

With its interior of exposed brick and original tiling, this gem of a small restaurant serves punchy, open-fire, modern Mediterranean plates. Dishes are to be shared, and many are vegetable-focussed. We nibbled on exemplary arancini, stuffed with a putanesca-like mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers, and velvety taramasalata served with chunks of burnished bread, and perky radishes with their peppery leaves. From the ‘vegetable patch’, the aubergine tahini with tomatoes and mint was rich while still being fresh, and the burnt leeks had been rendered to an almost purée softness then punctuated with the crunch of hazelnuts seasoned with salty pecorino. Rude not to try the signature cedar salmon, a fish that takes well to smoke, and when enjoyed with a side of the triple-cooked new potatoes, it felt like a classic combination brought right up to date. From the meat section the glazed confit of duck fell off the bone and, with a hint of star anise, fermented chilli sauce and coriander salad, felt more Asia than Med, not that we’re complaining. Not a dull note hit and, while we didn’t have room for the two desserts on offer, we’ll be back again for sure. cinderrestaurant.co.uk

A courgette dish, bread, salad and two glasses of wine set on a table

Caia, Notting Hill

Rishabh Vir and Tim Lang aren’t new to the Notting Hill area, with restaurant/bar/lounge Fiend under their belt. But Caia brings something fresh – open-fire cooking and a knowing hand from chef Jessica Donovan. If the dimmed, relaxed space doesn’t keep you (the downstairs dining room feels like a living room with a record player and vinyl), the surprisingly complex flavours will. Rich flavours filter throughout from the grilled smoky potatoes with roast garlic, miso and parmesan, to the octopus with burnt pepper and ’nduja crumb. Just there for drinks? Head to the wine room with expertly curated bottles from Beth Brickenden. caia.london

Caia's dish of Bavette steak slices, served on a plate with greens and pesto

Jacuzzi, West Kensington

Jacuzzi is the fourth London outpost from the Big Mamma Group. Spread over four floors, this decadent Italian mansion is kitted out with a giant lemon tree, botanical mezzanine and even a disco bathroom. Luxury menu highlights include truffle pasta served in a 4kg wheel of pecorino, a caviar and bottarga-topped pizzette and Valrhona chocolate fondue. bigmammagroup.com


Rambutan, Borough Market

Cynthia Shanmugalingam has launched her first restaurant inspired by her Tamil roots. It incorporates fresh market ingredients into dishes inspired by Sri Lanka’s northern capital Jaffna. Try street-food snacks including aged mutton rolls and spicy fish malu buns, as well as Jaffna crab fried rice and grilled turmeric and tamarind mackerel. rambutanlondon.com

Coconut dal with kale

Stay tuned for more reviews of new restaurants in London

Reviews by Christine Hayes, Lulu Grimes, Helen Salter, Hannah Guinness, Alex Crossley, Esther Clark, Miriam Nice and Marianne Voyle

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Photographs: David Cotsworth, Steven Joyce

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