As we, thankfully, near the end of 2020 it's time to take a look back at some of the best openings of the year. Yes, there's a bit of a gap between April and July, but when you look back there were some quite excellent new additions to the UK dining scene. Here, in our humble opinion, are the best of the bunch.
Where: 19-23 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA
In a nutshell: Mediterranean in Shoreditch
Ex Caravan chef Niko Kontogiannatos has landed in Shoreditch with this restaurant which mixes inspiration from Greece, where he hails from, and his time at Caravan. They're also creating everything in-house from bread to ice cream and sorbet and we're already seeing high praise appear on social.
Where: 22 Portman Square, Marylebone, London W1H 7BG
In a nutshell: Nobu from the ashes
Earlier this year one of London's top celeb haunts, Nobu Berkeley shut its doors. But most of the same team are now up and running in swanky new premises just up the road in Portman Square. This is the second Nobu hotel in London and its restaurant boasts a huge dining room with a much more airy look than its predecessors. The black cod miso and other favourites all put in appearances.
Where: 43 Store Street, London WC1E 7DB
In a nutshell: Anna Tobias + 40 Maltby Street
Anna Tobias is an ex-River Cafe and Rochelle Canteen chef and definitely one to watch. Backed by the people behind 40 Maltby Street, this new opening in Bloomsbury is very much about comfort food. So expect plenty of warming brown dishes with a regularly changing menu, together with a natural wine list.
Where: 2a Garrick St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9BH
In a nutshell: Celebrated Indian restaurant MK II
When Asma Khan moved from supper club to a permanent restaurant, her restaurant was an instant success. But it really hit the stratosphere when she was featured on Netflix's influential Chef's Table show. This move to a bigger restaurant - which doubles as a deli during the day - should make getting a table just a wee bit easier. During the evening there's a set menu based around her celebrated biryani - as well as vegetarian and vegan options. It's going to be a massive hit.
Where: 20 Sidworth Street, London E8 3SD
In a nutshell: Chef's table in London Fields
This London Fields restaurant comes from Andy Beynon, former development chef for Jason Atherton, and he's created something quite special in a bespoke room. A huge and well socially distanced counter awaits, comfortable yet still maintaining a good atmosphere. That's backed up by a largely seafood-led menu that is full of inventively used ingredients. There's really not much else like it in town right now.
Where: 9 Seymour Street, London W1H 5BT
In a nutshell: High-end Mexican food
Santiago Lastra's Kol is another of London's long-awaited openings and another which has proven to be very much worth the wait. Another step in the reinvigoration of Mexican food in London, he mixes Mexican cooking with ingredients that are largely sourced in the UK. With a destination bar downstairs to come, this is already proving a hit - even David Beckham has been in to try it out."This is no ordinary tasting menu" said The Telegraph.
Where: 142 Chiswick High Road, London W4 1PU
In a nutshell: Neighbourhood restaurant with a top chef
This neighbourhood restaurant managed to snag Kimberley Hernandez, previously head chef at both Xu and Kym's, to head up the kitchen here. There's a focus on British dining with dishes that have been given her own spin with dishes like XXL Lemon Meringue Éclair on the menu. Blogger Andy Hayler called it "a very useful addition to the neighbourhood".
Where: 21 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3LP
In a nutshell: West African in Fitzrovia from William JM Chilila
MasterChef finalist William JM Chilila has opened his highly-anticipated restaurant in Fitzrovia and it's proven to be well worth the wait. In a restaurant that combines a high-end feel with a buzzy vibe, the kitchen really is pulling together dish after dish of West African-inspired excellence. Elle Deco was in paroxysms of delight at the tableware which it declared "worthy vessels of the delights that await within".
Where: 153-157 Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 3LW
In a nutshell: The Dairy Mk II
There was a short, bad week where it looked like The Dairy was to be no more - forced to close in its original Clapham location. However, Bermonds Locke came to the rescue, giving the restaurant a brand new (and slightly larger) space in Bermondsey (although a name change was forced soon after opening). The same team is back in the kitchen and on the floor and the Dairy magic continues in the new location, pleasing Jimi Famurewa who said it "already stands as a reminder that something born from frantic necessity can still be a vessel for pure, boundless joy."
Where: 318-326 Hornsey Road, London, N7 7HE
In a nutshell: Jolene's sibling
This is from the team behind Primeur, Jolene and Westerns Laundry and it continues their hugely successful run of north London restaurants. Something of a spin-off from Jolene, this features a huge bakery out the back (so it's a great new source of baked goods for the area) and serves up a menu of excellent pizza slices and charcuterie. Grace Dent was quickly impressed, saying "loveliest things imaginable are chucked at very good bread."
Where: Unit 9, Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LB
In a nutshell: West African in Brixton
This is the first standalone restaurant from Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare. She'd previously been running supperclubs until winning the Brixton Kitchen competition gave her the opportunity for this permanent restaurant. The West African dishes combine the best of British and African produce - it'll be there until early at least 2021 (hopefully longer), so it's worth catching asap. Local Jay Rayner said "it deserves to be shown some serious love."
Where: 36 Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6DF
In a nutshell: Sexy new St James spot
Maison Francois took over the space that used to be Green's and changed it beyond recognition. A hugely impressive room hosts a full-on-French meal that serves classics like their now-signature oeuf en gelee. Already a hit, it's done well with the critics too. Grace Dent said "Maison François has the definite backbone of classic French cuisine... but there is also a modern, future-facing feel" and Fay Maschler was impressed with the dessert trolley which "could come out of a Roald Dahl fantasy". It's also blessed with a new bar in the basement called Frank's which is an ideal place for cocktails and charcuterie.
Where: 2 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4NB
In a nutshell: Gay Hussar becomes Noble Rot
Noble Rot, who have had a huge success with their original restaurant, took over the Gay Hussar building in Soho to great acclaim. They launched with a menu by Alex Jackson which pays the odd homage to the classic Hungarian restaurant. Backed up by the usual excellent wines from Noble Rot, this has inevitably been an instant hit with punters and critics. Giles Coren said "this is a location I love, restored to glory by friends, serving a dreamy modern version of the food of my foremothers" while Grace Dent says it's "a place for any given Tuesday when you wish to remember that life is worth living."
Where: 115 Tooting High Street, London, SW17 0SY
In a nutshell: Smoking in Tooting
Smoke and Salt have been popping up all over town before a longer stint at Pop Brixton. This sees them setting down roots in Tooting. As you might guess from the name, this is all about smoking, curing and preserving with ever-changing menus that can include their own take on classics. We're hearing great things on the grapevine about this one.
Where: 109 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London W1U 4RX
In a nutshell: Japanese sibling in Marylebone
This is the second Taka and here, they've taken over the old Providores and have remodelled it with pared-back Japanese stylings. The food, a marriage of locally sourced ingredients and Japanese techniques, throws out some winning dishes - including a wagyu sando that's made many an appearance on Instagram. Grace Dent gave it a thumbs-up - "It is at moments like this that I thank God for restaurants as they lift us out of our world, just for a short time."
Where: Unit 1, 8 Melior St, Bermondsey, London SE1 3QP
In a nutshell: Korean meets European fine dining
This London Bridge restaurant is the first solo project from husband and wife team Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki, whose food combines European cooking techniques with touches inspired by their Korean heritage - resulting in something quite unique. Tim Hayward is a big fan (as are we) and in the FT said: "What actually occurs here is all-out down-and-dirty fusion and the results are fascinating." Blogger Chris Pople called it brilliant, "both a prodigal student of French and Korean cooking traditions, and at the same time a trailblazer in something genuinely new - fusion food that finally lives up to the name."
Where: 6 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2JP
In a nutshell: Punjabi in Dalston
Attawa originally launched right in the middle of the lockdown, kicking things off with a delivery-only option. Since then, the Punjabi restaurant in Dalston has opened to the public with a menu by Arbinder Duggal, a semi-finalist on MasterChef: The Professionals. Grace Dent popped in for an early takeaway and was a fan: "His fragrant, creamy black dal makani is the stuff of dreams; possibly London’s greatest, most pacifying use of lentils."
Where: Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5BU
In a nutshell: Dock Kitchen reimagined
The Dock Kitchen itself may be no more, but Stevie Parle's return to the location that made his name was big news indeed. The restaurant is Flora and the overall space is called Joy - something that this largely alfresco restaurant has brought to everyone who's visited. Grace Dent said "there is joy in Portobello" while Tom Parker Bowles said "This place makes me very happy. Joy indeed." Originally touted as a summer pop-up, this looks like staying around for a lot longer.
Where: 220 St Paul's Rd, Highbury, London N1 2LL
In a nutshell: Husband and wife team take over a neighbourhood spot
Angus and Lale Oztek-Pook took over from Linden Stores to create a wonderful new neighbourhood restaurant for Islington. Launching just after the first lockdown they're part-deli, part evening wine bar/restaurant with cuisine that mixes European and Turkish influences. And they have an excellent line in sandwiches and buns too.
Where: 33-41 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR
In a nutshell: Rotating tasting menus
Six by Nico had already been well established across the country and it's easy to understand the success. Six-course tasting menus that change every six weeks at a great price for Fitzrovia. It bridges the gap between fine dining and casual dining and quickly become a hit in its London location. While not everyone has been won over, Giles Coren was impressed "It’s great. The Scottish-Italian chef, Nico Simeone, whose place this is, can really cook. Or whoever is cooking for him can."
Where: 102 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0LA
In a nutshell: Stoke Newington Church Street's gastropub game gets a boost
From the team who brought us top gastropubs the Anchor and Hope and Canton Arms, comes this takeover of a Stokie pub that was an immediate hit, despite lockdown hiccups. Grace Dent said her evening here “gave me a fresh lease of life” while the Standard’s Fay Maschler was particularly taken with its “sublime” desserts.
Where: 10 Heddon St, Mayfair, London W1B 4BX
In a nutshell: Sustainable fireworks in Mayfair
Fallow was originally the latest short term residency at 10 Heddon Street, but they've settled in for a while longer and have developed into one of the really interesting new restaurants in the area. There's also an extensive terrace if you still prefer dining outside. Fay Maschler is a big fan saying that a trip to a previous pop-up meant the restaurant "was already in my good books before I visited for the first time — then again, then again."
Where: Unit 5, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, Peckham, London SE15 4QL
In a nutshell: All day NYC-inspired spot in Peckham
Larry’s is the third opening by the team behind popular South London spots Salon and Levan. Here on Blenheim Grove, they’re serving up a menu inspired by New York diners and dives. The potato and vacherin pie’s already reached cult status and if you head into the restaurant itself, the eclectic wine list is worth wandering through.
Where: 23 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BH
In a nutshell: Food by Chavot, decor all Mourad
Having opened before the lockdown, Mo Diner got a little lost in the mix which is a shame, because this little gem on Heddon Street certainly deserves attention. Not only has Sketch owner Mourad Mazouz created something very beautiful here, but he’s only gone and roped in top chef Eric Chavot to run the menus. It found an early fan in Marina O’Loughlin who called it “a captivating one-off...Mazouz has brought us the restaurant we didn’t know we needed right now.”
Where: 274 High Road, Tottenham, London N15 4RR
In a nutshell: Nigerian tapas goes permanent
Chuku's hosted popular pop-ups and residencies across town before settling in Tottenham mere weeks before the first lockdown but they returned stronger than ever afterwards. They specialise in what they call Nigerian tapas - small plates with African influence. Plaudits have poured in - Grace Dent was a fan, saying "There is no better way to deal with Chuku’s – just sit back and let them feed you." And in the Standard, Jimi Famurewa said they returned from lockdown even better than before: "Boldly conceived, buoyantly atmospheric and packing a new fire-breathing flavouring oomph".
Where: 18 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LZ
In a nutshell: Eastern Med inspired restaurant in Fitzrovia
Ampeli was the last restaurant critic Grace Dent visited before the first lockdown, giving her fond memories of her meal at this “cosmopolitan, Athens-style, neighbourhood joint”. Meanwhile, Fay Maschler in the Standard had good words to say about their lamb chops. Since then it’s fitted very comfortably into this stretch of Charlotte Street.
Where: 1 Finsbury Ave, London EC2M 2PF
In a nutshell: Portuguese tapas hits The City
This Portuguese restaurant found plenty of favour in Borough and the question was - could it repeat that in the heart of the City? The answer is a definite yes. Part of that's due to a rave review from Fay Maschler who was a fan of the presa - "the most impressive assembly of those tried is presa Ibérica (pork shoulder) with kale and migas (sautéed breadcrumbs) to counter the meat’s ambrosial richness."
Where: Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL (temporarily closed)
In a nutshell: Luxe hotel steakhouse
The opening of this gorgeous looking grill room at The Connaught saw a bit of the hotel’s history return to life (there was a grill here for years until 2000). Run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and with bespoke carpentry by George Nakashima Woodworkers in Pennsylvania it’s quite the head-turner. Menu-wise it’s a mix of old classics with new dishes like an amazing sushi platter.
Where: 38 Groom Place, London SW1X 7BA
In a nutshell: Tom Aikens gets intimate
Tom Aikens can be a rather divisive figure which led Jan Moir really putting the boot into his new restaurant as soon as she could in the Daily Mail. While she may have railed against the intimate restaurant with its tasting menu based on Aiken's childhood, others have given it high praise. In The Standard, David Sexton gave it a five-star rave, saying "The meal, incidentally, unlike many such tasting menus, left us feeling entirely, well, exhilarated even. Muse is an absolute treat." Kathryn Flett in the Telegraph agreed, saying it's a "place, in short, where something just a tiny bit magical happens." It also gained four AA rosettes in record time.
Where: Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, Shadwell, London E1 7QX
In a nutshell: Modern British in Whitechapel
Townsend were one of the early restaurants to switch quickly to delivery and that deftness is replicated in an ever-changing menu of dishes that results in a menu where you simply want to try everything. A pre-lockdown visit impressed Fay Maschler and Chris Pople who said "Townsend is doing more or less everything right for a restaurant in 2020", while a more recent visit by Jay Rayner said it proved that restaurants like Townsend exist "to make things just that little bit better."
That's not all...
Many more great restaurants opened in 2020 - see the full list of all 2020 openings
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