It's been a tricky time for new restaurant openings, for sure, but some real gems have been appearing over the past year. Here's our edit of the best openings of the year (so far). We'll update this as the months continue...
Opened in August
Mayfair - Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
Jose Pizarro has forged a well-deserved repuration as one of London's truly great Spanish chefs. Now he's opened two new restaurants at the Royal Academy. The chef has launched a full Spanish restaurant upstairs as well as a more casual tapas bar downstairs. Both are very good excuses to go and enjoy a great meal out, with some culture on the side.
Fitzrovia - 7 - 8 Market Place, London W1W 8AG
This restaurant near Oxford Circus comes from the same people who brought us Casa Do Frango, and they're hoping that this celebration of Cuban culture and cuisine will be as big a hit. Bringing in the people behind TA TA Eatery to run the menu is a big plus, and by all accounts their Cuban sandwich (which will be a key quality check) is wonderful.
Shoreditch - 45 Curtain Rd, Hackney, London EC2A 3PT
This is the main restaurant at the new Mondrian hotel in Shoreditch (which has taken over from The Curtain). It's from the restaurant group run by top Spanish chef Dani Garcia, who handed in his Michelin stars, opting for a more laid back restaurant. The tapas are excellent and there's a real vibe to this Shoreditch hotspot.
Clerkenwell - 22 Clerkenwell Green, Farringdon, London EC1R 0NA
Sessions Arts Club promised much when it was first announced, taking over a beautiful building in the heart of Clerkenwell. Then came the news that ex-Polpetto chef Florence Knight was returning to the London scene to run the kitchen here. Expect a mix of French, British and Italian cuisine in a truly beautiful room.
Opened in July
Covent Garden - 15 Henrietta Street, London WC2E 8QG
Ave Mario, from the people behind Gloria and Circolo Popolare, follows the Big Mamma restaurant template. It's gaudily decorated and with huge dishes on offer like the enormous ice cream cake that they wheel about the room or a veal Milanese that's twice as big as your head (and huge cocktails too). Not everyone's a fan - The Standard's Jimi Famurewa was underwhelmed - but it's been an instant hit, of course.
Shoreditch - 1 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DJ
BAO have mastered the art of the bao bun - now they've moved on to noodles, with beef noodles being the key draw at this Shoreditch restaurant. But worry not - bao buns are available too as well as many never-before-seen dishes. It even has two karaoke rooms. This latest branch of the BAO empire wowed The Standard's Jimi Famurewa who called it "a transporting, instant classic".
Chelsea - 298 Kings Road, London SW3 5UG
This sees a much-loved Chelsea pub get a complete revamp (it's looking rather beautiful now) and a menu from James Knappett (Kitchen Table) and Alex Harper (ex-Harwood Arms). The pub has been welcomed with open arms by the local crowd and is already a big hit. We had an early try of some of their dishes and drinks which showed this Chelsea boozer is worth crossing town for.
Hackney - 429 Green Lanes, London N4 1HA
The Dusty Knuckle's original Dalston bakery and cafe space is stupidly popular - with queues round the block at the weekends. This is their second bakery, where byou can more of their great potato sourdough, pastries and sandwiches. Plus it's a pizzeria in the evenings. It would be fair to assume you can expect a queue here too.
Hackney - 230 Dalston Lane, London E8 1LA
Hackney Coterie comes from Anthony Lyon (behind Lyon's in Crouch End) and sommelier Kelvin McCabe (previously at Zuma, Roka and Adam Handling's Frog group). In the kitchen is Dominic Auger (previously HIDE and Scully) and there's a great marriage between the small plates and a truly interesting wine list.
Islington - 6G Esther Anne Place, London N1 1WL
This Islington opening comes from Janina Wolkow, the restaurateur behind celebrity hangout Sumosan. Jiji is a Japanese/Middle Eastern fusion restaurant which brings something quite new to the N1 food scene. Exceptional sushi marries up with flatbreads and shawarma on the menu here.
Soho - Top Floor Kingly Court, Carnaby St, London W1B 5PW
An instant hit, Korean Dinner Party has taken over a prime space on the top floor of Kingly Court. With a menu created by the people behind TA TA Eatery (who have been very busy this year) this really is a Korean party experience (and the corn dogs are excellent).
St James - Conrad London St. James, 22-28 Broadway, Westminster, London SW1H 0BH
She won loads of plaudits for her time at The Harwood Arms and now Sally Abé has moved to the Conrad St James. The chef is in charge of all the food at the hotel and The Pem is her main restaurant, aiming to "build on the foundations of British cuisine" with a menu that intends to be elevated but fun. The Pem was named the restaurant to watch at this year's National Restaurant Awards.
Belgravia - 19 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB
The Pantechnicon is a hugely impressive-looking building that flung open its doors in Belgravia last year, but kept back its subterranean restaurant opening for 2021. Sachi carries on the Nordic and Japanese theme of the rest of the building, with a focus on Japanese food with "Nordic flavours and ingredients interspersed throughout".
Soho - 47 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JP
Two Latin American superstars have come to Soho to launch this two-header. In the basement is Abajo, where Tato Giovanonni has opened a destination cocktail bar with glow in the dark drinks. Upstairs is the restaurant by Fernando Trocca where the Latin American cuisine is served in one of London's most beautiful new dining rooms.
Notting Hill - 98 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5RU
An American hit (in Brooklyn, obviously), this sees the restaurant open an outpost in London with lunches and brunches to wow the Nottting Hill set. Watch out for their brown butter pancakes, which are their signature dish, when they open for brunch service.
Opened in June
Soho - 66-70 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9UP
El Pastor has been a success wherever they opened, and the latest Mexican restaurant from them in Soho is no exception. They took over the space that was once Hix and the tacos are as great as ever. Of particular note here is the downstairs bar, "Mezcaleria El Colmillo" which is worth a visit alone.
Mayfair - 18 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London W1J 7QH
Maru is from the same people behind Taka. When that restaurant moved to Marylebone, this omakase restaurant took over the space it left behind. Seating only 10 diners, this Japanese experience is centred around a 20-course farm-to-table tasting menu and will evolve over the seasons.
Opened in May
Mayfair - 16 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HW
Bar Des Pres comes from top French chef Cyril Lignac and it's a sister restaurant to the Paris outpost. Here you can expect Japanese food with a French influence moving from sushi through to seared beef fillet and some truly excellent desserts (a speciality of the chef). Expect to rub shoulders with well heeled Parisian expats when dining here.
Fitzrovia - 21A Foley St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 6DS
A move from Brighton to London is rare, but the people behind Cin Cin have made this a big success in Fitzrovia. The Italian restaurant has been very well received, and Marina O'Loughlin was an early fan, saying "Cin Cin isn’t that bothered about authenticity, just deliciousness".
Paddington - Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, London W2 6HY
The Cheese Bar team could simply have settled for serving cheese platters on a boat and Londoners would have lapped it up, but they've done so much more with this floating restaurant. The vessel itself - purpose-built - gives nearly everyone a water level view. As for the food, just look at this picture and you'll know why you should go. Clever, elegant and delicious - a restaurant where can watch a nesting moorhen as you fork another curried cheese curd in your mouth. Grace Dent was won over - "a barge filled to the brim with fromage is silly, but fun, and I like it."
Soho - Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby London W1B 5PW
Taking over Asma Khan's old space at Kingly Court comes this hugely-anticipated permanent restaurant from another supper club chef. Imad's story is of refugee to restaurateur but his legions of fans testify to their delight in his food. Jimi Famurewa was the first reviewer and while he noted teething pains, he also praised the cooking that spoke to "abundance, simplicity and the traditions of the home". Meanwhile, Jay Rayner says the restaurant "represents all the good things."
Hoxton - 1 Geffrye Street, London, E2 8JH
The people behind The Anchor and Hope (and The Clarence Tavern) have opened this cafe at Hackney's Museum of the Home (formerly known as The Geffrye Museum). Here, they have an all-day cafe, with dishes ranging from potted shrimp to roast haddock and chips. Expect this menu to evolve over the coming months.
Covent Garden - 4 Bow St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7AT
This is the first time that boutique US hotel group NoMad has expanded outside the USA and they've done it with style. Combining a world-class bar (the cocktails are truly excellent) with one of the best looking restaurants opening this year, it's already a hit. The Chicken Dinner is definitely worth a look and the bar is very welcome for an area of Covent Garden that isn't blessed with them. Jimi Famurewa in The Standard may not have been blown away by the food, but was impressed by the "mad, gilded spectacle of it".
Opened in April
The City - 135 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3YD
In the depths of lockdown, with images being shared on social of an empty, zombie-like City, the idea of opening a massive new palace of Italian food by Liverpool Street station seemed faintly ridiculous. Eataly proved them quite wrong - the place has been busy ever since it threw open its doors. Go to marvel at the huge grocery section, and then recover with a glass of Chianti and bowl of pasta in one of its many restaurants.
Fulham - 194 Wandsworth Bridge Road, London SW6 2UF
Two huge (and good) reviews helped propel this Fulham opening to the top of everyone's hit lists. Grace Dent loved the "casual yet caring service" and urged readers to order the custard tart, while the Standard's Jimi Famurewa was staggered by his meal there - "the relentless level of control, technique and explosive flavour was almost stupefying". If you love alfresco dining, know that the terrace here is particularly warm, covered and snug.
Fitzrovia - 3 Windmill St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2HY
Chef Patron Padam Raj Rai opened his first restaurant in Islington after learning his skills at Nobu and Zuma. Now he's got a restaurant just off Charlotte Street serving up exemplary sushi alongside DIY hot stone wagyu steak cooking. Fay Maschler praised the food in Tatler urging readers to make "one, or even two, orders of the crispy rice with tuna tartare".
Soho - 54 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4SL
This is chef Angelo Sato's solo Soho restaurant and it's about literally all of the chicken. Every bit of the chicken is put to use in the yakitori menu, so while you can play it safe and choose breast (with plum + shiso) or wing (with shichimi + lemon) you can also opt for achilles, tail, cartilage and more. Giles Coren says "It’s beer food. Izakaya snacks. Pub grub. And bloody good." while Tim Hayward in the FT said it features "high-quality avian deconstruction."
Notting Hill - 157 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS
Top sushi chef Endo Kazutoshi is the man behind this gorgeous new West London sushi spot. Having opened for delivery during lockdown, they finally opened to diners in April. Obviously the sushi here is great - the temaki particularly so. Jimi Famurewa clearly loved it saying while it "packs familiar comforts for a sushi-literate audience, it deals in some curveballs too."
Soho - 72 Old Compton St, Soho, London, W1D 4UN
Working on the proviso that pretty much everything TA TA Eatery get involved with is worth knowing about, folk have already been flocking to this revamped Soho spot which had them overhauling the menu. Jay Rayner was an early reviewer, describing his meal there as "fun, reasonably priced and well-executed".
Mayfair - 39 Brook Street, London W1K 4AH
It certainly didn't hurt Native that their new opening in this chic Mayfair store was in possession of a rather lovely courtyard, making it the perfect set-up for alfresco dining. Jimi Famurewa loved it called the fish fillet "the capital's most intensely enjoyable new dish" - the same conclusion Marina O'Loughlin came to, "genius, simply". McDonalds haven't been so keen - they've since issued them with a 'ceast and desist' over the dish's name.
Balham - 1 Ramsden Rd, Balham, London SW12 8QX
The Red Duck actually first opened in the depths of the winter lockdown, starting first as a delivery service that wowed Jimi Famurewa who said it enjoyed "all of (the) highs possessed skill, care and just the right amount of dutiful fidelity". It comes from someone who's worked closely with Alan Yau and is bringing something quite special to Balham, with a back-to-basics approach to studying Chinese cooking techniques.
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