he lure of new London restaurant is undeniable. Fresh laid, plush carpets, squishy banquettes not yet flattened by the load of hundreds of patrons, chefs and serving staff still riding the high of a new job and dishes which haven't yet become routine. Sure, there are bound to be a few hiccups as everyone settles in, but the thrill of being the first through the doors of one of the capital's most hyped eateries is what every foodie lives for. With that in mind, and with a seemingly endless string of new restaurants being announced every month, you'll need some help sorting out the properly interesting from the merely good on paper. Luxury concierge service Innerplace offers its suggestions...
The Aubrey, Knightsbridge
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel has always been something of a culinary destination. Heston Blumenthal elevated the place to the Michelin firmament with his double-starred destination restaurant, Dinner by Heston. Before that, it was equally known for serving some of the best bistro burgers in the capital, thanks to Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud. The Aubrey has now stepped into those digs. Launched in tandem with Hong Kong-based group Maximal Concepts, the venture reimagines the traditional Japanese izakaya in a super-luxury setting.
Laid out across a lounge, salon and library, The Aubrey transports you to another world via a burnt-coral colour motif, Bundt-era lamps, crane-ornamented screens and gilt Louis XIV chandeliers. It’s replete with intimate alcoves, marble surfaces, velvet furnishings and a soundtrack that borrows heavily from contemporary Japan. As afternoon wends its way into evening, the vibe becomes decidedly clubbier, with visitors popping in just to drink. We were quite taken with the private dining rooms and bars, which are ideal for exclusive get-togethers. We especially recommend the Iberico secreto pork and Saikyo miso sablefish from the robata grill, and the sensational black sesame cheesecake to finish.
Tattu, Denmark Street
Housed on the rooftop of Tottenham Court Road's futuristic Now Building, Tattu is the latest in a string of upscale restaurants promising to deliver a slice of hedonistic decadence alongside their fine dining menus. The first London outpost from a concept of the same name that proved hugely popular in Manchester, Tattu takes its inspiration from the traditional Chinese courtyard house, with guests invited to travel past mythical creatures of protection (the phoenix, koi carp, dragon and tiger) before journeying through a flower hung gate to discover the main dining area and inner and outer courtyards.
And, while the restaurant is undoubtedly an experience, the food certainly isn't an afterthought. Expect refined takes on Chinese classics, including XO scallops with salmon caviar, green pepper lobster and Wagyu ribeye dumplings. For the full experience opt for the Emperor's Choice tasting menu which is delivered in four 'waves' and features highlights including prawn and truffle cracker, Shanghai black cod and a Cherry Blossom dessert involving white chocolate, cherry sorbet and candyfloss.
Wild Honey, Pall Mall
During the noughties, Anthony Demetre created two restaurants that captured the zeitgeist. Mayfair’s Wild Honey and Soho’s Arbutus perfectly executed the laidback Gallic bistro, attracting the attention of Michelin reviewers who duly awarded each restaurant a star. It was sad to bid them farewell, but the spirit of Wild Honey lives on in St James’s, where it has taken over the grand space that formerly housed Balcon in the Sofitel Hotel.
Split between a mid-century modern cocktail bar with art deco mosaic tiled floors and statement chandeliers, the large space features smart hunter-green velvet high-tops and marbled tables, and a dining area with lavender velvet buttonback banquettes, swooping tan leather seating and an equally-impressive chandelier. Located within range of a dozen auditoriums, it’s a prime setting for a pre-theatre dinner, and Wild Honey has a tremendous menu for the purpose.
The crispy chicken with hand-cut macaroni and winter truffles was a starter to remember. The fallow venison with slow-cooked celeriac and kumquat marmalade an equally impressive main. For dessert, there’s an apple tarte tatin that can be shared between up to four people. Wild Honey is a high-end venue with eye-popping art.
The Barbary Next Door, Covent Garden
Layo and Zoe Paskin have mined gold wherever they’ve opened a restaurant, from the excellent Israeli-inspired fare of The Palomar to their Soho venture the Blue Posts (and Evelyn’s Table) to their excellent Mediterranean restaurant The Barbary. The newest string to their bow is The Barbary Next Door, located in Neal’s Yard.
The dining room is more of a long counter, jewel-box small, with just 10 covers. While it may be diminutive in stature it is perfectly formed and beaming with charm. For a quiet catch-up, there’s nowhere better. As with any of the Paskins’ restaurants, the lighting and music are impeccably tasteful, and the staff were well-informed yet never overbearing. They were quick to point us in the direction of a Kir Royale and a Cocchi Sbagliato, before steering us to order a delicious Chianu Cruci orange wine from Caravaglio, Sicily.
We kicked off with butter-soft Afghan khobz bread that billowed pockets of steam when torn apart. A sunset crudo of tuna was delicately balanced with lovely flavours such as carrot, orange and coriander oil. Berbere lentil wot built upon warming layers of flavour and was crowned with seared leeks. If you’re looking for small plates that deliver a big punch, The Barbary Next Door serves some of the best in town.
Launching at the London Palladium on Argyll Street, Inca is the latest Latin-inspired restaurant to touch down in the capital, offering immersive live entertainment alongside tasty South American-inspired cuisine at the site that formerly housed Movida and Toy Room. Helmed by battle-tested impresarios Marc Merran and Nathanael Dadoun, Inca represents the leading edge of a new brand of restaurant that splices eclectic eating with a dance experience and late-night clubby vibe.
On an investigative recce we discovered Inca to be a dark and sultry boîte worthy of its address. The multi-faceted space is decked to the nines with eye-popping Latin décor that captures the dualities of light and day, darkness and night, sun and moon. Guests enter down a winding staircase with Brazilian tiles that twinkle in the light. In the bar area, you’ll find peep-through walls, secret windows and a stand-out centre stage. Tables and dinners have replaced dancefloors but Inca retains that unmistakably exclusive London nightclub ambience, with performers even approaching dining guests to interact tableside. An eclectic menu showcases Latin American dishes with delicious twists running the gamut from Carabineros ceviche to nachos with white crab.
Bardo St James’s, St. James’s
Luca Maggiora has been one of the defining names in London’s nightlife scene and we were beyond intrigued when we heard he would be bringing his impresario’s touch to One Pall Mall with the opening of Italian restaurant Bardo St James’s. With live music very much the focal point of the venue, Bardo elegantly exudes an upbeat yet intimate (even sultry) atmosphere, with both top-shelf dining and entertainment. The restaurant shares common DNA with a private members’ club without the fees. People make an effort to dress up and there is a smart dress code (no t-shirts without a jacket, but smart jeans are allowed). There's also a very cool private members’ lounge bar hidden away behind the restaurant.
Bardo stretches over 11,000 sq ft and is as ambitious as it is expansive, comprising a large dining room with open-plan kitchen, whisky tasting room, walk-in wine cellar and secluded booths. It’s a great setting in which to enjoy the enlightened Italian cooking of Graziano Bonacina, who formerly carved a name for himself at Sette at The Bulgari Hotel.