The 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. Here’s our guide to London’s best new restaurants…
Speedboat Bar, Chinatown
Where once Bangkok’s winding canals – or klongs – were the city’s main travel routes, today they play host to the high-octane sport of speedboat racing that sees supercharged, long-tailed boats fly through the klongs at break-neck speeds, driven by thrill-seeking aquatic petrol heads. Hoping to bring that same spirit of sensory overload to Chinatown’s Rupert Street, chef Luke Farrel looked to the Thai-Chinese restaurants of Bangkok’s neon-illuminated Yaowrat Road to inspire the menu of his newest opening, Speedboat Bar. Packed with as much power as those souped-up speedboat engines, the menu comprises a hedonistic blend of aromatic flavours, hit with a hefty dose of acid and chilli. Think: wok-flamed sticky meat braises, drunken noodles, fermented vegetables and tangy seafood salads, washed down with a cool Singha beer or refreshing whisky soda.
Sparrow Italia, Mayfair
The capital’s passion for elevated Italian classics shows no sign of slowing and LA import Sparrow Italia is hoping to get its slice of the (pizza) pie with a glamorous new outpost on Avery Row. Opening in mid-October, the chic 189-cover space plans to replicate the success of its US sibling with a decadent menu featuring traditional Italian dishes (think Cacio e Pepe, lobster linguine and monkfish livornaise) alongside decadent Mediterannean fare, such as salt crusted red snapper for two and A5 Wagyu carpaccio. Of course, being located in the heart of London party restaurant destination, you can also expect nightly DJs and live music, alongside a stellar cocktail menu featuring the bright, fresh flavours of Italy.
Housed within the historic Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel, Elis presents a laidback interpretation of chef Rafael Cagali’s (of two-Michelin-starred East London restaurant Da Terra) Brazilian-Italian heritage with a menu that deftly fuses the powerful flavours of each cuisine. With Elis, Cagali, pays tribute to his mother, whose first São Paulo restaurant and jazz bar was named for the Brazilian musician, Elis Regina, with an intimate space, designed in collaboration with Studio Nathan Miller. The menu offering is set to comprise everything from Bolinho de bacalhau cod fritters and crab taglioni verde to gnocci fritto with parmesan and speck, and baby monkfish tail with a black tucupi glaze, served alongside a concise wine list curated by the founders of Noble Rot.
Chotto Matte, Marylebone
Chotto Matte’s second London site was designed by the award-winning Andy Martin architecture and sits easy among the high-end boutiques and art galleries of Marylebone. The restaurant features natural lava stone and striking ceiling sculptures. The menu is the work of executive chef, and Gordon Ramsay protégé, Jordan Sclare. Particular highlights include the Pato Crujiente Con Salsa Peruana – a crispy duck served with honey orange ponzu and piquant jalapeño – and the Dragon Roll of prawn tempura, salmon, avocado and unagi sauce.
Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal, Soho
Possibly the most exciting fine-dining destinations to launch this autumn, Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal represents Dilling’s first standalone restaurant, following the success of his time at the helm of a brace of two-Michelin-starred kitchens, The Greenhouse in Mayfair and Helene Darroze at The Connaught. This elegant and intimate dining space, which overlooks the iconic curve of Regent Street and across to Piccadilly Circus, seats just 34 guests. Be sure to get your reservations in early.
St John, Marylebone
Fergus Henderson is easily one of Britain’s most important chefs and his restaurants St John in Farringdon and St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields blazed a trail for a new kind of cooking. So news that the group would be opening a fresh branch in Marylebone was met with much excitement. The resto offers excellent sharing-style plates and, as you’d expect from a name known for championing nose-to-tail dining, plenty of holistic dishes.
There’s plenty of great Japanese joints in London, but top-class sushi isn’t quite so ubiquitous. Exciting news, then, that the team behind Sushi Atelier and Chisou have opened a 10-seater sushi counter called Roji on South Moulton Street. The intimate wooden counter is as easy on the eye as Roji’s sushi is on the tongue.
Caia, Notting Hill
Contemporary wine bar, music venue and open-fire restaurant, Caia was opened on Golborne Road by Notting Hill locals Rishabh Vir and Tim Lang in August and has already created a stir among both foodies and oenophiles. It offers an extensive list of wines from storied producers and young upstarts alongside a seasonally changing menu of wine-friendly fare cooked on a custom-made grill. Head downstairs for a post-dinner house party.
West African food has been growing in popularity as a high-end dining option for years. The latest is Isibani, launched by Anthony Douglas Chuka and Abdul Malik Abubakar, which landed in the heart of Knightsbridge Green, just behind the Bulgari hotel, in June. Expect elevated interpretations of recipes originated from Nigeria.
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.