In January 2015 I returned to London for the first time in just over 3 years. As you can imagine, I had long list of places to eat that I wanted to try while I was there. There were the hot new restaurant openings, the places that had opened up while I was away and the old favourites that I was keen to return to. These days London truly is one of the world’s food capitals with high quality cuisine from all over the world, both traditional and innovative on offer. There was only so much I could try in the 9 days that I was there but I had a good crack at it. Below is a run down of the places that I ate at that were new to me, including some of 2014’s hottest openings and a few highly recommended spots that I didn’t have the opportunity to try.
For a guide to some of London’s more established best restaurants, cafes and casual eateries that are still serving up great food today, check out The City Lane’s “Best Places To Eat In London (Old Favourites)” guide.
For a list of some of the best places to eat in the brilliant food-focused Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, keep your eyes out for the City Lane’s upcoming “London: A Gastronomic Tour Of Maltby Street Market” article.
Finally, for lover’s of craft beer, the upcoming “London: Craft Beer On The Bermondsey Beer Mile” is for you.
Finally, before I get to the list, I’d like to give a special thanks to Clerkenwell Boy, Daniel Young and Felicity Spector for helping to ensure I didn’t have a bad meal while I was in London with their excellent advice and recommendations.
Frith Street’s Barrafina has been open for 7 years and is still as popular as ever so anticipation was high when owners Sam and Eddie Hart announced that they were opening a second Barrafina in Covent Garden. Inspired by Barcelona’s Cal Pep, Barrafina occupies a small space with the long, tall bar giving diners full view of the frantic yet slick kitchen at work. Once you get through the wait and your place in the queue is up, you’re greeted with a menu full of Mallorcan and Catalan tapas dishes.
This was one of those places where it was really hard to decide what to order as everything on the menu sounds brilliant and, if you don’t know what something on the menu is, the expertly trained staff provide descriptions that make decision time even more difficult. My first choice came from looking at what the person next to me was eating. Milk fed lamb’s kidneys cooked over coals and served over hot coals. They were sublime. Banderillas, named after the darts used by bullfighters also didn’t disappoint and involved a simple combination of red pepper, green olive and quail’s egg on a small skewer.
I soon realised I wanted to order more so followed things up with some tasty ortiguillas, which are a type of anemone common in the south of Spain which is marinated in vinegar, coated in batter and deep fried. I’m not sure how to accurately describe the texture – creamy calamari perhaps comes close. To finish things off was a delicious coffee flan.
The selection of Spanish wines on offer is brilliant too. My waitress was kind enough to let me sample a few that she thought would accompany the dishes I selected and I settled on a beautiful 2013 Briego from Ribero del Duero.
Barrafina lived up to the hype and I could happily of eaten here several times, slowly working my way through the menu. Definitely worth waiting in line for.
10 Adelaide Street
London WC2N 4HZ
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 1:00pm to 3:30pm; 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Patty & Bun
My two self-confessed burger addict friends Ross and Paul have been going on about Patty & Bun ever since it opened, throwing around claims like “London’s Best Burger”. With bold claims like this, and a killer reputation in general, getting here for a burger was high on my list.
There was a line when I arrived but thankfully my friend Paul had already been waiting in line for about 10 minutes and about 15 minutes later we were in. The menu is a simple affair – 6 burgers plus the daily special burger, and a small selection of sides. I ordered the “Ari Gold” cheeseburger, which consists of a thin beef patty covered in American cheese, a “secret” smoked mayo, pickled red onion, slices of tomato and lettuce in between a brioche bun – a classic combination.
Burgers are one of those things that seem so simple yet so many seem to get them wrong. Patty & Bun, I’m happy to say, lived up to the hype – the ingredients are of the highest quality and the amount of each ingredient used is perfect. Just make sure you have a lot of napkins ready and are prepared for some serious sauce dripping – a tidy experience this is not!
To accompany the burger were some tasty fries and something I only found out about that night which I am going to say is arguably even better than the burger. What is this, you ask? The answer is confit chicken wings covered in a tasty BBQ sauce that take a day and a half to get through the whole process. The result is the most tender, juicy chicken wings that I have ever tried. These things literally melt in your mouth and are a must if you find yourself at Patty & Bun.
There’s also a Liverpool Street branch which has a larger menu – word on the street is that it’s the place to go if you want a great breakfast with the original being the go-to option for lunch and dinner.
Patty & Bun
54 James Street
London W1U 1HE
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 12:00am
Sat – Sun: 4:00pm to 12:00am
Smoking Goat Soho is one of the newest places on this list and, I’m putting it out there right now, was probably my favourite out of all the new places that I ate at during my recent visit to London. The space is quite small, and was I imagine, a pub at some stage in its earlier life. The music playing on vinyl is loud, the place is dark and the both the smell and visual presence of smoke permeates the air.
The menu comes out and consists of but a page – a few “small” dishes, and few “large” dishes and a few “sides”. The drinks list is equally focused, with a selection of craft beers (including the wonderful “made-for-the-venue” Goat Milk from London’s One Mile End brewery), wines and spirits on offer. What then, is Smoking Goat all about? Thai BBQ is the answer. Very decent sized hunks of meat cooked over a wood fire with heavy lashings of Thai influence.
The pork belly rib was sublime. cooked over sweet chestnut with palm sugar, chilli & fish sauce glaze. Served with som tam salad and sticky rice, this dish alone had me absolutely stuffed however I couldn’t leave having only tried one thing so went for the famous fish sauce chicken wings. The wings are ender on the inside and super sticky on the outside, coated in a sweet, crispy fish sauce batter and covered with sesame seeds – it’s impossible to not enjoy them regardless of how full you are.
I really wanted to try some of the other things on the menu but, as I was dining solo I physically couldn’t fit any more in. Next time I’m in town the coal-roast aubergine salad and the slow roasted duck leg marinated with galangal, lemongrass and kaffir are definitely on the list. My advice, come with friends and get everything on the menu – it’s small enough that you can.
7 Denmark Street
London WC2H 8LZ
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 12:00am
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar
As the world becomes ever more connected it comes as no surprise that trends and scenes are becoming less diverse across the world. 2014 saw the opening of a large number of ramen joints in Melbourne and it’s no surprise that London saw the same thing happen. Thankfully I love ramen and I’m always keen to try new places to see how they compared to the best stuff I had in Japan.
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar is one of the most popular of the new wave of ramen spots to hit London, which was evident by the large line snaking outside of the venue on a cold Monday winter’s night. To start with my friends and I got some fried chicken which was really tasty – the only criticism I have is that it didn’t come with any sauce – some Kewpie on the side would have definitely taken it to the next level. Still very good though.
Moving on to the main event however, I couldn’t go past the signature tonkotsu ramen with an extra egg in it just because. The ramen had a very authentic taste and texture, with the broth being nice and creamy just like it’s supposed to be. A very decent bowl of ramen, all washed down with some great local craft beer in a space that’s fun and lively with excellent service despite the very hectic vibe.
Bone Daddies Ramen Bar
31 Peter Street
London W1F 0AR
Telephone: 020 7287 8581
Mon: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Tue – Wed: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Thu – Sat: 12:00pm to 12:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 9:30pm
Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar
I didn’t get the opportunity to eat at Covent Garden’s Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar but, by all accounts, their ramen is excellent, with their speciality being tonkotsu ramen. The general consensus is that Kanada-Ya and Bone Daddies are the best two places for tonkotsu ramen in London. Bone Daddies has a thicker, creamier broth while word on the street is that Kanada-Ya is somewhat more authentic. If you’ve got the time, try both!
Kanada-Ya Ramen Bar
64 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LE
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Koya is an old favourite of mine, serving decent Japanese food with a focus on udon noodles. Since I’ve been away a smaller venue, Koya Bar has opened up next door focusing on, well the same sort of food really but pared down in a more casual, Izakaya style environment. The fit out is very modern and authentic and took me right back to Tokyo. The food isn’t innovative or pushing any boundaries – it’s just really good Japanese food done well. I ordered the prawn curry don and the coating on the prawn was spot on – light and crispy and not at all oily. It’s the kind of light panko coating you find in Japan as opposed to the heavier coating that tends to be used in western Japanese restaurants.
My friend ordered the vegetable tempura and was very impressed with the lightness of the batter and balance of flavours. If you’re looking for a decent Japanese feed, Koya Bar and the original Koya should definitely be on your list.
50 Frith Street
London W1D 4SQ
Mon – Wed: 8:30am to 10:30pm
Thu – Fri: 8:30am to 11:00pm
Sat: 9:30am to 11:00pm
Sun: 9:30am to 10:00pm
8 Hoxton Square
8 Hoxton Square is a surprising restaurant in this part of town. Eschewing the stereotypes that are evoked whenever Hoxton is mentioned, 8 Hoxton Square focuses on simple, rustic Italian food in a homely, unpretentious environment.
The spicy njuda dough balls kicked off the evening perfectly and the theme of simplicity followed throughout. Perfectly cooked squid atop a squid ink risotto – delicious. Veal milanese with a side of chips – tasty. Mushrooms, burrata, black truffle and toast – divine. Cauliflower and cheese – yes please.
My friends and I all walked away from 8 Hoxton Square completely satisfied with our meal. Service was efficient and, while the menu isn’t designed for sharing per-se, all of the dishes were quite easily divisible between the 3 of us.
As you can tell just by reading this list I’ve got no problem with going to the hottest new places or places that might be considered “hipster”. If the owners and staff are passionate about what they are doing and the food, service and atmosphere is good then everything else is irrelevant. I will admit though that sometimes it is nice when a place like 8 Hoxton Square pops up and just gets on with the job with minimal fuss a scant thought to whatever it is that’s supposed to be on trend at the time.
8 Hoxton Square
8 Hoxton Square
London N1 6NU
Mon – Fri: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat: 10:00am to 11:00pm
Sun: 10:00am to 5:00pm
I”m a subscriber to Monocle magazine, and always read it when I’m travelling. True, it can be pretentious at times but on the whole I love its inspiring stories and interesting articles. I’ve been wanting to check out the Monocle Cafe since I first heard about it a few years back and must say that I was impressed.
The coffee is excellent and, while I didn’t have anything to eat there the menu was a combination of Japanese and Scandinavian goodness with a variety of baked treats also on offer. It’s a really cozy space with a keen design aesthetic. There’s also some great reading material on offer while you take some time to gather your thoughts and plan your movements for the rest of the day.
18 Chiltern Street
London W1U 7QA
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 7:00pm
Sat: 9:00am to 6:00pm
Sun: 10:00am to 6:00pm
There were a lot of places on my list that I wasn’t able to try with such a limited time available to me but for your benefit I thought I should include the ones that, to my mind, looked like the best of the bunch. When I’m next in London these will be at the top of my list.
Kitty Fisher opened just before Christmas is already arguably London’s current “it” restaurant. Housed in Mayfair’s historic Shepherd Market, this small, old fashioned, candle lit, restaurant that has a liberal amount of wood and leather used in its fit out has a team in the kitchen that’s very impressive. That is, Young British Foodie Award winner Tomas Parry, and former Pitt Cue Co sous chef Chris Leach. Together, they pump out some very impressive food, taking advantage of the large wood grill where they can.
Dishes like Monkfish, Blood Orange, Fennel & Monks Beard and Cornish Crab, Barbecued Cucumber, Dill & Seaweed are the sorts of things that make me very keen to get here the next time in town. Supposedly Kitty Fisher’s is booked out until Easter but there are always no-reservation seats at the bar, which I think is more fun anyway.
10 Shepherd Market
London W1J 7QF
Telephone: 020 3302 1661
Tue – Fri: 12:00pm to 2:30pm; 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Sat: 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Duck & Waffle
I really have no excuse for not making it to Duck & Waffle given that it’s open 24/7 but you know the way is is. This place has been open since the middle of 2012 and since then has maintained the standards that it set when it opened. Sitting on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City of London the place has views to die for but, unlike many places that come with a view, the food has proven itself to be anything but bad.
The menu segues from fun to serious, with what’s on offer changing depending on whether you’re there for breakfast, dinner or a 3am feed. The “duck and waffle” (crispy leg confit, fried duck egg & mustard maple syrup) can be found alongside bbq-spiced crispy pig ears and foie gras crème brûlée served with butter roasted lobster & toasted brioche. It all sounds very tempting.
Duck & Waffle
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Smokehouse Islington is no longer the newest restaurant from former Pitt Cue Co chef Neil Rankin (that title goes to recently opened Bad Egg) however it’s the one that I want to go to. It’s a place that, as the name suggests, smokes its meats – over wood fires in this case. Focus is placed on the origin of the locally sourced produce, craft beers and wines in a no-nonsense kind of way. Chopped brisket roll & gochujang, smoked lamb shoulder, polenta, raclette & sambal and smoked duck, butter masala & jhal muri are just a few of the enticing options on the menu. Simple food done well, with the occasional Asian flourish – right up my alley.
63–69 Canonbury Road
London N1 2DG
Mon – Wed: 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Thu – Fri: 8:00pm to 12:00am
Sat: 11:00am to 12:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Climpsons Arch is an interesting concept, and an admirable one at that. It started as the roastery for London coffee roaster/retailer Climpson & Sons but soon evolved, with the railway arch space being used to create a platform for young chefs to show off their talents, experiment and interact with customers. Som Saa is the current residency and Andy Oliver and Tom George serving lesser-known dishes from the Northern and North-Eastern provinces of Thailand utilising charcoal grills and a wood fired oven.
Along with Smoking Goat, it’s the other big new wave Thai spot in London and one that is, by all reports, excellent.
Arch 374 Helmsley Place
Hackney E8 3SB
Thu – Fri: 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat – Sun: 11:00am to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 11:00pm
How can one not be enticed by Pekham Bazaar’s offer of “pan-Balkan mezze”? I’ll admit that over the course of 3 years in London I never once made it down to Peckham. I just never had any real reason to however in the time that I’ve been away the area has started to evolve into the latest upcoming artisan food and drink part of town.
In what’s definitely a trend in London as reading through this list is testament to, Albanian chef John Gionleka cooks over a large open wood fired pit in what was the forecourt of this former pub. “The best Greek food in London” and “a menu that covers the area that once comprised the Ottoman Empire” are terms that have been used to describe the menu. It all sounds good to me.
119 Consort Road
London SE15 3RU
Tue – Fri: 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat: 12:30pm to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:30pm to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 10:00pm