With Christie's auction house right around the corner and the Queen’s palace not too far away, Avenue restaurant on the posh St. James Street in the heart of Mayfair, has re-launched, bringing a distinctive Manhattan power-dining scene to London. Everything from the Prohibition era cocktails to the wine list to the menu to the portion sizes to the friendly service is done with a nod to England’s former colony across the pond. This trend toward all things American is not new in London. Every other opening recently has been some variety of burger shack, hot dog stand, or BBQ joint, but Avenue offers a more upscale take on Americana. You get two cornmeal crusted soft shell crabs for a starter and they’re crispy and lovely with the spicy mayo sauce that accompanies them. Meanwhile, the very large lobster macaroni and cheese is positively packed full of lobster meat and the aromas wafting from the “pig” loaf at the next table made me swoon. With reasonable prices and many more items on the list I’d like to try, Avenue made this American girl feel very much at home.
Sally Hurst is a chef and food writer based in London. You can follow her on Twitter at @chefsallyjane.
Photo Courtesy of D&D London
Berners Tavern, under the direction of much-celebrated chef Jason Atherton, is the most glamorous (and hard-to-get) reservation in London these days. Atherton is known for his fresh approach to traditional British cuisine, while steadfastly using only the very best ingredients. Now he’s showing the world just how fantastic British food can be, opening nothing less than a mini-restaurant empire that extends from London to Dubai to Shanghai to Singapore to Hong Kong.
Celebrity sightings abound at this, Atherton’s latest London opening. Housed in the Edition Hoteljust North of Oxford Street, it is jaw-droppingly beautiful, the walls crammed with artwork, framed by ornate plasterwork that seems to ooze off the walls. It’s a bit like sitting inside a Faberge egg.
Chef Bobby Chinn is shaking things up at his new restaurant, House of Ho, in London’s SOHO. He’s bringing the bright flavors of Vietnamese street food inside and giving them a twist by adding unexpected ingredients like truffle oil to his ceviche and caramel sauce to his monkfish. Chinn roams through his sexy new space, greeting diners and serving drinks alongside his knowledgeable staff, a practice not often done in these parts.
Japanese stagiares (i.e., trainees) have long been an essential part of Paris’s top-tier, Michelin starred kitchen brigades, but lately scores of them have struck out on their own, opening tiny tables d’auteurs—and putting their high-level training to use in more eclectic, affordable bistro-style settings.
This kosher butcher shop turned bistro of the moment recently opened in the culinary hotbed of the 9th arrondissement. Run by chef Yoshie Morie—who opened one of the vanguards of French-Nippon cuisine, Le Petit Verdot—it offers limited menus with comforting yet creative dishes such as mussels, cauliflower and Indian spice mix, or monkfish with cooked and raw vegetables (broccoli, burnt eggplant)—plus one of the best desserts of the year: violet-and-fig compote with a side of Timut pepper sorbet. 43 rue Richer, +33 1 72 60 97 72
The tiny Polpetto made a big splash when it opened in Soho, in 2010, taking the nascent small-plates trend to new heights and making a star of chef Florence Knight. Its closing last year caused much rending of garments: what could ever take the place of her Venetian-style salt cod? Hunger no more, London: Polpetto is reopening this February on Berwick Street, with room for an open kitchen and a marble-topped bar. The brilliant Knight is back, after traveling in Italy and writing a cookbook, One: A Cook and Her Cupboard (Saltyard Books). She’ll tap the nearby market to create British bites (braised lettuce, cockles, and bacon) as well as Italian dishes such as gnudi with lardo and walnuts. Best of all: this time, they’re taking reservations (at lunch and for large dinner groups). That’s the sound of Londoners—and the rest of us—rejoicing.
Photo courtesy of Polpetto
Could it be? New York’s ever-genteel Upper East Side has found a decidedly downtown groove.
The team behind Lower East Side favorite Fat Radish keeps the focus on ingeniously prepared vegetables at their new uptown restaurant, the East Pole (pictured). Carnivores will find solace in the bacon cheeseburger with duck-fat chips. 133 E. 65th St. $$
Lauded gallerist Dominique Lévy just transformed three floors of a former bank building into a dramatic backdrop for contemporary and postwar art. Currently on view: photographer Boris Mikhailov. 909 Madison Ave.
Is Cesare Casella (Beppe; Maremma) the city’s most underrated Italian chef? His latest New York spot, Il Ristorante Rosi, makes a persuasive case, not least with a knockout pork lasagna. 903 Madison Ave. $$$
Our abridged meal-by-meal guide to where and what to eat now.
Breakfast: Crème Brûlée Doughnut at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
Line up early at the pint-size shop near the White House for its signature treat, stuffed with vanilla pastry cream and coated with a caramel glaze. $3.
Lunch: Grilled Octopus Causa at Del Campo
The Chinatown restaurant channels Argentina’s asados, with many ingredients finished on the grill—including the octopus, piquillo peppers, and avocado in this salad. $16.
Snack: Mushroom Tart at Le Diplomate
At restaurateur Stephen Starr’s D.C. debut, Capitol Hill elites make deals over French brasserie classics such as the flaky, rich pioppini-mushroom tart with truffle pecorino. $14.
As any frequent traveler will tell you, there comes a point when all the rental cars, airline seats, hotel rooms, and even cities start to blur together. Sure, business travel can take us to exciting new destinations, but it can also—and frequently does—take us to cookie-cutter suburban office parks and nondescript hotels.
For me, the solution to breaking up the monotony is to find good meals. Food can be very comforting, and restaurants often provide a chance to (pardon the pun) get a taste for local culture.
One of my most memorable business trip meals came a few years ago in western Minnesota, near the South Dakota border. I was spending one night in a tiny prairie town surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Population: 740. Dining options: far fewer.
The U.S. ramen scene is booming—and it’s about to get even more exciting with the arrival of one of Tokyo’s hottest noodle gurus, Ivan Orkin. The New York native—who earned serious food cred in Japan at his two Ivan Ramen restaurants—is returning to his roots, bringing two outposts of his cult brand to Manhattan. Here, Orkin, whose first cookbook is out this month, gives us the lowdown on the soup that made him famous.
Q: How did you break into the Tokyo dining scene?
A: It was a crazy idea for a white guy from New York to open a ramen restaurant there. But in Japan, people respect passion and a good work ethic, and I think that came across. Also, when I started, making your own noodles was very uncommon, and I decided to do mine in house.
These days, you mostly hear about chefs in Copenhagen—not those who choose to leave. But in 2011, Paul Cunningham shuttered his Michelin-starred The Paul and headed to what he calls “Denmark’s wild West Coast,” turning the 200-year-old former coaching inn Henne Kirkeby Kro into a 12-table restaurant with five individually designed guest rooms. “It was the stress of city life,” he says. “I wanted something smaller, less mainstream.” Cunningham raises his own livestock, cultivates a kitchen garden, and serves whatever inspires him—from a simple, perfectly roasted lamb to langoustines with crushed tomato and garlic confit. Now he’s opened the first new building on the site in two centuries, Jægerhuset (hunters lodge). The seven rooms—including one named for Jóhannes Larsen, the renowned nature painter who vacationed here in the 19th century—are outfitted with pieces by iconic Danish designers (Hans Wegner; Finn Juhl). As for the handmade-brick exterior, Cunningham—ever the chef—likens it to blocks of nougatine. $$
Photo by Paul Cunningham