10 New Restaurants Heating Up London’s Dining Scene
Bridget Arsenault is the associate editor, print and digital at Vanity Fair UK. and the co-director of the Bright Young Things Film Club. She covers the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure; follow her on Twitter at @bridget_ruth.
There has been a line snaking through Soho since Bao opened in March. Perhaps more a lunch spot than dinner, the name comes from the Korean word for the puffy buns made from steamed milk thatare the pillar of the restaurant’s menu. The company’s concept began as a street-food stall founded by three twenty-somethings, brother and sister Shing Tat and Wai Ting Chung, alongside friend Erchen Chang. The setup is simple: wooden countertops and low-slung chairs in a room no bigger than most city living rooms. The Taiwanese menu is fresh and flavorful, not to mention reasonably priced, so be prepared to wait.
Duck & Rice, London
Alan Yau’s Chinese gastropub, Duck & Rice, has been in the works since 2013. The sleek building, with its glass mosaic window and steely spiral staircase, located on Berwick Street in Soho, is a talking point in its own right. Prices can add up quickly—but who can blame you, when items like sesame prawn toast, Cantonese roast duck, and Jasmine smoked pork rib are on offer. Consider it part of the super-sleek experience. Both food and drinks offer a lengthy and considered menu—there are nearly 30 wines offered by the glass, and about double for beers, making a lingering, satisfying meal a certainty.
The Palomar, London
Yotam Ottolenghi educated the common restaurant-goer on the flavors of Israel with his popular namesake. Now, The Palomar serves “the food of modern-day Jerusalem,” with flavors of southern Spain and northern Africa mixed in. In the heart of the theatre district, an area more known for its chain restaurants and seedy dive bars, The Palomar is a welcome respite. With fresh and fragrant foods, menu favorites include the beef tartare, served with burnt aubergine cream and crispy Jerusalem artichoke, and the Stilton cheesecake with apricot coulis, chilli and pumpkin seeds, as well as the unforgettable caramel tuile.
In 2013 Kaspar’s at the Savoy underwent a facelift, and the iconic restaurant was brought into this new generation of highly competitive hotel restaurants with aplomb. Earlier this summer, the property announced a new executive chef, Holger Jackisch. The atmosphere is undeniable, propped up by the history of one of London’s most iconic hotels. The decor is resplendent: over the main bars sits an eye-catching and exquisite chandelier. Menu-wise, the lobster bisque is one of the most diabolically delicious options, and diners report that the truffle mash goes with everything else that comes out of the kitchen.
Molé Taco Bar, London
London isn’t necessarily known for its Mexican food, but that looks set to change. There’s been a steady rise in offerings in recent years, from the ever-swelling chain Wahaca to Mayfair’s Peyote to Soho’s La Bodega Negra—and now there’s Molé. The ideal newcomer, it’s not quite as high-end (price or atmosphere-wise) as Peyote or La Bodega, but the quality is equal, or dare we say, better. Everything is handmade, down to the corn tortillas. The guacamole, dappled with pomegranate seeds, is authentic, and the patatas bravas are categorically worth the carbs. Come with an empty stomach.
Spring Restaurant, London
Set within the cultural monument that is Somerset House, Australian super-chef Skye Gyngell (she earned a Michelin star at her last restaurant at Petersham Nurseries) has opened Spring. Light and white, it’s one of the most inviting restaurants in town, with a come-hither menu. Both a food writer and a cook, Gyngell was the Independent’s Sunday food writer for five years, and has three cookbooks to her name. Her delicate menu includes sirloin with deep-fried courgettes and summer hollandaise, and ricotta dumplings with red Florence onions and pesto.
Hotel Chantelle, London
A New York import, Hotel Chantelle’s hottest commodity is its clientele. Young, fun and carefree, this restaurant-cum-nightclub (don’t let the name throw you off, there’s nowhere to rest you head at night) is tucked away behind bustling Oxford Street, and announces itself by a neon sign and bright red door. As might be expected of an American offering, the brunch at Hotel Chantelle is fantastic; don’t pass up the lobster eggs benedict. Presentation is paramount here, too—the devilled eggs with caviar arrive in a China box. At night the atmosphere rises a decibel or two, so bring your dancing shoes.
The Rabbit, London
Three brothers, two restaurants and many happy diners. About two year after opening the Shed in Notting Hill, they launched The Rabbit, smack in the middle of the King’s Road in stylish Chelsea. The décor is rustic—the wood panelling from the tables and benches comes from oak trees that blew down in a storm, and the men (and restaurant owners) sawed them off themselves. The menu requires a dictionary for even the food-savviest, with items like hairy bittercress and kohlrabi carpaccio appearing on it. The important thing to know is that it’s modern British cuisine, true farm-to-table without any pretension.
A Sicilian café with Sicilian owners, the menu at Iddu is showered with firm favorites, and nothing overly adventurous. The cocktail and wine menu is much longer than the food—perfect to spotlight the memorable regional wines that perfectly complement the food, like Nero d’Avola and Carricante. The interiors are light, bright and inviting, and on a nice day, there’s a line of tables catching the sun out front. The specialties here are the delightful, authentic Italian granitas. The Sicilian ices come in palate-cleansing varieties like lemon, cantaloupe, strawberry and peach (with a fig option coming soon). If you want your ice to have a little bite, you can punch it up with a shot of vodka.
Kurt Zdesar knows restaurants—he created Nobu, and more recently opened Chotto Matte in central London. His latest restaurant, Bouillabaisse, does not serve sushi but still keeps the focus on seafood. This is “coastal cuisine,” with one half of the private dining room downstairs lined with floor-to-ceiling lobster and crab tanks. Speaking of lobster, the crustacean-based ravioli is a notable standout, and the crispy, crunchy garlic butter fries are the ideal companion for the line-caught sea bass. The atmosphere is extremely inviting, all whites and creamy blues, and one feels as if they’ve been quietly airlifted to the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, which is fine by us.