It’s a question we get asked all the time. Where should I be eating in London right now? If you’ve thought that recently, you’ve come to the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say ‘best’, we mean it. We’ve visited each of these restaurants on several occasions and personally vetted them to find out which ones are worth the time and effort. Crucially, we’ve also left countless others off that we don’t think you should bother with, regardless of what a dozen restaurant PRs and Instagrammers have insisted - being a new opening doesn’t automatically qualify a spot on the list.
The Hit List is our record of each restaurant that’s opened within the last year that we highly recommend that you try, and we’ve arranged it in chronological order with the newest places at the top, and the oldest at the bottom.
New to The Hit List as of 22/11/2018: Berenjak
Nothing beats the reassuring, hypnotic, and frankly sensual sight of a rotating shawarma. We think Berenjak in Soho may have London’s finest. It is, quite literally, a beast. An entity that’s constantly fed (marinaded) by the chefs behind the counter and petted (brushed with more marinade) throughout the day. It’s the sort of thing that Jabba The Hutt would have next to him to pick on when he feels peckish. Semi-alien, completely over the top, and utterly delicious. Anyway, Berenjak. This Iranian kebab spot is good. It’s walk-in only. There’s lots of nice vegetarian mazeh (plus an aubergine stew) if you’re not inclined to hunks of meat, and it’s a really casual and tasty addition to the Soho area.
Aside from its disconcertingly Shining-like ‘REDRUM’ logo, Jolene is one of the friendliest and most comfortable places we’ve been to in London for quite some time. This Newington Green all-day bakery and café, serves homely and grainy fare for breakfast, lunch, and (from Thursday to Sunday) dinner. Think soups and toasties, pastas, and spelt salads. It’s all very nice and it’s a lovely space, making it one of those spots we could genuinely spend all day (and weekend nights) in.
We were never particularly gifted at art, but we think we may have finally found our specialism thanks to Kym’s. Painting plum sauce onto a Rizla-thin pancake before loading it up with duck is definitely within our skillset. It’s one of a few entertaining dishes you’ll have during an enjoyable meal of Chinese roasted meat classics. You’ll think you’ve had everything here before - particularly the meats - but some of this stuff is much better. The place itself is very cool. There’s something a little bit James Bond about the place. It might be the cherry blossom tree hanging over the bar, or it might be the many semi-weaponised skewer small plates, but you can definitely see him in here.
Don’t let the fact Two Lights sounds like a rejected X Factor boyband circa 2006 put you off. This slick Shoreditch spot is very much worth checking out. It’s got go-to east London date spot written all over it - tasty sharing plates, a good drinks menu, and funky ceramic crockery. Crab chips, sardine katso, grouse sausage, and carrots with lardo were particular favourites of ours. Just don’t expect to be well-fed if you’re in a group. This is one of those sharing plates restaurants that doesn’t really suit more than three people. It’s much more of a ‘just you, me, and that brown butter ice cream’ type place.
After a couple of different so-so ventures in and around Gunpowder’s original Spitalfields spot, there’s now a bigger version at One Tower Bridge. This new restaurant has a different feel to the original, mainly thanks to it being on one of those those shiny, glassy new developments that are all over London. Don’t be mistaken though. This isn’t a showroom. They’re serving the real deal here. Favourites like lamb chops and the spicy venison doughnut have made their way over to Tower Bridge and are just as good as ever. In fact, everything is good here. More than good. It’s completely delicious. Plate-lickingly so. Chicken madras lollies, cheese and chutney toastie, a trough of rabbit pulao. This is big flavoured food in a much bigger space, and we’re all the happier for it.
Rovi is the latest, most grown-up member of the Ottolenghi empire, and it’s everything we could hope for in a restaurant. This Fitzrovia spot is a bright and casual affair, and it’s the kind of place where you can have a full-blown, sit down meal with your whole crew, or a quicker session of menu highlights at the bar with a lapsang souchong old fashioned for company. There’s meat and fish on offer here, but the menu highlights are all vegetable sharing plates. And we don’t mean some half-arsed sauerkraut. We’re talking a celeriac shawarma that’s so good you’ll debate naming your firstborn after it, and a plate of corn that looks and tastes like it just arrived from another galaxy. They should both be on your order.
The first thing to know about Bancone, is that their pasta is amazing. We’re talking fresh, handmade pasta, slow cooked oxtail ragu, duck ravioli, spicy pork tagliatelle, and why has nobody invented a camera for smells? Seriously, why? We need it. The second: despite the glossy marble bar and Covent Garden location, this place is cheap. Most of their dishes hit the ten pound mark, making this spot perfect for pretty much any conceivable dinner situation. A blind date? A table for two at Bancone is the answer. A catch up with that friend you haven’t seen in months? Get a couple seats at the bar with a glass of wine and watch them make your gnocchi, you’ll have an absolute laugh. Just be warned, Bancone gets busy, you’ll need to book ahead.
Restaurants all about foraging and fancy things can sometimes be a little bit of a bore, but Native’s new place in Southwark mostly manages to avoid that. We were fans of their old Covent Garden digs, so, admittedly, we had fairly high hopes for their new, larger spot. The food here is slightly unusual and very tasty. Main courses of veal, and another of grouse, are down right delicious. Most dishes come with something you probably haven’t heard of. It will be explained to you, but don’t worry about remembering. Just remember it tastes good. On a busy night the full tasting menu is a bit of a drag - three hours of very nice food is still three hours - so stick to two or three courses.
Cora Pearl in Covent Garden is from the same people as Kitty Fisher’s, a decadent Mayfair restaurant that we absolutely love. Cora Pearl serves rich British food in a room that feels fantastically self-indulgent. It’s all dark wooden floors, cloudy mirrors, and green velvet seating. And, as with Kitty Fisher’s, the food is equally indulgent. You’re basically going to be eating tarted up meat and two veg, and when it’s good, it’s really good. Two slabs of veal served with a bordelaise sauce and celeriac, plus a side of broccoli and almonds, and some of the best engineered chips you’ve ever eaten, is going to make you very happy. Throw in agnolotti to start, and the ‘milk and cookies’ dessert, and you might just consider cancelling your plans for the rest of the day, and retiring to the downstairs cocktail bar until you develop the appetite to start over.
You know when you move into a new area and worry that you’re not going to fit in, or that you won’t get on with your neighbours? Well, when we heard that Andina was opening in Notting Hill, we were worried for them that it wouldn’t work. We already know and love the friendly, easy going set-up, and solid food this Peruvian restaurant serves in Shoreditch and Soho, but would it work in one of west London’s most elite neighbourhoods? The answer is, yes. With a massive choice of punchy sharing plates both large and small, the all day menu - featuring fresh, healthy, and delicious options, like fermented beetroot with avocado crema, and big hitters like the beef short rib - is perfectly at home in W11. It’s a great spot for a west London catch up, a double date, brunch with the kids, brunch without the kids, or - if you feel like digging deep into their selection of pisco cocktails - dinner too.
This new Shoreditch spot is the third in The Frog family. The second, and most grownup branch, is still going strong in Covent Garden, but the first, on Ely Yard, just off Brick Lane, is now metamorphosed into this new, slightly more refined Frog. It’s got a massive frontage on Hoxton Square, a large open kitchen, a separate whisky bar downstairs (and café round the corner), and a menu filled with the same wild and wonderful flavour combinations, and fresh takes on fine dining that we loved at the first spot. We still can’t completely get on with the graffiti on the walls, but it’s casual, fun, and - most importantly - the mac and cheese is still the best we’ve ever had.
‘Where can I go that’s cute and casual but serves really good food?’ is a question we’re asked all the time. Oklava, a cute spot in Shoreditch, is usually the answer we give, but Kyseri, it’s new, even cuter sister, is our new, even cuter answer. It’s a modern-Turkish restaurant in Fitzrovia, and everything about the place feels like a warm hug from an old friend. The £45 set menu is the way to go here, but if you feel like just drinking a glass of wine and a couple of plates, you should get the hellim baked bread, and the beef pasta in spicy tomato yoghurt - which is one of the best pasta dishes in London.
If we were going magic you into Scully, or transport you there with a pillowcase on your head, the likelihood is you’d assume we’d taken you to the depths of Hackney or Peckham. It ticks all the boxes for fun and funky London dining: small plates, casual counter seating, shelves stacked with mysterious fermenting jars. The fact that it’s in the heart of establishment St James’s, slap-bang in the middle of zone 1, is kind of jaw-dropping. The food is too. Taking inspiration from everywhere in Europe, and beyond, this place might give you a spiced chickpea snack that you’ll that you’ll wonder why you can’t get at every bar in London, followed by a short rib croquette that you will want to eat every day, and a fresh tomato salad served in a sauce that will make you want to lick your plate clean. Book ahead and come with your crew, because you’ll want to try everything.
The Hero of Maida is a pub in Maida Vale that should be the centrepiece of any afternoon out in Little Venice. In fact, sod the canals, this is your reason for going there. It’s also what all pubs should be like. Soaring ceilings, bright, airy, and elegant. It is recognisable as a place we could meet for a couple of drinks, but it’s also a restaurant where we would happily have all our meals. They serve classic and familiar bistro food, and it’s refined enough to feel special, without making you feel like you have to put your serious face on to appreciate it all. Dishes like the grilled rabbit leg with bacon, served in a creamy mustard sauce, are almost uniformly excellent. And as with sister pub, The Coach, the chips are unmissable. So is their Sunday roast.
You could say that a restaurant in the City that has a separate pool room sounds naff. You could say that the inclusion of a whisky vending machine and self-pour beer station is aimed at the City-boy demographic. You could say these things if you weren’t eating the finest lamb chop of your life alongside a beef shin and bone marrow biriyani that keeps you going back for more. What’s that? You fancy a game of pool? We thought so. Brigadiers is very good and very fun, and you should very much go.
When one of our favourite places to eat (in this case P. Franco) opens a new spot, we get nervous. As nervous as a middle-aged Star Wars fan who was traumatised by the introduction of Jar Jar Binks. “What if he comes back? Why did George do that to us?”. It’s stressful. Thankfully Bright is everything you want from a sequel. It’s bigger, a bit different, but with all the same elements that we loved about the original. Some of the dishes are sensational. We’re still thinking about a beef tongue in blackcurrant sauce, which isn’t something we thought we’d ever say. And, importantly, they’ve transferred that laidback, cool as you like spirit that P. Franco does so well. This is somewhere you’ll want to go for lunch, dinner, and a drink, every weekend. It’s eating out in London at its best.
Temper Covent Garden is a restaurant to pull out of your pocket on any occasion. As with Temper’s other two spots, there’s the same counter seating, the same fun vibe, and the same weird and wonderful inventiveness in the kitchen. Instead of the BBQ and curries they specialise in at their Soho and City branches, they’re doing ragu here. And to accompany the sauces they’ve got a take on pasta that isn’t actually pasta. To illustrate: the noodles in our carbonara were actually strips of lardo. Yes, that’s as filthy as it sounds. And, yes: it’s amazing. They’re also doing pizzas. But instead of doing them in the Neapolitan style as fashion dictates, the best of them here are deep pan Detroit Squares with options ranging from the cheeseburger, which is basically the living embodiment of what you always think a Big Mac should taste like, and the K-Whole (a kimchi based pizza) which is sensational - one of the best things we have eaten so far this year. Temper Covent Garden definitely deserves a spot on your restaurant rotation.
Some restaurants feel the need to shout and scream about the lineage of the chefs working in their kitchen. Llerena isn’t that type of restaurant. It’s a friendly and unpretentious tapas spot on Upper Street where the products - many of which are imported directly from the family farm southwest of Madrid - are of such high quality that they speak for themselves. They serve all the tapas you’d expect, as well as stews, salads, and cuts of ibérico cooked on the grill, but their specialty is jamon and cold cuts. There are several to choose from, but we’ve developed a soft spot for the lomito de bellota, the premium loin of an acorn-fed ibérico.
Somehow, along the way, we have replaced actual laughter with the word “lols”. We need to feel again people. We need to laugh again. Out loud. Freak Scene in Soho is a place where you can do that. For real. The food is a described as ‘pan Asian’ (insert eye-roll here), but rather than serving up mediocre interpretations of anything a bit Asian food-y - they actually nail the remixes. The chilli crab bomb, spicy crab meat in a wonton case, is the er... bomb, and you’ll want to order the black cod tacos twice. The restaurant itself is small, with hip-hop nostalgia on the walls, hip-hop blasting out of the speakers, and Japanese game shows distracting you on the TV above the kitchen. Time will tell if they can keep up the fun vibes for the long run, but for now, it’s proper lols.
The definition of a pub is a pretty fluid one these days. Is it a pub if a pint costs more than travelcard? Is it a pub if there’s no active or repurposed fruit machine? Is it a pub if it has a separate dining room? Does anyone actually care what it is when you can have a nice beer and a nice bit of food? If it’s anything like The Coach then the answer is no. This is the sort of pub you take your family to when everyone’s in town. There’s an excellent array of beers, a bright and airy dining room (and another upstairs) and some of the best French bistro-y type food we’ve had in a long time. Note: do not miss out on the chips or the gnocchi. Or the wild garlic soup for that matter.
East London is really getting into this whole ironic self-deprecation thing. Prick, the cacti, shop really set the standard, and now we have Brat, a grill restaurant in Shoreditch. Its thing is a big open fire grill, so you’ve got lots of nicely grilled meat and fish alongside some very delicious grilled bread and butter. The beef chop in particular is a good bit of back to basics fire and meat cooking. Young leeks and cheese are also delicious, even if they do sound like two angsty teenagers on Soundcloud. The vibe is trendy, but not in the way its name suggests, and the room is one of those very nice open oak panelled type ones. Promising, all in all.
Mayfair isn’t a place we’re accustomed to going for a casual night out, in fact, we only just realised that wearing a suit isn’t obligatory by law in all W1 postcodes, but Sabor on Heddon Street is our kind of spot. It’s casual, loud, and the food is just brilliant. There’s a bar area, and countertop dining downstairs, while El Asador upstairs has a more formal menu. All in, it makes for an unusually sociable night out, especially in this part of town. There are a few very special plates of food downstairs, most notably the queso fresco and black truffle brioche, duck breast, as well as some salads that are actually meats. Meanwhile, upstairs it’s even more lively. The food is just as brilliantly executed, and though the mains are pretty pricey they are worth skipping starters for. The suckling pig is particularly brilliant, and is accompanied by your choice of five different varieties of patatas fritas. Yes, that’s five different types of chip.
We’re always dreaming about a great new restaurant opening in our neighbourhood, and if you happen to live near Queenstown Road-Peckham station and have dreams like ours, then new South African spot Kudu is that dream come true. It’s that understated, sophisticated restaurant that’d be great for a date night, or equally good for a relaxed but slightly upscale dinner with mates. The menu is small and punchy, and if you’re partial to well cooked meats then it’ll be right up your street. Don’t even think of skipping the Kudu bread, it comes with melted lardon butter and parsley, but it should come with a mental and physical health warning because it’s outstanding. Violent thoughts towards your dining companion(s) may enter your head as they reach for ‘just another bit’ of it. Kudu is definitely a spot to check out, even if you’re not from the neighbourhood.
‘Why are we putting a restaurant that’s been open for a few years in our Hit List?’ nobody asks. Well, P. Franco changes their chef every six months or so, meaning that while this Clapton wine bar’s excellent atmosphere and mood remains the same, the food does not. The newest chef to man its two induction hobs is keeping things as excellent as those we’ve experienced before him, serving simple but lovingly prepared sharing plates that match the wine perfectly. Expect to see salami, cheeses, a couple of seafood options and a pasta on the menu. If it’s on the menu, the gochujang ragu is worth coming for alone.
Usually, a restaurant that puns on the head chef’s name does not bode well. Especially when it’s a ‘can I take a moment to explain our menu’ type of place. Right, before you start having foam flashbacks, we need to tell you that Roganic is superb, poncey characteristics aside. It’s at a permanent spot in Marylebone and from what we’ve experienced the food is - to use as un-poncey a word as possible - buff. Each dish contains some ingredients foraged the week before, and although that makes for the sort of thing you never ever want to say out loud, it has some amazing results, e.g. the baked celeriac. Unsurprisingly it’s expensive here, probably because you’re paying for some poor chump to free jump off a cliff to retrieve three mushrooms that form part of a palate cleanser. That said, if you’re not looking to remortgage or make a terrible same day loan decision, the £40 lunch set is expansive and delicious.
If someone asks whether you fancy a curry and you find yourself in an Uber to Mayfair, odds are you’re either going to be jumping out at the lights, or making a quick call to your bank to discuss overdraft options. Bombay Bustle isn’t one of those types of places though. Things here are definitely a bit more formal than your local curry house, but it doesn’t feel stuffy at all. The upstairs room is laid out like a train dining cart and we’d recommend nabbing one of the booths before waiting for your mini poppadoms to arrive. We don’t often like mini things, but we like these a lot. Lamb chops are a must as is a dosa, and the bohri chicken curry is a real crowd pleaser. Much like your local, it’s the sort of place that you bring anyone, from dates to dads, and you’re getting much better quality bhaji for your buck.
You could see Londrino as a neighbourhood restaurant for Bermondsey. It’s got all the makings of one. There’s a bar area where locals can pop in for a drink or a bite, but there are also two spacious dining areas with a serious though not-overly-formal vibe. It’s a seafood driven affair that takes familiar and delicious ingredients and magics them into unfamiliar and delicious plates of food. These are the kinds of guys who’ll make a concentrated paste out of all things crabby, call it crab foie, and then have us lather it on thick, crunchy bread. Or they’ll spend three days turning a mushroom into a cracker so that we have something to crunch on while we’re devouring their mindblowingly well-cooked mallard. Londrino - which is Portuguese for Londoner - may be made for Bermondsey, but we think it’s set to be a destination restaurant for the entire city.
Unless we’ve been invited to a State Banquet - and, why have we never been invited to a State Banquet? - we’d never have considered The Mall a dining destination, but Rochelle’s arrival at the ICA has changed all that. The menu’s changing all the time, but, seriously, everything we’ve tried here so far has been excellent. If the cuttlefish stew’s on offer, you should order it. If they’re doing salad, you should order it. If there’s a pie, you should order two. The whole affair has the same kind of modest swagger they’ve perfected over at Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch, but now they’re serving their uniquely British food in a uniquely British setting. It somehow manages to be both serene and barnstorming at the same time. How British is that?