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 19/4/2019: Peg
Peg is the third spot from the people behind P. Franco and Bright, and, just like those two this wine bar and restaurant serves up superb wine and small plates. The aesthetic is a mood board entitled ‘peak Hackney’. The seating is (terrazzo) counter-only. The soundtrack is vinyl. The room is entirely monochrome (token plants and jazzy wine labels aside). While the colour comes from the thing that matters most: the plates and what’s on them. The menu is Japanese-inspired and is split between skewer items from the grill - all priced around £5 - and separate small plates. It’s meat off a stick for the most part. And it’s completely fantastic. Imagine a meatball on a skewer. There’s no way to doll that up: it’s a brown juicy ball on a stick. But just wait until you try it, because so much of Peg’s food, as with P. Franco and Bright, reads familiar but tastes like much more.
On all days apart from Sunday, Master Wei opens at 11.30am. This is important intel, because as soon as you get involved with their Xi’an cold skin liangpi noodles you’ll be planning a trip back, as soon as you possibly can. This spot in Bloomsbury is from the people behind Xi’an Impression and, much like those at their sister restaurant, the beef biang biang noodles, potstickers, wontons, and a bunch of other Xi’an specialities are worth going out of your way to eat. It’s a casual, walk-in only spot where you can expect it to be busy, but their smacked cucumber salad will make any waiting worth it. Come here with friends for a catch up that gets interrupted by noodle and seaweed soup slurping, or even a snappy bowl of Xinjiang style noodles for one after work.
Attached to Hackney’s new arts and culture space, Earth Kitchen is cannily named. Not because it is, obviously, on earth, but because this all-day restaurant is completely and utterly grounded in serving very good food in a very nice atmosphere. The food is from the St. John school of cookery, so for dinner expect rillettes, braised squid, plus perfectly cooked meats and vegetables. It’s rare for a new restaurant to have that ‘part of the furniture’ feeling, but Earth Kitchen has got it.
If the letters D and D make you think of anaemic basement dwellers trying to hex their dog with a witch’s hat on then fair play. Same here. But go to Imperial Treasure, a fancy Chinese restaurant in St James’s, and you’ll be thinking of dumplings and duck instead. This is a big restaurant that has all the excitement and atmosphere of a music festival in outer space, but when the cheung fun is this good, and the peking duck this moist, who needs buzz? It’s undeniably expensive, but come as a group of 3 or 4, split some dim sum and a duck, and the quality of the food you get is well worth it.
Levan is a casual all-day wine-bar and restaurant in Peckham that serves a menu of excellent sharing plates that are genuinely big enough to share. It’s the kind of laid-back place you might take your out-of-town parents on a Saturday afternoon to show them how cool your life is, but you could also come here for an evening catch-up with friends, a quick solo visit to the counter with a glass of wine and a £7.50 plate of boudin noir for company, or a day-time lunch date that, once the kitchen closes at 3pm, turns into an all-afternoon deep-dive into their sensational wine list.
Bao and Bing in Marylebone is a pretty sexy place. And no, before you start thinking that we really need to ‘get out there more’ (shut up, mum), this restaurant really is. The hoisin duck bao is great and the bing is the Taiwanese spicy crepe we never knew we needed, but this place has a buzz that makes it something a bit special. The lighting is low, the service is slick, and there’s a cocktail bar downstairs that looks like the lounge you’d have if you could afford to go to Urban Outfitters more than once a year. Come here on a first date, sit at the bar and watch as they make fresh bao. Or come here with some of your favourite people and share as many dishes as humanly possible whilst making your way through the cocktail menu.
Quality Wines is the kind of place that feels so natural and obvious and lived in, that you’ll imagine it’s been doing its thing on this quiet corner of Farringdon Road forever. They serve different hot and cold sandwiches every day through the week, as well as excellent sausage rolls and other baked things. That means you should probably be coming here for lunch - either take-out or eat in - Monday to Friday, just like we have. You should also definitely come in the evenings, when it becomes the kind of place where you pull a bottle of wine from the shelves and crowd round a cafe table or the central console with two or three friends. Snacks like whipped lardo on toast and radicchio wrapped in pancetta are inexpensive and excellent, and the £13 pheasant crown with buttery cavolo nero is a must order - as is one more bottle of wine.
When people talk about a restaurant being like ‘the good old days’, we think they mean it reminds them of when food was food, and a meal left you feeling like a fridge in bed. When service was service, and your bread basket was permanently full. When seats were seats, and your arse only sat on squishy red leather. All of the above applies at Kerridge’s - the restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel near Embankment, and your grandparents are gonna love it. But Kerridge’s isn’t solely for the elderly. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone failing to find multiple things they will definitely want to eat here. It’s second generation gastro-pub food. Things like terrine, only with coronation chicken. Risotto, only it’s made solely from mushroom. Pie. Fish and chips. Chocolate pudding. All familiar, but tarted up a bit. And like everything else about Kerridge’s (including their tidy set lunch deal), it’s all quite hard not to get on with.
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.
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.
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.
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.