At the end of every year—once dirty napkins have been scrunched, legs have been crossed, and coffees have been ordered—we whittle down the shortlist and decide on our picks for London’s Best New Restaurants.
But, after all that, what happens to all our other favourite restaurants? Well, this is what happens. An inaugural Best Of The Rest list. Here we celebrate some of our other top-pick London restaurants that opened in 2021. From a Taiwanese chicken specialist, to one of London’s finest falafels setting up a new spot, to small plates, noodle soups, low intervention wines, and more.
After a decade of pop-ups featuring fried chicken and always-punchy cocktails, Rita’s have moved into a candlelit Soho space to show off a more adult take on their American-influenced cuisine. Glistening gildas in a puddle of chilli water and sugary Idaho scones are essential.
A much-needed addition to Upper Street in the shape of an entirely plant-based Chinese restaurant, Tofu Vegan has been a brilliant hit since its first week. House-made silken tofu in Szechuan sauce, mock peking duck, handmade dim sum—it’s got the lot.
One of London’s most famous falafel spots opened a second location in Clerkenwell and the quality of their all-kosher menu remained just as high. A pita complete with steaming hot, crispy, herby falafels along with all the condiments (hummus, tahini, jalapeño schug, and amba) is still the move.
The Red Duck
A cool but casual Chinese spot just off the main high street in Balham, The Red Duck is a great neighbourhood restaurant serving succulent Crispy Aromatic Duck, char siu pork, and some vegetable dumplings that should not be underestimated.
When P. Franco alumnus Seb Myers announced plans to open a small plates restaurant, wine bar, and wine club in Haggerston there was much excitement, and rightly so. The futuristic minimal space is matched by wines with minimal intervention and simple-sounding, deeply-flavoured plates of food.
We love their original Spitalfields location so it’s no surprise that this Soho restaurant was among favourite new spots this year. Expect excellent lamb chops, and a mutton roll you’ll want to order about 50 of.
Firmly established as one of the city’s most consistently reliable restaurant mini-chains, Bao’s expansion into Shoreditch feels like it’s been a long time coming. Their magic touch has been extended to a lovely minimalist space and punchy noodle soups.
The Cadogan Arms
A pub in name but something far more gold-detailed and chandelier-filled by nature, this King’s Road restaurant is a public house for the people of Chelsea. The menu is for everyone though, with an oozy kiev and a classy take on ham, egg, and chips particular highlights.
Panadera is a Filipino bakery in Kentish Town making drool-worthy pandesal sandwiches, pastries, and iced teas.
Supa Ya Ramen
What with the bad luck of Supa Ya’s first restaurant opening coinciding with the beginning of the pandemic, the pop-up found a new location in Dalston to serve their excellent cult takes on ramen. Expect big bowls and winding queues outside on weekends.
High ceilings, huge chandeliers, hidden toilets, this huge Soho spot has it all. The dining room might be OTT, but it also happens to be serving some pretty great Latin American dishes.
Cin Cin is a Brighton import in Fitzrovia that’s home to some big-price, big-summer-energy fishy mains and satisfying little Italian small plate classics.
You might expect a restaurant from the founders of Frieze to be on the wrong side of pretentious. However this Mediterranean spot on The Strand isn’t that. It’s cool and comfortable and there’s a seductive simplicity about the whole place.
This huge modern boozer in Camden’s Stables is serving an excellent tomahawk steak, as well as a roast dinner with all the trimmings. A very useful spot to know about in NW1.
Undoubtedly one of this year’s most talked about new openings, Café Cecilia is the latest whitewashed interior and beige foodstuff star of east London. Now open for dinner as well as breakfast and lunch, it’s a delicious spot for homely food surrounded by a hot crowd.
This buzzing Andalusian restaurant in the Mondrian hotel in Shoreditch has a lobster paella that we think about every 2.8 seconds, as well as a menu of exciting tapas like a chorizo brioche that you should definitely get involved in.
Mr Ji is permanently closed
Staking a claim for one of 2021’s most delicious dishes is the PSC (soy poached chicken) from Mr Ji. Words like juicy and moist are common descriptors for top tier meat dishes but this one from the low-lit Taiwanese cocktail bar and restaurant on Old Compton Street really is those things.
Despite a recent expansion from two-and-a-half to six tables, you still might easily pass right by this diminutive spot at the King’s Cross end of Cally Road if you’re not paying attention. And you’d be missing out. The Malaysian specialities here are all consistently excellent, especially the mee goreng and the kway toew goreng. With a menu big enough to keep you coming back time and time again, this place is as perfect when you’re in a dosa mood as it is when you’re in the mood for a rich and satisfying curry laksa.
This new Brixton spot has a seriously charming hidden courtyard out back, Matisse motifs on the menu, and steak frites that feel like classic, simple, satisfying holiday dining.
An all-day affair from the folks behind the Anchor & Hope, The Canton Arms, and other excellent pubs, Molly’s Café is a comfortable, canteen-feeling restaurant. There’s granola and bacon in the mornings, onion and parmesan tarts in the afternoon, and confit duck leg alongside dauphinoise come dinner time.
Sunday In Brooklyn
This US import has fast become one of the hardest places to get a brunch reservation at in London. Once you try the XXL praline pancakes, you’ll understand why.
It could be the natural wine, it could be the oysters, or it could be the oh-so powerful heaters, but there is something irresistible about this all-day wine bar with an intimate terrace on Carnaby’s Kingly Street.
Of all the overseas chains opening in London to much fanfare, Marugame Udon is the most welcome and best value of the lot. The Japanese udon chain is in Liverpool Street, The O2, and will soon be in Oxford Street as well. All welcome places for hand-pulled udon costing around £3.
Although Pockets opened at the very backend of 2020 there’s no contesting that it’s one of 2021 most impressive and important restaurant openings. Would the takeaway-only falafel stall in London Fields be as popular without all the outdoor dining rules? One bite will answer that.
The Light Restaurant And Bar
If you’re a fan of good cocktails, cold pints, or landmark buildings with a stellar history of being a Victorian Power Station (electricity is our passion), then you’ll really like this three-storey Shoreditch bar.
This high-energy restaurant near Regent’s Park serves a menu of Tel Aviv-inspired sharing plates alongside the musical offerings of a nice lady in a gold-glittered gown who wanders around their self-anointed ‘God’s Garden’ playing an electric violin.