No one wants to be bored. That’s why us clever little humans invented streaming, TikTok, and capitalism, so we’d never have to do something horrific like relax or be alone with our own thoughts. Grim, no thank you. It’s also why restaurants like Carousel are instant winners, because this is the kind of place where you can come for dinner 10 different times and have 10 entirely different meals.
Up front you have a light casual wine bar with a handful of pavement tables but it’s the back dining area where the chef residencies take place. You see, much like its namesake, this part of Carousel is always moving, except instead of plastic ponies and inherently creepy funfair music, you can expect a rotating line-up of big-name chefs from around the world. One week there’s big bold flavours by a couple of mates-cum-chefs from Tel Aviv and the next there’s an izakaya specialist over from Paris. We’re not sure how you say ‘culinary darling’ in French but make no mistake, we’re charmed.
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These guest chef specials kick off in their big, sparse back dining area. Everyone is seated for the same pre-paid set menu and the atmosphere swings between excitable school canteen and a buzzing exhibition opening. Let us tell you, few things will unite a group of Londoners like watching an industrial amount of oysters being shucked and realising you accidentally drank a whole bottle of pét nat before the fourth course. Oops, oh well, another bottle please.
Another dish, another mouthful, and around and around your evening will go, all the way until you’re standing back out on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street having a sincere discussion about why you really should do things like this more often. And you absolutely should come back to Carousel but it’s not just the residencies that are worth checking out, it’s also home to the kind of relaxed neighbourhood wine bar that central London has been crying out for for years.
Bright, breezy, and with Cute Dogs who own significantly nicer jackets than us, Carousel’s lunch to dinner wine bar offers a seasonal menu that sticks around longer than the weekly chef set menus. But just because the dishes don’t change as often as our opinion on whether Birks and socks are acceptable together doesn’t mean it’s a snooze fest.
In fact, Carousel’s wine bar is a serious contender for the “London’s best small plates” conversation. Despite having an expert attitude to wine, their approach to food is just a teeny tiny bit silly, in the best way possible. There’s a fish sarnie from the Filet-O-Fish school of good bread, good fish, good times, baby. There’s their polite take on old faithful, the common crisp which comes with anchovies because why the hell not, we all deserve nice things. And then there’s the habanero and honey fried chicken, a proper little show off combining sweet, spicy, and a satisfying audible crunch of crispy skin.
In our humble opinion, there is an undeniable correlation between restaurants who are not afraid of a deep fat fryer and restaurants where you’re definitely able to have a laugh and this place is no exception to the rule.
Carousel is part wine bar and part limited edition chef hypefest where the motto throughout is ‘just add natural wine’. Of course it’s fun and—shoutout to the dog wearing Moncler in the corner—of course, it’s very cool too. It’s also packed full of people who have just discovered that they do like orange wine, they just hadn’t met this orange wine yet. Monday to Sunday, there are birthdays, catch-ups and smug little date nights unfolding to the tune of bottles opening. And that’s exactly why Carousel is the kind of central London restaurant we’ll never get bored of.
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The Chef Residency Menus
It is one of life’s great tragedies that we do not have access to a time machine. If we did, our first port of call would be visiting our 14-year-old selves and telling them that gravity-defying side fringes are not a good look for anyone. But we’d also use it to trial all of Carousel’s future residencies so we could promise you it’ll be fantastic, incredible, impressive enough for that third date. We can’t do that but we can tell you that our chef experience at Carousel was excellent and their attention to detail makes us feel like you’re in safe hands.
Crisps, Preserved Tomato, Cantabrian Anchovy
We do not say this lightly but we would ghost Hoola Hoops for these. They’re bizarrely light and thin, like eating salty fishy air. Highly addictive and the anchovies are a classy touch.
Fried Chicken, Habanero, Honey
Look at those little gherkin hats. Adorable, chic, more importantly, comes on top of some tender crispy chicken. Effectively what we have here is our ideal finger food. Sorry Iceland but habanero and honey is an unbeatable combination.
Sarnie is a beautiful word and aioli is a beautiful condiment. Together, they are unstoppable. Especially when served alongside sardines tempura and a zingy red pepper relish. Eating this sandwich in the evening with a glass of orange wine packs some serious holiday feels.
In the mood for meat? You know what to do. Served perfectly rare, just the way we like it.
Deep Fried Apple Pie
Like a Mr Kipling Bramley apple pie won the lottery and invested in quality oil and diamonds. Technically, the glitz is provided by fried sugar but even Elizabeth Taylor wouldn’t mind because this is a no-brainer option if you’re in the market for dessert. It’s very sweet but the apples add a nice little zingy tang so it isn’t too overwhelming.