In case you haven’t already heard, the London food scene is on fire right now, with new and interesting restaurants opening all over the city every month. We happen to have a few good friends on the other side of the pond, Zeren Wilson of Bitten & Written, a smart London dining guide, and Adam Hyman, founder of Code and The CODE Bulletin, a consultancy and indispensable resource for the UK restaurant industry.
We asked Zeren and Adam to give us the real deal on the places you need to know in London right now. They obliged, British spelling and all.
Andrew Wong is cooking some of the most exciting, modern Chinese food in London right now. The lunchtime dim sum is a massive draw, and settling in at the bar here, with its buzzing open kitchen, is one of the joys of London lunching. Freedom to choose dim sum individually, piece by piece, allows for freewheeling dim summing – order your favourites, and just keep going. Clear shrimp har gau with citrus froth, impeccable xiao long bao, plump pork, and prawn sui mai…it’s all good.
Rock ‘n’ roll ramen is what you’ll get here, a raucous, rock-fueled take on a Japanese izakaya that keeps pumping until 12 a.m. (late by London standards). Incredibly rich tonkotsu has a 20 hour pork bone broth to thank, and other inventive bowls include the T22 Soy Ramen with “cock scratchings” (fried scraps of chicken skin). Snacks of sushi, sashimi, and Korean fried guinea fowl seal the deal.
A Soho restaurant delivering an impressive double whammy: an incisive and remarkably well-priced wine list alongside great cooking. Fried baby squid, Iberian pancetta wrapped prawns with romesco, Yellowfin tuna carpaccio – this place puts out confident, modern European dishes coming from a tiny open kitchen. The wine list is a joy and one of the best values in London. Drink deep.
Two restaurants, no reservations, the best Spanish joints in town: These are the key facts. The Barrafina family includes a site in Covent Garden, two quite brilliant restaurants, alongside sister restaurant Fino. Gorgeous oozing tortillas, silky béchamel filled ham croquetas, milk fed lamb’s kidneys, suckling pig, fried courgette flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese, huge monster carabiñieros prawns – you will eat very well here and never want to leave. Arrive early or queue. Your call.
London didn’t know good BBQ until a couple of years ago, but Pitt Cue have led the charge and are still as good as it gets over here. Obsessive attention to detail when sourcing meat has led to them breeding their own pigs for the restaurant, with a particular fondness for the furry mangalitza. From pulled pork and smoked ribs all the way through to house made trotter sausages, grilled 36 day short rib, and smoked pig’s head nuggets, this is a meat experience with the volume cranked to maximum.
Gymkhana trails a host of rave reviews and awards, and we knew this was a class act from our first taste of their venison keema naan bread. Refined Indian cooking in a sumptuous, dark wood panelled setting; lots of game birds and meat; great cocktails; solid wine list: settle in for the evening and feel pleased you came. Suckling pig vindaloo, gilafi quail seekh kebab, wood pigeon pepper fry, and a triumphant wild muntjac venison biryani – sounds good? It is.
André Balazs’s first venture into London has caused quite a stir. The restaurant at Chiltern Firehouse has been on reservations lockdown all summer, but Nuno Mendes’s cooking is still worth the wait to get a table. The Caesar salad with crispy chicken skin is a favourite, and everyone must order a plate of the crab doughnuts to start the meal. Check out the smoking terrace hidden in the bathrooms. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be allowed in the Ladder Shed bar for a post dinner cocktail.
One of London’s marmite restaurants. Many think it’s overpriced and average, but we’re firmly in the "love it" camp. Some of the best modern day chefs have come from the kitchen of Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray – Jamie Oliver and April Bloomfield to name just two. The River Café is all about simple Italian dishes with top quality ingredients. Go for a long lunch – sit outside during the summer – and don’t worry about the £100-a-head bill.
A nine-course menu with no-choices in east London? Yes, this is right. Step aside, hipsters. The Clove Club, located in Shoreditch Town Hall, was recently voted the second best restaurant in the UK and we can fully abide with this. The daily changing menu is a succession of small plates, and you’re hard pushed to find better food for your money in London right now.
Proper Japanese food in London. You could easily be in Tokyo or downtown Kyoto once seated inside this udon bar in Soho. The menu focuses largely on the udon noodle, but the real gems can be found on the daily specials board. Go early as you cannot book ahead, and if possible try and sit on the "back bench" in front of the kitchen so you can see all the action.
All we have to do is mention that Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – two of London’s finest restaurateurs – are behind The Delaunay and that’s enough for most people. If that means nothing to you, then know that The Delaunay is modelled as a "grand European café," designed to transform throughout the day from suits having breakfast meetings to a post theatre crowd in the evenings. Order the tarte flambee followed by the selection of wieners. If you’ve room, the Austrian desserts are also a must.