A global pandemic is not enough to stop the best restauranteurs from opening a swathe of venues in London this autumn, fusing cuisines from all over the world – from Nordic, South American, and West African to British farm produce.
By tucking into a three-course meal you’ll not only be treating yourself, you’ll be helping out fledgling new venues with your custom. From high-end restaurants by Masterchef alumni to family-run affairs, there’s somewhere new that will suit your tastes:
Eldr has opened as part of Pantechnicon – a grand, pillared building in Belgravia, intended as a fusion of Nordic and Japanese cultures through dining, drink and shopping. The Nordic restaurant inside comes replete with Scandi, open-style kitchen where you can watch the chefs pickle and grill your food. The starters may be the best thing you ever taste – try the scallops with reindeer, or their beef tartare. They won’t just plonk a wine list on your table here – a knowledgeable sommelier will consult with you, and tell you the intricate story behind the wine they tailor to each of your dishes. Consider grabbing one of the cocktails off their rotating menu (the rhubarb ones are a harmony of sweet and tang or flavoured akvavit at the Finnish-inspired roof garden before. It’s a good option for fancy food without having to dress up – there’s a nice, functional feel to the place, and fellow diners turn up in Uniqlo and knitwear.
Akoko in Fitzrovia serves up West African dishes with British ingredients, crafted by MasterChef: The Professionals finalist William JM Chilila. Reviewers of the venue argue over whether the food or staff is more incredible – but the menu likely wins with offers such as smoked goat with jolly rice, pounded yam with lobster agusi, and aubergine ‘caviar’. Dessert includes goat’s milk ice cream with uda burnt cream and caramelised Ghanaian cocoa butter, while the wine list has been prepared by Honey Spencer, of Noma fame.
The Dairy, Bermondsey
The Dairy is one of the few, family-owned restaurants opening in London – and will come as a relief to those who miss their previous, Clapham-based bistro which closed down. The new iteration, by Maltby Street Market, features a warm, white interior filled with plants and a courtyard, and makes major use of seasonal, local produce and natural wines. You’d be forgiven for assuming the menu is as relaxed as the softly-lit atmosphere, however; it includes Willie’s mackerel with filled gherkins and dashi, wood-roasted lamb, ‘hayonnaise’, charred lettuce and mint oil, and truffled Baron Bigod cheese with honey and fig and walnut toast. Finish your meal with salted caramel and malt barley ice cream, and cacao.
The famous sushi joint has opened a branch in Marylebone, offering small plates of sustainably-sourced food. Their fusion menu uses British ingredients, but there are also Spanish-inspired tapas, such as kana crab croquettes, alongside traditional Japanese dishes such as yakitori omakase – Botterills chicken grilled over hot coals. Alternatively, visit for weekend brunch, where you can choose between savoury and sweet – waffles with chicken karege and wildflower honey, or Japanese pancakes with fruit and Dorset clotted cream. Sit inside to experience their ‘Japandi’ decor, including a light installation made of umbrellas, or outside there are brasserie tables with shrubbery to shield you from the busyness of Marylebone High Street. While you’re here, you ought to try the gin-sake cocktail – but there are also wines exclusive to the venue from England, California and France.
Maison François, St James’s
Maison François aims to bring old-fashioned French brasserie, with a modern, British twist to St James’s – and it’s already become the talk of the town. The staff go out of their way to make sure you have an excellent meal – although this is likely unnecessary given the food is masterminded by Matthew Ryle, of MasterChef fame. Don’t leave without trying their melt-in-mouth ox-tongue brochette, paired with an anchovy cabbage dish – or one of the fresh seafood options. Christmas comes early at the end of the evening – they bring out their dessert trolley, piled high with the likes of macaroons, madeleines and apple cake. The room is all high-ceilings and mirrored arches – a little like Brasserie Zédel – but if you fancy a more sultry start the evening, visit Frank’s wine bar downstairs.
Hankies, Westbourne Terrace
The new Hankies restaurant in Westbourne Terrace follows the success of their other London openings in providing an affordable North Indian experience, while feeling special; it’s all chandeliers, gilded napkin holders and golden cutlery. The menu is tapas-style; sharp, aromatic dishes from Delhi, served up in a melange of tureens, clay dishes and goblets, and based around rotis which are folded into ‘hankies’. Start out with crispy Amritsar-spiced cod bites, then get their lamb pot ‘Kacchi Mirch ka Gosht’, pungent paneer, or black dal (which is so deep you might get lost in it). Offset the strong flavours with a mango lassi and finish up with the chocolate samosa dessert – it sounds downright offensive, but it tastes very good.
Barrafina Mariscos, Covent Garden
Barrafina has long been known as a spot for Spanish tapas, but the chefs have been reworking their offering over lockdown, and are now opening what was Barrafina Drury Lane, as Barrafina Mariscos. The restaurant will serve a blackboard menu of seafood specials, in a new socially-distanced layout which gets rid of their cosy red stool seating. The menu will appeal to anyone who missed their usual Mediterranean seaside holiday this summer, it’s full of innovative tapas such as Galician oysters, Langostino de Sanlucar – large prawns from Cadiz and – the most curious offering, for those who love the Colombian snack – empanadas filled with octopus. For those who don’t eat fish, they base dishes around Galician dairy cow steaks, ceps and cauliflower.
Noble Rot, Soho
The restaurant on Greek Street used to be a Hungarian eatery where Tory ‘wets’ famously plotted the overthrow of Margaret Thatcher, and was favoured by leftie politicians and intellectuals. The Gay Hussar closed a couple of years ago, but has now been taken over by those behind Noble Rot in Holborn, combining Noble Rot favourites such as Cornish John Dory fish, and purple sprouting broccoli, with a couple of French-Hungarian dishes from the Gay Hussar – eggs casino with capers and nutmeg. The inside is all leather benches and dark wood panelling – so make sure you drink plenty from their acclaimed, extensive wine list to get the full, debaucherous 80’s feel.
Cha Cha Sister Jane, Notting HIll
The cool kids are heading to Notting Hill for this restaurant which is a collaboration with Sister Jane – the vintage clothing store situated above it. Somehow, their three-way synthesis works; the food is Mediterranean with a South American twist, while the place is furnished all boho 70’s, with fringed bar stools and vintage canvases.
If you’re here for dinner, try the tempura squid with tangy wasabi mayo and lime, one of the poke bowls, or the beetroot carpaccio with crunchy hazelnuts and melon campari. But the place is also a hit for ladies brunching – guests rave about the unusual corn pancakes with pulled short rib and truffle ricotta. If you want to earn the meal, start by shopping upstairs beforehand, and climb the velvet staircase to their showroom, or to their roof terrace which looks out over Notting Hill, and grab a cocktail (the spicy Bloody Mary comes recommended).