London giveth and London taketh away.
We lost a bunch of beloved places this year (Tiroler Hut: #neverforget), but this swathe of fantastic new openings are some consolation.
New branches of existing spots, roving street food vendors and short-term residencies aren’t in the mix, because we wouldn’t be able to do them all justice here. Honourable mention for the above: to the new BaoziInn London Bridge for dim sum and dandan, Nandine‘s Kurdish caff off-shoot in Camberwell, My Neighbours The Dumplings‘ arrival in Victoria Park, and Pacific‘s Australian-Japanese residency till mid-February in Mayfair.
Four Legs at The Compton Arms – Islington
Multiple visits to this backstreet Islington pub later, and we still love Four Legs as much as the first time. The menu changes regularly, and gloriously, hitting junk food notes with a light touch — think deep fried pheasant with pickles, anchovy sauce-covered cabbage and XO-slicked asparagus — but their destination cheeseburger’s a fixture. All cased in an excellent, teeny, low-ceilinged pub with well-priced house wine and a brilliantly chosen line in craft ales and tropical sours on tap. Read our review here.
Four Legs at The Compton Arms, 4 Compton Avenue, N1 2XD.
Gloria – Shoreditch
Hard to remember a time before French restaurant group Big Mamma landed in London, a time before Gloria — and their second venue, Circolo Popolare — were breeding queues snaking around the block in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia, respectively.
The Gloria queue on a wet November evening feels like a surprisingly cheerful place to be, punters fizzing with excitement. Inside it’s next level, a flamboyant, effervescently joyous house-party of a restaurant: cocktails served big, kitschy and often flaming; carbonara dished out from inside a parmesan wheel; truffle scattered around cheeses, pasta and pizza with a liberal hand, and Raffaella Carrà belting out 70s Italian anthems over the toilet speakers. There’s better Italian food elsewhere in London, but there might not be many places where it’s this much fun. Very much justifies the hype. Even justifies the queue.
Gloria, 54-56 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3QR.
Norma – Charlotte Street
A Fitzrovia townhouse that’s done a very literal glow-up, into a golden-lit, burnished-metal, Moorish-tiled dream of a date night spot — it’d be easy to love Norma on its looks alone. There’s no need to be that shallow, though; the Sicilian-meets-North African menu’s a beauty in its own right. Pasta dishes are simple, perfect and come with prices that wouldn’t have your nonna rolling over in her grave. Read our review here.
Norma, 8 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LS.
Sussex – Soho
British ingredients, game everywhere, a cheeseboard that’s more of a… cheese-island. Squirrel tortellini. Mushroom marmite eclairs. There’s a lot to love about the new Gladwin brothers restaurant. The fact they’ve broken with tradition and chosen a central London spot for this one is just pure bonus. Read our review here.
Sussex, 63-64 Frith Street, W1D 3JW.
Seven Dials Market – Covent Garden
KERB’s first covered market opened earlier this year and promptly changed your Covent Garden pre-theatre/after-work food options for the vastly better. Looks good, smells good, plays Springsteen loudly, crammed with great traders.
The line-up, as usual for KERB, is a beaut — a mix of proven classics (with CLAW and Monty’s Deli both closing down seemingly thriving standalone restaurants and moving here), and newer talent. If you can resist the other traders (we find Club Mexicana’s vegan tacos and the Nanban goat ramen are particularly hard to walk by), it’s worth finding time and stomach-space for a stint at Pick + Cheese, the world’s first cheese conveyer belt. Watch our video here.
Seven Dials Market, 35 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LD.
Ooty – Baker Street
Luxurious but loveable, Ooty’s a colourful mish-mash of bright velvets and pink succulents and ornate prints. The southern Indian food’s just as exuberant — blending sweetness, heat, richness and the densely layered flavours of the region. Oh, and they do a brunch crammed with cumin croissants and chilli muffins. Welcome at any time of year, soul-warmingly brilliant in winter.
Ooty, 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ.
BOB’s Lobster – London Bridge
BOB’s is a newcomer to the bricks-and-mortar thing, but a veteran of the street food scene. It’s a New England-ish take on a seafood restaurant, touting the idea that lobster doesn’t have to be relegated to white-tablecloth fine dining or Square Mile swagger. BOB’s looks like a diner, shakes up a cocktail like a very serious speakeasy, and serves up some of the best seafood we’ve had in London this year. Unbeatable lobster mac and cheese (the pasta cooked in lobster bisque for a silky, permeating lobsteriness) and fantastically spicy tuna tacos are up there among the best, but nothing’s less than great.
BOB’s Lobster, Unit 71 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QX.
Darby’s – Vauxhall
Robin Gill can do no chefly wrong. Over the years he’s dragged countless staunch north-of-the-riverers to Clapham, thanks to the magnetic pull of his restaurant trifecta — The Dairy, Counter Culture and Sorella. This year’s seen him open in Vauxhall near the US Embassy, an unpromisingly officey location that started looking a fair bit more promising as soon as Gill announced his oyster bar and Irish slanted restaurant. Go early on weekdays for 6 oysters and a Guinness for £10, but it’s gateway food: if you can resist the lure of beef nuggets, grilled fish in seaweed butter and pies with bone marrow gravy, you’re stronger-willed than we are.
Darby’s, 3 Viaduct Gardens, SW11 7AY.