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Isabel, in Mayfair
Official

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The Most Beautiful Restaurants of 2017

From 1930s Italian glamour to hyper-modern industrial, London’s best looking restaurant interiors of the year

What makes a restaurant interior stylish or even beautiful is hard to quantify; it’s most accurate to say that you know it when you see it.

Looking back at London openings in 2017, it’s not unfair to say that design has — often — been led by a cookie cutter approach brilliantly dissected in the following piece. This isn’t always a wilful fault on the behalf of the restaurant or the architect: in a year somewhat dominated by openings in ~~developments~~ (NOVA, St. James, Flatiron Square, Bloomberg) the potential for winning design has sometimes been stunted by prevailing aesthetics. The overwhelming appetite for swiftly constructed, fast-casual sites has also kicked design as priority, or guiding principle, to an unforgiving curb.

In spite of such difficult terrain, individual stunners have put their credos above the parapet throughout 2017 on a range of scales: hyper-modern industrial behemoths; 1930s Italian chic; lampshades on lampshades on lampshades. Here are ten restaurants where the lighting is just so, the chairs easy on the eye, and the rooms do indeed approach the beautiful.


Luca

The dining room at Luca
Luca/Official

What: Isaac McHale (he of The Clove Club and Young Turks) opened his second ‘Britalian’ restaurant in Clerkenwell right at the end of 2016. It sneaks its way in.
Key players: Isaac McHale, Alexander Waterworth Interiors
Why: Oak, brass and marble unite rooms without disrupting their individual character; the bar shimmers with old Italian glamour, while the dining rooms soften, with more wood and leather than marble.

The bar at Luca
Luca

XU

The dining room at XU
XU

What: Opened in May 2017, Shing-Tat and Wai-Ting Chung and Erchen Chang opened XU on Rupert Street as a complimentary and contrasting follow-up to their cult first restaurant, BAO.
Key players: Shing-Tat Chung, Wai-Ting Chung, Erchen Chang, BradyWilliams Studio, JKS Group
Why: The trio describe XU as a representation of 1930s Taipei, and the green panelling and analog clock brings to mind a luxurious station car. XU also features possibly the most beautiful table for one in the city.

Seating at XU
Carol Sachs

Nuala

The interior at Nuala
Nuala [Official Photo]

What: Fine-dining with a Gaelic accent on Old Street: Nuala opened in injury time for 2017, with Chiltern Firehouse, Heston Blumenthal and Noma pedigree on the books.
Key players: Niall Davidson, Colin McSherry, White Collar Factory.
Why: Gaelic flourishes include a huge portrait styled on Davidson’s sister for whom the restaurant is named; a huge fire pit anchors the dining room, calling to mind both primal origins and modern Californian exteriors.

The fire pit at Nuala
Nuala

ISABEL

The bar at Isabel
Isabel

What: The second London opening from Argentine restaurateur Juan Santa Cruz, following Casa Cruz in Notting Hill.
Key players: Juan Santa Cruz, Offset Architects
Why: The clubby Mayfair restaurant not only looks magnificent, it feels special. Its dark wood, gold fixtures and Napoleonic blues lend the room a moody decadence too rarely given to new sites.

As winner of Eater London’s Restaurant Design Award, that bar is worth a second look
Isabel Official

Rochelle Canteen at The ICA

Rochelle Canteen ICA London by Margot Henderson is one of the best spots for brunch in London Adam Coghlan/Eater London

What: Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold’s much-lauded Rochelle Canteen — set in a sleepy corner of Shoreditch — moved into The Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall this year.
Key players: Margot Henderson, Melanie Arnold, Stefan Kalmar, Alvar Aalto
Why: The interior compliments Henderson and Arnold’s food to a tee: understated, precise, tasteful, beautiful. Finnish architect Alvar Aalto’s furniture has a utilitarian slant that matches The ICA’s recent, stripped-back refurb, while recalling Rochelle’s original site.

Sophia Evans

The Laughing Heart

London restaurant The Laughing Heart
Dining at The Laughing Heart, Hackney
The Laughing Heart [Official Photo]

What: Hackney exponent of cave-bistronomie extraordinnaire, cooking impeccably sourced ingredients with an approach mindful of global inflections. Backed up by a stonking — mostly natural — wine list.
Key players: Charlie Mellor, Tom Anglesea
Why: Mostly lighting. Overhanging lampshades combine with candles to create a hazy, alluring glow; paired with the central island — glasses above, bottles below — it’s everything a Parisian cave aspires to be, only with a Hackneyish overlay.

The Laughing Heart downstairs
Sprudge Wine

Serge et le Phoque

Serge et le Phoque’s idiosyncratic dining room
SelP

What: Hong Kong export from the former owner of iconic Paris restaurant Le Chateaubriand, serving ~~eclectic~~ cuisine at the ritzy Mandrake Hotel.
Key players: Fred Peneau, Charles Pelletier, Rami Fustok
Why: Unapologetic, place-to-be-seen, it-attracting glamour. The main dining room’s unconventional purple-green-more green colour scheme somehow just works, while 28 paint processes have gone into making the almost obscenely red private dining room just-so-scarlet.

Booths at Serge et le Phoque
Eater London

Santo Remedio

Santo Remedio’s dining room
Nick Hopper

What: A phoenix from the flames for Edson and Natalie Diaz-Fuentes. Forced to close their original cantina on Rivington Street in summer 2016 — the site now occupied by Butchies — the pair found a perfect second home in Borough for 2017.
Key players: Edson Diaz-Fuentes, Natalie Diaz-Fuentes, Adam Hyman
Why: Restaurants designed with heritage in mind often fall victim to stereotype, kitsch, or at worst, brazen cultural appropriation. Not so here. From the custom-built bar right through to the bench seating decked with bright cushions, Santo Remedio exudes genuine, generous hospitality.

Santo Remedio’s cantina
Laura James

Westerns Laundry

The dining room at Westerns
Westerns Laundry

What: A seafood-focused, ingredient-driven wunderkind from the team behind Primeur, borrowing a taste for natural wine, sharing dishes and smart water vessels from its forbear.
Key players: David Gingell, Jérémie Cometto-Lingenheim
Why: Manages to tread the line between its industrial origins and warm elegance with absolute panache. Small accents — flowers to divide communal tables, worn water jugs — complete an aesthetic designed to serve and delight. Also a place where a blackboard menu is part of the identity of the restaurant, rather than an insubstantial flourish.

Westerns Laundry / Official

Londrino

Londrino dining room, complete with imposing searchlights
Londrino

What: Chef Leandro Careirra’s first fully-fledged restaurant, temperate on the heels of his wildly popular L.C. pop-up at Climpson’s Arch from 2015.
Key players: Leandro Careirra, Cameron Dewar, Loh Peng
Why: An ultra-modern take on the industrial look, all concrete, utilitarian wood, and imposing spotlights. The bar features an impressionist spin on terrazzo, as well as pleasingly asymmetrical shelves for sparkling glasses.

Londrino restaurant in Bermondsey by Leandro Carreira will close in London
A view down to the bar
Londrino [Official Photo]

Londrino

, London,

Serge et le Phoque

, , England W1T 1PG 020 3146 8880 Visit Website

Nuala

70-74 City Road , , EC1 Visit Website

The Clove Club

380 Old Street, , England EC1V 9LT 020 7729 6496 Visit Website

Luca

88 Saint John Street, , England EC1M 4EH 020 3859 3000 Visit Website

Westerns Laundry

34 Drayton Park, , England N5 1PB 020 7700 3700 Visit Website

XU

30 Rupert Street, , England W1D 6DL 020 3319 8147 Visit Website

Rochelle Canteen at The ICA

The Mall, , England SW1Y 5AH 020 7766 1424 Visit Website

The Laughing Heart

277 Hackney Road, , England E2 8NA 020 7686 9535 Visit Website

Rochelle Canteen

16 Playground Gardens, , England E2 7FA 020 3928 8328 Visit Website

BAO

590 Valencia Street, , CA 94110 (415) 658-7453 Visit Website

ISABEL

26 Albemarle Street, , England W1S 4HY 020 3096 9292 Visit Website

Chiltern Firehouse

1 Chiltern Street, , England W1U 7PA 020 7073 7676 Visit Website

Santo Remedio

152 Tooley Street, , England SE1 2TU 020 7403 3021 Visit Website

Butchies

22 Rivington Street, London , EC2A 3DY

Institute Of Contemporary Arts

The Mall, , England SW1Y 5AH 020 7930 3647 Visit Website

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