Today, the process of choosing this year’s stars in the London restaurant world — the Eater Awards winners for 2019 — continues apace. After fielding many solid ideas from readers during the course of our month-long nomination period, it’s time to narrow the playing field. Here are the finalists in three categories: Restaurant of the Year, Design of the Year, and Dish of the Year.
Here they are:
Restaurant of the Year:
Nandine — The second branch for this south London institution: Nandine — ‘kitchen’ in Kurdish — is run by Pary Baban, her husband Pola, and sons Rang and Raman. It serves a menu of brunch dishes, meze, and intricate pastries. Technicoloured and abundant mezze platters served in the evening include kubba (minced beef and rice patties), onion dolma, and qawarma. Pastries like borek — made with a Kurdish pastry called galgali — and baklava are not to be missed. A neighbourhood favourite which registered the mainstream recognition it richly deserves in 2019.
Flor — the follow-up restaurant, wine bar, and bakery from the team behind Shoreditch’s Michelin-starred Lyle’s. Chef James Lowe, head of bread and pastry Anna Higham, general manager Magali Bellego, and wine buyer Francesca Diliberto — in a handsome, intimate, and welcoming space — have created one of the city’s outstanding celebrations of produce, bread, and Viennoiserie.
Tata Eatery at Tayer + Elementary — Chef Zijun Meng’s four-seat counter in the back room of an ultra-modern cocktail bar on Old Street serves some of London’s most ambitious and delicious food. Its self-described “east meets west” cuisine results in dishes like wild strawberry in mushroom broth with savoury sugar puffs; beef with gooseberry, black sesame and shiso; and aged, dried Dover sole with ginger, sake, and a wet herbaceous rice.
Master Wei — The Xi’an Chinese cooking that has made Wei Guirong a star of London dining, has a new home in Bloomsbury. Master Wei is Guirong’s first solo project — following her joint venture, Xi’an Impression in Highbury, which has earned cult status among food lovers in London. There’s more of the same, peerless biang biang noodle dishes, with vegetables or beef; fine liang pi, cold skin noodles with a cool, refreshing, but umami rich dressing, and the chef’s inimitable ‘burgers’ with a cumin-spiced beef or pork filling.
Design of the Year:
Decimo — Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ debut London restaurant takes sideways glances at Mexican cuisine from a suitably lofty Spanish vantage point. This is a restaurant that has already drawn immense critical acclaim, which might have as much to do with its stunning rooftop location on the 10th floor of the new Standard Hotel in King’s Cross. Lots of reds, shiny surfaces, and a surfeit of mid-century-like wooden furnishings lend the venue a Modern Mad Men aesthetic.
Gloria — Extra in every sense of the word. This over-the-top Shoreditch venue is so tongue-in-cheek Italian glamour that the Parisian operators get away with it. It’s kitsch, but it’s also luxe. It’s silly, but the food can be semi-serious. And the prices mean that as an overall experience, its comparatively good value for money.
Bao Borough — Maybe Bao’s coolest, and certainly most fun, restaurant to-date. This restaurant, bar, and karaoke venue, with bedecked in formica and mirrors, takes as much inspiration from Tokyo as it does from Tapei: a triumphant interpretation of those cities’ nightlife culture. Design-minded operators — Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung, and Wai Ting Chung — have probably created the most original restaurant space and drinking venue of the year.
Dish of the Year:
Prawns, Flor — Scarlet prawns have made appearance across menus in London this year. Nowhere has executed them as well as the team at Flor. Here the head is separated from the body; the former grilled and dusted with fennel pollen, the latter left raw and served in a puddle of fermented clementine and yuzu kosho.
Cheeseburger, Four Legs at the Compton Arms — This is the best cheeseburger in London. A brioche bun that holds its structure for as long as it takes to eat the burger sandwiches a single, rich, Dexter beef patty, fused American cheese, homemade “special sauce”, diced onions, and homemade pickles. No component overpowers another — this a burger modelled on the best fast food versions, executed like no other.
Pig fat cannolo, Quality Wines — Quality Wines, the wine bar annexe to the much-loved Quality Chop House is one of the standout venues of the year in London. Chef Nick Bramham’s menu changes weekly, with the exception of three things: gildas, jamon Iberico, and pig fat cannolo, which come either with a chocolate or sour cherry filling. The latter holds all of the confected thrill of a single cherry drop or a shot of Disaronno Amaretto, offset by the lactic tang of ricotta; cased within a biscuity, lardo-rich shell dusted with icing sugar.
All of these finalists have either opened or come into their own in a new way since we declared the winners last year. All of them were key contributors to making 2019 a great year of eating and drinking in London. So please, take a moment to give these brave finalists a round of applause. Winners will be crowned, with much fanfare, on 10 December, 2019.