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The Most Impressive Restaurant Newcomers of 2019

In another year of openings, which ones stood out?

Master Wei, one of London’s most impressive restaurant newcomers in 2019
| Sam Ashton/Eater London

It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, critics, and professional eaters. This year, the group were asked eight questions, spanning meal of the year to biggest dining grievance. Their answers will appear throughout this week. Responses are related in no particular order, cut and pasted below. Restaurant standbys have been chosen — now it’s time for 2019’s best newcomers.


Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Bao Borough for drinks and design, Flor for its singularity, Master Wei for its self-assurance, the Four Legs at the Compton Arms for producing the best cheeseburger in London, TaTa Eatery for making the tasting menu interesting again, Lucknow 49 for originality, and Bubala for doing vegetarian for the right reasons.

If 40 Maltby Street and P. Franco exist at two ends of the God-Tier London wine bar spectrum then Quality Wines sits somewhere in between — one of the most truly European places to eat and drink in the city and a genuinely brilliant addition to the industry as it fully found its feet this year.

Too early to tell how much of an impact they’ll make but interesting restaurants to watch evolve in 2020: Trivet and Davies and Brook.

James Hansen, Assistant Editor, Eater London: Flor, which writes the 2019 wine bar textbook while Anna Higham rips up its pastry counterpart with stunning baking. Mei Mei, which is the best casual opening in London in a couple of years and makes the city’s numerous pasta pretenders look foolish. Legare, for making the city’s numerous pasta pretenders look foolish. Tātā Eatery’s tasting counter, which is a must-visit for 2020 but whose impact on the form in London will only become apparent in a couple of years. Peg, which has found its feet in style and adds something special to its parent restaurant group’s particular vernacular for eating and drinking. And Kapihan, which both pushes London’s cafe culture forward and serves its neighbourhood perfectly.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: The Sea, The Sea and Peg, both are small, clever, tasty. Technically not restaurants, but I definitely think it counts! Especially as they add to the restaurant world/scene. There have been some new (or new iterations) of supper clubs that are so very exciting — Farokh Talati’s Parsi nights and Zoe Adjonyoh’s Sankofa evenings in particular.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: Around this time last year I asked a stranger on Instagram if they’d like to come to Sariyer Balik with me to help me write a Five to Try. Over Turkish fish we discussed our mutually tumultuous year and he told me he was about to open a wine bar under the Quality Chop umbrella. “So like P Franco?” I think I said. “Kind of, but Italian”. I didn’t know then how good a cook Nick Bramham (for it was he) was or that Quality Wines would be my restaurant of 2019, but London has seen an unexpected and decisive swing from Clapton to Farringdon this election year. What I love about Nick as a chef is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously or tries to reinvent the wheel each week, but he has just enough ego to make sure that everything he puts out is technically precise and fucking delicious. With simplicity there is nowhere to hide and when every small detail is just right it becomes pure hedonism. It is, quite simply, food that you want to eat. What really makes Quality Wines special though is the sense of hospitality and bonhomie that Gus, and later Chris, have cultivated — pop in there for some pasta served on one of your grandma’s plates and a glass and it’s like your own version of Cheers with Will Akman as Norm. They’ve had a phenomenal year; meanwhile I’m still stuck here trying to find people for dinners out.

Nigel Slater, food writer: Jolene and Flor. Predictable I know, BUT Flor’s scarlet prawns with green mandarin kosho.

Flor Borough Market is the new London restaurant from the team behind Michelin-starred Lyle’s in Shoreditch
Scarlet prawns, lardo and anchovy on toast, and oysters at Flor
Emma Hughes/Eater London
Peg restaurant and wine bar on Morning Lane, Clapton, east London
Chicken thigh skewer with shichimi togarashi at Peg
Samuel Ashton

Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: Purely from a vegetarian perspective — Bubala, Naifs, The Gate St John’s Wood, Lucknow 49, and Ooty.

Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: I loved Wilder, Darby’s, Maremma, Allegra, Snackbar, Loyal Tavern... All of them felt genuinely hospitable.

George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: A trinity of nu-wave sort-of wine bars with excellent food — Quality Wines, Peg, and Flor — should probably split the vote, although I’m sure others could also make a convincing case for a trio of nu-wave sort-of canteens: Snackbar, Pophams London Fields, and Bao Borough. My sneaking suspicion, though, is that 10 Heddon St / Manteca may go on to leave the most lasting impression on the years that follow — its casual, affordable, highly skilled takes on some of the biggest trends of the past few years (fresh pasta, in-house butchery, thoughtful cocktails) feels like both a distillation of the best of the 2010s and a template for how to eat in the 2020s.

Hillary Armstrong, food writer and Eater London contributor: Well, these were the ones that did it for me: Mei Mei, Peg, Decimo, Kebab Queen, Kapihan.

Kopi at Singaporean coffee bar Mei Mei, one of the best new cafes and restaurants in London
Mei Mei, in Borough Market
Mei Mei [Official Photo]

Apoorva Sripathi, writer and Eater London contributor: I loved Bubala — and what’s not to like when the menu boasts of bread, hummus, fried aubergine, and a wonderful tahini ice cream! Extremely good veggie food minus the pretentiousness. Also, big shoutout to Bao Borough for serving some of the best fried chicken in London.

Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: The ēekitchencounter by TATA Eatery at Tayer + Elementary, sounds like something from the Microsoft school of naming. The name doesn’t matter as Zijun Meng gives you a tasting menu for people who hate tasting menus. Truly delicious and unique pairings from the best produce, all the while satiating the diners with nourishing food across five courses. Quality Wines on paper shouldn’t be the place for me but the joyous feeling in the room and the precise food on offer make it a top class restaurant that isn’t a restaurant. Chinese Laundry in its new guise is producing food with soul, story and sheer deliciousness which makes it my residency to watch in 2020. Other than that newcomers didn’t hold the same allure as new discoveries or even reintroductions to stalwarts who continue to be the best restaurants in the city.

Ed Smith, food writer and Eater London contributor: Flor, Orasay, Bubala, Master Wei, Peg. Davies and Brook, Silo, The Dorchester Grill and Oren all look pretty accomplished and worth adding to a list (but I’ve not been.)

Josh Barrie, food writer and Eater London contributor: No doubt others will mention in more reasoned detail the likes of Peg and Pophams, Officina 00, and Oren. There’s Flor, of course, Top Cuvée and Allegra. These are each turning out exciting, modern food, and what I’ve had of it has been quite enthralling. I’m very keen to visit Lyon’s if I ever find out where Crouch End actually is.

I’ve also enjoyed all the garish, unashamedly bonkers places that have rolled in. Decimo, The Ivy Asia, Bob Bob Cite, Gloria and Circolo, Siren, Seabird, The Betterment and so on. They bring escapism and the food is probably better than it needs to be in most.

And then so many others worth noting which are harder to categorise. Because this year’s brought quirky fine dining like Da Terra, beautiful menus at restaurants such as Emilia and Myrtle, and then Kanishka, Gazellig, Mortimer House Kitchen, The Sea, The Sea. They’re bold statements and London’s all the better for them.

It would be easy to go on, but I won’t. Instead, here are my top newcomers: The Laundry in Brixton, which is properly lovely and serves sublime baccalau; Nandine, though everyone knows all about that already, and rightly so; Loyal Tavern, which is great fun and has re-imagined pub classics joyfully and without pretence; Darby’s; and Forza Wine. All South, all class.

Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Flor, Darby’s, Orasay, Island Social Club, Quality Wines, Tayer + Elementary, Nandine in Camberwell Church Street, Master Wei, Peg, Silo, Decimo.

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Flor, Mei Mei, Gloria, Master Wei, Snackbar, Tayer+Elementary/Tōu.

Leila Latif, Eater London contributor: Endo at the Rotunda, Emilia, The Sea The Sea, Orasay and Soutine.

Jonathan Hatchman, food writer and Eater London contributor: Bubala — possibly the first time I’ve ever had an entirely meat-free meal without feeling even a little bit short-changed. (Sorry!)

Soutine

60 Saint John's Wood High Street, , England NW8 7SH 020 3926 8448 Visit Website

Pophams Bakery

197 Richmond Rd, Hackney, Greater London E8 3NJ Visit Website

Island Social Club

258 Kingsland Road, , England E8 4DG 020 7254 4945 Visit Website

The Sea, The Sea

174 Pavilion Road, , England SW1X 0AW 020 7824 8090 Visit Website

Orasay

31 Kensington Park Road, , England W11 2EU 020 7043 1400 Visit Website

OOTY, London

66 Baker Street, , England W1U 7DJ 020 3727 5014 Visit Website

Nandine

82 Vestry Road, , England SE5 8PQ 020 8001 8322 Visit Website

Lucknow 49

49 Maddox Street, , England W1S 2PQ 020 7491 9191 Visit Website

Decimo

10 Argyle Street, , England NW1 2ST 020 3981 8888 Visit Website

Emilia

16 Market Square, , TN 37902 (865) 313-2472 Visit Website

Maremma

36 Brixton Water Lane, , England SW2 1PE 020 3186 4011 Visit Website

Kebab Queen

4 Mercer Street, London, Greater London WC2E 9PA

Allegra

20 International Way, , England E20 1FD 020 3973 0545 Visit Website

mei mei london

Jubilee Place, , England SE1 9AG Visit Website

Peg

120 Morning Lane, , England E9 6LH 020 3441 8765 Visit Website

Bubala

65 Commercial Street, , England E1 6BD 020 7392 2111 Visit Website

Flor

1 Bedale Street, , England SE1 9AL 020 3967 5418 Visit Website

Darby's

3 Viaduct Gardens, , England SW11 7AY 020 7537 3111 Visit Website

BAO Borough

13 Stoney Street, , England SE1 9AD 020 3319 8132 Visit Website

Kapihan

13A Parkgate Road, , England SW11 4NL 07847 325891 Visit Website

Snackbar

20 Dalston Lane, London, E8 1GY

Quality Wines

88 Farringdon Road, , England EC1R 3EA 020 3602 8115 Visit Website

Endo at the Rotunda

101 Wood Lane, , England W12 7FR Visit Website

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