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Eater London Awards 2021 overlaid on a photo of chef Pam Yung removing a pizza from an overn when Flor Bakery in Borough was ASAP Pizza through lockdown
Eater London Awards 2021
Photo:Sam Ashton/art:Eater

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Here Are 2021’s Eater Awards Winners for London

The best restaurant, takeaway, dish, and most justifiably hype food of the year 

Today we announce the winners of the fifth annual Eater London Awards, celebrating the restaurants, people, and dishes that made the biggest mark during what has been an unprecedented period of uncertainty and change. In 2020, there were no awards, so this year the gongs have been distributed with that in mind — honouring those who may not have opened in 2021 but whose impact on London and its dining scene has been extraordinary in this and last year.

And here they are: From a British-Nigerian debut in Brixton, to a decades-old neighbourhood Thai restaurant which pivoted to takeaway (and so far hasn’t pivoted back), to a business which repeatedly adapted through lockdowns and changing government advice during the pandemic, and a brand new street food stall which shot to cult status through bike deliveries and Insta hype during the course of eight long months; from the hottest restaurant, best dish, and the best thing that no longer exists, these are those things that have taken the London food scene by storm in the last 18 months.

Thank you for reading and congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Here’s a little more about this year’s best of the best.


Best Restaurant

Chishuru

Adejoké Bakare, outside Chishuru, her restaurant in Brixton, south London which is currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown in England
Adejoké Bakare, outside Chishuru, her restaurant in Brixton
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Adejoké – Joké – Bakare opened her debut restaurant in Brixton a mere six weeks before lockdown forced her to close. That was in September 2020 at a time when restrictions had eased and Londoners had spent their summer “eating out to help out”. It would prove to be a short-lived reprieve and with hindsight an inopportune moment to open a restaurant. And yet, Bakare carried on as best as she and her team could: Moving into the meal kit business to sustain an income, before she as finally able to reopen the dining room in May of this year. Dishes like pork belly asun with charcoal-grilled peppers and onions, jollof rice, kale salad; cassava fritters; and degue with pear exhibit Bakare’s talent for executing dishes which are rooted in the flavour profiles and ingredients of West African culinary traditions, but which belong to London in 2021.


Most Adaptable Restaurant Through the Pandemic

Ombra

Ombra chef-owner Mitshel Ibrahim unloads a crate of Natoora’s Delica pumpkins from a new Ape Piaggio the restaurant has bought to extend its local delivery radius
Ombra chef-owner Mitshel Ibrahim
Michaël Protin/Eater London

London’s “pandemic restaurant” adapted numerous times through the course of 2020 and into 2021: First going from a sit-down trattoria to a fresh pastificio, a grocer, wine shop, picnic delivery service, meal kit purveyor, takeaway sandwich shop, and bakery. Its success through the pandemic is part of the reason chef-patron Mitshel Ibrahim and his team will open a second restaurant in 2022. In December 2020, Ibrahim told Eater London, “the best thing that could have happened to Ombra was this virus.”


Best Dish

Fried potato and smoked eel at Sessions Arts Club

Eel baked into fried potato at Sessions Arts Club
Eel baked into fried potato at Sessions Arts Club
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Chef Florence Knight’s Sessions Arts Club could have won the award for best dining room, but that wasn’t an award given out in 2021. Instead, Knight’s mastery in the kitchen is honoured. It is perhaps fair to say that Sessions’s brilliance caught some unawares — a restaurant predicted to be good, though not as exceptional as it is. It is also clever and there is no dish on the menu that better demonstrates Knight’s skill and ingenuity than the fried potato, smoked eel, and cod’s roe, which sees the eel embedded inside the carbohydrate like some sort of perfect smoky fish-and-chip millefeuille.


Hottest Restaurant

Cafe Cecilia

Facing the marble kitchen counter at Cafe Cecilia in Hackney, behind which chefs — including patron Max Rocha, with head bowed — are seen standing
The kitchen counter at Cafe Cecilia in Hackney
Michaël Protin/Eater London

If Sessions was the most glamorous restaurant opening of 2021, then Cafe Cecilia was the hottest. And the trendiest. Preview dinners saw the attendance of fashion’s cognoscenti, alongside those from the art and food worlds. Since it opened proper, it has maintained a steady flow of plaudits from all the coolest places — in part because of chef-owner Max Rocha’s connection to the world of fashion (he is the son of designer John and sister Simone Rocha.) However, there’s a surfeit of substance as well as style, here. M. Rocha and his staff belong to a new-school which is a direct descendent of the ingredients-obsessed old-school: those like the River Cafe, Rochelle Canteen, and Quo Vadis. And like peer Anna Tobias’s cooking at Cafe Deco, it is can be a bit beige, but is so often bright, clever, and deserving of the attention it has received this year.


Best Restaurant Takeaway

Singburi

Moo krob, double-fried pork belly, with garlic, chilli, and basil
Singburi moo krob going from the wok to the takeaway carton
Michaël Protin/Eater London

In the spring of 2020, after briefly considering shutting the restaurant and waiting it out, chef and owner Sirichai Kularbwong decided he and his family would pivot to takeaway. Takeaway on their own terms: No delivery and certainly no meddling from third-parties like Deliveroo. Cut to December 2021 and the restaurant has never reopened its dining room. From Wednesday through to Sunday, Thelma Kularbwong answers the phone, takes orders, and holds the fort — handing out bags containing boxes of moo krob, sour curries, fried ribs, mangosteen and pomelo salads, steamed fish, and whole crabs in white carrier bags for collection. Singburi is a perfect neighbourhood restaurant even before a dish has been tasted. After, just as its many many regulars have realised, it is one of the best all-round restaurants in the city, which in pandemic-times is indisputably the city’s finest takeaway.


Most Justifiably Hype Foodstuff

Sonora’s tortillas de harina

Flour tortillas on a wire rack, next to a tortilla press.
Sonora Taqueria’s (nee Pollo Feliz) tortillas de harina
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Peerless. It’s as simple as that. Michelle Salazar de Rocha and Sam Napier’s flour tortillas entered the east London homes of many bereft food lovers shortly after lockdown was announced in March 2020. Somehow both extraordinarily rich and light, the tortillas are akin to fine roti, a magisterial bread, which is just as good a vehicle for a salt fish choka as it is scrambled eggs and refried beans. At one point demand massively outstripped supply, with the owners later telling Eater that they had produced and sold 32,000 in eight months. It was a case of believing the hype.


The Best Thing That No Longer Exists

ASAP Pizza

ASAP Pizza Borough Market shows off a slice of pizza with fragola grape, stracciatella, and fennel fronds held from a birdseye view over a road
ASAP Pizza slice in sunnier times
Sam Cornish

So long ASAP Pizza, and farewell chef Pam Yung. The team behind Lyle’s and Flor introduced London to a unique style of pizza — neither wholly New York, nor Neapolitan, the ASAP was a London pizza. Silly names could not detract from first-class bases made with heritage wheats, breads which could have been enjoyed on their own, and the same ingredients used in the kitchens of its world-class sister restaurant in Shoreditch. While Yung has left the group and ASAP has said goodbye, its reception throughout 2020-21 in a city which is dominated by traditional Neapolitan pizza, is proof that it ought never say never again.

Sunday

169 Hemingford Road, , England N1 1 020 7607 3868

MASTER WEI XI'AN CUISINE

13 Cosmo Place, , England WC1N 3AP 020 7209 6888 Visit Website

Behind

20 Sidworth St, Hackney, London , E8 3SD

Quo Vadis

26-29 Dean Street, , England W1D 3LL 020 7437 9585 Visit Website

Sessions Arts Club

24 Clerkenwell Green, , England EC1R 0NA 020 3793 4025 Visit Website

Spring

Lancaster Place, , England WC2R 1LA 020 3011 0115 Visit Website

XU

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

Rochelle Canteen

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

Cafe Deco

43 Store St., London, WC1E 7DB +44 20 7323 4501

bao

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

Borough Market

8 Southwark Street, , England SE1 1TL 020 7407 1002 Visit Website

Flor

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

The River Cafe

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA Visit Website

OMBRA

1 Vyner Street, , England E2 9DG 020 8981 5150 Visit Website

BAO Borough

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

Mere

74 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QH Visit Website

Barshu

28 Frith St, Soho, , London, W1D 5LF Visit Website

Singburi

593 High Road Leytonstone, , England E11 4PA 020 8281 4801

Quality Wines

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

Chishuru

Coldharbour Lane, , England SW9 8LB 020 3915 1198 Visit Website

Bright

1 Westgate Street, , England E8 3RL 020 3095 9407 Visit Website

Cafe Cecilia

32 Andrews Road, , England E8 4RL Visit Website

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