Today we announce the winners of the sixth annual Eater London Awards. They celebrate the restaurants, people, and dishes that made the biggest mark, in a year that has felt precariously balanced between the beginnings of a recovery and a return into crisis.
After COVID-19 and Brexit, and all of the attendant impacts of business closures and supply chain complications, restaurants have spent the latter part of 2022 in the midst of an unprecedented energy and cost-of-living crisis. This has put extra pressures and demands on an already stretched workforce, with costs rising for everything that goes into opening and running a restaurant.
While fortune is going to play a role in what comes next, it could also favour the brave: The time now is for those who exhibit agility, innovation, and nous — those who move, try something new, or do something else. People and places that change the conversation. It is those which Eater London is awarding this year.
A restaurant, wine bar, and charcutier which went back to basics; a breakfast taco stand in a Hackney churchyard; a bakery forced to change its identity; a chef focused on the sustainability of African cuisine in the coming decades; and, well, just a great wine bar.
These are places that in 2022 did something different — and made their mark. Thank you for reading, and congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Here’s a little more about 2022’s best of the best.
Cadet is London’s standout new restaurant in 2022. It’s not just because the food is nourishing, or because the wine list is one of the best in the city. It’s because Cadet is a template for a type of hospitality setting in London that is both new and old; one with both history a future all of its own.
It’s comprised of three discrete yet intertwined endeavours. Downstairs in the basement kitchen, George Jephson butchers whole animals, repurposing them as immaculate charcuterie, while upstairs, chef Jamie Smart prepares simple plates of a Franco-southern European leaning with excellent ingredients. Alongside him, sommeliers Tom Beattie and Fran Roberts, the duo behind the wine importer bearing both names, run the bar and the floor with a small team. Cadet is a wine bar, a restaurant, a charcutier, and a shopfront; one that feels French; that feels London; and, from the moment it opened, just felt right.
Chef of the Year
When he set out his plans for Tatale at the Africa Centre, chef Akwasi Brenya-Mensa said he wanted his restaurant to “explore what it means to be a restaurateur of African or Caribbean descent in London,” speaking of a “duality to the person that I am, and that need to label and be specific ... something I have battled against when developing this restaurant.” Tatale is a restaurant that is rooted in Brenya-Mensa’s Ghanaian heritage but which has deliberately set out to explore what “pan-African cuisine” is in London in 2022, as well as how that cuisine is set to evolve because of climate change over the next 30 to 50 years. This is by no means a straightforward mission, but it is one that Brenya-Mensa, through memory, reinvention, and storytelling, has carried out with enormous success in his first year.
Best Wine Bar
Jimmy Stephenson and Anna Shaffer’s teeny De Beauvoir wine bar is, according to Eater London’s natural wine correspondent Nathalie Nelles, the best place to drink in the city this year. “There’s something about the idea and the space — so sure of itself that it becomes more than the sum of its parts, however simple they may be,” Nelles wrote in her guide to the best natural wine bars in the city. The snacks are simple — crisps, tinned fish, some cured meats, and a little cheese; service is charming, warm, and immensely knowledgeable; and the wine offers something for everyone, as suitable for the novice in the realm of low-intervention styles as it is the Burgundy and Jura obsessives. And there’s always a beauty on by the glass, from 5 p.m. everyday — just check Instagram.
Bakery of the Year
Toad Bakery used to be called Frog Bakery, a community spot in Camberwell that had been serving outstanding breads and pastries since April. That was until the chef Adam Handling and his Michelin-starred restaurant group AHRG issued the bakery with a surprise cease and desist over its use of the word “Frog” in July. Owners owners Rebecca Spaven and Oliver Costello rallied, carried on baking, drew on the support of their community, and in October, without a huge amount of hullaballoo, relaunched as Toad. Same folks; same outstanding bakery. Long live Toad.
Best Food in an Indefinable Setting
What do you call a place that isn’t a restaurant, isn’t a cafe, isn’t a bar, isn’t “street food,” but is absolutely serving some of the best new food in London in 2022? Well, roll in Max Fishman’s Quarter Kitchen — the Mexican breakfast and lunch kiosk which he opened with chef Rodrigo Cervantes in a Hackney churchyard this summer. Cervantes, originally from Mexico City and an alum of Smoking Goat, Koya, and Rita’s in London, has gone from strength to strength this year, offering seriously good breakfast tacos, which feature hash browns, fried eggs, and smoked bacon glazed with maple syrup and sugar; breakfast burritos based on US-McDonald’s versions; gorditas; tepache, and, recently, tacos al pastor done on a small yakitori grill inside the kiosk. The Quarter Kitchen, which also serves excellent coffee, is a gem.