It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, and professional eaters. Even a year like this one. For 2022, the group were asked 12 questions, covering the best meals and the worst moments alongside 2023 predictions and dining standbys. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses relayed in no particular order; cut and pasted below.
First, it’s time for the newcomers: the best and most exciting new restaurants in London over the last 12 months.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Cadet — as an entire enterprise, the standout opening in 2022; Quarter Kitchen — for ingenuity and outstanding food; Manna’s burger; and All Kaps pizza.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: Cadet, Water Lane Coffee, Haringey Corbacisi, Toad, Soft n Swirly.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: I feel so out of touch, and maybe jaded, what does the idea of “excited” even mean? So much of the world / life has taken up brain space that there were few places I thought pre-opening, “oooo can’t wait till be able to try that.” Except for Mambow in Peckham, I was very excited when I found out about that and chef Abby, following along on Insta before they opened!! Malaysian spot in a market set up, cooking Chinese-Malaysian food, with a slight Sarawak lean (her father is from Sibu, which is the small riverside city down the river from the riverside town my family is from and there is a dish with Sarawak pepper, so excitement bias.) I have yet to go to dinner — even in excitement, life gets in the way, the feeling of the whole year — but I went for lunch and it was so good, especially the snacks achar awak and lor bak (snax4eva.)
I found out about Cadet the week before it opened and immediately organised going the first weekend they opened, so I guess i was excited about them! It did not disappoint!
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: Haringey Corbacisi (technically 2021 opening, but was pretty much my first meal of 2022.) The unnamed Honduran restaurant that became Sazon Catracho. Pho Thuy Tay opening a bigger site in Surrey Quays. Veraison Wines. All Kaps Pizza. The new, happy version of Feroz Gajia that you can experience at All Kaps Pizza.
George Reynolds, writer and Eater London contributor: The Eater Brains Trust have got this right: Cadet is absolutely the best restaurant to have opened in the past 12 months, an evolution on an increasingly stale formula that makes every part of that formula feel new and exciting again.
Beyond that, there have been some fun expansions on existing IP (Bubala Soho, Honey and Co Lambs Conduit, Arcade Food Hall, in its own way), and plenty of evidence that you can teach more senior canines new tricks, not least Lisboeta, which barged onto the scene with genuine presence and swagger.
Closer to home, two new pubs have given the Islington environs a real shot in the arm: I look forward to spending many a dreich Sunday afternoon in The Baring early next year, and I was in The Tamil Prince so frequently over the autumn it ended up being the location for one of those memories of generational import that will get discussed twenty years from now. Quickly: where were YOU when you found out the queen had died?
I’d like to put in a quick word for Evernight, too, which if it had opened in Hackney or Shoreditch would be one of the most raved-about newbies of the year. Instead, it’s in the development surrounding the new US embassy in Nine Elms, an uncanny mishmash of steel and glass and severely landscaped gardens that looks like one of the locations used in the underrated Christian Bale dystopian banger Equilibrium. Not my idea of a prime location, but then again I live a long way away and still think East London in the early twenty-teens was the coolest scene I’ve ever seen (Am I out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong). Whatever — wherever you’re from, I’d recommend a visit: the cooking is absolutely next-level and will, I’m sure, bring them all sorts of deserved accolades in the years to come.
Evernight’s singular elevator pitch — what if Japanese, and fancy, but also not, and also sort of Modern British? — also speaks to a broader, encouraging trend towards restaurants with a clear and distinctive personality. In a year when it felt like creeping homogenisation was the best we could hope for, there were plenty of genuinely WTF, absolutely singular, unashamedly fun concepts. Rogues, Caravel, and Miznon were all, in their own ways, absolutely bonkers — none of them should work but I enjoyed some of my happiest restaurant experiences of the year in them.
Which ties in very nicely to The Quarter Kitchen. Again, no arguing with the Brains Trust categorisation (or lack of one) but what I liked most about it, aside from the dope tacos, was what it represented. A spirit that I thought had departed London, a willingness to take a space of whatever size, in whatever location, and do something cool with it. A lot of the places we now regard as older statesmen of the capital’s scene, after all, emerged from a similar instinct – and it is exciting to imagine what might happen if all of that COVID-decimated real estate was looked at with a curious, potential-filled eye. London in 2023 is, of course, a very different place from the city it was a decade ago, but in TQK and its slam-dunk success I still detected a green shoot of something that almost looked like hope.
Joel Hart, food writer and Eater London contributor: It has to be Hector’s. This is in part because I share co-owner Jimmy Stephenson’s obsession with the wines of Jura, but also because, as Eater wine writer Nathalie Nelles puts it, the place is “so sure of itself that it becomes more than the sum of its parts.” It is intimate, haimish, and somehow manages to seamlessly blend these qualities with the intent to take wine seriously. Nothing ever feels overdone — and from the ingenious combo of olive oil crisps and jamon to the generous slabs of Comté — the salty nosh is truly the consummate match for wine.
Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: Toad Bakery, which recently made me fall back in love with mince pies.
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: Haringey Corbacisi. Having a singular soup and stew restaurant that consistently delivered is something I never knew I wanted. The care taken with their signature lamb head soups, the separation of all the parts of the head and the depth of flavour is something many whole animal places could learn from. Excellent tripe, spoon-soft meatballs and hospitality from the moment you sit down even though it’s set up like a canteen is more than I deserve. I lament being out of delivery range now as it rescued many an evening meal after a long day at work.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Lisboeta, Honey and Co., Arcade Food Hall, Mambow, Hoko, and Toad Bakery.
David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: Honestly, Straker’s. I was curious to see what direction a chef with Thomas Straker’s background would take given the circumstances of his sudden fame, and I’m still curious as to what his trajectory will say about businesses owning their own demand, and who gets to determine a restaurant’s success.
Isaac Rangaswami, food writer and Eater London contributor: I really like Rita’s, partly because it seems like they’ve refitted what must be a very old room very sensitively. I love the burgundy booths, which remind me of the fixed seating in University Cafe in Glasgow. Obviously the food’s great too; what I ate and the stuff I’ve seen on their Instagram since makes me think of delicious meals I’ve eaten in places like Austin.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: There were a few that exceeded expectations / excited me, namely the Tamil Prince, Tatale, Mambow, and Acme Fire Cult.