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Outside Jen Cafe, the streets of Chinatown London are deserted during the coronavirus lockdown in
The exterior of Jen Café in Chinatown, which closed in 2022.
Michaël Protin/Eater London

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The Saddest Restaurant Closures of 2022

The restaurants London lost, and why diners miss them

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.

So far, Year in Eater has covered best newcomers, restaurant standbys, and best meals. Now, it’s time for the saddest closures of 2022.

Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: The Laughing Heart was probably a victim of its own daring but was one of the London’s most fun restaurants, a unique dining experience in a city that could do with more like it. It will be sorely missed.

I will also really miss Lighthaus Cafe — London’s lost a wonderful little spot there.

James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: Flor. Not really for personal loss; I never lived close enough to become a regular. Instead, because with Pamela Yung on the pans and Anna Higham, then Helen Evans leading pastry, it offered London something genuinely singular. The fact the city couldn’t quite support it, and that most high-profile “tastemakers” seemed to never really get it — or, didn’t seem to want to get it — was dispiriting on quite a deep level.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: Peg. This is highly personal. It was a neighbourhood spot, a 5 minute walk from me. And even when I moved I still treated it like that familiar friend. It was where I found out my dad was dying, and I don’t think I would’ve wanted to be anywhere else — good wine, food, staff, a warm buzz, all felt safe... It was the place where you went when you needed something very good, worth leaving the house for, but also wanted to feel like you were at home.

Nyasha Oliver, food writer and Eater London contributor: Jen Café in Chinatown as it’s been a staple in the area for years.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: It hasn’t happened yet.

George Reynolds, writer and Eater London contributor: I’m not naive — I knew this year was going to be rough. The economy is tanking, we’re still shaking off a collective dose of COVID, costs are only going in one direction. But — yikes. To lose Peg, The Laughing Heart and Flor — all locks for a personal Eater 38 — in the same 12 months was a brutal turn of events. Add to that list some less celebrated but still beloved names — Lighthaus, Jen Café, Salon, among others — and reflect on the fact that things are hardly getting any easier out there, and it’s hard not to come to the end of 2022 feeling very bleak indeed.

Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: For me, Lighthaus when Rob, Sarah and Alex (along with Rachel and Hari) were there. That felt like a real fleeting moment of joy and wonder every time I went and it will be missed.

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Jen Café, Lighthaus, and Laughing Heart. Some really great meals, memories and good times at these places over the years. Pretty gutted tbf and will really miss the aunties making mesmerising dumplings in the window.

David Jay Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: For me, Joy King Lau, Jen Café and The Laughing Heart; but sometimes the saddest ones are the ones that haven’t happened yet.

Joel Hart, food writer and Eater London contributor: Flor and Flor Bakery in particular, Joy King Lau, and saddest of all, the closure of All Island Grill, because despite Hackney Council’s claims otherwise, it is evidently a result of Dalston’s fast growing gentrification.

Sean Wyer, writer, researcher and Eater London contributor: Not a restaurant, but the imminent closure of I Camisa, the legendary Italian deli, feels like the end of an era, though I am acutely aware that I say the same thing whenever anything changes in Soho.

Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: The original iteration of Joy King Lau, for nostalgia reasons and what it signified for Chinatown, The closure of both Flor and Arch Rivals was also upsetting in terms of what they offered to their local communities.

Isaac Rangaswami, food writer and Eater London contributor: I was sad to see Jen Café go because I used to go there on my lunch breaks when I worked nearby. Its triangular dining room felt like such a great escape in such a busy part of London. But I gather one of the reasons it closed is because the owners retired, so perhaps it’s not all bad.