The last year of this decade will be remembered when one of New York City’s most famous chefs made his London debut, when the team who led the Fat Duck for a decade left Berkshire to open in the capital, and when some of the most innovative cooks and restaurateurs made the city a better place to eat against the odds. It was also the year in which some of the city’s most cult-followed brands got their chance to reach new customers. And the year that the food hall really took hold. At all ends of the spectrum, 2019 should go down as a year to remember.Read More
The Biggest Restaurant Openings of 2019
The 15 restaurants and venues that really stood out in London this year
1. The Sea, The Sea
The brilliantly creative Portuguese chef Leandro Carreira closed Londrino partnered with seafood mini chain Bonnie Gull co-founder Alex Hunter to introduce an innovative seafood restaurant, fishmonger, and champagne bar in Chelsea. Here, a number of dishes take inspiration from Japanese cuisine — like clams chawanmushi with broad beans and squid with pine nuts and sake — as well as platters like crab with waffles and lettuce, and poached lobster with olive oil and pepper. Already a hit with one critic.
2. Davies and Brook
Given that Daniel Humm’s Davies and Brook has been open only three days, its inclusion is as much for the reputation — and hype — that precedes it. The three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park chef’s London debut is being framed as a “sibling” to the 2017 “best restaurant in the world” in New York. It’s a dishes such as the famous roasted duck, which is dry aged in-house for 14 days and glazed with lavender and honey, will cross the pond
3. Lucknow 49
Dum Biryani’s founder Dhruv Mittal opened his second restaurant — in Mayfair. The only place in London that currently serves Lucknow’s Awadhi food. The rich cuisine of the Mughal empire is executed with great skill and commitment to tradition: in galawat kababs — lamb patties with the texture between pâtè and mousse; taar gosht — lamb legs are slow-cooked in (lamb’s) trotter stock for hours with dozens of spices; dal makhani — of whole green moong beans simmered in milk. Perfumed Awadhi biryani is as good as that which Mittal serves at Dum, while gilafi kulcha, a layered bread is almost impossible to find anywhere else in the city. A valuable addition to London’s already phenomenally diverse south Asian restaurant scene.
4. Arcade Food Theatre
A number of London’s hottest and most cult-followed restaurants are now under one roof in Centre Point. Tātā Eatery’s sando shop, Tōu, serves three innovative sandwiches including its trademark Iberico katsu. Elsewhere, there’s pastries from Pophams, a Yorkshire pudding and steak wrap from Flat Iron, pasta from Lina Stores, and Turkish grill cooking from Oklava. For a time, London’s hottest food court.
Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ debut London restaurant is a rooftop stunner with a menu that takes sideways glances at Mexican cuisine from a suitably lofty Spanish vantage point. As this is 2019, there’s an *it* dish and it’s an oozy tortilla mattress to a duvet of caviar, but a beguiling mushroom bomba rice, blistered quails from the grill, and a lo-fi dessert of set cream, olive oil, and sea salt are the real stars so far.
6. Master Wei Xi'An
The Xi’an Chinese cooking that has made Wei Guirong — an alumnus of Sichuanese restaurant Barshu in Chinatown — a star of London dining, this year got a new home in Bloomsbury. Master Wei is Guirong’s first solo project — following her joint venture, Xi’an Impression by the Emirates Stadium in Highbury, a tiny restaurant which has rightly earned cult status among lovers of regional Chinese food in the capital. At Master Wei, Eater London’s restaurant of the year, like at Xi’an Impression, the focus is on the region’s flour-foods, mianshi: peerless biang biang noodle dishes, with vegetables or beef and hot chilli oil; fine liang pi, cold skin noodles with a cool, refreshing, umami rich dressing, and the chef’s inimitable ‘burgers’ with a cumin-spiced beef or pork filling. That more restaurant goers in the the city now know and can access Guirong’s cooking is one of the industry’s very good good news stories this year.
7. Quality Wines
Quality Wines, the wine bar annexe to the much-loved Quality Chop House is one of the standout venues of the year in London, full stop. Chef Nick Bramham’s menu changes weekly, with the exception of three things: gildas, jamon Iberico, and pig fat cannoli, which won Eater London’s dish of the year. With scintillating salads, perfect pastas, ingenious preparation of protein, and a brilliantly diverse range of wines from Gus Gluck, to enjoy a night here is to experience all the hallmarks of the best kind of eating and drinking in London in 2019.
8. BAO Borough
Maybe Bao’s coolest restaurant to-date and Eater London’s best designed restaurant of the year. This restaurant, bar, and karaoke venue takes as much inspiration from Tokyo as it does from Tapei: a triumphant interpretation of those cities’ nightlife culture. Design-minded operators — Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung, and Wai Ting Chung — created one of the most original and energetic spaces of the year. In addition to Bao classics and the unmistakable parade of delightful gua bao, there’s small plates like beef, rice, and egg yolk; pork jowl with raw young leeks, and Sichuan oil, and stellar beverages which perhaps set this location apart yet further: softs include a playful, refreshing, and delicious grape soda with a thick cap of aloe foam; while on tap there’s Suntory whisky soda.
9. TĀTĀ Eatery
London EC1V 9BW, UK
Tayēr + Elementary — a world-class cocktail bar in-the-making — became the permanent home for two of the city’s most genuinely exciting chefs. Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves’ TāTā Eatery, a four-seater counter in an ultra modern room, has been responsible for some of the city’s most exciting cooking this year. Their self-described “east meets west” cuisine has resulted in dishes like wild strawberry in mushroom broth with savoury sugar puffs; beef with gooseberry, black sesame and shiso; and aged, dried Dover sole with ginger, sake, and a wet herbaceous rice. Constantly evolving and innovating, so one to watch carefully in 2020.
Chefs James Lowe and Anna Higham, together with general manager, John Ogier, and backers JKS Restaurants, opened their second restaurant, to much fanfare. A bakery, wine bar, and restaurant on London’s historic Borough Market is the little sister to site to the Michelin-starred, World’s 50 Best recognised Lyle’s in Shoreditch. Higham’s austerely beautiful pastries — quince danishes, unimpeachable pains aux chocolat — give way to an orchestrated bustle come lunch and dinner, with a clam flatbread; scarlet prawns with zippy kosho; and a beguilingly Gothic anjou pigeon dish the stars on the menu thus far. One of the best of the year.
11. Nandine - Camberwell Church St
The second branch for this south London institution: Nandine — ‘kitchen’ in Kurdish — is run by Pary Baban, her husband Pola, and sons Rang and Raman. It serves a menu of brunch dishes, meze, and intricate pastries. Technicoloured and abundant mezze platters served in the evening include kubba (minced beef and rice patties), onion dolma, and qawarma. Pastries like borek — made with a Kurdish pastry called galgali — and baklava are not to be missed.
One of the biggest, if low-key, restaurant opening of the year, which has avoided the sort of over-hype one might expect for a chef, Johnny Lake and sommelier Isa Bal, who worked at the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck in Bray for a decade. Trivet is not cheap, but it is refreshingly informal, smart, and accomplished, even if it might, in time, realise that London is receptive to a little more culinary derring do. At the moment, it is safely delicious, demonstrating self-assurance in the likes of Anglo-Franco roast chicken with vinegar sauce, a Middle-Eastern-meets-East-Asian inspired medley of scallops, sesame, pomegranate, and pickled buddha’s hand; and a Japanese-French dessert of layered potato puff pastry with sake and white chocolate cream, and sake and butter ice cream. It also has one of the most interesting and ambitious wine lists in the city — not wedded to the old-school, nor over-excited about the popularity of newer, fashionable low-intervention styles. “Agnostic,” says Bal. Wine, he says, just needs to be “good.” Expect this restaurant to grow into the new year.
London EC2A 3QR, UK
This new Shoreditch restaurant was and remains a lot: Youporn pizza; cacio e pepe served out of a wheel of cheese; a lemon meringue pie almost comically large. What Parisian restaurant group Big Mamma’s London debut captured was a sense of hedonistic maximalism — to serve all of these things without irony or undercutting, and to revel in the accompanying fun. Its bright yellow exterior and surfeit of foliage in the heart of Shoreditch, moments from the Nobu hotel, also marked a new era in London’s formerly hipster-forward neighbourhood.
The New Israeli debut restaurant from Marc Summers, (formerly Berber & Q) and Helen Graham, (of The Palomar, The Barbary, and The Good Egg) is vegetarian without shouting about it. Indeed, in service of modern tastes but also in recognition of culinary tradition, plenty of the menu is vegan, too. Execution here is first-rate: in a pumpkin dip with harissa, preserved lemon, and verdant olive oil, in hummus lifted by brown butter, in crisp confit potato latkes with toum and Aleppo chilli; and ful medames enlivened with lovage pesto, yoghurt, and homemade malawach (flatbread). An exciting, steadying, hanging-plant-filled addition to an energised scene.
15. Silo London
London E9 5EN, UK
Doug McMaster’s lauded zero waste project, Silo, moves into London from Brighton with sky-high expectations. The former St. John chef’s closed loop system earned plaudits and consternation in equal measure on the coast, and dishes like grilled jigg squid with white kimchi and douglas fir; smoked sand carrots with egg yolk fudge; and dairy cow with buttermilk garum and pineapple sage are fitting manifestations of a sustainable project whose figurehead is willing to admit that it’s not the solution to everything. Brunch, too.