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When in London, the most burning question among restaurant obsessives such as myself is where should I eat right now? What’s hot, what’s new in technique, ingredient and culture across the capital? Who is the chef to watch and what is his/her latest venture?
Here are London’s most sought-after restaurants right now, those talked about, preferably after a memorably good meal.
Tomos Parry is on fire. His debut solo restaurant – after creating a storm at Kitty Fisher in Mayfair’s Shepherd’s Market and training at Notting Hill’s The Ledbury, as well as Noma. It is where everyone wants to eat in Shoreditch right now and justifiably so. Parry takes a gently nuanced approach to cooking over open fire, influenced by time spent travelling in Basque Spain. He pays particular homage to Elkano in Getaria serving whole turbot cooked long and slow and served bathed in its collagen juices mixed to a pil-pil. Eat with incredible Sicilian tomatoes just dressed in good olive oil. Besides the fabled turbot expect sea trout cooked over cedar wood; Herdwick lamb chop; and Jersey beef chop all given the most gentle of smoke treatments.
To start, the ephemerally light whipped cod's roe on exemplary lightly charred toast is a must, as are the anchovies served with house made flatbread cooked on the open fire. Promised on the menu mid-summer are caviar like sweet peas from Geteria. For dessert, cheesecake baked in the wood-fired oven is light with whispers of smoke, fantastic.
Entered by a bright yellow door, the oak wood-panelled dining room has a warm, convivial feel. Who would know it was once a notorious strip club!
4 Redchurch St, London E1 6JL, UK
Intrepid new restaurant seekers will thrill at the challenge of locating Tom Brown’s first solo restaurant tucked away in a new under development Hackney Wick location. Though it seems remote, it is actually close to the Olympic Stadium and Stratford is an address clearly pitching itself as the next London Fields, albeit without the greenery.
As Michelin would say, it is worth a diversion for Cornish born Tom Brown’s daring yet pared back treatments of hero, mostly pescatarian ingredients. An oyster paired with horseradish is utterly sublime, saline, tart yet fresh. Crumpets are having their menu moment, here and with crab and a wet kohlrabi slaw and cornichon to counter the richness, but not too much. This may be the Instagrammers' favourite, though the tartare floated my boat, monkfish with grapes, almonds and sherry, so fresh tasting and reminiscent of ajo blanco soup in Andalucia. Best of all is a generous main of place with roast chicken butter sauce.
Brown’s love of fish dates back to training with Nathan Outlaw, and most recently he ran Outlaw’s dining room in London’s Capital Hotel. Dessert was more haute in its presentation and a superb, witty new take on mille-feuille with raspberries and saffron cream sandwiched between brandy snaps (well overdue a revival) and topped Cornish style with clotted cream.
The open central kitchen is within the dining room, so it is easy to watch and interact with the chefs. Such immersive dining is very much the future, a more comfortable take on counter dining.
3 Prince Edward Rd, London E9 5LX, UK
Ollie Dabbous’ eagerly anticipated return to the London restaurant scene has made Hide the most sought-after restaurant in London with the best views of (mostly) serene Green Park. Dabbous’ light, elegantly simple, naturalist approach – he refers to being “a feminine chef” who likes to serve his plates “almost naked” – and love of flowers is on show in each of the three discreet spaces: the bar 'Below,' the all-day-dining room on 'Ground' and the tasting menu floor 'Above.' It also boasts one of the largest wine lists in the world.
A current summer starter of Sicilian red prawns served raw, merely cured in sweet vinegar in an almost 'naked' broth of Cedron lemon, and basil garnished with garlic flowers is exquisite. Turbot of infinite delicacy is cooked in a broth of its bones with petals of lemon. Do order charcoal-baked flatbreads embellished with coriander, flowers and ricotta and the signature acorn dessert drenched with smoked caramel and rum (not unlike a boozy hybrid rum baba). Every dish is a lesson in balance: richness tempered with flower-powered acidity.
Aside from its wonder chef, Hide is notable for its awe-inspiring design. Its sculptural oak staircase, said to be the gnarled roots of a tree, must have made it one of the most Instagrammed restaurant interiors in town. There's also much speculation about just how much Hide's Russian restaurateur, also the owner of Mayfair's Hedonism Wine, has spent on the restaurant.
230 Hendon Way, London NW4 3NE, UK
Kyseri, by Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie of Oklava, takes its name from an ancient city in Cappadocia in central Anatolia with its own distinctive food culture. It’s a small, 35-cover place, using the ground floor of a corner house, and it has an exceptionally sociable, happy feel. Where Oklava is about grills and pide kebabs, Kyseri focuses on Turkish pastas, made fresh in-house every day and delectable. These include the tortelloni-esque (in shape) manti stuffed with beef and sour cherry with an authentic yoghurt and pepper red sauce, served scattered with pine nuts and thyme.
There is erişte too like broken tagliatelle served with a pungent sauce of walnuts and lemon-braised greens, plus sage, parsley and a barely set egg yolk, and a scattering of a potent white cheese. A majestic dish of roasted duck breast, braised leg gözleme, grape molasses and black garlic has apparently had even fellow critics asking for the recipe.
Finish with a traditional dessert of baked mahlep (cherry kernel flavouring) with roasted whole cherries and almond crumble that highlights the sweet and sour balance so integral to this little-explored cuisine.
64 Grafton Way, Bloomsbury, London W1T 5DN, UK
Turning the tide are restaurant entrepreneurs Brett Redman and Margaret Crow, whose produce-driven Elliot’s in Borough market remains a favourite among the food-minded. The duo ran gastro-pub The Richmond in Hackney too, though have now closed this to concentrate on Neptune. Less well known is that Brett has a cheeky interest in authentic Covent Garden yakitori restaurant Jjidori too. There’s a gorgeous, curved marble seafood bar in the centre of the large and ornately corniced room that bears massive marble pillars.
The 'look at me' seafood platter that changes according to the season is a must. It might include hand-dived scallop carpaccio with ajo bianco and nori; mussels cooked in orange and saffron as well as the usual crustacea depending on the season and the catch. The resolutely British take on caviar – caviar sourced in Devon served with house-cultured Jersey cream and freshly made potato waffles (and for vegans, Kombu caviar) – was tempting, though wading into more adventurous dishes including smoked eel, quail's egg and curry emulsion broth proved wise.
The surprise star dish was stracciatella: thin strands of mozzarella soaked in fresh cream, more like burrata without protection or constraints. It's dangerously oozy, and served enrobed with ripe Vesuvius tomatoes. Desserts didn’t hold the same thrill.
Neptune’s extensive wine list comprises of small-scale, quality producers, curated by Isabelle Legeron MW, the world’s foremost authority on natural and low-intervention wines. There is a large selection of grower Champagnes to pair with raw dishes, as well as a section dedicated to what Neptune calls ‘Island Wines’: fresh, mineral and saline wines from regions such as Corsica, Santorini, Tenerife, Sardinia and Sicily. Neptune’s approach to wine always mirrors their approach to food: low-intervention and terroir-focussed.
Russell Square, London WC1B 5BE, United Kingdom