It’s a question we get asked all the time. Where should I be eating in London right now? If you’ve thought that recently, you’ve come to the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say ‘best’, we mean it. We’ve visited each of these restaurants on several occasions and personally vetted them to find out which ones are worth the time and effort. Crucially, we’ve also left countless others off that we don’t think you should bother with, regardless of what a dozen restaurant PRs and Instagrammers have insisted - being a new opening doesn’t automatically qualify a spot on the list.
The Hit List is our record of each restaurant that’s opened within the last year that we highly recommend that you try, and we’ve arranged it in chronological order with the newest places at the top, and the oldest at the bottom.
New to The Hit List as of 14/5/2018: Llerena and Freak Scene
Some restaurants feel the need to shout and scream about the lineage of the chefs working in their kitchen. Llerena isn’t that type of restaurant. It’s a friendly and unpretentious tapas spot on Upper Street where the products - many of which are imported directly from the family farm southwest of Madrid - are of such high quality that they speak for themselves. They serve all the tapas you’d expect, as well as stews, salads, and cuts of ibérico cooked on the grill, but their specialty is jamon and cold cuts. There are several to choose from, but we’ve developed a soft spot for the lomito de bellota, the premium loin of an acorn-fed ibérico.
Somehow, along the way, we have replaced actual laughter with the word “lols”. We need to feel again people. We need to laugh again. Out loud. Freak Scene in Soho is a place where you can do that. For real. The food is a described as ‘pan Asian’ (insert eye-roll here), but rather than serving up mediocre interpretations of anything a bit Asian food-y - they actually nail the remixes. The chilli crab bomb, spicy crab meat in a wonton case, is the er... bomb, and you’ll want to order the black cod tacos twice. The restaurant itself is small, with hip-hop nostalgia on the walls, hip-hop blasting out of the speakers, and Japanese game shows distracting you on the TV above the kitchen. Time will tell if they can keep up the fun vibes for the long run, but for now, it’s proper lols.
The definition of a pub is a pretty fluid one these days. Is it a pub if a pint costs more than travelcard? Is it a pub if there’s no active or repurposed fruit machine? Is it a pub if it has a separate dining room? Does anyone actually care what it is when you can have a nice beer and a nice bit of food? If it’s anything like The Coach then the answer is no. This is the sort of pub you take your family to when everyone’s in town. There’s an excellent array of beers, a bright and airy dining room (and another upstairs) and some of the best French bistro-y type food we’ve had in a long time. Note: do not miss out on the chips or the gnocchi. Or the wild garlic soup for that matter.
East London is really getting into this whole ironic self-deprecation thing. Prick, the cacti, shop really set the standard, and now we have Brat, a grill restaurant in Shoreditch. Its thing is a big open fire grill, so you’ve got lots of nicely grilled meat and fish alongside some very delicious grilled bread and butter. The beef chop in particular is a good bit of back to basics fire and meat cooking. Young leeks and cheese are also delicious, even if they do sound like two angsty teenagers on Soundcloud. The vibe is trendy, but not in the way its name suggests, and the room is one of those very nice open oak panelled type ones. Promising, all in all.
Mayfair isn’t a place we’re accustomed to going for a casual night out, in fact, we only just realised that wearing a suit isn’t obligatory by law in all W1 postcodes, but Sabor on Heddon Street is our kind of spot. It’s casual, loud, and the food is just brilliant. There’s a bar area, and countertop dining downstairs, while El Asador upstairs has a more formal menu. All in, it makes for an unusually sociable night out, especially in this part of town. There are a few very special plates of food downstairs, most notably the queso fresco and black truffle brioche, duck breast, as well as some salads that are actually meats. Meanwhile, upstairs it’s even more lively. The food is just as brilliantly executed, and though the mains are pretty pricey they are worth skipping starters for. The suckling pig is particularly brilliant, and is accompanied by your choice of five different varieties of patatas fritas. Yes, that’s five different types of chip.
We’re always dreaming about a great new restaurant opening in our neighbourhood, and if you happen to live near Queenstown Road-Peckham station and have dreams like ours, then new South African spot Kudu is that dream come true. It’s that understated, sophisticated restaurant that’d be great for a date night, or equally good for a relaxed but slightly upscale dinner with mates. The menu is small and punchy, and if you’re partial to well cooked meats then it’ll be right up your street. Don’t even think of skipping the Kudu bread, it comes with melted lardon butter and parsley, but it should come with a mental and physical health warning because it’s outstanding. Violent thoughts towards your dining companion(s) may enter your head as they reach for ‘just another bit’ of it. Kudu is definitely a spot to check out, even if you’re not from the neighbourhood.
Just when you thought London’s quota of wine and sharing plates spots was full, Linden Stores comes along. It’s a wine shop-cum-bar a few minutes walk away from Highbury Corner serving some really tasty small plates. The sizeable menu is guaranteed to have something for everyone on it, from the delicate pork scratchings (which might be a disappointment if you’re expecting pub-style tooth-breakers) to the hearty oxtail pie with bone marrow mash. And don’t let the size of the plates deceive you, dishes like the roasted beets with prune puree and hung yoghurt make for a rich and satisfying accompaniment to the wine. Upstairs is clean and bright, perfect for catching up with mates, while the candle lit room downstairs makes for a casual date-night. This is one you’ll want to come back to again and again.
‘Why are we putting a restaurant that’s been open for a few years in our Hit List?’ nobody asks. Well, P. Franco changes their chef every six months or so, meaning that while this Clapton wine bar’s excellent atmosphere and mood remains the same, the food does not. The newest chef to man its two induction hobs is keeping things as excellent as those we’ve experienced before him, serving simple but lovingly prepared sharing plates that match the wine perfectly. Expect to see salami, cheeses, a couple of seafood options and a pasta on the menu. If it’s on the menu, the gochujang ragu is worth coming for alone.
Usually, a restaurant that puns on the head chef’s name does not bode well. Especially when it’s a ‘can I take a moment to explain our menu’ type of place. Right, before you start having foam flashbacks, we need to tell you that Roganic is superb, poncey characteristics aside. It’s at a permanent spot in Marylebone and from what we’ve experienced the food is - to use as un-poncey a word as possible - buff. Each dish contains some ingredients foraged the week before, and although that makes for the sort of thing you never ever want to say out loud, it has some amazing results, e.g. the baked celeriac. Unsurprisingly it’s expensive here, probably because you’re paying for some poor chump to free jump off a cliff to retrieve three mushrooms that form part of a palate cleanser. That said, if you’re not looking to remortgage or make a terrible same day loan decision, the £40 lunch set is expansive and delicious.
If someone asks whether you fancy a curry and you find yourself in an Uber to Mayfair, odds are you’re either going to be jumping out at the lights, or making a quick call to your bank to discuss overdraft options. Bombay Bustle isn’t one of those types of places though. Things here are definitely a bit more formal than your local curry house, but it doesn’t feel stuffy at all. The upstairs room is laid out like a train dining cart and we’d recommend nabbing one of the booths before waiting for your mini poppadoms to arrive. We don’t often like mini things, but we like these a lot. Lamb chops are a must as is a dosa, and the bohri chicken curry is a real crowd pleaser. Much like your local, it’s the sort of place that you bring anyone, from dates to dads, and you’re getting much better quality bhaji for your buck.
If you thought The Palomar was hard to get in to, their new place Evelyn’s Table might as well be surrounded by an electrified fence and a 14th century moat. This kitchen table experience only two doors down from The Palomar itself is in the basement of their pub, The Blue Posts. There are just eleven seats at the bar, and there’s an irreverent and friendly attitude, so be prepared to get friendly with the chef who’ll be cooking everything right in front of your face. The food is southern European, and you can expect freshly caught fish and hearty pastas, but if the pork jowl or the cuttlefish ragoût are on the menu you should absolutely order them.
Southam Street36 Golborne Rd
Sister restaurant to the clinically insane yet truly brilliant 108 Garage, Southam Street is at what used to be called the ‘wrong end’ of Golborne Road, but is now about as trendy as West London gets. Spread across three floors of a dimly lit, nicely-decorated townhouse, it includes a grill, sake bar, and sushi bar, and though the food might not be as exciting as 108, it’s still more than worth your time.
You could see Londrino as a neighbourhood restaurant for Bermondsey. It’s got all the makings of one. There’s a bar area where locals can pop in for a drink or a bite, but there are also two spacious dining areas with a serious though not-overly-formal vibe. It’s a seafood driven affair that takes familiar and delicious ingredients and magics them into unfamiliar and delicious plates of food. These are the kinds of guys who’ll make a concentrated paste out of all things crabby, call it crab foie, and then have us lather it on thick, crunchy bread. Or they’ll spend three days turning a mushroom into a cracker so that we have something to crunch on while we’re devouring their mindblowingly well-cooked mallard. Londrino - which is Portuguese for Londoner - may be made for Bermondsey, but we think it’s set to be a destination restaurant for the entire city.
Does London need another tapas restaurant? Probably not. But Rambla, a new spot from the guys behind Sibarita in Covent Garden, is a pretty useful restaurant to have in Soho. It’s that back pocket restaurant that you’re going to default to when you need somewhere chill for lunch, or somewhere chill for a date or somewhere chill because the wait for a table at Barrafina down the road is too long. There are no big surprises on the menu, but they do manage to pack a lot more flavour into their palomos prawns and rice stuffed calamari than your average tapas joint. We also highly recommend ending your meal with the warm apricot & almond coulant. It’s the kind of dessert that converts someone who isn’t all that into dessert into someone who very much is.
Unless we’ve been invited to a State Banquet - and, why have we never been invited to a State Banquet? - we’d never have considered The Mall a dining destination, but Rochelle’s arrival at the ICA has changed all that. The menu’s changing all the time, but, seriously, everything we’ve tried here so far has been excellent. If the cuttlefish stew’s on offer, you should order it. If they’re doing salad, you should order it. If there’s a pie, you should order two. The whole affair has the same kind of modest swagger they’ve perfected over at Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch, but now they’re serving their uniquely British food in a uniquely British setting. It somehow manages to be both serene and barnstorming at the same time. How British is that?
We were naturally excited when the people behind The Palomar announced they were opening a pub a couple of doors down from their Theatreland restaurant. The space itself is much smaller than we anticipated, the ground floor pub can barely fit 20 people, and the Mulwray lounge bar on the second floor is only a tad more spacious. But we were won over by the excellent bar food, including a roast pork belly and apple sauce roll that’s a potential entry for our ‘best sandwiches ever’ list.
There are a bunch of new restaurants in the new Bloomberg building, and not one of them is an artisan fried mushroom burger stall from Dalston. Obviously. Instead, there is a second outpost of the ridiculously popular Soho Japanese restaurant Koya, which specializes in udon. You’ll find a slightly bigger space, but this new location definitely isn’t a secret and is already extremely busy.
London is such an exciting melting pot of cuisines from all over the world at the moment, that a French restaurant might not sound that exciting. But Noize in Fitzrovia is definitely worth a visit. There are white tablecloths and a serious wine list, but it’s not overly formal or poncey, and the food is fantastic. The suckling pig belly, in particular, is some of the best we have had in London, and be sure to order the rice pudding for dessert. Use it for a nice date night or dinner with people who appreciate good wine and food.
Core by Clare Smyth is one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in London this year, if not in many years. It’s the first restaurant from Clare Smyth, a former chef patron of a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, and it’s set in a very attractive converted townhouse in Notting Hill. The tasting menus feature excellent British produce remixed in interesting ways, with outstanding dishes like a potato topped with trout roe and herring, or a perfect piece of venison. It’s not fussy or trying too hard - this is fine dining for people who like proper food. If you have the opportunity to spend some money on a nice meal in the next few months, do it here.
We’re big fans of The Frog in Shoreditch (we rated the it an 8.5), so it says a lot that we like their new location in Covent Garden even more. That’s due in part to the space itself: the Shoreditch location, set in a car park, has its charms but also feels slightly out of place, whereas the new, swankier spot has a real sense of occasion. And the food here also takes it up a notch: you’ll eat things like celeriac with truffle, or halibut with a super rich crab sauce and caviar, or a pot of razor clams that looks like it has a built in nightclub smoke machine. Their 5 or 8 course tasting menus do offer a real balance, but you can order a la carte as well. Things can get a little pricey if you’re matching your tasting menu with cocktails or wine but for something special, this place really is worth it.
The Padella imitators keep on coming. We recently got Pastaio, which is ‘Padella for Soho’, and now we have Flour and Grape, which is ‘Padella if you want to book a table’ or “Padella if Padella is way too bloody busy’. It’s a 10-15 minute walk away from Padella, and the pastas are less than a £10. They’re also served in real-people portions, because let’s be honest, Padella’s cacio e pepe is epic, but you need at least 10 portions to make you feel full. Flour & Grape also does a very good cacio e pepe, and an excellent tortellini. The restaurant itself works well for catch-up dinner with mates or a low key date night. And when you’re all filled up with pasta, you can make your way downstairs to their gin bar for a couple of drinks.
The people behind two of the best summer hang out spots, Pergola and Pergola On The Roof, are continuing with their noble crusade to make West London cool with their latest opening, The Prince. This time, they’ve taken over a large pub and the adjacent buildings to create a humongous space for eating, drinking and hanging out. In terms of food, you’ll find a great selection, with Thai from The Begging Bowl, posh meats and cheeses from Rabbit, Vietnamese street food from Mam, and burgers from Patty and Bun. Even though the space is huge, definitely book ahead on the weekends - this is one of the only authentically cool spots in West London, and it’s already getting busy.
Olle is a new Korean restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue, and it’s one of our new favourites for a group dinner. Each table has a brass grill in the middle, on which anything from wagyu beef to giant shrimps will be cooked for you. In addition to the BBQ, there’s a pretty extensive menu, including salads, stews, and the best toppoki (spicy Korean rice cakes) we’ve had in London. Any meal where the food is cooked on a burning grill inches from your face will be a lively one, but this place has a pretty relaxed atmosphere that would suit anything from a Saturday night dinner to a weekday lunch.
The fancy restaurant group that, for better or worse, brought London Roka, Coya, and Zuma has opened a Greek restaurant in Fitzrovia. Meraki is unlike any of their other places though. This space is bright and very relaxed, and you could eat here with either your crazy mother in law or messy baby brother without fuss. The food here is light, flavoursome, and easy to share. Come for the chops, bring your entire family for the mezze, and make sure you try at least one of their pasta dishes.
It finally happened - a restaurant in a tourist hotspot that you would actually fight through the crowds to get to. The Coal Shed is the first London location of a popular Brighton restaurant that specializes in cooking fish and meats over fire, and it’s located in the One Tower Bridge complex right next to the bridge. Unfortunately it’s hidden away inside the complex, so there aren’t great views, but the fun environment and excellent food make up for it. There are a bunch of interesting starters, tons of different steak and fish options, as well as a big goat dish for the table to share. And if you’ve ever thought, ‘I wish I could just eat sides for dinner’, this would be a great place to do it - the potato mash with burnt ends and bone marrow is a must order. This restaurant is great for everyone (except vegetarians, probably) and for all occasions, but we suggest putting it in the back pocket for date night - that after dinner stroll will be dead romantic.
Another day, another ramen spot. This time, it’s Yamagoya, located south of the river in Southwark. Yamagoya started as a pop-up on Shaftesbury Avenue, and is now in its first permanent space. You order at the counter, and you can choose from eight hot or cold ramens, or grab from a selection of healthy-ish Japanese snacks sitting in the fridge that you can wolf down quickly before running across the road to the Young Vic or around the corner to the Old Vic before the curtains go up for a show. Their signature Yamagoya ramen is a rich, fatty, almost creamy broth, and is the one you should order your first time through. Yamagoya is a great addition to the area, and a reason for us not to feel absolute despair when we can’t get a table at The Anchor and Hope.
Pastaio is a new pasta-focused restaurant in Soho and we’re going just call it what it is: a Padella copycat. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pastaio follows the same no reservations, cheap, high quality pasta format as Padella, but also has an air of efficiency around it. The bright almost canteen-like format of the restaurant is very welcoming but at the same time, doesn’t make you want to hang around. Which turns out to be another good thing - tables turn over fast. Even though we can’t quite get over the feeling that we are cheating on Padella, Pastaio is a really nice addition to Soho, and we like everything from the starters to the pasta to the tiramisu. Don’t worry Padella - you’re still number one.
Street food giants and spicy sauce wizards Orange Buffalo have moved into their first indoor space at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. This is first and foremost a music venue, but once you’re past the sticky floors, there’s lots to get excited about here, because they’re serving all the Orange Buffalo classics along with some new options. Their Buffalo Burger is a real winner and their onion rings are perfectly crunchy and salty. But the wings are still the tastiest thing on the menu, and the addition of curly fries to proceedings made us slightly emotional. Beware the hidden ‘Viper’ amongst the ‘Snake in a Basket’ - a lucky dip of each of their wings - which will burn your entire face into a tree’s worth of kitchen roll. Mini milks are available on request, a truly inspirational piece of customer service.
Taka is small, elegant spot serving great Japanese food in Mayfair. It’s a great West London spot for a casual date night or dinner with mates - with the bonus being that the high-quality sushi here is relatively affordable for the neighbourhood. The rest of the menu is made up of small plates, and the beef, tempura, and veggies are very good. Keep it in your back pocket as a ‘utility’ restaurant when you need a simple, low key option in Mayfair.
Sibarita is a new Spanish tapas spot just far away enough from the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden’s main square, and it’s a place you can expect to find us quite a bit over the next few months. Pop in after work for some lamb chops or croquetas of the day, or for something a bit lighter, their charcuterie and cheese selections are both excellent. There’s also a great wine list, portions are decently sized, and it’s all very affordable. No matter what, finish it off with a torrija, a Spanish dessert with caramelised brioche pudding that’s just as good as it sounds.
The redevelopment on the water in Battersea has brought in the usual installation art and pop-up food brigade to hammer home the heavy blow of gentrification, and now it’s also brought us Mother Pizza, a restaurant originally from Copenhagen. It’s set in a massive candlelit tunnel under the arches and they’re serving traditional, unfussy Italian food. The menu changes daily, and in addition to excellent pizza, there’s a good selection of fish, spaghetti, and panini. The drinks menu is great, too, with craft beers and a solid wine selection. With two wood ovens, exposed brick, and the rumbling of trains on the tracks above, Mother Pizza fits right into what’s going on in Battersea. And you should fit it into your routine soon.
If you didn’t have the patience to wait it out for the first Hoppers in Soho, your tardiness may for once be rewarded. They’ve opened a second one in St Christopher’s Place and prepare the ground to feel the full force of your jaw because THEY ARE TAKING BOOKINGS. This 65-seat amphitheatre, which is comparatively bright and airy, offers the same full throttled Sri Lankan madness served up at their place in Soho - most importantly the deadly duo of the egg hopper and that bone marrow varuval curry. There are two tasting menus (one of which is entirely vegetarian), which we can recommend, and there are private booths downstairs for big groups. Hit this place on the weekend to take advantage of their discounted menu. Enjoy not queueing.
The guys who for better and worse brought us Busaba, Wagamama, and Hakkasan have a new joint in Chinatown. And it appears that they have now completely lost their minds. But with genius and insanity so closely acquainted, they’ve actually got something pretty good going on with their newest spot, Ichibuns. The restaurant is a super colorful spot set over three wildly different floors, and the menu includes things like king crab ramen, wagyu beef sushi, and a panko-crusted burger, all quite enjoyable. Their drinks are sealed in plastic sippy cups and their smoking negroni looks like a genuine fire hazard thanks to their flavoured smoke machine. In other words, it’s all a bit mad, but also a lot of fun. Come with a not-too-serious group as a way to start out your night in Soho.
Ikoyi is a casual fine dining restaurant in St James’s Market (aka a restaurant village for rich people) specialising in West African cuisine. The food is essentially modern European, with West African sauces, spice mixes, and rubs thrown in. While the flavours are relatively subtle in comparison to the usually heavy duty flavours from this region, they’ve managed to balance it all in a way that really works. Their Iberico Pork Suya is a prime example - pork marinated in African spices, cooked perfectly pink, served with a side of spices and some flower parts for good measure. All the restaurants in the St James market complex do have the same big windowed, modern, stripped back interiors, but Ikoyi’s smaller space gives it a slightly buzzier feel than the others. This is the first time we’ve seen a take on African fine-ish dining in London, and it’s absolutely worth checking out.
Marcella165A Deptford High Street
Marcella is the sister restaurant to Peckham staple Artusi, and they’ve kept the same format of a simple space, a small menu, and great Italian food. We’d suggest getting the artichoke starter, and then leaning on the pasta dishes - our favourites were the squid ink bucatini, and a spaghetti that’s drenched in an excellent sauce of chilli, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. It’s located in Deptford, and is a serious win for the neighbourhood - it may even eclipse the original spot in Peckham.
There isn’t a lot of affordable sushi in central that’s also good, which makes Sushi Atelier a pleasant surprise. This place right off Regent Street does use some strong ingredients like foie gras and (real) truffle oil, that you might be nervous to see on top of raw fish, but they don’t overpower the excellent nigiri. And with the 12-piece omakase being the most expensive dish here at £27 - this place is officially doing the best affordable, high quality sushi in London.
Temper City is everything we like about the original Temper in Soho, but better. It’s an open fire BBQ restaurant, and while the original serves riffs on Mexican food, this new establishment focuses more on curries with parathas. They’re very tasty and come with more pickles and sides than you’ll be able to eat, and you should definitely get some of the starters too (the prawns are good, but the lamb skewers with kimchi are even better). Temper also gets bonus points for one of the best soundtracks in the city. Hit it for dinner with a few friends.
Darjeeling Express is an Indian restaurant in Kingly Court specialising in the food of Calcutta - think a lot of rice, curry, and dishes that focus more on fragrance and aroma than all-out spice. While the decor feels modern, the food tastes like simple, satisfying, home cooking executed very well, which makes sense when you consider that the owner was a home cook before opening the restaurant. It’s a lovely spot for a laid-back lunch, or a lively group dinner in the evening. Be warned that it’s already very popular, so book ahead.
DUM Biryani is a new restaurant in Soho that focuses on South Indian-style biryanis. It’s a basement spot that looks like it was decorated by South Asian hipsters, but staffed entirely by their uncles and aunties - the service reminds us of an old-school curry house, in a good way. The food’s excellent too, and while a single biryani is more food than a human being should eat in one sitting, you really want to make sure that you order all of their starters too. Definitely get the stir-fried king prawns and chicken wings.
Normally, the idea of a visiting a hotel restaurant in Covent Garden would have us curling up into a foetal position and rocking back and forth ever so gently, like when we walked in on our parents when we were 10. But the new Henrietta restaurant inside the eponymous hotel is good. Like really, really good. You’ll find a lot of unusual pairings and everything has wild flowers on it for decoration, but it’s all delicious and unpretentious. And unlike most hotel restaurants, Henrietta also feels very cool - not that surprising, when you consider that the guys who run ECC Chinatown are behind it. Go before everyone else gets in on it.
A few months ago, Highbury wasn’t exactly a place we’d consider travelling to for dinner. We’ve changed our minds completely since then, and Westerns Laundry is a huge part of that turnaround. It’s a wine bar-slash-neighbourhood restaurant housed in an old garage that does natural wines and sharing plates of French and Spanish-style seafood, like langoustines and scallops cooked with a bit of good oil and chili, or cuttlefish croquetas. You may walk past the unmarked entrance four times before realising it, but when you do find Westerns Laundry, you’ll feel properly smug. The atmosphere’s cool while still feeling intimate, and it’s Perfect For a group dinner with a few mates or a casual date.
As Londoners, what our chums in NYC take for granted - namely, massive sandwiches you could use to crack a bank safe open - we struggle to compete with. No more. Monty’s Deli’s first permanent restaurant took forever to open (they used to be a pop-up at Druid Street Market), but we’re glad to say say it was worth the wait. The reuben special is worth the mission to Hoxton, and the chicken noodle soup is like a hug from a mate after you’ve had a bad day. The restaurant looks trendy, but has a vibe that feels true to the East End location.
Like that one hot person at a World of Warcraft tournament, the best thing about Popolo is that it’s full of untapped potential. This little Italian restaurant on a quiet street in Shoreditch is our new favourite place to sit at the bar and eat plates of pasta and seafood, and drink a few glasses of wine. The owner’s mum is Spanish, so you’ll also find things like vegetables with romesco or hake on the menu, along with an excellent risotto. Hit it up for a leisurely lunch, or a when you’re after a light dinner with a friend or two.