As with the city's hotel scene, 2011 has been a great year for new London restaurants. So from small plates in the East End to big flavours in the West End, here are five of our favourite newcomers to the capital’s dining scene...
Pollen Street Social – Mayfair
Pollen Street Social has been lauded from almost all quarters as one of this year’s best new places to eat in London. And, with former Ramsay protégée Jason Atherton pulling the strings in the kitchen and knocking up fabulous mini-masterpieces of Fowey oysters and cauliflower and squid, it isn’t hard to see why. Plus there’s the location – perfect for post-Mayfair/Regent Street/Liberty shopping trips. It’s not perfect, and it is quite pricey. But it’s also very, very good indeed.
The Riding House Cafe – Fitzrovia
It’s not the food that sees the Riding House Cafe make the cut (although anywhere that does guinea fowl breast and beetroot carpaccio like it does is going to be worthy of a mention in dispatches). Rather it’s the combination of cool, quirky decor (stuffed squirrel, anyone?) a casual neighbourhood vibe and a location – in the West End but tucked away from prying tourist eyes – that makes it perfect for either dropping in laden down with shopping bags for a quick cocktail and a bite in the afternoon, or to kick-start an evening out.
José – Bermondsey
South of the river, there are more small plates on offer – but this time it’s of the original Spanish tapas variety. José Pizarro’s been doing great things at Brindisa for years, and now with the opening of his new – and teeny, tiny – tapas bar in Bermondsey he’s taken it up a notch or two. The best tapas restaurant in London? It’s hard to think of anywhere else that’d pip it to the post. Even more excitingly, José is set to open up his larger flagship restaurant any day now. So watch this space, in other words...
Hawksmoor – Covent Garden
Small plates have obviously been all the rage this year, and Hawksmoor is the only one of our pick of the best new London restaurants that doesn’t trade in tasty tapas-style titbits. The food is much more muscular – think great slavering chunks of steak and a kimchi burger (a concoction of beef with cheese and Korean cabbage pickle in a brioche bun) that was the dish du jour for some time. It’s also very different in style and atmosphere: moody and masculine, it’s more hedge fund than hipster. But with steak like it serves, it’s practically impossible not to be won over.
Brawn – Shoreditch
Brawn is the other of our pick of new places to eat in London that actually opened back in the fag-end of 2010 rather than this year. But such fans are we of this East End eatery that we just couldn’t leave it out. Why? The decor, a combination of bare floorboards, exposed brickwork and found furniture, is cool but comfy, the rustic French fare is fabulous and the E2 postcode is nicely geared up for a night out in Shoreditch. All of which makes it – still – one of the best casual dining experiences in the city.
Haven’t found quite what you were after from our pick of best new London restaurants? See all our restaurant reviews.