Four of London’s best new restaurants show Britain’s food scene continues to soar
Recent openings from star chefs Jack Cashmore, Anne-Sophie Pic, Nobu Matsuhisa and Jason Atherton highlight how London is arguably now the world’s most exciting and varied eating destination
The last two decades have seen London’s restaurant and dining landscape evolve in unimaginable ways. In the mid-1990s it was uninspiring at best, save for a handful of storied, expensive spots serving Michelin-starred cuisine and a few well-loved local favourites. Internationally, the words “British cuisine” largely brought old jokes about spotted dick and fish and chips.
Fast-forward to 2017 and London is arguably the world’s most exciting eating destination. This reflects the growth of the city as well as its wealth, diversity and willingness to embrace flavours and ideas from around the world. The challenge for diners has become which of the mind-boggling selection of restaurants to visit, covering every conceivable cuisine and price point.
Here are four recent openings that will all be fine additions to your ever-growing list of top London eateries, all reflecting the main factors that have driven the city’s culinary success.
We start on between Holborn and the City of London, just steps from Hatton Garden’s diamond shops and the calm appeal of St Etheldreda’s, Britain’s oldest Roman Catholic church (a true hidden gem). As the name suggests, Anglo celebrates all things British, in ways that have won rave reviews and led to a three-month waiting list for weekend dinners.
Mark Jarvis is Anglo’s founder and chef patron, while Jack Cashmore is head chef. They explain that despite Anglo having a reputation as one of London’s most lauded restaurants, they don’t feel any particular pressure.
“I think we thrive on it, we are doing what we love and know best,” Cashmore says. “We’re always learning and trying new things and like to keep things moving, being fresh, exciting and innovative. It comes naturally, but we keep pushing onwards and upwards.”
Their youthful optimism and positivity shines through in their food. The space, meanwhile, is tiny, a handful of closely spaced tables. There are no linen tablecloths, no aspirations to “fine dining”, just relaxed, unpretentious service from people loving what they do. It is also incredibly good value, with a dinner of seven exceptional courses for £45 (HK$450), not including drinks.
My meal started with three amuse-bouches consisting of a sensational mushroom and cep custard, a tiny tartlet of burnt leeks, and a Cornish cod tartare. Next, Isle of Wight tomatoes and seaweed celebrated the finest of seasonal British produce – utterly simple, utterly delicious. Then there was cheese and onion on malt loaf – an unusual but decadent combination, especially for any British person of a certain age who remembers sticky slices of malt loaf slathered in butter as a child.
The main course of new-season lamb with violet artichoke and anchovy was sensational. Lamb and anchovy are old friends, but the artichoke bought a whole new layer of flavour and texture. Strawberries with elderflower and clotted cream proved the perfect summer finale.
La Dame de Pic
Anne-Sophie Pic is one of France’s foremost chefs and her three-Michelin-star Maison Pic in Valence is rightly famous. It is no surprise that she finally bought her considerable talent to the British capital, setting up in the beautiful new Four Seasons Trinity Square hotel overlooking the Tower of London. Her restaurant, La Dame de Pic, is classically elegant, in common with the rest of the property.
At dinner, her signature dishes translated beautifully across the Channel. A starter of berlingots (£22) – pasta parcels filled with lightly-smoked pélardon goat’s cheese – included seasonal mushrooms under an unusual but delicious tonka bean and Cambodian pepper sauce. A beautifully cooked skate wing (£32) made further nods to Asia in the form of a consommé of cinnamon leaves and kaffir lime.
The most memorable dish by far was her signature mille-feuille (£14). If you think you know the classic French desert of layered puff pastry and crème pâtissière, think again. Pic forms it into a square rather than the usual rectangle and covers the entire exterior with Tahitian vanilla cream. It is served with a jasmine jelly and more of that Cambodian pepper, this time in a delicately scented, slightly spiced foam. Sensational.
Nobu Restaurant & Bar
The world’s most famous Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, is another foreign name plying his trade in London. He is hardly a newcomer to the city, though – he opened his first restaurant in 1997 in what today is the Como Metropolitan London hotel. It is somewhat fitting then that his latest venture is located in his first hotel in the city – Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, one of the trendiest areas in London.
No prizes for guessing the signature dishes on offer. Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, yuzu and coriander (£21) was a lovely plate, although the finish on the fish would fall below Japanese sushi standards. Black cod miso (a whopping £42) is one of the most copied dishes of all time with good reason – it is still perfect after all these years. But the king crab tempura with amazu ponzu (£21) disappointed with a cloying batter, as opposed to a light crispness. The service, however, was excellent, as was the design of this dramatic, high-ceilinged basement.
We finish with another British chef, one who has done as much as anyone to change the image of London’s dining scene. Jason Atherton cut his teeth with Marco Pierre White, Ferran Adrià and Gordon Ramsay before setting up his first solo restaurant, Pollen Street Social in Mayfair, in 2011. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, bringing a culinary Midas touch to everywhere he goes.
Atherton is well known in Hong Kong for establishments including 22 Ships and Aberdeen Street Social, but London is still his base, where he now has nine restaurants. The most recent addition is Hai Cenato, located in the swish new Nova development that has helped spruce up the environs of Victoria Station.
The menu is Italian with nods to the US, while upstairs sits a cocktail bar called The Drunken Oyster. If you’re a chef spotter, then you’ll love the large selection of caricatures of some of the world’s most famous names – including Jöel Robuchon, Anthony Bourdain, Joan Roca and Ferran Adrià – appropriately looking down from above.
The lunch à la carte menu included an excellent chargrilled octopus on lentils with cured bacon and a vibrant chilli salsa verde (£13). Too often a marathon of chewing, here the octopus had been kissed by the grill but still retained the requisite bite.
Then an impeccable bowl of corzetti pasta (£14) with aged beef bolognese, tomato, crispy sage and shavings of berkswell cheese brought a British flourish to finish a fine meal.
Anglo, 30 St Cross Street, Farringdon, EC1N 8UH. Tel: +44 (0) 207 430 1503
La Dame de Pic, Four Seasons Hotel London at Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ. Tel: +44 (0) 297 3799
Nobu Restaurant & Bar, Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, 10-50 Willow Street, EC2A 4BH. Tel: +44 (0) 207 683 6722
Hai Cenato, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, Victoria, SW1E 5DJ. Tel: +44 (0) 203 816 9320