Barrafina – 54 Frith Street (SoHo) – The Covent Garden branch of this Spanish tapas-paradise, fantastic food but with a no-reservations policy that makes queuing almost inevitable. Barrafina’s menu is studded with Mallorcan and Catalan tapas dishes. Some examples of what I experienced: Ortiguillas are a type of sea anemone eaten around the Balearic Islands. Here they’re served in a paper cone, a crunchy seaside snack with soft centres, like fried oysters. Escalavida con pan de coca combines a firm Mallorcan bread base (like a flatter, chewy ciabatta) with a topping of chargrilled aubergine, peppers, onion and garlic, the smoke from the grill permeating the vegetables. The grill is still a core part of the Barrafina formula, loved the little pork kebabs which were tender, moist, and delicious.
Ceviche – 17 Frith Street (SoHo) – Peruvian restaurant, specializing in, you guessed it – ceviche. I really like ceviche, and I really liked Ceviche where do a good job of stressing the variety of which the dish is capable. All feature tiger’s milk, the marinading emulsion of lime, chilli and salt that is the star ingredient in the Peruvian way of ceviche. My favorite was the Don Ceviche, small chunks of sea bass with ají amarillo chilli in the milk and ají limo chilli on the fish. There’s lots to be sampled after the ceviche, especially the grills (loved the octopus). Other dishes included a duck confit with lots of coriander and rice cooked in beer with corn. Wok-cooked strips of beef came with a soy-oriented, showing the Chinese influence in Peru.
Koffmann’s – The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge – Informal dining for serious foodies! A seasonally inspired menu of French brasserie favourites and Pierre Koffmann’s legendary signature dishes are all great value and delivered with a surprisingly light touch. Pierre Koffman, formerly from three Michelin starred La Gavroche, and established his own three Michelin starred London restaurant, La Tante Claire in Hospital Road. When he retired in 2010 Koffman chose to open this French style brasserie inside the Berkley Hotel, which plays host to the Koffman’s culinary heritage.
New Restaurants to Try
Clipstone – 5 Clipstone St, Fitzrovia – very casual place from the team behind Portland (on Great Portland Street). The exec chef is Merlin Labron-Johnson, who started out in Belgium, assisted by Stuart Andrew, formerly a sous chef at Portland. And they both do everything very well. Menu has a assortment of small plates, from the short list of cold cuts and crudos comes a plate of lardo, served at room temperature so that all is softness and silk.
Piquet – 92-94 Newman Street (44-20-3826-4500) piquet-restaurant.co.uk – new restaurant with Anglo-French cuisine, where Chef Allen Pickett produces the best out of British produce with a classic French Techniques (previously from 2 of the top French restaurants in London, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and Orrery) . In a duplex orth of Soho, the cozy bar offers a wonderful menu of small plates, while downstairs, in a wood-pannelled dining room, his cooking really shines. Beautifully sourced and cooked food at reasonable prices, one of Britian’s best.
Kilm – Brewer Street – counter dining with smoky Thai dishes cooked on a open flame or over charcoal in ceramic pots. Also have wonderful French and German natural wines.
Social Wine & Tapas – 39 James (Marylebone) – Chef Jason Atherton opened this trendy, bi-level restaurant with an urban look in the main tapas bar, and cellar bar. A menu of contemporary small plates with seasonally changing cheeses & charcuterie, and extensive wine list.
Nopi – 21-22 Warwick Street (ottolenghi.co.uk) – Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s sleek space has communal dining downstaris with views of his kitchen, with more formal restaurant on the ground floor. Mediterranean, Middle East and Asian flavors are bold throughout his cooking.
Sea Containers at Mondrian London – Upper floor (morgonshotelgroup.com) – NY chef Seamus Mullen’s (Tertulia) farm to table menu at this waterfront restaurant near the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre. Wile there stop into the Dandelyan, the Mondrian’s lovely bar, for great cocktails.
Gordon Ramsay’s New Spots
Casual New York-inspired steakhouse. On the menu: rare-breed steaks, fish, poultry as well as a selection of sushi and sashimi served at a raw bar.
11 Park Walk, SW10 OAJ; 020 7255 9299Heddon Street Kitchen
Follow-up to his popular city restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen, with a similar Europe-meets-Brooklyn vibe. Slick designed space and extensive menus including everything from fried rock oysters to bang bang chicken, spicy tuna tartare, lobster rolls and Cuban sandwiches, with on-site ice cream parlour.
3–9 Heddon St., W1B 4BE; 020 7592 1212
Marcus Wareing’s – Tredwell’s – Covent Garden huge restaurant, split over three floors, is a more affordable and informal way for fans to enjoy his food without forking out to eat at his fine-dining Berkeley Hotel restaurant. The British cuisine with an international twist include dishes like lamb belly with tomato and aubergine curry, charred bread and chorizo jam and smoked chicken croquettes.
4a Upper St. Martin’s Ln., WC2H 9NY; 020 3764 0840
Alain Ducasse – Rivea – Riviera-inspired casual dining spot similar to his existing one in St. Tropez — is more affordable and laid-back than his Dorchester Hotel restaurant. The menu here focuses on small plates and lots of vegetables.
Alan Yau – The Duck & Rice – Two-storey Chinese gastropub in Soho combining Asian food with a traditional Victorian pub setting. The ground floor is all about beer and bar snacks, with dim sum delights like venison puffs, five spice fried chicken and jasmine-tea-smoked babyback pork ribs. Upstairs is more of a proper restaurant serving curries, duck and noodle dishes.
90 Berwick St., W1F OQB; 020 3327 7888
What’s Hot Right Now Per Zagat
The Duck and Rice
Why It’s Hot: Londoners have been waiting patiently for Alan Yau’s Chinese gastropub in Soho, this split-level Asian/British-inspired boozer offers dim sum on the ground floor and a full menu of Chinese food upstairs.
Must-Order: The house duck — a roasted Cantonese duck
Insider Tip: Have a go on the Duck Box — connect to their WiFi and pick a track to play while you eat.
Taberna do Mercado
Why It’s Hot: Chef Nuno Mendes (Chiltern Firehouse, Viajante, The Loft Project) has returned to his Portuguese roots with an all-day restaurant in Old Spitalfields Market. If you’re looking for the glitz and glamour of Chiltern Firehouse, you won’t find it here — this is a casual, low-key spot that feels like it should be in the Portuguese countryside.
Must-Order: Prawn Rissoles — spicy prawn parcels.
Insider Tip: Go at lunch when you can make a reservation. Dinner always draws a queue. 107b Commercial St., E1 6BG
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Why It’s Hot: The new Chelsea offshoot of The Ivy is one of the hottest new restaurants in town with all the glamour, and some of the trademark dishes, of the original venue. As the name suggests, there is an extensive and wonderfully leafy outdoor garden — filled with plenty of ivy, of course.
Must-Order: Seafood spaghetti — this feast of prawns, clams, mussels, squid, chile, tomato and garlic will transport straight to the seaside.
Insider Tip: This is one of the hardest reservations to get in town. Go at off-peak hours if you want to get a table. 197 King’s Rd., SW3 5EQ; 020 3301 0300
Why It’s Hot: Down a dark alleyway in Shepherd Market you’ll find trendy Modern British fare with Spanish influences being prepared by Young British Foodie winner Tomas Parry. It’s a cosy space that feels straight out of a Dickens novel.
Must-Order: English salt cold croquettes with aïoli followed by lamb cutlets cooked on the wood grill.
Insider Tip: named after an 18th-century courtesan. (This corner of Mayfair has always been associated with upmarket call girls.) 10 Shepherd Mkt
Why It’s Hot: Skye Gyngell (ex Petersham Nurseries) brings her signature ingredients-led cooking to a beautiful new space.
Must-Order: Cod’s roe with crème fraîche and bruschetta, followed by ravioli with ricotta and chard stuffing.
Insider Tip: The restaurant is located in a wing of Somerset House that hasn’t been open to the public for 150 years. Somerset House, Lancaster Pl.,
Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill
Why It’s Hot: On the 37th floor of the new ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, this high-rise seafood bar and grill has the most spectacular views across London.
Must-Order: Fenchurch lobster cocktail; Dover sole with brown shrimps and beurre noisettes.
Insider Tip: There are two other restaurants in the building — Darwin Brasserie on the 26th floor and Sky Pod bar serving lunchtime snacks on the 35th floor.
Why It’s Hot: An informal take on a European-style brasserie in Spitalfields (from some of the team behind Village East and Riding House Cafe) serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails.
Must-Order: White onion soup with cauliflower cheese rarebit followed by sirloin with Cafe de Paris butter.
65a Brushfield St.; 020 7101 0093
Why It’s Hot: This is no ordinary pizzeria. The first London restaurant from the popular Russian chain is set over two floors in a light-filled basement in Mayfair. Wood-fired pizzas are served with extravagant toppings and made in a central oven.
Must-Order: Posh pizza toppings like Gorgonzola and pear, or a seafood selection of squid, prawns, mussels and clams.
Insider Tip: Take the kids for Sunday lunch and the pizzaolos will take them off your hands and show them how to make mini margherita pizzas. 19 Berkeley St.,
My Two Favorite Food Markets
Borough Market – 8 Southwark Street – Under the London bridge is the oldest market, dating back to the thirteenth century, and the most popular for gourmet food. Shop, or eat, your way through this mega market while sipping your sparkling wine or pint of beer. If food is your thing, then Borough, with its abundance of beautifully displayed organic fruit and veg, cakes, bread, artisan cheese, olive oil, fish, meat and booze, is the place to go.Our favourite stalls include Northfield Farm for rare-breed meat, Furness for fish and game, Elsey & Bent for fruit and veg, and Flour Power City Bakery for organic loaves. Leave home hungry to sample the delicious snacks and be prepared for lengthy queues for the famous barbecued-meat rolls from the Brindisa stand.
Broadway Market – For east London’s food-lovers, there’s no better Saturday destination than Broadway Market. Quaint cafés, pubs and indie music shops line the street, but the real star here is the market. Broadway Market is as much about seeking out quality food as it is about just letting your hair down and soaking up the vibe – with a freshly grilled burger (from Northfield Farm) in one hand and a chilled Vietnamese coffee (from Ca Phe VN) in the other. Stalls range from the classic (sweet seasonal cupcakes from Violet) to the exotic (The Arabica Food & Spice Company do a mouthwatering range of mèze, as well as Damascene falafel wraps). Spices, cheeses, breads, rare-breed meat, luscious cakes and olives are all present – it’s hard to imagine the need to go anywhere else for your weekly food shop or a great lunch.