Phew! The first half of 2017 has flown by in a flurry of incredible new restaurant concepts, amazing pop-ups hitting the permanent big-time, more outlandish fads than you can throw an Instagram filter at and a fair few foodie controversies (we’re looking at you, mince-gate).
As the London restaurant industry prepares to ramp up into overdrive for the final quarter of the year, we thought it the perfect moment to take stock and compile our list of the best restaurants to launch in London so far this year, and the awesome new concepts still to come. Check out the list below, share your thoughts on social (missed anyone, disagree?), and start plotting your autumnal foodie adventures. Beginning with securing those coveted tickets to Taste of London at Tobacco Dock from 16 – 19 November.
“Really great simple but refined food, accompanied by an excellent wine list of less typical finds – and they open late at night”
“It’s lovely people serving delicious food and great wine really late. And it’s near my house!”
Nothing about The Laughing Heart is showy. Located on a quiet strip of Hackney Road, it opened with no fanfare, no critic-baiting gimmicks (if we don’t include the natural wines), no celebrity chefs and no clutch of zeitgeisty words peppering its menu. Yet it very quickly won our hearts with its winning combination of buzzy atmosphere, thoughtful flourishes and simply delicious food.
The Laughing Heart is foremost a wine bar, and with a dozen-page list, centre-piece cooler and basement bottle shop, it fills its brief with aplomb. Yet it’s the food that will keep you coming back, and often. The concise menu changes almost weekly (useful for those repeat visits), but you can bet there will be a rich, deep, deceptively simple pasta dish you’ll be dreaming about for weeks to come, accompanied by a barnstorming selection of modern European small plates. Avoid the house sourdough & brown crab butter at your own peril: it takes the trend for whipped butters to a whole new level. We considered smuggling out reserves for future us.
Another truly awesome feature of The Laughing Heart are its opening times: it doesn’t close until 2am on weekends, with the kitchen staying open until 1am. So next time you’re a few drinks down in Shoreditch, bypass the kebab shops and make a beeline for The Laughing Heart; it’ll be the highlight of your night.
Where to find it: 227 Hackney Road, E2 8NA
“Good Mexican food is few and far between in London. It’s so great to see some tasty takes on the cuisine”
When the Hart brothers of Barrafina fame announce they’re going to launch a taco joint, and everyone knows they cut their teeth heading up restaurants in Mexico city, all of London takes note. For the first time this latest opening takes them south of the river, to London Bridge and a stone’s throw from Borough Market. Lucky London Bridge.
Occupying a renovated railway arch and with miss-matched tables spilling out onto rowdy Stoney Street, the vibe is very much chilled-out cantina. The accompanying menu is a homage to street food classics, with tacos and quesadillas dominating the line-up. Of the tacos, the pastor de pascado, with succulent strips of stone bass piled high with sweet caramelised onions, is a delight, but the sharing short rib is the crowning glory. A great hulk of melt-in-your-mouth beef that slips off the bone, accompanied by all manner of delicious, punchy sides, including an inspired pineapple salsa. This is DIY food at its finest.
If desserts are your thing (heck, even if they aren’t), the ‘bounty’ is everything you think it’s going to be but better: sweet coconut cubes doused in dark chocolate and accompanied by lime flecked sour cream. Wash it all down with a margarita, or three.
Where to find it: 6-7a Stoney Street, SE1 9AA
“Love Thai, and love cooking with fire: love Kiln”
Kiln is the second outpost from Ben Chapman, who’s original Smoking Goat was met with rapturous applause. This time, he’s moved across the other side of Soho and built himself a kiln. From its embers march a parade of incredible Thai barbecue dishes, sourced from the finest British ingredients.
All eyes are on the kitchen at kiln, physically and metaphorically, as a singular metal bar wraps itself around the open kitchen for guests to perch atop. At the back is the fabled kiln, affording nearby diners a sneak peak of the deliciousness to emerge. Chapman has spent years traveling Thailand researching his dishes and you can tell, they might not be Thai classics but the quality and integrity of their spicing is unparalleled. The ginger and short rib Burmese curry enters dish-of-the-year territory, awash with punchy flavours and succulent, tender meat. Other big hitters include the smoked sausage with turmeric and the face-meltingly powerful jungle curry with turbot and snake bean. And the best bit? Not a single dish (apart from the sharing option) comes in above a tenner, so there’s always room to try another.
Where to find it: 58 Brewer Street, Soho, W1F 9TL
“It is always very brave as a French person to make your mark in London and they deserve to be in London long term”
Anne-Sophie Pic (the Dame), comes from a restaurant dynasty. Her grandfather’s restaurant in Valance won 3 Michelin stars all the way back in 1934, and continued to hold this mantle when her father took over the stove. After his shock early death in 1992 and subsequent loss of the third star, Anne-Sophie threw herself into the kitchen and ultimately regained the final star. Since then, her second outpost Restaurant Anne-Sophie Pic, has picked up its own 2 Michelin stars, and she has set her sights on London domination.
Housed in the incredibly grand Four Seasons Hotel and overlooking the Tower of London, with vaulted ceilings, a dramatic bar and art deco flourishes. If you hadn’t already guessed from the parade of stars before her, this is a spectacular, hushed-gasps-of-wonder sort of venue. For a chef with such classic roots, you’d be forgiven for expecting to find steadfastly traditional cookery across the menu, and whilst dishes are definitely steeping in heritage, risks are regularly taken. Particular highlights include the Challans Chicken, marinated in sake and dressed with the unusual accompaniment of hispi cabbage and razor clams, and the perfect rebuttal to anyone who claims exciting cookery cannot be done with the humble chicken.
There has been a lot of fuss across the internet about her all-white millefeuille, and the stunning simplicity of its construction on arrival lives up to the hype. A crack through its marshmallow-like exterior reveals layers of jasmine jelly, pastry and a sublime Tahitian vanilla cream. We’re confident that come the next round of Michelin star dolling, La Dame De Pic will be appropriately festooned. Get in there quick to claim you crowned it first.
Where to find it: Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4AJ
Hoppers caused quite the stir when it flung open its doors back in 2015, introducing the ‘hopper’ to London’s ever-expanding repertoire of incredible dishes. Hailing from Sri Lanka, the dish in question is a bowl-shaped pancake made with fermented rice and coconut milk. It is also unrelentingly outstanding. And now us lucky Londoners get to feast on another – larger! – Hoppers, soon to be launching in Marylebone. It’ll feature lots more delicious Sri Lankan fare, a daily changing rice and kari plate, plus an all-new cocktail list. Book us in quick.
When does it open: September 2017
Where to find it: 77Wigmore Street, W1U 1QE
Duddell’s crushed it as part of Daily Special line-up at Taste of London this summer. The first venture beyond their 2 Michelin-starred original in Hong Kong, it set the tone perfectly for their hotly anticipated opening in a renovated London Bridge church. Expect the same incredible Cantonese cooking, handcrafted dim sum and craft cocktails with an oriental twist.
When does it open: Autumn
Where to find it: 6 St Thomas Street, Southwark, SE1 9RY
The main man himself is finally laying down roots in the capital, at the historic Jumeriah Carlton Hotel in Knightsbridge. Set to be one of the hottest openings of the year, all the details are being kept meticulously under wraps for now, including the final launch date. Suffice to say, like everything Tom turns his hands to, it will be impressive, delicious, and a guaranteed hit.
When does it open: Late 2017
Where to find it: Jumeriah Carlton Hotel, 1 Cadogan Place, Belgravia, SW1 9 PY
For nearly a decade, Nieves Barragan Mohacho headed up the kitchens of Barrafina as group Executive Chef, and oversaw the Soho original gain its first Michelin star. She’s finally decided to go her own way, and enlisted Barrafina’s former General Manager to help her do it. The new restaurant, Sabor, will draw influences from across Spain, from the Basque Country to Catalunya, with a focus on fresh seafood. Expect dishes packed with vivacity and flair, and lashings of accompanying sherry.
When does it open: Autumn 2017
Where to find it: 35 Heddon Street, W1B 4BR