At least according to the legion of Christmas aisles popping up across the nation’s retail spaces, the year is coming to a close -- so it’s clearly about time we put together a list of the 11 most important restaurants that 2014 has bequeathed to the capital...
When the man behind Dabbous (want a reservation in the next six months? Hahaha!) decides to open a second spot, people pay attention. And when that second spot has a no bookings policy, meaning that anyone willing to, ugh, drink cocktails (like the tea/whiskey/beer-soaked Barnyard Iced Tea) while they wait can get in, people get nigh on aroused. And it’s justified, too; they’ve taken junk food, and elevated it to loftily high status -- hot dogs, BBQ, fried chicken, cornbread -- it’s all here, and it’s delicious.
The folks at Barrafina have been justly crowned with their first Michelin star, and have just opened their second branch to celebrate. Given that they’re one of the best value one-star meals in the city, their Soho spot gets rammed fast (a one hour wait is par for the course), so this sophomore has been extremely welcome. The menu, and overall standards are the same, and the space is equally gorgeous, so... get here fast.
It’s almost surprising to hear the Chiltern Firehouse has only been open since spring, given how fast it’s become the end-of-level boss of restaurant bookings. In fact, it’s so difficult to get into unless you’re a B-list-or-above celebrity, that people have published guides as to how to do it. Why, pray tell, is it so brutally popular? Because it’s run by Nuno Mendes, an up-and-coming superstar chef who has now truly up and come. His vaunted, award-winning, and often experimental food is surprisingly toned down here, running from wood-aged ribeye to chargrilled Iberico pork to lobster scrambled eggs.
First came Bourne & Hollingsworth, a semi-hidden bar in Fitzrovia. Then came the Reverend J.W. Simpson, which took their cocktail game up a few notches. And now, The B&H buildings are here to complete the jump into food, with an ambitiously huge resto space. Opening in early September, it's comprised of five separate areas, all bringing the retro vibes, and sports a grand piano and a plant-filled conservatory. Food is staunchly British, with the likes of lamb canon and rabbit terrine to be washed down with their always-spectacular cocktails.
Okay, so London amazingly already has a couple of Hawaiian restaurants. What make POND so special is the fact that it’s taking the cuisine really, really seriously. The food is almost fine dining, and the menu sees the likes of short-rib beef w/ a habanero chili glaze, or a ceviche-like arrangement called a Poke 'Ahi w/ big-eye tuna, grapefruit, and sesame. Of course, in Hawaii, SPAM is also considered to be fine dining, so you can get that here, too.
So far, Verden seems yet to pick up a less-than-great review, and for good reason. The focus is strictly on wine, charcuterie, and cheese, all three of which it does scarily well. Get soppressata from Calabria, lardo from Tuscany, and smoked pig checks from Monmouthshire. Get a selection of cheeses that would make the boys at Neal’s Yard blush. Then drown it in a bottle from the 100+ wine list.
When Dirty Bones opened at the very beginning of the year, it looked for all intents and purposes, like it was trying to be Bubbledogs, an East London spot incongruously slapped in the West. Several months, and several hot dogs later, it's proven that it's anything but -- and it’s all thanks to the little touches. The head chef is actually an alum of The Fat Duck. Pickles come in a jar that opens with a puff of smoke. The martini has olive oil-washed gin. And the hot dogs themselves include a Burger Dog, made with aged bavette & beef fat mince.
Sure, burger places have been springing up by the dozen in this town recently -- so what makes BOBO special? Well, they’re taking an “experimental” approach to the beef pucks. And so far, the experiment has been a roaring success. You can score a bun filled with alligator, kangaroo, venison, or ostrich, or if you’re feeling vanilla, then you can always get something from its high-end “regular menu”, boasting lobster & crab, peanut butter-topped beef, or Wagyu & truffle numbers.
So, Polpetto closed down a couple of years ago. It was sorely missed. And when it came back, everyone was like “never leave again”. Now, it has a much, much larger space to play with, and a spectacular menu, too -- treat your tongue to huge, bone-in bacon chops, beef shin strozzapreti (it’s a kind of pasta), and creamy burrata w/ samphire & chilli. They’ll be the best examples of Venetian food you’ve had outside of Italy itself.
Japanese food that isn’t sushi is becoming more and more of a thing in London now, and one of its finest exemplars has been Kurobuta. Originally sprung out of a Chelsea pop-up, the place is run by Scott Hallsworth -- an Aussie chef who worked his way up to become head chef at Nobu, before branching out on his lonesome -- and he’s putting out hard-to-find regional Japanese numbers like hijiki (a sea vegetable), robata grilled Tea Smoked Lamb, and Crispy Skin Duck Confit.
When Nuno Mendes left Viajante to open Chiltern Firehouse, the Town Hall Hotel had a huge space, and some big boots to fill. Thankfully, they’re knocked this one out of the park, by busing in no less than Jason Atherton, who’s installed protégé Lee Westcott as head man -- his food is damn amazing, and if you’re lucky enough to score a table, you can expect the likes of smoked roe deer, yeasted cauliflower, eel w/ mushroom dumplings, and bass w/ octopus, which, trust us, are actually delicious.
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1. Barnyard18 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London
2. Barrafina10 Adelaide St, London
3. Chiltern Firehouse1 Chiltern St, London
4. Bourne & Hollingsworth28 Rathbone Pl, London
5. POND Dalston3 Gillett St, London
6. Verden181 Clarence Rd, London
7. Dirty Bones20 Kensington Church St, London
8. BOBO Social95 Charlotte St, London
9. Polpetto11 Berwick St, London
10. Kurobuta17-20 Kendal St, London
11. Typing RoomTown Hall Hotel, Patriot Sq, London
Barnyard is a small, quaint, and comfortable Fitzorvia resto serving a range of traditional dishes with untraditional flavors, such as Roast Suckling Pig w/ celeriac & caraway, and Bubble & Squeak w/ black pudding, apple chutney & a fried egg.
The second joint in the Barrafina family, this one is a little bigger than the first and is perfect if you're craving amazing small plates of Spanish fare.
Located in a building that was originally a firehouse (obviously), CF is a modern American restaurant/hotel from André Balazs that does an upscale menu of USA fare with a classy uptick, like crab-stuffed donuts, short rib with hazelnut purée, and more.
Located in Clerkenwell, B&H was one of the most anticipated openings of 2014 and it certainly lives up to the hype with its pleasant ambiance and brasserie-style fare.
While the thought of Hawaiian cuisine might turn your face in a giant question mark, just think Bulgogie steak poke with lemongrass, caramalized red onion and pear; and Salmon poke in char avocado with Hokkigai scallop, wakame glass noodle in samphire garlic flakes, and macadamia salted coconut crème. POND is all that and much more.
All hail the holy trinity of wine, cheese, and meat. Opened in a former public house in Hackney, this 60-seater is set to wine and dine you on unusual wines, a solid brunch, and even some local and international craft beers.
It might not have the most appetizing name, but that doesn't matter once you step inside their two-dining-room resto and order up some signature hot dogs or chicken, ribs, or steak.
This Fitzrovia resto is taking experimental burgers to another level. With a special, ridiculously hot charcoal oven searing meat instantly at 300°C, and some pretty drool-inducing specials like a Lobster & Crab burger, a Peanut Butter burger, and the Wagyu burger with Ogleshield cheese, confit shitaki mushrooms, bacon mayo, truffle & onion compote, and shaved truffles.
Located in Soho, Polpetto doles out tasty Italian fare while boasting 60 seats, an aperitivo bar, and a chef’s table, all of which make it one of the premier destinations in that neighborhood. Polpo's has carved out an identity for itself as something more than just Polpo's younger sister. The intimacy of its physical space translates to an attentive wait staff, and even somehow heightens the flavors of their hearty menu offerings. Meat lovers rejoice over grilled sliced flank steak w/ white truffle cream, spicy pork & fennel polpette, and wine-marinaded pigeon saltimbocca.
This Marble Arch Japanese resto features a whole host of tasty favorites from apps/snacks (like its highly touted Sweet Potato and Soba-Ko Fries), to BBQ (like the Miso Grilled Baby Chicken with Spicy Lemon Garlic Sauce), and more.