Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants in London Right Now

Published On 10/06/2017 Published On 10/06/2017
COURTESY OF SOM SAA
Elena Heatherwick

Padella

Borough

From the same folks as Highbury’s Trullo, this place is just a temple to pasta. Their rolled, stretched, and cut dough makes you wonder why you don’t eat it every day -- especially since they’re always made fresh day-of. Their small menu consist of five antipasti, six pastas, and two puddings -- but there’s enough flavour here to make you want to order the lot.

Courtesy of Som Saa

Som Saa

Whitechapel

It’s been quite a journey for the team behind the newest Thai spot out east. After a six month pilgrimage to Bangkok to learn the tricks of the trade at esteemed restaurant Bo.Lan, chef Andy Oliver started out with a single grill behind Bar Story, before setting up a residency at Climpson's Arch and successfully crowdfunding £700,000 to open up his own shop on Commercial Street. With traditional dishes showcasing cuisines from all across the country, plus cocktails and snacks, Som Saa still keeps the rustic feel that makes their food shine so well.

Sosharu

Sosharu

Clerkenwell

Jason Atherton headed to Asia for his latest home turf spot with a classic izakaya-style restaurant just around the corner from Farringdon station. The main dining room is all high ceilings and simple details, along with its micro "restaurant within a restaurant" (a 10-seat counter with its own menu of more authentic dishes and a sake sommelier). Hidden downstairs is the neon-lit drinking den 7 Tales with incredibly more-ish cocktails and eat-em-by-the-handful bar snacks.

Barrafina

Barrafina

Soho

There’s something exhilarating about sitting elbow to elbow around an open kitchen as future diners gather behind and eye your plates with envy. After eight years of Instagram brags, two new venues, and one Michelin star, Barrafina is still as good as ever, pulling in queues even before it opens. Keep up the good work, guys, and we’ll be in the queue along with everyone else.

John Carey

Dishoom

Covent Garden

As every new site opens up, London holds it’s breath and wonders how long the dream that is Dishoom can last. And yet, with the recent opening of their fourth location, it would appear there is no slowing them down. Which is a great thing, trust us. Consistent, mind-blowing food with some of the nicest staff you’ll find anywhere and a vibe that is pretty close to perfect. Of course Dishoom don’t take bookings, but go early, get a drink, and wait it out.

Carol Sachs

The Barbary

Covent Garden

From the same cats as the insta-hit Palomar, this micro restaurant is a feat of human and culinary tetris; it’s a wonder how they’ve managed to fit all that food and 24 seats around a horseshoe-shaped bar. Hopeful diners queue up (a la Barafina) to nibble on snacks and watch, until the lucky early arrivals roll off into the night with full stomachs. The food, headed up by Eyal Jagermann -- who was the previous senior sous at Palomar -- is inspired primarily by North African and Israeli cuisines, and features big flavours. Try the Chicken Msachen, which is marinated in yoghurt and spices for 24 hours before meeting a grill.

Blandford Comptoir

Blandford Comptoir

Marylebone

It’s starting to feel like Xavier Rousset can do no wrong, with Michelin-starred Texture and a mini-empire of wine-centric 28-50’s knocking about town. With his latest project, Rousset once again focuses on wine, with a 300-bottle strong list sitting alongside an elegantly composed Italian menu of plates, available in small and large sizes to suit your mode. This place is understated and classic, with a bright energy that begs to spend some serious time.

Courtesy of Petit Pois

Petit Pois

Shoreditch

Fans of cocktail bar Happiness Forgets will be pleased to know they now do food... well, kind of. Taking over the cafe space they’ve been operating underneath for several years, Alastair Burgess and his merry band of movers and shakers now brings you Petit Pois, a charming French bistro. With every detail thought of and presented in a totally chilled out, unassuming kind of way, it comes as no surprise that the menu is filled with expertly-executed dishes that are classic, clean, and oh-so-tasty, like the moules marinières, steak frites, and an insanely good chocolate mousse that is served from one massive bowl.

Courtesy of Hoppers

Hoppers

Covent Garden

From the same ridiculously finger-on-the-pulse trio who opened Trishna and Gymkhana (and who are investors in Bubbledogs, Lyle's, and Bao), comes yet another delicious venture. Centered around the eponymous hoppers, which are those pancake-like, rice-based bread bowls that are foundational in Sri Lankan cuisine, this place is relaxed and tasty as hell. And you can get a drink of the rare Indonesian spirit, arrack, too. Wins all around.

KILN

Kiln

Soho

The Smoking Goat has been gathering crowds since it opened, and this sequel looks like it’s following the tradition. The Thai grill here uses a lot of British ingredients, keeping the menu short, snappy, and regularly changing, featuring dishes like ox heart laap with turmeric leaf, Laos-style laap of fish with fried lemongrass, and long pepper & tamworth tenderloin curry with holy basil. Inspired by a recent trip to Thailand, this isn’t quite an uber traditional spot, but the small Londonizations taste great... so you won’t hear us complaining.

Courtesy of Blanchette East

Blanchette East

Shoreditch

The merry band of brothers is back with the second outpost of their successful Soho venture and a couple of updates: keeping the French feel, they’ve added in a bit of a North African influence by throwing in loads of distinct spices and techniques, and they also crossed the classic look of the Parisian Belle Epoque era with the urban vibes of Brick Lane. Their small-plates menu is filled with bold flavors like lamb tagine with apricot, almonds, and lebna; roquefort salad with lentils; pumpkin and leek, and monkfish with smoked aubergine purée and chermoula courgette.

Keiko Oikawa

Clipstone Restaurant

Fitzrovia

White washed walls, bare wooden chairs, and sublime food: This little sister to the much-lauded Portland didn’t fall too far from the tree. The aptly named chef Merlin Labron-Johnson is once again overseeing the whole operation, while one of the Portland sous chefs is taking over the day-to-day here. The food is on point, with many small plates coming at at you whenever the kitchen damn well pleases, covering your table with house-cured, fermented, love-infused dishes like silky soft lardo, rabbit & pork rillettes, or calf brain lobe on toast. They aren’t shy about using unusual flavours here, but it all tastes perfect.

Thomas Schauer

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Victoria

The inventor of that ultimate Frankenpastry, the Cronut®, has brought his inventive bakery over the pond. Incurring queues and much skepticism, Londoners have found that the Cronut® really is that good, and besides, Ansel makes plenty of other delicious treats worth forgetting your diet for. The bakery is tiny -- they mainly function for takeaways -- but they also have a great secret garden where you can much your Banoffee Paella, salted honey tart, or Welsh rarebit croissant in peace.

Foley's

Foley's

Fitzrovia

Fans of The Palomar will feel instantly at home in this light-filled ground floor dining room from Chef Mitz Vora. Until recently, Vora was the sous chef over there, so there are certainly a few elements that will very familiar, but trust us, this is its own beautiful, tasty beast. The menu is short and sweet and changed regularly, but all the dishes are original and creative, bursting with flavours -- for instance, the ceviche endive taco, which used the endive leaves as the taco shell and sprinkled with a coconut miso leche.

Michael Franke

Ember

The City

Opened on the same street where the Great London Fire first caught, this gorgeous subterranean space is all about subdued glamour, with dark red leather, rich purple velvet, and copper accents shining throughout. Chef Jonathan Villar is the guy behind the menu, having put together a collection of pan-Asian small plates, giving you the perfect excuse to try plenty of dishes, like the Vietnamese goat curry, braised octopus, and their wagyu beef & foie gras burger. Drinks were set up by the talent of Josh Powell, who was last over at 69 & Boston, and who has put together a drinks list filled with original concoctions like the Ember cocktail with lychee-infused Bols Genever, black cardamom cocoa aperitivo, and sweet vermouth.

Courtesy of Elystan Street

Elystan Street

Chelsea

After leaving the two Michelin-starred institution, The Square, everyone waited with baited breath for what Phil Howard would do. Taking over the former Tom Aikens spot in Chelsea, Howard has partnered once again with Rebecca Mascarenhas, and opened a modern British restaurant, wanting to explore how food and the dining climate has changed in the quarter century since he started playing with knives. The result is stunning food, filled with graceful flavours, and elegant plating, served in a pared back space, giving you plenty of room to bask in the glory of a chef who still can kill it, every time.

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1. Padella 6 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TQ

From the team behind Trullo, this chic pasta bar rolls, stretches, and cuts house-made dough daily for its exceptional Parmesan-sprinkled noodle dishes. The owners aren't the only things Padella has in common with Trullo -- the menu here features the same signature eight-hour beef shin ragu over pappardelle that fans have come to adore. Don't stop at the ragu though: taste the fettucine with chicken liver and wild mushrooms, and tagliarini (a skinnier tagliatelle) with Dorset crab, too. For dessert? A rich and crumbly chocolate tart.

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2. Som Saa 43A Commercial St, London, E1 6BD

Situated inside a former fabric warehouse, this industrial-chic Thai restaurant made quite a name for itself while in residence at a Hackney cafe, so it didn't come as a shock when its permanent Spitalfields outpost was immediately packed to the gills with guests clamoring for fragrant and fiery plates inspired by the northeastern provinces of Thailand. Speaking of gills, the deep-fried whole sea bass with roasted rice powder and Isaan herbs is just one example of how the menu at Som Saa goes far beyond your typical pad Thai. If you can't handle the sea bass' crispy eyes staring back at you, there are other, less lifelike options that will also shock your tastebuds, such as Kua-style red curry with pork neck and five-spice soy-braised beef cheek with a chili vinegar sauce.

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3. Sosharu 64 Turnmill St, London, EC1M 5RR

This sleek, traditional izakaya style restaurant, also has a micro "restaurant within a restaurant" (a 10-seat counter which has its own menu of authentic dishes and a sake sommelier). In the basement, you'll find a funky bar, 7 Tales, a neon-lit, hip-hop-soundtracked space with cocktails by master booze shaker Geoff Robinson.

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4. Barrafina 54 Frith St, London, W1D 4SL

There’s something exhilarating about sitting elbow to elbow around an open kitchen as future diners gather behind and eye your plates with envy. Barrafina pulls in lines even before it opens. The cozy diner-style tapas bar is full of all your Spanish cuisine favorites and sherry cocktails.

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5. Dishoom 12 Upper St Martins Ln, , London, WC2H 9EF

This Covent Garden spot is touted as London's first "Bombay Cafe,” a '60s Asian staple resurrected here across two floors with the traditional bentwood chairs, marble countertops, low-hung lights, and slowly turning ceiling fans. Dishoom really tick all the boxes: breakfast (bacon naan!), lunch, dinner, cocktails, snacks, Bombay-inspired decor that oozes cool without being overly kitsch, attentive staff, reasonable prices -- it's all that and big enough to never feel overly packed.

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6. The Barbary 16 Neal's Yard, London,

From the team behind Palomar, The Barbary is a micro-restaurant whose dining area revolves around a 24-seat, horseshoe-shaped bar. Waiting for a seat is a given here, but luckily waiters are often on hand with snacks to tide you over until those who smartly arrived early finish their dinner. The food is headed up by Eyal Jagermann (who previously worked at Palomar), and is inspired primarily by North African and Israeli cuisines. Expect intensely flavored dishes like Chicken Msachen, which is marinated in yogurt and spices for 24 before meeting the grill. Though meat and seafood cooked on the coal-fired robata grill are the main event here, don't overlook the bread, be it the four-ingredient tandoor naan or the Jerusalem Bagel with za'atar and sesame seed.

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7. Blandford Comptoir 1 Blandford St, London, W1U 3DA

Blandford Comptoir, the brainchild of Xavier Rousset, impresses both with its Mediterranean small and large plates and its impressive 250-wine beverage program. Selections on the menu range from raw options, like sweet and sticky Sicilian red prawns, vegetables, like the courgette flower with goats curd, and meats, like a delicate quail with truffle boudin and pine nuts. Blandford’s real heroes are its servers, who feverishly yet gracefully climb the restaurant’s impossibly steep staircase like acrobats to shepherd diners’ plates; the 40-seat space is so diminutive that there’s no room for a dumbwaiter. But gymnastics aside, Blandford Comptoir is relaxed and informal, a perfect date spot in the heart of Marylebone.

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8. Petit Pois 9 Hoxton Sq, London, N1 6NU

Alastair Burgess and his merry band of movers and shakers from the excellent cocktail joint Happiness Forgets brings you Petit Pois, a charming French bistro. With every detail thought of and presented in a totally chilled out, unassuming kind of way, it comes as no surprise that the menu is filled with expertly-executed dishes that are classic, clean, and oh-so-tasty, like the moules marinières, steak frites, and an insanely good chocolate mousse that is served from one massive bowl.

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9. Hoppers 49 Frith St, London, W1D 4SG

Inspired by the flavors of Sri Lanka and southern India, Hoppers's eponymous signature dish of fried, fermented rice and coconut milk is the dream vehicle for serving up tangy, tasty eats. Also on deck-- roti, curry, and for dessert, "love cake" with rice kulfi. And you can get a drink of the rare Indonesian spirit, arrack, too.

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10. Kiln 58 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9TL

Kiln is a regional Thai restaurant that very rarely incorporates coconut milk into its dishes, choosing instead Thai-style vegetable, chicken, beef, and fish barbecue dishes. At Kiln, produce leads the plates; locally sourced ingredients, like Cornish beef, allow dishes to shine in their stripped-back simplicity. The pork loin is succulent and ember-charred, arriving with a sweet and salty sauce, while the wild ginger and short-rib curry is so tender you can skip the knife. Kiln’s showpiece is the actual kiln inside, a small, insulated furnace that feeds on oak and chestnut logs, converting them to embers that eventually heat the restaurant’s grills and woks. Bear witness to the pyrotechnics by getting a seat at the back, with a full view of the kitchen.

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11. Blanchette East 204 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SA

Blanchette East is a modern take on French cuisine, combining Southern French and North African flavors in a small plates menu designed for sharing lunch or dinner. Crispy frog’s legs, cheese beignets, and croque monsiers are complemented by lamb tagine with apricots, almonds, and rose harissa. Blanchette East pushes the dessert envelope with adventurous dishes like peach and saffron soup, or basil sorbet with fresh mango. Mirroring the eclectic flavors on the menu are the nu-disco, funk soul classics, and new wave tunes that resound through the belle époque-style space, with pink marble countertop stationed in front of bentwood chairs and a painting of a nude woman dominating the bar area.

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12. Clipstone Restaurant 5 Clipstone Street, London,

Reviewing the menu at this less-formal corner spot from the team behind neighborhood darling Portland, you're not sure what you're in for: the ingredients, such as baked carrot, creme fraiche, and radishes, all sound average -- but then the plated reality reveals tediously garnished, colorful courses. The elegant dishes change with the seasons, but you can expect goodies like Isle of Mull scallops with lentils, brown butter, and dill. Be sure to save room for some buttermilk pudding, too. The space itself is minimalistic, sporting simple dark wood tables that let the artistic plates do all the persuading.

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13. Dominique Ansel Bakery 17-21 Elizabeth St, Victoria, SW1W 9RP

Dominique Ansel Bakery’s outpost across the pond bakes up both new and classic Ansel confections and savory treats. London-only creations take inspiration from traditional UK foods, like Welsh Rarebit croissants, which come stuffed with Guinness Worcestershire cheddar béchamel, fontina cheese, and whole-grained mustard, while banoffee pie gets transformed into banoffee paella with caramelized bananas. And, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Ansel staples like cronuts, frozen s’mores, and chocolate chip cookie shots, in their sweet and heavenly glory, are all available to satisfy your guilty pleasures. Plop down in one of the turquoise and maize banquettes, and simply indulge.

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14. Foley's 23 Foley Street, London, W1W

Small plates are the name of the game at this two-story, rustic-chic restaurant in Fitzrovia, where Chef Mitz Vora (formerly of The Palomar) is crafting a short and sweet menu that changes regularly and features flavors from the Middle East to Asia. Two stars among his roster of inventive dishes are the ceviche endive taco, which uses endive leaves as the taco shell and comes sprinkled with a coconut miso leche, and aubergine served with pomegranate, dates, chili lime yogurt, puffed quinoa, and feta. Nab a seat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen to watch the magic happen.

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15. Ember 1A Pudding Lane, London, EC3R 8AB

Situated on the street where the Great London Fire started (hence the name), Ember is a glamorous subterranean space, where red leather, purple velvet, and copper accents act as a gorgeous backdrop for the equally stunning pan-Asian small plates. Sample several of them, like the Vietnamese goat curry, braised octopus, and Wagyu beef & foie gras burger. Josh Powell (previously of 69 & Boston) set up the cocktail menu, which is brimming with creative concoctions like the namesake Ember, mixed with lychee-infused Bols Genever, black cardamom cocoa aperitivo, and sweet vermouth.

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16. Elystan Street 43 Elystan St, London, SW3 3NT

The unbeatable duo of Chef Phil Howard (formerly of two Michelin-starred The Square) and restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas is behind Elystan Street, a bright and sophisticated space in Chelsea where Howard is whipping up contemporary European dishes, some of which include calf sweetbread, roast grouse, and cured halibut. You can sip on classic cocktails like a French 75 or a Negroni alongside your elegantly plated meal.