London's 11 Best Restaurants of 2016
London restaurants are opening in record numbers - about 200 a year - and are getting better: Standards are rising faster than prices while service is keeping pace with the food.
It's only creativity that can get lost. Barbecue restaurants are popping up all over the place as karaoke restaurateurs sing the same tune.
There are some fine new restaurants. Here are my top 11:
This tiny establishment off a street market in Farringdon, is one of the standout U.K. restaurants of 2017. Chef Mark Jarvis and his team create seasonal dishes that are beautifully executed and presented. This is modern-British cooking at its best, and the prices are surprisingly low. The seven-course tasting menu is £45 ($55). The only catch? Getting a table.
30 Cross Street, EC1N 8UH. Tel. +44-20-7630-1503; http://anglorestaurant.com/.
This is the new Japanese brasserie from the team behind the Tonkotsu ramen joints. Based in the new St James's Market development, Anzu is a step up in terms of food, decor and price. The king crab & pork gyoza are outstanding at £6 for three pieces and £9.50 for five.
1 Norris Street, SW1Y 4RJ. Tel. +44-20-7930-8414; http://www.anzulondon.com/.
This Covent Garden newcomer (from the owners of Palomar) is inspired by the Barbary Coast of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Meat and vegetables are cooked over coals and bread baked in clay ovens, all served with exotic spices and dips. Naan e Barbari flatbread (£3.50) with zhug, harissa, burnt & pickled chili packs a lot of punch. You dine at a U-shaped counter, where there isn't a bad seat. No bookings. Get ready to queue. 16 Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP. No phone; http://thebarbary.co.uk/.
Restaurant imports from France are about as popular as the European Union. Diners long ago voted for a gastronomic Brexit. Chef Greg Marchand's Covent Garden establishment is the exception: Londoners quickly embraced his modern French cooking, with light dishes using mainly British ingredients, and friendly service. Lunch is £26 for two courses, £29 for three; the four-course tasting menu is £55. Good luck getting a table.
16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH. Tel. +44-20-7836-4422; http://www.frenchiecoventgarden.com/.
Adam Handling is an award-winning Scottish chef whose dishes combine British ingredients with Asian flavors and a flamboyant presentation that is Spanish in its exuberance. His Shoreditch restaurant, just off Brick Lane, looks very street, with its graffiti and hip staffers. But on the plate, nothing is random: The cooking is precise and rooted in classical training, the flavor combinations exciting. Lunch is £35 for three courses.
2 Ely's Yard, Old Truman Brewery, E1 6QR. Tel. +44-20-3813-9832; http://www.thefrogrestaurant.com/.
This busy Marylebone restaurant reflects the travels and mixed heritage of Ravinder Bhogal, the daughter of an Indian family, born in Nairobi and raised in the U.K. (Jikoni is Swahili word for kitchen.) Bhogal has made a successful transition from TV chef to restaurateur, serving the kind of food she likes to share with friends and family at home. The menu is eclectic, featuring dishes such as prawn toast Scotch egg; and Arabian nights poussin.
19-21 Blandford Street, W1U 3DH. Tel. +44-20-7034-1988; http://jikonilondon.com/.
This Thai grill in Soho takes no reservations at the counter, where you watch the chefs cooking regional dishes over open flames. It is so good, I am quite happy to line up outside for options such as the clay-pot baked glass noodles, with Tamworth belly and brown crab meat. It features a 30-year-old Shaoxing rice wine and is one of my favorite dishes in London, with deep, complex, peppery flavors.
58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL. No phone; http://www.kilnsoho.com/
This casual Italian restaurant near Borough market focuses on inexpensive pasta dishes whose flavor outshines that of posher rivals. Tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley is a steal at £5.50. The top price is for taglierini with Dorset crab, chili and lemon, at £12. Antipasti options range from £2 to £5.50. The value is astonishing but it's the quality of the cooking that may keep you coming back.
6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ. No phone; http://padella.co/.
You sit at bare wood tables in a dark room heated by the flames of the barbecue and scented by the aroma of roasting meat. It all feels a bit too on-trend but the service in this new Shoreditch restaurant is friendly and the food is outstanding. The brisket bun with pickled red chili is a good place to start, but everything is good, from the snacks through to the desserts. This is a serious restaurant disguised in beards and sneakers.
11 Sclater Street, E1 6HZ. Tel. +44-20-3873-1733; https://smokestak.co.uk/.
Just when you thought chef Jason Atherton might be running out of steam, he comes up with this innovative Japanese restaurant in Clerkenwell. Atherton is opening restaurants at a dizzying pace, from New York to Cebu in the Philippines, but the ideas keep coming. Romanian chef Alex Craciun is in charge at izakaya-style Sosharu, which serves beautiful sushi and tempura dishes, along with fine seafood and meat from the grill.
64 Turnmill Street, EC1M 5RR. Tel. +44-20-3805-2304; http://sosharulondon.com/.
This Mayfair restaurant from Madrid chef David Muñoz is so new and unusual, I hesitate to include it. The vibe is of a nightclub, and if the wacky decor, lights and music don't disorient you, the "liquid cuisine" cocktails might. Anyone for Yellow Curry? Or how about a main dish of Korean lasagne XO style with gochujang hot 'n sour sauce? It won't be for everyone, but much thought has gone into everything on the menu, and everything tastes great.
15 Old Burlington Street, W1S 2JR. Tel. +44-20-3096-7555; http://www.streetxo.com/.
And a few others to look out for:
Bao Fitzrovia: This Fitzrovia cafe serving Taiwanese steamed buns is every bit as good as the Soho original, which always attracts long queues. The food is first class and inexpensive. 31 Windmill Street, W1T 2JN. +44-20-3011-1632; https://baolondon.com/.
Chick n Sours: This Haggerston cafe has now also opened in Seven Dials, bringing some of the finest chicken into Covent Garden. The food, the room and the bar are all great. 1A Earlham Street, WC2H 9LL. +44-20-3198; http://www.chicknsours.co.uk/seven-dials/.
Clipstone: This modern British restaurant in Fitrovia is the baby sister of the much-loved Portland. It's relaxed and inexpensive. serving seasonal dishes with great ingredients. 5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB. +44-20-7637-0871 http://clipstonerestaurant.co.uk/.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: Cronut king Dominique Ansell arrives in London with beautiful pastries, many created specially. The coffee is pretty good, too. 17-21 Elizabeth Street, SW1W 9RP. +44-20-7324-7705; http://dominiqueansellondon.com/,
Eneko at One Aldwych: This Basque restaurant flies under the radar and is worth finding. Eneko Atxa holds three Michelin stars at Azurmendi in Spain and is a master of inventive cooking. One Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ. +44-20-7300-0300; http://www.eneko.london/.
Jamavar: This posh Mayfair restaurant serves first-class Indian food in a beautiful dining room. It's owned by the Leela luxury hotel group and is very comfortable. 8 Mount Street, W1K 3NF. +44-20-7499; http://www.jamavarrestaurants.com/.
El Pastór: This Mexican restaurant is so new, it's early to judge. But it's the latest project of the Hart brothers, who own Barrafina and Quo Vadis, and is already as hot as a habanero. 7A Stoney Street, SE1 9AA. No phone; https://www.tacoselpastor.co.uk/
Pharmacy 2: Chef Mark Hix partners with the artist Damien Hirst at this restaurant in an art gallery in Vauxhall, south London: Comfort food served in a pharmaceutically themed dining room. Newport Street, SE11 6AJ. +44-20-3141-9333 http://pharmacyrestaurant.com/.
Talli Joe: This casual Soho restaurant serves small plates of Indian food along with cocktails. It could be gimmicky, but chef Sameer Taneja is classically trained and can really cook. 152-156 Shaftesbury Ave, EC2H 8HL. +44-20-7836-5400; http://www.tallijoe.com/.
Veneta: This smart restaurant in St. James's Market is inspired by Venetian cuisine, with small and large plates. It is the latest venue of the Salt Yard Group, owner of Opera Tavern. 3 Norris Street, SW1Y 4RJ. +44-20-3874-9100; http://www.saltyardgroup.co.uk/veneta/.
Article by Richard vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg.