London’s restaurateurs, still reeling from the aftershocks of lockdown, are facing fresh challenges due to social distancing, curfews and the looming spectre of future quarantine restrictions. The survival signs are encouraging, however, if the number of new openings is an indicator. Five notable venues debut in the city this autumn, all promising creative fare, slick surroundings and an escape from the humdrum of home. Here is our selection.
Housed in an imposing four-storey building reworked with a contemporary interior, the ground floor of this Japanese-slash-Nordic food, drink and retail hub hosts Café Kitsuné – the first permanent UK outpost from Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaëc, the duo behind the French-Japanese record label and fashion brand. Go for the Japanese patisserie – as much an art form as a sweet treat. The café is overlooked by Sachi – a 30-seat culinary pop-up with a menu co-curated by Nancy Singleton, author of Phaidon’s Japan: The Cookbook – which offers a taste of what is to come at Pantechnicon’s new Sachi restaurant and bar when it opens on the lower ground floor in spring 2021.
Up on the second floor, Nordic cuisine takes centre stage at Eldr, a laidback 70-seat restaurant helmed by Finnish chef Joni Ketonen. The seasonal fare here is based on traditional cooking methods such as foraging and pickling. Above Eldr is a 130-seat garden roof terrace (covered by a retractable glass roof, so it can be used year-round) where the cuisine – and cocktails – can be enjoyed amid greenery designed by Finnish garden designer, Taina Suonio.
Sakaya, a bar and boutique bottle shop expected to open in the Halkin Arcade in the same building in late October, will complement the offering – promising a new go-to for hand-crafted Japanese spirits and wines including sake selected by sake-samurai Natsuki Kikuya.
19 Motcomb Street, London SW1 (pantechnicon.com)
Behind, London Fields
Chef Andy Beynon opens his first solo restaurant in the east London enclave on 22 October, bringing Michelin-star creativity to its eclectic culinary scene. The rising star – formerly Jason Atherton’s development chef – has created a “behind-the-scenes experience” at the restaurant (hence the venue’s name, Behind), where guests are seated together at a large chef’s table skirting the kitchen, offering them a ringside view of the action and a chance to talk to the team. The eight-course tasting menu focuses on fish: from Cornish blue lobster, English muffin and yuzu to Secret Smokehouse chowder and Copper Maran yolk. “For me, the service is as much a part of the meal as the food itself,” Beynon says, “which is why the entire menu will be served by us, the chefs.”
20 Sidworth Street, London, E8 (behindrestaurant.co.uk)
Nobu Restaurant at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square, Marylebone
A new dining destination for fans of chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s signature dishes (and yes, that does include his ever-popular black-cod miso and yellowtail sashimi), the city’s newest hotel opens on 9 November with a Nobu Restaurant (relocating the former Berkeley Street venue to a new Marylebone home), bar and a year-round outdoor terrace. The contemporary, light-filled space – warmed by textural veneers and panelling that are a design nod to Japanese arts and crafts – hosts 192 diners, including an eight-seater sushi counter and a semi-private dining room. Try the Omakase multi-course menu for a taste of Matsuhisa magic.
22 Portman Square, London W1 (london-portman.nobuhotels.com/dining)
Noble Rot, Soho
Taking over the Greek Street spot that was once home to the much-missed Hungarian eatery the Gay Hussar, this is the second restaurant from Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, the duo behind Noble Rot magazine and Keeling Andrew & Co wine importers. The pair have (thankfully) been careful to preserve the period details of the historic building but with some eye-catching twists – notably two triptychs in the first-floor dining room by cartoonist Martin Rowson.
Head chef Alex Jackson (formerly owner/head chef of East London’s Sardine) has opened the venue with a menu that pays homage to its Hungarian past with a daily goulash and introduces Sardine favourites such as Robert Carrier’s pâté aux herbes and a whole roast chicken with morels and vin jaune. The wine list includes the Rotters’ “house” Vinho Verde “Chin Chin”, starting at £3 per glass and rare selections from producers such as Ulysse Collin and Jean-Marc Roulot.
2 Greek Street, London W1 (noblerot.co.uk)
Pali Hill, Fitzrovia
The city’s Indian culinary scene hots up with the debut of Pali Hill, which opens in the heart of Fitzrovia on 12 October. Expect a menu of regional sharing plates from chef Avinash Shashidhara (formerly of The River Café), including papdi chaat with spiced yoghurt, roasted pumpkin, fine sev, mint and tamarind chutney; Chettinad-style veal shin with black pepper, fennel and chilli; and mackerel marinated in homemade mango pickle, mustard and lemon zest with a charred corn salad.
79-81 Mortimer St, London W1 (palihill.co.uk)
Libations at London Cocktail Week
London’s annual city-wide celebration returns this year for the entire month of October, extending the duration of the event in an effort to reinvigorate London’s cocktail industry after lockdown. Expect the usual mix of masterclasses and immersive experiences – with social distancing considered. The £15 festival wristband is a savvy investment as it’s valid for the entire month and provides access to the festival’s programme of “cocktail tours”. londoncocktailweek.com
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