My Favourite Restaurants In London

Rubina A Khan reviews the top eight new restaurants in London, UK: “led by some of the world’s most celebrated culinary artists and some fascinating new chefs challenging the old order in Britain that I love.”

If there’s any city in the world that has mastered the art of food coquetry with the relentless zeal of an amorous lover, it’s undeniably London. The city’s endless flirtation with culinary inceptions from across the world has everyone enthralled with its constant quest for epicurean excellence. From Michelin-starred restaurants to pop-ups to secret chef tables to food trucks to old-school British lunchrooms to supper clubs, tasting master classes to chef-driven restaurants; London’s tempting insatiable appetites with culinary artistry across the board.

CUT | 45, PARK LANE

Austrian born-US based celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s first foray on European terrain, CUT, is a contemporary steakhouse, located inside the imperious Thierry Despont designed interiors of the 45, Park Lane, a Dorchester Collection hotel on London’s Money Mile in Mayfair. Wolfgang is a culinary artist extraordinaire and is the only chef to have won the Outstanding Chef of the Year Award twice. Executive Chef, David McIntyre, an integral member of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group since 1998, who has worked at Wolfgang’s most high-profile Los Angeles restaurants including Spago, CUT and WP24 at the Ritz Carlton, moved to South West London from the US to launch CUT with Wolfgang in 2011 and leads the culinary team here.

The restaurant, by day, is ebullient, with the Psalms, a collection of 16 Damian Hirst paintings lending an artistic edge to its walls, but by sundown, it turns into a seductive dining destination, with spangled flecks of light dancing off the ceiling, that add to the allure and mystery of the night ahead. CUT has a world-class selection of steaks, grilled to perfection to your exacting preference – USDA Prime, Black Angus Beef from Kansas, aged 35 years, South Devon Angus from South West England, aged 28 days, Wagyu / Black Angus Beef from Queensland, Australia, and True A5 Japanese 100% Wagyu Omi Beef from Shiga Prefecture, Japan and a tasting of New York Sirloin, which is a fabulous way to try out three distinct cuts. CUT is the only place in London that’s serves Japanese Wagyu and it’s worth every pound for that little medallion of a steak on your plate! The cuts are brought out to your table, to choose from, in a manner most theatrical – prime cuts of raw steak, stacked up high on a massive plate, with the server outlining each cut, helping you make an informed decision on what goes on your plate. This sui generis process, exciting as it is, is quite overwhelming at first, but once the steak’s on your plate, with Tempura Onion Rings, Smoked Paprika Saffron Aioli and the Desiree Potato Puree, nothing else matters!

Hand crafted cocktails like the vodka infused Show Me Love and the vintage Negroni and Old Fashioned add to the heady evening in the fascinating ambience. The Dorset Crab and Lobster Louis Spicy Tomato Horseradish is brilliant as are the Mini Wagyu (Australian) Beef Sliders in brioche Buns with sweet pickles and hand cut French fries with herbs. Breakfast here too is just as marvelous, with my favourite being the Salt Beef Hash Cake, Poached Organic Eggs, Crispy Leeks with sauce béarnaise, reading the Sunday Times, looking up occasionally to watch London go by from the windows overlooking Hyde Park. It is unquestionably, my most preferred restaurant in London. The exceptional service at CUT is perhaps unrivalled yet, but for its legendary counterpart across the street, the old guard of The Dorchester.

PLUM + SPILT MILK | GREAT NORTHERN HOTEL

This is an absolute delight of a restaurant, ensconced inside the historic Great Northern Hotel, right in the heart of King’s Cross St Pancras, that first opened in 1854, as the world’s first railway hotel, designed by Victorian master builder, Lewis Cubitt. Taking its name from the distinctive livery worn by the dining cars the Flying Scotsman first pulled out of King’s Cross, Plum + Spilt Milk offers an elegant, yet relaxed dining experience, with floor-to-ceiling windows and hand-blown glass light bulbs warming up the classy space magnificently. Every dish on the Plum & Spilt Milk menu, under the able culinary direction of Mark Sargeant, an Englishman, formerly head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred restaurant in Claridges’, is spectacular! He has created a menu based on beautiful British ingredients cooked simply, but with a definitive creative bent. The Devilled Lamb Kidneys on toast is incredibly delicious as is the Plum + Spilt Milk pudding! The Fish Pie and Braised Peas is as deliciously British as it gets and the Kentish Strawberry Eton Mess is whipped delight of summer in a bowl. Almost all the drinks here are fascinating – New Etonian – Hayman’s Old Tom Gin stirred with Lillet Blanc, Cointreau Amaretto and Orange Bitters, Suntory Negroni – Yamazaki 12-year-old stirred with Antica Formula and Campari and the Northern Sour – Pink Grapefruit and Lemon Shaken with Hayman’s Gin, Cointreau and Rhubarb Bitters and Egg White.

The restaurant is extremely busy and almost always abuzz with birthday celebrations, romantic dates and jet-setting travellers, given its location. The breakfast menu here is very nutritious and anything but nondescript – it is imaginatively healthy with a nourishing Quinoa Porridge with Soya Milk, Blueberries and Almonds being the best way to start a wonderful day in London as is the Crab and Avocado with tomato and chilli on granary toast. And if you still want your breakfast sugar fix, the delicious Buckwheat Crepes with Strawberries and Agave Syrup and Lemon balm is just the treat for you, with a dash of health. You have to try out P+SM’s amazing food the next time you’re in London.

MIRROR ROOM | ROSEWOOD LONDON

Forget English Breakfasts and Earl Greys and Italian Roasts! Imagine starting your day with Baked Eggs with Asparagus and Truffle on exquisite Limoges china and a flute (or more!) of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut or Belle Époque for breakfast? Yes, breakfast! It is an exceptionally luxurious experience first thing on a rainswept London morning with the lovely Louis as your server. This is just one of the most decadent and delicious dishes from the à la carte menu that the beautifully designed jewel box of a dining salon, the Mirror Room, at the Rosewood London Hotel on High Holborn offers it’s discerning patrons, alongside a vast array of other exquisite delicacies on their breakfast buffet. Whoever said champagne only sets nights on fire has absolutely no idea how it lends its glamorous sparkle to your day, especially on weekends! In moderation of course, and definitely not if you’re driving to work! In any case, who drives to work in London really?

Born in Paris, Jerome Voltat began his culinary career in 1994 at the two Michelin-starred Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford, where he was a Commis Chef and in 2014, Jerome brought his exceptional passion for simplicity, taste and fresh produce to the position of Head Chef at Rosewood London’s Mirror Room, working alongside Bjorn van der Horst, Director of Food & Beverage at the hotel. Dishes like Crabcake, Poached Egg with Smoked Haddock and Hollandaise and the Soft scrambled Eggs, Sea Urchin with Oscietra Caviar tell you how meticulously the menu has been crafted and executed in the kitchens to give you a taste of heaven. A friendly sommelier is always on hand to guide you with wine pairings from a list focused on organic and biodynamic wines from both the Old World and the New. This is the place in London for a decadent breakfast!

HOLBORN DINING ROOM | ROSEWOOD LONDON

A grand brasserie, also inside the historical 1914 Belle Époque building that is the Rosewood Hotel today, the Holborn Dining Room serves up seasonal, locally sourced British cuisine in a lively dining salon. Combining reclaimed oak with antique mirrors, red leather banquettes with tweed detailing, and two patina copper-topped bars, this is where you laugh out loud with friends over relaxed meals or a spot of local lagers and burgers – whatever you’re in the mood for. Drawing on a wealth of culinary experience, Calum Franklin, whose career began working with a Michelin-star restaurant, Chapter One in Kent, is the Head Chef in charge here, whose main focus has been British cuisine for the last eight years. He is passionate about using the best produce the country has to offer and feels that British food needs to be championed so that diners “can be wowed by ingredients as well as cooking.”

The menu, comprises of traditional British dishes made from the finest locally sourced ingredients, and is divided into eight sections: Bar Snacks, Cold Counter, Hot Counter, Grill, English Kitchen, Sides, Sandwiches and Afters. The Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas here is the best I have ever had in London – it is truly exceptional and smacks of the flavours of a local chippie, despite being served up in a ritzy diner. The Dressed Cornish Crab, Shrimp Burger (a first for me!) the Mushroom and Spelt Rissotto, the Crab Hash with Basil Mayonnaise will just wow you with their scrumptious taste, turning you into a glutton du jour! And the Deli Dessert Table is a little sweet heaven in itself with the best selection of cakes, tarts, crumbles and all things British!

TING / GŎNG | SHANGRI-LA AT THE SHARD

Chinoiserie design and a contemporary setting make for the destination restaurant, TĪNG, that serves up modern European fare with Asian influences, on the 35th floor of the newly-opened Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard. Overlooking the Thames and almost all of London’s iconic landmarks like the Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Maritime Greenwich and the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex, TĪNG offers the most sweeping expanse of the city and the best lunch table on a sunny afternoon. The culinary expertise of Executive Chef Emil Minev, a native of Bulgaria, who moved to London in 2002 to study at Cordon Bleu, and subsequently trained with London’s best restaurants whilst his academic pursuits took him the Alain Ducasse Formation Center in Paris and three Michelin-starred restaurant, El Bulli in Barcelona, is visible in the food experience here. The food here is good, especially the Foie Gras – Duck, Cherry, Pomegranate, Grue and the wine pairings are just exceptional! But it is the breathtaking view of London that makes for the magical allure of dining here really.

And if it’s sunset cocktails and celebratory cheers are what you desire, then it’s GŎNG, on level 52, that you need to be at – London’s never looked as spectacular as it does from here. Well, unless you flew over in a chopper earlier, but now all it takes is an elevator ride up to the bar and a cocktail of your choice to take in the London view. The bar derives its name from ‘dougong’ – a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets, used in traditional Chinese architecture that’s featured in the bar. The venue’s modern Asian design was inspired by the mythical aspect of cinnabar – a mineral that has been used historically to create the ‘dragon red’ found in the walls of Chinese Imperial Palaces. The drinks at Gong are just as stellar as the views and the staff is very friendly and ever ready to snap your pictures as Selfies are just tedious here as they cut out the background completely. And even if you do manage a good shot, by the time you get the light and angle right, you’d look a bit looney to the rest of the cool crew. And it might be a tad disrespectful to your waiting drink on the table too. You’ll be flying on those tangy and sour cocktails, but the question that remains unanswered though is, how high will YOU get at London’s highest bar?

APERO | SOUTH KENSINGTON

This quiet little Mediterranean, all-day brasserie in South Kensington is like a flash of Greece in bustling London. With leather snugs, Spanish tiled floors and exposed bricks, this intimate London restaurant and bar is where South Kensington chic meets Mediterranean zest. Chef Chris Golding is all about creating unpretentious food packed with colour and fresh, seasonal ingredients over stuffy gastronomy. His easygoing menus are perfect for a relaxed meal from breakfast to supper. Apero’s bar is a vibrant place to enjoy quirky cocktails like the Tintoretto or L’Oiseau de Feu, that are inspired by the art collection at the Victoria and Albert museum a short walk away.

Apero is perfect for a weekend brunch, over an UnBeetable Burger that comprises of a beetroot burger bun, patty with stracciatella cheese and beet mayonnaise and a Tipi’s Tiger cocktail, named after Tipu Sultan. Turkish style poached eggs with yogurt chilli and avocado, Coconut Porridge with Caramelized Banana, Wild Mushrooms and poached eggs on grilled seaweed bread with hollandaise and the Toffee Banana Bread with Banana Sorbet are my hot favourites here. Apero is the ideal brunch place where you can hold as intimate or raucous a conversation, depending on the happenings of the night before.

HAM YARD AFTERNOON TEA | HAM YARD HOTEL

No trip to London is complete without a languid Afternoon Tea experience, faux British accent et al in the process and the Ham Yard hotel’s Orangery is just the place for it. A weekly changing afternoon tea menu that comprises of tea, cakes and scones (plain or with golden sultanas) with clotted cream and jam, Black Pudding, Bacon Scotch Duck Eggs, mini sandwiches like Avocado on rye and crushed tomatoes, Hamyard rarebit, baby watercress and a flute or two of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Champagne NV Magnum or a classic Veuve Clicquot Rose NV Magnum is just what you need from all the shopping in the city!

The Ham Yard hotel, a Firmdale property, opened in June 2014 and is set on a three-quarter acre site, and is a riot of colours designed by owner, Kit Kemp, in her fun and distinctively modern British style, that gives off a cultivated “urban village” vibe with its lush garden, bang in the midst of bustling Piccadilly Circus and Soho.

BERNERS TAVERN | LONDON EDITION

Located in central London’s Fitzrovia, the glamourous and opulent Berners Tavern is housed in a historical building that dates back to 1909. Using the building’s elegant, landmarked architecture as a backdrop, Ian Schrager, of Studio 54, and his design team, created a visually arresting space now called the London Edition hotel, that is fast gaining an iconic status in design circles. The location, Berners Street, was named after Josius Berners, who purchased land there in 1654. Later it was used to build five conjoining houses in the classical style, which were converted in 1909 into a luxury hotel. During the Edwardian years the Berners Hotel, as it was named, enjoyed a dazzling reputation at the heart of London nightlife, playing host to King Edward VII as well as Carl Fabergé and other luminaries of the age.

Led by Michelin-starred Executive Chef Jason Atherton with a menu entirely sourced in the UK, Berners Tavern opened in the autumn of 2013 and already has a reputation for being the most difficult table to get in London, with a minimum waiting period of 3 months! I think this is mainly to do with an extremely smart publicity machine and not as much as the food. Atherton started out working alongside great chefs including Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Ferran Adria at El Bulli, before joining the Gordon Ramsay Group in 2001 and his flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social opened in April 2011 in Mayfair and was awarded a coveted Michelin star within just six months of opening.

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Berner’s Tavern | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Ironbark Pumpkin Risotto with Truffled Goat Cheese, Cobbnut and Watercress is exquisite as is the Whole Dover Sole with Roasted New Potatoes, Burnt Butter and Capers and the Native Lobster and Prawn Cocktail. The Crème Brulee came highly recommended and it was worth every word of praise from the charming GM, Lionel Lacheze, also a proud member of the UK Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. The Southside cocktail, created by the wizard of cocktails, Robert, is out of this world! The contemporary British food here is great, but definitely not worth the painful wait for over three months to get a reservation! But once inside, you’ll be blown away by the stunning design of Berner’s Tavern, almost akin to sitting inside a Fabergé egg!

This feature was first published in the July-September 2015 issue of Upper Crust magazine.

©Rubina A Khan 2015

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