What a year it’s been for London restaurant openings. Amid fears that the future of the industry is uncertain, London’s restaurateurs didn’t just hold ground but pushed boundaries. Yes, there have been closures but we’ve also seen exciting fresh talent emerge, and expansions from the best in the business. These, then, are the most interesting restaurant and bar openings of 2017.
10. Claude Bosi at Bibendum
Claude Bosi moved into Bibendum and divided opinion with his experimental high-end cooking. Jay Rayner described the food as ‘clean, focused and viciously expensive’ which is accurate (main dishes start at £24). He also revels in the history of the place in his review in The Guardian and the place certainly does drip with it. The room is fantastic, with lots of light from huge windows and super plush furnishings. Did we love the food? Well, not entirely… a coconut and pea mousse-y concoction actually left us feeling a bit wobbly but there’s no denying this was one of the year’s most significant openings.
Everything you need to know: Claude Bosi at Bibendum
Cub makes this list as a bar/restaurant which pushed boundaries and brought something completely new to the London scene. Ryan Chetiyawardana’s Hoxton opening serves a set menu of both food and drinks, some arriving together, some separately, the idea being that lines are blurred between bar and kitchen.
There’s also a focus on minimal waste, so you’ll be munching on leftover whey and chervil tops alongside your martini. It’s now so hip it’s hard to get a table but be warned, the portions are small – The Times’ Marina O’Loughlin found herself scoffing a salt beef sandwich after dinner.
Everything you need to know: Cub
Ikoyi is a first for London: a truly modern West African restaurant. We’re so used to seeing these flavours represented by high street takeaways and while we enjoy a comforting portion of jollof rice or suya, it’s interesting to see something new from cooks who understand the cuisines of this part of the world. Traditional dishes like cow’s foot soup are repackaged into neat little high-end flavour bombs which bear no resemblance to the original gelatinous stew but still give a sense of the flavour profile. It should be packed out, said Giles Coren in The Times (paywall), but weirdly, isn’t. We urge you all to go.
Everything you need to know: Ikoyi
7. Westerns Laundry
So much praise has been heaped upon this new seafood spot in Islington thanks to its menu of smart seafood sharing plates. The decision to go all-natural with the wine list is an increasingly popular one that doesn’t impress Jay Rayner in The Guardian, who notes how irritatingly expensive they are. We have to say that, given their often, ahem, ‘challenging’ nature, we have to agree with him. Still, the food is excellent (baked cuttlefish pasta followed by malt ice cream with honeycomb, anyone?) and if you like wine that has a tendency to taste a bit like licking a goat, you’re going to love this restaurant.
Everything you need to know: Westerns Laundry
6. Bombay Bustle
Bombay Bustle serves food inspired by the tiffin carriers of Mumbai, and it’s stunning. We seriously spend a lot of time thinking about the keema pao, a pot of intensely spiced, rich minced lamb served with little bread rolls for filling or dipping, and the naan bread topped with truffled scrambled egg is genius – we’d demand it every day for breakfast if we could. It’s smart, it’s expensive but it’s worth every penny and we’re thrilled to add it to the list of high-end Indian restaurants that have opened up in recent years.
Everything you need to know: Bombay Bustle
5. Rochelle Canteen at The ICA
We’ve long loved the original Rochelle Canteen and were thrilled when a second branch opened in October at The Institute of Contemporary Arts. Margot Henderson’s kitchen does classic British flavours in a hearty yet elegant style; we thoroughly recommend delving into the menu with no fear – everything is brilliant – but their suet-crusted pies, in particular, are a joy (so much so they made our list of London’s best pies).
Everything you need to know: Rochelle Canteen at The ICA
So many great seafood restaurants opened up in London this year and Parsons, although a latecomer, has been one of the most popular. It comes from the guys behind The 10 Cases wine bar, just over the road, and as you’d expect, it has a strong focus on vinous treats. There is a daily-changing selection of fish and shellfish to choose from, but it’s the brown crab pissaladiere and brown shrimp croquettes we’ve seen all over Instagram. It’s cosy yet modern and is exactly the kind of casual dining we want to see more of in London in 2018.
Everything you need to know: Parsons
Opening right at the beginning of the year, Kricket moved from a shipping container in Pop Brixton to a glossy, permanent space in Soho, and boy did they do a great job of it. The restaurant itself is stunning, with beautiful tiles and pastel pink seats and it’s a joy to settle in there when it’s buzzing – as it always is.
They brought some of their classic dishes from the Brixton menu, like the Keralan fried chicken topped with glistening curry leaves and butter garlic crab, and the kitchen has only gone from strength to strength. It’s worth spending some serious time exploring this menu of intense, sophisticated small plates, emerging on the other side a better person for doing so.
Everything you need to know: Kricket
Taiwanese restaurant Xu (from the team behind Bao) caused ripples through the London scene when it opened up, with some saying they took a while to get up to speed. Whatever happened, they’re now running at full throttle with a weeded out menu packed with stunning dishes.
The shou pa chicken is our favourite dish – incredibly flavourful chicken (the quality of the bird is evident) served in cleanly cut pieces and a rich sauce of its fat. It’s topped with an intense sprinkle of ginger, spring onion and crispy chicken skin and is both rich and clean in flavour. A stunning dish that made Marina O’Loughlin (and us) ‘swoon’.
Everything you need to know: Xu
1. Smoking Goat Shoreditch
The second branch of Thai restaurant Smoking Goat opened up in October and was an instant smash, packed to the rafters every day with raucous bunches of people having the time of their lives. The reason Smoking Goat makes number one on our list, then, is because of its full throttle, no holds barred approach to the business of having a good time. This is, after all, what eating out is all about.
This second site has a focus on ‘Thai drinking food’ and yes, it’s all the kind of thing you want to shovel in your face after a few pints but it’s also very clever and really quite serious cooking. The smoked brisket drunken noodles will be in your dreams forever once tasted and the barbecue Tamworth (pork) skewers are a must-order. Oh, and don’t even consider skipping the lardo fried rice – it will coat your lips, warm your heart and basically make you level up as a person. Is this the most groundbreaking new restaurant of 2017? No, but it’s definitely the most fun.
Everything you need to know: Smoking Goat Shoreditch