There ain’t no end to the current slew of London restaurant openings, no respite from wave after wave of big new arrivals. Recent arrivals have seen the Big Dogs of The Wolseley, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, launch their latest grand project The Delaunay, all powerful Grand Master Richard Caring bringing steak restaurant 34 to the Caprice Holdings stable, and Russian oligarch Arkady Novikov opening a behemoth of a restaurant (two in one space) in Flash Harry Mayfair – London has never seen action like it.
I was asked recently to list five of my favourite restaurants of the last year for the Top Table website. On the day they asked, these were the ones floating my boat…
KOYA - www.koya.co.uk - Lip slurping excellence in the heart of Soho. Udon soup like we’ve never seen before in London, with noodles made on site, chefs Junya and Shuko deliver bowl after bowl of Udon joy. The simple Kake is a shimmering, cleansing broth of startling clarity, a smoky dashi to pull you back from the brink – henceforth known as the “Udon Cleanse”. Daily specials board always tempts, and you may find deep fried prawn heads, fried tofu with mustard green sauce, or crispy fried lemon sole. Quietly brilliant, always rammed.
DUCK SOUP – www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk - The latest BYO to hit London, yet here you’re invited to Bring Your Own vinyl for the record player in the corner. Head Chef Julian Biggs keeps things simple, pumping out wonderful Fritto Misto with huge chunks of grey mullet, squid, scallop, and the most devilishly silky and seductive saffron mayonnaise. Lamb cutlets are shockingly simple, in the best possible way – no accoutrements needed. Excellently sourced cheese such as Tête de Moine (monks head) is shaved off in addictive curls, to accompany a shape-shifting wine list driven by the “natural” and “biodynamic” craze sweeping the capital right now. Open throughout the day, this is a great casual option in Soho with a heart.
TSURU SUSHI – www.tsuru-sushi.co.uk - Sushi on the hoof has taken great leaps in the City at this tightly run small group of restaurants, headed by the tireless Emma Reynolds in her quest to bring decent sushi and Katsu curry to London. Breaded cutlet of chicken thigh or pork is a favourite Katsu for us, and chicken Kara-age is perhaps the best fried chicken in town. Oh, the sushi is pristine too. Japanese style scotch egg has been an inspired addition. Decent wines and proper sake and beers complete the excellent team line-up. Tsuru Ramen will launch next year, where we’ll be treated to noodles and a wobbling broth inspired by pig’s trotters.
MANSON – www.mansonrestaurant.co.uk - In a Fulham backwater, chef Alan Stewart is on a mission to shake up the Sloanes and give ‘em Rock Star cooking for a relative pittance. Still fizzing from his time at Michelin bedecked Launceston Place, he has an unnerving and almost fanatical eye for sourcing produce within a stone’s throw, growing much of his produce on his own allotments. Venison Tartare is one of the dishes of the year, served with pickled girolles, celeriac and cobnuts. His vision and focus is almost scary.
THE LAWN BISTRO – www.thelawnbistro.co.uk - Chicken liver and foie gras parfait. Worth trekking to Wimbledon for this dish alone. Sordid texture, like silk and lace, an exercise in decadence. Head Chef and owner Ollie Couillaud shames all the chain restaurants in the area (painfully plentiful in Wimbledon Village) by delivering a bustling, breezy brasserie that is happy for you to come in for Croque Monsieur and Big Chips for lunch, or blow the bloody doors off with a Côte de Boeuf and perfect béarnaise. Braised Ox Cheeks “à la Bourguignonne”, rendered fork tender by eight hours carousing with red wine, transports the soul to Burundy. He’s an impish, cheeky chappy too.
This list appears on the Top Table website:
That Dog in the picture? Just a friendly resident of a restaurant in East London: Half Dog, half Wolf…