INSIDERS Restaurant

CLOTH

44 Cloth Fair, London EC1A 7JQ

Set in a Grade II-listed building (and nestled next to some of the oldest residential buildings in London), Cloth is all about seasonal food and an approachable list of excellent, affordable wines. The wine bar and restaurant is the result of a collaboration between two wine importers, Joe Haynes and Ben Butterworth, and a chef, Tom Hurst (whose impressive CV includes Brawn, The Marksman, Levan, Salon, Larry’s and, most recently, Lasdun). Expect seasonal dishes that celebrate the best of British produce, as well as a great value set menu on offer at lunch, priced at £25 for two courses and £29 for three. As for the wine, half of the list comprises bottles from Joe and Ben’s own import and supply businesses – including grower champagnes, new-wave Bordeaux and German wines. The other half is made up of wines from suppliers who champion small, independent, and sustainable producers (such as Emile Wines, The Winery, Fingal Rock, Carte Blanche, Winemakers Club and Raeburn). Plus, there are always by-the-glass options and £5 corkage on Mondays. Cheers to that.

ROE

5 Park Drive, London

Roe is the latest opening from Will Murray, Jack Croft and James Robson, the trio behind Fallow and FOWL. It’s located out in Canary Wharf, close to where Hawksmoor is, at the bottom of a tall circular residential tower. It’s a huge space, seating around 300 inside, and more on the riverside terrace. Similar to Fallow, Roe is all about local, seasonal ingredients, with a zero-waste sustainable ethos. The menu is split into Snacks; Small Plates; Skewers; Flatbreads; Large Plates; Steaks; Sides; and Feasts, which are for two or more. Don’t miss the maitake mushroom Cornish pasty served with an amazing walnut ketchup; the Cornish scallop flatbread with bacon butter; the cuttlefish fried brioche with sesame and chill jam; the breaded mushrooms with garlic mayonnaise; the Wildfarmed sourdough with smoked roe; and the blooming onion with picked onion powder and garlic mayo. And with caramelised banana parfait, made to look exactly like a plain peeled banana, served with peanut and toasted vanilla sauce, on the dessert list, you’ll wanna leave room for pudding too.

OMA

David Carter, of Smokestak and Manteca, has opened two new Greek restaurants in Borough Market. AGORA downstairs is loud and boisterous, with tables and stools packed in around an alluring open wood-fired rotisserie grill.  Upstairs, is the slightly more genteel OMA, which offers a leisurely sit-down experience complete with reservations. If AGORA is inspired by the tavernas of Athens, then OMA is designed to give you that slower-paced feel of a holiday on a Greek island. With dishes like açma stuffed with wild garlic; scallop XO labneh; lobster bisque borek; spanakopita gratin; charred lamb belly, hummus, shallot and mint salata; and wild red prawn giouvetsi finished with red prawns and deep-fried prawn butter, and a bottle of the numerous Greek wines on the list, you’ll defo be transported. We’re big fans of OMA and love the look and vibe of AGORA too, so it looks like both Borough Market and David have another couple of hits on their hands.

TÓU

8 Bedale St, London SE1 9AL

TĀ TĀ Eatery founders Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng are back with katsu sando concept TÓU, which is in residence upstairs at The Globe Tavern on the edge of Borough Market. It’s a short, sharp menu, summed up neatly by a bright red poster on the wall that tells you everything you need to know: PET NATS / SANDOS / SUNDAES. You can get the lot, starting with house made daikon and carrot pickles, and the Iberico pork and potato spiced croquettes, before moving onto that sando. It’s a rich, fatty slab of Iberico pork neck with cabbage, onion, raspberry sauce, and XO shallot sauce sandwiched between thick slices of toasted brioche, with chilli powder and Sichuan pepper-sprinkled fries on the side. The duo has teamed up with Stefano Cazzato to offer a large selection of pet nats by the glass and bottle (around 17 in total), which makes for a very nice pairing with the food. Don’t miss the coffee and biscuits sundae for dessert either.

DEAR JACKIE

20 Broadwick Street, London

With lavish and glamorous interiors courtesy of Martin Brudnizki, the 57-room Broadwick Soho is no wallflower, and that maximalist design philosophy is proudly on show in the hotel’s signature restaurant Dear Jackie. It’s got red silk walls adorned with decorative plates, Mediterranean-inspired tiles on the tabletops, chintzy fabric on the banquettes, Murano lighting and vintage-style table lamps, which are as much function as form as the lighting, though flattering for the face, is so low you won’t be able to read the menu without them. The restaurant self-describes as part la dolce vita, part disco, we see it more like the older, moneyed aunt of Big Mamma’s Gloria on holiday at a White Lotus resort. Head Chef Harry Faddy (ex-Aquavit and The River Cafe) is aiming for sophistication with his menu, peppering it with luxe ingredients and both classic Italian and Mediterranean flavours. The menu includes dishes like scallops in champagne sauce with trout roe and finger lime, pumpkin tortelloni with nduja butter and amaretti, pork collar with salsa verde with treviso, fennel parmigiana, and tiramisu. We’re not totally sold on the substance of Dear Jackie but the place has style in abundance, so if vibes are high on your requirements when choosing a dinner venue, you’ll be happy here.

 

 

JUNO

2-4 Farmer Street, London W8 7SN

Juno, hidden above Japanese-Mexican fusion restaurant Los Mochis in Notting Hill, is the smallest omakase experience in London and also the first one in the world to be gluten and nut free. Run by  Los Mochis Executive Chef Leonard Tanyag (ex-OKKU and Zuma) and Head Sushi Chef Han (ex-Nobu and Roka), Juno mirrors the downstairs restaurant by incorporating Mexican flavours, particularly through inventive seasonings made in-house. As omakase means ‘I leave it up to you’, the chefs base the 15 courses around the freshest fish they have available to them at the time. The first burst of dishes is where you can really see and taste the Mexican influences, like madai (red bream) on a lime aioli and finished with a Oaxacan-inspired chicatana (that’s flying ant) and arbol chilli seasonin, and kinmedai (snapper) and cucumber as aguachile with grasshopper seasoning. Then it’s onto the nigiri section, which includes the likes of sweet Hokkaido scallop with yuzu salt; super creamy botan ebi (prawn) with green perilla salt; and an A5 wagyu nigiri, seasoned with a salt made from agave worm and seared using molten bone marrow. If you’re looking for a blowout meal, and you wanna try an omakase unlike any other in town, it’s well worth nabbing one of the seats at Juno.

MORCHELLA

84 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4QY

Perilla has been a fave of ours since it opened on Newington Green in 2016, so any follow-up restaurant from the team was always going to be big news (and come with big expectations). Happily Morchella, open on the site of an old bank just off Exmouth Market more than meets them. If Perilla’s interiors are stripped back – literally to the plaster – then Morchella’s are pared back, with soft tones, parquet floors and beautiful burnt orange chandeliers creating a familial bond between the two restaurants. There is one identical feature, the menu and cutlery are sequestered in drawers inside the table, which has become something of a signature over in Stokey. The two restaurants diverge more clearly on the menus, with Morchella having much more of a Mediterranean slant than the pan-European offering at Perilla, with dishes like cigars of spanakopita; salt cod churros with chunky romesco; scallop and wafer thin slices of cauliflower mushroom; hake covered in a luscious sobrasada sauce; and white monkfish atop cuttlefish, finely chopped to mimic the texture of grains and swirled into its own ink, creating an arroz negro minus the arroz.

BOUCHON RACINE

66 Cowcross Street, London

In Bouchon Racine in Farringdon, Henry Harris has created a gem of a place, along with co-owner and GM Dave Strauss. The menu is loosely based on Henry’s legendary Knightsbridge restaurant, Racine, which closed back in 2014 and that basically means classic, rich French dishes delivered with absolute aplomb. There’s a big chalkboard menu includes the likes of egg mayonnaise and salty Cantabrian anchovies; fatty middle white pork belly rillons served on a bed of simple salad with vinaigrette; roast rabbit dish with mustard sauce and bacon; confit lamb with wild mushrooms on a bed of mogette beans; and some big sharing steaks and chops if you’re feeling hungry. Do not miss out on the excellent chips and the insanely-good creamed spinach spiked with foie gras either. And for dessert, there’s a must-order creme caramel that’s out of this world.

THE PRINCE ARTHUR

The Prince Arthur really is a brilliant neighbourhood pub. A lovely corner site on a quiet residential road just north of London Fields, it’s got all the old charm of proper boozer with the big curved wooden bar, rickety old tables, green banquettes, fireplaces, and regular live music. The pub has had a great run of kitchen residencies, from Hot 4 U in the early post-lockdown period, followed by chef Vivienne Westwood, and now Joe Couldridge from Stokey’s The Clarence Tavern has taken over the kitchen.The menu switches up fairly regularly, with a short selection of small plates, three larger dishes, and a few specials always on offer, but if you see the crispy polenta fries; veal sweetbreads; pickled beetroot, pesto, caramelised Roscoff onion and watercress tart; and fresh-from-the-oven madeleines served with lemon curd, order them.

YIQI

Given the trend for regional Chinese and Thai restaurants in London in recent years, its ben a while since a new place describing itself as Pan-Asian came along. But that’s what we have with YiQi, a smart new spot on Lisle Street in Chinatown, from business partners Kevin Cheong and Keng Yew, together with Stanley Lum, who was previously at Hakkasan. The menu features his take on favourite handpicked dishes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and mainland China, and although you might think it’s hard to pull all that off, everything is done very well indeed. Favourites include the Singaporean-style oyster omelette; stir fried clams with tangy kam heong sauce; and winged bean minced chicken fried with Thai basil. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty big menu and there’s loads on there worth a go, including house speciality seafood like skate with yuzu chilli spicy sauce, and bamboo tube rice with seafood curry. Then there’s the intriguing ‘Wagyu Mousse’ for dessert. All in all, YiQi is a great new spot for Chinatown and well worth checking out. 

THE TAMIL CROWN

The Tamil Prince opened in Islington last year when an ex-Roti King duo, chef Prince Durairaj and Glen Leeson, took over and reinvented a Barnsbury pub. It was – and is – a total hit,  so it’s no surprise that the team were quick to expand. The Tamil Crown is the name of the second site and like the original, it’s doing food from the Tamil Nadu region of India, it’s inside a pub and it’s in Islington, this time the other side of Upper Street, close to Angel.  The menu at The Tamil Crown, once you’ve been able to read it (the lighting in the upstairs dining room is incredibly low), is similar to the one that’s turned the OG into such a favourite, with the addition of some exclusive dishes, like the moreish lime leaf-roasted chicken and pineapple chutney; rich beef masala on a spongy, crispy-bottomed uttapam with a punchy coconut chutney; and mango sambar.  The regulars shouldn’t be overlooked though, especially the gloriously craggy onion bhajis, and the Chettinad lamb and Thanjavur chicken curries, both laced with curry leaves and whole chillies. And a word on the roti, it’s superlative, maybe the best in London, which is appropriate considering the founders’ Roti King backgrounds. Order one each, and then order another because you won’t want to leave a drop of sauce unmopped.

INÉ

Mayfair to Hampstead might not be the most obvious route for a restaurant group’s expansion (you’d expect it to be the other way around) – but that’s what the team behind Taku Mayfair has done with INÉ. The restaurant opened in Hampstead at the end of last year, bringing Japanese fine dining to the North London neighbourhood. Looks-wise, it’s very Japanese inside –  extremely minimalist with lots of natural wood and booth seating behind an eight-seater omakase counter. Omakase is served at particular times throughout the day and is £100 for 15 courses, otherwise, there’s an a la carte and an INÉ special menu to choose from. Whichever route you go down, you’re getting a blend of the Edomae style showcased at the Michelin-starred Taku and more contemporary influences. The sushi here is top quality, particularly the sashimi selection, the botan ebi nigiri and the tuna nigiri set, and the octopus karaage, hamachi carpaccio and wagyu katsu sando shouldn’t be missed.

BIG NIGHT

At Big Night in Hackney, the Stanley Tucci- and Japanese yakitori izakaya–inspired, late-night restaurant, chefs Joshua Ralphs and Jack O’ Connor, where they put British-ish produce on sticks and grill them over charcoal. The skewers, including inner chicken thigh and spring onion; pork with spicy Thai mustard; lamb heart and kidney with XO sauce; beetroot, daikon and shallot; squash and black bean; and Chinese tahini-topped fermented sprouts, are at the heart of the Big Night experience but the pickled mussels and smoked greens are not to be missed either. Don’t leave without digging into the very wobbly and very lovely crème tea caramel. With a killer soundtrack, a sprinkle of madness and a few vodka shots, Big Night delivers big vibes.

GRASSO

Founded by Seanie Grasso, whose mum’s family went from Syracuse in Sicily to NYC to London, Grasso in Soho is a proper, family-run Italian-American joint. Little Italy faves dominate the menu, including the signature dish of mom’s spaghetti and meatballs (made to the original family recipe), shrimp cocktail, mozzarella sticks with nduja and wild honey, penne alla vodka, tagliatelle alfredo, lobster linguine, and chicken parm. Grasso also slings pizzas, made with an in-house two-day dough technique, with toppings like vodka sauce, meatballs, fennel sausage and eggplant parm. Add on a couple of Brooklyn’s G&Ts or Cherry Coke Long Island Iced Teas and you’ve got yourself a good time.

BÉBÉ BOB

37 Golden Square, London W1F 9LB

There’s lots of places to get chicken in London but none are as glamorous as Bébé Bob, the rotisserie chicken-focused spin-off restaurant from Bob Bob Ricard. The Golden Square spot is filled with Art Deco detailing, geometric patterned carpets, a circular bar with a gold granite top, and a red and blue colour scheme. You can’t visit a Bob Bob joint without a glass of champagne (there are no ‘press for champagne’ buttons here though, so you have to ask for it the old fashioned way), which is the perfect accompaniment to classic starters like caviar, egg mayonnaise with anchovy and prawn cocktail. Chicken is at the heart of the menu, with Vendée or Landes birds from France being the main choice you have to make, and it’s served tableside along with the most gorgeous chicken jus – not that you need it because this chicken is seriously juicy and tender. If you’re doing Sunday lunch, you can order up chicken fat roast potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, sautéed kale, and an indulgent truffle cauliflower cheese on the side, and you won’t wanna miss out on the honey cake for pudding either.

GAIA

Gaia London is located in Mayfair, just opposite the Ritz, in the building that once housed The Mayfair Club. Inside is very similar to its Dubai sister: a big, beautiful whitewashed dining room with an open kitchen and huge raw bar. The food menu is very similar too, featuring familiar Greek classics with a modern twist and, of course, 95% of them are chopped and served for you at the table – did we mention this was founded in Dubai? The standouts are the stuffed vine leaves, a spinach pie, the moussaka, the truffle potatoes and the very good sea bass steamed in a salt crust with sage and orange zest. Desserts are in the same vein, OTT and decadent, and also served tableside. As cynical as we (and most other people are about Dubai) there’s no denying Gaia is a good restaurant. We’d definitely go back and it’s much better than any other UAE imports that have come before.

AKARA

Akara is the new, more casual sister restaurants to Akoko, the West African fine dining spot in Fitzrovia which we were very impressed by when we visited back in 2021. For Akara, owner Aji Akokomi has taken the same modern approach to West African cuisine that made Akoko so popular and distilled into a more everyday, approachable package with a short a la carte menu of snacks and larger plates rather than an intricate tasting menu set up. Though it’s more casual in its look and menu, Akara is still aiming for a certain level of refined experience – call it causal plus. You have to start with the eponymous akaras, crispy black-eye bean fritters that are almost like little doughnuts, cut down the middle and stuffed with fish, meat or vegetables but the rice pancakes served with a black eye bean hummus, spicy BBQ maitake mushroom, grilled fillet of pollock with yassa caramelised onion and lemon sauce, efik rice with slithers of BBQ mackerel, and tamarind date cake dressed in a boozy rum and pineapple sauce and a dollop of tonka bean cream are not to be missed either. With a prime location in Borough Market, punchy flavour-packed dishes, and that lovely minimalist dining room, this is becoming one of our go-to Borough spots.

CAFE KITTY

Annual arts festival Underbelly has opened the doors to its very own permanent theatre, Underbelly Boulevard, in Soho and it’s got itself a lovely in-house restaurant and cocktail bar in the shape of Cafe Kitty. It comes from the team behind Kitty Fisher’s and Cora Pearl and it has that same glamorous feel, with green velvet banquettes, soft pink walls and vintage glassware. It also has the same approach to food, offering a modern British-European menu filled with simple, comforting dishes. You could dip into the small plates section, which features crowdpleasers like cheese croquettes, steak tartare, Welsh rarebit and Caesar salad, if you just wanted a few bites before catching a show but there are larger dishes if you have time to linger. If it’s on, the chicken, bacon and leek pie is a winner, and the famous crispy potatoes from Cora Pearl are not to be missed.

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