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10 London restaurants that changed the game in 2017

With both rents and the price of imported ingredients on the rise, and the pool of talented European staff shrinking, last year tested the mettle of even the savviest and most successful restaurateurs in the capital.

A Darwinian survival of the fittest situation is in play, and venues that don’t excel at every level are struggling to stay afloat. Some, like Cantonese tasting menu venue HKK in Shoredtich, Venetian small plates site Veneta in St James’s Market, and the seasonal British Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green, have been forced to close.

But despite these harsh conditions, 2017 was one of the most exciting years in London’s history for new restaurant openings. The diversity of the new kids on the block, from West African site Ikoyi in Piccadilly, to Sri Lankan pancake specialist Hoppers in St. Christopher’s Place, illustrates the depth and breadth of the food offering in the capital today. Take a stroll through any one of London’s street food markets and you can happily munch your way around the world.

While restaurant closures take up more column inches than they used to, 2017 saw the arrival of some of London’s most compelling venues to date. While many surprised and delighted us, there were 10 that stood out, and not necessarily for the same reasons. There is no secret recipe that will keep customers coming back for more – restaurateurs have to make their own magic, but these 10 venues strengthen London’s position as the culinary capital of the world.

Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Tempestuous Frenchman Claude Bosi doesn’t do things by halves. Having closed his two Michelin-star Hibiscus in Mayfair due to rising rents, his collaboration with Terence Conran at Bibendum on the Fulham Road raised eyebrows and whetted appetites in equal measure.

Could he lure foodies out of Mayfair and Soho to the wilds of west London? The answer was a resounding yes. When last year’s new Michelin stars were announced in October, Bosi emerged as the big success story, scooping two from scratch.

Housed on the first floor of the iconic Michelin House – the first UK headquarters of the French tyre company, it seems sweet and fitting that the guide went gaga for Bosi’s bravado and elegant French plates that show off his confident grasp of even the most complex techniques. His signature dish – duck jelly with smoked sturgeon and Oscietra caviar – took two years to perfect.

From a tripe and cuttlefish gratin to a rack of veel with smoked eel and raspberry, his flavours and bold and combinations daring. Don’t miss the ice cream trolley doing the rounds. Scoops are served with honey madeleines. The wine list is intimidatingly large but lovingly stocked with French fancies that will make your wallet weep.

Core by Clare Smyth

Having hung up her apron at Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin star Royal Hospital Road restaurant in Chelsea, last spring saw the long-awaited opening of insanely talented Northern Irish chef Clare Smyth’s debut solo venture, Core, in Kensington. Billing itself as an “elegant and informal fine dining” restaurant (there isn’t a starched tablecloth in sight), Smyth quickly won the critics over with her exquisitely presented plates that showcased the best of British ingredients.

The UK’s only three Michelin star female chef clearly wasn’t playing it safe – her signature dish is a solitary Charlotte potato, which is put on a pedestal and made magnificent with the addition of trout roe and beurre blanc. Another dish featuring carrot and lamb makes the star of the carrot in a nod to the fact that we should all be eating less meat.

A plump, sweet carrot that would make Peter Rabbit’s whiskers wet with delight arrives flecked with shredded lamb and discs of… carrot. Smyth is currently developing a dessert called ‘grapes and vines’ featuring wine gum-style sweets served on gnarly old vines. Among the wines on her pairing menu are an Assyrtiko from Santorini and an unfiltered old vine Garnacha from Mentrida.

La Dame de Pic

Illustrating the pull the capital has on some of the world’s most decorated chefs was Anne-Sophie Pic’s arrival in town last spring. With six Michelin stars to her name, Pic is the third generation of her clan to have earned three stars, and did so with no formal training.

Keen to make a splash in the capital, Pic opened La Dame de Pic (a play on the French for ‘the queen of spades’) at The Four Seasons in Trinity Square. From the get go it was clear she had Michelin ambitions for the venue, but, like Smyth, wanted to serve stellar food in a less formal environment than she has been used to working in.

Pic best shows her culinary prowess in the amuse bouches offered at the start of the meal, from a pair of translucent leaves exquisitely fashioned from Jerusalem artichoke, to tiny exploding globes of Pastis. Playful, irreverent and punchy, they encapsulate all that is fun, whimsical and alluring about a fine dining experience.

With more than the occasional nod to her homeland, Pic’s dishes are some of the prettiest you’ll find in London, and she seems to have found her stride at this enticing, newly Michelin-starred venture. Meanwhile, head sommelier Jan Konetski pushes liquid treasures from Pic’s homeland of the Rhône including a textured white Châteauneuf.

The Frog by Adam Handling

Spunky young chef Adam Handling has achieved a lot in his 29 years. Named Scottish Young Chef of the Year in 2015, in the summer of 2016 he opened his first solo venture, The Frog, in Ely’s Yard behind the Truman Brewery in Spitalfields, where he seemed to be let loose with the black truffle and Parmesan.

Keen to comfort, his signature mac and cheese dish felt like diving into a cloud of cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyère, while the cheese doughnuts were equally decadent. At his new flagship venue in Covent Garden Handling seems to have matured and his cooking has been fine tuned to the point where he is now responsible for some of the most technically brilliant, beautifully presented and incredible tasting food being served in the capital.

His chicken butter with slivers of salty chicken skin is as good as it always was, while new dishes like the simple sounding halibut with crab and caviar are a masterclass in how to respect the inherent flavour of the fish while enhancing it with an heavenly sauce. The five-course tasting menu comes with three drinks pairing options: minimum intervention wines, pre-bottled cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails, proving Handling isn’t keen to stick to an old fashioned script.

108 Garage

Chris Denney told the Evening Standard that he would “blow his brains out” if he didn’t get a Michelin star at 108 Garage; the low-key Notting Hill venue housed in a former garage on Goldbourne Road that took everyone by surprise last year with its brilliance. Denney didn’t win a star and food bloggers in their masses took to social media to vent their outrage.

108 Garage is the progeny of an unlikely pairing between a fine art graduate Denney and Luca Longobardi, who was once dubbed ‘The Mafia’s Banker’. The menu is local and seasonal in nature, and changes so often they don’t bother to put it online. Denny’s food is brave and daring, beautiful and delicious.

He’s not afraid of startling combinations that sound like they shouldn’t work but somehow do – chocolate mousse and artichoke ice cream proved a popular pudding with hard to please Jay Rayner. On our visit he paired subtle scallops with fiery horseradish, and asparagus with matcha, while a pig’s head croquette hidden behind a gossamer-thin layer of lardo was a divine union of pig on pig.

The wine list is made up of Italian, French and Spanish drops, with Italy given special attention in a hat tip to Denney’s stint at Piazza Duomo in Alba.

Ella Canta

Martha Ortiz is no shrinking violet. Proud, passionate and provocative, she describes eating chilli as being like “a kiss from a good lover”. The daughter of Mexican artist Martha Chapa, who has a penchant for painting red apples, Ortiz is a big deal in her native Mexico. Her flagship site, Dulce Patria in Mexico City, appears on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list and she’s carved a niche for her unique take on modern Mexican cuisine.

Her arrival last September at The Intercontinental hotel on Park Lane injected much-needed colour to the corporate hotel. Ella Canta is a riot of dusky pinks and earthy oranges that screams of sun-scorched Mexico. The female staff wear red dresses and Frida Kahlo-inspired floral headdresses.

While Mexico is Ortiz’s primary inspiration, she takes cues from everything from art to music, treating her plates like paintings and the restaurant like a stage for the stories she wants to tell. Her dishes are as eccentric and exuberant as she is, the most startling of which is ‘nationalistic’ guacamole, which comes garnished with a golden grasshopper. Look out for the extensive mezcal list, which is one of the most comprehensive in town.


With pastel pink interiors that wouldn’t look out of place in a Wes Anderson film, Xu burst onto Soho’s dining scene last summer and has been dialing up the charm ever since. Based on the increasingly trendy Rupert Street, also home to The Palomar, Spuntino and The Blue Posts, Xu, a Taiwanese restaurant and tea bar, is the brainchild of the dream team behind steamed bun specialist Bao.

Set across two floors, the chic site is a love letter to 1930s Tapiei, only with Dean Martin drifting through the speakers. To enhance the old school vintage feel, an old railway clock hangs above the bar and waiters wear black tie. There’s even a mahjong room tucked away somewhere.

On the food front, standout dishes include tender, 40-day aged beef shortrib pancakes with roasted bone marrow and a potato crumb; creamy crab curry; diced pork ribs topped with foie gras; and a sweet, salty, smoky, tangy marriage of tomato and eel. In the tea bar on the ground floor, loose leaf Taiwanese teas like hand picked Assam are prepared by an in house tea master.


Never one to let the grass grow beneath his feet, having turned his bottled cocktail site White Lyan in Hoxton into Super Lyan, maestro mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana changed the game last year with the launch of Cub, London’s first drinks led restaurant, which ticks so many trend boxes it’s hard to know where to start.

The first is the trend for zero waste. Ryan has collaborated with Doug McMaster, head chef of zero-waste restaurant Silo in Brighton, on the project. The pair worked with Noma food scientist Arielle Johnson to develop the dishes and drinks made with experimental ingredients grown on site. Their aim is to blur the boundaries between food and drink by approaching them as a united entity.

The water jelly and spiked herb dish on the £55 set menu is served with a coup of Krug Grande Cuvée, while other dishes on the veggie-focused menu include a plate of peated barley, apple skin and fig leaf; and baby cauliflower, black garlic and lemon thyme, while one of the cocktails features Belvedere vodka, Douglas fir and mint resin.


Another trend setter is Indian tapas venue Kricket, which knocked diners for six when it opened in Brixton’s box park in 2015, and had bloggers queuing around the block for a coveted pink bar stool when it opened a permanent site in Soho last March. Combining the best of British seasonal ingredients with authentic Indian recipes in a relaxed environment, food comes courtesy of Will Bowlby, who cut his culinary teeth in Mumbai before mastering his trade at Cinnamon Kitchen.

Made with British produce, this is fusion food at its finest. Kricket’s Instagram-friendly signature dish is the ‘KFC’ – Keralan fried chicken, served with curry leaf mayo and pickled moul. Also on offer are samphire pakoras with chilli garlic mayo; duck leg kathi rolls with peanut chuntey; and smoked sweet potato with sesame raita, a twist on an Indian street food dish. Like Cub, Kricket has a strong cocktail game, serving the likes of the Lucky Neem, which marries spiced gin with cucumber, curry leaf and lime.

Neo Bistro

Who’d have thought Mayfair could do edgy and informal? Enter Neo Bistro, which blazed onto the scene last summer and sent the critics into a spin. Inspired by the new wave bistros in Paris, Neo Bistro is the brainchild of Anglo’s Mark Jarvis, who teamed up with Alex Harper, formerly of Michelin-starred gastropub the Harwood Arms, on the project.

The ever-changing menu includes specials scribbled on a blackboard. Dishes are made with seasonal British ingredients and include the likes of cured sea trout with turnip and lovage; Parmesan gnocchi with pumpkin and pickled walnut; duck with cranberry mustard and devils on horseback; and truffle custard tarts with hazelnut.

Artisan wines meanwhile, hail from unsung regions like Georgia and Morocco and shine a light on lesser-known varieties. The unpretentious venue proves that world class cooking can be served in a relaxed and convivial setting, and that the simple things in life are often the best.

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