1) El pastor. London Bridge
When the people who brought you the impeccable Barrafina open a new place that they’ve put their heart and soul into, you take notice. El Pastor has long been a passion project for the Hart Brothers who have spent years travelling Mexico, claiming to have eaten ‘every single burrito and taco going’. (Nice work if you can get it). They believe they have finally discovered the magic of perfect Mexican food and are bringing it to London.
Stoney Street is a stunning place for a stroll. Guaranteed Brownie points with your lady or man. Or lady man. Or just a mate.
2) Elystan Street – South Kensington
One of my greatest ever dining experiences was at Phil Howard’s The Square. I went with a best mate. We both took the Friday afternoon off for an indulgent love-in. The food was pretty much perfection. Spectacular on every level. I live my life for afternoons like that and will never forget it.
Phil has now left The Square after 25 years and opened Elystan Street. Former proprietor Tom Aikens (precocious talent who once burned a Commi with a knife at Pied a Terre) never quite got the wheels going with his eponymous restaurant on this site. But if anyone has the Midas touch it’s Phil Howard. (He’s also backer of The Ledbury, Kitchen W8 & GBM winner).
Importantly Howard will be cooking here every day (rarer than you might think). AA Gill says he’s ‘probably the best chef in London’. It promises to be way less formal than The Square, but you can still expect ‘ethereal’ flavours according to the Don, Fay Maschler.
3) L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele – Stoke Newington
There is an abundance of top notch pizza joints in Stoke Newington all within spitting distance of each other. For my money the best pizza in London is just round the corner at Soda Pizza. But still we demand more.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples is widely regarded – by those who know – as the top of the pile. The chefs at the Stoke Newington branch are all trained at the Naples HQ. The menu will inevitably be small but perfect. Early reviews? Pizza-oven, blisteringly hot.
4) Luca – Clerkenwell
The Clove Club was one of only three UK entries in San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants in the world this year. Isaac McHale and his team have just launched Luca in Clerkenwell next to culinary royalty: St. John, The Quality Chop House, The Modern Pantry and Hix Oyster House.
The focus here is quality pasta, with exceptional British ingredients from all around the isle: Shrimps from Morecambe Bay, Grouse from Yorkshire, Langoustine from Scotland and cheeses from across the country. Clerkenwell is a lucky neighbourhood.
5) Aquavit. Piccadilly
Aquavit has been one of New York’s most well regarded high end restaurants for decades with 2 Michelin stars to its name. It made Marcus Samuelsson a legend and current head chef Emma Bengtsson is a sensation.
London is ‘super lucky’ (as the Swedes would say) to have Aquavit. It’s important to have another industry leading female Chef in the city.
Expect a replication of Bengtsson’s NYC menu: Atjes herring and quail egg; gravlax with asparagus; Arctic char with nettles, shrimp and peas; suckling pig with radicchio, apple and mustard; grapefruit and lemon dessert; “chocolate and texture” dessert.
Nordic food is dear to my heart. Very very excited to try this place.
‘Branding Row Chef’: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/dec/16/audreygillan
‘AA Gill Reviews W8’: http://www.kitchenw8.com/wp-content/uploads/AA-Gill-review.pdf
‘Pizzaia comes to Stoke Newington’ http://www.hot-dinners.com/Gastroblog/Latest-news/italian-pizzeria-l-antica-pizzeria-da-michele-comes-to-london-at-stoke-newington
‘Aquavit in Midtown’ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/dining/restaurant-review-aquavit-in-midtown.