It’s a question we get asked all the time. Where should I be eating in London right now? If you’ve thought that recently, you’ve come to the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say ‘best’, we mean it. We’ve visited each of these restaurants on several occasions and personally vetted them to find out which ones are worth the time and effort. Crucially, we’ve also left countless others off that we don’t think you should bother with, regardless of what a dozen restaurant PRs and Instagrammers have insisted - being a new opening doesn’t automatically qualify a spot on the list.
The Hit List is our record of each restaurant that’s opened within the last year that we highly recommend that you try, and we’ve arranged it in chronological order with the newest places at the top, and the oldest at the bottom.
New to the Hit List (as of 28/2/20): Hoppers King’s Cross
There are restaurants we like. And then there are restaurants that make us want to bulk order megaphones and walk the streets of London guiding unsuspecting hungry people towards some Jaffna lamb chops. Hoppers in King’s Cross is the latter. We’re big fans of their original spot in Soho and although they’ve brought their signature egg hoppers, bone marrow varuval, and lamb shank buriani with them to St Pancras Square, you’ll find plenty of new things on the menu. Including the World’s Buffest Prawns, that from here on out we’ll refer to as BBQ Zeus - and yes, we will be starting a fan club entitled Crustacean Nation, thanks for asking. Outside of their excellent dosas, hoppers, and Sri Lankan bites, you’ll definitely want to get involved in the chickpea and cashew kari, and realistically, as many dishes as you can fit on your table.
You can do a lot of things at the counter at Bancone. You can eat affordable handmade bucatini cacio e pepe. You can drink several Aperol Spritz. You can impress a date over some seriously tasty burrata. You can find a tear in the space-time continuum and go back to stop Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield from splitting. Okay maybe not, but hey, we don’t know what you do. The point is, whether you’re at the main bar or the oval counter around a live olive tree, Bancone is a truly lovely place to be. Thanks to their signature silk handkerchief pasta and excellent pappardelle, this place is just as rammed as their original spot in Covent Garden, but there is a lot more space here and the turnaround for tables is quick.
We’re not telling you to go to Lina Stores in King’s Cross because they have the best pappardelle in town or even because they’re serving some kind of mythical negroni that’s going to reverse the ageing process and do your taxes for you. No, we’re telling you to go to Lina Stores because everything here is just so nice. The handmade classic pastas, nice. The san marzano covered aubergine polpettes, nice. The relaxed, pastel-coloured space, very nice. Basically, this is one of those rare restaurants that will work just as well for a romantic date night over some ravioli as for a catch up involving a bottle of organic red from Tuscany and several things that come with salted ricotta. If you happen to work in the area they also have a deli where you can grab a generous portion of homemade pasta for £6 or a prosciutto-packed panini to takeaway. Just be aware that this place is popular and is walk-in only after 6pm.
14 Hills is a cool and classy skyline restaurant with enough foliage to make The Chelsea Flower Show jealous. Think, Garden Of Eden, but Adam and Eve are having a dressed-up date in an olive corner booth, propped up by lots of pillows. This place is also serving some pretty great - albeit pricey - food, including everything from a creative take on the chicken kiev to a big old côte de boeuf to share. Although this place has plenty of waistcoat-clad servers, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is perfect for a loud and proud group birthday where everyone can get involved in the £30 set menu, or for impressing out-of-towners with great views and even better cocktails at their huge oval bar.
Manteca in Soho is London’s latest handmade pasta spot with a slightly industrial feel, a little foliage, and lots of wine. But much like watching karaoke, or sending your ex a text message littered with the word ‘luv’, this place is most suited to night-time. During the day, you’ll find an affordable laidback lunch situation, but thanks to their great compact wine list and cosy evening look, it really comes into its own when you’re looking for a proper charmer of a date spot or somewhere for a long red wine fuelled catch-up with one of your favourite people. Although there are a couple of duds on the menu, if you stick to dishes like the ox cheek ragu pappardelle, the pink fir potatoes with cods roe, and their excellent pork chop, you’ll be set for a great meal.
How many portions of vegetables are you meant to eat a day? Is it 5, or 10? We don’t know, and frankly, we don’t care. However many you’re meant to eat a day, you should absolutely be eating them all at Bubala. That’s because everything on this Spitalfields restaurant’s Middle Eastern menu is vegetarian and completely delicious - from charred and salted flatbread to wedges of sweet and soft honey-glazed halloumi. It’s all also rather enchanting looking as well. Imagine a skewer of soy-glazed mushrooms with hypnotic abilities and you’re somewhere close to what’s happening in the kitchen here. The space itself is casual and comfortable - a rare thing considering its location - but the main thing about this place is the food. It’s affordable (around £30 a head without drinks), it’s filling, and there’s no way you’ll leave without wishing you could have one more spoon of that tahini, date and tangerine ice cream.
Endo at the Rotunda is way up on the 8th floor of a building opposite Westfield White City, but aside from its breathtakingly bleak views on an overcast day, nothing at this 18-seater sushi restaurant disappoints. That’s because the omakase here is an experience that’s incomparable to anything else in London. Endo the sushi master makes almost every item in front of you, and then hands it over personally, encouraging everyone to eat immediately from their hands. As far as expensive restaurants giving instructions go, it’s the best and most likeable recommendation we’ve ever been given. From Cornish squid, to Tokyo oyster, to Spanish otoro nigiri, you’ll find yourself slow-ly, care-full-y, delib-erate-ly, sav-our-ing, ever-y, last, bite. Admittedly the prices are sky high: £60 for a 10-course lunch and £180 for an 18-course dinner - but if you’re looking for an elevated experience that really will stick in the memory, this is it.
‘Useful’ isn’t a sexy word. But, you know what, when you’re stumbling around Old Street hungry, ‘useful’ becomes much more important than being sexy. And this cool handmade pasta spot definitely falls into that category. Their artisanal pastas are up there with some of our favourite linguine and cavatelli in London. The chef handmaking corzetti at the pasta station is great entertainment. And the prices are all very affordable. Basically, it’s the kind of laid-back restaurant you know you’re going to be seeing a lot of if you happen to work or live in the area. That being said, the squid ink tagliolini is absolutely worth travelling for.
Circolo Popolare, the second restaurant from the people behind Gloria, is the genie’s cave in a Christmas pantomime production of Aladdin starring David Dickinson. Just like its older sister, it’s big, it’s shiny, and people queue around the corner in Fitzrovia drinking sangria waiting to eat giant pizzas and carbonara from a pecorino wheel there. Sure the food isn’t going to earn itself a chapter in your memoir, but, just like panto, it’s OTT and great fun. And, unlike Christmas panto, Circolo is here all year round.
Small plate serving restaurants can get a bad rep for small portions and high prices. Some people may have this problem at Flor - the new wine bar, bakery, restaurant hybrid from the Lyle’s people. Only they shouldn’t, because the food at Flor is really really good. Like, completely-ignore-everything-else-surrounding-it-in-Borough-Market-good. In fact it’s so good that after eating a prawn here, or some toast with anchovy and a special bit of cured ham, everything else you eat for the next week will pale into insignificance. It’s the kind of good that makes other good stuff look bad. Sure, you might only want to come here with one other person: because portion and price. But it’s worth it. You just need to make sure that other person is someone special.
When an area loses a fine neighbourhood restaurant it’s a sad moment. Only when somewhere like Pophams comes in, that mourning period is short lived. Why? Because how can you be sad when you’re in a big warehouse space, eating the finest maple and bacon pastry of your life? The answer: you can’t be. Glorious marmite pastries and schlossberger cheese-filled toasties aside, Pophams also serves some excellent handmade pasta Wednesday to Sunday evenings, when the space is transformed from a sunlit, to a candlelit warehouse. It’s as ideal for some work in the day as it is for a casual date in the evening. It is, simply, a perfect addition to Hackney.
Nandine is one of our favourite restaurants in Camberwell, and now there are two locations to choose from just ten minutes apart. This second solo bricks and mortar spot has joined the party on Camberwell Church Street and is a little more restaurant-y feeling than the original. It’s dinner only, aside from weekends, and thanks (in part) to the introduction of a big old ocakbasi grill in the kitchen, the food is more than mezze at this location. You’ve got a juicy, seven spice chicken shish with flatbread and salads, a giant stuffed meatball that wouldn’t look out of place at Lord’s, and perfumed coconut pudding that’s a very sweet ending to a meal at a restaurant that never disappoints.
Is it or isn’t it a pub? We’ve asked it. You’ve probably asked it. The local at your local who isn’t into “that hoppy crap” has definitely asked it. The fact of the matter is: it doesn’t matter. Because if you’re wasting your time trying to work out whether a little bungalow-ish boozer in Islington is ‘a real pub’ - because it serves pork belly skewers or deep fried quail with summer truffle - then you probably won’t be appreciating the best burger in London. Yep, the best. Seemingly modelled, as all burgers should be, on one from Mr. Ronald McDonald. Only much, much better. Is the Compton Arms a pub? Yes. Is it a restaurant? Yes, thanks to Four Legs (the guys in the kitchen). Should you eat and drink here? Absolutely.
There aren’t many restaurants like Bob Bob Cité. Mostly because there aren’t that many places that have a casual 25 million knocking about to build what is essentially the most fun, boozy train carriage in all of England. Okay, we know that’s a low bar. But seriously, this huge French spot inside the Leadenhall Building is absolutely ridiculous. In a good way. Like at their other spot, Bob Bob Ricard, every table has a presse pour champagne button, there are shining surfaces everywhere, and enough Orient Express style booths to feel like you’ve stumbled on the first collaboration between Richard Branson and the world’s most influential magpie. Whether you go all in on a three course, caviar covered tartare, pass-me-the-magnum-honey situation, or just swing by for some oysters and a glass of champagne as an excuse to get really dressed up, you’re set for a great time here. And don’t miss the four cheese lobster macaroni - it’s excellent.
Talk to us about the food at Harrods and our minds immediately dream up a glorious celebrity edition of Supermarket Sweep involving Laurence Llewlyn-Bowen jogging around the food hall with two live pheasants under his arms. But trust us, going for dinner at Kama By Vineet, one of the spots inside Harrods’ new dining hall, is superior to any episode of Supermarket Sweep. There, we said it. It’s the kind of leather seating, dark wood, and warm dome lighting spot that you’ll want to spend a lot of time in. You can picture yourself sitting at their counter for hours, watching the chefs prepare naan, and eating their excellent pistachio lamb chops. Yes, there are also some pretty big prices, but everything from the butter chicken to upbeat service make it completely worthwhile.
A meal at Gloria should begin with an aperitif. Not at the restaurant itself, but somewhere else. A pre-drink drink, if you like. It should then be followed by a murderous rendition of Don’t Speak as your Uber flies around Old Street roundabout. Then, and only then, will you be ready to enter this gloriously OTT Italian-style trattoria in Shoreditch, before promptly ordering another drink. Duh. Gloria is Sex In The City upstairs and 90s Scorsese downstairs. It’s a carbonara mixed in a wheel of pecorino at your table kind of restaurant. You know the kind, right? No, we didn’t either. Whether you’re here for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, it’s a scene. An NSFW lemon meringue pie based scene. Whoever Gloria is, she’s a good-time girl, and this is a good-time restaurant.
It’s only a matter of time before meninists start complaining about the lack of great new restaurants named after blokes. Why aren’t we lauding the rabbit tagliatelle from Trevor? Where are all the plaudits for the watermelon and lardo masterpiece served at Barry’s? Well, the reason is that you can only get this stuff from Emilia, a classy (and glassy) new Italian spot in Mayfair. Emilia is an extremely good posture restaurant. The type where everyone sitting in the white table clothed upstairs looks very well put together. Like they’ve never run for a bus and dropped their ratatouille-filled tupperware doing it. Don’t let that put you off though, because the food is truly excellent. So good that every course offers something that will make you sit up straight. Plus there’s a downstairs bar area below that’s a bit more relaxed.
There are very few things we feel compelled to do two days in a row, eating and Googling old Big Brother contestants aside. But as soon as we ate Mao Chow’s dan dan noodles, we knew we had to come back to try the rest of the menu. This tiny Chinese spot in London Fields making some of the tastiest all-vegan food in London. Those sesame dan dan noodles with soy mince, cucumber, and a sauce that we’d definitely enforce the 30-second rule for if we dropped it on the floor, are better than a lot of meat versions we’ve had in the past. Similarly, their handmade dumplings, mushroom bao, and gong bao asparagus are all dishes worth travelling for. The space is walk-in only, though squeeze-in would be more accurate, as it only seats 12. You can grab it to takeaway, but we’d recommend playing the long game and eating in, as you can also BYOB.
Peg is the third spot from the people behind P. Franco and Bright, and, just like those two this wine bar and restaurant serves up superb wine and small plates. The aesthetic is a mood board entitled ‘peak Hackney’. The seating is (terrazzo) counter-only. The soundtrack is vinyl. The room is entirely monochrome (token plants and jazzy wine labels aside). While the colour comes from the thing that matters most: the plates and what’s on them. The menu is Japanese-inspired and is split between skewer items from the grill - all priced around £5 - and separate small plates. It’s meat off a stick for the most part. And it’s completely fantastic. Imagine a meatball on a skewer. There’s no way to doll that up: it’s a brown juicy ball on a stick. But just wait until you try it, because so much of Peg’s food, as with P. Franco and Bright, reads familiar but tastes like much more.
On all days apart from Sunday, Master Wei opens at 11.30am. This is important intel, because as soon as you get involved with their Xi’an cold skin liangpi noodles you’ll be planning a trip back, as soon as you possibly can. This spot in Bloomsbury is from the people behind Xi’an Impression and, much like those at their sister restaurant, the beef biang biang noodles, potstickers, wontons, and a bunch of other Xi’an specialities are worth going out of your way to eat. It’s a casual, walk-in only spot where you can expect it to be busy, but their smacked cucumber salad will make any waiting worth it. Come here with friends for a catch up that gets interrupted by noodle and seaweed soup slurping, or even a snappy bowl of Xinjiang style noodles for one after work.
If the letters D and D make you think of anaemic basement dwellers trying to hex their dog with a witch’s hat on then fair play. Same here. But go to Imperial Treasure, a fancy Chinese restaurant in St James’s, and you’ll be thinking of dumplings and duck instead. This is a big restaurant that has all the excitement and atmosphere of a music festival in outer space, but when the cheung fun is this good, and the peking duck this moist, who needs buzz? It’s undeniably expensive, but come as a group of 3 or 4, split some dim sum and a duck, and the quality of the food you get is well worth it.
Levan is a casual all-day wine-bar and restaurant in Peckham that serves a menu of excellent sharing plates that are genuinely big enough to share. It’s the kind of laid-back place you might take your out-of-town parents on a Saturday afternoon to show them how cool your life is, but you could also come here for an evening catch-up with friends, a quick solo visit to the counter with a glass of wine and a £7.50 plate of boudin noir for company, or a day-time lunch date that, once the kitchen closes at 3pm, turns into an all-afternoon deep-dive into their sensational wine list.
Bao and Bing in Marylebone is a pretty sexy place. And no, before you start thinking that we really need to ‘get out there more’ (shut up, mum), this restaurant really is. The hoisin duck bao is great and the bing is the Taiwanese spicy crepe we never knew we needed, but this place has a buzz that makes it something a bit special. The lighting is low, the service is slick, and there’s a cocktail bar downstairs that looks like the lounge you’d have if you could afford to go to Urban Outfitters more than once a year. Come here on a first date, sit at the bar and watch as they make fresh bao. Or come here with some of your favourite people and share as many dishes as humanly possible whilst making your way through the cocktail menu.
Quality Wines is the kind of place that feels so natural and obvious and lived in, that you’ll imagine it’s been doing its thing on this quiet corner of Farringdon Road forever. They serve different hot and cold sandwiches every day through the week, as well as excellent sausage rolls and other baked things. That means you should probably be coming here for lunch - either take-out or eat in - Monday to Friday, just like we have. You should also definitely come in the evenings, when it becomes the kind of place where you pull a bottle of wine from the shelves and crowd round a cafe table or the central console with two or three friends. Snacks like whipped lardo on toast and radicchio wrapped in pancetta are inexpensive and excellent, and the £13 pheasant crown with buttery cavolo nero is a must order - as is one more bottle of wine.
When people talk about a restaurant being like ‘the good old days’, we think they mean it reminds them of when food was food, and a meal left you feeling like a fridge in bed. When service was service, and your bread basket was permanently full. When seats were seats, and your arse only sat on squishy red leather. All of the above applies at Kerridge’s - the restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel near Embankment, and your grandparents are gonna love it. But Kerridge’s isn’t solely for the elderly. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone failing to find multiple things they will definitely want to eat here. It’s second generation gastro-pub food. Things like terrine, only with coronation chicken. Risotto, only it’s made solely from mushroom. Pie. Fish and chips. Chocolate pudding. All familiar, but tarted up a bit. And like everything else about Kerridge’s (including their tidy set lunch deal), it’s all quite hard not to get on with.