It’s a tough time for restaurants and bars, but if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that London establishments are resilient and resourceful. The spots on this guide have been pivoting, popping up, collaborating, and banding together to support their communities since lockdown first started last year. In one way or another they’re all doing something new - and we’re excited for you to discover them.
And that’s what our Hit List is: a guide to our favourite new food and drink experiences in London. We track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. While the Hit List is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have genuinely checked out.
Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself - inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighbourhoods, chefs and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor dining, takeaway and delivery, or at-home meal kits, The Hit List is here to help you find a great new spot to support - while taking a much-needed night off from your kitchen. Read on to find your new favourites.
“There are restaurants you want to be in for special occasions, others you save for your beloved, and some that you simply want to age decrepitly and drunkly in. Café Deco is all of the above. Small but perfectly formed, much like the food it serves, there is little not to love about what Anna Tobias (of Rochelle Canteen and River Cafe kitchens) and the 40 Maltby Street team has done here. The menu may be short, 12 dishes or so, but the time you spend here won’t be. Pork crackling with apple sauce, eggs and mayo with a single anchovy perched on top, and ham - a glorious plate of ham! - were all things that we gobbled as swiftly as a deer. Until said deer turned up in the shape of a bowl of venison stew and mash. Truly the most luxurious of baby food, though everything was paired with something from the brilliant, wandering, low-intervention adult-only wine list. Set in the hushed surroundings around UCL this unconventionally conventional café, restaurant, shop and soon-to-be wine bar hybrid feels right. So much so that perhaps Bloomsbury will have another blue plaque here in the future. One that could read ‘Jake Missing, Glutton, Keeled over here’ but more likely and fittingly, ‘Anna Tobias, Chef, Made people happy here’.” - JM
“Some restaurants become your friend. You know, those cool, casual places you return to time and time again, to the point where they’re a regular cast member in all of your stories. You eat there, you date there, and after one too many bevs on a Tuesday night, you’d actually quite happily sleep there. A couple of bites into The Red Duck’s sweet, super tender char siu pork, I knew that this place is going to be one of my best mates in restaurant form. The atmosphere is laid back, the service is friendly, the intimate front terrace screams date night, and on top of all that, the food here is so good that you’ll be mass-broadcasting messages like ‘omg this duck, so good, Daffy could never’ in your WhatsApp chats. A couple minutes walk from Balham station, the menu is all about Chinese classics like Sichuan dumplings, bang bang chicken, and their signature crispy aromatic duck. Hot tip: you should order all of the above and throw in a round of braised glass noodles too just for good measure. In the spirit of some of my other ride-or-die best friends, this place also makes a mean negroni, with an honourable mention to the rhubarb spritz. Come with your favourite friends, come with your partner, just know that I have a feeling that you’ll be coming back.” - HLB
“Picture this: a cricket field, benches, sofas, brisket, lamb barbacoa, buffalo chicken wings. Happiness. And now picture you, sitting in the sunshine, eating a platter with all of that, plus more. Cue Point, a British Afghan catering company, turned nationwide delivery guardian angel over lockdown, have set up shop in The Chiswick Pavilion and are serving up some of the best slow cooked meats you’ll find in London. Their new spot is all outdoors, and the huge space seats up to 200 people. As well as that they’ve got a drive-thru BBQ situation on the weekends, which means if you pre-order (the day before) you can pick up some of their 16-hour oak smoked brisket and eat it in the comfort of your car. Will I be back for more of their excellent brisket buns and hush puppies? I’m not even going to try to make a smart joke about it - the answer is yes.” - RS
“It’s a safe of glistening roasted ducks rather than a phoenix that’s risen from the ashes of a much-loved banh mi spot in King’s Cross. Where baguettes were once filled, meats are roasted and dumplings are handmade and, let me tell you, if you were a Viet Baguette aficionado then Dim Sum & Duck will ease your pain. There’s no point beating around the bush here: this is the best all-round Cantonese I’ve eaten in London. The dumplings, from xiaolongbao to cheung fun are superb. A trio of delicate glass wrapper prawn and chive dumplings and a foursome of bathing pork balls have taken permanent residence in a very important part of my brain: the part that looks like a merry-go-round and has different delicious foods manically turning 24/7. Other things are brilliant too. These things include, but are not limited to: the beef ho fun, the warm service, the morning glory in preserved bean curd with a whack of garlic, and the fact it’s BYOB with an offy bang opposite. One thing to know is that it’s not exactly roomy, but, frankly, I will be making room to be here at least once a month.” - JM
“For all of one generation’s ‘not-the-same-as-in-my-day’ moans to another’s ‘it-was-never-any-good-even-in-my-day’ retorts, Soho is still capable of producing excellent restaurants doing interesting (and by that I mean not homogenous) things. Mr Ji is the best example of that right now. The Taiwanese restaurant on Old Compton Street screams cocktails thanks to its neon-lit close quarters bar space. It also screams chicken, not at you as you decline a third rice martini, but via its poultry-focused menu. The PSC (poached soy chicken) is the standout dish, so moist that your hands may turn prune-ish just looking at it, while the deep-fried hearts and breast are also essential. A cubic take on prawn toast, filled with a prawn and béchamel mixture before having parmesan rained over it, feels like the work of TATA Eatery (fomerly in the kitchen at Tayer and Elementary), who helped owner Samuel Haim develop the menu. It’s an exciting addition to Soho right now, but I’m even more excited to see what comes out of the kitchen in the future.”- JM
“Whilst I love a restaurant with hanging foliage and more chandeliers than that Selling Sunset mansion that still hasn’t been sold, those things are not quite enough to get me back somewhere again and again. A tiny takeaway kitchen under a hotel with zero chandeliers and just three excellent dishes on the menu however and I’ll be there twice in a week. And this spot on Sussex Gardens is only open weekends. The theme of the menu is birria - a Mexican-inspired stew made with slow cooked lamb - and the lamb here is the kind you can get a meaty whiff of by just walking past. While there’s birria ramen and nachos as well, the star of the show here are the birria tacos. Meaty, cheesy, and so good that three might not be enough, these tacos are excellent. And the enjoyment isn’t lessened at all by having to eat them on a park bench a couple of roads down. In fact, paired with the consommé, it’s the perfect warming meal for the British weather.” - RS
“It’s great when people get it. What ‘it’ is always tends to be pretty nebulous but hugely important, and in the case of Pockets - a little falafel stall in London Fields - they get it. They get that a pitta needs to be layered. A crisp still-hot falafel, cabbage salad, hummus, zhoug, a drizzle of amba, tahini. Repeat. No one thing is hidden, no one perfect bite combining the falafel, the sauces, the tart crunch of cabbage and the hit of (essential) pickled chilli is rationed. It’s the full shebang 100% of the time. But before they even started layering everything into their soft, pillow-y pockets, I asked “what’s that?” nodding towards a crispy wedge waiting to be slipped on top at the end. “It’s a deep-fried potato” was the response. Safe to say, they get it.” - JM
“Hideaway is the kind of chandelier-clad café that makes you want to get rich through cryptocurrencies even though you thought Bitcoin was some kind of Pokemon until six months ago. True story. But this thinking stems from the fact that Hideaway, much like its glorious fine dining big sister restaurant Hide, is pricey. Importantly, it’s also entirely worth every single pound you spend. The eclairs are rich, the croque madame is a soft, crispy cheese fest, and the pizzas come topped with quality things like truffle and wild thyme. The £18 lobster roll is the real star of the show at this Mayfair café though. It’s a rich, sweet hefty lunch that I ate in Green Park with a big fat smile on my face. The specialist coffee is also excellent, like the kind of excellent where you take one sip and consider buying a second one to prevent any caffeine attachment issues arising. And then there’s the wines from Hedonism, the caviar and black truffle by the till, and out front, the boujiest waffle station the world has ever seen. It’s fine dining dressed down in its trackies, ready for a good time at the park. Basically, every single thing about this place is fantastic.”- HLB
“There’s always room for exciting new food in London but, more than anything, there’s always room for an exciting new sandwich. Put it on a plate and there may be pause. Put it between two slices and it’s down the pie hole immediately. This occurred to me at Panadera - an impeccable Filipino bakery in Kentish Town from the Mamasons people - watching customers look at the sandwich board, hesitate over the corned beef hash sando before, I’ve decided, thinking ‘fuck it, it’s a sandwich’. And what a sandwich it is. It’s soft and crunchy, thanks to the deep fried corned beef patty, with lovely little chunks of potato flecked throughout. There’s sweetness from the pandesal - Filipino milk bread - combined with a tart sauce, a wipe of mayo, and a bit of lettuce that’s there for moral support. You can expect to queue for it, but don’t expect to be disappointed.” - JM
“I’ll let you in on a little Infatuation London secret. Come and peak behind the curtain of my little food-obsessed brain. Despite the fluffiest, delicious baked goods, I didn’t know whether to give Café Bao the high accolade of Best New Restaurant purely down to the fact that Bao already has several excellent restaurants across London. But - and it’s a big but - Café Bao in King’s Cross is different from their other spots. For starters, it isn’t the savoury bao that takes centre-stage here, it’s the sweet stuff. Think white chocolate bao packed full of peach red bean, molten festive specials, and our personal favourite, the salted egg custard sad face bao. If you’re an eternal fan of their signature pork bao, don’t panic, because they’re still serving all the classics, as well as additions like their take on a pizza slice and a certified genius steamed dough sausage roll. The space is warm but still that distinctive brand of Bao cool, and I loaded up on a couple of classic bao, plenty of the baked goods, and enjoyed them down by the canal in the sunshine. A top game plan even if I do say so myself.” - HLB
“There are things you eat that are just lovely background noise to whatever else you’re doing - a bowl of pesto pasta whilst you watch TV, a fresh fruit salad you nibble on whilst you’re in a meeting. And then there are those foods that demand your full attention. Chuku’s, a bright and cheerful little Nigerian tapas spot near Seven Sisters station in Tottenham, is doing DIY wraps packed full of tender meat, big flavours, and sauces that are so good they’ll make you stop whatever else you’re doing and say something ridiculous like ‘would it be weird if I married this wrap?’. The honey suya sauce is a simultaneous blast of spice and sweetness, whilst their house salad comes covered in the zestiest of zesty drizzles. Mix them together inside a soft wrap with plenty of fluffy jollof quinoa and you’ve got one of the best things you can eat in London right now. Plus, they’re delivering nationwide.”- HLB
“London, for all its park form during the summer months - the disposable tin, the burnt sausages, the suspect chicken - is not a BBQ city. At least, not in the cuisine sense. So I was pretty happy when a friend told me about a little hatch around the corner from him in Hackney Wick doing “a buff pork bun and some doughnuts that sound a bit fucked”. His words, it turns out, were 100% accurate. Some of the things at From The Ashes are indeed fucked, in the best possible way. The smoked pork bun, complete with crispy bits, chunky bits, melt-in-your-mouth bits, pickles, and both smoked sriracha marmite and smoked garlic mayo, is lovely. The burnt end beans, positively chuggable. A special of fore rib and chimichurri, pink and juicy and something that isn’t meant to be eaten with your hands, but absolutely should be. As for the doughnut, I can’t comment as they’d run out. Which tells me I’ll be back.” - JM
“Although the whole rise-of-the-pyjamas situation meant that Instagram thirst traps were more of a pre-pandemic thing, some didn’t get the memo. Namely, this Balham spot specialising in hearty seafood platters. Post after post of sizzling prawns, buttery lobster, and snow crab on Trap Kitchen’s hugely popular IG page should be tempting enough to get anyone over to south west London. When I did, it was the meaty lobster tails, spicy mac and cheese, and ever-so-sweet Spanish rice, that made it one of the best places I’ve tried all year. And they’re the reason you should definitely have this place on your list. In the before times, it was a sit down spot, with sofa chairs and a cocktail bar, but due to government regulations it’s become a takeaway only operation, with customers invited to call ahead or head to the takeaway window to place an order and wait. Which you should. It’s tasty, messy, and once you’ve tried it, it’ll be something you crave at least once a week.”
- Rianne Shlebak, Editorial Assistant
“The only thing stopping me from demanding that 2020 is removed from my brain is the memory of my evening at Chishuru. That, and maybe one particularly cute corgi sighting on Tooting Common. The rest, take it. But on the memorable night I went to West African spot, Chishuru, I not only drank wine and enjoyed some lovely, carefree chatter about cauliflower with the chef across the tiny open kitchen, but I ate some of the best food I’ve ever had. Not this month, or this year, but ever. From a whacking great piece of goat shoulder covered in green sauce, to the small dollop of pumpkin seed pesto that comes on top of the ekuru, everything here is packed full of big flavours. If that wasn’t enough, their groundnut soup has altered the way I see peanuts forever. It’s not just a nut guys, it’s a spicy texture party waiting to happen, especially when combined with some perfectly charred cauliflower. This Brixton space is small and cosy, but trust me, the food served here is a big deal.”- HLB
“There are multiple reasons as to why I quickly fell in love with Noodle & Beer. The first was before I even ate at this Chongqing noodle and Sichuan spot in Spitalfields. It was their name. It spoke to me both personally and profoundly. The second, third, fourth, and all the rest were very much food-related. Their thick (perhaps even worthy of two cs) tian-shui mian udon was unlike any udon I’d had or have had since: full of bite and sitting in a slurpable pool of a sweet, nutty, and Sichuan pepper-filled sauce. The other thing was the lang-ya tu dou, their handmade crinkle cut chips wok-fried in chilli oil with onion and pepper. Also their gong-bao and their niu-rou mian beef noodle soup. The service was memorably excellent both in regular and ‘new normal’ terms, and, via Instagram, I see that they throw in little Louis Vuitton smelly samples into their takeaway bags. That’s brilliant. I think I might just love everything about it, really.” - JM
“London isn’t lacking when it comes to tacos, but it is lacking when it comes to good tacos. There are a few places that are trying to remedy that: Sonora Taqueria is one of them and La Chingada is another. The tiny fluoro taqueria in Surrey Quays is my idea of a messy, saucy, and altogether cheesy heaven. Perching on the pavement outside La Chingada with a suadero taco in one hand, a beer in another, and a trail of chipotle sauce around me, is one of my favourite eating memories of recent times. Sure you could eat their tacos and towering tortas at home, but it’s much better and much more fun in situ.” - JM
“Many times over the last year or so, I’ve thought to myself: if all were right with the world, there would be a deep-dish pizza spot in London serving thick, saucy, cheesy pizzas with crispy crusts. And they would do thoughtful things like offer a selection of sauces to dip those crusts in. They might even have some halal fried chicken on the menu, because they’ll know that in a perfect world, you always have some fried chicken alongside your excellent 10x14inch Detroit-style pizza. Well, even though all is definitely not right with the world, this spot in Brixton’s Market House is doing all these things. Most importantly, it’s doing them right. From the focaccia-like texture, the crispy cheese-covered crusts, and the rivers of tomato sauce, the pizzas at this place are some of the best I’ve had in London.” - RS
“Chains get a bad rep because of places like Frankie & Benny’s and people like me who are unable to let go of a grudge against a £15 portion of crap meatballs and spaghetti over a decade ago. But there are plenty of good chains in the world, one being Patty & Bun. Their latest venture is Sidechick, a roast chicken delivery service that is the best takeaway I’ve ever eaten. Moist and crispy-skinned roast chicken is an easy win when done well, and it’s done well here. Very well. The za’atar, lemon, garlic, and honey marinade is my favourite, and paired with crispy potatoes, salads, or smoky aubergine with labneh, it’s a downright delicious dinner.” - JM
“Akoko was the one of the last meals I had sitting inside a restaurant before whatever version of hell we’re living in now. Back in that part of late-2020, meals were weirdly, confusingly, and coldly described as ‘substantial’, but the tasting menu I had at this slick West African spot in Fitzrovia was something that erred on sensational. Their takes on boli and epa (plantain and groundnut) and miyan taushe (pumpkin soup) make me particularly wistful for better and more lobster-in-soup-filled times, but it’s the giddy excitement I felt at Akoko that I miss most. The excitement of eating former Masterchef contestant William Chilila’s food (because yes, I am a sad and avid watcher), of a bit of theatre in a restaurant that doesn’t feel stiff and, more than anything, the excitement that very few tasting menu restaurants in London are playing with these ingredients. It’s fine, but more importantly fun, dining.” - JM
“Dom’s has been on my personal hit list from the day it opened on the Hackney Road. I’ve followed the trail of breadcrumbs these guys have been leaving from their sandwich escapades at Visions Canteen and Lanark Coffee like a toddler with a lust for bread. So when I started seeing pictures on Instagram of home baked semolina rolls, absolutely heaving with everything from cold cuts to Thai ground chicken, it was something close to love at first sight. I’d say there’s little to say that I haven’t said already, but somehow I, or someone I know, keeps finding words. Some recent highlights include: “I think I dislocated my jaw in happiness”, “I had a sandwich for breakfast but I still want Dom’s for lunch, and “I love the sub, but I love the nap more”. Never has the phrase ‘gotta get that bread’ been more relevant. Especially as they’re opening a new location in the City.” - JM
“I would like to preface this by saying that my adoration cannot and will not be bought through stickers. Unless they are very, very good stickers like the ones that come as part of any Napoli Gang delivery. What can I say, the way to my heart is through my arts and crafts drawer. But importantly, it’s also through my stomach. This delivery service from the people behind loud and proud trattorias Circolo Popolare and Gloria, are bringing excellent pizzas, pastas, and - chef kiss - bottles of limoncello directly to your door. On top of all the gloriously silly XXL desserts and a lasagne I like to elegantly eat straight from its metal container as part of my ‘self-care routine’, they’ve also somehow managed to turn food delivery into an instant party. Yes, you get fun stickers but you also get a party playlist that can quickly stop any rubbish mood in its tracks. Even if you feel like the epitome of Eeyore mid-gloom fest, I challenge you to not have a good night accompanied by a little nduja pizza and a whole lot of the Napoli Gang’s party spirit.” - HLB
“I don’t really subscribe to the whole ‘food as fuel’ thing. Unsurprising really, as a prerequisite for this job is to think about pak choi in the same way a hormonal teenager thinks about... well, everything. With that said, there are still some meals, often on-the-go, where I’m like ‘that’ll do’. Fill-a-holers. It’s what I (thoughtlessly) thought as I walked by Fen in Spitalfields Market, before soon realising I was chewing on some of the best noodles I’d eaten in London. It’s not that I didn’t think Fen would be good. I just didn’t think it would be this good. Their take on big plate chicken - bouncy belt noodles laying in a slippery bath of Szechuan chilli oil with slowly stewed chicken, potatoes, and peppers on top - is fantastic. And it’s the best big-plate-but-not-big-plate-chicken (it’s a one person portion) I’ve had. I probably should’ve known better - Fen is from the same people as Dumpling Shack, after all - but it’s a nice reminder that high expectations can always be exceeded.” - JM
“The Clarence is another gastropub from a lineage of excellent London gastropubs. Older siblings the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms are two of the most consistently delicious pubs around that still maintain a feeling of comforting pub-ishness. There’s no danger of seeing a mini shopping basket full of chips here. Anyway, The Clarence on Stoke Newington Church Street is their latest venture that somehow feels like it’s been making fried pumpkin, roast brill, and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with dauphinoise forever and ever. Simultaneously relaxed and delicious, it manages to make lots of effort seem effortless, and it’s instantly one of my new back-pocket favourites.” - JM
“Elliots was never a bad restaurant. In fact, it was always a very good restaurant, home to a winning burger and some Isle Of Mull cheese puffs that might as well have been called Fuck Me, These Are Fantastic. But when this class act reopened after the first lockdown they set up a terrace under one of the big arches in Borough Market and an al fresco star was born. Never has feeling like you’re on holiday also felt so quintessentially London. Sharing seafood to the hum of Stoney Street chatter, sipping natural wine with the smell of ale in the air, and fighting over the last spoonful of limoncello sorbet as the sun sets. Come winter, they put up a heated gazebo and carried on serving their legendary cheese puffs and things that taste fantastic with peppercorn butter. Long live Ell Fresco.” - HLB