We get asked all the time about the best new restaurants in town, and for that, we can direct you over to our Hit List. But what about the places that blow up for a few months, only for the hype machine to then die down? A lot of these places are still amazing, even if every self proclaimed expert on Twitter isn’t fawning over them any more.
With that in mind, here’s our Cool List, featuring ten restaurants that aren’t new but are still definitely worth your time and attention. They might not be ‘hot’ anymore, but they definitely are still cool.
These guys are yet another story of street food done good, but these days they’re firmly established as one of, if not the, best BBQ restaurant in London. Their brisket bun remains the best hunk of meat between bread you can get in London for under a tenner, and really, that’s just for starters. Wait till you get onto the ribs and the roasted aubergine and the charred greens. As long as their food remains shithot, this place will always be cool in our books.
It’s safe to say that locals who were worried about Naughty Piglets and the gentrification of Brixton have taken to this like an old school establishment. It’s a sharing plates thing with an inventive French-fusion approach and, as if you couldn’t guess, they’re big on wines as well. You’ll feel at home as soon as you walk in here, even if you’re not part of the neighbourhood.
When Som Saa first opened the hype was so, well, hyped, that our dog tried to book a table. No joke. He doesn’t even like Thai food. Thankfully it’s died down now and it’s much easier to get a reservation, which is good because the food is still superb. The whole fried sea bass is still a go-to and we sometimes dream about the crispy pork red curry. A word of warning: whilst this place remains cool as you like, the food is not.
Now that foraging ingredients is as common as going to the shops for a pint of milk, Native’s USP isn’t as interesting to people who love USPs. That’s good because it’s still some of the best well sourced, well cooked and well priced (as in not dear) food in London. As you expect, the menu is seasonal so things are coming and going all the time, but you’re guaranteed a great meal when you come here. It’s a a place that knows exactly what it’s doing.
Most tapas bars in London are actually just Spanish-themed restaurants serving small plates, but Jose is the closest you’ll get to an actual tapas bar. Like in Spain, everything arrives on little plates, it’s always packed, and you’ll either eat standing or sat on a bar stool. The atmosphere and food are both great, and it’s been one of the best Spanish restaurants in town since opening back in 2011. The menu’s simple but everything you eat - from croquetas to a plate of jamon or anchovies - will always be of the highest quality. While it’s still not as insanely rammed as it used to be, it still gets busy, so try to get there early.
If Begging Bowl had opened in Spitalfields six months ago, then there’s a good chance that everyone and their granddad would be falling over themselves to eat there. Despite being a bit further away in Peckham, the modern Thai food here is just as good as its better-known counterparts in central London, and you should absolutely plan a trip to South-East London to eat their incredible salads and curries. While they don’t take bookings, it’s easy enough to get a table as a walk-in.
Bistrotheque is a classic East London restaurant that was doing banging cabaret nights and lush brunches back when places like Beagle were merely a twinkle in someone’s eye. It’s still an original as far as hangs out East go, and the whitewashed warehouse setting and French-leaning food feel as fresh as they did years ago. Brunch is a classic move - when you’re three cocktails deep and the pianist starts playing Strawberry Fields, there isn’t a better place to be at the weekend.
A restaurant with small plates and a natural wine list seems to open every other day in London, but Brawn in Shoreditch was one of the first, and it’s still one of the best. The modern European food here like scallop crudo or a textbook panna cotta is simple and excellent, and it’s the kind of thing we could eat every day. It’s a popular neighbourhood hangout, and we like it for a leisurely lunch or for a glass of wine and a plate of pasta at any time of day.
While Moro’s little sister Morito Hackney is the newer, hipper spot, this classic Spanish/North African restaurant has been packed with real adults for over 20 years, serving an ever-changing menu of things like cuttlefish kofte and wood-roasted skate with pilaf. Go with a few friends, order a good bottle of wine, and pretend that you’re all at a terribly sophisticated dinner party. You are in Islington, after all.
Gathering a few friends for Korean BBQ is always a good idea, because little truly says ‘friendship’ like trusting each other with several rounds of hard liquor and an open fire. To that end, Koba does the best one in central London. Compared to the average barbecue spot, the higher prices are justified by the fact that you’ll eat food that’s better, and in a space that’s been kitted out with futuristic induction fans so you don’t go home smelling of smoke. The seafood BBQ is excellent, and don’t miss the pajeon pancake and the spicy beef stew.