A clutch of design savvy restaurants have opened in London this Autumn — from retro-designed Indian athletic clubs to ultra-modern towers of steel and glass. They all offer eye-popping atmosphere that competes with the city’s five star fare. Here are 7 favorites.
Chef Jason Atherton’s latest project is a stately room inside London’s new Edition Hotel. The setting is glitzy and fabulous old London architecture: elaborate and soaring stucco ceilings light with giant gilt chandeliers. The room’s walls are completely covered in giant framed photographs and paintings, all lit with soft light. It’s always a delight to see architecturally monumental and glamorous dinning rooms like this open in London, and its even better when the food and drinks live up to the interiors. If you manage to secure a table, ask for one of the cushy, half-moon shaped booths. Order a Dill or No Dill, a crisp, refreshing cocktail of Tanqueray gin, lemon, smashed cucumber, elderflower cordial, fresh dill, smoked salt, and follow up with a glass of champagne and the seafood tasting platter, a two-tiers of plump oysters, sweet lobster tail, minuscule winkles, sea snails, jumbo shrimp and langoustines. 10 Berners Street, London W1T 3N, bernerstavern.com
No one ever went to London’s Bistroteque exclusively for the food. And not much has changed for the restaurant group’s newest venture in the Ace Hotel’s Shoreditch High Street outpost. Half the delight of coming here is sitting at one of the sage green leather banquets and taking in the rooms great design. David Waddington and his business partner, Pablo Flack, worked with design stars like Sacha Leong, who dressed the enormous room with ribs of honey colored wood in homage to an old Buenos Aires restaurant, since torn down, that Mr. Flack adored. The space is elegant, and a welcome turn away from the cloying hipster heritage design stories you get ad nauseam at this end of town. Braised fennel, with brown crabmeat and shrimps topped with a perfectly cooked serving of crispy-skinned plaice was balanced and delicious. Hoi Polloi also serves breakfast lunch and weekend brunch, and is a great afternoon hangout for sipping Stumptown and shooting off emails. For weekends, book in advance. 100 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JQ, hoi-polloi.co.uk
At their new 130-cover restaurant, Angela Hartnett, Neil Borthwick and Canteen founders Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton Malone worked to shed some modern light on the homey qualities of a classic English tavern. They went about doing so by hiring Hackney based design studio, Very Good and Proper, who referenced big and bold furnishings from the 1950s and 60s. Giant green leather ribbed booths and grey and burgundy wool upholstered chairs share the room with a handsome U-shaped wooden bar and an open plan kitchen. From your seats you can watch the madness in the kitchen, as Borthwick (the chef) puts the finishing touch on plates like tender roasted quail served with fois gras and delicious and dainty accompanying slaws. Or just go for a drink (or three). It’s a Don Draper wet lunch kind of place. 36 Charlotte Rd, London EC2A 3PG, merchantstavern.co.uk
Cut glass wall lamps from Jaipur glow against the dark lacquered ceilings of the new Indian restaurant, Gymkhana. The new 100 cover Gymkhana is designed to bring you back to the days when Indian gymkhana sports clubs, set up by the British Raj, were as common to colonial India as country clubs are to American golfers. Everything has a handsome sheen, from the brass edged marble dinning tables to the throw back rattan chairs and porcelain checkerboard floors. Chef Karam Sethi serves elegant Indian fare that isn’t heavy or oily or by any means cliche, like suckling pig shank vindaloo that melts in your mouth and buffalo seekh kebabs served with a tart coriander and black salt chutney. The wait for a table here currently stands at one month, so in the meantime, if you’re too curious to wait, you can get a sneak peak from Gymkhana’s giant central brass bar. 42 Albemarle Street, London Q1A 4JH, gymkhanalondon.com
The first thing you come across at London’s newest sherry tavern is a wood clad bar stocked with giant oak barrels of some of Spain’s more popular sherries, like Fernando de Castilla, El Maestro Sierra. The dim lit bar is small and cozy, and opens on to a sunken dinning room flooded with light by a pyramid shaped skylight. The 30-some covers share the dinning room with a bar/open plan kitchen, where shared plates like deliciously fatty shavings of Jamon de Bellota and paper thing cuts of smoked scallop carpaccio with avocado purée are prepared by a young, friendly staff. And while main dishes and deserts like braised pig cheeks, oloroso and potato purée that fall apart or the house made vanilla ice cream with dried malaga raisins and pedro ximenez wine are each exquisite, it’s almost like they exist simply to compliment the lovely finos and sherries at the bar.
You could come here alone for lunch on Saturday and sit at the dark wood bar with the cellar master siphoning from the oak barrels generous pours of sherries for you to taste. The tiny sherry taverns found of Jerez, a town in Andalusia, is the archetype here. And in a city where this Spanish tipple is largely misunderstood, it’s refreshing to know that co-owner Tim Luther, who is behind innovative and wildly popular restaurants like Copita and Barrica, is taking adding another design and culinary proposal to London’s inexhaustibly dynamic food scene. No. 3 Windmill Street Fitzrovia, London W1T 2HY, drakestabanco.com
North Audley Cantine
Just off Oxford Street, the North Audly Cantine, or NAC as many call it, is London’s modish new French bistro and cocktail lounge. The small sharing plate trend continues here in a room of whitewashed exposed brick walls and cozy brown leather banquets. Bronze industrial style chandeliers and light fixtures cast a dim, warm glow across the 50-cover, split level room. The restaurant is led by chef Jeremy Coste, who turns out comforting and bright dishes like mac ‘n’ cheese with black truffle shavings and dulce de leche ice-cream. There are more substantial offerings, among the best are juicy Angus tenderloin served with crispy chips and chives, and buttery seared scallops paired with roasted squash. If there is a wait, pass the time at the trying one of NAC’s house cocktails like the Lady Grey, a potent mix of Earl Grey infused gin, lime and Champagne. 41 North Audley Street, London W1K 6ZP, naclondon.co.uk
Located near the top of Renzo Piano’s gleaming new Shard skyscraper, Aqua Shard is all about the view: the atrium bar overlooking the Thames River and central London is pretty spectacular. Renzo Piano designed the building after one of the many church spires that used to define London’s 17th and 18th century urban fabric. Eating at great heights can be a little nauseating. But lately London restaurateurs are all about creating vertiginous eating experiences. And sometimes their cuisine is a salve for vertigo. At this 31st floor eatery, hearty English offerings like roasted wood pigeon with black currant and a Cognac and pepper jus are tender and tart, without being too bloody and gamey as pigeon often is. The heritage carrot salad with brown butter almonds and goat curd, and the Dover sole on the bone with Ibérico ham were sweet, salty, and perfectly cooked. So good that you forget all about you’re unnaturally high place among the clouds. Level 31 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY, aquashard.co.uk
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