BEST NEW OPENING: Norma, Fitzrovia
Housed in a really pretty townhouse on Charlotte Street, Ben Tish’s newest restaurant offers up Sicilian-inspired antipasti, pasta, grilled fish and meat, with Moorish influences.
All the little snack dishes are delicious – our favourite was pumpkin pizzette with sweet onions and taleggio – and other amazing dishes include a highly unusual aubergine parmigiana.
It’s intimate and beautifully decorated with hints of ‘Orient Express’ art deco glamour. Don’t leave without trying the deserts.
BEST STREET FOOD:
Nana Fanny’s, Borough Market Kitchen
Twenty food traders have taken up residence at this great new space at Borough Market, open every lunchtime.
Each trader cooks uses seasonal produce from the market and there are long tables to sit at and enjoy your wares.
Wrap up warm and pop along to enjoy piled high salt beef sandwiches and fluffy, crispy latkes from Nana Fanny’s. Ivan runs the business with his two sons and salt beef has been in his blood for decades.
You’ll also find Nana Fanny’s at Broadway Market.
BEST FINE DINING:
Dinner by Heston, Mandarin Oriental
I’ve waited a long, long time to visit this legendary restaurant and not only is it worth the wait, it’s worth the price too if you go for lunch and stick to the three-course set menu at £48 per head (main courses on the a ala carte will set you back nearly that). I knew I was in for an exemplary experience when I sneezed and a box of tissues was thrust at me by the waiter. Past and present blend beautifully together with historical dishes such as Quaking Pudding served in a contemporary interior with wall sconces in the shape of jelly moulds and magnificent views across Hyde Park (Henry VIII’s hunting grounds).
MOST TALKED-ABOUT NEW OPENING IN NORTH LONDON:
Louis from the Carob Tree has come up trumps with a new opening in Barnet on the former Prezzo site. This large, bright and buzzy venue has a similar offering to his former restaurant with freshly grilled fish and meat plus salads, with generous portions and reasonable prices.
BEST NEW SHARING PLATES:
Arabica, Kings Cross
Arabica at Borough Market was one of the original ‘new wave’ Middle Eastern restaurants. Now there’s a new branch at King’s Cross. I love the thick-cut creamy halloumi with poached quince, and the winter squash freekeh loaded with sultanas, crispy onions, nuts and clementines. The berbere spiced cauliflower from the charcoal grill is burnt and crispy on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside, covered with nuts, pomegranate, tahini yogurt and rose petals. Desserts are good too. Bright and buzzy with friendly service, this is a really exciting new opening.
BEST DISH OUTSIDE LONDON
A trip to the Lake District earlier this year was an opportunity to visit L’Enclume in the picturesque village of Cartmel. A stunning nine-course lunch menu featured ‘hen of the woods’, a rich, intensely flavoured ‘meaty’ mushroom, which has become an iconic feature of Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Definitely the best thing I’ve eaten this year.
BEST FESTIVE DECORATIONS: 34 Mayfair
This has long been my favourite restaurant and now it has surpassed even itself with ‘Miracle at 34 Mayfair’, a festive installation of 14,000 decorations covering the restaurant walls and ceiling, including more than 8,000 baubles. To add extra sparkle there are champagne cocktails and delicious festive desserts plus an indulgent white truffle tagliatelle.
BEST NEW KOSHER CONCEPT;
Hot Cut, Golders Green
I love the new Hot Cut concept in Golders Green. Choose your meaty filling (turkey – honey glazed/turkey pastrami/smoked turkey brisket or beef – salt beef brisket/beef pastrami luncheon salami) and your bread (white/granary/rye) and then spice it up with a choice of seven sauces. The sandwich is rolled up and popped on the hotplate to warm it up. The Hot Cut sandwich is a piled-high mixture of everything. It’s a funky, colourful place with a decidedly ‘young’ vibe – but that doesn’t stop me from popping in on my way back from town for a satisfying meaty bite.
BEST DECOR: Circolo Popolare, Fitzrovia
I asked LBBOI interiors experts Elisa Dell and Gemma Steinberg to nominate this one!
The rainforestesque foliage greets you outside as does the long queue! Inside, alabaster stone walls are filled with an abundance of paintings, flowers, posters, and a multitude of spirit bottles lining the shelves. The ceiling is a combination of hanging wisteria plants intertwined with festoon lighting, and the furnishings are a mixture of wood & wicker, prettily enhanced by candlelight. Together with the buzzy atmosphere and delicious food, expect to see Elisa or Gemma.