Restaurants are opening at a dizzying pace in London. You can’t give them all a spin.
So let’s sort the wheat from the chaff, the crème de la crème from plain old skimmed milk. Here are 10 places that have opened so far this year that are not only great, they are reasonably priced, too.
Husband-and-wife team Sam and Sam Clark—yes, they really do have the same name—are London pioneers of the cuisine of North Africa, southern Spain and the eastern Mediterranean. This tapas restaurant in Hackney is their third establishment and is headed by chef Marianna Leivaditaki, who grew up in her family’s fish restaurant in Crete. Morito opened in May and is already very busy. Fortunately, it accepts bookings.
195 Hackney Road, E2 8JL; +44-20-7613-0754.
This Basque restaurant is the London home of Eneko Atxa, who holds three Michelin stars at Azurmendi in Bilbao. Eneko is a casual establishment with modern dishes that are based on home cooking. But Atxa is a playful chef who gives every dish he touches a twist. He’s also a master of presentation, and dishes such as Txerri Boda Pork Festival (£12)—served with a wooden carving of a pig’s head—may bring a smile to your face.
One Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ; +44-20-7300-0300.
This pasta bar in Borough is brilliant in its simplicity: Apart from antipasti and a couple of desserts, the entirety of the menu is six pasta dishes. Each is so distinct, it is tempting to order them all. There’s a tagliatelle with spicy nduja and parsley (£7.50); ravioli filled with ricotta and sage butter (£8.20); and taglierini with slow-cooked tomato sauce (£5.50). I’d keep going back if it weren’t for the queues.
6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ; no phone.
My current favorite restaurant in London occupies a small site on a rundown street near Farringdon. Chef Mark Jarvis (ex Le Manoir aux’Quat Saisons) and his friend Jack Cashmore (ex-Sat Bains) are turning out exceptional modern British dishes. Each ingredient on every plate is there for a reason and the food looks just beautiful. I prefer lunch, with an a la carte menu, while the evening tasting menu at £45 for seven courses is the best value in the city. (Good luck trying to get a table for dinner.)
30 St. Cross Street, EC1N 8UH; +44-20-7430-1503.
This small French bistro in Hoxton serves simple dishes at low prices. The food is well seasoned and big on flavor. Poached eggs, black pudding and pancetta in red wine sauce (£7) is Philip Green rich and powerful; steak frites with Béarnaise sauce (£17) is a bargain for such quality. The wine list is short and reasonably priced. Better still, the award-winning cocktail bar Happiness Forgets is downstairs.
9 Hoxton Square, Hackney; +44-20-7613-3689.
This Fitzrovia neighborhood restaurant is the baby sister of Portland, one of the most respected new establishments of 2015. Clipstone is less expensive and more accessible, with small plates and sourdough flatbreads, otherwise known as pizzas. The tomatoes, raspberries, basil & fermented tomato juice is a fine summer dish at £6, and don’t miss the Isle of Mull scallop, walnut pesto, lemon zest flatbread at £12.
5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB; +44-20-7637-0871.
This restaurant way out in suburban northeast London, near the end of the Central line, is making a splash. It won London Restaurant of the Year at the Taste of London festival in June. Chef Ben Murphy is serving modern French food (in a pub) that would cost a whole lot more in the West End. The set lunch (served from Wednesday to Saturday) is £29 for three courses, while a la carte is £49, with dishes such as squab pigeon, almond, cocoa, cherry; and rice-pudding souffle with passion fruit sorbet.
159 High Road, South Woodford, E18 2PA; +44-20-8504-5952.
This small restaurant off Old Street, in East London, specializes in southern French cooking over a wood fire. Alex Jackson is in charge of the food and his partner is chef Stevie Parle, for whom he previously worked at Rotorino. There’s an open kitchen along one side of the room, whose simple decor belies the quality of the cooking, with dishes such as pork & veal stuffed tomato (£6) and wild sea trout, flat beans, aioli (£19.) The service is very friendly.
15 Micawber Street, N1 7TB; +44-20-7490-0144.
The next two are second locations of already-popular restaurants, but they deserve to make the list because they are both better than the first, with more space and more light.
This new sister of the Taiwanese bun cafe Bao in Soho is larger and lighter. It’s housed on two floors, and the best place to sit is by the counter at street level. The queues are shorter than in Soho. There is much new on the menu, including a spicy Cod Black bao (£5) and crispy prawn heads in a creamy sauce. Duck hearts with chilli garlic sauce (£5.50) are little nuggets of flavor. If you do have to queue, it’s worth the wait.
31 Windmill Street, W1T 2JN; no phone.
This newcomer serves modern French bistro fare with North African influences on Brick Lane, an East London street that until recently was home only to curry houses. Blanchette is owned by three brothers and named after their mom. It started out in Soho and this second outlet is even livelier, with a counter at the entrance where diners can look out onto the street. Dishes include lobster-and-salmon slider with dill pickles and beetroot remoulade (£8.90); and lamb tagine with apricot, almonds and lebna (£9.25). A three-course lunch is £19.50. Blanchette is also near to a cute French bistro, Chez Elles Bistroquet.
204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA; +44-20-7729-7939.