London’s Top Restaurants Mix Burgers, Champagne: Richard Vines
There are so many new restaurants in London, it can be difficult to keep up. Here are some of my favorites from the past year.
10 Greek Street: This crowded and informal Soho venue is so low-key, you might miss it. That would be a loss. The daily changing menu of seasonal dishes is enticing, the cooking is assured and the prices are low. Options may include Gloucester Old Spot pork chop, polenta and spring greens or asparagus, duck egg & parmesan. The wine list is also refreshing. Information: http://www.10greekstreet.com/ or +44-20-7734-4677.
28-50: This Marylebone wine bar serves fine food and has a drinks list that is also worth crossing London for. There are few restaurants in London where the price/quality ratio is so heavily in favor of the diner. Unlike the original 28-50, housed in a basement, this new outpost is at street level. It is a real treat. Information: http://www.2850.co.uk/ or +44-20-7725-1330.
Bubbledogs: This casual venue in Fitzrovia serves hot dogs and Champagne. That’s it. There was a line of almost 40 people when I last left Bubbledogs, early on the evening of Dec. 18. I’m not surprised: It’s a fun place. Champagne starts at 38 pounds ($61.90) with Gaston Chiquet. The dogs are available with a vegetarian sausage if you like. Information: http://www.bubbledogs.co.uk/ or +44-20-7637-7770.
Burger & Lobster: The formula is simple. There’s no menu and no starters. You can have either burger or lobster for 20 pounds, with fries and salad. That is cheap for a lobster and expensive for a burger, and diners love it. Three branches of this offshoot of Goodman steak house have opened in a year and a fourth is on its way. Information: http://www.burgerandlobster.com/ or +44-20-7490-9230.
Coya: Peruvian cuisine is newly fashionable in London’s West End, where three such restaurants have opened over the past year. Coya is my favorite. It’s owned by Arjun Waney, whose empire includes Zuma and the Arts Club, and Coya is similarly fashionable. It also serves very good food. Sanjay Dwivedi is a chef who can impress without ostentation. Information: http://www.coyarestaurant.com/ or +44-20-7042-7118.
Dabbous: This restaurant has been the big hit of 2012. Chef Ollie Dabbous has taken all the lessons he has learned from masters such as Aggi Sverrisson at Texture and then let rip with his own creativity. The fact his prices are so low -- 28 pounds for the four-course lunch -- adds to the allure. If you can’t get a table, the basement bar is good for cocktails and snacks. Information: http://www.dabbous.co.uk/ or +44-20-7323-1544.
Delaunay: This offshoot of the Wolseley retains some of the buzz of the original. It’s just as elegant and the food has the edge, although the menu is similar. Delaunay is less frenetic and more relaxing. It is one of my favorite spots in London. Information: http://www.thedelaunay.com/ or +44-20-7499-8558.
Dishoom: This is the first offshoot of an Indian street- food restaurant that opened in the West End in 2010. The new outlet in Shoreditch is a great space. The staffers are friendly, the prices are low and the food is first-class. I had one of my most enjoyable meals of the year here. Dishoom well encapsulates the current trend for quality without fuss. Information: http://www.dishoom.com/ or +44-20-7420-9324.
Green Man & French Horn: This is the new outlet of the team behind Terroirs, Brawn and Soif. As usual, the idea is to serve unfussy, rustic dishes with natural wines. This time, the focus is on the Rhone. This new outlet, in a narrow old pub on St. Martin’s Lane, lives up to the very high standards of its predecessors. Information: +44-20-7836-2645.
Pitt Cue Co: London wasn’t blessed with great barbecue before Pitt Cue came along. It is now. The decor is minimalist and it’s all about the food. The prices are rock bottom and the lines can be long, so it’s best to go along early or late. Information: http://www.pittcue.co.uk/. No phone.
Polpo: Restaurateur Russell Norman’s mini-empire keeps growing. This Smithfield outpost is the latest and the brand is in good shape. The formula is the same: small plates of unfussy food served at reasonable prices in a room whose casual appearance belies months of meticulous planning and prop-buying. Information: http://polpo.co.uk/ or +44-20-7250-0034.
Story Deli: I can remember the last time I tasted pizza this good. It was at Franny’s, in Brooklyn, last year. Story is a very unfancy venue and it’s not especially cheap. Pizzas cost 16 pounds. They’re worth it. How about the prawn, with garlic, black pepper & lemon-roasted prawns, fresh red onion, parmesan, smashed tomatoes, toasted spices and basil pesto? Information: http://www.storydeli.com/ or +44-7918-197-352.
Sushisamba: This restaurant and bar atop the Heron Tower is the most dramatic new venue of the year. I regularly take visitors up in the express lift and the wow factor never fades. It’s expensive and there are grumbles about the service, yet it’s difficult to resist that combination of inventive food, brilliant views and the buzz of the bar. Information: http://sushisamba.com or +44-20-3640-7330.
Tonkotsu: This Soho noodle bar is opposite the Groucho Club. The stock for the ramen is created by cooking pork bones for as long as 18 hours. The flavor is deep. April Bloomfield ate here with her team from the Spotted Pig when she visited London this year. It’s a fine place to hang out with friends. Information: http://www.tonkotsu.co.uk/ or +44-20-7437-0071.
Zedel: This is the best-value restaurant I know in the West End of London. It looks like a million dollars, yet the fixed- price menu is just 11.25 pounds for three courses. Zedel feels like a huge Paris brasserie out of a movie. It’s worth making time for a visit to the Bar Americain next door. Information: Information: http://www.brasseriezedel.com/ or +44-20-7734-4888.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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