Where Chefs Eat in London: The Best of 2015
Chefs and restaurateurs know more than most of us about eating out and about changes in the London dining scene.
So which new establishments have they enjoyed most this year? After giving my own verdict on London’s best newcomers, I asked more than 30 of the U.K.'s culinary stars for their views.
They chose restaurants spread around London’s centre, from Brixton and Clapham in the south to Hackney in the east, Islington in the north, and Mayfair in the centre. London’s affluent western neighborhoods, among them Kensington and Notting Hill, miss out this year.
Here's what the chefs had to say.
"Kitty Fisher's. The menu is classically British with great, carefully sourced ingredients which Tomas Parry lets speak for themselves. I like the simple and pure décor at Taberna do Mercado, as well as the menu of simple yet delicious Portuguese sharing tapas dishes. The combination of the two creates a joyful and laid back atmosphere. Last but not least, Park Chinois offers a mixture of sophisticated traditional Chinese specialties and creative fusion dishes."
Chef’s restaurant: Tom's Kitchen
Chef’s restaurant: Pollen Street Social
"Hoppers. I love it. I can go back anytime and it is exactly what we need in Frith Street (Soho). What a street!"
Chef’s restaurant: Barrafina
"Taberna do Mercado. The environment is a bit basic. It's all about the food and the service, and I love the food. The puddings, especially, are very original, although the menu has a classic element as well. I also like the Marksman. They have kept the values of a traditional pub and added great food and service."
Chef’s restaurant: Hibiscus
"The Manor, in Clapham. I love Robin Gill's food. It's unique and it's clean, with no bells and whistles. It's just a very good restaurant. The Joint, in Brixton, does great barbecue. it's cheap and cheerful and packed with great flavor. Food is moving out of Mayfair and the West End. You can get really top cooking away from W1."
Chef’s restaurant: Berners Tavern
"Blacklock is a really good restaurant and it's unusual for anyone to do something with such impact from a standing start. The food is delicious. It’s really simple thing done incredibly well: It's just chops with flatbread that soaks up the juice, and the sides are great. A neighborhood restaurant that stands out is Kricket. It's excellently conceived and executed Indian food with near-zero resources. I love it."
"Piquet. It's great to see someone doing old-school classics really well. I love the feel of the place and the snail pithivier was amazing. The service was warm and friendly."
Chef’s restaurant: Midsummer House
"Black Axe Mangal. It's refreshingly different, not bandwagon-jumping. It's tiny, it's cramped and it's noisy but the food is brilliant. What I like particularly is if you order the whole menu, they send you a shot of Jameson."
"Kitty Fisher's. I really enjoyed it on every level. Chef Tomos Parry has done a great job and I love the size of the space , style of service and of course some of the legendary dishes that I see every day on my Instagram. It has become a new classic very quickly. In fact, I must book in again soon."
Chef’s restaurant: Helene Darroze
Chef’s restaurant: La Petite Maison
"Blacklock: Their day-to-day food is great but the Sunday roast is something else. And Hoppers. They (JKS Restaurants) get it right every time, every restaurant they open: The food, the decor. It's almost annoying. And I love Jose Pizarro in Broadgate. He puts his heart and soul into it and you can feel the love in the food. I like to go there after work and have a beer and a few small plates. The prawn fritter are insanely good."
Chef’s restaurant: Duck & Waffle
"40 Maltby Street. The chef is fantastic and it is a great wine list. The menu changes all the time. It is nothing too fancy, just very good."
"Jose Pizarro in the City because they are doing the kind of tapas I really like to share with friends. The quality of the ingredients is very high and the prawn fritters are the best."
Chef’s restaurant: L'Anima
"Portland. I really enjoy it. It's very relaxed. There's only a limited menu but there are good daily specials and some cracking wines you might not normally get. The cooking is very good. We also had a cracking meal Upstairs at Trinity, which has just opened."
"Piquet. There are many exiting restaurants in London now but if you want to go somewhere classic, to a grown-up restaurant, Piquet has really great cooking and service."
Chef’s restaurant: Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
"Taberna do Mercado. The food is wonderful and it is near my home, so I like to go there. 45 Jermyn St: It's beautiful and it feels like it has been there for a long time, which is an achievement for a new restaurant. And Bao. It's great to see street food moving into restaurants."
Chef’s restaurant: Murano
"Barrafina. Nieves (Barragan's) food just gets better all the time. The dishes are simple; the ingredients are impeccably sourced; the food is always delicious. And there's always a great fun vibe."
Chef’s restaurant: Sexy Fish
"Portland. The style of cooking is very simple. It's based on the ingredients and it is very tasty. I like Taberna do Mercado because it is a new style of cooking for us. Portuguese cuisine isn't normally considered to be part of the elite of cooking but there are some good dishes. I love Kricket. I am not a big lover of Indian food but Kricket has the right balance of spice. It is one of my top discoveries of this year. Chick 'n' Sours is another. The quality of the ingredients they use is something you find in three-star Michelin restaurants."
Chef’s restaurant: Koffmann's
"Hoppers. I went with a bunch of guys from work and we had a really good time. It was fantastic. The food is simple but really good."
Chef’s restaurant: Fat Duck
"Black Axe Mangal is such an unadulterated, unbending labour of love that it really makes itself stand out. Lee (Tiernan) is an amazing cook but didn't want to do the same kind of stuff as he did at Bread and Wine but focus on his love of Turkish food. Also Kate, his wife, is a very charming host."
"Bao. It's a great addition to the London scene. I used really to enjoy their street food on Netil Market and it's fantastic that they are now so busy in a great Soho site. My other favorite opening is Ellory, in Hackney. It's a very clean design and clean food. I really like the space."
Chef’s restaurant: Lyle's
"Bao. It is so neat and tidy and the food is consistent and delicious. The service is very charming and they are doing really well. I love seeing customers lining up : It gives you a good feeling. And Portland. What they are doing is really lovely. I love the gruyere and truffle macarons."
Chef’s restaurant: Marianne
"Taberna do Mercado. Nuno (Mendes) went back to his roots, and his respect for ingredients is second to none. He can do great Michelin star cooking but also great rustic food without compromise. I had a fantastic dinner at Park Chinois. The duck is to die for. I was also impressed by Bellanger. It's great to have such a good restaurant in Islington."
Chef’s restaurant: Sartoria
"My favorite opening of the past 18 months or thereabouts is Lyle's. I love it so much and sometimes I wish our place was more like it; other times, I'm happy we are a little different. More recently, I have loved Hoppers, Bao and the Barrafina on Adelaide Street. They are all instant classics. London really is firing on all cylinders right now. And it's brilliant to see Ed Wilson back in the driving seat at Brawn."
Chef’s restaurant: Clove Club
"Sager + Wilde. It used to be called Mission but they have a new chef, new manager, new sommelier. The food is amazing. And I was blown away by Kricket, in Brixon. The food there is amazing. There's a little bit of Goan influence and it reminds me of my days in Goa. And I like what Leandro Carreira is doing at Climpson's Arch. It's Portuguese but it's his style, a little different."
Chef’s restaurant: Taberna do Mercado
"Primeur, N5, which opened about 18 months ago. It's got the most refreshing natural wine list and the food is simple yet flawless. I had the most deeply flavoured mushroom barley risotto last time i was there. It is really, your ultimate neighborhood restaurant."
Chef’s restaurant: Nopi
"Hoppers. It was the most memorable meal of the year. For me, it wasn't so much about the food. (That level of spicing doesn't sit well with me at lunchtime.) It was everything else: The welcome, which was incredibly warm and genuine: the level of staff knowledge and the attention to detail, which is among the best I have come across in London. I also enjoyed Portland. The room is understated, the welcome is very reassuring and the food is delicious."
"Hoppers. I love Sri Lankan food and here it is delivered with such style and taste."
Chef’s restaurant: Craft
"Black Axe Mangal and Newman Arms were great openings that showed brilliant diversity in the London food scene. I had my standout London Sunday lunch at the Marksman, in Hackney. I love Noble Rot . And Aulis (the research kitchen at Fera) is very exciting, with great, unique and special cooking."
Chef’s restaurant: Kitty Fisher's
"I'm a Neanderthal when it comes to new restaurants: I don't seek out new places. I like Lyle's very much: I enjoyed the concept of pared-down with nice food and nice staff. The cooking is very good. I also like The Dairy, Merchants Tavern and Cafe Murano."
Chef’s restaurant: Chez Bruce
"Taberna do Mercado. It's my favorite restaurant of the year and I have eaten nothing better than their pork sandwich."
Chef’s restaurant: Jose Pizarro
"Chick 'n' Sours. There's something deeply satisfying about fried chicken and KFC is unjustifiable these days, so I was very happy when this place opened. the fry is always perfectly crisp and ponced-up with some pickled watermelon on the side. And Jose Pizarro. The pork pluma is insanely delicious, along with just about everything else on the menu."
"Hoppers was a real stand-out for me this year. In less than two months, it has already become a huge hit with its southern Indian/Sri Lankan influences. It's a great example of how the London food scene is becoming more diverse in its approach to new concepts and regional cuisines."
Chef’s restaurant: Story
"The Ivy. Since its relaunch, it perfectly reminds you what a brilliant institution it is. It's a symbol of London restaurants' old-school glamour and hospitality. It's nice to sit in such a glamorous room and eat bangers and mash, or shepherd's pie. Kitty Fisher's is another favorite. I like the seasonality of the ingredients and the flavor from cooking over wood. I went the other day and had a brilliant plate of langoustines. I like the simplicity. It's fun."
Chef’s restaurant: Hoppers
"Park Chinois. I liked it a lot. It has a classy feel and a really nice balance between dining and entertainment. The food was good. It's nice to shave something very chi-chi with a different menu so I like the fact that it is Chinese. It is glamorous and sparkly."
Restaurant: Bob Bob Ricard
"Hoppers .They've really hit on a great concept there and the food is delicious. The new Noble Rot bar is also superb: The wine list is predictably brilliant, one of the best in London. I also like 45 Jermyn St. for classic, all-day dining in opulent, sophisticated surroundings. The food is great, too."
Chef's restaurant: Salt Yard
"Blacklock. It's simple and pared back in just the right way - great service, exceptional (and craveable) food, very good value for money, unpretentious environment."
Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines