Those who managed to avoid isolation and host a New Year’s shindig might have felt a wearisome sense of familiarity as party-starved friends-of-a-friend outstayed their welcome; the pandemic’s defining trait is that of the unwelcome visitor who refuses to leave. Still, reports of Omicron’s waning potency — and the cheerful, corresponding news of dwindling death rates — is a sign that this tiresome plague might finally be on its way out.
If so, restaurants will be able to continue the routine that marked much of 2021 — dusting themselves down, donning an apron and getting back to it. With pre-Christmas Covid panic costing businesses tens of thousands in lost revenue, expect more delays than usual this year as places work to shrunken budgets already beleaguered by debts owed and loans expiring. Brexit, ghoulish as ever, remains a curse on staffing. It is not going to be an easy year.
It is going to be a year of change, though. While independents and first-timers with a glint in their eye are unlikely to materialise en masse, big names with deep-pocketed backers are looking to sweep up the soft rental opportunities. This year’s trends speak more about market forces than the singular appetites of a city. Still, there’s a lot on: we’re gonna need a bigger belt.
Chefs tend to be as fashion, going in and out of style, but the reputation of Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes has held steadfast over the last 15 years or so, since he drew inquiring eaters at Bacchus on Hoxton Street, astonished at Bethnal Green’s Viajante and pleased crowds at Chiltern Firehouse. While there’s still no firm date set for the spring opening of his return to London, Lisboeta (30 Charlotte Street, W1, lisboeta.co.uk), it is the restaurant everyone’s talking about. The name — which means “native of Lisbon” — gives the game away: over three storeys, Mendes is hoping to offer a little of his city in London. While sharing dishes have lately been on the wane, Mendes is bringing them back in an informal setting open for lunch and supper, with typical Portuguese deep-fried snacks available all day. Lisboeta sees Mendes partner with MJMK restaurants, which were behind KOL, the Mexican few could stop talking about last year, so expect this to have similar impact.
If you follow MJMK, it is also backing the first permanent iteration of John and Desiree Chantarasak’s acclaimed AngloThai supperclub (venue and opening TBC, anglothai.co.uk), while another supperclub star to watch is Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, who will open his pan-African restaurant Tatale in the Africa Centre this month (66 Great Suffolk Street, SE1, tataleandco.com).
Mendes, though, is far from the only big name hoping to open a blockbuster, and London is likely to have the Michelin-inspectors busier than ever. Björn Frantzén holds three stars at two restaurants — no small feat — with one set in Stockholm, the other in Singapore. He is set to prove his international appeal can stretch to London as he returns towards the end of the year with one of three new restaurants in Harrods (87-135 Brompton Road, SW1, harrods.com). Little is known at this stage, but they say it will be “state-of-the-art” and it’s unlikely to be anything other than truly top end.
Harrods, in fact, has a busy year ahead of it; besides Frantzén there is rumoured to be the London outpost of Dubai hit Le Serre, a French-Mediterranean bistro and boulangerie. More certain is the first European opening for Beirut-based restaurant group Em Sherif. During the decade since its first branch opened in Beirut in 2011, the group has managed 12 openings. Named after the son of founder Mireille Hayek, Em Sherif “has achieved massive success,” according to Urbanologie’s Hugo-Campbell Davies. “Expect an authentic oriental restaurant serving a tasting menu of about 30 or so individual dishes, all highlighting traditional Oriental flavours,” he adds, and look out for more: “An outpost is scheduled to launch in the famed Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo in Monaco.” Dates for both Harrods-based restaurants will be announced shortly; for details of Monaco, head to Urbanologie.
Expect department store handbags-at-dawn, though, as next week Selfridges opens Adesse (400 Oxford Street, W1, selfridges.com). Matthew Kenney, veteran of more than 30 restaurants, is tied in here: it will be a plant-based, vegan affair.
One of London’s own multi-starred men, Brett Graham, is happily to revive Notting Hill’s much-missed The Ledbury (127 Ledbury Rd, W11, theledbury.com). The spot is being overhauled, revamped, going under the knife — however you put it, it’s about to come out all shiny and new. Details remain murky but it’s an encouraging sign.
Another Michelin-botherer due in town is Mauro Colagreco, whose Menton restaurant Mirazur was recently named as the best in the world. Colagreco will oversee three restaurants at Raffles London at the OWO (Whitehall, SW1, theowo.london), an enormous new venture in Whitehall. There will be 11 new restaurants and bars in total on site, but Colagreco’s lot look to be the flagship. With a focus on seasonal, local, sustainable and organic ingredients — these buzzwords, incidentally, come in most press releases, so assume it’s the case for just about everywhere this year — expect his Italian background to influence elegant menus of modern Mediterranean cooking. More Italian-inspired food comes from Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini (Cheryl’s ex) as he opens Japanese-Italian fusion spot Itaku (110 Great Portland Street, itaku.co.uk) this month. Read more about it all here.
While not quite Raffles’s 11, the new One Hundred Shoreditch (100 Shoreditch High Street, E1, onehundredshoreditch.com) arrives in February promising six restaurants and bars. It’s a hell of an overhaul for what was once the Ace Hotel but there are some intriguing bits, one of which is Ryan Chetiyawardana opening his first new bar in a while, the Seed Library. Given One Hundred’s owners also operate Sea Containers, where Chetiyawardana has the award-winning Lyanness, expect this to be a contender for London’s best new bar. Food-wise, the headliner here is Goddard & Gibbs, a fish restaurant that’s more likely to be Sheekeys than your local chippy. If you want both ends of this seafood scale, though, try Off The Hook (27 Gauging Square, E1, oth.fish), which opened yesterday offering the kind of fish that should put even Seaspiracy sceptics at ease. Traceability is everything, with details going so far as the name of the fisherman himself who caught your meal. Given it’s a fishmonger as well, there’s plenty to take away.
Others, meanwhile, are erring on the side of quality over quantity. Also in February will be Cedric Grolet at The Berkeley (Wilton Place, SW1, the-berkeley.co.uk); Grolet is considered perhaps the world’s greatest pastry chef, known for his astonishing visual trickery that includes pastries appearing as mangos, lemons, hazelnuts. Little surprise he has more than 2.1 million Instagram followers. If all of them turn up at what the hotel is calling his “pastry theatre”, then try the new Berkeley Café, where his breakfast and afternoon tea will be on offer. For more of a meal, around the corner in the Mandarin Oriental will be The Aubrey (66 Knightsbridge, SW1, mandarinoriental.com). Taking over from pandemic-victim Bar Boulud, go for what they call “an eccentric Japanese izakaya experience” — yup, fully immersive and all. Best of luck.
It’s not all overseas idols heading into five-star palaces. London-made talent is also on the move. In March, the award-winning Chantelle Nicholson, best known for Tredwells, is heading into Mayfair, where she’ll open Apricity (68 Duke Street, W1, apricityrestaurant.com). Nicholson previously held a Green Star in recognition of her environmentally-friendly practises so the promises of a “hyper-seasonal” menu, “zero-waste” methods and sourcing “from local suppliers” can be taken as genuine, rather than PR-bluff. With one vegetarian menu and one not, head in for the likes of venison with elderberry and walnut butter or, if the Christmas ration wasn’t enough, her signature brussels sprouts.
One other signature dish chef making tracks is ex-Bancone man Louis Korovilas: he’s taking his “silk handkerchief”, a walnut and confit egg yolk pasta, north to Islington next month. Noci (4-6 Islington Green, N1, nocirestaurant.co.uk) will see Korovilas do Sicilian street food riffs and hearty Italian staples — a veal ragu, a lamb shoulder, that sort of thing. Meanwhile, Ben Tish, who lately kept his reputation intact at the Sicilian-Moorish inspired Norma, is in March set to forgo much of his Italian styling at the Princess Royal pub (47 Hereford Road, W2, cubitthouse.co.uk). Tish’s new role will see him overhaul the Cubitt House group’s pubs, so there should be new menus to look out for; the Royal now comes complete with on-trend raw bar.
Another seafood spot from a big name is Manzi’s (1 Bateman’s Buildings, W1, corbinandking.com) from Corbin & King. The well-heeled restaurateurs had mentioned this “fun and affordable”, two-storey spot as far back as 2019; 2020 and 2021 rather got in the way. While Jeremy King’s newsletter has said the spot is on hold, the Standard understands the pair will persevere. It sounds like it is set to be a haven.
Time for take two
Now is not the time for ambitious sorts to remortgage the house and give the restaurant game a go. Instead, many new openings will be expansions or offshoots from existing operators.
Three is the magic number for Emilia’s Crafted Pasta (12 George Street, E14, emiliaspasta.com) which is set to open its third site in Canary Wharf in the middle of this month. Also coming to Canary Wharf is the newest M restaurant (10 Newfoundland Place, E14, mrestaurants.co.uk). This one is enormous, with a restaurant, wine store, tasting room, cocktail bar, garden, private lounge and dining room. With a focus on top-end steaks and a great love of wagyu, M is set to draw the Wharf’s city-borgs and real people alike. Another big steak number — though this one genuinely is brand new, at least for London — is Aragawa (38 Clarges Street, W1,aragawa.jp).As reported by The Telegraph, the respected Tokyo site, which was founded in 1967, is opening here in May. Their specialism is Kobe beef paired with old world wines; it will be expensive. Very. On the other end of the scale, the reliable Flat Iron (41-45 The Cut, SE1, flatironsteak.co.uk) is headed down to Waterloo in the spring. The steak is always good, but have the burger when it’s on — they add a Béarnaise sauce, swiftly shooting it into the realms of the best burgers in town.
Third time’s the charm holds true for Brother Marcus’s style of mediterranean; with hits in Islington and Spitalfields, in the spring it is headed to new street-food development Borough Yards, this time it is adding a robata grill into the mix. Borough Yards is to be one of new food-lover’s destinations this year: opening in a couple of months, Brother Marcus will sit alongside Barrafina, Parrillan, sherry-and-tapas spot Bar Daskal, buttermilk chicken specialists Butchies and wine bar Vinoteca (all Borough Yards, SE1, boroughyards.com).
Another spot hoping — now for a second time — to be a destination is the Arcade Food Hall (103-105 New Oxford Street, W1, arcade-london.com). Opening in summer 2019 on Tottenham Court Road, it proved to be a dud. Now JKS Restaurants is redoing the site, replacing all the existing restaurants and promising “regional Thai curries, Indonesian street food, North Indian fast food, Spanish tapas, Middle Eastern shawarma, Japanese sushi and American-style burgers”. One to watch and if you’re in the neighbourhood, look out for nearby modern Chinese Tattu (The Now Building, Centre Point, WC2, tattu.co.uk). Get all that down? Happy eating.