London continues to enjoy one of the most exciting and diverse restaurant scenes in the world, so we decided to take a nostalgic look back over the year's best openings. From sandwiches to Sexy Fish, here’s what Londoners went crazy for in 2015.
It was extraordinary how Bao went from a successful little stall in Netil Market to one of Soho’s most popular restaurant openings of 2015, with queues down the street (it's no reservations, of course). A real triumph of sleek design, tight menu concept and perfect social media storm meant that people lost their shit over steamed Taiwanese buns filled with belly pork and peanuts, and the hugely appealing ‘blood cake’, topped with one of the most Instagrammed egg yolks of the year.
Bao, 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS
Berber & Q
The flavours at Berber & Q couldn't be more 2015, from the smoky, slow cooked meats (the ‘Q’ part of the title), to the whole grilled cauliflower smeared with shawarma spiced butter and scattered with rose petals, and the unapologetically garlicky toum. The kitchen zip around the map for inspiration, from North Africa to Israel. There’s great attention to detail in chef Josh Katz’s cooking, such as the house made merguez and cumin salt on the tables. There's also a confidence and sparkle which made this one of our favourite restaurants of 2015.
Berber & Q, 338 Acton Mews, E8 4EA
Black Axe Mangal
BAM has been one of the openings most likely to polarise opinion. Lee Tiernan’s in your face restaurant serves riffs on kebabs and offal covered flat breads that emerge from a black wood-fired oven. An oven which is decorated with tributes to the band Kiss. There's very loud metal music, and people shout at each other in between bites of their lamb testicle-adorned dough. Love it or hate it, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Black Axe Mangal, 156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP
A hopper is a Sri Lankan dish which is a bit like a lacy crepe bowl with a delicate rim and spongy bottom. At Hopper's they come with sambol, chutney and, should you wish, an egg. They serve more than hoppers however, in the form of dosas, kari, mutton rolls, idli…it’s all brilliant. We’ve been enjoying Sri Lankan food elsewhere in London for years of course (hello, Tooting) but this ticks all the right boxes for foodie hysteria in that it’s modern, fresh and centrally located.
Hoppers, 49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG
The cooking at Kitty Fisher’s happens over wood, so everything from bread to meat comes infused with smoke flavour — a 2015 trend box firmly ticked. It’s a strange one inside, all red velvet banquettes and too-dark wood, sort of stiffly posh, a bit like an affected teenager trying to work a look without the confidence to back it up. Still, plenty of people love the place and rave in particular about the Galician beef.
Kitty Fishers, 10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF
Kricket was one of the surprise hits of 2015, opening as it did inside a scrotty corner of POP Brixton, which was also unexpectedly good. No one had much hope for another collection of shipping containers which could’ve been as depressingly corporate as Shoreditch’s disastrous Boxpark. Turns out it actually had some character. Kricket serves small plates of South Indian inspired food, and a combination of great spicing, excellent crockery and careful plating made them stick out from the crowd. They’re now looking for a more permanent site. Read our review of Kricket here.
Kricket, POP Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PG
This new wine bar is a joint effort from the people behind the magazine Noble Rot and The Sportsman, a gastro pub in Seasalter that makes people who love to eat go all flappy and excitable. Their signature dish is a single, perfect slip sole, stripped of skin and served in a butter sauce, so it’s a very pleasing thing to see it on the menu in London. The wine list is full of "under valued wines by the glass [and] hard to find gems from the world's leading winemakers."
Noble Rot, 51 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB
Turkish Cypriot chef Selin Kiazim finally opened a site in east London after hosting various teaser pop ups. Her lavash wrapped lamb kofte is still one of our favourite dishes, drizzled with sour cherry dressing and chilli butter and sitting atop a smudge of fennel yoghurt. We also appreciate the nearly all female team in the kitchen and front of house, and we think this is going to be one to really watch in 2016, as Selin and the team find their stride.
Oklava, 74 Luke St, EC2A 4PY
The first restaurant from ex Polpo executive chef Tom Oldroyd went down a storm. A daily changing menu features snacks and sharing plates. Past dishes have included gambas pil pil with clams, chorizo and aioli, and wild mushroom croquettas with truffle mayonnaise. We loved the restrained nature of this opening, in terms of size (it’s really small), menu and reasonably priced wine list. Tom made some classy moves, and they paid off. Well played.
Oldroyd, 344 Upper Street, N1 0PD
Pidgin is this years perfect example of a wave of restaurants that are making modern British cool (see also Lyle's, Ellory). Supper club duo James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy have teamed up with chef Elizabeth Allen (ex-Smokehouse), to produce a weekly changing, no-choice, four course menu which is always fantastic. Special mention should also go to the loos, which have a thunderstorm soundtrack.
Pidgin, 52 Wilton Way, E8 1BS
We couldn’t believe the name either. This swanky opening from Caprice Holdings (The Ivy, Le Caprice, J Sheekey) was one of the hottest of the year, playing host to a swarm of celebs who migrated over at once from Chiltern Firehouse. Rita Ora sang at the launch, the interior features mermaids designed by Damien Hirst and the whole fit out reportedly cost £15 million. You get the idea. They serve lots of fish and… tempura Brussels sprouts. Obviously.
Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, W1J 6BR
The second opening from Brad Macdonald of The Lockhart is a ‘proper’ low and slow BBQ restaurant. This is skilful use of smoke and fire, unlike so many of the heavily branded places which have popped up on the back of the trend. Wood smoked meats include chicken, Boston butt, baby back ribs and point-end brisket, amongst others. Sides are classic, including coleslaw, pickles, potato salad and baked beans. There’s also a famously large giant banana pudding from which they scoop your portion at the table; it’s basically a big ol’ dish of whippy cream with biscuits on top, and what is not to like about that?
Shotgun, 26 Kingly Street, W1B 5QD
Okay so this actually opened in 2014, and closed this year after their Climpson's Arch residency ended, but it was such a big deal that we think it deserves to be included anyway. Andy Oliver’s confidence in producing ballsy Thai food was so impressive. Another kitchen cooking over wood, they were turning out fire-licked protein of spectacular intensity. There was a whole lot of chilli, there was a lot of in-house fermenting going on, and there was a real dedication to doing things right, not toning down flavours or apologetically reducing heat, but saying ‘this is what it is, so there'. It was exhilarating food. The team went on to launch a successful crowd funding campaign and will open a new, permanent site next year.
Som Saa, new venue opening in east London in early 2016.
The Marksman is a Hackney boozer serving excellent comfort food that's fun and original. The beef and barley buns with horseradish are a perfect example: a shiny bun with a rich meat filling and a scoop of the lightest horseradish cream. A dish of curried kid (child goat not actual child) was another instant classic, as was their brown butter and honey tart.
The Marksman, 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
The Newman Arms
Another cracking pub opening here, from the people behind The Cornwall Project. The food is beautiful with the emphasis on quality of ingredients, presented in a clean, striking style. The menu is short, featuring great quality fish, the odd pie, carefully selected cheeses… it’s perfect pub food, basically.
The Newman Arms, 23 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NG