Some will say the restaurant trade won’t look back on 2018 too fondly. At least 117 restaurants closed in 2018 – an almost 30-year high, according to Harden’s. The bright side is dozens of new restaurants – really very good ones – opened in the last 12 months, from Ellory’s follow-up Leroy to Tom Kerridge’s first formal outing in the capital.
With the exception of new expansions upon existing ideas – such as the excellent Pachamama East and Kym’s – and the odd relocation (notable mention: Native), here are twelve new restaurants which made sure 2018 was, in fact, a fantastic year for London diners.
Coal Office – Hard-to-beat Middle Eastern dishes from Assaf Granit (The Palomar, The Barbary) in a striking refurbished space once reserved for Victorian coal clerks. This being a collaboration with designer Tom Dixon, you can buy not just your supper, but the plate you ate it on too.
Bright – An apt name for an idea like this one, Bright is what answered Hackney’s call for something more concrete from the team behind P. Franco. Like what came before it, Bright is a low-intervention wine bar, this time with two permanent chefs, each with more than ample pedigree.
Levan – The crew behind Brixton favourite Salon take on the difficult second album – and it’s an instant hit. French influences – comté fries, tarte tatin, things en croute – it seems, are right up Peckham’s street.
Hide – Sleek, extravagant, and very Mayfair, in contrast to its name Hide is very much somewhere to be seen. The many millions spent on it hasn’t gone to waste – the food and drink served, from the coffee and birch sap croissants available in the morning, to the squab pigeon and fine wine in the evening, is like no other.
Rovi – Ottolenghi’s latest venture, Rovi, is all about vegetables, ferments, and live fire cooking. A winning combination, if there ever was one.
Brat – Brat is where, amongst other things, fish – or in the case of this restaurant’s name, turbot – is roasted delicately and whole in a way reminiscent of how they do it in San Sebastian. Easy to understand, even easier to appreciate.
1251 – After a bit of confusion over where James Cochran is and where James Cochran isn’t (he’s no longer at James Cochran EC3), the now Great British Menu winner has popped up with a smashing restaurant in Islington.
Sabor – If you ever feel like braving Tourist Central in the interest of a good long lunch, make this your destination. From Nieves Barragán, previously the leading force behind Barrafina’s kitchen, Sabor was a hit before it even opened.
Brigadiers – Combining Indian bar food with top-drawer biryani BBQ, Sunday lunch, and an incredible beer list (oh, and a whisky vending machine), Brigadiers is the most deluxe restaurant-cum-sports bar – if you dare to call it that – in the whole of London.
When Simon Rogan’s time at Fera came to an end, he thought it time to bring back Roganic, a restaurant that last made an appearance as a pop-up on Blandford Street in 2013. Back on the same road, much of the produce comes directly from Rogan’s Cumbria farm. If L’Enclume’s booked up, Roganic is the next best thing.
Cornerstone – Nathan Outlaw protégé Tom Brown hit the ground not running but in a full-on sprint when he opened Cornerstone in a corner of Hackney Wick in April. Known among many as That Place With The Shrimp Crumpet (one of 2018’s best dishes, to be fair), it’s all about the best of British seafood prepared with intelligence and reverence.
Jolene – Heritage grain bakery and café by day (one to rival the Dusty Knuckle and the Little Bread Pedlar, no less), and a no-frills restaurant by night. Small plates and pasta dominate the menu: tagliatelle with capers, stracciatella with cavolo nero, and – most notably – the garlic and rosemary flatbread.
Also of note: Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, Pachamama East, Kym’s, Berenjak, Bancone, Evelyn’s Table at The Blue Posts, The Duke of Richmond, Cora Pearl, Lahpet, Londrino, Leroy, Sorella, Kyseri, Hero of Maida, Upstairs at the French House, Scully, St Leonard’s.
What a year! Tell us your favourite new opening of 2018 in the comments below.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.