London restaurants: Capital cuisine

Business Traveller tries out the latest arrivals on the London dining scene

SEXY FISH

Probably the most talked-about restaurant opening in the past 12 months, Sexy Fish is the new Mayfair opening from Caprice Holdings (behind the likes of the Ivy and J Sheekey).

Unveiled in October, the spectacular project is said to have cost £15 million, and you can see why. Designed by Martin Brudnizki, the interiors feature swirling green marble floors, a
Matisse-style seaweed ceiling mural by Michael Roberts, and sculptures of ocean-dwelling creatures by both Frank Gehry and Damien Hirst. Downstairs is a 48-seat lair walled in by luminous tropical fishtanks.

In the evening, the main 190-cover dining room is bathed in golden light just low enough that everyone looks good but you can’t Instagram your food (deliberate, no doubt). Frequented by celebrities, bankers and other wealthy business professionals, it can be hard to get a table so book ahead.

Apart from the odd anomaly, such as Beluga caviar blinis (£320 for 50g) and gorgonzola tortilla skewers, the menu is heavily Japanese and the idea is to share. Artistic dishes are whipped up with speed in the open kitchen and delivered to your table in no particular order. Journey from delicate rectangles of deep-pink seared yellowfin tuna (£16.50) and grilled avocado with crispy tofu (£11.50) to moreish miso-glazed Chilean sea bass (£30) and house-smoked Ora King salmon with yuzu (£25) from the robata grill. If there are two or more of you, go for the vanilla cheesecake topped with macerated cherries (£19); failing that, the four chocolate and praline fondant (£9.50) is pure hedonism.

  • Open 12pm-11.30pm (11pm Sun)
  • Sharing plates average £10-£25, wines from £7 by the glass, from £25 by the bottle
  • Berkeley Square House
  • tel +44 (0)20 3764 2000
  • sexyfish.com
Jenny Southan

M VICTORIA STREET

The second venue for Martin Williams’ luxury dining and drinking brand (the other is in the City), M opened in December. Executive chef Michael Reid is previously of Le Gavroche, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and the Skinny Duck.

The entrance is through the M wine store – there are more than 300 labels on the list, sourced from the six countries that the restaurant’s steaks are from – Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa and the US. More than 100 wines are available by the glass. Downstairs is the bar, a private members’ room and the restaurant, which is divided into M Raw, offering a lighter Asian style of cooking, and M Grill, a two-tiered oval-shaped room in muted greens and greys.

M Grill is all about the meat. Glass-fronted fridges showcase aged joints of beef, homemade salami and biltong. Smoked Wagyu tartare (£15) is a speciality – arriving under a smoke-filled cloche, with foie gras grated over it at the table, it is subtly smoky, rich and delicious. The steak range is impressive, from Australian Blackmore Wagyu to the flavoursome 48-day matured US Creekstone Farm T-bone for two (£90). The Argentinian Colome Estate Malbec 2013 (£66) is a fruity accompaniment, and the staff are well-briefed and passionate. A great addition to Victoria’s food scene.

  • Open 7am-12am (from 10am Sat-Sun)
  • Starters £7-£11.50, mains £16-£95. Wine from £6 by the glass, from £30 by the bottle
  • Zig Zag Building, 70 Victoria Street
  • tel +44 (0)20 3327 7776
  • mrestaurants.co.uk
Annie Harris

SARTORIA

D&D London reopened its Mayfair Italian restaurant in December with a new chef patron at the helm – Francesco Mazzei, formerly of L’Anima in the City – and fully refurbished interiors. Designer David d’Almada was inspired by classic Italian style and the Savile Row location, using luxurious leathers, silks and velvets in the soft furnishings. It’s chic and immediately inviting – the place had a delightfully warm buzz on the cold winter evening we stepped in.

A bar has been installed at the front, with high stools to sit up and enjoy an Italian cocktail – try the smoky, potent Zucca Bar (Professor Cornelius Old Tom gin, Carpano Punt e Mes, Rabarbaro Zucca; £9.50) – and the luscious-looking salads on display on the cicchetti counter. The elegant dining room features warm lighting, thick carpeting and well-spaced tables, and there are two private rooms and a terrace.

Mazzei’s menu includes dishes from his native Calabria – including some signatures from his L’Anima tenure – as well as other regions in Italy. The lobster tagliolini (£26.50) is exquisite – fragrant, plump chunks of meat served in the shell with sweet broth and delicate ribbons of pasta – as is the home-cured baccala (salt cod) marinated in liquorice (pictured above; £26.50), and the terrine-like southern Italian lasagne (£15.50), featuring flavour-packed layers of sausage, aubergine and quail’s egg. Service is warm, knowledgeable and intuitive. A splendid relaunch for Sartoria.

  • Open 7am-12am Mon-Fri, 9am-12am Sat
  • Starters £9.50-£22.50, mains £9.50-£29; two-course set lunch £26.50, three courses £32.50. Wines from £5 by the glass, from £18 by the bottle
  • 20 Savile Row
  • tel +44 (0)20 7534 7000
  • sartoria-restaurant.co.uk
Michelle Harbi

THE NINTH

TV chef Jun Tanaka opened his first solo venture on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street last November (it’s the ninth restaurant he has worked in, hence the name). Set across two floors, with a small terrace, it’s an intimate, welcoming Manhattan-styled space with exposed brick, unusual iron wine racks and a mixture of long leather banquettes and smaller tables.

Tanaka has created a stylish and uncomplicated menu that is designed for sharing – still, to say the food is simple is misleading. This is modern Mediterranean food at its best: elegant, unfussy and thoughtfully put together, using the best seasonal ingredients. The oxtail croquettes (£5.50) are a tempting opening snack – crisp, meaty and savoury – while starters include succulent Ossobuco tortellini with bone marrow (£9), and rabbit confit lasagne (£9): layers of rich pasta and meat topped with a creamy mustard sauce.

From the mains, the crisp-skinned whole roast sea bream with lemon, miso, and smoked aubergine (£19.50) paired with pommes cocotte with roasted garlic (£4.50) was stunning, with soft and buttery flakes inside the caramelised exterior. Vegetable dishes share centre-stage on this menu – the rich and earthy beetroot tarte tatin (£5) is perfectly balanced by crumbly feta and pine nuts. For dessert, there is a sweet version, the classic apple tarte tatin (£14), which is great to share and, paired with rosemary ice cream, is the perfect end to a meal. Good cocktails, too.

  • Open Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm
  • Starters £5.50-£14, mains £17.50-£23; wine from £6.50 by the glass, from £20 by the bottle
  • 22 Charlotte Street
  • theninthlondon.com
Annie Harris

THE IVY KENSINGTON BRASSERIE

This is Caprice Holdings’ fourth Ivy offshoot, the others being the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden, the Ivy Chelsea Garden and the Ivy Café in Marylebone. Open since December, it already feels like a favourite local haunt – busy but relaxed with a nice buzz. Tables are held back for walk-ins. The interior very much reflects the Ivy’s character, with mirrored panels, a diamond-patterned marble floor, dark green leather banquettes and a gleaming antique pewter bar. Last month it added a 40-cover outdoor terrace with a retractable roof.

The menu is modern British comfort food and you will find a few Ivy classics, such as shepherd’s pie (£13.50). Starters include a smooth chicken liver parfait (£6.75), easily a meal in itself, and moreish truffle arancini (£5.50).

My main, roasted cod fillet with creamed leeks, bacon and haricot beans with champagne and clam sauce (pictured below right; £16.95), was nice and chunky, if a little overcooked, although the sauce was lovely, and a side of truffle and parmesan chips (£4.50) was definitely worth the extra calories. The slow-roasted shoulder of lamb on Parmesan polenta, roasted peppers and rosemary sauce (£16.25) was meltingly tender, the sauce rich and flavoursome. The lemon meringue Alaska (£7.50) was a triumph.

The wine list is well chosen, with something to suit everyone’s pocket, and the sommelier was well informed and helpful, as were the rest of the team, who went out of their way to ensure you had a good experience. I would definitely return.

  • Open 7.30am-11pm Mon-Thurs (12am Fri), 8am-11.30pm Sat, 9am-10.30pm Sun
  • Starters £6.50-£12.50; mains £13.50-£34; wine from £5.50 by the glass, from £19.50 by the bottle
  • 96 Kensington High Street
  • tel +44 (0)20 3301 0500
  • theivykensingtonbrasserie.com
Annie Harris

SHOTGUN

Mississippi-born chef Brad McDonald, who runs the Lockhart in Marylebone and has previous worked at Copenhagen’s Noma, headed to Soho for his second London venue, open since October.

Barbecue joints are popping up all over London, but Shotgun is something a bit different. More a bar-restaurant than a restaurant-bar, as the staff tell me, it nevertheless takes a more elegant approach to the Southern US genre. The room itself is lovely – narrow and intimate, all dark-wood panelling and potted palms, while the spirits behind the long marble-topped bar point to the serious cocktails made behind it, using the likes of rye whiskey, cognac and absinthe. Even on a Monday, every stool along it was taken, along with all the cosy booths for two or four.

The food menu is quite compact, consisting mainly of snacks and meats cooked low and slow over whole logs. A signature small plate is pig’s ear with sour pancakes (£8); we, being conscious of the meat feast to come, opt to go veggie. The salad of smoked goat’s curd, heirloom carrot, pearl barley and buttermilk sauce (£9) is a standout – a sweet and subtle combination of textures.

But it’s really all about the main event here – beef brisket so tender you could cut it with a spoon, juicily flavoursome Middle White suckling pig, and chilli-tinged baby back ribs, all perfectly abetted by sides of buttery baked potato purée and tangy coleslaw. Service was speedy and welcoming, and the retro soul soundtrack made for a suitably mellow backdrop. 

  • Open 12pm-12am (Sun 11am-5pm)
  • Snacks/small plates £1.50-£9; meats £9-£22 depending on size ordered. Wine from £4.50 by the glass, from £28 by the bottle.
  • 26 Kingly Street
  • tel +44 (0)20 3137 7252
  • shotgunbbq.com
Michelle Harbi

Just opened

PITT CUE has moved from its Soho premises to a larger venue on Devonshire Square in the City. The American barbecue specialist, which started life as a food van, has expanded its menu (although no more pulled pork) and now takes reservations. pittcue.co.uk

SOSHARU is the seventh London venture from Jason Atherton’s the Social Company. Launched last month, it’s a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant serving casual yet high-end small dishes. It’s located in the Turnmill building in Clerkenwell. sosharulondon.com

PHARMACY 2, the second incarnation of Damien Hirst’s restaurant, which closed in Notting Hill in 2003, opened in the artist’s new Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall in February. Launched in partnership with Mark Hix, it serves classic British and European dishes. pharmacyrestaurant.com

100 WARDOUR STREET opened in the Soho space formerly occupied by Floridita and the Marquee Club in January. Part of D&D London, the restaurant, bar and music venue serves food until 2am and holds 425 diners or 870 for events. 100wardourst.com

DICKIE FITZ launched in the former home of Fitzrovia’s Newman Street Tavern in February. The all-day brasserie offers Pacific-inspired cuisine and New World wines in an art deco-inspired setting. dickiefitz.co.uk

LOW, SLOW AND JUKE opened in Victoria in February. The American barbecue restaurant and bar serves up meats hand-rubbed and smoked for up to 16 hours, along with bourbons, cocktails and craft beers. lowslowandjuke.com

THE LIGHTERMAN opened on Granary Square in King’s Cross last month. The bar and dining room is housed in a three-floor new-build overlooking the Regent’s Canal, with outdoor seating. It serves a modern British all-day menu. thelighterman.co.uk

TOM’S KITCHEN was set to launch its fifth London venue at the end of March, at HMS Belfast. It comprises a 58-cover rooftop bar and a 46-seat deli serving sandwiches, salads and platters. tomskitchen.co.uk


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