In the cut-and-thrust world of dining out, new venues open at dizzying speed – often closing, unceremoniously, shortly thereafter. But which of the latest launches is set to become a classic (Gymkhana) and which isn’t (ahem, Chotto Matte)? Here, the nation’s finest food critics (and some other bloke) identify the new restaurant they’re most anticipating. You heard about it here first.
Real Izakaya Japanese restaurants are few and far between in London, unlike stateside where you find really good Izakaya Japanese everywhere. I've been looking forward to Kurobuta in Marble Arch since it was announced last year. Izakaya is the equivalent to the Italian trattoria or our gastropub. It’s buxom, exciting Japanese food that allows for a modern twist nowadays. It being founded by ex-Nobu head chef Scott Hallsworth only intrigues me more.
Due to open this spring kurobuta-london.com
Making my fingertips tingle with excitement is Som Saa from Thai fanatic Andy Oliver. It will be a small joint dedicated to getting as close to the mind-bending flavours of Thailand as possible. If I’m allowed another, it’s a £15m behemoth from the minted eccentrics behind Bob Bob Ricard – Biblioteka, dripping with vintage Château d’Yquem.
Som Saa is due this year andyoliverchef.com; Biblioteka is due in autumn
I’m looking forward to L’Anima Café. Francesco Mazzei is a great chef. Not everyone can afford to eat at [award-winning Italian restaurant in the City] L’Anima, but the pizzas and simple dishes at the café should be cheaper. If he were a designer, this would be his diffusion line. It’s also in Shoreditch, round the corner from where I live. Maybe he’s doing it for me?
Due to open this month lanima.co.uk
I know, it’s already opened – but I haven’t been there yet, so in my outrageous solipsism, this to me is “upcoming”: The Keeper’s House, in the Royal Academy, which frankly I would go to on the white-leather-banquette rule (it’s such a courageous choice of interiors – what could possibly go wrong?). It has a big-name but interesting chef in Ivan Simeoli, plus a beautiful looking menu and a dinky and secretive air.
Open now keepershouse.org.uk
Sam and Eddie Hart’s original Barrafina, in Soho, was an instant classic, and it remains one of the few places in London where it is actually impossible to eat badly: great seafood tapas and cracking Spanish wines. Its new sibling opens in April in Covent Garden. I can’t wait to see what chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho will do with her new Josper charcoal oven. And the great news is that there will be tables you can book; I’m getting too old to queue.
Opens in April barrafina.co.uk
Alan Yau is a master of modern Asian food, and where he leads, the masses follow. So the idea of Duck & Rice, a Chinese gastropub in Soho, is enticing. What is it? God only knows, but with Yau’s hand on the tiller, you can guarantee it will be well worth the wait.
Due in spring alanyau.cn
The culinary king of Cumbria, Simon Rogan, is bringing his individual style of food comprising subtlety, character and artlessness to stuffy old Claridge’s. Rogan fired off a London ranging shot at Marylebone’s Roganic, a pop-up restaurant that has stayed permanently popped up. Simon Rogan at Claridge’s is altogether another matter and will be very different from its predecessor Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.
Opens in spring simonrogan.co.uk
For a great world city there is a shocking lack of rooms with a view in London, and there could never really be enough Jason Atherton places, so the fact that Atherton’s new restaurant, City Social, promises not only a spectacular London skyline but also food that combines his own Pollen Street Social with another of my favourites, Scott’s, means I’m salivating already. Plus the coolest toilets in London, apparently – for those, like me, who enjoy pissing from a great height. (Sorry, Jason.)
Due in May jasonatherton.co.uk
I’m still trying to get to restaurants that have recently opened! What I am looking forward to, though, is Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s (Colbert/The Wolseley/Zedel) new Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair and its Twenties-style American restaurant. Everything that they do is inspiring.
Due in autumn thebeaumont.com
I am not looking forward to any restaurant openings at all. Nor have I for some time. We already have enough restaurants. In fact, we have far too many. So, what I am looking forward to is some restaurants closing. Especially trashy, top-end knock-offs of celebrity clip-joints that have done well abroad and been opened here for no other reason than because London is awash with stupid money and opening a shit restaurant that sounds like somewhere they might have heard about in New York or Paris is as good a way as any to get your hands on some of it. In this spirit, I look forward to the closure of Balthazar, Bo London, anywhere with Ducasse or Robuchon in its name and everything in the Shard. Also, if Pizza Express finally goes tits up, I shall give a free fireworks party for the whole country with unlimited booze and pole dancers who actually put out.
Taken from Esquire's April issue, on newsstands now.