Roka and Zuma are two of London's great success stories. Now Arjun Waney, one of the people behind Zuma, has opened a high-end, luxurious Peruvian restaurant and bar in the basement with a private members club at ground level. The décor at Coya is chic, with seats at the bar on one side, small tables in the middle, and banquette seating opposite. The large next door Pisco Bar offers bespoke pisco infusions, plus 40 tequilas and a long rum list. Expect the likes of ceviches and anticuchos plus skewered meat as well as grills. Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Sat. Coya, 118 Piccadilly, London W1, 020-7042 7118.
Notting Hill is known for its annual Caribbean carnival, so what could be better than The Rum Kitchen, a new, colorful beach shack-style restaurant? Wooden floors, bright chairs and slogans on the walls, like Talk is the Ear's Food, create a jokey, thoroughly smiling atmosphere that suits the classics of West Indian cooking. Saltfish fritters with chilli jam, seafood gumbo and, of course, jerk chicken are on the menu. Turning the pitch up are blaring reggae beats. Mon.-Wed. 6pm-11pm; Thurs. 6pm-1am; Fri. 6pm-2am; Sat. noon-2am; Sun. noon-10.30pm. The Rum Kitchen, 6-8 All Saints Rd., London W11, 020-7920 6479 .
ME London is the city's latest über trendy hotel, located opposite One Aldwych and beside what used to be the BBC's Bush House overseas service. The property hosts a striking new Italian restaurant, Cucina Asellina. And now that the weather's taken a turn for the better, the Radio Rooftop Bar is coming into its own. On the 10th floor, it's stylish and fun with a wraparound terrace complete with blankets and heaters just in case the sun disappears. Even if it does, the view will hold your attention, looking out towards St. Paul's to the east and down the Thames to the west. Drink a chilled rosé or cocktail, and at lunch snack on crab linguine while nightfall brings tapas and sliders. Mon.-Wed. 11am-1am; Thurs.-Sat. 11am-3am; Sun. 11am-10.30pm. Radio Rooftop Bar, 336-337 The Strand, London WC2R 1HA , 080 8234 1953 .
No. 11 Cadogan Gardens was one of the first small, highly successful boutique hotels. After a massive refurbishment and ownership change, the former understated townhouse has become pretty chic with one over-the-top suite and 54 rooms, the restaurant Tartufo and an outside terrace. On the lower ground floor, Tartufo occupies two rooms decorated with comfortable chairs and vintage prints from the likes of Jean Cocteau and Belgian illustrator Jean-Michel Fólon. The cooking is contemporary European, in the capable hands of Manuel Oliveri who has worked extensively in Italy and also with Alexis Gauthier at Gauthier Soho. Scottish scallops come with crunchy fennel and radish salad; interesting 'middle course' dishes might include wild rocket and lovage ravioli with thyme and veal jus, or risotto with black truffle. Mains are equally well prepared: perhaps pork with leeks, broad beans and a chickpea beignet. Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sat. Tartufo, No. 11 Cadogan Gardens, 11 Cadogan Gardens, London SW3, 020-7730 6383 .
Following the trend to move east, Chabrot Bistrot des Halles near Smithfield comes hot on the heels of the original Knightsbridge Chabrot Bistrot des Amis. As the names imply, this is a proper French offering with red leather banquette seating, old photographs on the walls to get you into the Parisian mood, and metal lights. Terrine of foie gras with green beans, warm calf's head with ravigote sauce, black pudding and apples, Pyrenean roast lamb with herb couscous and good honest grills make up a relatively long menu. Prices are reasonable; the cooking is good and the staff welcoming and friendly while the wine list is a delight. 2 course set lunch £14.50, 3 courses £19.50. Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner Mon.-Sat. Chabrot Bistrot des Halles, 62-63 Long Lane, London EC1, 020-7796 4550.
The first steam locomotives running on the old East London line were called Beagles, so The Beagle is an appropriate name for this welcome new coffee shop, bar and restaurant located in three renovated arches next to Hoxton station. Brick walls, grey leather seats and renovated industrial lights manage to be both trendy and comforting at the same time. The open kitchen serves confident dishes on a daily changing basis, many cooked on a traditional wood grill. Starters of courgette and wild garlic soup or pigs' head croquettes with aïoli instantly tell you this is a class act, using fresh local ingredients simply and well. Follow with rabbit loin, beetroot and butter beans and finish with lemon sorbet with Sicilian lemon vodka. British beers, cocktails and wines by the carafe and a friendly staff add to the feeling of wellbeing. Lunch Wed.-Sun., Dinner Mon.-Sat. The Beagle, 397-400 Geffrye St., London E2, 020-7613 2967 .
Is London's love affair with tapas ever going to end? Not for the moment it seems, and not if they are as good as what's offered at The Port House Strand. The place is actually owned by an Irish brewery but they know how to do a tapas bar as they have outlets in Cork and Dublin. The setting has warm brick walls and flickering candles. The menu is Basque-influenced with pintxos skewers featuring the likes of grilled chicken wings marinated in lemon and garlic (£5.75), squid strips with aïoli (£5.95) and aubergine tempura with hummus dip, as well as charcuterie and cheeses. Accompany it with a good Rioja from Spain and Portugal from a well-chosen wine list. Mon.-Sat. noon-11pm. The Port House Strand, 417 Strand, London WC2, 020-7836 7764.
The mark of how strong London's restaurant scene is comes with so many successful restaurateurs opening second branches. Now it's the turn of Villandry, the deli/bar/restaurant in Marylebone. Villandry owner Philippe Le Roux is slated to debut a second outpost overlooking Waterloo Place. Villandry Grand Café will have a commitment to organic and seasonal produce from local sources, and French, Italian and Spanish influences in its pan-European food. Expect a restaurant, deli, and casual all-day drop-in spot offering salads, sandwiches and groceries as well as affordable, quality wines. Villandry, 170 Gt. Portland St., London W1W 5QB, 020-7631 3131.
An Institution Reappears
The name of Boulestin was as well known in London for almost 70 years as somewhere like The Savoy. The restaurant in the middle of Covent Garden was the brainchild of French chef, restaurateur, author and TV presenter Marcel Boulestin. Boulestin closed in 1994 but is about to be resurrected in St. James's, an area that is being beautifully revived, as a restaurant destination by the Crown Estates. It will be the place for classic French cooking and will consist of a luxury bistro, a private dining room and Café Marcel, which will be more casual. It's due to open this September. Boulestin, 5 St. James's St., London SW1, 020 -7930 2030.
Big Easy Eases into Covent Garden
Big Easy has been a fixture on the surf 'n' turf London dining scene for decades, delighting the residents of Chelsea and their families with its funky décor and good honest food from New Orleans. The deep South is now about to come to Covent Garden, due to open this summer. This will be the place for Maine lobsters, 'colossal shrimp cocktail,' barbecue ribs and the like. Big Easy, 332-334 King's Rd., London SW3, 020-7352 4071.
Big Apple Chefs on the MoveChef Shuffle
It's just been announced that chef Michael White is following in the footsteps of many of his Big Apple peers by opening a restaurant in London. Keith McNally and Daniel Boulud have done the same.
Chef Tom Sellers has been in the kitchens of Noma, Per Se and Tom Aikens, and he's only 26 years old. Now he's opened his Restaurant Story near Tower Bridge. The décor is full of nice touches, like Delft tiles and blown glass in a natural wood interior. But it's the cooking where the fireworks start. You're given a 6-course (£45) or 10-course menu (£65). Both begin with what is innocently called 'Bread and Dripping,' which is a beef-dripping 'candle,' and as it melts you soak it up with sourdough bread. It's an inventive line-up with surprises: purée of potatoes with asparagus and barley grass; lamb with salad roots, garlic and sheep yoghurt; Three Bears' porridge. The wine list has been chosen with equal care and the service is good. Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sat. Restaurant Story, 201 Tooley St., London, UK SE1, 020-7183 2117.
Bird of Smithfield chef-owner Alan Bird looked after The Ivy's kitchens for 20-odd years, so he's got plenty of experience in pleasing the public. And with his new venture, he's going from strength to strength. The venue is located on five narrow floors and is open from breakfast to dinner and keeps going late. On the first floor, the cosy restaurant serves good modern British cooking crafted with carefully sourced ingredients. Try treacle-cured organic salmon with pickled cucumber and fennel followed by Barnsley lamb chop with devilled kidney and spring vegetable bubble and squeak. It's well priced, too. There's a rooftop bar, lounge bar, private dining room and basement cocktail bar --- the feel is that of a members club that everyone can join. Mon.-Wed. 7.30am-midnight; Thurs.-Sat. 7.30am-2am; Sun. 9am-5pm. Bird of Smithfield, 26 Smithfield St, London, UK EC1, 020-7559 5100.
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