Caravan has long been a London favorite, so it's good news that there's a second and larger version in King's Cross. This rapidly changing and gentrifying area is welcoming a whole slew of new restaurants and hotels. The new Caravan is all industrial pipe work, metal girders and concrete floors in the Granary Square development. Contemporary cooking from the Mediterranean and Middle East brings small plates of mackerel fillet with avocado, corn and coriander salsa, pizzas and large dishes such as poussin stuffed with hazelnuts, served with salsa verde and asparagus. The all-day brunch menu is a big draw. Caravan, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1, 020-7101 7661.
Lima is another of the Peruvian restaurants opening in London, joining Ceviche. But Lima is more up-market, owned by Virgilio Martinez who is chef/patron of Central restaurant in Lima. It's a smart restaurant with a contemporary décor of wooden floors, white walls, pale leather banquette seating and bold art. The cooking is new to London, using classic Peruvian dishes but bringing them up to date with modern touches and many ingredients flown in from Peru. Try bay scallops with aji emulsion, umami salt and cassava followed by braised lamb shoulder with coriander and pisco jus, black quinoa and white grapes. It's as beautifully presented as one would hope. Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Sat. Lima, 31 Rathbone Pl., London W1, 020-3002 2640.
The name Garnier rings many bells with London diners. Eric Garnier co-founded Racine in Knightsbridge, and his brother Didier runs the favorite Chelsea restaurant Le Colombier. Now they’ve gone into business together, with a French brasserie in Earl’s Court. The menu is a tried and tested run of French classics, from fish soup to fillet of beef with black pepper sauce and french fries. All in all, this is a very welcome addition to London’s French dining scene. Lunch & Dinner daily. Garnier, 314 Earl's Court Rd., London SW5, 20-7370 4536.
Peru has come to London with a roar. Ceviche, a Peruvian kitchen and pisco bar in Soho, hits the spot with a bold, colorful interior, pop art and new-to-London cooking. There's a ceviche bar with wooden tables and chairs for the more leisurely diner where you can take in healthy, marinated fish with a variety of sauces all day, like thin slices of sea bass in amarillo chilli and lime dressing with green mango and basil. Classics like wok-cooked beef fillet with red onions, tomatoes and saltado sauce are clearly bringing in the locals. And in the evening, the bar has become quite a meeting place. Mon.-Sat. noon-11.30pm, Sun. noon-10.15pm. Ceviche, 17 Frith St., London W1, 020-7292 2040.
Two of the most successful restaurateurs in London have done it again. Chris Corbin and Jeremy King have added to their restaurant group, which includes The Wolseley in Piccadilly, with the opening of Brasserie Zédel. It's on the site of the former Atlantic Grill (which was ironically located below the Titanic) in the now-closed Regent Palace Hotel. It's huge, grandiose fun with a Belle Époque interior, and the clever pair have pitched the prices just right. The cooking is an unashamed mix of brasserie favorites: frogs' legs, foie gras, onglet steak. Mon.-Sat. noon-midnight, Sun. noon-11pm. Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood St., London W1, 020-7734 4888.
Tapasia fits right into the dining scene of Soho with its trendy upstairs dining room complete with a long bar, a huge old-fashioned mirror and cramped, wooden seating. It's all about pan-Asian tapas-size dishes ranging from roast Chilean sea bass and miso barley to grilled beef skewers and grilled aubergine with sweet miso and yoghurt hummus. There's a downstairs bar with a casual atmosphere that fills up in the evenings. Daily noon-11pm. Tapasia, 32 Old Compton St., London W1, 020-7287 0213.
Dorset Square Hotel was one of the first boutique hotels in London opened by Firmdale Hotels, which also owns the Covent Garden Hotel, the Charlotte Street Hotel and others. The group sold the hotel, then bought it back and refurbished it, including the delightful restaurant, The Potting Shed, which has reappeared. It's still full of terracotta pots and garden knick-knacks, but the décor has been given a suitably chic update. The menu is safe, dependable and a remarkably good value: soup of the day at £5.50; mains around £16. And where else in London could you find gooseberry and elderflower fool with shortbread? Sun.-Fri. noon-2.30pm, Mon.-Sat. 6-10pm. The Potting Shed, Dorset Square Hotel, 39-40 Dorset Square, London NW1, 020-3641 8328.
Double the DishoomChef Shuffle
Dishoom is a delight with its Bombay café concept and casual atmosphere. Now it's opening a second branch in the very fashionable area of Shoreditch. The new Dishoom has an industrial-style décor and an emphasis on Indian street food. It opens in October, 2012. Dishoom Shoreditch, 7 Boundary St., London E2, no phone available.
Dabbous is the brainchild of chef Ollie Dabbous, who previously cooked so skillfully at Texture. It's in the restaurant-rich area of Bloomsbury/Fitzrovia but the industrial-style architecture with bare tables and lots of piping looks more Shoreditch. The cooking mixes classic French with those touches that bring instant fame --- if well done. And they're very well done here. Try a salad of fennel, lemon balm and pickled rose petals followed by barbecued pork with savory acorn praline, turnip tops and apple vinegar. And it's all a good value as well. The basement bar has become almost as popular as this new restaurant. Tues.-Sat. noon-3pm & 5.30-11.30pm. Dabbous, 39 Whitfield St., London, UK W1, 020-7323 1544.
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