So now we know: the new chef at The Connaught is Hélène Darroze, a highly successful French chef whose eponymous restaurant, Le Salon d'Hélène Darroze, on the Left Bank in Paris has been delighting the great, the good and the very discerning since 1999. Her background includes stints at Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo and her own family’s restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan. She will launch the new Hélène Darroze at The Connaught when it opens this June as well as look after The Gallery, and private and in-room dining at the hotel. Also in her remit is the reopening of the small Connaught Grill in autumn. It’s all part of the £70million revamp this venerable hotel is experiencing, dusting off its slightly shabby, charming, country house feel for a more glamorous, though still traditional, style. The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1, 020-7499 7070.
Everyone knows that the British take hotel restaurants seriously with hoteliers vying with each other to secure top chefs. While we wait for Hélène Darroze to open at The Connaught, you could try Bord’eaux, the new brasserie in The Grosvenor House hotel which is currently being revamped to the tune of many millions of pounds by Marriott. At the moment it is chef Ollie Couillaud, who opened The Grill Room at the Dorchester and Tom’s Kitchen for Tom Aikens, who is in the news. Later this year, Richard Corrigan of Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill and Lindsay House will arrive to weave his own particular Irish magic. The Grosvenor House, Park Ln., W1, 020-7399 8460.
Two new restaurants have opened up recently in north London. Very smart Primrose Hill is now well served by L’Absinthe, the venture of Jean-Christophe Slowik. You might recognize him from his time working front-of-house for Marco Pierre White. Now he’s opened his own venture. The food is French, the dishes like duck confit, grilled breast of chicken please and the atmosphere is delightfully local. L’Absinthe, 40 Chalcot Rd., NW1, 020-7483 4848.
Gordon Ramsay is spreading himself even further this year. He’s already bought, revamped and reopened Foxtrot Oscar in Chelsea (79 Royal Hospital Rd., SW4, 020-7352 4448), the restaurant that attracted the bright young things of Chelsea and the old hands who sat around drinking copious amounts of wine. Foxtrot was and is a landmark, but Ramsay’s revamp has not met with favour and he may close it for another attempt. Oh well, he’s doing rather better with The Warrington, his third gastropub just opened in Maida Vale (93 Warrington Crescent, W9, 020-7592 7960). You can’t keep the good Ramsay down; he’s about to open the York & Albany (127-129 Parkway, NW1), a restaurant with rooms, with Angela Hartnett, former chef at The Connaught, overseeing the venue just next to Regent’s Park.
If you’re visiting Camden Lock Market, make it to Market in Parkway, a new British-inspired restaurant that is pleasing both locals and visitors alike. It’s a casual place with bare brick walls and zinc tables, a real buzz and some first-rate cooking in home-smoked mackerel, pork chops and pies. Market, 43 Parkway, NW1, 020-7267 9700.
London has absorbed its latest big name arrival: Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. But despite the glitzy opening and excitement there have been criticisms–perhaps inevitably–given the fact that the chef’s fame, the prices and the location suggest that here you will find perfection. Perfect the experience may not be–yet, but it’s pretty good. You need to book in advance. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, 54 Park Lane, W1, 020-7629 8866.
The man making all the news at the moment is Alan Yau. Wagamama, his first venture started in 1992, was a rip-roaring success, but he lost it in a takeover battle. His next strokes of genius were Hakkasan, busaba eathai and Yauatcha. Now he’s opened Sake No Hana, a decidedly cool Japanese restaurant in St. James’s, backed by Evgeny Lebedev, the son of the Russian billionaire, Alexander Lebedev. Sake No Hana is on a difficult site which has seen many restaurants come and rapidly go. It’s also strikingly expensive and the jury is out on whether the high prices justify the cooking. It remains to be seen whether he manages to knock Nobu off its chic perch. Also, Yau aims to roll out 40 Yauatchas and ten Hakkasans (including a Hong Kong branch) which will be under his direct control. He’s also about to open the first of a chain called Cha Cha Moon in Soho and in Whiteleys.
Sam and Eddie Hart (Fino, Barrafina) are busy with the revamp of Soho favourite, Quo Vadis. It’s due to re-open in a month and regulars are confident that the two ace young restaurateurs will respect tradition and not attempt anything too radical with the much-loved venue. Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean St., W1, 020-7437 9585.
Chelsea is doing pretty well for new restaurants and opening in April is another reason why the Sloaney ponies are happy. The Botanist should fit nicely into the Sloane Square greenery. Named after Sir Hans Sloane who inspired the Chelsea Physic Garden, the place is smart but informal, rather like the food. Owners Tom and Ed Martin add this western outpost to their East End ventures like The Gun (27 Coldharbour, Docklands, 020-7515 5222); The White Swan Pub & Dining Room (108 Fetter Ln., 020-7242 9696); and The Well (180 St. John St., Clerkenwell, 020-7251 5123).
The big news is the eagerly awaited opening of the swish new Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. But despite the glitzy opening and excitement there have been criticisms–perhaps inevitably–given the fact that the chef’s fame, the prices and the location suggest that here you will find perfection. Perfect the experience may not be–yet, but it’s pretty good. Opening in time for the Christmas devil-may-care season, you need to book in advance to get a table at London’s latest temple of gastronomy. The Dorchester, 54 Park Lane, W1, 020-7629 8866.
Andrew Turner is a notable chef, though still sadly underrated by the public. All that is about to change with his return to London from Pennyhill Park Hotel to run The Landau. One of the first to champion grazing menus, he’s continuing the experience with the small dishes like bluefin tuna with mango and olive, and carrot mousse, orange, almonds and apricot sauce. Set in the Langham Hotel London, the oval-shaped dining room is large and light, entered through a vaulted wine corridor to whet your appetite. Langham Hotel London, Portland Pl., W1, 020-7965 0165, www.thelandau.com.
Claude Bosi became famous in the small market town of Ludlow in Shropshire, then clearly got tired of the country and upped sticks to London. His new restaurant, Hibiscus, is a sophisticated mix of wood-panelling, comfortable chairs and banquettes and a restful grey and green colour scheme. The cooking is inventive and fresh; this looks to become a favourite fixture on the top London dining scene. Hibiscus, 29 Maddox St., W1, 020-7629 2999, www.hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk.
With all these glittering names popping up with new ventures in London, one of our favourites, Marco Pierre White, has, for once, been rather eclipsed. The wild-haired genius of a chef has gone into partnership with Roman Abramovich to open Marco at Chelsea football ground. Make the trek; it’s well worth it. Stamford Bridge, Fulham Rd., SW6, 020-7915 2929, www.marcorestaurant.co.uk.
Top restaurants are done very well in hotels in London; and there are also good restaurants in shops (look at Nicole’s, Harvey Nichols and others) and shopping centres, which is a bit more surprising. The latest to open among the frocks and shoes (though it does have its own entrance) is Le Café Anglais in Whiteleys, a large shopping arcade in Bayswater and a faintly unlikely setting for the considerable talents of Rowley Leigh. Le Café Anglais, 8 Porchester Gardens, W8, 020-7221 1415, www.lecafeanglais.co.uk.
The former W’Sens has reopened, not called Tsar as expected, but as Divo which is an odd name for a Ukrainian restaurant. The influx of Russian money in barrel loads into London has surprisingly not so far led to a new wave of Russian restaurants, so is this the start of a new trend? We hope not; it may be opulent and lush in a kitschy and definitely over-the-top kind of way, but as for the food…The menu runs from stuffed cabbage to Russian salad, but definitely not the way your baboushka made it. Divo, 12 Waterloo Pl., SW1, 020-7484 1355.
L’Autre Pied is the result of investment by Shane Osborn and David Moore of Pied-a-Terre fame (got the pun on the name?) in the talents of young Marcus Eaves (he is only 26, so the description is genuine) and this new restaurant in trendy Marylebone Village (formerly Blandford Street). If it turns out to be close to Pied-a-Terre it will be a popular venue. L’Autre Pied, 5-7 Blandford St., W1, 020-7486 9696, www.lautrepied.co.uk.
The Devonshire is Gordon Ramsay’s latest gastropub opening, but it has not gone down well with the punters. Is the super chef stretching himself too far? It’s in a fairly distant location, a bit too far from Chiswick High Road and its side roads which are full of the kind of moneyed Londoners who love local gastropubs, and the food is ordinary. The Devonshire, 126 Devonshire Rd., W4, 020-7592 7962.
A former pub is the setting for Angelus, in the rather unlikely surroundings of Lancaster Gate, an area not known for fine dining. It’s the brainchild of Thierry Tomasin who was head sommelier at Le Gavroche and manager of Aubergine. Angelus serves top French food at good value prices. Angelus, 4 Bathurst St, W2, 020-7402 0083.
Another sommelier, Xavier Rousset, has teamed up with chef Agnar Sverrisson to open Texture. As they both come straight from Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, expect some pretty nifty cooking matched with excellent wines. The cooking style has moved from classic French to modern British with Asian spicing. Now that’s a challenge for young Rousset. Texture, 34 Portman Sq, W1, 020-7224 0028.
Straight from South Africa, Cape Town Fish Market has opened at 5-6 Argyll St., Sutherland House, W1, 020-7437 1143. It’s a classy venture, offering Japanese sushi and teppanyaki with rather more expected grilled fish and seafood from a group which has 25 successful restaurants in South Africa.
Just-opened Kenza aims to keep the City boys up late. Middle Eastern cuisine washed down with cocktails is just what those financial geniuses need to keep them partying until 2:30 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. (depending on the day of the week). And they’ll love the décor—think glamorous souk-style with deep colours and hanging lanterns to shame that uniform business attire. Kenza, 10 Devonshire Sq, EC2, 020-07929 5533
Down in that other financial centre, Docklands, the modern Japanese restaurant and bar Kombu has opened next to the Excel Centre. There’s a central sushi bar and robata grill to keep diners entertained, a bar with cocktails to beware of and a menu that offers the exotic likes of avocado mousse with grilled freshwater eel. Kombu, 2 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, E16, 020-7474 1459.
Kensington Square is in the posh part of London, so the Kensington Square Kitchen, which opens in London in October, will suit all those chic mums. It’s an all-day place, opening for breakfast, brunch, lunch and tea but not dinner. Healthy breakfasts, family brunches and afternoon teas for shoppers are on the menu. Kensington Square Kitchen, 9 Kensington Square, W8, 020-7938 2598.
The Waterloo Brasserie (117 Waterloo Rd., SE1) will open at the end of the year. It comes courtesy of the group that owns Cheyne Walk Brasserie and Ronnie Scotts. Opposite the Old Vic Theatre, it will be a brasserie and restaurant to cater to all tastes.
Expect a newcomer in Mayfair in the form of The Only Running Footman (5 Charles St., W1, 020-7499 2988). It consists of a pub on the ground floor, opening at the un-pub hour of 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, and serving pub grub from noon to closing; and a restaurant on the first floor. But most unusually (and again very un-pub-like, but could this be the future for the great British boozer?), there will be a cookery school and chef’s table on the third floor. Sounds great.
Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton will open a Prague location of the London restaurant Maze in the Hilton Prague Old Town hotel. It will feature the same small-plates concept of the original Maze, as well as a 70-seat bar. Philip Carmichael has been appointed head chef.
If you like gastro-pubs you’ll love 32 Great Queen Street, an offshoot of the Anchor & Hope down in Waterloo. Local, seasonal food is the main raison d’etre of this casual, relaxed but highly professional venue in Covent Garden. 32 Great Queen Street, 32 Great Queen St, WC2, 020-7242 0622.
Olivomare is the third venture from the excellent two restaurants Olivo and Oliveto. It’s mainly fishy, as you would guess from the name, with a big mural on one wall (abstract fish) in a big white space. The menu is mainly Sardinian, so expect the likes of bottarga (pressed and dried fish roe), tuna, pastas, baby octopus stew and the likes. Olivomare, 10 Lower Belgrave St, SW1, 020-7730 9022.
See Oriental Café & Delicatessen is adding to the vibe in the new Paddington Basin region. As it says, it caters for take away and has a restaurant attached. It’s described as oriental and the menu takes in the likes of dumplings, soups, salmon teriyaki, Chinese roast duck and Thai prawn salad. It’s perfect for the young inhabitants of one of London’s new vibrant areas. See Oriental Café & Delicatessen, 4D Praed St, W1, 020-7724 7358, www.seecafe.co.uk.
Zafferano, long a favourite with all lovers of Italian food, has opened a deluxe delicatessen next door at 16 Halkin Arcade, Lowndes St, SW1. You can stock up with Bagos cheese (only 12 rounds are made each year in Lombardy), made from the milk of the razza bruna cows and slightly flavoured with saffron, as well as fresh pastas, truffle polenta, olive oils and more, plus freshly prepared ready to go dishes like lasagne. Zafferano,16 Halkin Arcade, SW1, 020-7838 9995, www.zafferanorestaurant.com.
With the re-launch of the Royal Festival Hall, the South Bank has become a fine place to eat out. The big news is the opening of Skylon, the bar-grill-restaurant that takes over from the People’s Palace. With Finnish chef Helena Puolakka at the helm (formerly at The Fifth Floor in Harvey Nichols), this has become a Southbank destination venue. All that and what a view! Alongside stalwarts like Giraffe, the opening of benugo bar & kitchen in the British Film Institute’s building and Ping Pong (Festival Terrace, Southbank Centre, 020-7960 4160), the news that Canteen has opened a second venue serving modern British food is more good news for diners (Southbank Centre Square, 0845 686 1122).
Lovers of good bread and delicacies should go to the Nordic Bakery, recently opened in Golden Square. It’s full of homesick Finns and patrons of other nationalities discovering the delights of Karelian pies, rye crispbreads and open sandwiches. There’s a small café where you can sit and drink coffee and have a snack. Nordic Bakery, 14 Golden Sq, W1, 020-3230 1077, www.nordicbakery.com.
A second branch of Aubaine, originally on Brompton Road, has opened in Heddon Street, just off Regent Street. With its rustic-chic-bistro style, its large windows allowing light to flood in, and good menu, it is a fine addition to a prime dining area. Aubaine, 4 Heddon St., W1, 020-7440 2510.
In August, look for the opening of Le Café des Anglais in Whiteley’s shopping centre. Chef Rowley Leigh (who made his name at Kensington Place) and restaurateur Charlie McVeigh will open what they describe as a “grand Parisian brasserie.” It will feature modern British food and cook much of it on the open kitchen’s rotisserie. Le Café des Anglais, Whiteley’s, 151 Queensway, W2.
Opening in Covent Garden, The Forge is part of a small group of eateries including Café du Jardin and Le Deuxieme. The head chef comes from Bleeding Heart Tavern. It adds yet another good restaurant to this part of London. The Forge, 14 Garrick St., WC2, 020-7379 1531.
If you feel a little dusty after looking at all those dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, you need go no further than the gardens fronting onto Cromwell Road where you will find Summer, a new alfresco bar and restaurant. Open from mid-May to the end of August, expect light, fresh and seasonal food for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner or tapas-style dishes to share up to 9 p.m., all against the floodlit facade of the Museum. Summer, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd., SW7, 020-7942 3938, www.nhm.ac.uk.
Watch out for the new restaurant from the team behind Arbutus. It’s called Wild Honey and is due to open early July on the site of the former Drones Club at 12 St. George St., Mayfair.
Fans of Tom Aikens (famous for Tom Aikens and Tom’s Kitchen) will be delighted to hear that the Puckish-looking young chef will open his third restaurant, Tom’s Place, in September. It’s in the former Monkeys at 1 Cale Street location, and will feature upmarket fish ‘n’ chips, both eat-in and take-away. And if you think upmarket fish ‘n’ chips is an oxymoron, then go along to the Library Bar at The Lanesborough, A St. Regis Hotel for more of the same. The Library Bar, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA, London, 020-7259 5599.
it’s the Olympics’ effect (after
all 2012 is not far off), but it seems that the restaurants
and bars in all of London’s top hotels are being comprehensively glammed up. The latest
hot opening is Artesian at the Langham Hotel London.
It hits all the right buttons: it’s designed by
David Collins (famous for the Blue Bar at The
Berkeley hotel, The
Wolseley, Claridge’s Bar
and the London
NYC hotel in New
York); it’s sexy; it’s in an area not hitherto
noted for glamorous venues; and it serves some pretty
fabulous cocktails, from old-time classics to its own
specialties made with rum. On that note, they have around
50 different varieties and import their own rum from
Guyana and Panama in barrels which the hotel then bottles.
As for the décor, there’s chinoiserie, the
wall panelling is dramatic and the colour scheme that
takes in grey, lilac and mulberry is pretty chic. To
add to its charms, Artesian is open for breakfast and
afternoon tea. Artesian, Langham Hotel London, 1 Portland
Pl., Regent St., London, 020-7636 1000.
Fortnum & Mason has transformed its food hall into the contemporary double-story Fresh Food Hall, replacing the former red plush version. It has its own wine bar, 1707, designed by…guess who? Of course, by the ubiquitous David Collins. The food is overseen by Shaun Hill and is a good mix. Wines are well selected, as you’d expect from this upper-crust establishment, and happily they come at store prices, plus a £10 corkage. The more expensive you go the better value they are, so break out the Château Pétrus. 1707, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, 020-7734 8040.
Rhodes W1 Restaurant has opened at Great Cumberland Place. It’s another of Gary Rhodes’ ventures, and features décor by interior designer Kelly Hoppen. It’s her first restaurant project and is an eclectic mix of chandeliers, antique French chairs and lush velvet fabrics. Rhodes W1 Restaurant, Great Cumberland Place, London, 020-7479 3737.
The West End has an intriguing new restaurant, Suka, which opened in the Morgans Hotel Group's Sanderson hotel March 20, replacing Spoon+ at Sanderson. The chef, Zak Pelaccio, will be well known to North Americans through his restaurant 5 Ninth, in Manhattan's Meatpacking district. Pelaccio, who has worked with Daniel Boulud at Daniel and Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, is bringing his particular style of Asian cooking to London. Suka, Sanderson, 50 Berners St., W1, London, 020-7300 1444.
Top chef Gordon Ramsay is spreading his net ever wider these days. In mid-March, the wunderkind—or enfant terrible—take your pick, opened…not a swish, expensive new hotel restaurant like his latest New York venue, but a gastropub. And what’s more, not a gastropub in the West End, but The Narrow in London’s Limehouse. Classic British dishes are featured on the menu, from the likes of a London Particular (especially Dickensian), which is pea and ham soup, to three different roasts on Sundays. And for drinks? Along with Burgundy come bitters and local beers on draught. The Narrow in London's Limehouse, 44 Narrow St., London E14 8DP, London.
Fine Fish ‘n’ Chips
Prefer to Puff?
The Connaught Redux
Change of Plans
Check the Date
Chor Bizarre Celebrates
Get Social on Saturdays
Breakfast with a View
Cook at the InterContinental
Fish ‘n’ Chips Goes Upmarket
Classic Closes for Refurb
Ducasse at The Dorchester
Tailor Made Tonics
Racine made a name for itself from the moment it opened, so regulars in this chic part of London are heartbroken to hear that chef Henry Harris has sold his share to his partner, Eric Garnier, and departed to join the Soho House Group of Nick Jones (of Soho House, London and New York and a few more very “in” places). Racine, 239 Brompton Rd., SW3, 020-7584 4477.
Even the top-class cooking of Bjorn van der Horst failed to keep diners happy at La Noisette on Sloane Street. This first-floor venue, with its dull décor and lack of sparkle, though with remarkably good food, has seen the departure first of Jamie Oliver's Monte and then of Ian Pengelley's venue, which was backed by Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay installed van der Horst here less than two years ago, but the site has defeated their best efforts. It will now be turned into a private dining venue; we will see if enough corporate bods take the bait.
Just the Bridge near Blackfriars has closed. Coming to the site will be Northbank, which will add to the English restaurants in the capital as its emphasis is on the West Country. Think shellfish, organic Cornish farms and lots of double cream. 1 Paul’s Walk, off Upper Thames St, EC4, 020-7236 0000.
W’Sens at the bottom of St. James has closed and will re-open this autumn as Tsar, a restaurant taking you back to the 18th century serving Russian and Ukrainian food. 12 Waterloo Place, SW1, 020-7484 1355.
The Savoy, one of London’s grandest and most venerable hotels, is closing at the beginning of December for 18 months. A refurbishment costing over £100million will upgrade the riverside suites, guest rooms and public areas. The famous River Restaurant will re-open at the same time. The Savoy, Strand, WC2, 020-7836 4343.
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