One of my absolute favourite things about living in London is that you can find a restaurant that serves almost every single cuisine you can imagine.
The city has always attracted the brightest chefs and restaurateurs and as my family and friends’ go-to person for restaurant recommendations, I’ve made it my mission to force myself away from my favourite haunts and regularly try out what’s new in the capital. From a much-anticipated Filipino pop-up to an Indian maestro’s latest venture, I’ve narrowed down the best new restaurant openings that you need to book right now.
Kasa and Kin
They’ve done it again! Rowena Romulo and Chris Joseph from popular Kensington spot Romulo Café have just opened a fast casual Filipino restaurant called Kasa & Kin in Soho. I attended the restaurant’s soft opening, which was a lively and convivial affair. The duo envisioned an all-day dining destination with pan de sal served from the patisserie for the early birds, grab-and-go options in bento boxes for the lunch crowd, a collection of grilled meats and vegetables for dinner guests, and an array of desserts for the sugar fiends among us. A colourful mural by artist Kulay Labitigan wraps around the restaurant, telling the stories of Filipino folklore and the many fiestas celebrated across the country. Experience the flavours of the islands with a calamansi and coriander-marinated heirloom tomato kilaw bowl to start, then grab a bunch of skewers from the robata grill (beef rib eye tapa, red chilli prawn, baby sweetcorn, and BBQ pork belly all get my vote) paired with a selection of dips and sides, then finish off your meal with the mango tsunami cheesecake that comes with its own slice of tableside drama.
Though not a new restaurant, the reopening of Isla, the ground floor restaurant at The Standard hotel celebrating the best of the British Isles, was one that I was excited about. Walking through the hotel always makes me feel like I’ve been transported to one of New York’s trendy neighbourhoods with its unique design features and splashes of bright colours that designer Shaun Hausman chose to balance out the “greyness” of London. Though my beloved fuzi truffle dish is no longer, Isla is still an excellent choice when looking to impress visitors and is easy to get to (right in front of King’s Cross station). Cocktails are adventurous, the wine list is extensive, and I suggest you start with a fresh oyster with cider and dill, end with some Purin (Japanese crème caramel) with Tahitian vanilla, and whatever you do, do not miss out on the flavour bomb that is the scallops in XO sauce.
To have not one but two Filipino restaurants on this list is something I am extremely proud of. I first met Budgie Montoya when he was serving ube kinilaw tacos (Filipino ceviche in purple yam taco shells) at a Filipino Food Fest in East London a few years ago. Since then, he has introduced Londoners to all things Sarap (meaning “delicious” in Filipino)—first with a series of supper clubs and pop-ups, then came the opening of Sarap BAon in Brixton Village (a spot he first secured by winning the Brixton Kitchen competition), and most recently, with the launch of Sarap Bistro, a six-month residency at the coveted 10 Heddon Street in Mayfair. I’m often hesitant about elevated takes on Filipino cuisine, worried that the soul of the food I love so much gets lost in overly tweezered renditions of traditional dishes. Sarap Bistro not only quieted my fears, but it also made both my heart and my stomach smile. I ate my way through most of the menu, and enjoyed re-discovering Filipino cuisine through Montoya’s lens. Must-orders include the signature crispy pata (pork trotter) stuffed with adobo rice; aged rump cap bistek with calamansi, soy jus, and pickled shallots (I described this dish to my dinner companion as: “what I’d have as my packed lunch at school, but it did not look this pretty”); coconut-braised kale laing; hispi cabbage with fermented shrimp butter and crispy shallots; and burnt cassava cheesecake. Oh and we may or may not have seen food critic Jay Rayner dining right across from us.
Provocative, rebellious, and inspired—the three words chef Chris Denney uses to describe his new Portobello Road outpost Fiend. I remember walking past his former restaurant 108 Garage, a favourite of the Notting Hill set, and each time said I’d make a reservation but never got around to it. So I was pleased to hear that Denney was back in the area and that he had brought his progressive and delicious cooking with him. We’re sitting by the open kitchen and as we watch the chefs plate their dishes, Tilda Swinton is at the table across from us, and sommelier Beth Brickenden is describing the private wine cave where her curated list is on show as she brings out an off-the-menu bottle for us to try. For our meal, we go with all of Brickenden’s suggestions, which are expertly paired with the dishes we (over) ordered, including some stellar choices like the melt-in-your-mouth brioche with chicken liver parfait; burnt leek with gochujang and tarama; sea trout with persimmon, caviar, and soy; wagyu short rib with tartar relish, dandelion, belper knolle; and blue brain cheese with piccalilli.
When I’m asked for restaurant recommendations in West London, Kutir in Chelsea always makes the cut. When I found out that chef Rohit Ghai was opening a new restaurant in Mayfair, I couldn’t wait to come for a visit. Similar to Kutir, Manthan is set in a stylish townhouse which immediately gives the feeling you’re in a friend’s dining room—albeit a fancy one. Manthan means “to churn and reflect”, and that’s exactly what Ghai aims to do with his new venture—take diners on a journey through the flavours of the Indian markets he grew up around whilst celebrating the innovative techniques he has learned from kitchens around the world. The result is a menu that features a mix of street food favourites and family recipes with Ghai’s own spin on them and a complementary cocktail offering with lots of exotic fruits and botanicals. You can’t go wrong with most of Manthan’s menu, though I highly recommend the buttermilk chicken with pink peppercorn, curry leaf, and chicken; goat kebab with a bone marrow sauce; and lamb chops with Indian onion, royal cumin, and mint.
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