THE City’s food scene has long held a reputation for being a bit all work and no play; all coffee carts and sandwich counters for lunch al desko or fine dining primed for the company credit card.
Any foodie worth their Himalayan pink salt knew that getting their fill of the dining hotspots required a trip west of Chancery Lane, but now a gastronomic shift is saving us all the Uber fare.
The Square Mile and its immediate surrounds has been transformed into a dining destination in its own right, with the EC postcode outperforming every other area outside of Central London in new restaurant openings, according to the Hardens London Restaurant Guide 2018.
Yes, 2017 could well be declared the year the City found its flavour so what are you waiting for? Tuck in at these newcomers, but leave some room for 2018.
In this post-gluten, paleo age, we’ve all been running on raw kale and the misconception that eating healthy requires significant compromise in the flavour department. Not so, say the founders of this Clerkenwell cafe, who are aiming to redefine clean eating with their sugar and gluten-free menu of healthy hearty dishes based on nutritional medicine. Start the day off right with breakfast frittata muffins filled with seasonal veggies or poached eggs over slow-cooked tomatoes and peppers, and follow up with lunch of courgette fritters or a fragrant lamb curry that is indulgent as it is light.
72 St John Street, EC1M 4DT
Soho House supremo Nick Jones promised “a blockbuster” for the group’s first foray into the Square Mile, and in The Ned he has delivered, turning the old Midland Bank into a 252-bedroom hotel with two pools, a spa, a roof terrace bar and, most importantly, nine restaurants. A couple are members only – Jones had to deliver something for that £3500 yearly membership fee – but most are open to the public including Jewish deli Zobler’s, patisserie Cafe Sou, Venetian brasserie Cecconi’s, healthy lunch spot Malibu Kitchen and British diner Millie’s Kitchen.
27 Poultry EC2R 8AJ
One of the biggest openings of the year for the City’s carnivores, Soho chop shop (and purveyor of one of the best Sunday Roasts in town) Blacklock did not disappoint with its first Square Mile outpost on the site of a former medieval meat market near Monument. Fans of the original were pleased to find all their favourites including ‘skinny’ beef sirloin, pork rib/loin/belly, the pork tomahawk, and bone-in sirloin and the range of classic-cocktails-for-a-fiver to wash it all down.
And if that’s not enough meat for your bones, they’re also doing starters like pig’s head toast with gravy.
13 Philpot Lane EC3M 1DE
Old Spitalfields Market is back on the map as a dining destination thanks to The Kitchens, a new central hub of kitchen units home to established and up-and-coming street food traders. The former, like Breddos Tacos and shawarma bar Berber and Q are occupying the units to test out new offerings for their permanent venues, while the latter, like Broadway Market’s Dumpling Shack and Hackney-born Italian supper club Sood Family are using them as their first permanent sites. Either way, the Spitalfields lunch crowd is winning.
He might have been about 350 years too early for Instagram, but former Seething Lane resident Samuel Pepys was reportedly quite the food blogger in his day, recording his top London dishes in his diary – in between entries about the Great Fire and the Plague. These entries have served as inspiration for the menu at the Apex Hotel’s Lampery bar and restaurant, which serves up beef cheek and prunes as Lampery Pye – one of Pepys’ favourites – among other traditional British dishes. Cocktails get the same treatment with a non-traditional ‘traditional’ take on classics like the Lampery martini of gin, cointreau, passionfruit, lychee, lemon, vanilla sugar, orange bitters and the Seething Lane sour of sloe gin, old gin, lemon, sugar syrup, egg white and angostura.
1 Seething Lane EC3N 4AX
Finsbury Avenue Square
The opening of Broadgate’s new pop-up foodie hub in May brought with it lip-smackingly good lobster rolls, confit Duck Buns, rare roast beef and truffle mayo subs, and a seriously lifted lunch game for the good workers of Moorgate. Shellfish specialist Claw, Indian burger joint Baba G’s Bhangra Burger and eggs Bennie experts Yolk are among a stellar line-up of independent street food operators that have taken up residence in purpose-built shipping containers until late 2018.
Gul and Sepoy
It has been a busy year for Harneet and Devina Baweja. The husband-and-wife restaurateurs behind Indian favourite Gunpowder doubled and then tripled their little Aldgate East family, first with Himalayan hotspot Madame D’s in the summer, and then fresh new take on regional cuisine with Gul and Sepoy. Like the name, Gul and Sepoy’s menu is split in two; elaborate, sumptuous that would have been served in Raj palaces in the north and more relaxed nose-to-tail cooking pioneered by soldiers in the south. This means you can mix and match the likes of Bharva Paneer Rogan Josh (Gul) with Potted Pig’s Head (Sepoy) for a taste of the regal and rustic.
Financial media giant Michael Bloomberg might have made his new London HQ a canteen-free zone but he made sure its publicly accessible ground-floor arcade still had plenty of food options, creating a culinary hotspot right off Cannon Street. Some of the biggest names on London’s food scene have established their first City sites in the Norman Foster-designed building, Japanese noodle bar Koya and JKS group’s Indian barbecue restaurant and tavern Brigadiers among them. Antipodean-style all-day dining restaurant Caravan takes care of brunch with smashed avocado and excellent coffee, wine bar Vinoteca has the right drop for any after-work drink, and Bleecker Burger and Homeslice take care of dinner with top-notch patty and bun action and sourdough pizza served by the slice.
La Dame de Pic
The Four Seasons brought out the culinary big guns for its restaurant in the brand new luxury hotel in Tower Hill, installing multi-Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic at the helm. Famous for pushing boundaries when it comes to cooking methods and flavour combinations, La Dame de Pic has the same creative approach that earned her restaurant in the Maison Pic hotel in Valence a coveted three stars. Think foie gras, lobster and a hefty wine list catering to the well to-do diner.
Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square EC3N 4AJ
Mac & Wild
The Devonshire Square offshoot of Scottish favourite Mac & Wild is much larger than its original Soho site, allowing room for a subterranean whiskey bar below the restaurant and ‘hunting room’ where diners can shoot for their supper on screen complete with live foliage and tam o’ shanters. It will be the most elaborate game of Buckhunter you and your mates ever play; the cherry on top of a menu of more-ish Scottish snacks like scotch eggs and haggis pops, prime cuts straight from the Highlands, fresh seafood and plenty of whiskey, naturally.
The Refinery and The Listing
The City was never short of chic after-work watering holes, but hospitality group Drake and Morgan has further marked its territory with the addition of two more all-day drinking and dining destinations to its Square Mile portfolio. The Refinery at Citypoint and The Listing at Cannon Green adopt the same sleek interiors, cool cocktails and names beginning with ‘The’ as their predecessors, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
1 Ropemaker Street EC2Y 9HT
Cannon Green, 27 Bush Lane EC4R 0AA
Bean & Wheat
Chef Adam Handling is helping spearhead the growing no-waste wing of London’s dining scene with a new coffee shop and deli near Liverpool Street station designed to make delicious use of the kitchen scraps from his other restaurant The Frog E1. Chefs package up off-cuts and by-products at The Frog into jars, which Bean & Wheat patrons can come in and choose as fillings for their salads and sandwiches. The menu changes depending on what’s available, but think Asian slaw salads with quinoa, chicken caesar with anchovies and reclaimed veggies like cauliflower stalks and grains. Also available is The Frog’s storied ‘Chicken Butter’ (whipped with juices from the roast chicken pan) so you can take it home and eat with a spoon while nobody is watching.
If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s London’s appetite for comfort food from the other side of the pond. Perhaps sensing this, NYC chef Marcus Samuelsson identified our fair city as the location for the first ever outpost of his legendary Harlem restaurant Red Rooster. Opening in May as part of the new Curtain Hotel development in Shoreditch, Red Rooster has been inching belts outwards with its famous fried chicken (marinated in buttermilk and coconut milk, coated in all manner of spices then served on white mace gravy), Helga’s meatballs and jerk pork belly with prawns and hot rice.
45 Curtain Road EC2A 3PT
When Neil Rankin opened his Soho meat and mezcal restaurant Temper last year, praise for the South American-style coal-smoked barbecue and take-no-prisoner tacos was very nearly unanimous. With the chorus of critical acclaim still ringing his ears, the chef moved quickly to make his mark on the City, this time with a focus on curry and gin combination. Worldly flavours include laksa lamb belly, bone marrow meatball masala and Japanese-inspired dashi chip shop chicken. Wash it down with your selection from the 20-strong gin menu.