1. SUSHISAMBA (The Market Building, WC2E 8RF)
Covent Garden is fast-transforming into the ultimate food destination in London, with multiple dining spotsfor foodies. I walked into the new SushiSamba, both intrigued and incredulous. SushiSamba, for me, is the ultimate dinner with a view. How was a site in Covent Garden – where there are already sushi restaurants and no view to rival that of the Heron Tower – to be a worthy match?
The design team have got things spot on: there is no evidence of SushiSamba attempting to mimic the original, instead setting its restaurant in a jungle haven. Sipping lychee and coconut cocktails at the bar seemed apt at this point. A selection of small plates included green bean tempura with black truffle aioli, a yellowtail, avocado and roasted corn miso taquito; a lobster, avocado and jalapeño taquito and shrimp tempura with spicy mayonnaise and black truffle vinaigrette. Upon recommendation, we tried the delicious Kanpachi (Amberjack) ceviche with yuzu and black truffle oil.
Black truffle appears to be a recurring ingredient in SushiSamba’s dishes but far be it from me to complain about this, although admittedly it was not that prominent. Miso marinated black cod was, of course, one of our main courses and with sweetcorn, polenta and popcorn, stood out from the copious amounts of black cod currently gracing London menus. If you’ve not tried Hamachi Kama (the cheek of the Japanese yellowtail fish), you are missing out and I recommend you order one ASAP. You have my word you’ll enjoy it.
The Samba Covent Garden (soft shell crab, hamachi) and California (snow crab, brown crab) rolls were both tasty – dare I say more so than the original restaurant’s. Dessert really came into its own, with the Zen Garden consisting of yuzu curd, bergamot tea biscuits and chocolate lychee peach stones – all resembling an actual Zen garden. I left with a confession: view aside, I think I prefer this branch.
2. Hans’ Bar & Grill (Pavilion Rd, Chelsea, SW1X 0AW)
At Hans’ Bar and Grill we opted for the seared beef with beetroot and horseradish, which was the perfect medium rare, whilst the cauliflower and cheese croquettes and the salt and pepper squid were rather moreish. Scallops topped with bacon were a great appetiser, but the ham hock, chicken and leek terrine truly stole the show.
The rib-eye steak with a selection of the necessary sauces was rich and buttery, as was the pan-fried monkfish with Chanterelle mushrooms. To finish, the banana bread with peanut brittle, and the salted caramel chocolate pot, was pure decadence. Fireworks-on-tastebuds kind of decadence.
3. Coq d’Argent (Poultry Street, EC2R 8EJ)
For the month of February, you can indulge in a luxurious, cosy and, more importantly, private chalet and feast on Alpine treats such as baked raclette, Savoie diot sausages and toasty waffles with hot chocolate. Hennessy are also in charge of cocktails, so make sure you warm up with their version of a Hot Toddy. Coq d’Argent is one of London’s more stunning rooftops, offering panoramic views of the city and so worth a visit – chalet or come spring.
4. Rake’s (Liverpool Street, EC2M 7QN)
Rake’s is the perfect place to escape the chaos of Liverpool Street and stop and grab a drink and bite to eat. The humorously-named cocktails (The Marriage, The Prison) live up to their names in taste. Dishes such as the chicken and chorizo croquettes and the buttermilk chicken burger are crowdpleasers, whilst you cannot leave without ordering two portions of the sesame cauliflower wings with cashew ranch – they’re simply too good to share!
5. Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration (St Martin’s Ln, WC2N 4EA)
Another bar is added to Mr. Fogg’s empire, with the latest located at the start of Phileas Fogg’s travels: Charing Cross. A rotating globe greets you at the lobby, with antique maps, trinkets, timepieces and other souvenirs gracing the eclectic space. There’s even an Orient Express-style train carriage in the centre of the bar. Absinthe-laced drinks such as The Mirage are pretty lethal, while The Star of Bombay Rube Goldberg machine will allow you to self-serve your tipple of choice.
6. No. Fifty Cheyne (Cheyne Walk, SW3 5LR)
Chef Iain Smith heads up this new local dining establishment overlooking the Thames and Cheyne Gardens on Chelsea Embankment. Following the concept of high-quality dishes using seasonal ingredients, this modern British menu is set to offer indulgent and satisfying dishes such as belted galloway beef ragout with spatzli, spicy sausage and rose harissa, as well as Cornish monkfish, roscoff onion, potato straws with roast chicken broth – and everything that might get you through the remains of winter. More information at: www.inchelsea.co.uk
7. POTUS (Albert Embankment, SE1 7SP)
POTUS draws inspiration from American gastronomy, paying homage to the different cultures that make up the country. We chose a selection of starters, with the USDA-smoked steak tartare with crispy chicken skin and mustard bourbon dressing a firm favourite. Bourbon was a mainstay, such as in the BBQ pork belly with bourbon caramelised apples and an apple sauce glaze. The New England clam chowder with bacon soup was pure comfort food; the rack of lamb was tender, and the mushroom grits and toasted hazelnut were nothing but delicious.
8. FAM Bar (Duke Street, W1U 1LG)
Central London welcomes a new bar and kitchen encapsulating family and London’s diverse community in its ethos. With internationally renowned bartender, Megs Miller, at the helm, this eclectic bar features a ‘good time’ vinyl records collection where guests can request and select their favourite songs. Committing to its depiction of a neighbourhood hangout, FAM Bar uses locally-sourced ingredients and materials throughout its menu.
9. Quo Vadis & Friends (Soho, W1D 3LL)
Quo Vadis & Friends is back for its third series this year. Join Jeremy Lee as he invites friends from some of the most prestigious and notorious kitchens in London and further afield to cook at this intimate supper club. Open to both members and non-members, the Soho club will welcome chefs from St. Leonard’s and Duck Soup to provide a series of gastronomically-eventful evenings.
10. Homeboy Irish Bar (Essex Rd, N1 8LX)
Bringing Irish hospitality to Essex Road in Islington, Homeboy Bar pairs home comforts with impressive cocktails. From the masterminds of The Dorchester and London Cocktail Club, this good-time bar is made up of three pillars: Irish whiskey (once the top-selling spirit in the world), contemporary (using modern techniques to create dangerously delicious drinks) and classics (inspired by some of the most popular cocktails created). Plus draught Guinness, of course.
11. Farzi Cafe (Haymarket, SW1Y 4BP)
When I say this new contemporary Indian restaurant is experimental, I mean it. Three words: butter chicken baos; Indian flavours fused with Taiwanese buns. It might not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed this snack. The braised lamb chops were also a highlight; Farzi Cafe’s are coated in a sweet maple and hokum glaze, sitting on a bed of yogurt to balance the spice. The selection of naan breads and the Madras pepper prawns were also both addictive. This was a thoroughly satisfying meal and refreshing addition to London’s Indian food scene.