Grand French cuisine in style
|Roast duck a l’orange|
|Roast duck a l’orange|
|Scallop, carrot, smoked roe|
|Scallops, bacon, malt vinegar|
There are many high-profile restaurant/pub openings in London in 2023, but perhaps The Devonshire is the one that seems to be getting the most hype, with media coverage coming out left and right even before it opened, and now fast becoming a dining destination, and almost impossible to secure a booking. The main reason down to the reputation of its 3 founders, from a 2 Michelin-starred chef, a successful steak chain owner to a pub landlord who already created a gastropub with a cult following. The Devonshire itself spit across 3 floors, with the top 2 floors housing its grill restaurant, with most items cooked over a custom-made wood fire griller.
|Lobster vol au vent, carrot|
From the same people behind the much-loved Quality Chop House (Woodhead group), 64 Goodge Street is a brand-new French restaurant that does things completely different vs what the group is renowned for, which is British cuisine. Instead, 64 Goodge Street is all about looking into traditional French cuisine, then reformulating to something with a modern British touch, that might scare off hardcore traditionalists. The ALC menu is short, with less than 9 dishes to pick from between starters and mains, but this could be a good sign as it means the restaurant is able to master and focus on these dishes very well.
|Dim sum selection|
The Peninsula Hotel is one of the biggest hotel openings in London in 2023, the hotel brand's Hong Kong site is highly regarded as the most luxurious hotel in Hong Kong, and the London site cost over 1 billion pounds in the making. As a Chinese hotel brand, a high-end Chinese restaurant was always on the card for the London site. This came in the form of Canton Blue, and stated it pays homage to innovative Cantonese cuisine. This is somewhat of a strange statement as looking into the menu, its offering is not a great deal different vs anything you see in ChinaTown, but at a sky-high cost with most dishes costing over the £30 mark.
|Brittary pigeon, greengage, garlic, wasabi|
The last time I dined at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, it was in 2020 when the UK was slowly coming out from lockdown. It was my 8th visit and also the best meal I have had from Helene. It was since promoted to a 3 Michelin stars restaurant in 2021, a remarkable achievement. Fast forward to 2023, I have decided to head back to see what has changed. The tasting menu is now at £215 per person, and I could see some classic dishes are still on the menu, such as the baba.
|Squid, clam, girolles|
I have noticed counter dining has been popping up a lot recently, from Humble Chicken, Behind to Abajo... a new wave of high-end counter concepts has been flooding London, usually with an aspiration of reaching Michelin star status. Counter 71 was launched in the summer of 2023, with a concept of only using British ingredients, headed up by chef Joe Laker, serving a long British-themed tasting menu format of about 12 dishes. With only 16 seats looking over the kitchen space. The meal kicked with bite-size canapes, before switching to bigger plates of food and then 3 rounds of desserts.
|Squid, courgette, amalfi lemon|
I have been writing on this food blog for over 10 years, and lately, I have slowed down catching on trying to visit as many new openings as possible. Instead, I keep going back to places I enjoy and I got to the point that, having eaten around London, I kind of got an idea of what type of food I seek. That is until I encountered Abjano by Humo. I am always a bit funny about fusion cooking, but when I discovered a hidden counter dining fusion restaurant overseen by a sushi master Endo Kazutoshi, I couldn't ignore it, and it turned out I enjoyed it so much I went back again a few months later...
Kitchen Table experienced a bit of a whirlwind since it reopened after Covid. With price got increased to £350 at one point it has dropped down to £200 recently due to lack of demand. Personally, I always enjoyed my encounters at Kitchen Table so I was glad I was able to head back. Just be prepared you are here in the long run, as dinner starts at around 6pm and you wouldn't finish till 11pm due to the menu format where you have both the canapes and petit four in its bar zone, and in between you will be eating about 10 course of food in its main kitchen counter dining room.
|All the chicken: Roasted chicken, chicken pies and legs|
I last visited The Grill at The Dorchester back last Christmas, and since then it had a massive change as it has recently rebranded to The Grill by Tom Booton, as Tom has now been promoted to be the executive chef of the restaurant. The menu also switched from a 4-course ALC format, to a more informal 3-course all-day dining ALC offering, along with a range of pre-starter snacks. Tom's style of cooking is just what I enjoy: bold and rich. So I was excited to return for the 9th time to see what he has got to offer from his brand new menu.
|King crab legs stir fry Hong Kong wind shelter style|
Noble Palace is my go-to place for a special Chinese dining occasion when I want something that you would normally not able to find in a typical Chinese restaurant in London. The beauty of this place is that you are able to pre-order pretty much any Chinese dishes you would like as long as you give them notice in advance. This keeps this place exciting and gives me a good reason to head back for more. For the 16th visit, I have requested Noble Palace to prepare an Alaskan crab dish.
|Truffle and mushrooms rice rolls|
Park Chinois is easily my no 1 choice for classy innovative Chinese cuisine. It is also my most visited restaurant in the UK (if you exclude fast food places). I never had a bad meal at Park Chinois as the team of skilled chefs knew how to deliver the true essence of Chinese cuisine in a refined manner. For Cantonese-style dim sum, they are easily the best in London. For my 25th visit, I went full-on dim sum mode and ordered a large selection to share among friends and family.
|8-day aged yellowtail, citrus sauce & Castillo coffee|
I have always been a massive fan of BBQ cooking, when things are cooked over an open fire, the charred and smoky flavours, work wonders no matter if it is vegetables, meat, or seafood. Launched in 2023, Humo has taken the fire cooking concept to another level. The open kitchen has a bespoke wood fire device, and its cuisine takes inspiration from Japan, with an injection of international flavours, from South America to Europe. I was lucky enough to secure a counter dining space, watching chefs at work with the impressive open-fire griller.
|Grilled John Dorey|
Part of the Creative Restaurant Group's offering, which also contains Humo and Sumi, 20 Berkeley is a modern British restaurant in Mayfair that offers a club feel vibe focusing on prime British ingredients. The decor has a retro British Embassy vibe for me, and the menu is simple and easy to understand. with no gimmicks, no ground-breaking ideas, just smart-looking British cuisine done in a refined manner. Since launching, I visited the venue twice, the first time I opted for large plates, sharing style feasting dishes. And the second time I ordered from its standard ALC menu.
|Spider crab omelet|
Mountain in Soho is a brand-new restaurant by Tom Perry, the chef behind the popular Michelin-starred casual dining spot Brat. At Mountain, he has shifted the hero dish Turbot into a lobster stew. Unlike Brat, Mountain is a massive restaurant with 2 floors and can take on more than 100 covers at once, my question is can it maintain a similar level of service and food quality at such a scale? Should I expect to match the quality of Brat? Yes for me given the price is so similar while many things on the menu overlap.
|Tuna, smoked artichoke, Amalfi lemon|
I always love a good counter dining experience, watching chefs at work, turning out small plates, and having them explain what they are doing is an eye-opener. Abajo is somewhat taking it to the next level. It is hidden downstairs of another restaurant called Humo, and it focuses on European and Asian fusion in a tasting menu format over 5 steps, with each step containing a few dishes which you would end up eating over 12 dishes. It is headed up by Italian chef Giacomo Tranquilli who also worked at La Dam de Pic London in the past.
|Pork, carrot and mushrooms|
I am back again at The Harwood Arms, the only pub in London with a Michelin star, owned by chef Brett Graham who also is the chef patron of The Ledbury, aka my number 1 fine dining restaurant in the UK. The Harwood Arms is much more casual than The Ledbury, with a fixed-priced 3-course alc menu focusing on primary seasonal British ingredients. It has a strong focus on game-based dishes when in season, such as pigeons and deer.
|Seafood cocktail, Kent style|
Located in Barbican, Restaurant St Barts is a newish restaurant that has taken British ingredients seriously to a whole new level. The restaurant would only use seasonal British ingredients and refuse to use anything else beyond. The concept is a long tasting menu of around 15 courses, with each course focusing on a hero British ingredient to champion. With less than 6 months since opened, the restaurant landed a Michelin star in March 2023.
|House salad, French fries and John Dorey|
The Midland Grand is a brand-new restaurant within the stunning-looking, Renaissance Hotel in King Cross. The same space used to be The Gibert Scott by Marcus Wreaing, where I had a very average meal before Covid. So when the news that the super talented chef Patrick Powell (who also heads up Allegra where I had 2 great meals) has taken over and the whole space got a revamp, I was excited to see what has changed, the concept is all about fine dining French cuisine, but in a casual, creative manner.
|Suckling pig bao|
Located in London Dorchester, China Tang has long been my to-go restaurant when I seek classic Cantonese food at the more premium end. You won't get creativity or any stunning visual pictures of dishes for your social media. But what they deliver is a great comforting, traditional Cantonese taste that I have nothing but love for. For my 19th visit, I went up a notch and hosted a dinner party in its private dining room, and ordered a traditional Cantonese banquet menu, 10 courses in sharing style.
|Orange spare ribs|
When you think of dining at Four Season Hotel Trinity Square, the 2 Michelin-starred French restaurant La Dame de Pic would likely come to mind. But there is also an Asian-themed restaurant within the same space aka Mei Ume, which has somewhat of an unusual offering with both Chinese and Japanese cuisine under the same roof. This was my 5th time visiting but I headed there with an open mind as it had recruited a new head chef with the menu had a complete makeover. Head chef Peter Ho came from Mei Mei Mayfair, who also worked at Hakkasan in the past, so I was interested to see what he has done for Mei Ume.
|Xiao long bao, truffle dumplings, scallop dumplings and dried shrimp rolls|
Mayfair is full of overpriced restaurants the quality of food can always be questionable, so it is somewhere that I usually avoid. However, Park Chinois is one of the few exceptions. The fine-dining Chinese restaurant is a personal favorite of mine, the restaurant does not shy away from using premium ingredients and uses classic Chinese cooking techniques to create things contemporary while staying true to Chinese cuisine heritage.
|Peking duck with black truffle pancake|
Noble Palace is a Chinese restaurant unlike anywhere else in London. The beauty of this place is you can request what you want to eat provided you inform the restaurant in advance. All you need to do is let them know what Chinese dishes you would like (even if is not on the menu), and then they will come back with a quote. So in a way, you can totally DIY your menu to suit your taste and occasion. For my recent 2 visits, I first had a casual lunch visit, followed by a bespoke 8-course tasting menu, in which all dishes were requested in advance.
|Deer puff and wagyu puff|
Located just off Piccadilly tube station and not far from Chinatown. Imperial Treasure is a Chinese restaurant that focuses on traditional Cantonese cuisine and shies away from trying to be creative or adapt to local palates. This resulted in it gaining a group of loyal Chinese customers as back in Asia, the group has more than 10 restaurants with some even having 2 Michelin stars. For my 10th time visit, I opted for a selection of dim sum from its lunch menu.
|Canapes of carrot, salmon and onion|
I have always found the Five Fields is an underrated restaurant, the British fine dining Michelin 1-starred restaurant for me is perhaps one the very best 1 star restaurant in London, and it was edging toward 2 stars level based on my older visits before Covid. Since Covid, I wonder if it has anything to do with a lack of staff or cost, I just found the level was not as good as it was compared to my first 2 visits. For my 4th visit this time, I noticed it is now a single tasting menu restaurant with no ALC.
|Squid ink prawn toast|
Despite it having only been open for a year, I can't believe I have been to Noble Palce for 13th times already. The low-key fine-dining Chinese dining den is one of my favorite places for dim sum lunch. Unlike many of its Chinatown counterparts, it is not very busy and overcrowded, and the food offering is on another level. The price per dim sum is almost double of course, but you pay for the craftsmanship. No msg, no colouring, and plenty of fine ingredients, like Iberico pork, truffle, and Cornish crab.
|Devon crab, nashi pear, pickled mooli, ponzu, dill oil|
City Social is British chef Jason Atherton's fine dining restaurant in the busy city zone of London's financial hub. It is now Jason's only Michelin-starred restaurant beside his flagship Pollen Street Social in London. I first visited City Social back in 2014 when it first opened. Since then, a lot has changed as now it offers an ALC menu only, instead of a 4-course menu when it offers a middle course of pasta like you would see in a typical Italian joint. These days, it has a much stronger focus on British cuisine, with a new head chef running the show, so I am visiting with an open mind.
|Warm Smoked Eel, Potato & Avruga Caviar|
|Roast Chicken, Morels & Vin Jaune, Riz au Pilaf|
Noble Rot Soho is the second restaurant from the Noble Rot group, known for its simple yet elegant French cuisine and its supreme collection of wine. For the Soho site, the food offering is similar to its original Holborn site with a signature dish aka a roasted chicken cooked with French white wine from the Jura region. For me, despite there being so many French restaurants in London, I am actually not sure if there are any really decent quality ones not above the 70-pound mark so I was looking forward to seeing what Noble Rot Soho can bring to the table.
|Crab, mussels and tomato soup|
The Michelin-starred Brat in Shoreditch has gained a cult following with its Basque-inspired open-fire cooking. From whole fish to massive chops to more unusual things like BBQ mussels and vegetables, you are getting some of the finest BBQ dishes in London has it now has a Michelin star to its name. Its pop-up space in Climpson's Arch Hackney has been launched on the back of Covid and it appears it is handing around. The space is much bigger with a much larger kitchen and fire space which allow the pop-up to offer a far bigger menu than its original site. The menu change daily based on what kind of fresh ingredients Climpson's Arch is able to acquire.
|Dim sum at Golden Dragon|
There are so many restaurants in London Chinatown, but which one is the best when it comes to dim sum? I actually haven't been to that many Chinese restaurants in London Chinatown, as I tend to stick with either Goldmine or Plum Valley for dim sum, as I found them a class above anything else in Chinatown. Having say that, I feel like is time to give other places a try before crowding a dim sum champion. So I went to New Loon Fung, Golden Dragon and Chuan to test out its dim sum offering.
|Wagyu beef and taro puff with caviar|
For the last 6 years, China Tang has become one of my most visited restaurants in London. There are so many Cantonese restaurants around but I found China Tang stands apart with its great respect to classic Cantonese cuisine, using top-level British ingredients. Head Chef Fong has been leading his kitchen team for over 10 years, year after year he has maintained such a high standard and created a group of loyal customers like myself. For my 18th visit, I returned to basic with a selection of dim sum and two old-fashioned meat dishes.
|Curry softshell crab|
Before Covid lockdown, Duck and Rice is always a great choice for lunch or dinner when I was shopping in Oxford Circus. The casual pub does Biritsh Chinese food at a really great level at a reasonable price, while I am fully aware Chinatown is not far away, I just find Duck and Rice is a touch level better in terms of service and the food offering, and they won't rush you out the door as soon as you are done with your food. Of course, they have a great selection of beer and cocktails too unlike most Chinatown restaurants.
|Cod roe cream and sourdough bread|
|Crispy Pig Cheek, Chicory and Spring Onion|
There are so many new restaurant openings year on year, yet so many closed down with a lifespan of less than a year. For a restaurant's survival, there are so many factors that need to account for, from securing the right rent deal and managing costs to its food quality and service. St John appears to manage just that, it has been around since 1994, offering good old-fashioned British cuisine and putting good use to offals like bone marrow and livers. It is still an extremely popular venue today with both its bar zone and restaurant packed out when I visited, plus a Michelin star to its name.
As of writing, Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal has just been trading for just over half a year and it appears to be going from strength to strength. It had gathered some very positive media reviews and landed 2 Michelin stars right from its first try. I am not surprised at all as from my recent visits, I found the quality is high and it is a lot better than all the 1-star places I have been to in London. My latest visit was my 5th, and I noticed now at dinner it only serves a single tasting menu (it used to offer 2 in the past).
In the 2023 edition of the Michelin guide, Ledbury regained its 2 stars after losing it when the restaurant was closed over the Covid period. I got to say it was well deserved, as from dining there 5 times there within 2022, I have not had one single bad dish and each visit was exceptional. I booked my recent visit (my 21st overall) back in February and I was pretty sure by the time I step into the restaurant (April), it will have regained its 2 stars. I got that right. What I didn't get right is that it didn't increase the price right away so I was really glad!
|Cantoense style roasted suckling pig|
This is my 23rd visit to Park Chinois aka no1 Chinese fine dining spot. Many people would rate A Wong as the best Chinese restaurant in London, but I prefer something sticking more to tradition and less gimmicky elements. And that is what Park Chinois is for me. They use top-grade quality, and fine Chinese cuisine techniques to deliver something remarkable. It offers dim sum for lunch and a full-on Cantonese menu for dinner, plenty to pick from along with some top-class cocktail selections that just won best cocktail 2023 from the Michelin Guide.
|BBQ lobster, cacao, spices, carrot with lobster sauce|
I normally shy away from special one-off chef collaboration dinner events, especially when one of the chefs is coming from overseas, as they might not be familiar with the local ingredients or working in someone else's kitchen. There is a strong chance you would end up not really getting the true level that the oversea chef is really capable of. However, I got to give Mickael Viljanen from Ireland an expectation as I had a really wonderful meal from Greenhouse Dublin when he was the chef there. He has since moved to Chapter One (also in Dublin) and many would rate it the best restaurant in Ireland. So this was a good opp for me when he is coming over to the UK to team up with Alex Dilling at Cafe Royal.
|Peas and peas soup|
3 Michelin stars are a bit of a myth for me, I had some amazing, world-class meals at some 3 stars outlets like Martín Berasategui and Azurmendi that I found is well could be the peak of fine dining. At the same time, I had some questionable ones like Arzak and Waterside Inn, places that are great but really not 3 stars level in my book. I was wondering where Cenador de Amos would fall. The chef-owner Jesús Sánchez works with mostly Cantabrian ingredients and the restaurant only has 6 tables so be sure to book well in advance. On arrival, you will be guided to the herbs garden before stepping into a cozy room to enjoy some canapes.
El Serbal is one of the only two Michelin-starred restaurants located inside Santander, but the decision for me to pick El Serbal over the other place was a simple choice. It is located by the beach overlooking the Biscay Sea, so when there is a clear blue sky, you will be watching one of the most beautiful views in what Spain can offer. The restaurant offers a short tasting menu based on classic flavours from Cantabria but with a modern touch, or a longer tasting menu in which you live the chef to go creative with plenty of innovation.
La Bombi is highly regarded as perhaps the best seafood restaurant in Santander. The family-run business is located in the heart of the city, with water tanks holding onto live seafood such as crabs and lobsters, all cooked to order to ensure freshness. I turned up on a Monday afternoon and the whole place was fully booked, which sounds crazy considering most restaurants wouldn't even bother to open due to a lack of customers. So La Bombi really does have a reputation among the locals and I was glad I booked a table in advance. The owner who spoke great English walked us to the fish tanks and explain what fresh food they have and how would they cook it, which make the ordering really fun and engaging.
|Wood fire oven for meat roasting|
I am a mega fan of traditional roasted Spanish-style suckling pig and lamb. The magic of the burning wood inside a clay oven somehow turns meat into something truly exceptional, providing the seasoning and preparation were done well in advance. Asador Lechazo Aranda in Santander is all about the traditional roast and grilled meat using open fire. The restaurant pride itself on using top-grade milk-fed lamb and suckling pig from the local region, which itself highly depends on livestock and farming, so I was in for something special.
|Clams in wine and garlic|
One of my reasons to visit Santander is to enjoy some great quality fresh seafood, the northern region of Spain is sandwiched between Garlica and the Basque region, so as far as gastronomy goes, I am sure Catanbria is right up there too. La Mayor came across when I was doing my research and it is an interesting one, from the decor it looks just like another local canteen but the food they serve is anything but standard. The restaurant pride itself on providing top-quality fresh seafood, all done the traditional local way, with no creativity or gimmick whatsoever.
|Supreme Royal Dim Sum Platter|
What makes Chinese restaurants stand out compared to other types of restaurants is usually the menu, it tends to have a big menu with at least 100 dishes. The latest opening Gouqi by Chinese chef legend Tong Chee Hwee is no exception. From my first visit, I had the tasting menu but there are still so many other dishes on its ALC menu I would like to try as what makes this place stand out is the rare dishes that you won't find elsewhere in London, such as scorpion fish and stuffed egg yolk char siu pork, which all sounds really inviting. Below captured my 2nd and 3rd visits.