We've tried a variety of spots to recommend you places to dine out as the world continues to open up. Here's seven restaurants to book now.
It seems as though most people have been supporting the hospitality industry since things opened up on 12th April, seeing as it’s been almost impossible to get a reservation anywhere. However, I was lucky enough to secure a spot or two to dine out this past month. Whether you’re looking to dine al fresco for the next week or make indoor reservations for the date everyone has marked in their diaries (17th May), these reviews may help you decide on where you’ll be eating.
From courtyards to terraces and even indoor restaurants’ takeaway hatches, here’s a variety of spots to dine out at, as the world continues to open up. Here’s seven restaurants to book now for al fresco dining or for when we can eat indoors.
Zuaya has such a sultry vibe that it is such a shame it’s currently restricted to it’s outdoor terrace dining – but only one week to go. The London to Lima is the cocktail to go for here – the restaurant’s take on the Pisco Sour – and let me tell you, it goes down a treat with some guacamole and sweet potato chips. Always a fan of the starters section of a menu, Zuaya’s particularly impressed me, with both the tuna avocado taco and the lamb taco being thoroughly good. The lamb, especially, was cooked so well; it was pulled and juicy and what dreams are made of. Other appetisers that delivered were the daily croqueta – squid – and the beef empanada with red pepper sauce.
The seafood beat the meats, in my opinion. The marinated lemon chicken was tasty but, unfortunately was no comparison to the garlic prawns with lime and chilli and the octopus with sweet potato. The seabass ceviche was also delicious, arriving in a creamy, fruity sauce and garnished with red berries. The mix of flavours in this dish worked really well together, making it unique in flavour. Although it was a struggle to fit it in, I’m never one to leave a job unfinished and so the classic chocolate tart was the last thing we ordered. A luxurious and indulgent chocolate dessert, it was the perfect ‘something sweet’ with which to end the meal.
There are many streets in London are blessed by a Barrafina. Probably with good reason, given the recent travel news too – if Spain is on the green list, you can at least indulge in the cuisine. Barrafina is one of those spots that’s amazing to revisit, particularly with the Dean Street location being known for its chalkboard specials, in addition to the firm favourites on the regular menu.
A glass of Albariño firmly in our hand, I got to work on the menu. Selecting ‘a few small eats’, I started off with the iconic crab croquetas, chiperones (which are like candy to us) and the prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla – oozing in all its beauty. Moving onto that chalkboard of specials, we opted for the scallops wrapped in pancetta, which are succulent and so tasty, while the tuna tartare thoroughly surprised us. Not that I thought it would be bad, but it is just not one of my go-to orders at the restaurant.
I spied turbot on the menu, along with clams and brandada (a mixture of salt cod and potatoes) and it was the fastest and most successful order to date. A perfect combination of premium fish and our favourite cockles, this was the standout dish of the dinner. Moving on to select a meat course, I rounded off the main meal with the Iberico pig cheeks in brandy with girolles, which fell apart instantly – a credit to the produce itself, as well as how it was cooked. To finish things off, a lemon and fig Basque-style cheesecake – a personal win, with cheesecake being a favourite dessert and this one certainly not disappointing.
Iraqi restuarant Juma Kitchen has been holding the fort down via its street food stall KUBBA, in Borough Market. Usually serving a fine dining menu, – and it will again, come 17th May – KUBBA is where you can find a variety of Iraqi treats. I ordered a selection: the potato chap with Juma’s homemade date and tamarind sauce was something special. The only criticism I have about these tasty treats is that my smile soon turned to a frown, due to their bite-sized nature. The haleb was also delicious: a crunchy rice shell filled with spiced beef, lamb and onion. Dipped into Juma’s signature amba sauce, it sparked all sorts of satisfaction among my tastebuds.
The mushroom chap was also great but the first two fried bites stole the show. In addition to the chaps and halebs, I also tried Juma’s chargrilled chicken kebab with salad, sauces and freshly baked tanoor bread. There’s something about the way this part of the world cooks its meat that’s so flavoursome, succulent and tender – and it doesn’t need to add spice to get it this way.
I truly felt for Como Garden, having opened days before London’s third lockdown was announced before Christmas. However this Italian gem in High Street Kensington is a secret which needs to be spread. With gorgeous interiors – come 17th May – and a cute little corner for outdoor seating, Como Garden should be high on your booking list. Starting off with delicious cocktails, the Como Fizz immediately caught my attention with its refreshing taste of basil and cucumber paired with gin. The Lago Amaranto is another Como Signature, this time going a bit more rich and fruity, mixing blackberries with limoncello, gin and egg white.
As I’m usually not a fan of having our menu selected for me, it was a huge trust exercise to let my waiter take the reins on this. However, I soon realised I had nothing to fear, feasting upon delicious plates of arancini with parmesan & fontina cheese; confit artichokes and melanzane alla parmigiana. The star of the starters show had to be the gorgonzola & pear raviolo, with the mix of blue cheese and fruit being a beautiful marriage; so simultaneously sweet and tangy.
Don’t miss out on the Trofie Al Pesto – Como Garden serves up no ordinary version of the pasta dish.Using fresh short pasta from Liguria, this recipe is actually one handed down from one of the chef’s grandmothers. Hands down, best pesto pasta I’ve ever tried. Having been let down by a few octopus dishes in the city, I felt justified in having a few slight trust issues upon this part of the order. However, what a waste of a worry: the octopus was grilled to perfection – moist and tender and not at all chewy. Served with gremolata and beautifully roasted potatoes, it was a definite highlight.
I feel no Italian restaurant should be visited without trying the tiramisu so this was an immediate order – and with good reason. The Como Ferrero Rocher is one of the eatery’s famed desserts and it certainly is impressive in presentation and taste. Just maybe get a few spoons as you might – regrettably – want to share this one.
Although we are meant to be headed toward the summer months, the weather in the UK isn’t completely on board. It seems as though there’s no better time to dive into a delicious bowl of udon. Koya London offers both atsu-atsu (hot udon in hot broth); hiya-atsu (cold udon in hot broth); hiya-hiya (cold udon with cold sauce to dip or pour). There’s also a selection of donburi and small plates from which to choose. Koya City offers shelter under the cover of the Bloomberg Arcade so there’s no concern whether you’re dining inside (post-17th May) or outdoors.
A huge fan of tempura, the prawn tempura hot udon had to be my choice and nothing was more welcoming on a windy day that a steaming bowl of udon noodles and broth. Adding wakame seaweed and a poached egg gave the broth more texture and a little bit of dinner theatre is always fun. I’m still a bit sore that the karrage chicken was removed from the small plates menu in the City location but the fried and grilled tofu and vegetable tempura made for nice sides/starters to the meal. The katsudon (breaded pork) with an egg was also delicious, so I definitely wouldn’t write off the non-udon dishes from your order upon your next visit to Koya.
Another Italian restaurant to make note of, Passo is a place of solace off the Old Street roundabout. The arancini to start with was paired nicely with a lemon mascarpone, making it slightly different to the regular rice balls you get at other Italian spots. A couple of pizzettas graced our table as I chose a classic mozzarella with garlic butter – simple but so satisfactory – and a salami, n’duja and pickled chilli pizza. The latter was great for adding some heat and flavour, complimented by the sweetness of the honey drizzled over the spicy meats. Pasta-wise, I’ve already said how I’m a sucker for clams (read: I would marry a clam), so is it any surprise that the linguine with clams, garlic, chilli and parsley was a cemented part of my order from the moment I sat down? Again, such a simple dish but providing so much satisfaction and genuine happiness.
The Jolie Jardin is now open at the end of King’s Road and the restaurant’s outdoor terrace has some small plates and nibbles to accomapny your champagne cocktails. In partnership with Piper Heidsieck, the bar will make you other drinks but the champagne is the obvious star of the show.
In terms of the food, I did feel that this spot is definitely more a drinks and nibbles spot, rather than somewhere to go for dinner. The pulled chicken and truffle sliders were a delight, as was the King scallops en croute – the latter releasing a pool of fondue leeks as the pastry breaks apart. The wild mushroom croquettes were tasty – if a little small for my liking – but I could not recommend the mussels from the visit I made to the jardin. The fries were stellar though – and I know what you’re thinking, but fries are so commonplace that few places now actually do them justice.