Starting with a new addition to the fast-growing Korean market, Jinjuu opened earlier this year in Soho with celebrity chef Judy Joo at the helm. Split into two levels and concepts, on the ground floor of the restaurant diners can choose from a variety of smaller tapas-style drinking snacks – known as anju in South Korea. These range from savoury dumplings, fried chicken bites, mini burger sliders and other amuse-bouches and are washed down with national beers and soju cocktails. Those in search of a more traditional meal can head downstairs and try to decide between Korean barbecue, hearty sharing platters and fusion Korean-European creations. Unusual, successful and an overall fun night out – get to Jinjuu before the hour-long waiting lines inevitably do!
A little further South on the culinary route, this year’s biggest bang is being made by Bao in Soho. Having built up their reputation and fanbase as a street-food stall on Netil Market, this is their first restaurant opening and they have already exceeded expectations. Run by siblings Erchen Chang, Shing Tat and Wai Ting Chung, the focus of this small, speedy “small eats” spot is the fluffy, endlessly moreish Taiwanese rice-flour or steamed milk buns, stuffed with imaginative fillings. Ranging from £3.50 to £5, you can choose between (or all) nine options, including the braised pork, spiced daikon, lamb shoulder and fried chicken, plus complement them with a choice of three tasty side dishes. If you’ve still got room, don’t miss out on the unique deep fried Bao and Horlicks ice cream sandwiches at the end, and sample a cold foam tea, peanut milk or Shoju cocktails to keep your stomach making room for more.
Another new kid on the block that specialises in one dish is Blacklock: named after the irons used to press the meat before it’s grilled, Blacklock focusses on chops of all sorts (so not the place to bring your clean-eating vegetarian friend). This is one for enthusiastic meat eaters, run by no less than three former Hawksmoor employees. The predictably great meat is cooked over charcoal and ordered either by animal or as an “all-in” mixed plate, and the resulting juicy, tender protein is then piled high onto grilled flat-bread that soaks up everything oozing onto it. As well as sides of barbecued baby gem lettuce, heritage carrots and an incredible 10-hour ash-roasted sweet potato dish, the dessert on offer is a vanilla cheesecake that goes beautifully with either the wine available on tap, £5 cocktails or the crystal decanters of Old Fashioned cocktails available by the bottle for the whole table come highly recommended.
Within the perennial favourite that is Old Spitalfields Market is the latest venture from another perennial favourite – Portuguese maestro Nuno Mendes. Taberna do Mercado provides speciality plates of cured cheeses, meats, ‘house tinned’ fish, Portuguese wines and beers and larger dishes based on the classics of the Alentejo region that Mendes hails from, but given a unique twist and infused with international influences. Popular choices include the house specialty prawns cooked sous-vide and immersed in prawn-flavoured olive oil, served in a tin with toasted sourdough, or the ‘alheira’ sausage, made with chicken instead of pork. A light, airy room with a spacious terrace in this classic market area gives a breezy, almost Mediterranean holiday feel to eating in the centre of a London marketplace.
Nestled in Fitzrovia you’ll find a new offering from a team assembled from stellar restaurants such as the Quality Chop House, 10 Greek Street and others: the Portland has received universally glowing reviews from critics and civilians alike since opening earlier in the year. Small plates can be racked up to comprise an entire meal, which gives you a chance to try everything on the menu (and you’ll want to). The petite room only holds 45 covers at any one time, with most seats affording a view of the lively kitchen goings-on; a pared-back wine list, great cocktails and imaginative dessert range round off what is proving to be a perfectly formed new gem on London’s culinary scene.
These Top Five upstarts and more all await you just minutes from every Hotel Piccadilly, perfectly situated in the centre of London’s West End and close to the most vibrant eating and drinking spots in the capital.