Probably the most talked-about restaurant opening in the past 12 months, Sexy Fish is the new Mayfair opening from Caprice Holdings (behind the likes of the Ivy and J Sheekey).
Unveiled in October, the spectacular project is said to have cost $22 million, and you can see why. Designed by Martin Brudnizki, the interiors feature swirling green marble floors, a Matisse-style seaweed ceiling mural by Michael Roberts, and sculptures of ocean-dwelling creatures by both Frank Gehry and Damien Hirst. Downstairs is a 48-seat lair walled in by luminous tropical fish tanks.
In the evening, the main 190-cover dining room is bathed in golden light just low enough that everyone looks good but you can’t Instagram your food (deliberate, no doubt). Frequented by celebrities, bankers and other wealthy business professionals, it can be hard to get a table so book ahead.
Apart from the odd anomaly, such as Beluga caviar blinis (£320/$460 for 2 oz.) and gorgonzola tortilla skewers, the menu is heavily Japanese and the idea is to share. Artistic dishes are whipped up with speed in the open kitchen and delivered to your table in no particular order. Journey from delicate rectangles of deep-pink seared yellowfin tuna (£16.50/$24) and grilled avocado with crispy tofu (£11.50/$16.50) to moreish miso-glazed Chilean sea bass (£30/$43.25) and house-smoked Ora King salmon with yuzu (£25/$36) from the robata grill. If there are two or more of you, go for the vanilla cheesecake topped with macerated cherries (£19/$27.50); failing that, the four chocolate and praline fondant (£9.50/$14) is pure hedonism.
Open 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM (11:00 PM Sun) Sharing plates average £10-£25 ($14-$36), wines from £7($10) by the glass, from £25 ($36) by the bottle Berkeley Square House tel +44 (0)20 3764 2000 sexyfish.com
– Jenny Southan
M VICTORIA STREET
The second venue for Martin Williams’ luxury dining and drinking brand (the other is in the City), M opened in December. Executive chef Michael Reid is previously of Le Gavroche, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and the Skinny Duck.
The entrance is through the M wine store – there are more than 300 labels on the list, sourced from the six countries that the restaurant’s steaks are from – Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa and the US. More than 100 wines are available by the glass. Downstairs is the bar, a private members’ room and the restaurant, which is divided into M Raw, offering a lighter Asian style of cooking, and M Grill, a two-tiered oval-shaped room in muted greens and grays.
M Grill is all about the meat. Glass-fronted fridges showcase aged joints of beef, homemade salami and biltong. Smoked Wagyu tartare (£15.50/$22) is a specialty – arriving under a smoke-filled cloche, with foie gras grated over it at the table, it is subtly smoky, rich and delicious. The steak range is impressive, from Australian Blackmore Wagyu to the flavorsome 48-day matured US Creekstone Farm T-bone for two (£90/$130). The Argentinian Colome Estate Malbec 2013 (£66/$95) is a fruity accompaniment, and staff members are well-briefed and passionate. A great addition to Victoria’s food scene.
Open 7:00 AM – 12:00 AM (from 10:00 AM Sat-Sun) Starters £7-£11.50 ($10-$16.50), main dishes £16-£95 ($23-$137). Wine from £6 ($9) by the glass, from £30 ($43) by the bottle
Zig Zag Building, 70 Victoria Street, tel +44 (0)20 3327 7776 mrestaurants.co.uk
– Annie Harris
D&D London reopened its Mayfair Italian restaurant in December with a new chef patron at the helm – Francesco Mazzei, formerly of L’Anima in the City – and fully refurbished interiors. Designer David d’Almada was inspired by classic Italian style and the Savile Row location, using luxurious leathers, silks and velvets in the soft furnishings. It’s chic and immediately inviting – the place had a delightfully warm buzz on the cold winter evening we stepped in.
A bar has been installed at the front, with high stools to sit up and enjoy an Italian cocktail – try the smoky, potent Zucca Bar (Professor Cornelius Old Tom gin, Carpano Punt e Mes, Rabarbaro Zucca; £9.50/$14) – and the luscious-looking salads on display on the cicchetti counter. The elegant dining room features warm lighting, thick carpeting and well-spaced tables, and there are two private rooms and a terrace.
Mazzei’s menu includes dishes from his native Calabria – including some signatures from his L’Anima tenure – as well as other regions in Italy. The lobster tagliolini (£29.50/$42.50) is exquisite – fragrant, plump chunks of meat served in the shell with sweet broth and delicate ribbons of pasta – as is the home-cured baccala (salt cod) marinated in liquorice (£26.50/$38), and the terrine-like southern Italian lasagne (£15.50/$22), featuring flavor-packed layers of sausage, aubergine and quail’s egg. Service is warm, knowledgeable and intuitive. A splendid relaunch for Sartoria.
νOpen 7:00 AM – 12:00 AM Mon-Fri, 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM Sat Starters £9.50-£22.50 ($13.50-$32.50), main dishes £9.50-£29 ($13.50-$42); two-course set lunch £26.50 ($38), three courses £32.50 ($47). Wines from £5 ($7) by the glass, from £18 ($26) by the bottle
20 Savile Row, tel +44 (0)20 7534 7000
– Michelle Harbi
TV chef Jun Tanaka opened his first solo venture on Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street last November (it’s the ninth restaurant he has worked in, hence the name). Set across two floors, with a small terrace, it’s an intimate, welcoming Manhattan-style space with exposed brick, unusual iron wine racks and a mixture of long leather banquettes and smaller tables.
Tanaka has created a stylish and uncomplicated menu that is designed for sharing – still, to say the food is simple is misleading. This is modern Mediterranean food at its best: elegant, unfussy and thoughtfully put together, using the best seasonal ingredients. The oxtail croquettes (£5.50/$8) are a tempting opening snack – crisp, meaty and savory – while starters include succulent Ossobuco tortellini with bone marrow (£9/$13), and rabbit confit lasagne (£9/$13): layers of rich pasta and meat topped with a creamy mustard sauce.
Among the main dishes, the crisp-skinned whole roast sea bream with lemon, miso, and smoked aubergine (£19.50/$28) paired with pommes cocotte with roasted garlic (£4.50/$6.50) was stunning, with soft and buttery flakes inside the caramelized exterior. Vegetable dishes share center-stage on this menu – the rich and earthy beetroot tarte tatin (£5/$7) is perfectly balanced by crumbly feta and pine nuts. For dessert, there is a sweet version, the classic apple tarte tatin (£14/$20), which is great to share and, paired with rosemary ice cream, is the perfect end to a meal. Good cocktails, too.
νOpen Mon-Sat 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM, 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM, Starters £5.50-£14 ($8-$20), main dishes £17.50-£23 ($25-$33); wine from £6.50 ($9.50) by the glass, from £20 ($29) by the bottle
22 Charlotte Street
– Annie Harris
THE IVY KENSINGTON BRASSERIE
This is Caprice Holdings’ fourth Ivy offshoot, the others being the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden, the Ivy Chelsea Garden and the Ivy Café in Marylebone. Open since December, it already feels like a favorite local haunt – busy but relaxed with a nice buzz. Tables are held back for walk-ins. The interior very much reflects the Ivy’s character, with mirrored panels, a diamond-patterned marble floor, dark green leather banquettes and a gleaming antique pewter bar. Outside the 40-cover terrace boasts a retractable roof.
The menu is modern British comfort food and you will find a few Ivy classics, such as shepherd’s pie (£13.50/$19.50). Starters include a smooth chicken liver parfait (£6.75), easily a meal in itself, and moreish truffle arancini (£5.50/$8).
My main course, roasted cod fillet with creamed leeks, bacon and haricot beans with champagne and clam sauce (£16.95/$24.50), was nice and chunky, if a little overcooked, although the sauce was lovely, and a side of truffle and parmesan chips (£4.50/$6.50) was definitely worth the extra calories. The slow-roasted shoulder of lamb on Parmesan polenta, roasted peppers and rosemary sauce (£16.25/$23.50) was meltingly tender, the sauce rich and flavorsome. The lemon meringue Alaska (£7.50/$11) was a triumph.
The wine list is well chosen, with something to suit everyone’s pocket, and the sommelier was well informed and helpful, as were the rest of the team, who went out of their way to ensure you had a good experience. This is one local haunt I would definitely return to.
νOpen 7:30 AM – 11:00 PM Mon-Thurs (12:00 AM Fri), 8:00 AM – 11:30 PM Sat, 9:00 AM – 10:30 PM Sun, Starters £6.50-£12.50 ($9.50-$18); main dishes £13.50-£34 ($19.50-$49); wine from £5.50 ($8) by the glass, from £19.50 ($28) by the bottle.
96 Kensington High Street, tel +44 (0)20 3301 0500
– Annie Harris
Mississippi-born chef Brad McDonald, who runs the Lockhart in Marylebone and has previous worked at Copenhagen’s Noma, headed to Soho for his second London venue, open since October.
Barbecue joints are popping up all over London, but Shotgun is something a bit different. More a bar-restaurant than a restaurant-bar, as the staff tells me, it nevertheless takes a more elegant approach to the Southern US genre. The room itself is lovely – narrow and intimate, all dark-wood paneling and potted palms, while the spirits behind the long marble-topped bar point to the serious cocktails made behind it, using the likes of rye whiskey, cognac and absinthe. Even on a Monday, every stool the length of the bar was occupied, as were all the cozy booths for two or four.
The food menu is quite compact, consisting mainly of snacks and meats cooked low and slow over whole logs. A signature small plate is pig’s ear with sour pancakes (£8/$11.50); we, being conscious of the meat feast to come, opt to go veggie. The salad of smoked goat’s curd, heirloom carrot, pearl barley and buttermilk sauce (£9/$13) is a standout – a sweet and subtle combination of textures.
But it’s really all about the main event here – beef brisket so tender you could cut it with a spoon, juicily flavorsome Middle White suckling pig, and chili-tinged baby back ribs, all perfectly abetted by sides of buttery baked potato purée and tangy coleslaw. Service was speedy and welcoming, and the retro soul soundtrack made for a suitably mellow backdrop.
νOpen 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM (Sun 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM) Snacks/small plates £1.50-£9 ($2-$13); meats £9-£22 ($13-$32) depending on size ordered. Wine from £4.50 ($6.50) by the glass, from £28 ($40) by the bottle.
26 Kingly Street, tel +44 (0)20 3137 7252
– Michelle Harbi
PITT CUE has moved from its Soho premises to a larger venue on Devonshire Square in the City. The American barbecue specialist, which started life as a food van, has expanded its menu (although no more pulled pork) and now takes reservations. pittcue.co.uk
SOSHARU is the seventh London venture from Jason Atherton’s the Social Company. Launched in March, it’s a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant serving casual yet high-end small dishes. It’s located in the Turnmill building in Clerkenwell. sosharulondon.com
PHARMACY 2, the second incarnation of Damien Hirst’s restaurant, which closed in Notting Hill in 2003, opened in the artist’s new Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall in February. Launched in partnership with Mark Hix, it serves classic British and European dishes. pharmacyrestaurant.com
100 WARDOUR STREET opened in the Soho space formerly occupied by Floridita and the Marquee Club in January. Part of D&D London, the restaurant, bar and music venue serves food until 2:00 AM and holds 425 diners or 870 for events. 100wardourst.com
DICKIE FITZ launched in the former home of Fitzrovia’s Newman Street Tavern in February. The all-day brasserie offers Pacific-inspired cuisine and New World wines in an art deco-inspired setting. dickiefitz.co.uk
LOW, SLOW AND JUKE in Victoria is an American barbecue restaurant and bar that serves up meats hand-rubbed and smoked for up to 16 hours. lowslowandjuke.com
THE LIGHTERMAN on Granary Square in King’s Cross houses a bar and dining room in a three-floor new-build overlooking the Regent’s Canal, with outdoor seating. It serves a modern British all-day menu. thelighterman.co.uk
TOM’S KITCHEN has launched its fifth London venue in the visitor’s center of HMS Belfast. It features a 58-cover rooftop bar and a 46-seat deli serving sandwiches, salads and platters. tomskitchen.co.uk