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Every London restaurant you need to try in 2023

 (TRUNK ARCHIVE/JESSICA CRAIG-MARTIN)
(TRUNK ARCHIVE/JESSICA CRAIG-MARTIN)

1. BOSSA, MARYLEBONE

Brazilian chef Alberto Landgraf already knows London inside out. Why? Because before taking Rio de Janeiro by storm with his two-Michelin-star restaurant, Oteque (rated 47 on the world’s 50 Best Restaurant list), he was sharpening his knives on this city’s soil with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens. Now, he is set on transporting the culture of his home country to our capital for us to enjoy from February. ‘But not the tacky idea of Brazil,’ he says. ‘I want to show people the modern Brazil, a hub of design and a really diverse society.’ Named after bossa nova, Brazilian samba music characterised by innovative, unconventional chords, the restaurant’s food will also channel Japanese, French and British influences, says Landgraf. But you can still expect to find delicious, fresh takes on classics such as salt cod fritters and dishes featuring the country’s iconic tucupi sauce and juice, made from manioc root found in the Amazon, all served alongside the best of British and rarely exported Brazilian wines. Yes, please.

Bossa, 3 Vere Street, W1G 0DG instagram.com/bossa_uk

2. CHISHURU 2.0, LOCATION TBC

Nigerian-born chef Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare never really planned to run a restaurant, but having cultivated a stellar reputation for her knock-out dinner parties and supper clubs, then winning a competition to secure a temporary pop-up in Brixton Village, she hasn’t looked back. After extending her residency in the market for an additional two years, the Brixton site is now closed and Bakare is making it her mission to open an even bigger, better space. ‘It was only meant to be a pop-up space and it wasn’t working well any more. We want to give people the Chishuru experience but better.’ In the new 50-seater eatery, opening in March, Bakare is looking forward to experimenting with fermentation, being able to rustle up a longer tasting menu, and cook up more things in the grill. ‘We haven’t run out of ideas yet, we’re still exploring the dishes of West Africa,’ she says. Needless to say, we can’t wait to discover them, too.

Location TBC,chishuru.com

3. PAPI, LONDON FIELDS

Hackney It concept Hot 4 U is going all grown up. Since arriving during the pandemic, Matthew Scott’s wildly chaotic and wholly delicious residencies at multiple pubs (now at The Haggerston with a concept called Beak) have certainly made their mark on the London food scene, with dishes including beef tartare with Pom-Bears, beak-to-tail chicken sandos and the F*** Boris Ex-Dairy Cheeseburger. Now, since becoming a father, Scott thinks it’s time to settle down with his own 28-seater bricks-and-mortar site in collaboration with Charlie Carr, founder of Wingnut Wines. ‘I’ve been doing Hot 4 U for two and a half years now and created it out of boredom, really. It was a very different time, nurturing something through a summer of love. It was a very exciting, very new concept that involved a lot of learning on the go. Papi will be Hot 4 U grown-up because we’ve become older, more knowledgeable.’ When it comes to the food, ‘we’re humbly sitting in a sandbox at the moment, trying to decide the best route to go down’, says Scott, ‘but ultimately it will be driven by zero waste, sustainability, fun and nostalgia, and really just relying on our producer and supplier relationships. Though you still might still see things like stuffed cigarettes that you flick on to fried rabbit as it smokes, we’ll definitely have lots of oysters and smiley faces.’ Plus, once open in February there’ll be takeaway French fry-flavoured soft serve with caviar sprinkles, a 14-seater bar and karaoke on Sundays. Sign us up.

Papi, 1F Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PN, instagram.com/papi.restaurant

4. FORNO, BETHNAL GREEN

You know maritozzi, those fluffy Roman buns densely packed with cream and dusted with icing sugar? Well Mitshel Ibrahim of Ombra is finally gracing us with a space in which to gobble them, right across the road from his Italian restaurant. Born from a demand for Ombra’s home-made pasta and pastries during lockdown, Ibrahim says the space ‘is going to be a café and deli. Somewhere you can drop by for lunch or pick up your Italian groceries for the week.’ As well as the famed cream buns, from January you’ll also find sandwiches filled with traditional Italian cheeses and mortadella, cornetti (a dense, squishy type of croissant perfect for dipping in your morning cappuccino), rare cream puffs with lemon custard named bigne di san giuseppe, sweet fried dough called chiacchiere, baci di dama biscuits and more. If you’re keen to sink your teeth into such delights sooner rather than later check out Ibrahim’s kick-starter, where the Forno team will be hosting events to raise essential funds. And keep an eye out for what Ibrahim calls ‘phase 2’, which may involve perching for a glass of natty wine — or three.

Bethnal Green, instagram.com/forno.london and ombrabar.restaurant

5. IKOYI 2.0, TEMPLE

Those who like to keep up to date with the world of fine dining will be well aware of two-Michelin-star Ikoyi’s presence. Since soaring on to the scene in 2017, childhood friends and founders Iré Hassan-Odukale and chef Jeremy Chan’s vision has evolved a great deal, from serving what was considered generally West African-inspired à la carte dishes to what Chan describes as a more ‘clear and concise’ offering with ‘free-spirited’ tasting menus. ‘It’s a bit more grown up,’ says Hassan-Odukale, before Chan tells me: ‘The aim is to create mind-blowing food that has no attachment to anyone else’s reference point of cuisine. It’s a hyper-seasonal restaurant that cooks through and tells different stories about seasoning ingredients through spice. We had to really push and raise the bar and I think that’s why it became more conceptual, more technical, more refined. It became a tasting menu restaurant so that we could make it work financially and also articulate what we wanted to achieve.’ Now, the pair are morphing again, this time into a new home at 180 The Strand, which is slated to open on 12 December. ‘We outgrew our previous space and it was just natural. We want to be more ambitious and we’d reached what we could do there. We’ve got more to say.’ In the new space inspired by the artwork of Henry Moore, Richard Serra and Antony Gormley, the offering will be entirely different. ‘The old menu is never coming back,’ says Chan. With the new menu set to be peppered with mild hints of Chan’s Cantonese heritage and an entirely different plantain dish, they’ve struggled with over-analysing what’s to come. ‘Normally we never test anything, we just make things,’ says Chan, ‘but the testing has caused us a little problem because it’s made us question whether it is actually any good.’ Nevertheless, he loves ‘every single one of the new dishes’. Are they aiming for a third Michelin star? ‘That would be great, but we’re going to just make the restaurant exactly as we want it to be and see what happens.’

180 Strand, Temple, London WC2R 1EA ikoyilondon.com

6. ANGLOTHAI, FITZROVIA

Diaries at the ready because this one is a little way off but well worth noting. Around a decade ago, John Chantarasak retrained to become a chef in Bangkok, and after years of rustling up the country’s dishes in Thailand and the UK (see: wholly delectable SomSaa), says he found himself becoming ‘disillusioned by seeing the Styrofoam boxes filled with fresh foods coming in from South East Asia, when I knew that we have amazing markets here in the UK’. From this frustration, he and his wife, the sommelier Desiree Chantarasak, concocted AngloThai, serving up well-honed riffs on Thai cuisine made with British produce at pop-ups and events. Following countless collaborations and even a book, the pair are now set to unveil their debut restaurant next summer. Expect a lot of spice and all things nice.

Fitzrovia, anglothai.co.uk

7. RAMBUTAN, BOROUGH MARKET

Cynthia Shanmugalingam has gone from working a desk job, to ‘schlepping huge vats of pork’ to supper clubs in Soho and releasing her first cookbook, all in the space of a few years. Now, the Coventry-born cook is at the cusp of opening a restaurant inspired by her dual-heritage and time spent visiting Tamil family on the north of Sri Lanka. ‘I’m from the Sri Lankan diaspora, so it’s the diaspora dream of Sri Lanka.’ Shanmugalingam tells me over coffee around the corner that the construction site will be set to start serving her food towards the end of January. ‘I don’t want it to feel like it was airlifted out of Colombo and placed in London, it’s an idea that could only exist here because of all the ingredients you get here, the type of staff you’ll find here, natural wine and the amazing fish you get in the market. It’s a mix of modern, contemporary and ancient.’ On the menu you’ll find a changing variety of tiny dosas and accompanying chutneys, as well as the lesser-known rice grain samba and lots of vegetable-led, naturally vegan friendly dishes using coconut oil and milk. ‘Sri Lanka was colonised by the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese, and we make banging beetroot, potato, pumpkin and aubergine curries in lots of different forms. There are so many curries you can make with local ingredients.’ Plus, it’s all served from an on-display, open-fire kitchen. ‘You hardly ever get to see South Asian cooks, they’re often tucked away in a basement and now people will be sitting at the counter watching them doing their magic, which I think will be really lovely.’

10 Stoney Street, London SE1 9AD, instagram.com/rambutan_ldn

8. DARJEELING EXPRESS 3.0, SOHO

It goes without saying that Chef’s Table superstar Asma Khan is an integral part of the London restaurant scene, which is why it came as a shock to us all when her Covent Garden landlord gave her the boot. ‘We have a backstory and we’re extremely successful, completely packed. We have the whole of Hollywood and Bollywood at our doorstep. We have the buzz, the excitement, the media. We had all of that and very good food. But obviously those are things that don’t matter to landlords.’ Thankfully, though, things are looking up and Khan is heading back to where it all began: Kingly Court. ‘This is going to be a 90-seater, double the size of my last restaurant. We missed Kingly Court. We missed the excitement, we missed the community.’ Opening mid-January, Khan is pulling out all of ‘the greatest hits’, such as the goat curry and varying biryanis from the very first restaurant and previous supper clubs. Not to mention, there will be breakfast. ‘Not a contrived breakfast that people you know pass off in this country as Indian breakfast. We’re going to do what people actually have at home on a Sunday, sweet and savoury, like halwa and masala omelettes. People need the full Indian.’ To which we say: yes please.

Kingly Court, Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW, darjeeling-express.com

9. MAYHA, MARYLEBONE

The date 4 August 2020 may spring to mind, likely for all the wrong reasons: a devastating day for Beirut which saw an unprecedented explosion leave 218 people dead. While its staff thankfully escaped unharmed, Japanese omakase restaurant Mayha did not survive the blast in Lebanon’s capital. Now, Lebanese founder Karim Arakji, Polish cook Jurek Wasio and Japanese chef Yuichi Nakaya are looking for a fresh start and have decided to set up shop in London with the very same team. ‘Someone took me to an omakase experience in Los Angeles in 1991 and I have been mesmerised ever since,’ says Arakji. ‘We have a lot of respect for the craftsmanship that has to exist within sushi and omakase, and we have a lot of respect for the culture, but we also don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. We want to express our interpretation of it in a very clear manner.’ Opening next month, the evolving menu at the 11-seater counter will feature Japanese omakase mastery replete with Lebanese and Polish touches, brought to life as nori za’atar paste, tofu hummus and crêpes flambéd with vodka. For those with less of an appetite for food and a bigger one for booze, the seven-person bar downstairs will turn the omakase experience on its head, with a focus on drinks accompanied by snacks — hurrah!

43 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 6LS, mayhalondon.com