By Emyr Thomas
Nobody does a power restaurant to ‘see and be seen in’ quite like Caprice Holdings or Chris Corbin & Jeremy King, and both launched new restaurants at the end of 2011 that will no doubt become firm favourites throughout 2012.
‘34′, located just off Grosvenor Square in Mayfair was Caprice’s first new restaurant launch, which adds to its portfolio of power restaurants including The Ivy, J Sheekey’s and Scott’s. 34 specialises in meats and seasonal game but also offers lighter dishes, fish and shellfish, all to the glorious sounds of a live jazz quartet in timelessly elegant surroundings.
The Delaunay, new sister restaurant to The Wolseley from Corbin & King, has opened on the corner of Drury Lane and Aldwych and already has the familiarity of an institution on the London scene. The restaurant is open seven days a week serving breakfast, afternoon tea, and à la carte lunch and dinner menus inspired by the grand cafés of Europe.
With every celebrity, socialite and restaurant connoisseur already firmly ensconced, be prepared to sell your prized possession – kidney, trust fund or mother in law – to secure that reservation.
The best affirmation that a restaurant is doing something right is if a guest books a return visit. Within minutes of leaving dinner at Alyn Williams at the Westbury (which opened quietly at the end of 2011 from Alyn Williams, who was previously head chef at the two Michelin starred Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley), my client had emailed with three further booking requests for the coming months – a sure sign that this restaurant is on to a winner.
Another former Michelin darling to set up on his own is Ollie Dabbous, formerly of Texture, with his new restaurant ‘Dabbous’, which opened on Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia at the end of January, in partnership with mixologist Oskar Kinberg, formerly bar manager at the Cuckoo Club.
Spread over two levels, the restaurant and bar has an industrial feel with exposed brickwork, sheet metal and copper pipes.
While the restaurant features a modern European menu of ‘clean flavours and seasonal ingredients’, the basement bar offers a menu of classic drinks and signature cocktails that is ideal for a group of friends or a first date.
Thompson Hotels’ first hotel outside of North America will open in Belgravia in early February with 85 rooms and an 80-seat restaurant from celebrated chef Mark Hix. Hix Belgravia will feature another outpost of Mark’s Bar, his popular bar from his Soho restaurant, as well as a cigar garden. Although the menu will still be British focused, it will have more of an international feel, based on the chef’s travels across the globe.
While the onslaught of Mexican burrito bars might still not have ended, this year it will be time for Peruvian cuisine to take the limelight. ‘Ceviche’ promises to be London’s first Peruvian restaurant in Soho, hotly followed by LIMA in Fitzrovia, both of which will also feature a Pisco bar. Grab a Pisco sour and meet me at the ceviche counter.
Refurbishment and reinvention seem to be popular themes for the start of the year from some of the city’s celebrated chefs.
Tom Aikens has recently reopened his eponymous Chelsea restaurant after a large refurbishment to create a more relaxed atmosphere. There is an à la carte menu and a series of tasting menus, including six, eight and ten course options that are also available with matching wines.
The 52-seat restaurant features broad-boarded oak floors, custom-designed hand-made wooden chairs, a variety of mismatched oak tables (no tablecloths), and has ‘evocative quotes about food and wine’ written on the walls.
Over in Soho, Quo Vadis has undergone (another) refurbishment, this time to mark the occasion of a new partnership with Jeremy Lee who had previously spent 16 years at the Blueprint Café.
There’s a lot to digest as we look forward to another sterling year for the London restaurant scene, but if you’re interested in a one-off charity event with some of the biggest names in cooking, check-out the ‘Who’s Cooking Dinner’ charity event on 5 March at the Four Seasons Park Lane.
20 top chefs will prepare dinner for 200 guests, who can also bid for the chefs to cook dinner in their home at a later date, all in aid of Leuka. Each chef will create a four-course menu for one table of ten people with accompanying wines. Here’s the twist: only after a draw during the pre-dinner reception do guests discover which chef is cooking for them.
The restaurants taking part include some of London’s most sought-after tables, such as Scott’s, Dinner by Heston, Zuma and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – so perhaps no need to sell your kidney after all.
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