London Restaurant Guide: March Update

By Emyr Thomas

Spring is in the air in London, and with the clocks going forward at the end of the month, you can almost taste the Pimm’s of summer.

In a few short months, you’ll be fighting for every available space in the capital’s best roof terraces and beer gardens, but for now, head to Hawksmoor’s new basement bar at the original Spitalfields location. Once there, I suggest you make yourself comfortable and start working your way through the cocktail list while you read my selection of March’s best new openings.

Hawksmoor Spitlfields Bar

Michelin-starred chef Bruno Barbieri, one of Italy’s most celebrated and recognised chefs following his regular appearances on Italian MasterChef, has just opened his first UK restaurant, Cotidie, on Marylebone High Street, on the former site of Café Luc which closed late last year.

Named after the Latin word for ‘everyday’, Cotidie features a menu of daily changing dishes in an informal dining room. The restaurant seats 75, with a counter bar, named BARbieri, for up to 10 guests with its own cicchetti menu. Based on the restaurants from our own MasterChef regulars, let’s hope it’s more Michel Roux than anyone else.

Indian Flavours

March looks set to be full of Indian spices with the re-launches and expansions from some of London’s most popular Indian restaurants.

Cinnamon Soho, the third restaurant from executive chef Vivek Singh opened on 21st of March, dubbed as the Cinnamon Kitchen’s ‘younger, cheekier sibling’.

Michelin-starred Quilon, which is based near Victoria, was as famed for its terrible décor as it was for its superb South Indian cuisine. Having closed at the beginning of January, the restaurant re-launched earlier this week following an extensive refurbishment. With a stylish interior to match the quality of the food, Quilon should soon be high up on your restaurant hit list.

If the subtle spicing is a bit too much for your tastes, one of London’s other Michelin-starred Indian restaurants is offering something different for the next few weeks.

Benares Bar

Atul Kochhar from Benares on Berkeley Square is joining forces with some of the country’s leading chefs to create a series of fusion menus to be served at the Benares Bar (pictured above). Each chef will prepare a menu of small plates in his own style to complement the Indian spices and flavours of the food at Benares.

First off will be Richard Corrigan from Corrigan’s Mayfair (from just around the corner), who’ll team up with Kochhar for two weeks from 20 March. Then Irish will give way to Thai, as David Thompson from Nahm takes over from the 16 April. The last pairing will come from Northcote’s Nigel Howorth, one of Lancashire’s finest chefs, who’ll take up his residence until 3 May.

(While at Benares, may I suggest you wash it all down with one of the bar’s signature passion fruit martinis…)

The Russians are coming…

Situated in (where else?) Knightsbridge, Mari Vanna will open its doors from 15 March offering ‘babushka cooking’ – homely Russian dishes with influences from Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan, but with a lighter and more contemporary feel.

The décor is designed to recreate the feeling of a traditional Russian home where shelves are adorned with matryoshka dolls, trinkets and tchotchke – ideal for its location on the doorstep of One Hyde Park and the Bulgari Hotel.

Elsewhere in Knightsbridge, the Harrods food hall has welcomed serial restaurateurs Chris and Jeff Galvin’s fifth London restaurant, Galvin Demoiselle. Here Chris’s wife Sara will be in charge of the bistro-style restaurant, which will have 55 covers. The selection of lighter dishes will no doubt make the perfect pit-stop from your weekly grocery shop.

More steaks, more gin… 

London’s love affair with steakhouses continues with the launch of Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar at the end of March at County Hall, which aims to ‘celebrate the best of English’.

The name derives from James Gillray, a caricaturist of the late eighteenth century, whose work will be exhibited on the walls of the restaurant and bar. (No, I hadn’t heard of him either.)

With the likes of Hawksmoor and Goodman commanding the steak scene in London, Gillray’s will face serious competition. But with a signature dish of a 1000g ‘Bulls Head’ (a 1000g-butterfly cut, double rib steak served with the bone in), hardcore carnivores will have to face up to the challenge.

Vegetarians need not apply.

According to Gillray, the bar will feature “one of the finest selections of gin in London”, which is quite a claim that will surely need some investigation. It’s a tough job, but something I’m willing to do in the name of research. You’re welcome.

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