The Hit List: New London Restaurants To Try Right NowWe checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.
When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like Paul Hollywood at Mr Kipling's house. When that happens, we add it here, to the Hit List.
The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in London. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a sceney new restaurant with an abundance of Salomons and burrata. Or it might be a takeaway-only spot where you’ll eat life-changing jerk in a supermarket car park.
Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.
New to The Hit List (14/08): 107 Wine Shop & Bar, Birria Taco
Not a huge amount has changed at 107 Wine Shop & Bar since the site’s incarnation as beloved P. Franco closed earlier this year. It’s still a cosy Clapton wine bar, shop, and small plates restaurant. The single sharing table remains. The former manager remains. But when a place has perfected the atmosphere of an open-door dinner party, the lack of change isn’t a bad thing. Drop in for a glass and a lean if the handful of stools are taken. The wine list exists only in the staff’s heads, but they’ll remember if you want to sit down for food later. The excellent snacks lean European and change often. If it’s on, get the crispy skate schnitzel with tangy caper and green herb sauce. P. Franco is dead, long live 107.
There are only a handful of London restaurants that serve birria tacos, and even less than that we’d recommend crossing London to eat. But Birria Taco in Kensal Rise is worth making the effort for. Birria tacos, birria-loaded fries, and birria ramen—everything at this bright, laid-back Mexican-inspired spot revolves around the adobo-marinated meat stew. There’s the option of lamb or beef, both of which are excellent, so the only thing to figure out is how much you’re going to order. The answer should be: a lot. It’s a walk-in only spot, but you’ll usually be seated pretty quickly. And when the weather’s nice, the tables outside are perfect for getting messy.
Equal parts joyful and relaxing, Homies On Donkeys is a taqueria on Leytonstone High Road with excellent tacos, friendly service, and mood-boosting artwork. Even on a weeknight, it feels like everyone is here. Families tuck into roasted broccoli tacos, groups squeeze into booths and clink bottles of Jarritos, and solo diners have a self-care moment at the counter as they chase a drizzle of chicken barbacoa down their wrist. The hard seats create a market stall atmosphere (a nod to its roots), but are comfy enough to settle in and work through the salsa platter and the slightly earthy, bitter enmoladas de huitlacoche.
There aren’t many places where we’d happily test our quad strength by squatting in an alley to eat a taco—but Sonora Taquería is one of them. The Mexican spot has a small amount of downstairs seating, but when the food is this good, inevitably these fill up fast. Instead join the huddle in front of the counter, sipping a mango agua fresca while you wait for juicy, spicy chorizo tacos, and make friends with other people who have made a pilgrimage to Stoke Newington. The menu is short—four to six taco options and quesadillas stuffed with beef, pork, or nopales—but everything is brilliant, and all are improved with a crunchy cheesy crust.
Every hour feels like golden hour at Leo’s, a glorious, carefully curated Italian cafe, bar, and restaurant in Clapton. The espresso machine hisses as often as porchetta crackles over wood-fire. And the whitewashed dining room demands everyone tries their very hardest to fit in without trying at all. This isn’t aiming to be London’s coolest new restaurant. It instantly is. The front space retains brown mid-century tones and angles while adding a little dolce vita to them. But with rabbit agnolotti that will make you weep, an indecently fingerable 60-month-aged parmesan whip, and walnut ice cream that has every table spoon jousting, Leo’s hasn’t just got the looks. It’s got the works.
As the first flirtations of summer shine through, a blissful pub lunch with a side of rustic-feeling Italian cooking is just what the doctor ordered. The Compton Arms has long been a firm favourite and in Tiella, its latest kitchen residency, it has a 10-dish menu of gorgeous simplicity. Getting a spot on the patio of this Islington pub is one of the best things you can do for the foreseeable future. Particularly once you throw in a plate of crunchy sage and anchovy fritti with perfectly unsociable aioli. Sunshine, a hunk of bread, and a scoop of sheep’s ricotta smothered in honey and Calabrian chilli is the kind of combination that makes you think that everything is going to be alright after all.
Ploussard has got the kind of quiet luxury look that’d make Gwyneth Paltrow proud. On the quieter, darker tables at the back of the Clapham spot, couples lock eyes over Lincolnshire poacher éclairs. But for groups it’s all about the booths, where orb lights hang over wooden seats that wouldn’t look out of place in an impossibly expensive chalet. The food is excellent too. Standout dishes from the modern European menu include rich, fall-apart lamb and salty anchovies on a fluffy crumpet and a light, airy chocolate mousse with salted caramel ice cream. This is an impressive place but not in a shouty, gold Rolex kind of way. It’s a brown cashmere sweater and suede leather clog of a restaurant.
Darjeeling Express is technically a new Indian restaurant on the top floor of Kingly Court. We say technically because, yes it opened in February, but it’s also existed in some form—an intimate supper club, a Soho pop-up—since 2012, including formerly occupying this same space. A meal here feels more like your really cool friend's dinner party, with chef-owner Asma Khan welcoming guests and offering to bring raita to cool the excellently spicy Bengali aloo dam. Our favourite time to visit is in the evening when the royal thali set menu is served. It’s a highlight reel of Darjeeling Express’ best dishes, from a comforting kala channa to the creamy paneer korma.
Sometimes all you need is a warming open-fire kitchen, clay-coloured walls, and course after course of well-balanced, deeply satisfying small plates to remind you why London is so great. Rambutan—a long-awaited Sri Lankan restaurant in Borough Market—has all that, and so much more. A seat at the counter involves watching on as rotis are expertly scrunched and whizzed off to lucky diners. Prawns are cooked in a silky curry sauce over the fiery aduppu. All the while, the cosy room fills up as the evening goes on, as another round of addictively doughy gundu dosas are ordered. The hidden downstairs dining room has an almost identical layout but the dimly lit, moody corners are ideal for an unhurried two-hour catch-up kind of meal.
Glassy, new build flats are the poster child for a bland, sanitised version of London. But Papi, which set up home in the ground floor of a London Fields apartment block, brings big house party energy and creative, European-leaning small plates. The walls are bare but the disco ball is hung, and there’s a red chaise lounge in the loo. Staff are excellent hosts, flitting around and pouring tasters from the extensive wine list. Fun and nostalgia runs through dishes like the cheeseburger-inspired tartare with a red plastic bowl of hot fries. But there’s also elegance in tender pollock with leeks and a piquant apple sabayon. The best place to be is at the bar by the chefs at work.
After London has lost two of its great wine bars and restaurants (RIP P. Franco and Bright), it feels fitting that a cosy new hybrid has got our heart beating once more. Lulu’s is just outside Herne Hill station, on a little cul-de-sac where lights hang from the trees and people skip into the pub for a pint and meaningful conversation. Ostensibly a shop and deli, but really a dinky candlelit bar serving effortless and warming food—Lulu’s goes to show that stringent definitions are a thing best left in the past. A little pile of salted shoestring fries is wordlessly brought to everyone who sits down. It’s a touch of class that belies our exit from the EU. In fact, everything here is. From a snack of crispy hasselback potatoes topped with trout roe in herby crème fraîche, to an exquisite salad of courgettes, fennel, and asparagus. Don’t worry about what Lulu’s is, just go.