It’s easy to get swept up in the glamour and buzz of London’s restaurant opening industry. Each month brings with it an ever-increasing glut of “must-visit” restaurants and high-concept destinations which all promise the world — but often fall short of the hype.
Here, then, we’re taking a slightly wider lens to look at some lesser-known, recently opened restaurants worth a little more noise than they’ve had. In fact, there are countless neighbourhood joints needing a shout-out. But below, we’ve just picked five that seem like they could be on the cusp of the big time, but are getting only minimal fanfare. Here, then, we’re breaking out the trumpets on their behalf.
Hidden in the secluded Albert Bridge gardens, Café Pier operates out of what is one of the few London minicab ranks re-purposed as a public-facing café. It launched with minimal to do about three months ago and has built a steady following, and recently hosted a hit lobster roll and natural wine pop-up in partnership with chef Charles Bryant. That aside, Café Pier seems yet to break into the public consciousness at large. Pleasing sandwiches are well worth the trip: think Italian inspired classics like a salami mozzarella and rocket sarnie or an open sourdough with ricotta and prosciutto. If the day calls for more substantial eating, word is that chef Bryant will be back at the end of the month for a Francophillic day of steak frites.
Albert Bridge Gardens, SW3 5TR, instagram.com
Harvest, Kensal Rise
West London has been home to some of the most talked-about new openings of the past 12 months, so this latest restaurant from the team behind Six Portland Road and Parlour Kensal Green is, surprisingly and uncharacteristically for the group, a welcome respite from the hype. Harvest quietly opened at the start of the summer (when the Standard gave it a brief mention) and, thanks to a fuss-free menu of British favourites, has become a popular neighbourhood hangout. The fare is hearty, all warm spinach and cheddar flans and whipped pork rillettes on hot toasted crumpets. A young, friendly, promising restaurant with just enough serious clout behind it to make a proper go of things.
68 Chamberlayne Road, NW10 3JJ, harvestrestaurantuk.com
Taking over an old bar-cum-nightclub-cum-lounge in Clapham was never going to be easy, but the transformation of the old (and naff) Jam Tree into the Apollo Arms is nothing short of miraculous. Unassuming from the outside, the interior is now a quiet little slice of pubby joy in the heart of SW4’s old town. There’s great value to be had in the lunch menu — with three courses costing just £26 — and unlike other pubs nearby, this one doesn’t try too hard to be a serious restaurant. Instead, the Apollo Arms seems quite content to be a happy little neighbourhood spot that just happens to serve some seriously lovely food.
13-19 Old Town, SW4 0JT, apolloarms.co.uk
The site of the now-closed Caribbean restaurant Junior’s has re-opened with new management, under the name No.63. The menu reads as if someone has opened the restaurant with only the greatest hits of the best-loved Afro-Caribbean classics. Stewed fish? Check. Ackee and saltfish? Check. Jerk chicken, curried goat and on the weekends, rum wings? Sign us up. Situated on the quiet Nevill road between Dalston and Stoke Newington, this is exactly the kind of small but perfectly formed neighbourhood restaurant that deserves to succeed.
63 Nevill Road, N16 8SW
Claude’s is about as new to London as it’s possible to be, launching just a few weeks ago. Put together by the team behind Chinatown favourite Tao Tao Ju, it’s a unique thing: namely, a restaurant in Leicester Square you’d actually want to eat at. It couldn’t be more different from the har gau dumplings and pork cheung fun of founder Anthony Tang’s Chinatown spot; instead, expect straightforward seafood in the most elegant of guises. Sea bream ceviche, torched mackerel and lemon sole all feature on a smart, simple menu. Forgive the hoards and get in soon: owing to its postcode, doubtless this place won’t stay under the radar for too long.
19-20 Irving Street, WC2H 7AU, claudeslondon.com