One of the things that London does better than anywhere is, well, everything.
Bold claim, we know.
But it’s a bold claim backed up by some pretty bold facts too, when you consider the sheer variety of breathtakingly fun diversions that this city produces week-in, week-out, all year round. There are bars, there are restaurants, there are immersive experiences, there are popups, and there are 40ft cubes of light. It’s a lot. And picking the best among them was like trying to find the absolute shiniest needles in a very large stack of very shiny needles. So we searched, we sorted, and we settled upon this list…
Midland Grand | Most blatantly opulent new restaurant space
The Midland Grand Dining Room is, without exaggeration, one of the most architecturally stunning settings in the city.
You’ll find it in King’s Cross, next to the St Pancras Tower, and just walking to the restaurant inside is an experience in itself. You’ll pass the famous staircase where the Spice Girls filmed Wannabe; stroll the length of an opulent corridor with tiled flooring and hand-painted murals; and finally, pass through a gilded neo-Gothic archway into the restaurant itself. Triple height moulded ceilings with vast chandeliers hang over the space. There are slender windows soaring to the ceiling, with views of the hotel’s iconic clock tower. It’s beautiful. And the best part is? The food (courtesy of chef Patrick Powell) actually lives up to the promise made by its luxurious surrounds…
Details: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London NW1 2AR
Izikaya at Dreams | Best new supermarket date spot
The Supermarket of Dreams actually is a supermarket, albeit a fancy one. That’s during the day. By night, however, they push the fridges together, throw on an oak table-top, light a few candles, and set up a sushi counter. There, you’ll see a team of chefs huddled over it diligently prepping, slicing, scorching, and seasoning an aquariums-worth of fish, all pulled from the glass-doored fridges behind them. And those chefs have some impressive CVs: there’s Jaime Finol who cut his teeth at SUMI, and Juan Cardona who helped Endo at the Rotunda win its Michelin Star, and they’re both at the top of their game. As dinner places go, it’s a vaguely surreal, but absolutely lovely experience.
Details: Open Tues-Fri, from 6:30pm, 126 Holland Park Ave, W11 4UE
Joia | Best view of Battersea Power Station
Location, location, location. When it comes to a house, shop, or lustrously beautiful, 15th floor date spot from a Michelin Starred Portuguese chef, those are the three most important considerations. And it just so happens that Joia absolutely nailed their top three thanks to a spot overlooking Battersea Power Station – importantly not in Battersea Power Station, because you can’t see the iconic building from inside. No, Joia enjoys the benefit of the view (with a rooftop bar), and the fact that the chef is pretty damn good at what he does, too.
Details: art’otel Battersea, 1 Electric Boulevard, Nine Elms, London SW11 8BJ
107 Wine | Best restaurant reincarnation
P. Franco was an incredible wine shop & intimate bar, with frequent guest chefs who turned it into one of the city’s best restaurants four nights a week. Then, for mysterious reasons, it closed in March. Our crack squad of detectives reckon it probably had something to do with money. Either way it was a massive shame. But thankfully, it returned this summer, this time wearing a whole new identity: 107 Wine. And as they say, a rose by any other name would probably have excellent kitchen residencies, and the same brilliantly curated collection of natural wines…
…and this rose smells sweet.
Details: 107 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NP
Ikoyi | Best restaurant move
Earlier this year, Ikoyi upped sticks, and moved to 180 Strand. That’s the long and short of it – but to unpack that sentence a little, it basically means that one of London’s best restaurants has moved into one of London’s coolest spaces. And to be clear, Ikoyi isn’t just one of the best restaurants in the capital – according to the World’s 50 Best List, it’s one of the finest on the planet. And then there are the two Michelin Stars sitting on its mantlepiece just to drive the point home. And as for the space? Well, it’s a gorgeously laid back mixture of pale mustard yellows and warm coffee-coloured browns, all assembled into a thoroughly refined & relaxed restaurant. Basically, there isn’t much they could do now to improve it.
Maybe a third star?
Details: 180 Strand, London WC2R 1EA
Darjeeling Express | Best restaurant boomerang
Thanks to Netflix, Darjeeling Express became an overnight sensation a couple of years ago when chef Asma Khan was featured on the docu-series Chef’s Table. And thanks to Asma Khan, the restaurant built on that fame by being totally living up to the hype. Thus they soon grew out of their Kingly Court home, and went to Covent Garden in search of larger digs. Then, they ended up as a kitchen residency in a West London pub. And then they finally ended up in a larger space… in Kingly Court. Having come full circle, they now have the space they need, the location they love, and the food that everyone else loves too. And they’ve probably learned a few valuable lessons along the way, too.
Details: Kingly Court, Carnaby, W1B 5PW
Moonwalkers | Most mind-blowing lunar experience
Go ahead. Try to be cynical. Try to go into this experience with your attitude set to skeptical, and still come out that way. The show, all about the moon landings in the ’60s, takes place in the Lightroom in King’s Cross, which is a marvel in itself, a 40ft cube in which every wall is a screen. Here, totally immersed in the experience, the the soothing baritone of Tom Hanks’ voice will take you on a journey to the moon and back. You will feel the room shake, you will get goosebumps, and you will walk away feeling slightly overwhelmed by the scale of it all.
Details: Runs until 21st April, Lightroom, 12 Lewis Cubitt Square, N1C 4DY (Nudge Member Perk – 40% Off Tickets)
Kanpai | Best new sake brewery
Technically, not only is Kanapai the best new sake brewery in London, but it’s also the worst. And the biggest. And the smallest. What we’re saying here is that it’s the only one in the city. But lack of competition hasn’t dulled its determination to be a superb venue in its own right. There are plenty of handcrafted sakes on tap at their bar, and they do regular tastings & guided tours.
Details: 48 Druid Street, SE1 2EZ
Outcrop | Best popup
Honestly, when Outcrop opened we thought that it was one of those ‘let’s just call it a popup to start and then see if it turns out to be successful enough to actually go permanent and then pretend that was the plan all along‘ type deals. But weirdly enough, despite being stupendously successful, it still nevertheless closed right on schedule. Which is a shame, because the space was incredible (with a huge moving art installation) the music was amazing, and the food (courtesy of AngloThai) was enough to make you long for the place to pop up once more.
Well, here’s hoping.
Details: Outcrop is closed for the time being, but may well be back soon. Hopefully. | 180 Strand, WC2R 1EA
Mystic Burek | Best new Macedonian pie shop
There are some dishes that, once tasted, threaten to haunt your dreams until the day you can go back and order them again. Such is the hypnotic pull of the (appropriately named) Mystic Burek. You’ll find it in a modestly-sized spot on a high street in Sydenham, where it looks like it could have been sitting for decades. But this is all new. It’s the work of chef Spasia Dinkovski, and the Macedonia filo pies that she slings have built up a feverishly devoted fanbase, with the kind of reviews most chefs would give their left spatula for. Get down there, and start yourself a new obsession.
Details: 227 Dartmouth Road, SE26 4QY