Akoko is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the capital: clay terracotta walls surround chic wooden tables and an open kitchen where diners can sit and eat on a counter by the pass and watch the chefs at work. Founded by Aji Akokomi and launched last autumn, the West African restaurant draws on three pillars of cooking – fire, umami and spice. Each night, diners can choose from a six or nine-course tasting menu, each designed to celebrate West African flavours. Highlights include oysters cooked on coals served with Gambian oyster stew; slow-cooked turbot with yellow pepper sauce; incredible jollof rice with carrot terrine; and charred octopus with cocoa and peanut sauce with an octopus cracker. Throughout, dishes are surprising and elegantly presented – and all excellently matched by wines chosen by acclaimed sommelier Honey Spencer.
21 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 3LP
For those who enjoy interacting with the kitchen team, you’ll get no better chance than at Aulis. Every diner at this tiny eight-seater Simon Rogan restaurant sits up at the counter in front of the kitchen. The main man’s trusted team offers an experimental foodie experience like no other, with sample dishes including crispy chicken skin with Cornish crab, horseradish cream; BBQ miso-glazed maitake mushroom; and Tunworth cheese ice-cream with truffle honey and hazelnut. You’ll enjoy learning about your food while it’s being cooked and trying a carefully paired array of wines. Pricier than some options on this list, this is an experience to be savoured by a small party of fine diners.
16a St Anne’s Court, Soho, W1F 0BF
Sushi expert Taiji Maruyama opened Maru in Shepherd Market last autumn. The second restaurant from the team behind Taka, Maru offers diners an immersive experience, serving a 20-course farm-to-table tasting menu, presented omakase style to guests seated around an intimate counter accommodating 10. Maruyama previously worked in Tokyo, as well as at Nobu, Beaverbrook and Taka, and hopes to introduce his guests to a new way of eating: the omakase principle is taken to the next level with the chefs behind the counter serving all aspects of the meal to their guests, including the drinks, which they also make. The menu combines British ingredients with classical training and techniques and changes daily, with dishes influenced by what Maruyama decides to serve and by what ingredients are seasonally and locally available.
18 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, W1J 7QH
Six By Nico, Fitzrovia
Renowned Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone was all set to open his first London restaurant at the end of March 2020. Instead, Six by Nico opened at the end of last July, serving a new six-course tasting menu every six weeks. Nico and his team present an elevated cooking experience at an accessible price point: the six courses come in at £35pp, with wine pairings for an extra £33pp. Menus are a fiercely guarded secret until shortly before they launch and inspiration can come from anywhere – at Nico’s Glasgow restaurant, themes have included ‘Childhood’, ‘Guilty Pleasures’, ‘Catalonia’ and ‘Thai Street Food’. One of the most popular iterations is ‘The Chippie’ – expect ‘Scampi’ (monkfish cheek with wild garlic emulsion, gribiche, peas and beurre blanc) and ‘Deep Fried Mars Bar’ (chocolate mousse with blood orange sorbet and cocoa nibs).
33-41 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1RR
Hot Stone, Islington
Japanese steak and sushi bar Hot Stone offers guests an authentic Japanese feast via its omakase menu. Served exclusively on Monday evenings, the menu changes every week and is made up of 14 courses, each pairing the freshest seafood, fish and Japanese wagyu beef with seasonal ingredients. With just three sittings each evening, and with only four seats available, guests will enjoy 90 minutes of kobachi small plates, sushi, sashimi and desserts. Thanks to the bijou restaurant space, every seat is at the chef’s table, offering guests an up-close view of all the action behind the pass and specialist sushi skills on show. Expect to sample hand-dived scallops with truffle ponzu sauce; seared butterfish sashimi in green jalapeno sauce; and quail’s egg with salmon ikura and wasabi, freshly grated for diners at the counter.
9 Chapel Market, Angel, N1 9EZ
Ikoyi, St James’s
Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale’s Ikoyi is one of the most exciting restaurants in London. Showcasing bold flavours, the menu features a vast collection of spices which the team has meticulously sourced over the past few years, with a focus on sub-Saharan West Africa. Think ‘Grains of Selim’, a smoky peppercorn with the scent of eucalyptus, plantains and scotch bonnet chillies. Expect to sample the likes of lobster salad and strawberry croustade; scallop, sun sweet melon and sea buckthorn; and peach with caramelised white chocolate fudge. Guests can also opt for the eight-course blind-tasting menu, based around British micro-seasonality.
1 St James’s Market, St James’s, SW1Y 4AH
Salon started life as a pop-up above a cheese shop. Today, clever and creative cooking abounds at Nicholas Balfe’s shabby-chic eatery. In the evenings, the kitchen serves an ever-evolving set menu of four or seven courses – like a tasting menu, but without some of the fuss. Expect seasonal, predominantly plant-based dishes arranged in offbeat ways, with contrasting flavours and textures at the heart of every plate: think agnolotti of girolles with truffle with sweetcorn and parmesan followed by Brixham cod with, courgette and basil. In 2017 the team opened the Wine Store next door, selling 130 lines of low-intervention, organic and biodynamic wine from across the world.
Market Row, Brixton, SW9 8LD
James Lowe and John Ogier – who opened much-loved Borough Market wine bar and bakery Flor last year – also look after Michelin-starred Lyle’s, the modern British restaurant in Shoreditch. Voted 33rd in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, Lyle’s is loved for its signature daily changing tasting menus on Wednesday-Saturday evenings. The menu always includes vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian options made using the very best produce – expect to sample the likes of mussel and berkswell flatbread, followed by monkfish, celeriac and bergamot; and greengage with set honey cream and bee pollen.
56 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, E1 6JJ
Dalston spot Angelina offers diners an exploration of Japanese and Italian cuisines, cultures and influences via a multicultural mash-up of ingredients and techniques. If you’re looking to try lots of new things, its latest ten-course menu includes some of Angelina’s most popular dishes, like chicken karaage and unagi risotto alongside fresh dishes like tomato, seaweed and anchovy; and lardo with moromi sake and turbot. To complement dinner, wine pairings are available to order.
56 Dalston Lane, Dalston, E8 3AH
Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Mayfair
Distinguished French chef Hélène Darroze is the woman behind this pretty-in-pink three-Michelin-starred restaurant at The Connaught. Hélène focuses on celebrating the provenance of British ingredients where possible. Menus change seasonally, with current dishes including brown and spider crabs with pomelo; turbot with fresh hazelnut, piquillo pepper and calamari; figs with fennel, greek yoghurt and ginger.
Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
Gymkhana – the Mayfair restaurant inspired by the elite clubs of India where members of high society socialise, eat, drink and play sport – underwent a huge refurbishment in 2020. Guests can expect tasting menus filled with many of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including kid goat methi keema; gol guppas; guinea fowl pepper fry; gilafi quail seekh kebab; and wild muntjac biryani with pomegranate and mint raita. Guests are also able to enjoy Gymkhana’s club cocktails, which draw on key Indian ingredients as their base. The restaurant’s popular gin & tonic list is another standout.
42 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, W1S 4JH
Le Gavroche, Mayfair
Michel Roux Jr is the man behind Le Gavroche in Mayfair. One for special occasions, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant has two tasting menus on offer, including an eight-course menu available for lunch or dinner (with or without matched wines) and a four-course tasting menu in the evenings. From the ‘menu exceptionelle’, guests can expect to try stone bass ceviche with passionfruit, lime and coconut dressing; fregola with crispy chicken neck and skin, broad beans and truffle; and strawberry and white chocolate éclair with vanilla and lime sorbet.
43 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 7QR
Kebab Queen, Covent Garden
Manu Canales (ex-Le Gavroche) launched his ten-seater Kebab Queen project beneath Maison Bab in 2018, behind the illuminated facade of a classic British kebab shop. He encourages an uninhibited approach to dining: guests are invited to rip, tear and eat with their hands in a ritual that pays homage to late-night kebabs. Diners take their place at front row seats around the kitchen, perched on one of ten cobalt blue, leather-clad stools. Classic kebab shop-style stainless-steel walls are accentuated by pastel pink curtains and a pink tiled concrete floor. Canales plates each of the seven courses directly onto a bespoke, heated Dekton countertop. Dishes include the ‘Foie Gras Kebabito’, a miniature, two-bite kebab of BBQ’d foie gras; chargrilled shish kebab of monkfish with chicken skin; and sticky milk buns filled with caramelised cream and topped with crème fraiche sorbet.
4 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA
Perilla, Newington Green
Perilla in Newington Green is a beautiful yet relaxed restaurant serving a modern European menu using humble ingredients of the highest quality. The team’s evening menu changes daily and with the seasons, but both the a la carte and tasting menus are offered with alternative vegetarian and pescatarian choices. Expect to sample the likes of seaweed doughnut; leek and potato rarebit; and homemade sourdough served with smoked langoustine taramasalata and burnt onion hummus.
1-3 Green Lanes, Newington Green, N16 9BS
Kitchen Table, Fitzrovia
In July, James Knappett and Sandia Chang reopened their Fitzrovia restaurant, having undergone an extensive refurbishment to expand and elevate the two Michelin-starred experience. Founded in 2012, Kitchen Table has become renowned as an intimate dining experience that encourages interaction with the chefs. Seating 18 guests, a daily changing tasting menu highlights James’s culinary pedigree (he’s previously worked with Rene Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen and Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York). The 20-course tasting menu, priced at £250, includes dishes such as glazed Cornish blue lobster with vanilla brown butter and pickled beach roses; Cornish spring lamb with garden mint and gem salad; and strawberries with meadowsweet ice-cream, black pepper burnt meringue.
70 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 4QG