Le Bab At long last, it’s here: a place where you don’t get that instant, soul-shaking bout of remorse upon finishing a kebab. These gourmet ones, cooked by former Le Gavroche chefs, do away with all the infamous conventions: they’re served open, for starters, and the meat (like roe deer shish) is done on a wood and charcoal-fired robata, not shaved from The Big Slab. Perception-altering cooking.
Honourable mention: any of the kebabs at Mangal 1.1
Gunpowder A tiny Indian eatery, seating just 24, but one that feels welcoming and cosy rather than sweatily claustrophobic. There’s a jolly atmosphere, with infectiously cheerful staff and family recipes – a place where you always feel on the brink of a group singsong. The venison doughnut’s rightly had some Instagram buzz, but the real magic is in what they’ve done to broccoli: wet moss has been turned into a smoky BBQ sensation.
Honourable mention: the butter chicken curry at Darbaar
The Ninth Just when you thought Charlotte Street had totally surrendered its soul to the most heroically bland chains, The Ninth – debut solo venture from TV chef Jun Tanaka – comes along to keep it relevant. The layout feels refined – a good one for a date – but you can sense the meticulousness that’s gone into making the fishy Mediterranean cuisine so vibrant and flavoursome. Try the sea bream with lemon and miso.
Honourable mention: the scallops with chorizo at 45 Jermyn Street
Bellanger Like its mega-popular sister restaurant Brasserie Zedel, Bellanger is ornate and cosmopolitan, but never imposing or stuffy – it knows you’ve got a pack of Space Raiders in your bag, but it’s not judging. The French/German menu peaks with the tartes flambees: slim, crispy pizzas with crème fraiche, onions and lardons – great value at £4.95. And while schnitzel’s not having the moment it was two years ago in London, the veal one here is as good as any.
Honourable mention: the venison at Piquet
Canto Corvino A lot of the restaurants around Liverpool Street station know what they’re there for: basic pre-train journey sustenance, or double-quick Stella-soaking after work. Perfunctory stuff. Canto Corvino aims beyond that, an Italian that dares to show some flamboyance with its meat-blasting gizmos – the Josper grill yields a terrific veal T-bone.
Honourable mention: the slow-roasted veal at Il Cudega
An international festival of light
Dinner in a decommissioned 1967 underground carriage
Half-price brunch and a HUGE fried chicken burger