Heathrow Express’ food and drink tips in October. Luiz Hara takes you out to London’s hippest restaurants and runs his expert eye over this year’s London additions to the Michelin Guide. Find out what tickles your taste buds.
2014 Michelin Stars Announced
I’m always curious to hear the yearly Michelin Guide announcement. 2014 shows an interesting trend, with recognition given to more casual, no-frills restaurants than in the past. Social Eating House is arguably the most casual dining place on the list, and a great example. I enjoyed my meal at this unpretentious and laid-back restaurant that offers highly creative and accomplished cooking. I was also glad to see Brasserie Chavot being awarded its first Michelin-star - it is in my opinion one of the best French brasseries in London right now.
A more contentious inclusion this year was Ametsa with Arzak Instruction. While the original Arzak is a massive hit and in the top 10 of the World's 50 Best, this London venture received a rather cooler reception from the critics. My recent meal at Ametsa was however nothing short of sublime, and with a lunch menu priced at £24.50, it is possibly the most affordable Michelin-starred lunch around. Lima, leading the way for fine Peruvian cuisine in London, was also awarded a coveted star. Housed in a tiny room in Fitzrovia, the cooking is fresh, innovative and sophisticated and has helped to put Peru on the gastronomic map.
Social Eating House - http://www.socialeatinghouse.com;
Brasserie Chavot - http://brasseriechavot.com;
Ametsa - http://www.comohotels.com/thehalkin/dining/ametsa;
Lima - http://www.limalondon.com
Morito - best tapas outside of Spain
Morito is a tapas and mezze bar next door to sister restaurant Moro on Exmouth Market. Founded by Sam and Sam Clark in 2011, Morito is a small but perfectly formed, vibrant and funky sort of place serving some of the best tapas I have tried outside of Spain. It was also a nice surprise to see how well priced the menu is. The average cost for a tapa dish from the current menu is £5 to £6 whilst the house wine is priced at only £17 with a few other excellent options below the £30 mark. On my recent visit I enjoyed a number of their small-eats including a deliciously creamy “Arroz Negro” (black rice with cuttlefish and preserved lemon), “Vieiras” (seared scallops with albariño) which were sweet and cooked to perfection, and also the ever so moreish “Puntillitas” or deep fried baby squid. The food was beautifully made, bursting with flavour and with some super fresh, top quality ingredients that really shone through. Highly recommended, although be warned - no bookings are taken for dinner which is a bit of a nuisance.
Morito - http://morito.co.uk/index.php
The glitz and glamour at Berners Tavern
With 10 restaurants worldwide and three opened in London this year alone, Jason Atherton is a man on a mission. But unlike Little Social and Social Eating House, his latest London venture Berners Tavern is a grand, swish restaurant housed at the equally glamorous London Edition Hotel. This is the kind of place to be seen at or to bring a new date, prospective business partner, your mum, or anyone else you really want to impress. But it is not all style over substance. The modern British menu offered on my visit was short but very tempting, and brilliantly delivered. We loved sharing the 36-hour slow-roasted shoulder of Romney Marsh lamb (£55 for two) with all the trimmings which included chargrilled cabbage, roasted parsnips and mint pesto. The most delectable duck fat chips and the creamiest mashed potatoes were also thrown in for good measure - what a feast! For pudding, the chocolate filled donuts with cinnamon sugar coating and almond sorbet is a must. Served warm, it was light like no other donut I have tried. The restaurant is open as early as 7am for breakfast, and service continues through lunch, dinner and supper up until midnight. The kitchen is open-plan and is headed by Phil Carmichael, a long-time colleague of Atherton. This is possibly the most visually stunning restaurant in London right now, and the cocktails are not bad either!
Berners Tavern - http://www.bernerstavern.com
Affordable Japanese cooking - Koya, Atariya and Asakusa
I remember a time when the only decent places for Japanese food in London were a handful of expensive eateries in and around Piccadilly. Happily this is no longer the case - over the last 15 years, Japanese food has become one of the most popular and affordable cuisines in the capital thanks to places like Koya, Atariya, Asakusa and more recently Bone Daddies and Flesh and Buns to name just a few. An udon-noodles bar, Koya is still my favourite of the bunch - the udon is freshly made on the premises every day using traditional methods which give it a delicious bite, texture and flavour. Choose from a selection of different broths and accompaniments, whether hot or cold, and enjoy probably the best bowl of noodles you will find in London. Atariya is a famous Japanese grocer and fishmonger with several branches across London supplying sushi and sashimi grade fish to the likes of Nobu and other reputable Japanese restaurants. All Atariya branches have a small counter selling excellent quality and reasonably priced sushi. They have also opened their own take-away sushi bar on James Street, just by Selfridges, their most central location. Whenever I crave sushi in London this is where I go. Asakusa is a bit of an institution in Camden where it has been for well over a decade. No one goes there for the decor, but the izakaya-style (casual Japanese bar) food is well made and very affordable. A neighbourhood gem.
Koya - http://www.koya.co.uk;
Atariya - http://www.atariya.co.uk;
Asakusa - 265 Eversholt St, London, Greater London NW1 1BA; 020 7388 8533