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2011 has seen a flurry of new openings, starting with a bang in January with Heston Blumenthal’s first foray into the London restaurant scene at the Mandarin Oriental with Dinner by Heston.
Some of London’s other highly-acclaimed chefs have also spread their wings with Marcus Wareing, who runs the Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, opening The Gilbert Scott, a British brasserie at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, and Jason Atherton, formerly of Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, opening Pollen Street Social in Mayfair, which also features London’s first dessert bar.
Leicester Square became home to two new venues with the launch of the W Hotel, which features the restaurant Spice Market and the Wyld Bar, and the St. John Hotel, a 16-bedroom hotel with a 70 cover restaurant offering Fergus Henderson’s famous ‘nose to tail’ food from breakfast until the early hours.
Spuntino, the new venture from the team behind Polpo and Polpetto, the successful Venetian ‘bacaros’ in Soho, opened in March with a menu and look inspired by New York, quickly followed by the opening of da Polpo in Covent Garden in June, where the menu features a meatball section and an expanded pizzetta offering as well as a selection of favourite dishes from Polpo and Polpetto. Like their sister restaurants, both have a no-reservations policy for dinner, so expect to queue.
The Corinthia hotel opened near Whitehall in April with a bar and restaurant designed by David Collins. The restaurant, Massimo’s, is overseen by Italian chef Massimo Riccioli, who also runs La Rosetta in Rome. The menu focuses on seafood, with crudo, antipasti and oysters served at the bar throughout the day.
In Clerkenwell, The Zetter Hotel opened a sister property in April across the road from the original boutique hotel in a Georgian townhouse. The Zetter Townhouse has the feel of an eclectic private residence rather than hotel with just 11 rooms, two suites and a lounge and cocktail bar, all designed by interior designer Russell Sage, with cocktails from renowned mixologist Tony Conigliaro from 69 Colebroke Row.
London has seen the addition of some great Spanish restaurants, starting the year with the Opera Tavern in Covent Garden from the team behind Salt Yard and Dehesa and later in the year with José, a new sherry and tapas bar in Bermondsey from José Pizarro, who made a name for himself at Brindisa.
The team behind the acclaimed Garrison and Village East in Bermondsey opened the Riding House Café, an all-day brasserie offering a selection of small plates to share as well as traditional main courses in Fitzrovia. The restaurant has a great vibe and a buzzy bar area, too.
In recent weeks, two new restaurants have opened in Mayfair with female TV personalities at the helm – Silvena Rowe, a regular on Saturday Kitchen, has opened Quince, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant at The May Fair hotel, and Iron Chef contestant Judy Joo is in charge of The Dining Room at The Playboy Club.
If you now need a stiff drink to digest all these new openings, head to VOC, a new 17th century-inspired cocktail bar in the Regents Quarter near King’s Cross.