My partner bought his older brother a birthday card this year. As is par for the course with their relationship, it was somewhat jibing, the front of it reading, “Children are like pancakes, the first one always comes out a bit weird.” As a middle child, I’m inclined to agree, and if any of my recent restaurant visits have proven anything, it’s that this attitude could very well extend to the hospitality world, too.

I should preface this by saying that all of the older siblings of these new restaurants are very good in their own right, but it seems that there is a growing trend towards restaurateurs opening second (or third, or fourth..) restaurants, and those places being, well, exceptional. Often, they are offering something new; usually, they are filling some kind of gap that you didn’t even know existed until this hot new bastion of good dining papered over it with Iberian tapas or simply layers and layers of deconstructed spanakopita.

My first inkling that these sequel restaurants were doing something special was at Oma, which swiftly cemented itself as the opening of the year in my personal pantheon. After cycling through love affairs with Italian food, Spanish food and, most recently, French-style bistro food like a fickle philanderer, the capital was no doubt going to turn its head to the Greek islands at some point. That’s something that David Carter, ever ahead of the curve, evidently realised when he set about creating the formidable Oma. Occupying an enviable spot on Borough Market’s Bedale Street, the Greek-ish restaurant pulls inspiration from across the country and into Turkey, too, and the result is phenomenal.

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Don’t get me wrong – Manteca and Smokestak are both amazing. They both steadfastly occupy a facet of London dining and are two of my go-to restaurants, but something about Oma just takes things up a notch. I can’t think of its equivalent within London, and, crucially, the food is so good. From the soft, yielding açma verde woven through with a sucker-punch of wild garlic to the yin and yang that is fiery salt cod xo atop the mellowing tang of thick labneh, the immensely scoopable bowl of feta-packed spanakopita, and the intense savoury nature of the oxtail and bone marrow giouvetsi, every dish that came to the table was a triumph. Is this an attempt to translate a Cretan taverna to the bustle of Borough? No, and nor should it be. Those restaurants work because of where they are; any attempt to replicate them in London would be doomed. The requirement, instead, is to look at this food through a London lens – multicultural, indefinable – and Oma does that impeccably.

Not least because it also offers a walk-ins-only, riotous younger sibling downstairs in Agora. A little less refined than its first-floor equivalent, Agora is all pumping music, banging elbows and the intoxicating aroma of slow-roasting meat. Get in and get out is the idea here – perfect for the ever-busy manic energy of the market outside.

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Up in the city’s north, meanwhile, the guys behind Four Legs and its subsequent home, The Plimsoll, have grown another branch in their family tree – Tollington’s Fish Bar. Occupying a former fish and chip shop in Finsbury Park, the restaurant is split into two distinct spaces – the casual Barcelona-esque bar and the dining room out the back. It’s the kind of place you could pop into for a vermouth and soda and a plate of bright, unctuous trout rillette scooped up with slices of baguette, just as much as you could settle in out back and order your way through the whole menu, feasting on plates like the best patatas bravas I’ve had in ages, big old golden orbs of devilled crab and gratifying, silky stewed tripe with bacon and chickpeas.

It feels like being on holiday, an exceptionally difficult essence to capture. This is helped along by the prices, too – currently, no dish is priced higher than £16, and a small Estrella will set you back just £2.40. With Four Legs and The Plimsoll, Ed McIlroy and his co-founder Jamie Allan (who is not involved in Tollington’s) fundamentally reinvented the wheel of what pub food could be. Even as restaurants within or above pubs have become the destination du jour post-Covid (Bouchon Racine and The Devonshire, to name a few), The Plimsoll has remained fairly unique, continuing to trot out dishes that, while at first glance might seem glib or uninteresting, are in fact some of the best food you’ll eat in the capital – yes, simple grilled sausage with dijon mustard, I am looking at you. It feels like McIlroy has done the same thing here at Tollington’s. There are other fabulous Spanish restaurants in London, but none of them feel quite like this. Even in the dead of winter, I reckon stepping into Tollington’s would feel like stepping under the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.

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East in Canary Wharf, meanwhile, the trio behind Fallow – Will Murray, James Croft and James Robson – have done it again with the titan that is Roe. Finding almost rabid success with their first opening, St James’s Fallow, and again with their second child, Fowl, Roe once again offers something unique. It is bloody hard to keep food good when cooking on this scale, and yet, undeterred by the sheer size of it all, the menu is as ambitious as ever. Utilising the punchy flavour combos Murray and Croft have become known for, the menu is big and bold, with plates like snail vindaloo flatbread and a quite frankly indecent baked potato drowning in cheese sauce and topped with more potato in the way of shoestring fries. Walking around Canary Wharf is the closest we humans will get to experiencing what it is to be a Sim in the nominal computer game; Roe brings a necessary dose of life to this otherwise simulacrum of a city neighbourhood.

London is a fairly unforgiving city in which to open a restaurant. When the quality is as high as it is, your offering needs to punch above its weight in order to have any chance of survival. Perhaps that’s why these follow-up openings feel like they hold so much value – because their owners and chefs have cracked the code of what it means to succeed in London, or maybe they’re just bloody good at what they do. I think, probably, it’s a strong dose of both.