We've spent most of lockdown daydreaming about all the restaurants we're going to go back to as soon as they're able to open their doors. We've been drooling over old Instagram photos of brunch with our mates; revisiting our reviews of our old favourites; tried to recreate some of the delicious dishes using ingenious restaurant meal kits, but it's never quite the same.
But alongside our stalwarts, there's a slew of new openings to look forward to, too – businesses that have bravely decided to make their debut during and after lockdown. The best way to reward such bravery? Book ourselves in for a meal when we can, or order a takeaway, of course.
From a music venue with experimental pasta at Spiritland to basement boozing at WC Bloomsbury, here are all the new openings you need to have on your radar.
WC Bloomsbury [pictured]
Guildford Place, WC1N 1EH
A couple of decades ago, the idea of turning an old public toilet into somewhere good times were had (steady now) might have been a source of derision. But we Londoners are used to that: first with the excellent Attendant, and since with the vibrant Clapham bar WC, serving up wine and charcuterie (geddit?) from a cosy space below Clapham Common station. It's now got a sister bar in the form of WC Bloomsbury: hewn from an old Grade II-listed Victorian water closet, the new site will serve up cracking cocktails and wines by the glass and bottle from a discerning list, as well as snacks including charcuterie, cheese, house-made pickles and chutney, and veggie and vegan options, too. Cheers to that.
45 Hope St, E14 0QL Canning Town
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Sven Hanson-Britt has been busy in the last few months, first with the impending opening of Oxeye and Bar Rex in Marylebone (including some tasty collaborations in January while the restaurant and bar spaces are being finished) and now with a new opening on London City Island. Homestead will see the MasterChef: The Professionals finalist turn his hand to lockdown-friendly ready-to-cook provisions including fresh pasta and British cheeses, meats and fish, before opening up in full as an all-day restaurant as soon as current restrictions are eased. Menus will start with breakfast from 8am, and food operations will be centred around a beautiful, purpose-built charcoal grill, foregrounding some fantastic British food and drink producers along the way. Count us in.
Portobello Dock, 344 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 5BU
If you're anything like us, two of the things you've missed most over lockdown is eating out and live music, which is why our ears pricked up at news of a collaboration between Stevie Parle (he of perfect pasta at Pastaio) and Spiritland (they of the King's Cross listening space/café/restaurant of the same name). It turns out that JOY – Parle's latest outpost at Portobello Dock – sits above a huge warehouse space, which Parle and Tom Dixon have turned into a groovy psychedelic lounge and music venue. So you can listen to people like DJ Bill Brewster and Horse Meat Disco's Severino while hoovering up plates of antipasti and fried truffle sandwiches, created by Pastaio's new development kitchen. Sounds like a perfect pairing.
503 Hackney Rd, E2 9ED
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If there has been a positive effect of the pandemic to hospitality, it's that it's opened up spaces for exciting food businesses to try something new. That's what Rogues has done – Zac Whittle and Freddie Sheen will take over the kitchen at Hackney Coffee Company for three months, with sharing plates and a tasting menu of thoughtful, meat-forward modern British food.
Imad's Syrian Kitchen
Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
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The path from street-food trader to restaurateur may be a well-trodden one by now, but when it's a story as heartening as Imad Alarnab's, it's always a welcome development. Having fled a life and career in his native Damascus then made his name with a series of London pop-ups, he's now secured funding to open a bricks-and-mortar site in Kingly Court. Expect seriously good Syrian mezze in a buzzy environment, with £1 from every bill donated to crucial causes in the region.
72 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UN
OK, Mr Ji isn't exactly a new opening, having previously been a grab-and-go spot in Soho, but with a new look and feel and a pivot towards a much more restaurant-centric service, it might as well be. Founder Samuel Haim has also had some input into the new menu from Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng of Ta Ta Eatery, so you can be sure it'll be delicious – expect Taiwanese-inspired dishes like tea-marinated soft-boiled egg with smokey mayo and katsuobushi; cucumber salad with black fungus, yuba and chilli; deep-fried milk custard with panko crumb, sesame and peanut. The drinks won't be too shabby either, with a list created by cocktail consultant Cyan Wong.
Native at Browns
39 Brook Street, W1K 4JE
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Native, the beloved London Bridge restaurant that made a name for itself for pioneering wild cooking, sadly shut its doors in the city last year, setting up shop on Osea Island, a luxury holiday resort just outside London. We're very pleased to say it's back, this time in the more accessible but equally sophisticated surrounds of luxury boutique Browns in its newly reopened flagship store on Brook Street. Head chef Ivan Tisdall-Downes and partner Imogen Davis's latest iteration will be a zero-waste restaurant designed to cater to the well-heeled visitors of Mayfair. From the 'wasting snacks', moreish morsels made with bits and bobs that would usually get chucked away, to elegant plates of inventive dishes like the signature squirrel ragu, we can't wait to see what they do next.
Bar des Prés
16 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HW
A romantic weekend in Paris will be off the cards for a while, but we've got the next best thing: the first UK opening from French chef Cyril Lignac, slated for February. He's quite the name across the Channel, so we're excited for him to land on our shores with Bar des Prés, an evolved version of his Paris-based original. The food here will be Franco/East Asian inspired: scallops with caramelised miso and galette craquette (a grab galette) sit high on our list of must-eat-nows. But what we're really looking forward to is the patisserie menu, a sugar-spun selection of sweet treats including French toast, chocolate tart, and vanilla and pecan praline mille-feuille.
194 Wandsworth Bridge Road, SW6 2UF
South West London is in for a treat with the arrival of FENN, a second site from the team behind Hackney's quietly cultish restaurant NEST. The menu will have a similar focus on seasonal, sustainable produce, sourcing from the likes of Swaledale, HG Walter and Flying Fish. Dishes to look out for include the scallop in chicken butter sauce (cast your eyes left to whet your appetite), and a delicate, frilly edged custard tart that looks so good we could probably nail five in as many minutes.
221 Kensington High Street, W8 6SG
Spanish grilled octopus with blood orange. Smoked brown butter cauliflower with egg yolk and hazelnut gunpowder. Burrata, white pear, candy beetroot and pistachio dukka. Shall we continue? Or is that enough to make you want to throw yourself through the doors of new Aegean-inspired opening Pascor? Quite frankly, we'd fly to the moon to eat those dishes (many of which are cooked on a mangal) right now – but thankfully we don't have to, as the latest arrival on Kensington High Street is up and running on Deliveroo already – and will be until it's able to open its actual doors to us hungry folk. Baklava cheesecake with poached cherries? Just stop it already.
36 Duke Street, SW1Y 6DF
French brasserie Maison François set up shop in one of the brief windows of 2020 when dining out was possible, and boy are we glad it did. But we're even more glad about the evolution of its subterranean cocktail bar Frank's, which is planning to open for lunch and dinner with a delightful little menu of pain de campagne, jambon with figs, and French onion soup toasties.