Three new London restaurants on our radar right now, for three different occasions:
Best for a post-holiday reunion: Circolo Popolare
Circolo Popolare is fun. So fun that 20,000 bottles of booze jostle on shelves lining the walls, spaghetti is served in giant parmesan wheels, and pizza is 1m long. Post-holiday blues will be whisked away in an instant here as you’re transported off to sunny Sicily. Book a table with a big gang of friends; the space is enormous (with a decent sized garden at the back) and excessive to the point of silly – there’s a mad collection of hundreds of touristy fridge magnets in the loos, mismatching but charming crockery, and a cocktail menu that includes the Anti Brexspritz and a Take the Picso. Our waitress was a very young Italian (80% of staff here are) with very patchy English but an enormous grin – we could almost have been in Italy. Loud and buzzing with laughter, it’s a place to carry on the good times. bigmammagroup.com
Best for a date: Flor
Lyle’s in Shoreditch is very serious about its food. Micro-sourced ingredients (chosen day-by-day) find their way onto the ambitious daily changing five-course set menu that’s earned the restaurant a Michelin-star. From the same duo, James Lowe and John Ogie, there’s a new kid on the block in the form of Flor. A more relaxed little sister, Flor sits on the edge of Borough Market and is a wine bar, bakery and restaurant. Unlike the British based menu at Lyle’s, the focus here is on European ingredients and might include Burrata with beans, peach and fennel blossom or Scarlet prawns with sea buckthorn kosho. Inspired by the burettes of Paris and the pintxos bars of San Sebastián, the vibe is more informal yet still sophisticated and chic and would make a perfect spot for a date. Closed Sundays, do book ahead. https://florlondon.com/
Best for a pre or post-theatre dinner: Nutshell
A welcome new addition to Covent Garden’s dining scene is Nutshell, a modern Iranian mezze and grill. Think of classic Persian cuisine and you might picture enormous kebab skewers on rice but things here are more sophisticated and refined; small plates are made for sharing and include exceptionally good warm, spiced Bazaar bread to start with Caspian olive tapenade and Panir Sabzi (feta with herbs and walnuts). Moving on there’s dishes to choose from little Mezze plates, to larger Stove and Grill items – of which the triumph is the Jojeh Poussin, a delicious saffron lemon chicken. Owners, Iranian Mohammad Paknejad and his wife, Marwa Alkhalaf pinched the head chef from The Palomar and it shows.
Then there are the cocktails, where favourites are given a Persian twist – try the Iranian negroni with spiced Campari & saffron gin or the Persian bubbles, a mixture of limoo infused cognac and champagne. Sit at the bar and watch all the noisy action, or there’s also velvet banquette seating and quieter tables on the first floor. Ideal for pre or post-theatre, as you can book (hurrah) so no tedious waiting in line. https://nutshelllondon.co.uk