It takes a lot of courage to open a restaurant in the current climate. We salute Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, Maison Francois and Fallow for doing just that. You might remember the youthful face of Matthew Ryle from 2018’s Masterchef the Professionals. He’s now heading up the kitchen at Maison Francois on Duke Street, a new brasserie from François O’Neill (formerly of Isabel and Brompton Bar & Grill) delivering delicious plates of rock oysters with sauce mignonette, pâté en croûte, poulet roti and pommes frites. The classic menu is executed superbly – even down the house green salad tossed with a perfect French dressing. Do try the moules flatbread to start and leave space to enjoy the dessert trolley that arrives on wheels with drawers opening to reveal macaroons and Madeleine and cannelles. If the menu is old-school the interiors are bright and contemporary with high concrete ceilings and an open bar. The atmosphere is glamorous and buzzy despite the distanced and well-spaced tables, and the lovely staff even seem to make their uniform stone linen masks look chic.
Across Piccadilly on Mayfair’s Heddon Street is Fallow, another new restaurant to book now. Here the focus is on sustainability and the menu zings with unusual combinations (the two Head Chefs met whist working at Dinner by Heston) like monkfish tail with bacon butter sauce and Kombu fries. The must-try signature dish – Corn Ribs with lime – is both original and delightful. Again tables are well spaced and the air flows thanks to vast crittal windows that open up the restaurant to the outdoor seats that fill the street outside.
And some cheering news that Syrian chef Imad Alarnab of Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is opening a restaurant in Kingly Court this November. Originally from Damascus, Imad crossed Europe in 2015 and has since raised nearly £200,000 for refugees via Choose Love by running pop ups and supper clubs where his falafel have become notorious. The hugely popular lunchtime stall on Broadwick Street paved the way for the permanent site that will specialise in Syrian mezze as well as main dishes. Funding page here.