It’s cold out there, and more than ever we want a warm welcome and festive atmosphere when we dine out this month. Here are some of our current favourite places to eat.
As a more casual little sister to The Barbary, this new restaurant – as the name suggests – is right next door to The Barbary in Neal’s Yard. With just ten seats, everyone sits along one zinc bar which inevitably creates a cosy and convivial atmosphere. Candlelight flickers in the mirrored wall behind the bar tenders who pour the drinks as you tuck into small plates influenced by Moorish and North African cooking like Afghan khobz bread with dips and Essaouiran tomato salad. The main dishes include oxtail tagine and butter bean stew with spiced paprika. There’s a considered wine list to go with it, with the drinks served in pretty, French-sized small wine glasses. Don’t miss the paper packets of warm sugar donuts with chocolate and tahini dipping sauce for pudding. A great place to be if you’re dining as a two.
The pandemic meant a long stretch without visiting some of our favourite restaurants. To go back and find them still there, if not better than we remember is a joy. Kitty Fishers in Shepherd Market is one such place where the warmth envelops you as soon as you arrive. The glow from the windows, the dark wood of the chairs and tables, the candlelight, the proper old-school bar and the uncomplicated menu all make it a perfect experience on a winter’s night. An expensive treat but worth it.
Maison Francois opened during the pandemic and so it’s quietly crept onto the scene. The large, glamorous dining room upstairs is a contemporary take on a French brasserie with a menu to match; crunch on radishes with cervelle de canut as you peruse the enormous wine menu, and then tuck into classics like poulet rôti and pommes frites, and a simple salade verte with house dressing. Save space for the dessert-trolley that has drawers that open to reveal layers of delicate patisserie. Downstairs is Franks; a bar that specialises in oysters. It’s worth knowing that they run a happy hour every day from 5-7pm with oysters £1 each.
This little restaurant in Soho doesn’t look like much. It has clouded up windows, very simple décor and laminated menus of the sort that feature photos of each dish. But push all that aside because the bowls of hot ramen are exactly what you want on a very cold day. Taro does a brisk trade and unlike many Soho restaurants, you can always walk in and get a table and the prices are very cheap. A good one to have up your sleeve on a winter’s day.