1. Lucky Chip
If, like me, you loathe making decisions (like all mature adults, right?), you need to check out Pidgin. It's a British restaurant in Hackney that does a four-course menu each night. That's a no-choice, four-course menu. You get what you're given, it will be delicious, and there won't be that food envy where your dinner buddy orders your second choice and it's clearly 100x better than yours.
Another former street food gig that's come to roost in a permanent spot. Bao found its way off the streets and into a Soho restaurant last year, and it was about bloody time. None of this rocking up at festivals and hoping they *might* be there malarkey. Now, if I want a fluffy bun filled with braised pork, I damn well know where I'm guaranteed to get one. Served up in swish Japanese-style surroundings too, might I add.
Hotpot has come to London, thanks to the opening of Shuang Shuang. It's a quick and easy little restaurant in Chinatown (RIP, the scuzzy but cheap Chinese buffet that was there before) that makes hotpot-eating simple as anything. The idea is, you come in, choose your broth (I'm in love with the Black Bird chicken broth) and they'll fill up the built-in metal pot in front of you. Press the buttons next to it to bring it to the boil, then choose all manner of things going past on the conveyer belt (it's set out like Yo Sushi) to pop in it. Voila: hotpot, and a sense of achievement for having technically cooked your own dinner.
6. Som Saa
Blacklock is a former Soho brothel turned restaurant that serves chops, which frankly might be better than sex. It's a pleasure house for meat lovers, with both communal wooden tables and intimate booths for indulging in, and the head chef here used to grill steaks at Hawksmoor, so he's learned from the best about what to do with a slab of meat. The answer is to cook it over charcoal, and serve it alongside 10-hour coal-roasted sweet potato, like a total boss. I highly recommend going for the "all-in" option: pre-meal snacks, four mixed chops (lamb, two cuts of pork, beef), grilled flatbread, and a side dish, all for £20.
10. Chick 'n' Sours
Fried chicken was ~huge~ last year, and that's kind of thanks to Chick 'n' Sours, which is proving fried chicken and cocktails (the "sours" part) is as natural a combination as fish 'n' chips. Their chicken comes marinated in buttermilk and deep-fried, and if you have any sense at all, you'll ask for it to come in a bun. Done Korean style, it's dressed with spicy gochujang mayo and is a symphony of soft bread and crunchy batter.
Native launches next week in Covent Garden, and looks well worth a visit. It's going to specialise in game, wild meats, and rare breeds from the British countryside – at affordable prices. Expect a lot of under-appreciated cuts of meat, as well as unusual veg and fish from our own back garden (not our personal back gardens, they're not rooting through the petunias outside your backdoor. The collective back garden of British countryside. You know what I mean). Think of it like River Cottage in restaurant form.
13. Beer & Buns
15. Craft London
16. Coin Laundry
17. Sexy Fish
18. Ma' Plucker
19. John Doe
Bertha is the lady you need to get to know this year. She's a beautiful, voluptuous wood smoker that sits smack bang in the middle of John Doe, happily smoking everything on the menu, from grilled venison to the best goddamn roast potatoes you will *ever* have. It's a little pricey here, so to cut costs I'd recommend going with friends and sharing starters and sides – the ash-roasted leeks, roast wood pigeon, and venison tartare are all amazing, and if you don't order the roast potatoes you've made a terrible, terrible mistake.
Judy Joo, the Korean-American chef of Hugh Hefner's London Playboy Club, left last year to open her own restaurant – Jinjuu. A less sleazy, more sexy Korean bar and restaurant based in Soho, it serves all the Korean classics, like bibimbap topped with fried quail's eggs, and delicious Korean fried chicken (fried chicken is big in London right now, in case you didn't realise).