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23 London Restaurants You Must Visit In 2016

Dine away from the beaten track.

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1. Lucky Chip

Facebook / Via Facebook: Luckychip

Lucky Chip's burgers are kind of a big deal. They were part of the first wave of burger vans that brought properly decent burgers to the capital. They're still hailed by many as the best in London. They've had more wildly successful pop-ups than you can shake a stick at, and hot damn do they know how to properly fill a burger. And last year they opened their first permanent restaurant in Dalston, so if you like burgers (and I'm guessing you do), you need to get over there sharpish.

2. Pidgin

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.

3. Bao

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.

4. Suvlaki

Suvlaki

Souvlaki, aka things on skewers, is one of the best things you can eat. And this is a new restaurant dedicated entirely to it. Its predecessor, 21 Bateman Street, did Greek food, but not like this. The decor is gorgeous (marble tabletops, so fancy) and the skewers roasted properly over a charcoal grill, loaded with things like wild boar sausage, Mastelo cheese, and vegetables drizzled in honey.

5. Shuang Shuang

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

Twitter / Via Twitter: @somsaa_london

Som Saa has resided in Climpson's Arch as a beloved Thai pop-up for some time now, but this year it's moving to a permanent residency. The menu combines British produce with Thai recipes, and the guys here make literally everything, from their coconut cream to their curry pastes, in house. If you haven't been to the pop-up you should 1) go now and then 2) go to the permanent restaurant when it opens, because you've realised how good this place is and that going all the time is imperative.

7. Nanban

Nanban

Remember Tim Anderson from MasterChef? Maybe you don't, but *I* do (because I was a little obsessed with him and his Asian food) and let me tell you, he was sublime. And his new, long-awaited (by me) Brixton restaurant specialising in izakaya and ramen is equally sublime. I mean, sure, Tim didn't come out and eat with me when I was there, so that was a negative. But everything else was great so I'll forgive him. Unless you want to be forgiven in person, Tim, because I'm happy to have Nanban dinner with Tim take two.

8. Blacklock

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.

9. Darbaar

Darbaar

If you want a really fantastic Indian meal, this is the place to have it. Seriously plush, this is a step up from your local curry house. The head chef here comes from the much-lauded Cinnamon Kitchen, so you should expect great things. Luckily, it lives up to expectations, with beautiful spiced calamari fritters, fat king scallops on herb moilee, and a series of dishes inspired by actual royal banquets.

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.

11. Frenchie

Frenchie

A little corner of Paris has just arrived in London, and it's so good, it'll have the staunchest of stiff-upper-lipped Brits coming over all Francophile. This lovely little restaurant was first opened in 2009 on the Rue du Nil of Paris's second district. Now Covent Garden has its own little Parisian slice too, though with a British twist – the menu will be made with British-sourced ingredients. A marriage made in heaven, and proof that nothing settles a few hundred years of genial (and not so genial) animosity like a plate of really good food.

12. Native

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

Beer and Buns

Yeah, OK, more Japanese food, but I JUST LOVE JAPANESE FOOD OK. Especially when it comes in bun form. Everything is better in bun form. This place also has the largest range of Japanese craft beer in the UK (I also love beer), and its chicken wings are so crispy it should be illegal (but please don't make it illegal because they're delicious).

14. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings

Bourne and Hollingsworth

You've probably had a Bourne & Hollingsworth cocktail. They're all over the city, at what feels like every pop-up ever, and in their chain of popular underground bars (Rev JW, Below and Hidden, etc.). But have you had a Bourne & Hollingsworth dinner? Head over to their restaurant in Clerkenwell, and prepare for one of the most charming meals of your life. It's like having an impromptu dinner party in a rich, slightly eccentric aunt's conservatory, if your aunt had access to a stonkingly good chef, and a few trained mixologists on hand.

15. Craft London

Craft London

It's a good-looking restaurant, isn't it? That's because they only went and got an interior designer (Tom Dixon) to kit it out so prettily. The food is just as pretty, with delicious British fare on the menu. They're into home-cooking and locally sourced ingredients here, as well as delicious ways of making things – they even have a meat curing area in house. Sure, it's all the way out in Greenwich, but some things are worth making the pilgrimage for. Pretty sure this is one of them.

16. Coin Laundry

Coin Laundry

Chicken kiev ahoy. London has a new restaurant dedicated entirely to '70s fare, because why the hell not and also NOSTALGIA. I wasn't around for the '70s, but I do love a bit of chicken and garlic butter, so sign me up. I'm also SO into the SodaStream that does pear and clove soda. Add a few spag bol croquettes on the side and you're golden.

17. Sexy Fish

Paul Winch-Furness / Via Sexy Fish

First of all, what a name. Sexy Fish. It's so trendy London it hurts. Second of all, forget the food: You kind of need to go here just to see inside. It's like having dinner inside a work of modern art. There's even a Damien Hirst mermaid on the bar. Forewarning: The prices will make you want to cry a little bit, but if you go in a group and stick to the £5 skewers and small plates, it's just about doable. If they start telling you how good the caviar is, just laugh semi-hysterically and mutter about how you're "just not in the mood for caviar right now". Works a treat.

18. Ma' Plucker

Ma Plucker

The fried chicken foodie wave marches on, with crispy skin and buttermilk batter popping up everywhere you look. Don't get distracted by substandard chicken – if you're going to be initiated into the joys of fried chicken, your first time should set you up for a life-long love affair. And Ma' Plucker is just the place to make sure that happens. The chicken skin gravy is delicious, the batter crisp, and there's a cornflake and caramel sundae you can split with your actual lover afterwards.

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.

20. Jidori

Jidori

Things on sticks. I'm telling you, they're the best. Jidori is a new Japanese yakitori (things on sticks) restaurant that does things on sticks really, really well. I'm particularly into the chicken wing skewers, because if there's one thing that can make fried chicken better, it's putting it on a stick.

21. Taberna Do Mercado

Taberna Do Mercado

You've probably heard of Chiltern Firehouse. You know, the restaurant where every famous person ever seems to have eaten? Taberna Do Mercado is the next venture by Nuno Medes, the chef behind Chiltern Firehouse. It's more low-key and less paparazzi-swarmed, and has a menu focused on the traditional Portuguese cooking of Nuno's childhood, with a few fancy modern techniques thrown in. Whatever you order, make sure you finish with an egg yolk, pork fat, and port caramel tart. It's the best Portuguese tart I've ever had.

22. Jinjuu

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).

23. Hoppers

Facebook / Via Facebook: Hoppers

Guilt-free curry is the order of the day here. A family-style Sri Lankan restaurant, it serves up "hoppers", rice pancakes filled with curry (that are both gluten and dairy-free too), as well as dosas and karis filled with things like lamb, cashews, and coconut chutney. The drinks menu features cocktails done with arrack and genever, and black pepper cream soda. Basically, it's unusual, and it's delicious, and it's actually pretty cheap at £3 per hopper, so go ASAP before it becomes wildly popular and impossible to get into.

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