London’s Best Restaurant & Bar Openings: February 2020

The best restaurant and bar openings this month from the return of Gymkhana to the immersive Cocktail Time Machine bar experience and Gizzi Erskine’s residency at St Martins Lane London

Lead image: The White Horse

1 Gymkhana, Mayfair
Gymkhana, which has been synonymous with top-notch Indian food since it won its first Michelin star in 2014, reopens on 18 February after a kitchen fire forced the restaurant to close its doors last summer. The basement has been re-modelled to create a convivial club lounge feel, complete with hues of peach, Kashmiri chili red and contrasting graphic Indian carpeting, as well as artwork from India. The re-positioned bar, framed by an ornate carved wood architrave, will offer a jewel-box shaped bar area with rattan shelving and leather-clad scalloped bar fascia. The ground floor will retain its original colourway, with tones of jade green, polished dark timber, rich printed fabrics and metallic accents. Executive Chef Jitin Joshi will continue to lead the Gymkhana kitchen, bringing to life bold pan-Indian flavours, from classics like Chettinad Duck Dosa with Coconut Chutney, Kid Goat Methi Keema, and Duck Egg Langoustine Bhurji, to new dishes such as Game Bird Baida Roti sand Bombay Gymkhana Club Vegetable Cutlet.
42 Albemarle Street, Mayfair W1S 4JH; 

2 Dominique Ansel Treehouse Bistro & Bakery, Covent Garden
Chef Dominique Ansel, named World’s Best Pastry Chef by the World’s 50 Best Awards, launched Dominique Ansel Treehouse in Covent Garden on 10 February. Located on Floral Street, the all-day café – a new concept from Dominique – offers a menu that showcases pastry in all its glorious forms, from flaky puff pastry to short crusts for pies and tarts, and even fresh-baked breads and delicate handmade pasta. Translating pastry techniques into a savoury menu, dishes will include a wild mushroom and confit chicken vol au vent with flaky puff pastry, a roasted venison pithivier, and a hearty tomato soup en croûte, as well as handmade pastas like bonbon-shaped caramelle filled with ricotta and cashews, and fluffy hand-mixed gnocchi with creamy Comté sauce. The dessert menu will feature an assortment of larger-format specialities to be shared with the table, from a classic apple tarte tatin to a crème caramel. The venue itself is treehouse by name, treehouse by nature, with a ‘tree trunk’ at the centre of the ground floor space and a cosy ‘treetop canopy’ on the upper floor, complete with cosy seating nooks and sunken wooden booths set into the ground. Sadly though, Chef Dominique has decided not to bring his signature Cronut pastry to the Treehouse, instead he has decided to focus on creating something entirely new.
24 Floral Street, Covent Garden WC2E 9DP;

3 Mambow, Shoreditch
Mambow from chef Abby Lee, a home-style ‘mama’s kitchen’ in the heart of Shoreditch, opened on Commercial Street on 10 February. Open all day, Abby serves up seasonal breakfasts including daily frittatas, coconut yoghurt bowls and vegan porridge, along with hot coffee from Hackney Wick’s The Roasting Shed. For lunch, seasonal signature ‘bowls of soul’ are on offer, including Chick Flick with black rice, za’taar sprouts, roasted beets with orange miso, spicy green grilled chicken, salsa verde and leftover pickles; or Beet It, with farro tabbouleh, raw and grilled fennel, charred spicy broccoli, beetroot patty, mixed tamari seeds and creamy harissa. You can also build your own bowls, choosing a base such as black rice with crispy shallots and sesame oil, and topping it with a protein like mixed bean rendang, five spice crispy pork belly or fried Burmese shan tofu, before adding salad, a dressing and punchy toppings like Mama’s kimchi. The Mambow weekend brunch take cues from Abby’s upbringing in Singapore and Malaysia – there’s Nasi Lemak (Malaysian fried chicken with coconut pandan rice, fried anchovies, sambal, achar pickles and a fried egg), a sourdough toastie packed with house kimchi, taleggio and cheddar, and a Super Green omelette with goats feta, Swiss chard, and pickled chillies.
75 Commercial Street, Spitalfields E1 6BD;

4 The Nitery by Gizzi Erskine at St Martins Lane London, Covent Garden 
The Nitery, a three-month residency by award-winning chef, food writer and broadcaster Gizzi Erskine, is now open at St Martins Lane London. Running until 30 April 2020, the residency offers a playful take on classic French, American and British dishes with carefully sourced produce. The Nitery takes inspiration from early 20th century Parisian ‘niteries’ – hedonistic, bohemian restaurants that popped up all around the city and were frequented by the big thinkers, artists and poets of the time. Gizzi’s version offers this same electric, bon vivant atmosphere, embracing the absurd and the witty to create an energetic space with fun, inventive menus. Small plates include devilled eggs with roast chicken crackling and oysters with yuzu kosho granita, while creative starters include an iced roast beetroot and buttermilk soup with raw red prawn, egg and pickles, and steak tartare with bone marrow dripping on Marmite toast with cured egg yolk. Main courses include flageolet dauphinoise and goat cutlets, and bisque with calasparra rice and woodfired shellfish. The interiors are designed to capture the bon vivant, artistic world of 20th century Parisian niteries, with artworks by Noel Fielding, David Bemfry and Paige Perkins. Click here to book.
St Martins Lane London, 45 St. Martin’s Lane WC2N 4HX;

5 Cocktail Time Machine, east London
Cocktail Time Machine, aptly launcing launch on Saturday 29 February 2020 – a Leap Year day – will be the city’s first immersive bar experience with a time travel twist. Created by Funicular Productions, the team behind the award-winning Murdér Express, the one-of-a kind cocktail themed experience will invite guests back in time to enjoy some of the world’s greatest cocktails at the moment of their inception. During the 75-minute experience, you’ll be transported through three decades and countries via three different, delicious, era-defining cocktails. Back in the present, intrepid time travellers are invited to continue the adventure in Timeless Bar, a drinking destination in itself with an all-day happy hour offering two-for-one cocktails from opening til close. In-keeping with the theme, timeless classics will be served from the kitchen too, with a menu created by MasterChef finalist Louisa Ellis. Snacks will range from original biltong to whipped cod’s roe potato skins, and small plates include sage risotto with thyme and cultured cream and slow cooked beef with tarragon gravy. Open Weds-Fri from 6pm (last admittance 10.05pm), Sat from 1pm (last admittance 10.20pm), and Sun from 2pm (last admittance 7.05pm). Tickets from £36 (click here to book).

6 Saffron Circle, Swiss Cottage
Swiss Cottage is now home to Saffron Circle, a craft Indian Kitchen from US-based Indian restaurant group Saffron Valley. The new neighbourhood restaurant is the first international opening from esteemed restauranteur Lavanya Mahate, who has founded five successful outposts in Utah. Specialising in the most popular dishes from all over India, Saffron Circle takes guests on a culinary journey, highlighting the sub-continent’s immense culinary diversity. The kitchen, led by talented Executive Chef Santosh Shah (former head chef of Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Kitchen & Anise Bar and Baluchi at The LaLit Hotel), creates an eclectic menu of dishes from small plates to kebabs, comforting curries and biryanis, as well as an array of vegan and vegetarian options and halal meat. Kick off with small plates inspired by the street food of India, from Chicken 65 (a southern Indian delicacy of spiced deep-fried chicken and spices originating from Chennai) to Punjabi Samosa Chaat (savoury potato and green pea pastry with sweet yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney). For mains, tuck into a selection of grills from the traditional tandoor including saffron paneer, tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb chops, and tandoori salmon, as well as curries like Kerala Prawn Curry, Calcutta Fish Curry with monkfish and Chettinad Chicken Curry. There’s also a craft cocktail menu, created by master bartender Georgia Billing, and the intimate bar is the perfect spot for drinks and bar snacks.
7 New College Parade, Finchley Road NW3 5EP;

7 The White Horse, Parsons Green 
Located on the corner of Parsons Green, the iconic White Horse is celebrating a fresh and contemporary new look crafted to complement its character and charm. Steeped in history dating back to the 1800s, the Sloany Pony (as it is colloquially known to locals) is a vibrant pub that has become a favourite among locals and visitors alike. The makeover perfectly blends stylish interior design with classic Victorian pub features and unique touches blended with contemporary new décor and furnishings rich in texture and colour. Most impressively, the pub boasts a front beer garden with charcoal BBQ, pizza oven and bookable booths. Sunday roasts are a serious affair, with traditional, beautifully cooked roasts including rosemary and garlic rubbed leg of lamb and 21-day aged rib of beef on the menu, as well as British pub classics and vegetarian and vegan dishes. Regular events at The White Horse include open mic nights on the first and third Monday of the month, and a cheese and wine tasting night on the first Tuesday of every month. Private, bookable space include the Coach House, ideal for a premium dining experience, and the Board Room, which lends itself to business meetings and intimate corporate events.
1-3 Parsons Green SW6 4UL;

8 Townsend at Whitechapel Gallery
Townsend, a new restaurant and café from director Nick Gilkinson, previously of Anglo and the Garden Café in Lambeth, opened its doors at the Whitechapel Gallery on 5 February. Nick has recruited the talents of Joe Fox, ex-Head Chef of Petersham Nurseries, to create a modern British dining room with an evolving menu of creatively constructed seasonal dishes, as well as freshly baked bread and pastries, and wines by the glass. Townsend is named for Charles Harrison Townsend, the architect of the grade II listed gallery. During the day, the main dining room fills with natural light, while in the evening, glass pendant lights glow overhead. The space also includes an intimate wood-panelled private dining room, lined with rare art books and posters. CH Townsend, known for combining classical British themes with his own fiercely original style, has inspired the menu philosophy, offering up the likes of Mayan gold potato with egg yolk, Berkswell and winter truffle; fragrant curried veal sweetbread, with cauliflower, sprout tops and burnt onion; and roast haunch of venison for two to share with ruby beetroots, wild cabbage, ale-braised onions, sour cream and horseradish.
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, Shadwell E1 7QX;

9 Bunga Bunga, Battersea
This February, the original Bunga Bunga will be unveiling a new look to its restaurant and club and unleashing a new line-up of unique karaoke-centric nights. The Bunga Bunga concept was born in 2011 – an Englishman’s Italian where you could eat, drink and be entertained from the early evening until the early morning. Combining clichés of Italian holidays with a lethal dose of British humour, Bunga Bunga emerged as a glorious tongue-in-cheek homage to the land of pizza, and re-ignited London’s love affair with karaoke. The famous metro pizzas and fab cocktails remain, while new fun-packed nights include a show inspired by ‘90s talent series Stars in Their Eyes, where you can perform as your musical muse (every Thursday); Bunga’s Singo Bingo, complete with singing, dancing, pizza and plenty of prizes (every Wednesday); and the biggest, boldest singalongs to get the weekend off to a soaring start (every Friday). If you want to carry on until the wee small hours, head upstairs to the new and improved Club Bunga.
37 Battersea Bridge Road SW11 3BA;

10 Hoppers King’s Cross
Hoppers, the restaurant inspired by the home cooking and roadside stalls of Sri Lanka and southern India, opened a new venue in Pancras Square, King’s Cross, on 11 February. The inspiration for Hoppers King’s Cross follows the much-travelled coastal journey from Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, down to the historical Dutch town of Galle. The menu will feature exclusive dishes for King’s Cross, with bar bites and short eats such as Chilli and Curry Leaf Peanuts, JMussel Hodi and String Hoppers, and Ambulthial Cutlets and Sizzling Beef Poriyal, as well as Karis and Grills like Southern Fish Curry, Blue Swimmer Crab Kari and Black Pepper Curry Leaf Prawns. Taking cues from iconic landmarks along the scenic route, the interiors by Article Design Studio incorporate features from Geoffrey Bawa’s Bentota Railway Station, with a centrepiece iron-clad concrete island bar, terracotta-toned floors and Batik-patterned ceilings and walls decorated with traditional hand-loom fabric panels. Plus, Hoppers King’s Cross will feature an extended bar with beers on tap, sharing punches, swizzles and coolers inspired by classic 1960s Tiki-style drinks.
Unit 3, Building 4, Pancras Square, King’s Cross NIC 4AG;

11 Zia Lucia, Aldgate East
Independent pizzeria Zia Lucia opened its fourth permanent site, this time in Aldgate East, on 7 February. Following the launch of the first Zia Lucia in Islington in 2016 followed by Hammersmith in 2018 and Boxpark Wembley in 2019 – founders Claudio Vescovo and Gianluca D’Angelo have decided to head east. Zia Lucia made a name for itself with its impressive selection of 48-hour slow-fermented doughs, including traditional white flour, wholemeal, gluten-free and vegetable charcoal black base. To celebrate the exciting new opening, Zia Lucia has developed a new type of pizza dough exclusively for Aldgate East. All pizzas feature fresh, classic Italian toppings – from fiery nduja and spicy spianata salami to truffle honey, burrata and broccoli cream – available on all four types of dough. The menu will also feature seasonal specials, Italian-style starters, plates, salads and desserts. The drinks menu focuses on Italian style cocktails including, Spritz and Negroni, bottled beers from Italy and lLondon, as well as wine and prosecco sourced from small Italian producers. Aptly located in a piazza near Aldgate East tube, the new site has plenty of Italian charm, with a huge hand-crafted pizza oven dominating the space.
12 Piazza Walk, Aldgate East E1 8ZH;

12 East West, Tufnell Park
Fusion pizzeria East West opens its doors in Tufnell Park on 18 February. Founded by local restauranteur Devinder Singh, East West is a neighbourhood restaurant that marries southern Italian-style pizzas with the home-cooked recipes and flavours of northern India. With a southern-Italian style pizza base as their canvas, East West will be serving up signature, Desi-inspired pizzas that reflect the essence of East West’s fusion, with the rich, aromatic flavours of north India harmonising with Italian-inspired toppings. In homage to Devinder’s heritage from the north of the country, pizzas will take on a distinctly Indian flavour. Try pizzas such as the Butter Chicken, with semi-dried tomatoes, truffled oyster mushrooms and fennel pesto; the Masala Jackfruit, combining black olive tapenade, grilled peppers and grilled peppers; and the Saag Paneer with grilled artichoke and crispy onions. All base recipes are inspired by the flavours of Devinder’s childhood spent in Northern India and reminiscent of Sunday family feasting where bowls of butter and Achari chicken would fill the dinner table. Elsewhere on the menu will be Indian takes on Italian favourites including Paneer Bruschetta with roasted masala tomatoes, Murgh Kofta Polpetta made with Punjabi chicken, and a selection Arancini including paneer, tandoori chicken and butter chicken stuffed variations.
135 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park NW5 2HR;

13 The Observatory at The O2, Greenwich Peninsula
The O2 continues to add to its food and drink offerings with the launch of The Observatory, the latest addition to the Nicholson’s pub group. Opening on 21 February, The Observatory will be the first pub, rather than bar, offering at the O2, with an extensive collection of cask ales, British craft beers, wines from across the world and premium gins and whiskies. The Observatory will also serve a menu of seasonal pub classics such as fish and chips and award-winning pies, as well as bar snacks. Nicholson’s, founded in 1873, has 79 traditional British pubs across the UK, known for their individual style, classic pub food and unrivaled collection of cask ales.
31 Entertainment Avenue, North Greenwich SE10 0DY;

14 Glass House Brick Lane, Bethnal Green
Alex Peffly and Z He, the husband and wife team behind Bun House, Wun’s Tea Room and Pleasant Lady, have founded Glass House, a new coffee bar and creative co-working space by day and cocktail bar by night. Launched on 12 February, the coffee bar will offer locally-roasted brews and blends, with a food menu offering sweet pastries and hot breakfast butties in the morning and a changing line-up of freshly-made sandwiches (one British, one vegetarian/vegan, and one Halal, using ingredients sourced from local suppliers such as The Dusty Knuckle Bakery. The bright and airy glass-fronted space at the crossroads of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road is ideal for hot-desking during the day, with a pared-back, minimalist design and a glass-encased recording studio, should podcasting be your thing. As evening comes around, the lights will be dimmed and the cocktail shakers make magic from spirits distilled nearby (try the Dry Martini with East London Liquor gin, Sacred vermouth and clove bitters, or the Negroni with Sipsmith gin, Victory bitter, Sacred English red vermouth, blood orange and smoked rosemary), with London-only craft beers, no-alcohols beers and booze-free spirits also on offer.
118 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch E2 6DG

15 Supa Ya Ramen, Hackney Road
Supa Ya Ramen, the underground, cult ramen supper club, launches its first permanent site this month. Get set for the finest ‘traditionally inauthentic’ ramen London has ever seen. The intimate restaurant, with around 10 to 15 covers, will be serving up a completely unique menu of signature new-wave bowls. Expect three permanent ramens and a weekly rotating special, showcasing some unexpected ingredients and bold flavour combos, brought to life by head chef Luke Findlay. Findlay developed the Supa Ya Ramen concept after working with some of London’s top restaurants, including The Hand & Flowers, NOPI, Patty & Bun and Berber & Q. After spotting a gap in the market for decent ramen, Supa Ya Ramen was born in supperclub form at Findlay’s home in Hackney, and sell-out pop-ups, collaborations and take-overs followed. To be the first in the know when the new Super Ya Ramen opens, follow @supa_ya_ramen on Instagram.

New bars in London: Glass House, Brick Lane, is a new workspace, cafe and bar

Glass House, Brick Lane, is a new workspace, cafe and bar

16 Bobo Social, Elephant & Castle
Bobo Social re-opened in Elephant Park in early February. Previously housed on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, Bobo secured a legion of loyal followers who will now once again be able to get their Bobo fix, this time in the rapidly evolving Elephant & Castle. Founder Mike Benson created Bobo around his three favourite ingredients – great food, great drinks and, most importantly, fun. Also central to Bobo’s philosophy is being kind to the planet, meaning sustainable and seasonal ingredients from the very best suppliers with ‘Good Earth’ credentials take centre stage. Highlights from the menu include the Miso Salmon with Celeriac & Potato Purre, Samphire, Orange, Chives and Manuka Drizzle, the Peanut Butter Burger with 6oz Rare-Breed Beef, Peanut Butter, Montery Jack, Maple Cured Bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and Bobo Sauce; and the Quinioa Salad with Orange, Broccoli, Pine Nuts and Pommegrante Molassas.
23 Sayer Street, Elephant & Castle SE17 1FY;

17 Wing Shack, Clerkenwell
Wing Shack opened its first London pop-up site in Clerkenwell at the beginning of February. Wing Shack not only champions the finest wings, but also embraces chicken shop culture, with massive local followings in Loughton from the British rapper Big Narstie to Olympian Lawrence Okolie. After opening in 2018, Wing Shack quickly established itself as a leader in its field, and now founder Joshua Jarvis and his business partner are adding to the Wing Shack Coop with their debut London pop-up site. The new slick London set-up boasts 30 covers and the same menu from the Loughton mothership, including signature classics like Changs Honey & Sesame, Jarvis Tangy Buffalo wings, and boneless chicken fillets covered in southern rub – complete with various bespoke homemade dips like Smokey BBQ and Blue Cheese. Vegetarian options include the Edgy Veggie burger with charred halloumi, soy marinated mushroom, tomato relish and hummus. Wing lovers who want to take on a challenge are welcome to try out the famous Inferno Wings – crispy fried wings coated with house spicy sauce. Wing Shack will also serve sweets like Larry’s cheese cake and a homemade fruit punch. Open Sun-Thurs, 12noon-10pm, and Fri-Sat (12noon-11pm).
59-61 Rosebery Avenue, Farringdon EC1R 4SD;

18 Lanique Spirit of Rose at VAULT Festival, Waterloo
Lanique, Spirit of Rose, has teamed up with VAULT Festival 2020 to add a number of bespoke, rose-tinted cocktails to London’s boldest arts and theatre celebration. Located in CAP: 100 in The Vaults on Waterloo’s Leake Street, The Rose Bar is an immersive cocktail experience from Lanique taking you on a journey through the drink’s rich history, from its creation in 18th century Kingdom of Prussia, through to a modern day London Bar. Begin your journey in a Middle Eastern bazaar, covered in vibrant hanging tapestries, colourful rugs and cushions, and learn about the origin of Lanique’s key ingredient – the valuable Attar of rose. Pass through stone pillars, entering the Kingdom of Prussia, where Lanique was first enjoyed by European aristocracy as the drink of choice at balls over 200 years ago. Then pass through the red velvet curtains and be transported to the roaring 1920s, where dim hanging lights nod to speakeasies, and finish at a grand botanical bar representing present day London, where, following years of work Lanique was rediscovered by dedicated artisans and reborn in the UK. Choose from four signature cocktails and four bespoke cocktails inspired by Lanique’s journey through time. The Rose Bar by Lanique, Spirit of Rose, is open to the public and free to visit during VAULT Festival 2020, which runs until 22 March. No ticket required.