1. Kudu Grill, SE15
Design studio A-nrd is a serial collaborator with restaurateurs Amy Corbin and Patrick Williams, who, with Kudu, Smokey Kudu and Curious Kudu, have all bases covered when it comes to a great night out in south-east London. This former pub in Nunhead carries the same design DNA as its sister venues – diners enter through a luxuriantly heavy curtain, a detail borrowed from the original Kudu – and once inside, the space is speakeasy-meets-London-boozer, with art-deco influenced sofas in oak and ice-green velvet, a fluted green counter and stripped-back concrete and brick walls. Holophane glass lamps give the dining room a dim, inviting glow; Kudu Grill is great for escaping the cold outside for its open-fire cooking from the braii such as dry-aged T-bone and whole fish.
Image : Claire Menary
2. Bibi, W1
Opened in September 2021, Bibi embraces cuisine from across the Indian subcontinent, with interiors that, like the menu, are a contemporary take on Indian identity.This is chef Chet Sharma’s debut venture, while the look and feel comes courtesy of restaurant group JKS Restaurants’ in-house designer Sam Hosker. A chequerboard floor in warm tones sets the scene, with a row of curvy cane-backed bar stools (grab one if you want a view of the kitchen) that nod to a colonial aesthetic. Details such as beading and weaving pay homage to Indian craftsmanship, while abstract artworks on the wall speak of the modern, individual path that the restaurant aims to tread.
3. Cafe Bao, N1
“Interpretations and stories of Asian culture told through quality produce and unique experiences” is how small restaurant groupBAO describes itself, but that quote doesn’t really convey just how fun a visit to one of its venues is. Each restaurant evokes a particular genre of Asian eatery, with Cafe Bao in Kings Cross reminiscent of Western-style Taiwanese and Japanese cafes, especially Bolero in Taiwan, which had its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. The attention to detail in the interiors (by Macaulay Sinclair) is beautiful, from the wood panelling that wraps the room to the branded coffee machine and illuminated niche full of coffee cups and ice-cream bowls. As well as its cult steamed Bao buns on the menu, there’s a counter selling baked goods, coffee and bubble tea to go.
4. Maido, NW8
Alexy Kos and Che Huang of Child Studio are an emerging practice to watch. Having designed a highly Instagram-friendly bubblegum-pink Formica pizza parlour in Chelsea in 2019, their next venture feels much more grown up in comparison, but with the same commitment to materiality. Maido is a St John’s Wood Japanese restaurant converted from a 1960s post office, and the building’s mid-20th-century roots, as well as a Japanese design influence, are reflected in the interiors. Beautifully crafted woodwork dominates, in the form of the dark cherry wood panelling on the walls – subtly recessed in places to hold abstract artworks –and a central island where sushi is prepared. The pattern of the baby blue coffered ceiling is echoed in the simple black floor tiles, while Martinello Luce’s Pipistrello table lamp by Gae Aulenti (designed in 1965) perches on the bar.
Image:Felix Speller & Child Studio
5. Native at Browns, W1
When legendary fashion emporium Browns moved to a new location on Mayfair’s BrookStreet, it asked Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis to helm the in-house restaurant, which champions wild British food (think ‘zero waste’ snacks, game such as wood pigeon and seasonal plants). The interiors for Native were designed by Red Deer, which wanted to reflect the artisanship of the food in the 30-seat dining room. The space is small, but is full of hand-crafted things, including a bar clad in ceramics by Emma Louise Payne and turned wooden table bases by Jan Hendzel. The tables are topped by composite panels that incorporate chunks of onyx salvaged from an old Browns retail installation, a nod to Native’s own approach to minimising food waste. Finally, the mosaic floor incorporates motifs that come from field and fashion alike, including a mushroom, a squirrel and a handbag.
Image: Bozho Gagovski
6. The Roof Garden, SW1
Pantechnicon is a temple to Nordic and Japanese food and retail that features several venues under one roof: take your pick from the casual Café Kitsuné on the ground floor, Japanese restaurant Sachi, or head up to the leafy rooftops for The Roof Garden, with its menu inspired by New Nordic cooking, and a firm favourite on London’s brunch circuit. The interiors lean more towards the Nordic side of Japandi style, with furniture and lighting from Danish brands such as Carl Hansen, Mater and Menu space, which populates a conservatory-like dining room that was added to the top of the 200-year-old warehouse building aspart of its renovation by architect Farrells.
7. Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, W1
French designer Pierre Yovanovitch redesigned the Connaught’s fine-dining restaurant in 2019, marking a decade since French chef Hélène Darroze took the helm. The existing dark wood panelling has been lightened up and given a lightly whitewashed finish, with coral-coloured walls and mustard-coloured chairs that add to the room’s sense of warmth; feminine curves are everywhere, from the arms of the banquette seating to the hourglass-shaped wine-bucket stands. Yovanovitch’s love for working with contemporary craftspeople shines through in the largely bespoke design, including the wrought iron and hand-blown glass ceiling lights and the oak, ceramic and lacquered metal tables. The restaurant gained a third Michelin star in 2021, one more reason to choose Hélène Darroze for that special-occasionFrench blowout in the capital.
8. Sessions Arts Club, EC1
SODA Studio and Sätila Studios have laid a light hand on this former 18th-century courthouse on Clerkenwell Green, eschewing new decor for artfully distressed paintwork and timber flooring. The combination of soaring ceilings and classical architecture make it feel more faded Renaissance palace than London venue, with salvaged furniture being mixed with new green leather banquette seating. A roof terrace features lush planting and an infinity pool, further cementing Sessions Arts Club’s self-appointed description as “a place to disappear”. Chef Florence Knight’s feted food has made this a perennially booked-out hotspot, so keep refreshing that reservations page to bag a last-minute table.
9. Hideaway, W1
Tatiana Fokina, CEO of Hedonism Drinks, discovered that she had such a love for the interiors side of creating new venues that she decided to launch a lockdown side-project, design firm Studio Caché. Mount Street’s all-day café, Hideaway, is one of its projects, joining sister venues Hide, Hedonism Wines and The White Horse to cover every Mayfair eating and drinking requirement, from fine dining to a quick pint. Antique chandeliers of all shapes and designs hang from the distressed mirror-glass ceilings, while curios such as shoe-lasts and bird cages revel in the patina of aged timber. The plaster corbels – which, like the chandeliers, are all subtly different – that act as display shelves for small objects are a nod to the classical-statuary-stuffed Royal Academy nearby. Further playful touches include an old piano keyboard, sourced in Russia, which has been wall-mounted complete with a pair of sculpted hands reaching out to play its keys.
Image: Brett Charles
10. Spring, WC2
Stuart Forbes Associates’ airy, serene design for Spring has stood the test of time since it opened as Somerset House's fine-dining spot in 2014, perhaps because it’s such a perfect complement to the fresh and seasonal food that chef Skye Gyngell presents on the menu. The historic setting and classical architecture give the space great bones, with the architects’ new intervention – a glazed roof topping an existing light well– create its light-filled, atrium dining room. A minimal palette of materials, including timber, marble and muted metallics, also help to give the restaurant its air of calm, while Valeria Nascimento’s wall-art of delicate porcelain petals and Lindsey Adelman’s Bubble chandelier add movement and contrast.
Image: Grant Smith