Meet the five chefs behind London’s hottest early restaurants

A new restaurant in London is always an optimistic thing. The industry is brimming with talent and likes to embrace the positive. But opening a restaurant is never easy, even without Brexit-related staffing issues, a certain virus and the rising cost of…everything. So how does it feel to throw yourself into London’s food basin in 2022?

Photography: Caitlin Isola

One who makes modern Malaysian cuisine

Chef Abby Lee’s first foray into the restaurant world didn’t have the best of times. It opened in Spitalfields selling salads to city workers just weeks before the first lockdown and was forced to close. Now she dusts herself off and tries again with Mambow at the market stalls in Peckham. “After hitting rock bottom, I returned home to Singapore and Malaysia with my tail between my legs and haven’t been back to see my family since before the pandemic,” she explains. While at home, she cooked with aunts and grandmothers where she rediscovered the pleasure of cooking. “I’ve never cooked food from my home culture and didn’t believe in what I was doing before. If your heart isn’t in it, then what’s the point? I’m glad I failed and to have had time to reflect. This new perspective has pushed her to show people that there is more to Malaysian cuisine than laksa and roti. Lee wants to preserve traditional Malaysian and nonya recipes, but also to give a fun twist on dishes like Hainanese chicken sando and her grandmother’s Sarawak black peppercorn chicken curry recipe.

Opening date ? Open now

The only thing to order? The M Wing is a brined and fried chicken wing in an anchovy sambal. It’s really addicting stuff.

Booth 11, Market, 133a Rye Ln, SE15 4BQ

Photography: Jessica Wang
Photography: Jessica Wang

The one with a real open fire

Fire in the hole, Soho! Bird of Fire is a new flame-speckled small-plate restaurant and natural wine bar. Founded by restaurateurs Madina Kazhimova and Anna Dolgushina, who run a popular Pan-Asian restaurant in St. Petersburg called Wong Kar Wine. For this venue, they do things a little differently, opting for a casual and simple approach to Mediterranean cuisine alongside a vibrant selection of wines from small producers. ‘Why not try something new and fun?’ Kazhimova said. ‘Isn’t that what restaurants are for? We go out to laugh, eat and drink. Some say the hospitality industry is in crisis, but for us, we see an opportunity. Five years ago, the market was so competitive and impossible for a small restaurant like ours to compete. Now we are ready to jump on this chance. Diners will get a front-row seat to the action and have the chance to try charred seasonal produce such as rump steak with charred onions and smoked bone marrow, and roast duck breast with plum chutney and burnt plums.

Opening date ? Open now.

The only thing to order? The epic sounding Firebird Alaska is a fiery baked dessert. Trust us, it will be on.

29 Poland Street, W1F 8QR

Photography: Dumpling Shack
Photography: Dumpling Shack

The prodigal dumpling returns to the east

After years of attracting queues at Spitalfields Market, a Chinese street food stall dumpling shack takes things to the next level with its first permanent sit-down restaurant in London Fields. Chef-owners John and Yee Li go back to where it all began when they started trading at School Yard Market in 2014. “Having our own space where we can make the decisions is what I set out to achieve and is a dream”. to come true. Coming back to Hackney is like going back to basics and that means everything to us,” says John. “I made a ton of costly mistakes in the process, but I had to make mistakes to become a better businessman.” The site had to be fully fitted with a new kitchen and ventilation system, and there are now two restaurants spread over the two floors. Downstairs, Dumpling Shack will serve its famous pork shengjianbao dumplings, shrimp wontons, beef dan dan noodles and spring onion pancakes. Meanwhile, upstairs is a new chook concept called Sichuan fries born from the first confinement: it’s an ode to Nashville-style hot fried chicken sandwiches.

Opening date ? Summer.

The only thing to order? Pork shengjianbao dumplings – crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside – are famous for a reason.

2 Westgate Street, London Fields, Hackney, E8 3RL

Photography: Almass Badat
Photography: Almass Badat

The game-changing African

After a string of successful supper clubs and hopping from place to place, Chief Akwasi Brenya-Mensa is ready to settle down. His first restaurant Tatale at The Africa Center in Southwark, aims to educate diners on the intricacies of Pan-African cuisine. “I’ve always jumped on cooking yaji fried chicken burgers and jollof rice bowls at fashion shows and festivals,” says Brenya-Mensa. ‘BBut there’s not much to do with supper clubs. They are not your own space. You can create an atmosphere, but you cannot create an environment. With its permanent location, Brenya-Mensa hopes to raise the profile of African cuisine and make it more accessible to Londoners. “Logistically, I’m tired of carrying boxes, packing until 4 a.m., using my car as a pantry, and storing stuff,” he says. . “I want to enter a space where I can just prep and cook.”

Opening date ? July

The only thing to order? Omo Tuo: a Ghanaian rice dumpling served with a comforting and satisfying peanut soup.

64 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0BL

Photography: ANAN
Photography: ANAN

That of hummus

When we think of hummus, we think of the beige plastic trays on the shelves of supermarket fridges. Chefs Eyal Jagermann and Tomer Hauptman (both met while working at The Paloma) and they want to change diners’ perception of hummus. Their superclub anan pays homage to the rich culture of Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s not just everyone’s favorite chickpea dip on the menu: there’s also a variety of veggie-centric dishes such as medjool candied beet with dukkah and fried, heavily seasoned cauliflower served at the jaffa way. After successful stints at All Press Roastery and Rochelle Canteen, Anan is ready to go permanent. “Finding a restaurant is a bit like dating someone. Once you find the right site, you just know,” they say. ‘There will always be challenges when opening a restaurant. Eating out is a luxury, but people are starting to eat with a vengeance again and the demand for good quality food has never been higher.

Opening date ? Autumn.

The only thing to order? The Houmous may seem basic but it is the cornerstone of Middle Eastern cuisine. Anan means “cloud” in Arabic and Hebrew, which is why it is light, soft and smooth.

Location to be confirmed.

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