Is Sushi Kanesaka’s reputation as the UK’s most expensive restaurant already about to be eclipsed? The Park Lane dining room opened in July serving a tasting menu priced at £420; October, however, sees the arrival on Clarges Street of the first location outside Japan of Aragawa, a Kobe beef specialist where bills including wine are expected to be upwards of £750 a head.
Most of us are familiar with the expression of the Westminster Bubble to describe the isolation of the political class. Perhaps it is time to coin the new phrase of the Mayfair Bubble to express the disconnect between prices in the West End’s dearest restaurants and the spending power of diners in the rest of the capital.
Still, it’s not all bad news for anyone whose reading matter tends more towards cheap-eat lists than rich lists. West African tasting-menu specialist Akoko is opening the more approachably priced Akara in London Bridge in October. Elsewhere a trio of launches are offering 50 per cent off food during their soft launches: Crispin offshoot Bistro Freddie in Shoreditch (September 30-October 5, 74 Luke Street EC2A, bistrofreddie.com), Spitalfields French newcomer 65a (September 26-October 1, 65a Brushfield Street E1, 65arestaurant.com), and the new Good Egg in Camden (October 2-6, 732-736 North Yard, Chalk Farm Road NW1, thegoodegg.co): all delicious proof that the shock of the new does not need to come at hair-raising prices.
James Dye of Franks Café in Peckham and The Camberwell Arms is heading east with this new music-led wine bar and restaurant on the old Bright site by London Fields. Chef Henry Freestone won a Michelin Bib Gourmand in his previous gig at Peckham Cellars so knows the new-wave wine-bar drill by heart: cauliflower cheese arancini, roast chicken with chicken fat focaccia, apple crumble sundae, washed down with natural and low-intervention wines from a list with plenty by the glass (and available to take away from the shop at retail prices). Music is as important here as food and drink. Once service has finished, DJs will take their pick from a custom-built wall of records, curated by Run Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark, and spin the vinyl until 1am; order a frozen tequila coffee cocktail to stay awake if that’s past your bedtime.
Opens: October 6
Netil House, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL, bambi-bar.com
Probably the last thing Mayfair needs right now is another high-end Italian but Il Gattopardo at least has the heritage to back up some very top-end pricing. The man shaking the pans is Massimo Pasquarelli, who comes from the Ritz-Carlton Singapore following 10 years working for Alain Ducasse. The chef will be knocking out the likes of Sicilian Mazara prawns with yellow chicory, citrus zest and taggiasca olive oil for £28, Culatello di Zibello salami and gnocco fritto for £32, and lobster bolognese for £48. Ouch — and that’s before white truffle season kicks off later in the month. Il Gattopardo, as any film buff will know, is the Italian for leopard, and the owners of Amazónico, Bar des Prés and Roka clearly felt no need to change their spots with this Mid-century styled glamour-fest — though the irony of naming a restaurant after a film portraying aristocratic decline while flogging Super Tuscan wines appears to have been lost in translation.
Opens: October 6
27 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HZ, gattopardo.restaurant
First Londoners had to swallow the idea of £420 menus at Sushi Kanesaka, now another off-the-scale expensive import from the Land of the Rising Sun is arriving in Mayfair. The set menu at the Tokyo Aragawa, which has been selling Kobe beef for over 50 years, costs upwards of £500; here at the first Aragawa outside Japan, bills are likely to be around £750 per head including wine, though given the list majors in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, the end cost may be even higher. It will, at least be easy to see (and hopefully taste) where one’s money is going. The restaurant’s speciality is marbled beef from the rare Tajima heifer — which few restaurants worldwide are certified to sell — charcoal-grilled in a custom-built kiln behind the bar and seasoned only with salt and pepper to highlight the quality of the meat. Feeling a little queasy about the arrival of the bill? Hide out in loos lined with hand-painted cherry-blossom wallpaper.
Opens: October 20
38 Clarges Street, W1J 7EN, aragawa-uk.com
More restaurants like this, please. Akara is a new West African from Aji Akokomi, whose Fitzrovia dining room Akoko serves an eight-course tasting menu for £120. Here in the exposed brick surrounds of Borough Yards, dishes will cost a rather more palatable £6 to £38. The namesake akara is a black-eye bean fritter which will come stuffed with carabinero prawns, hand-dived scallops, ox cheeks and chanterelle mushrooms, all for under a tenner. To follow, expect labu beef, dibi lamb, aubergine dressed with chilli oil and nokoss sea bream, with sides of a salad of cucumber, lime and black-eye beans, and the Nigerian rice dish of edesi isip that Akokomi has made the signature of Akoko. To drink, there will be cacao and date Negronis and smoked plantain caipirinhas; the 30 bins on the global wine list are the only non-West African thing about the place.
Opens: October 24
Stoney Street, SE1 9AD, akaralondon.co.uk
Borough Market might not have quite the same ingredients as the street markets of Thailand but the historic food-lovers’ hub is a fitting location for this new project from Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver, housed in a converted coach house gathered around a small courtyard. The pair’s Spitalfields restaurant Som Saa grafts British produce onto Thai technique; here they’ll be focusing on the eponymous kolae, a style of cooking from southern Thailand involving chicken coated in a curry-like coconut marinade and grilled over flames. Boned chicken leg marinated in a lemongrass, black pepper and fresh turmeric sauce is set to become a signature, but there will be be fish, seafood and vegetarian dishes, too. Given the spice levels, lager might be a better palate-calmer than the wines and Thai-inspired cocktails. Expectations are high: Dobbie and Oliver met while cheffing at Nahm in Bangkok, the David Thompson restaurant often credited as one of the world’s best Thais.
Opens: October 27
6 Park Street, SE1 9AB, kolae.com
Opens: October 3
Raffles London at The OWO, 57 Whitehall, SW1A 2BX, raffles.com
Wandsworth fine-diner London Stock is going up in the world and re-locating to Mayfair, offering everything from an eight-course tasting menu to lunchtime à la carte, pre-theatre and a four-course set.
Opens: October 4
6 Sackville Street, W1S 3DD, londonstockrestaurant.co.uk
Caviar House @ Threadneedles
Opens: October 16
Threadneedles, 5 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AY, caviarhouse-prunier.co.uk
Opens: October 16
Manette Street, W1D 4AL, daroco.com
Mat Appleton and Jess Blackstone of the four Fink’s cafés keep it north London local with a restaurant proper in Highbury. The seasonal cooking will use whole animals, regeneratively farmed flours and farm-to-kitchen fruit and veg.
Opens: October 25
11 Highbury Park, N5 1QJ, saltine.co.uk