#JOLAwards2015: Top 10 Overall Openings

Original Sin

original sin

Happiness Forgets is an east London drinking beacon and from its owners there is now Original Sin, a Stoke Newington cubbyhole with neighbourhood spirit and a cult feel. This is no cocktail bar: its rawer and less refined than that – but the barkeeps have all the knowledge you need to give the menu a miss and concentrate more on the company you’re in, and the short, unpretentious drinks list.

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Zetter Townhouse Marylebone

This classically chic hotel made news in Marylebone this year for basically fusing luxury with accessibility. French-American pop-up Le Bun serve posh burgers (beef bourguignon in a bun) at Zetter’s Clerkenwell outpost, and the rest of the hotel is boundlessly stylish and intimate – there’s even a notorious made up guest running wild – the Wicked Uncle Seymour…

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Dishoom Carnaby

Dinner at Dishoom Carnaby.

This mini chain of Indian restaurants are all spectacles to behold: they recreate the hustle and bustle of mid-Century Bombay cafes, where all walks of life would meet to take respite from the heat. Variations of low slung sofas and alfresco seating adds energy to the restaurant. There are only a few of these cafes left in Bombay – but their spirit of all-day eating and food sharing continues on Carnaby Street.

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Shackfuyu

2015 saw Bone Daddies, of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ramen” fame, move to pastures new,  opening one of the sexiest pop-ups we’ve ever seen: the bright green walls of Shackfuyu, its rock playlist and East-West crossover dining – Eastern flavours, Western styles – make Shackfuyu not only delicious and important, but hugely fun. And rightly, it’s in Soho. Best news: it’s back on the perm, with a more refined feel (a marble top bar, sake area and downstairs private dining).

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Phonox

Interior of Phonox in London.

Andy Peyton of The Columbo Group (The Nest, XOYO) wanted to take selfie culture out of clubbing with new opening Phonox, a nightclub on the site of the Brixton hotspot Plan B. Two things make Phonox worth a visit: their one-DJ-a-night policy removes any starry element from nights, allowing the music fluidity usually jarred by two-hour guest sets. And the DJ decks can barely be seen from the dance floor: Phonox is about tunes and groups of friends – not the celeb DJs . Though, of course, there are plenty of those.

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Bull In A China Shop

Putting chicken with things became popular in 2015, after Chick ‘n’ Sours opened in Dalston with the genius idea of pairing poultry with cocktails. And there’s nothing paltry about Bull In A China Shop – the whisky (specifically, rare Japanese forms) and rotisserie chicken bar and eatery in Shoreditch. Its Asian themes carries through in the decor, and the barmen know more than a thing or two about whisky – let them guide you through the menu.

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Foxlow

Neighbourhood eating is typically kept for those in the neighbourhood – a boasting ground for when friends visit, or a quiet spot for lunch. Foxlow is in every way the neighbourhood restaurant – all four look relatively similar and focus on daily meat listed on the chalkboard – and all four have a classic brasserie feel, yet, we’d travel to the Outer Hebrides to visit a new Foxlow – our neighbourhood or not. From the drinks to the attentive service and disruptively good food, we’re hoping this mini chain is here to stay.

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RUNNER UP: The Ivy

We called The Ivy’s renovation a “masterstroke in fine dining” in our feature for the Evening Standard. The original stained glass windows, at nearly 100 years old, remain; but the rest has been refitted for a modern audience. A centre bar is a focal point with powder pink bar stalls, or new banquettes make for a cosier evening’s sitting. The menu’s classics remain: The Ivy Shepherd’s Pie, et al. A must-see on the 2016 list.

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RUNNER UP: Cahoots

It’s the end of the war and the abandoned Tube stations once used in the Blitz are open for business – as party spots! Cahoots is tonnes of fun, with ‘Dig For Victory’-style cocktails and the opportunity to drink within a disused Tube carriage, way underground. It looks every bit like 1946 in here – but remember, keep this under your hat – we don’t want the riff-raff in.

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WINNER: Dinerama

Street food is nothing new – but Dinerama, from Street Feast, certainly is. The pop-up experts have managed to make the rough ‘n’ ready concept of pavement eating into something more luxurious here, in the centre of Shoreditch. A roof for winter means the 6 on-site bars (including ‘Winerama’) can be a guaranteed good time even in December, and the two-floored, winter-proofed structure has countless street food from all over the world. More than a converted yard or office block, Street Feast have made a comfortable home for the wandering food fan – but still with the edge, nerve and spirit of the less comfy, rainer pop-ups of yesteryear.

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