Best Openings of 2016
We admit it. The not so joyful bells of Slade’s Merry Christmas to Santa’s Sleigh ride are beginning to ring a little thin now. But the tinkling chimes that blaze a festive flag for coffee spots, markets and gift shops from Crouch End to Croydon signals the departure of a very heavy 2016.
Whilst the year’s peaks and troughs have been one helter-skelter and a half, we at Just Opened London make it our mantra to celebrate those highest peaks. Whatever your thoughts on waving goodbye to a year that gave us a Fanta hued American president, it’s worth remembering that 2016 has seen London on top form.
Our city’s never-ending supply of creativity and ingenuity has offered up record numbers of outstanding new openings and experiences. We never need an excuse for a celebration but we really feel this is a point particularly worth marking. So without further ado and in alphabetical order with our very favourite revealed at the end, here are our favourite openings from the last twelve months.
A cross between a shoe shop and an art gallery, Axel Arigato is the flagship London site of a Swedish brand specialising in designer sneakers. The store was designed by architect Christian Halleröd; its crisp lines, minimalist decor and bold shapes mimics the product on sale.Whether it’s fashion or architecture that inspires your inner muse, Axel Arigato is retail modernity defined.
Running until January 2 2017, this ambitious show features big-names like Pollock, Rothko and Kline alongside lesser-known figures. While paintings are a central focus, the exhibition aims to reassess the Abstract Expressionist canon by also including photography and sculpture.
Despite being created in the aftermath of the second world war, the prolific works in this extensive exhibition continue to impact our contemporary word with their colourful intensity. Whether you’re a casual art fan or a lifelong aficionado, this exhibition is not to be missed.
Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
Contact: 020 7300 8000
Website: Abstract Expressionism
Whether you’ve felt like travelling to the region or not, you’ll want to escape on The Barbary’s taste trail. Diving into menu sections including Land, Sea and Earth, dishes such as Chicken Abu Kalmash, Black Salmon Dukkah and Fattoush Salad ensure the world’s elements are literally your oyster. Fiery cooking techniques such as charcoal grilling and clay oven baking set a blaze before your eyes and ignite fire in the belly. Unusual mixtures of herbs and spices nod to ancient culinary traditions and a frequently changing menu ensures rich pickings can be enjoyed throughout the year.
The end of the year saw the Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘Buried Child’ make its debut on London’s West End. Directed by Scott Elliott, the play has all the ingredients of a great family drama: economic hardship, scandal, long-buried secrets and the sudden return of estranged relatives.
We’ll be upfront here: although it’s laced with humour (and some belting one liners from Ed Harris), this show is a heavy watch. But the best theatre is challenging and ‘Buried Child’ certainly lingers in the mind (for all the right reasons). With stars including Harris alongside Golden Globe winner Amy Madigan and Jeremy Irvine (Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’) this is theatre at its most gripping. ‘Buried Child’ plays at Trafalgar Studios through to May 18, 2017 – don’t miss out.
Address: 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY
Contact: 0844 871 7632
Website: Buried Child
Taking the place of the revered Barfly, this renovated site injects new life into the area. Bands usually play seven days a week, and the venue features both emerging and established talents. After working up an appetite on the dance floor, Lucky Chip burgers are just the tasty ticket needed to resuscitate us in time for the next act. Definitely a go to spot for a top night out (or a late midweek tipple).
Address: 49 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AN
Contact: 020 7424 0800
Website: Camden Assembly
As this list shows, London is truly an international city. There’s food inspired by far-away climbs and Art formed by hands across the Atlantic. But London’s very own own history, culture, and culinary traditions are also a discovery worth delving into.
Enter Elystan Street.
This elegant, health-conscious restaurant serves classic British dishes by chefs Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas. The pair already possess one Michelin-starred restaurant and we wouldn’t be surprised if they added another to their collection. The light and clean seasonal menu focuses on salads and other vegetable-based dishes with other options including roasted vegetables with cashew hummus; clementine cured salmon with dressed crab; ravioli of partridge and pear; pumpkin gnocchi; and autumn spring rolls.Vegetarian friendly and delicious, Elystan Street proves that healthy eating can be satisfying, joyful and even easy.
Address: 43 Elystan Street, Chelsea, London SW3 3NT
Contact: 020 7628 5005
Website: Elystan Street
The EY Exhibition: Wilfredo Lam
Lam was a Cuban Modernist painter who drew inspiration from many different sources: his own heritage, his travels, some of the best artists of the 20th century, and the local African traditions of his community. His work reflects significant political and cultural themes, making it important not only to art but also to history in general.
The exhibition collects over 200 pieces by Lam, ordered chronologically to show his development and how the different experiences and stages of his life impacted his artwork. Although Lam is associated with the modernist, surrealist and expressionist crowds, his style is unlike any other’s.
This exhibition at the Tate Modern spans six decades of Wilfredo Lam’s work, and is running until January 8, 2017.
Address: Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Contact: 020 7887 8888
Website: The EY Exhibition: Wilfredo Lam
Flat Iron Square
We’re cheating a little with this one, because Flat Iron Square is actually made up of many individual independents in one site. But we’re never one to turn down boot filling opportunities and so we’re turning our visit to Flat Iron Square into an entire day trip.
For Brunch start at Where the Pancakes Are. These guys are so good that we didn’t feel like sharing but if you’re the more generous type then why not split some tapas at Portuguese spot Bar Douro? Or head down the Mexican border at street foodie favourite Carnita Carnitas. Handmade Turkish dumplings are on offer at Manti and contemporary Eastern Mediterranean grub comes from Laffa.
Feeling more oriental? You’re going to want to head to Ekachai where classic Thai, Malay, and Cantonese comes in the form of very instagrammable small plates. For Japanese lovers Tatami Ramen creates award-winning sushi and ramen including two vegan options. Phew! This is belt unbuckling stuff! If you’ve chowed as much as you can take then check out Flat Iron’s Sunday market Flea for vintage, vinyl, clothes, arts and crafts.
Address: Flat Iron Square, London, SE1 1TD
Contact: 020 3179 9800
Website: Flat Iron Square
James Cochran EC3
Now for those of you that have been here, you’ll know this joint isn’t going to be winning interior design awards anytime soon. With start up costs of around £13k this is a shining example of mucking in with your mates (literally in this case), forgetting about the rest and doing what you do best – food, very good food.
When James Cochran of michelin starred Notting Hill site The Ledbury puts his name to something you know it’s going to be good. After a successful summer pop up on Great Windmill Street, the man’s only gone and opened his first permanent restaurant near Liverpool Street and what a standout spot it is.
His now famous Caribbean jerk chicken proudly sits with entirely new creations on the menu. Ever do that thing where you read all the exciting bites on the menu only to be disappointed when they arrive shrivelled and colourless on your plate? Well fear not with James Cochran EC3. Here, the menu to plate transition is seamless. From classics such as Kent coast seabass to eclectic eats such as Whitstable rock oysters with kimchi, we guarantee neither you or your belly will walk away disappointed.
Address: 19 Bevis Marks, EC3A 7JA
Contact: 020 3302 0310
Website: James Cochran EC3
Two words – David Bowie. The iconic status of this modern legend is enough to raise the hairs of any contemporary music fan so the spellbinding songs in Lazarus are sure to grip the mind and the ears.
Bowie co-penned the lyrics to this intriguing, otherwordly musical where the planets and humanity collide with sonic sensation. This is the first time any theatrical work from our dearly departed Bowie has ever been shown on a London stage so the show is a worthy venture for fans everywhere. Lazarus takes us on such a compelling and remarkable journey that it’s hard to shoot back down to earth after the curtain comes down.
London Shell Co.
Okay, so every spot that’s made it to this list is one-of-a-kind but London Shell Co really has to be an Only-In-London experience.
Imagine feasting on a freshly caught mussel and squid salad, smoked cod’s roe and burnt leaks on toast and then indulging in butter poached skate wings and crispy pork belly. Then imagine sipping on an inventive gin cocktail before realising you’re floating on the Thames. Don’t worry – you’ve not had one too many.
The scene is all real. London Shell Co offers dinner cruises on a refurbished Prince Regent Canal boat using fresh, ethically sourced seafood and independent producers. We’re so on-board!
Calling all Londoners pining for their alter country-bumpkin ego. We’ve found the perfect solution for you. Say hello to Covent Garden farm-to-fork restaurant Native. Neal’s Yard is quickly growing a reputation for healthy foodie innovations and Native epitomises this notoriety.
Founder Imogen Davis continues to get her hands dirty at her family’s Falconry business whilst Ivan Tisdall-Downe is a graduate of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s famous River Cottage chef school. Together these guys create authentic country flavours with a twist. Dishes such as Pidgeon Kebab and Southern Fried Rarebit mean you don’t have to go huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ to enjoy the tastes of the wilds.
We do love a good pop-up turned permanent. London life let’s us all rejoice when our favourite travelling independents finally root themselves with lasting digs. So we couldn’t have been more chuffed this year that Som Saa achieved its £700,000 crowdfunding campaign to settle down in Spitalfields. With a wide range of regional Thai food including native curries and stir fries using intriguing ingredients such as limed squid, wild ginger, homemade Thai sausages and crispy duck egg these guys are unstoppable.
Address: 43A Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6BD
Website: Som Saa
The barbie gets grown up with Smokestak’s take on classic barbecuing techniques. Fancy trying experimental tastes such as smoked girolles and beef dripping toast or crispy beef shin with anchovy mayo? Forget soggy burger buns on the beach, Smokestak founder David Carter has found the real deal and created Barbecued food made for impact. His permament place in Shoreditch comes after a nomadic life as a Street Feast regular and boy is this grub worth feasting on. Completing the gorge-fest are items such as brisket bun with pickled red chilli, and thick-cut pork ribs with pickled cucumber. This one makes us drool just thinking about it.
Address: 11 Sclater St, Shoreditch, London E1 6HZ
Worldly influences flawlessly mingle on the menu at Mayfair’s best new fine-dining restaurant. Street XO is the London sibling of the three-Michelin-starred Madrid site Diver XO and boy does it deliver. With everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Mark Zuckerberg hitting up the original site, Street XO is proving to Londoners what all the fuss is about. With inspiration stemming from European, Asian, South American and Mediterranean cuisines, dinner here not only saves on that round-the-world plane fare but offers a memory-making experience not to be missed.
Address: 15 Old Burlington Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 3AJ
Contact: 020 3096 7555
Website: Street XO
Meat lover’s rejoice! Neil Rankin is smoking up a storm in Soho with his latest opening Temper. You’ll have done well not to have heard of this place by now, with accolade streaming in from the likes of Giles Coren and Jay Rayner this month alone Temper was a surefire choice for one our favourite openings of the year.
This is a guaranteed mouth-drooling zone with live-fire cooking ensuring every meaty morsel comes packed with succulent flavour. The menu reads like one of those M&S food-porn ads with tempering, chopping, grilling and sprinkling going off left, right and centre. With dishes such as leg shawarma and smoked whole rib being supplied by UK based independents, there’s nothing not to love.
Address: 25 Broadwick St.
Contact: 020 3879 3834
Fancy a trip to Venice? Oh alright then, we’ve got just the ticket for you. Okay, we may not have actually pre-paid your air fare but we have found a little piece of the City of Canals right here in London. St James’s Market to be exact.
From a Venetian brekkie of charcuterie and cheeses to a raw bar with the finest Viennese seafood at dinner, this spot flies us all the way to Italy if only for an hour or four! If you’re feeling in need of a touch of splendour then Veneta’s banquette booths and bar counter seating are a glamorous way to survey the ancient Italian inspired interiors. Ciao Bella!
Address: St James’s Market, Regent Street, London, SW1Y 4AH
BEST OPENING OF 2016: Kiln
Now we’ve rattled off our favourite it’s time for the drum roll please…… We’re not so into favouritism but we couldn’t resist shouting out our very top opening for the whole of 2016. Take a bow Kiln.
Located right in the heart of our dynamic city, this Piccadilly Circus rural Thai restaurant has hands down blown our tastebuds away! As the second venture of founder Ben Chapman, his involvement in every aspect of this Soho spot creates its stand-out authenticity. Dishes take flight from the bare-bones of localised cuisine so the Burmese and Yunanese borders inspire open fire flavours.
Ben not only designed the menu himself but also got his hands grubby with designing and building the humble yet sleek interiors. Yet not everything takes inspiration from lands afar. All produce comes from British soils and sea with lamb reared especially in Cornwall and northern inspired offal larbs. Attention to detail would be an understatement at Kiln and for this reason Kiln, you have a star spot of 2016.
Words by Charlotte Brohier