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Review of the year: top 10 restaurant openings of 2016

23 December 2016 by
Review of the year: top 10 restaurant openings of 2016

1. Elystan Street, London

Having sold the Square in Mayfair, where he made his name, to MARC (Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation) in March after 25 years of trading, Phil Howard launched his new venture, Elystan Street, in September.

Set on the former site of Restaurant Tom Aikens in Chelsea, Elystan Street is run in partnership with Rebecca Mascarenhas.

The food is not an all-out radical change for Howard, but the cooking is as creative as you would expect, with diners enjoying a fresh, comfortable and accessible environment.

Initial reports are that Howard and his team have indeed nailed it. London Evening Standard critic Fay Maschler was among Elystan Street's first customers, describing a starter of smoked mackerel velouté with Porthilly oysters, leek hearts and eel toast as a "secular transubstantiation of humble ingredients into something ethereal".

Owners Phil Howard and Rebecca Mascarenhas

General manager Scott McCaig

Head chef Toby Burrowes

Typical dishes Fillet of dory with roasted octopus, scorched onion, ceps, parsley oil and garlic; and pluma and cheek of Pata Negra pork with caramelised endive and sweet and sour grapefruit

Website www.elystanstreet.com

2. Aquavit, london

Taking inspiration from its two-Michelin-starred sister restaurant in New York, Aquavit in the newly built St James's Market has been one of the most hotly anticipated new restaurants of the year. Opening at the end of the November, just as the Danish buzzword ‘hygge' (used to describe a warm atmosphere) became universal in the UK, the restaurant delivered an authentic yet contemporary take on Nordic dining. Henrik Ritzén runs the kitchen on a day to day basis, working with Emma Bengtsson from Aquavit New York.

Chief executive Philip Hamilton

General manager Ben Hesketh

Typical dishes Halibut, Sandefjord sauce, trout roe, fennel; veal cheek, dill, salt-baked onions; and Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, pickled cucumber

Website www.aquavitrestaurants.com

3. Sosharu, London

Jason Atherton opened his 16th restaurant in 2016. Sosharu on London's Clerkenwell Road is a 75-cover izakaya-style venue, offering Japanese dishes devised by executive chef Alex Craciun, who spent a year immersing himself in the culture and cuisine of the country in preparation.

The site includes a 40-cover cocktail bar named Seven Tales in the basement, which aims to recreate the night-time atmosphere of Tokyo.

Directors Jason and Irha Atherton

Executive head chef Alex Craciun

Head sommelier Masahito Suzuki

Typical dishes Lime and orange cured salmon, tosazu jelly; chicken karaage, lemon, salt; grilled lamb, goma kale, Jerusalem artichoke, aka miso

Website sosharulondon.com

4. Street XO, London

Chef David Munoz opened Street XO, the London outpost of his Madrid restaurant in November. His playful menus are not for the fainthearted and aim to shock, surprise and delight diners with bold and gutsy flavours and visually arresting creations.

There is little delineation between chefs and waiters at Street XO, and refined and intricate dishes are juxtaposed with a street food market atmosphere.

Executive chef David Munoz

Head chef Manu Villalba Martinez

Restaurant manager Vincenzo Frenda

Typical dishes Pekinese dumpling with crunchy pig's ear and strawberry hoi sin, aïoli and gherkins; and steamed club sandwich with ricotta cheese and fried quail egg

Website www.streetxo.com

5. Hispi Bistro, Manchester

Following the opening of Burnt Truffle in Heswall, Wirral, in 2015, Gary Usher opened his third restaurant, Hispi, in October. Almost £60,000 was raised on Kickstarter to help fund the site, which opened in the previous Jem & I restaurant in Didsbury after a site in Chorlton, south Manchester, fell through. The restaurant serves ‘neighbourhood bistro grub'.

Chef proprietor Gary Usher

Head chef Richard Sharples

General manager Gareth Jones

Typical dishes Braised featherblade with curly kale, mushroom purée and truffle and Parmesan chips; and Goosnargh duck breast with green onion, roast shallot, confit garlic and parsley

Website www.hispi.net

6. Margot, London

Front of house stars Paulo de Tarso and Nicolas Jaouën opened Italian restaurant Margot in London's Covent Garden. The pair met at Scott's in Mayfair before de Tarso went on to Bar Boulud and Jaouën to restaurants including Balthazar and Alain Ducasse at the Rivea restaurant at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London.

The service is stunning, while the menu serves authentic, carefully sourced Italian food along with an extensive international wine list.

Executive chef Maurizio Morelli

Design Fabled Studio

Typical dishes Scallop carpaccio with lime, fresh broad beans and red chili sauce; and veal ossobuco with saffron risotto

Website www.margotrestaurant.com

7. Ynyshir, Powys

Ynyshir Hall, tucked between Borth Beach and Snowdonia National Park, reopened as Ynyshir this year. The new owners are bringing chef Gareth Ward's food to the forefront of the Ynyshir experience, repositioning the property as a restaurant with rooms. It maintains the service that hotel guests have come to expect, but has pushed forward as a dining destination.

Owners John and Jenny Talbot

Head chef Gareth Ward

General manager Amelia Eiríksson

Typical dishes Not French onion soup; sweet and sour mackerel; and tiramisu

Website www.ynyshirhall.co.uk

8. Refuge by Volta, Manchester

The 275-bedroom Principal hotel in Manchester appointed the operators of West Didsbury-based Volta to create an all-day, open-plan restaurant bar and lobby experience, which opened in September. Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford drew on their experience as restaurateurs and DJs for the site, which restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin described in The Guardian as a "dramatic, drop-dead glamourpuss" of a restaurant. The menu offers small and large plates using British produce to create dishes inspired by global cuisine, as well as an ‘express eyes-down, no-nonsense' lunch for £7.50 described as the ‘People's Lunch'.

Owners Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford in partnership with Principal Hotel Company

Head chef Alex Worrall

Traditional dishes Lebanese lamb chops with broccolini; seared tuna with grilled pak choi and chilli; and crispy buttermilk chicken with cornbread and jalapeno butter

Website www.refugemcr.co.uk

9. Blandford Comptoir, London

28°-50° restaurant group co-founder Xavier Rousset opened Blandford Comptoir in June. The Marylebone restaurant is an informal showcasing of Mediterranean cuisine with Italian influences with a selection of meat, seafood, raw and vegetable dishes designed to be enjoyed in any order.

The restaurant is centred around the bar, with a wine list featuring quirky grapes from south west France and Campania. It holds monthly tastings, where guests are invited to choose their favourite four wines, which are added to the restaurant's wine list for one month.

Founder/director Xavier Rousset

Restaurant manager Alice Bernigaud

Head sommelier Devon Pryor

Head chef Ben Mellor

Typical dishes Carpaccio of Fassone beef and 36-month-old Parmesan; Sicilian red prawns; duck breast with tortellini of leg and figs; and Fassone rib eye with confit garlic and red wine jus

Website blandford-comptoir.co.uk

10. The Frog, London

Chef Adam Handling opened the first of a planned group of restaurants in the spring, launching the Frog in London's Spitalfields. Situated next to the Old Truman Brewery, Handling and his team use ingredients from local London markets, including Smithfields and Spitalfields. Small à la carte dishes are priced at around £10 each, with a daily-changing five-course tasting menu at £40 per head.

Head chef Steven Kerr

Design Offbeat Interiors

Typical dishes Beetroot, beetroot, and more beetroot; Roast hake, cauliflower, curry; BBQ veal tartare, chilli, herbs; and grouse, girolles, muscat grapes

Website www.thefrogrestaurant.com

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