We’re craving Circoloco Popolare’s ‘Orlando Blue’ pizza – topped with gorgonzola, peach, speck, honey and lavender
Words Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
As the far-flung adventures of summer fade to autumn’s home comforts, it’s a great time to explore the new openings on your doorstep. From a cosy North London neighbourhood bistro to experimental set menus served east of the City, get acquainted with our guide to September’s best new eats.
Portobello Road’s Gold has generated a real buzz in the short time it’s been open. The restaurant and late-night bar, set over three floors, is electrifying on any night of the week. The main restaurant is all exposed brick and terracotta seating, while the garden room houses (you guessed it) a tropical jardin in W11, crammed with a multitude of luscious plants. Chef Theo Hill, formerly at River Café, has devised a menu of seasonal plates cooked in wood ovens and designed to share. For veggies, we recommend the nettle ravioli with sheep’s ricotta and sorrel, and a dish of wood-roasted purple potatoes with caraway sauerkraut slaw. Meat-lovers will adore the half Cornish red chicken with spicy nduja, tomatoes, parma ham and sourdough. The cocktail list focuses on seasonality, with highlights such as Gold Milk Punch, a heady mix of spiced rum milk, Johnny Walker Black, Assam tea and bitters.
New to Clapton’s foodie scene is Casa Fofo, the latest endeavour by Adolfo De Cecco of Pidgin fame. Look out for the striped awning out front and expect a warm welcome from the friendly staff inside. Set against the far wall, the brown leather banquette is the best seat in the house – settle in for six exquisite courses for a reasonable £39, which on our visit included a seafood concoction of crab, almond and tomato, and a duck liver dish with black bean and hoshigaki (a kind of Japanese dried fruit). The verdict? Bold and surprising, with inventive use of Asian-influenced flavours. From the wine list, try the selection of natural wines from countries like Greece and Macedonia. All in all, an exceptional set menu at a purse-friendly price.
This hotly anticipated spot comes from the team behind the acclaimed Lyle’s. The wine bar, bakery and restaurant is ‘inspired by the buvettes of Paris and the pintxos bars in San Sebastián’, so expect small tapas-like plates overflowing with flavour. Inside, the décor is casual chic, with French bistro chairs, navy leather banquettes and a huge industrial window looking out onto Borough Market. Dishes vary wildly in style, with French, Persian, Spanish and Japanese influences evident, but they combine to something deliciously cohesive. A plate of giant scarlet prawns seasoned with yuzu kosho (a Japanese chilli-based condiment) and the lamb rib with yoghurt, black lime and pistachios were both outstanding. Close runners-up were the Palourde clam flatbread and rabbit kidney skewer with liver and sage. We suggest kicking off the night with a Vergano Americano as an aperitivo, before seeing where the wine list takes you.
Located on Blackstock Road, Top Cuvée is a new neighbourhood bistro that has Highbury locals singing its praises. Styled on Parisian caves à manger (wine bars that serve French-style deli dishes), there’s a focus on natural wines from small producers and sharing plates made with classic techniques. A skate wing accessorised with pumpkin seeds, samphire, orange and green olives tickled our taste buds, as did the pork chop with grilled onions and rainbow chard. Most wines are by the bottle, but some, like the white Sylvaner from Alsace in France and the red Nat’ Cool Primata from Douro in Portugal, can be served by the glass. We’ll be hopping on the Overground to revisit this gem in the near future.
Circolo Popolare is the latest offering from the Big Mamma group, who brought you the fantastically camp Gloria in Shoreditch. Staying true to the team’s Italian roots, this Fitzrovia eatery is modelled on Sicilian-style trattorias. Over 20,000 boozy bottles line the walls, and the ceiling is festooned with plants, flowers and lights. The menu is as eccentric as the surroundings, with food served in colourful Italian dishes evoking Mediterranean summers. From the pizza menu, try the Truffle Shuffle or the Orlando Blue (topped with gorgonzola, peach, speck, honey and lavender). Elsewhere, the veal escalope skewer is particularly good, as is the Sfoglia Al Ragu, a delightful dish involving oversized pasta dripping in Tuscan pork ragù. Cocktails are playful and potent – in keeping with the joyous, larger-than-life feel of the place.
Sophie Jean-Louis Constantine
Sophie is a freelance fashion, lifestyle and travel writer. An alumna of the University of Manchester, where she earned a BA in English Literature, Sophie went on to work at Conde Nast Traveller. She is a fervent North Londoner and happiest curled up with a book.