But it’s not just the atmosphere in such restaurants that has seen a shift. When it comes to the food, Rogan and his team have tried to be as sustainable as possible, sourcing home-grown British produce to create simple yet refined dishes such as Belted Galloway beef, golden turnip, king oyster mushroom and bone marrow sauce. “London is so international – and we really sense this at Fera at Claridge’s,” says Rogan. He adds, “Our customers are cosmopolitan and knowledgeable about food trends and they love the adventure we can offer them, especially with our tasting menus. They especially embrace the British-ness of our dishes, where we can introduce them to interesting ingredients they may not see elsewhere, most of which come from our own farm in Cumbria.”
Two other restaurants that have followed suit are Typing Room and Rabbit. Lee Westcott at Typing Room has wowed audiences with his back to basics approach to cooking, again using sustainable produce, whereas the team behind Rabbit are three brothers – a chef, a farmer and a manager – who execute sublime flavours such as artichoke ice cream, all sourced from their family farm in west Sussex. Another champion of British produce is the recently Michelin-starred The Clove Club, a no-frills restaurant in Shoreditch Town Hall that stands out by using ingredients that are often overlooked. Head chef Isaac McHale has created a no-choice tasting menu of regularly changing dishes such as flamed Cornish mackerel, rhubarb and toasted oats and warm blood orange dessert with wild fennel granita and ewe’s milk yoghurt mousse.
Evidently, London is home to some of the best chefs in the world, with a repertoire that’s growing. At Carousel Presents, up-and-coming cooks are given a chance to showcase their talents for a limited time, in the Marylebone-based restaurant Carousel. From April 1-11, American-Japanese chef Yuji Haraguchi will be in residence with his Yuji Ramen concept, a follow on from his successful New York pop-up. His seven-course omakase (chef’s choice) tasting menus include miso and uni puree ravioli, topped with sea urchin. What’s so exciting to witness in London now is that it’s not just professional chefs who are making waves. Eager home cooks are setting up food stalls; everyday people are turning their homes into restaurants. Take the Saltoun Supper Club in Brixton, for example. Not only is Arno Maasdorp a talented chef, he’s a food stylist too. Once a week, he cooks a regularly changing menu – which looks and tastes beautiful – for the guests that fill his living room.
It’s this creativity, in part, that secured Story a Michelin star within five months of opening. Chef Tom Sellers wanted to create something that told a story through every dish. A lit candle made of beef dripping on each table (complete with a hunk of bread to soak it up) is a nod to his father who loves dripping; the charred onions in his dishes reference fairground hotdogs. Even the space itself is original; books line the walls (each customer is asked to donate one on arrival), and the building is a strange wooden construction reminiscent of a sauna-meets-chalet.
Perhaps the strongest culinary trend in London right now is health and nutrition. “People are becoming more aware of what they put inside their bodies,” explains Nik Heartland, head chef at Raw in the Bayswater hotel, La Suite West. “Naturally, the menu here is made up of vegan, dairy-free and raw dishes, including kale and orange salad. Gradually, other restaurants are identifying a gap in the market for those with dietary requirements and/or preferences,” says Heartland. He adds, “There is still a limited choice within the capital for actual restaurants that offer this cuisine, but people are becoming more specific when it comes to dining out.” So what is it that is driving the city’s gastronomical culture into the spotlight? Perhaps it’s the desire for something new, bold, exciting – something that makes dining not just a formality but also a true experience. After all, eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures… why not celebrate it?