The Gannet is a more discerning eater than his name suggests. Just as a wily racegoer analyses the card before placing a bet, I study the form before going out for dinner – my appetite is voracious but not infinite and I have a profound aversion to wasted calories. As New Year beckons, then, here are my most fancied runners in the 2019 London Restaurant Stakes.
As in horseracing, pedigree is crucial. Take Eric Chavot: his culinary bloodline includes Raymond Blanc, Nico Ladenis, Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White. That’s breeding for you. Chavot’s long-awaited, 190-cover Bob Bob Cité, sister restaurant to Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard, launches in “The Cheesegrater” in March. His über‑luxe French cuisine with a touch of Russian will be worthy of a pampered Romanov; the cellar, too, promises to live up to the standards of the Winter Palace, with vintages of Château d’Yquem dating back to 1866.
Neapolitan chef Gennaro Esposito is another class act. I’ve enjoyed meals at both his exquisite two-star Torre del Saracino on the Amalfi Coast, and at the seriously hip IT Ibiza, which opens a London branch in Mayfair in February. Expect sophisticated aperitivi, divinely crisp pizza, intensely sauced pasta, terrific seafood and live DJs.
Chris Corbin and Jeremy King – The Wolseley, Colbert, Fischer’s – also have plenty of form. Their new brasserie, Soutine, opens in St John’s Wood early next year and promises to “reflect the strong artistic heritage of the area”, according to King. And hard on the heels of Tom Kerridge’s new restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel, the hugely talented Michelin-starred André Garrett is returning to London from Cliveden House to run the Corinthia’s Northall restaurant – and, indeed, anything that is not Tom Kerridge’s.
Robin Gill, the hugely talented Irish chef/restaurateur (The Dairy, Sorella), is planning his biggest opening yet in the Embassy Gardens development next to the new US Embassy in Nine Elms. Darby’s (his father’s nickname) promises “Irish-influenced” food, a bakery and a bar/lounge. Gill will also be handling the menu at the Sky Pool, a 25m outdoor pool spectacularly suspended between two of the development’s tower blocks.
Next spring, Jackson Boxer, chef/proprietor of the much-praised St Leonards in Shoreditch, will open Orasay in Notting Hill, in conjunction with his St Leonards and Brunswick House colleague Andrew Clarke. Specialising in seafood flown in daily from Scotland’s Western Isles, where Boxer has spent every summer since childhood, it will accommodate 50 covers in a room decorated with hand-dyed linens and antique wood. Boxer’s pedigree is immaculate: his grandmother is the renowned cookery writer Arabella Boxer, and his father runs Italo, the delightful Vauxhall café/delicatessen. As well as daisy-fresh langoustines, crabs, oysters and razor clams, Orasay will feature fruit, vegetables, eggs and honey from Boxer’s West Sussex organic farm, including, one suspects, apples that haven’t fallen very far from the tree.