Counter culture

picture of Barrafina

News that Brighton’s 64 Degrees – popular with local cognoscenti (and Marina O’Laughlin) – was bringing its ‘social dining’ concept to London got us thinking. Haven’t we seen that kitchen-counter-seating-with-chef-interaction idea somewhere before? It’s not that the idea is anything really new – plenty of London classics who have offered this voyeuristic vantage point to diners for years now. Here are some of London’s best kitchen counters…

 

Tried and tested…

Barrafina W1 and WC2

£41

“The best tapas bar in London”… “possibly the world!”; “it’s worth the hour’s wait” to nab a perch at this tiny (23-seat) and “too busy” Soho phenomenon, where there’s an “intimacy” to having “incredible” dishes “entertainingly prepared” before your very eyes.

Fay Maschler at the Evening Standard has just awarded the new Covent Garden Barrafina a five-star review.

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J Sheekey Oyster Bar WC2

£63

It’s “pure gastronomic theatre” to grab a high stool in the Theatreland legend’s “less formal” bar – many reporters prefer its combination of “real glamour” and “divine, simple but perfect seafood” to the full -blown experience next door.

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Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs W1

£91

“My most exciting restaurant experience in years!” – enter via the hot dog place to eat at this horseshoe-shaped chef’s table (19 seats), where James Knappett and his “brilliantly choreographed” chefs deliver a “stunning” 12-14 course dinner that’s “full of invention”, with wines from the “passionate” sommelier.

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picture of Palomar

The Palomar W1

£38

Serving “the food of modern day Jerusalem” this quirky spot is clearly not your typical newcomer. Handily located near Piccadilly Circus, a characterful and upbeat dining bar/restaurant bringing refreshing modern Israeli cuisine to the heart of the West End.

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Zuma Sushi Counter and Robata Grill SW7

£80

“WAGs and men with mortgageable wrist watches” help power the “great vibe” at this “sexy” Knightsbridge canteen; “although the people-watching is enjoyable”, though, it’s “quickly forgotten” with the arrival of “divine” Japanese-fusion fare that’s still amongst London’s best.

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picture of Camberwell Arms

Critical darlings…

Camberwell Arms SE5

With involvement from those behind the Anchor & Hope and The Canton Arms, there’s some pedigree to this new Camberwell gastroboozer; Michael Davies of Peckham summertime spot Franks Cafe heads up things in the kitchen.

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Chiltern Firehouse W1

The new restaurant in high-profile NYC hotelier André Balaz’s long awaited Marylebone hotel has Nuno Mendes from Viajante heading up the kitchen – since opening it’s become something of a smash hit.

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Just opened…

Merchants Tavern EC2

In a former apothecary, a new restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, from Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick. In June they announced the launch of their new kitchen counter where diners can perch to watch the chefs at work, you even have direct access to the kitchen and ‘be part of the actions through service’ (whatever that means).

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picture of Arabica

Arabica SE1

The Arabica Spice and Food Company bring their first permanent restaurant to Borough Market. Grab a bar stool and watch chef James Walters and his team at work turning out beautifully presented salads, top notch humous and grilling up flatbreads, halloumi and meats.

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And look out for…

64 Degrees SW1

Chef Michael Bremner brings his particular brand of ‘social dining’ to the Artist Residence boutique hotel in Pimlico this September. Like the Brighton original this restaurant will focus on counter dining and a daily changing menu of small, sharing plates.

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StreetXO W1

Highly regarded Madrid chef David Muñoz is set to open a Mayfair street-food operation, now pushed back till the end of the year – we’re told to expect an open kitchen and ‘diner interaction’.

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