Where to eat now: London

London ranks among the best cities in the world for dining. This isn’t new. London’s restaurant scene shed its formerly embarrassing reputation and stepped into the spotlight more than a decade ago and hasn’t left the stage since. Wondering where to eat now? Here are the city’s hottest new restaurants:

You can’t be claustrophobic if you want to dine at Polpetto, which opened in February in Soho. The dining room seats about 32 diners, but if you count the stools at the bar, plus the cramped cocktail tables adjacent the hungry crowd that’s standing in line for chef Florence Knight’s soulful Venetian cuisine, the restaurant accommodates about 60, packed like sardines. The lights are dimmed to almost pure darkness, so it’s almost impossible to distinguish one dish from the next by sight alone. But just inhale: Ah, the aroma of that 2-inch-thick pork chop. Mmm, the headiness of that rabbit ragout tossed with handmade pappardelle. They don’t take reservations, so you can expect a wait, even on a Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Get in line, and make sure to ask the bartender for a Cynar Gin Fizz. 11 Berwick St., 44 (0) 207-439-8627, polpetto.co.uk

Rising star chef Michael Riemenschneider trained under such legendary mentors as Heston Blumenthal, Pierre Gagnaire and Gordon Ramsay, and now he has a kitchen of his own, albeit tiny, where he serves thimble-size portions of crab with cucumber gelée and sous-vide duck breast with charred baby corn and burned (on purpose) raw wild rice. This is currently one of the toughest reservations in London, in part because Canvas can only accommodate 20 customers a night for a choice of multicourse menus. Heads up: Dinner requires a hefty down payment at the time of booking. 69 Marylebone Lane, 44 (0) 207-935-0858, canvasmr.com

Holborn Dining Room
The new Rosewood London in Covent Garden could have opened an extremely posh dining room fit for the queen, and that’s exactly what everyone expected them to do. Instead, in March, the luxury hotel debuted a warm, sprawling British gastropub that aims to trump all others that came before it, with chef Lee Bull at the helm (formerly of The Ivy and Scott’s, upper-crust stalwarts). This is now the hottest place in London for a quintessential Sunday roast. There’s a separate bar for oysters and locally crafted charcuterie. Beware happy hour. This is London, after all. If it’s 5 o’clock, you better grab a stool, and quick. 252 High Holborn, 44 (0) 203-747-8633, holborndiningroom.com

Ember Yard
Ember Yard, which opened in December in Soho, draws inspiration from Spain’s Basque region as well as Italy’s Tuscany. Much of what’s on the menu, including a classic Florence-style bistecca Fiorentina, comes from a massive wood-fired oven or a grill that’s fueled with hazelwood. The Iberico pork cheeks are incredible, served with a sort of butter that’s made with lard. Thick, perfect, hand-cut potatoes are fried in … wait for it … beef fat. 60 Berwick St., 44 (0) 207-439-8057, emberyard.co.uk

Ever since the original Barrafina opened in Soho several years ago, it has consistently been one of the toughest places in London to get into. It’s a matchbox of a place, an authentic Spanish tapas bar with only counter seating overlooking what passes for a kitchen. Octopus and lamb chops compete for space on the grill. Spanish wines flow like water. They don’t take reservations, and there’s always a long line to get in. Not surprisingly, a new branch of Barrafina is opening just a few blocks away in Covent Garden next month. Same size (29 seats). Same concept. Same chefs (Nieves Barragán Mohacho and Jose Etura). 54 Frith St., Soho; 10 Adelaide St., Covent Garden; 44 (0) 207-813-8010, barrafina.co.uk

The Magazine
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Hyde Park (the actual park, not the neighborhood) opened an adjoining café in November in what was originally a 19th-century gunpowder factory, which world-renowned British architect Zaha Hadid has wrapped with a curvy futuristic shell. The young chef everyone is talking about is Oliver Lange, a German with a passion for all things Japanese. Translation: hamachi with rhubarb, yellowfin tuna tempura with cucumber and yuzu, and smoked sea trout with a slow-poached duck egg. Suddenly everyone wants to have brunch in the park. Hyde Park, West Carriage Drive, 44 (0) 207-298-7552, magazine-restaurant.co.uk

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