London

How to get the inside track on London’s best new openings

Make friends with the maitre d', and buy the barman a drink

We all have that one friend who, no matter how many magazines you consume, still manages to know about the hottest openings in town months before you. How do they do it? Well, most likely through relationships with well-placed industry types. One thing I know from my time at concierge app Velocity Black is that it’s all about knowing ‘connectors’, the people who have the inside track on who is opening where and when; roles in each establishment that are the key to unlocking the city’s most valuable social currency: insider knowledge.

First, the chef, who is often the body and soul of the operation from its inception – and the first to know about a new project before the lease has been signed. Rohit Ghai has been at the forefront of the hottest Indian openings for the past five years, including Gymkhana, Trishna and Jamavar; his latest, Kutir, has just opened in a quaint Chelsea townhouse and serves a modern Indian menu. The next time you go for a meal, request a kitchen tour. Chefs rarely turn these down and they’re a great opportunity to build a relationship with someone whose work you admire – and get the skinny on their next move.

‘Don’t forget, today’s kitchen porter is tomorrow’s Michelin-starred chef’

The lifeblood of many of London’s trendiest hotels and restaurants is the bar, pumping tunes, drinks and atmosphere into the venue. The Ladder Shed at Chiltern Firehouse immediately comes to mind, but also Waeska at the Mandrake, which has quickly become a new hotspot for post-dinner drinks. Andrew Pengelly (Coya’s former bar manager) is Mr Hospitality here. Always welcoming and perennially dressed as if he’s about to get married, his network spreads across several continents thanks to a decade of experience. If you want to befriend a bar manager, my tip is to pull up a bar stool and offer to buy them a shot of their favourite spirit, which they’ll love after a night on their feet making drinks for others (side note: for Pengelly, that’s a snifter of Don Julio 1942).

Top-end restaurateurs know that the right maitre d’ makes all the difference in attracting the best crowd to the all-important opening week of a new restaurant. Lincoln Hall (or Linc) has one of the freshest and most influential black books in London. The former Novikov and StreetXO team member is now welcoming guests at Gordon Ramsay’s latest opening, Lucky Cat on Grosvenor Square. Forget booking months in advance, get to know the maitre d’ and you’ll be on the only list that matters. The more they see you there, they more they’ll recognise you as one of their regulars – and the quicker you’ll be in his or her little black book.

One final thing: it never hurts to be polite and make relationships wherever you go in hospitality. Never forget that today’s kitchen porter is tomorrow’s Michelin-starred chef, and if in doubt, you can always sign up to Velocity Black – we’ve done the hard work for you already.

Alex Macdonald is co-founder of concierge app Velocity Black and will see you at the soft opening, velocity.black