Food & Drink

Three Michelin-starred restaurants that do things differently

Forget white tablecloths and uptight service. These foodie destinations are sociable, sophisticated and surprisingly relaxed

Michelin-starred dining is special for a whole host of reasons. Of course, say ‘Michelin Star’ to anyone and it conjures up certain images: white tablecloths, impeccable service, delicious food – the crème de la crème of formal dining experiences. It’s the way to eat when you want to treat a friend, impress a date or woo a prospective client. But, does a Michelin starred venue spring to mind for a Saturday night with the gang, looking for a good time? We thought not.

Even so, there’s a new breed of Michelin-starred restaurant emerging in London that’s set on doing things differently. Informal and uber-contemporary, these are some of the most exciting foodie spots to try out in the capital right now. As well as sumptuous food, they offer innovation, surprise and a distinctly sociable atmosphere. These are the places to book for your next free weekend. Go for a unique – and entertaining – culinary experience.

Michelin-starred restaurants

LIMA, Fitzrovia

When LIMA opened in 2012, it had no grand pretensions. Instead, co-founders Gabriel Gonzalez, Jose-Luis Gonzalez and Virgilio Martínez Véliz set out to create a ‘fun and casual’ restaurant to introduce an all-new cuisine – Peruvian food – to London. So when they were awarded a Michelin star in 2013, and every year since, they were surprised to say the least.

Now, to recgonise how dining trends have evolved in recent years, head chef Robert Ortiz has formulated a new, more accessible menu with dishes designed for sharing among friends. Building on their Peruvian roots, they’ve created a selection of small plates intended to be eaten by hand, such as rocoto crisps served with beef, prawn or artichoke tartare.

The sharing dishes showcase highlights of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, like the salmon tiradito ceviche with green rocoto chilli paste. They’ve also added dishes like pachamanca – a traditional Peruvian beef dish marinated in spices and baked with hot stones – to their big plates menu. According to Jose-Luis, they decided to make LIMA’s offering purposefully more informal rather than ‘simply constricting diners to a starter, main and dessert format.’ It’s a great way to experience all the culinary gems Peru has to offer, without any stuffiness whatsoever.

Menu launches 18 April,

Yauatcha, Soho

Since it opened in 2004, Michelin-starred Yauatcha has been wowing Londoners with some of the best dim sum outside China. Nestled in the backstreets of Soho, the restaurant styles itself as a contemporary Chinese tea house, with a wide range of Cantonese dim sum on the menu, alongside a great selection of tea. It also hosts a renowned patisserie, which combines European and Asian flavours in an epic array of macarons, pastries and sweet creations.

The decor is clean and contemporary, with low chairs and tables for a nod to traditional Chinese dining, and tanks of exotic fish on the walls. Like most dim sum restaurants, the choice is vast, but you’re in safe hands here. The ‘Dim Sum’ set menu, for two people, is a great place to start, featuring four different types of dumplings, plus soup, fried chili leaf, pak choi and a selection of desserts. Or you could go off-piste and order what takes your fancy from the extensive menu: the wagyu beef puffs are supposed to be exceptional. Whatever you decide on, it’s safe to say it’ll be exceptionable – and ideal for sharing with friends.

Michelin-starred restaurants

Kitchen Table, Fitzrovia

Ever wanted to see how chefs really create their immaculate dishes? Then Kitchen Table is for you. The restaurant, which opened in 2012 and was awarded its star in 2014, offers up a luxurious dining experience that’s not short on spectacle. They’ve done away with the traditional table set-up, and instead, 20 diners sit at the service counter on luxe leather stools – the front row to a polished culinary performance.

Head chef James Knappett, who formerly cooked at Noma and Per Se, creates a set menu of 12 courses, which changes daily and features meticulously sourced and foraged British ingredients. Diners can watch Knappett and his team prepare the dishes, and are talked through the process as it happens. The accompanying wine list is created by Knappett’s wife, business partner and sommelier Sandia Chang, who personally selects lesser-known fine wines and champagnes from small producers for the restaurant’s cellar. Remarkably, Kitchen Table is also the sister restaurant to a very different culinary experience: Bubbledogs, the popular, informal champagne and hot dog spot that’s run by Chang, which Kitchen Table shares a building with. You couldn’t get less silver service than that.