FtLion Awards 2017: Best Newcomers of the Year?

After the #FtLionAwards 2017 Best Kebab of the Year (sponsored by Smoky Boys BBQ & Grill Haus), we continue with the Best Newcomer of the Year category.

After much debate and dialogue, we’ve shortlisted the following six nominees.

And while you consider these budding new restaurants, remember that not only can you also vote for your favourite on our Instagram and Facebook pages, but in doing so you’ll automatically be entered in our prize draw with the chance of winning a £30 voucher to be spent at any of Smoky Boys three locations – Watford, Amersham and Hounslow.

SHORTLIST – Best Newcomers of the Year

We want you to either: 1) vote for the following nominees, or 2) let us know both your favourite newcomer, all on our Facebook and/or Instagram pages.

CHAI NAASTO

FtL Awards 2017 Halal Newcomer of the Year

After a successful first year in Beckenham that brought them Open Table’s 2016 Diner’s Choice award, Chai Naasto brought the streets of India to the streets of Hammersmith in West London.

Having opened in April, the place offers a culinary voyage across India, having invested a good amount of time and effort in presenting and selling the concept as effectively as they have; it really does work. As to the food, then, by and large, it succeeds in offering some of the authentic flavours of the streets of India. Its Tawa King Scallops in fact was so good that it’s been nominated for Best Starter of the Year.

However, if we did have a criticism, it would be that they seem to have perhaps made the decision, at least for some dishes, in toning down on the use of the many bold and vibrant spices that represent and epitomise Indian cooking. And we can’t help but think that this might be down to them catering for the local palate. If true, then that’s a real pity, since a number of dishes consequently suffered as a result.

In any case, Chai Naasto received a rating from us of 3.5/5 ROARS.

DRUNCH

FtL Awards 2017 Halal Newcomer of the Year

Drunch second branch in London, which opened in July, is uniquely peculiar in that while it offers a fully Halal food menu, it’s also part gastro-pub and part shisha-lounge.

The majority of the dishes presented by Drunch spoke for themselves both in terms of their execution and taste. Arguably the dishes of the review were the Cumbrian Chicken, which has been nominated for Best Main of the Year, followed close behind by the Herb Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad, which itself has been nominated for Best Starter of the Year.

Nevertheless, there were a few dishes that didn’t quite do it for us, resulting in Drunch scoring a rating closer to four than five. But, with a chef as friendly, welcoming and as evidently talented as Noordin, it’s only a matter of time, given that they’ve only been going for 3-months at this present location, before they do.

With efficient and extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff, Drunch is definitely worth a visit if you’re in and around the iconic Regent’s Park. It was rated 4/5 ROARS.

MESA KITCHEN

FtL Awards 2017 Halal Newcomer of the Year

Mesa Kitchen & Lounge had only been open barely a week before we gave them a visit in Southgate.

What makes this Turkish-inspired restaurant such an exciting prospect is how impressive it was all round, despite having only been open a week. It was obvious that the team behind this restaurant knew exactly what they were doing, from the well-oiled and friendly serving staff, to the quality and execution of much of the food.

After all, it isn’t often that FtL reviews a place only to be confronted by three potential contenders for dishes (Best Kebab and Best Burger of the Year) and beverage of the year.

In all honesty, had it not been for a few poorly executed dishes on the night, Mesa Kitchen would have been looking closer to a 4.5, and perhaps even a 5, as opposed to a 4. It most certainly has the potential that’s for sure. This is an exceptional restaurant that has to be on everyone’s list, particularly those seeking after good burgers and steaks, and was rated 4/5 ROARS.

RICKSHAW RICK'S

FtL Awards 2017 Halal Newcomer of the Year

Rickshaw Rick’s is a relatively new restaurant in Leicester that’s a “global cantina”, or canteen, offering not only an eclectic menu comprising of a number of cuisines from across the world, but one which has evidently inspired the restaurant’s colourfully impressive, multifaceted decor.

The restaurant’s modus operandi is to deliver as friendly and as personable a service as possible. By the end of our visit, we really did feel as though we’d known the staff for ever given how utterly comforable they made us feel. And, as you might have guessed therefore, the delivery of food was speedy and efficient. An extremely well regimented service all round.

What’s more, Rickshaw Rick’s has enough funkiness and unique food options to definitely warrant a visit. They have been nominated for Best Dessert of the Year, and were rated 3.5/5 ROARS by FtL’s Leicester team.

ZHENG

Zheng in Chelsea is a restaurant whose menu, while Malaysian in its roots, focuses on fusion to dish up dishes that are perhaps as eclectic in nature as the famous 14th century Chinese explorer it is named after. Zheng had only been open just over two months when we visited, and so had that fresh feel and newness about it.

While the set up of the place was thoroughly refined and elegant, including impeccable service with all food being served on warm plates where applicable, a few of the dishes didn’t quite match the restaurant’s ostentatious theme.

Having said that though, and despite the Chelsea-inspired prices, there were a few outstanding ones that we’d definitely come back for, including a salad, that’s right a salad, that’s been nominated for Best Starter of the Year.

If you’re looking for Malaysian-Chinese fusion food in fancy surroundings, Zheng Chelsea is the place. It was rated 3.5/5 ROARS by us.

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