Decades ago, Britain—and London in particular—wasn’t known as a foodie destination. But over the past 10 years, things have changed on the U.K. food scene. Now, New York City is the beneficiary of this culinary evolution, excitement, and recent global expansion.
This year, four British imports between Midtown and downtown Manhattan are garnering a lot of attention from aficionados far and wide. Whether classical European/British or Asian fusion cuisine, there is a restaurant for everyone’s taste.
Bluebird London recently opened at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and Queensyard at Hudson Yards, both serving up English-tinged fare, while Wild Ink (also at Hudson Yards) offers an East-meets-West menu. The hotly anticipated British steakhouse favorite Hawksmoor is set to debut stateside this fall in the historic United Charities Building in Gramercy. Its cofounder and CEO, Will Beckett, has been trying to bring the restaurant and cocktail bar to New York since 2014 (there are eight locations in the U.K.). “We’ve had a love affair with the city for well over a decade now…as tourists, then as restaurateurs looking for inspiration, and now as people who spend a lot of time here,” Beckett says. “The idea that in a few months we’ll be a part of what makes the city’s restaurant scene tick is really exciting for us.”
Bogdan Danila, executive chef at Queensyard and Bluebird, both operated by London-based restaurant group D&D, thinks “there is a need in the New York market for sexy British restaurants with great food, service, and also a bar scene. New Yorkers, in my opinion, love the European restaurant vibe; however, the majority of the great restaurants here are French or Italian.” At Bluebird, an offshoot of a beloved King’s Road eatery in London, classic dishes like Dover sole (flown in daily), beef Wellington (an elegant substitute for a classic roast), and London gin-cured salmon (from Nova Scotia) get a modern spin. Queensyard’s desserts include English favorites like sticky toffee pudding, Jammy Dodgers (shortbread filled with jam), and Eton mess (a trifle).
Wild Ink, from U.K.-based restaurant group Rhubarb, is Asian-inspired but ever evolving thanks to its innovative chefs, who are constantly traveling and concocting new flavor profiles. Sharing is strongly encouraged with such crowd-pleasers as shrimp and bacon siu mai, lobster and shrimp har gow, a braised short rib for two, and Japanese risotto.
Hospitality group D&D is known for opening restaurants in up-and-coming neighborhoods like Kings Cross and Battersea Power Station in London, so the new development of Hudson Yards made sense. “I felt, particularly in the context of Brexit, that our business was too focused on London and the U.K.,” says D&D’s chairman, Des Gunewardena, who was considering expansion overseas when real estate developer Related approached him about Hudson Yards. “We were enormously excited about the project’s boldness and scale.” With cultural attractions, a hotel, shopping, and bustling offices, Hudson Yards is busy day and night, making it an ideal hub for good restaurant offerings—as is Time Warner Center, while an older development. “We had looked at many sites in New York over several years but felt that Hudson Yards is incomparable,” says Rhubarb CEO P.B. Jacobse.
The 1893 Gramercy building with 30-foot ceilings that will house Hawksmoor is being reimagined by British design and architecture studio Macaulay Sinclair. “We’re putting a lot of time and money into trying to restore it to its rightful state and building a restaurant in it that is sensitive to its surroundings,” Beckett says. The menu will be similar to those of its U.K. counterparts, but with a twist. Beckett’s team has been meeting with cattle ranchers in the U.S. who are doing innovative things and don’t sell to many New York restaurants. “That’s what we love—finding the best ingredients and cooking them simply but perfectly.” Clearly, these restaurateurs are coming to New York City to do just that.