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December 27, 2023

The Most Significant Restaurant Openings of 2023

Restaurant of the Week: We look back on our top openings of the year.

By Kim Ayling

It has been an excellent year for restaurant openings. Despite the trials of hospitality – some left over from Covid-19, others blamed on the ever-increasing cost of overheads, and some down to us, the diners (for the love of God, please remember to cancel reservations you can’t make!) – 2023 saw chefs and restaurateurs continue to persevere and continue, for the most part, to put out wonderful plates of food in beautiful settings.

Narrowing down this global bounty of 2023 restaurant openings is no mean feat and this list makes no claims to be exhaustive. It is a collection of new places to eat that have gotten us excited about the joy of dining out – from that first sip of a pre-dinner cocktail to the very last petit four that your stomach physically can’t hold but you gobble it down anyway.

Without further ado, let us introduce you to Elite Traveler’s most significant restaurant openings of 2023. We already can’t wait for next year.

[See also: The Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of 2023]

Lyla, Edinburgh

laungoustine dish at Lyla restaurant
Langoustine with burnt apple ketchup / ©Murray Orr

This list isn’t ranked, but I am putting Stuart Ralston’s latest restaurant, Lyla, right at the top simply because it was my favorite new opening of the year. Run by the team behind Edinburgh hotspots Noto and Aizle (although a marked step up in the fancy scales), Lyla occupies the site of the former 21212 restaurant, run by the late Paul Kitching, in a grand townhouse on the Royal Terrace.

Ralston bills his new opening as seafood-focused, but truly, it is an ode to Scotland and all its wonderful ingredients. I hate picking a favorite dish, but I have been thinking about the Scottish langoustine, wrapped up in its coat of crispy kataifi pastry and served with a dollop of burnt apple ketchup, ever since I ate it back in November. Tasting-menu only and served in a deliciously elegant setting with a type of confidence that makes you question whether it really is a brand new opening, Lyla one of Edinburgh’s most exciting restaurants in years. Surely a star or two is on its way?

Pavyllon, London

Pavyllon London dining room
Pavyllon was one of London’s most anticipated 2023 restaurant openings / ©Pavyllon London

Yannick Alléno’s first UK venture was always going to get heads turning, and fortunately, Pavyllon has so far lived up to weighty expectations. The restaurant opened in July inside the posh halls of Four Seasons Park Lane, bringing with it a very expensive tasting menu and an army of the French chef’s tried and tested techniques. Alléno’s signature ‘badaboum’ is the star of the show – cut into the perfectly poached organic egg and oscietra caviar oozes out.

The space itself is as swanky as you’d expect: Alléno sought the help of long-time collaborator Chahan Minassian, who decked the restaurant out in hues of cream and blue, and plopped in fun counter-top dining to watch the chefs at work in the central open kitchen. 

Iris, Norway

iris restaurant exteriors
Iris is in the middle of a Norwegian lake / ©Tobias Lamberg Torjusen

Normally, going out for dinner means booking a table, going to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, eating a nice meal, then going home again. Dinner at Iris, however, means hopping aboard a boat which whizzes you off to a floating installation in the middle of a Norwegian lake. Conceived by Danish head chef Anika Madsen, Iris opened in June and revolves its whole culinary concept around sustainable food procurement solutions.

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The 18-course menu is presented as a story, a journey through the world’s food system and the challenges it faces. This might sound like the challenge extends to diners too, but while Iris is intended to be an educational experience, Madsen is dead set on the fact that the food should be completely delicious. How novel.

[See also: Rising Stars: The Best Young Chefs in the Michelin Guide]

Aphotic, San Francisco

aphotic restaurant interiors
Aphotic opened in spring / ©Aphotic

Also questioning the way our food system works is Aphotic, which opened in San Francisco in March (with a Michelin star following mere months later). Led by chef Peter Hemsley, previously of SF’s beloved Palette, the seafood-focused restaurant “was born out of necessity” reads the restaurant’s website – a necessity to operate in a sustainable way that works for the good of the oceans, not just those who enjoy its bounty. While Hemsley’s food is focused on locally-sourced fish (the team works directly with regional fishermen), the menu is rooted in Japanese flavors and techniques.

Aphotic’s name – which is derived from an Ancient Greek phrase for ‘without light’ – is artfully brought to life in the restaurant’s interior design. Created by chef Hemsley in collaboration with designer David Middleton, the space is atmospherically dark with black walls and custom walnut woodwork.

Restaurant Mauro Colagreco, London

Mauro Colagreco London
Mauro Colagreco’s first London restaurant inside Raffles London at The OWO / ©Justin De Souza

Raffles at The OWO has been pinpointed as one of London’s most exciting hotel opening in decades, and having the esteemed Mauro Colagreco at the helm of three of its nine restaurants has helped in no small part. Restaurant Mauro Colagreco is by no means an extension of the chef’s three-Michelin-starred, south of France flagship, Mirazur, but it does echo its philosophies: vegetables are king. Yes, there is meat on the menu, but plant-based ingredients are positioned as the star of the show.

The space itself is beautiful, too, of course, with living-room style plush carpets, thick drapes and plump sofas. On a recent visit to Raffles at The OWO (this time to try Saison, another Colagreco outpost), I was very enthusiastically told that the seating had been raised a few inches that day – take that as testament to the attention to detail here. Michelin stars are definitely being sought.

[See also: The Most Expensive Restaurants in London]

Rampoldi, New York City

Rampoldi New York
Rampoldi was one of NYC’s most exciting restaurant openings of 2023 / ©Rampoldi

In September, Antonio Salvatore delighted New Yorkers with the first US opening of his lauded Monaco restaurant, Rampoldi. Every bit as glamorous as the original, Rampoldi is housed within Lincoln Square and inside, every detail is pure opulence: think crisp white tablecloths, hand-cut Rosso Imperiale Italian marble floors, and glittering Murano glass chandeliers. It’s the type of setting where you won’t feel out of place dressed up to the nines.

The menu is lifted direct from the original’s playbook too, with unashamedly rich dishes evoking the principles of classic French fine dining. Don’t miss the baked garlic snails or the prime angus steak drizzled with red wine sauce, black truffle and foie gras.

[See also: Alain Ducasse and Daniel Humm Announce Vegan Four-hands Dinners]

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