Award sponsored by Tripleseat

Opening of the Year

Bouchon Racine

Clerkenwell, London

Opening of the Year

Making its debut on this year’s list at number five, it’s little surprise that Henry Harris’ latest project has been named as the Opening of the Year 2023.

Inspired by the bouchons of Lyon and the bistros of Paris, Bouchon Racine marks the return proper for Harris and his much-loved Racine restaurant that disappeared from Knightsbridge almost a decade ago. In the intervening years the chef went on to do numerous projects, including at a number of pubs, but this time round his focus is firmly on what he does best - gutsy Gallic food that has you coming back for more.

Menus at Bouchon Racine are chalked up every day, but stalwarts such as the steak tartare; escargots; and creme caramel with armagnac prune are seldom unavailable. As is true of many a French-leaning establishment, vegetarians are not particularly well catered for, but meat eaters will have a different struggle on their hands, namely whether to choose the grilled veal chop with roquefort butter; the rabbit with mustard sauce; or the confit de canard - a problem that can only be solved by visiting the restaurant en masse.

What is most charming about Bouchon Racine is the manner in which it has come about. Harris and business partner Dave Strauss, who has worked at restaurant groups including Rockfish and Goodman, opened the restaurant on a shoestring, without the employment of a PR machine to launch it and with much of the refurb done themselves (the original Racine sign was salvaged and now takes pride of place on the wall).

The downstairs pub Three Compasses remains just that, a boozer for the after-work crowd, while the upstairs restaurant feels like a secret dining room (albeit a terribly kept secret) that whisks you away from London to the back streets of France.

Bouchon Racine is proof that you don’t need to be a polished fine dining restaurant with a large budget to set London’s vibrant and highly competitive restaurant scene alight. You just need to be brilliant.