This article is part of a guide to London from FT Globetrotter
“Fusion is a term that no longer has meaning,” French celebrity chef Cyril Lignac wrote to me from Paris, describing the concept behind his Mayfair outpost Bar des Prés with its marked Japanese and French references. His feelings about the 1990s restaurant buzzword, since fallen out of favour, are nothing new in the culinary world, and far from isolated: Washington DC-based chef Tim Ma, of the now closed Asian-French restaurant Kyirisan, used to instruct his staff to never, under any circumstances, ever describe their food as fusion; Daikaya chef Katsuya Fukushima once said that he preferred to describe his creations as “freestyle . . . kind of like how jazz musicians can get together and jam”; and Washingtonian food editor Jessica Sidman likened the term to the culinary world’s F-word.
If it’s true that, as explained by food historian and Parma university professor Alberto Grandi, the most authentic kind of Parmesan cheese can now only be found in Wisconsin, that carbonara pasta was invented by American soldiers during the second world war, and that there is no such thing as a starter outside of France, all those hoping to neatly catalogue cuisines within national borders — and the mix thereof — should give up. “All food is fusion in a city like London,” says the co-founder of Angelina, a Japanese-Italian eatery in Dalston.
While categorising any food as fusion is dated, there are a host of new eateries in London leaving the now-unfashionable ’90s approach behind in favour of a creative and thoughtful new take on the F-word. Long gone are the days of dishes such as ramen burgers, Thai red curry risotto and Brussels sprout sushi. Instead, these radical new menus subtly reference established traditions, drawing inspiration from existing recipes and niche ingredients while testing the limits of culinary creativity — and the results are both surprising and exquisite.
As I have our readers’ best interests at heart, I took upon myself the Herculean task of trying many of them for you, so you can