Thanks to its location as the heart of government, there’s rarely a time when all eyes aren’t focused on Westminster. But where to eat around 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament? Subsidised meals for MPs in the Palace of Westminster mean there aren’t as many top restaurants as you might think in this historic corner of central London – but politicians still need somewhere to unwind, as well as to cook up all manner of intrigue. Read on to find out which Westminster restaurants get our vote.
Words: Ben McCormack
Aster 150 Victoria Street, SW1E 5LB
If you’re after a decent breakfast in Westminster but don’t want to eat in a hotel, you’ll have to wander a little further west to the shiny new Nova development, where you’ll find this Scandi-style D&D London restaurant and café. Executive chef Helena Puolakka hails from Finland, so expect cinnamon buns, ligonberry mousse and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on rye bread.
Blue Boar Conrad London St James Hotel, 22-28 Broadway, SW1H 9LQ
Set right in the heart of Westminster, this hotel restaurant has a clubby demeanour enhanced by subdued lighting, dark woodwork, chocolate-brown leather seating and thick patterned carpets. The British menu follows suit, offering plates of old-school comfort – smoked kippers, omelette Arnold Bennett – plus avocado on toast with poached eggs to prove that this is the 21st century.
Quirinale 1 Great Peter Street, SW1P 3LL
Elegant Quirinale has all the trappings that suited-and-booted Westminster lobbyists and government flunkies appreciate: discreet service, a traditional Italian menu and a kitchen that always delivers. A huge skylight floods the basement dining room at lunchtime, while the short menu of classics makes time-pressed ordering easy: think beef carpaccio or veal cutlet Milanese.
Rex Whistler Tate Britain, Millbank, SW1P 4RG
A restaurant as full of culture and character as any exhibit in the glorious Tate Britain, this aptly named eatery comes wrapped in a full-size Whistler mural depicting a hunt for mythical rare meats. Typical lunch dishes might include a carefully assembled heritage tomato salad or slow-cooked beef, while a brilliantly curated wine list is priced for enjoyment rather than mere admiration.
Quilon 41 Buckingham Gate, SW1E 6AF
Shell motifs and an undulating wave-like ceiling point up the maritime theme at this serene Michelin-starred South Indian specialist. Seafood is the undoubted high point of the menu, and dishes such as crab cakes gently spiced with curry leaves, ginger and chilli or giant juicy shell-on prawns cooked in an onion, tomato and coconut masala are well worth a trip across town.
Shepherd’s of Westminster Marsham Court, Marsham Street, SW1P 4LA
Keeping the Westminster cogs lubricated since 1993, this discreet British restaurant and bar is a classy choice for business lunches, grown-up dinners and political intriguing. Some tables feature high screens (perfect for secret powwows), but ample windows and light-coloured walls prevent an oppressive atmosphere. Dishes such as Cornish cod with cockles are reasonably priced and satisfying.
Tozi 8 Gillingham Street, SW1V 1HJ
Wedged between the tourist honeypots of Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, SW1 is not the cheapest of postcodes, but order with restraint at Tozi and the bill needn’t make you wince. Pick of the Italian tapas are pizzette topped with Taleggio, mushrooms and sausage, plus an elegant salad of asparagus and quail’s egg with black truffle.
Worth paying a bit more for
Roux at Parliament Square 1 Great George Street, SW1P 3AD
Michel Roux Jnr might be the figurehead, but the kitchen of this Roux outpost is headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals winner Michael Groves, whose cooking is beyond reproach. Sit in the bar over cocktails or a glass of fizz before joining the corporate types and lobbyists in the dining room for the whole caboodle, including unmissable confit suckling pig scented with star anise.
The Cinnamon Club The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU
The wood panelling and book-lined walls of the Old Westminster Library are the comfortable backdrop for some seriously classy dining at this famous Indian. As befits a restaurant of this grandeur, the menu is well stocked with luxury ingredients – Bengali-style lobster thermidor sits alongside tandoori breast of Anjou squab – and the wine list is as impressive as the cooking.
Caxton Grill St Ermin's Hotel, 2 Caxton Street, SW1H 0QW
This hotel restaurant’s terrace is a rare outdoor oasis in Westminster and overlooks a tree-lined courtyard. Nibble on a sharing box of finger food (the hotel has a roof garden growing fruits, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen) or a light-bites bar menu of crowd-pleasers like burrata cheese and plum tartar crisp breads, while sipping on a crisp Côtes du Rhône.
Equus Bar The Royal Horseguards, 2 Whitehall Court, SW1A 2EJ
Set in what was the Secret Service’s WWII HQ, Equus pays homage to cavalrymen (not Peter Shaffer’s dark play), and its three comfortable rooms are bedecked with various heroic wall hangings. Well-made cocktails are named after past guests: a Manhattan-style Gladstone, say, or Negroni-style George Bernard Shaw.
Zander 45 Buckingham Gate, SW1E 6BS
One of the longest bars you’re likely to encounter, Zander attracts swarms of thirsty commuters and hotel guests with its mix of stainless steel, futuristic padded purple sofas, subdued lighting and comfy little nooks – perfect for a business tête-à-tête or sly assignation. Sit at the bar, admire the rows of spirits, and enjoy premier treatment from courteous staff who mix classic cocktails.
If you want to see all that Westminster has to offer, check out our list of the best restaurants in Westminster, or if you’re looking to explore further afield, have a look at our guides to Chelsea and Clerkenwell.
This article was published 7 June 2017