While we wouldn’t go so far as to say that a tasting menu is the gourmet equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet, the opportunity to try as much of a top chef’s cooking as possible is an offer that we find hard to turn down.
Tasting menus – typically five or more courses, though some restaurants offer upwards of 20 – are a true showcase of a chef’s talent. Not only do they tend to offer a restaurant’s signature dishes shrunk down to what is usually a starter-size portion, a great tasting menu will offer a carefully balanced selection of textures and flavours and usually a strong emphasis on visual impact.
What’s more, a tasting menu should feel like a harmonious progression, from the taste of the first amuse bouche (ideally sampled with a glass of Champagne) to the final bite of petit-four taken with coffee. What a tasting menu should never do is leave you so stuffed that you feel ill; rather, a sense of satisfied repletion is the aim.
Michelin restaurants are always a good call and two-starred Claude Bosi at Bibendum, Helene Darroze at The Connaught, Core by Clare Smyth and The Ledbury are all good introductions to the ceremony of the tasting menu.
Wine specifically chosen to match each course is another pleasure of the tasting menu, which can be a real eye-opener for trying grape varieties and styles you may never have considered before but which become a firm favourite (tip: no one will will mind if you take a photo of the label when the sommelier presents you with the bottle).
Most of the restaurants below offer tasting menus with wine pairings, but a particular mention should go to The Greenhouse, home to one of the best-stocked cellars in the world.
Nor are tasting menus solely a showcase for foie gras and luxurious meat and fish these days. Indian Accent, for instance, offers vegan and gluten-free tasting menus, while chef Alexis Gauthier aims to turn his Soho fine-dining restaurant entirely vegan in the next few years.
So whether you want the traditional Michelin-starred tasting menu, a vegan or gluten-free version or even a multi-course, fine-dining Chinese or Japanese menu, read on for our list of the best tasting menus that London restaurants have to offer.
A Wong, Pimlico
What: Andrew Wong is famous for his lunchtime dim sum but he also offers a ‘Taste of China’ menu at A. Wong, which is the best way to get a flavour of the chef’s travels through his parents’ homeland that inspired him to open his restaurant. Allow three hours to work your way though everything from cured scallop with stuffed crab claw and wasabi to poached meringue with fruit textures.
How much: 14 courses, £108
Where: 70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE
What: Gary Foulkes was head chef of Mayfair’s much-missed The Square in its Phil Howard heyday, so knows a thing or two about constructing a tasting menu which pleases from beginning to end. Expect a thorough exploration of all things seafood at Angler in the likes of Cornish mackerel tartare, raw Orkney scallop, cured hamachi and Newlyn cod, with a meat course thrown in for good measure.
How much: Eight courses, £100 (£200 with matching wines)
Where: South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
Claude Bosi at Bibendum, Chelsea
What: The stunning surrounds of the former HQ of Michelin tyres, with its high ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows of the Michelin man, make a suitably on-theme setting for some stunning two-Michelin-starred cooking at Bibendum. Claude Bosi pays homage to his French roots in the likes of cod a la grenobloise, French veal sweetbreads and Brittany rabbit.
How much: Eight courses, £185 (matching wines £115 extra)
Where: Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, SW3 6RD
The Clove Club, Shoreditch
What: Tasting menus aren’t just something that you’ll find in west London; The Clove Club’s 2013 opening proved that east London was just as much a foodie force to be reckoned with as Mayfair or Chelsea. Every dish here seems more experimental than the last (think hay-smoked sea trout tartare in pink fir soup). A shorter six-course menu is served early in the week and at lunch.
How much: Ten courses, £145 (matching wines £145 extra)
Where: Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, EC1V 9LT
Core by Clare Smyth, Notting Hill
What: SquareMeal’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year, Core by Clare Smyth, offers two tasting menus: the regularly changing Core Seasons and, for first timers or super fans, Core Classics, which is where you’ll find Smyth’s gob-smackingly good signature dishes such as the potato and roe, and lamb carrot. Go in a pair and order one menu each so you get to try both.
How much: Seven courses, £115 (matching wines £115 extra)
Where: 93 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN
What: Proof that vegan and fine dining are not mutually exclusive concepts, the tasting menus at Gauthier Soho are a showcase for chef Alexis Gauthier’s eye-opening spins on the potential of vegetables to take centre stage, with plenty of theatre such as carrot tartare minced like steak at the table. If you can’t imagine a meal without animal protein, there’s a meat and fish tasting menu, too.
How much: Nine courses, £80 (vegan £70)
Where: 21 Romilly Street, W1D 5AF
Helene Darroze at The Connaught, Mayfair
What: French chef Helene Darroze’s two Michelin-starred dining room in The Connaught has been through several menu incarnations over the years but a 2019 refurb has finally made Darroze’s vision feel at home in London’s loveliest old-school hotel. Expect classic French ingredients (many from the chef’s native Landes) spiced up with subtle Asian influences.
How much: Five courses, £120 (matching wines from £98 extra); seven courses, £160 (matching wines from £140 extra)
Where: The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
Hide Above, Mayfair
What: You can now order a la carte at Hide’s fine-dining first floor but the tasting menu remains the best way to get the most out of Ollie Dabbous’ thrilling reinterpretation of British ingredients, though make sure that you’ve blocked out at least three hours for the experience. Don’t miss the signature ‘nest egg’ presented on a bed of hay.
How much: Five courses, £110 (matching wines £80 extra); eight courses, £140 (matching wines from £105 extra)
Where: 85 Piccadilly, W1J 7NB
Indian Accent, Mayfair
What: The London outpost of Indian Accent has proved just as much of a success as its siblings in New Delhi and New York, not least because of chef Manish Mehrotra’s clever updating of classic Indian cuisine offered on the tasting menu. The only problem is that the bitesize morsels will leave you wanting more of everything. There are vegan and gluten-free tasting menus, too.
How much: Seven courses, £85 (matching wines £75 extra; matching whiskies from £50)
Where: 16 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HW
What: An unapologetically luxurious experience, Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus ticks all the fine-dining boxes with its Belgravia location, a central wine wall displaying the titular Bordeaux chateau and six-course Discovery of Petrus menu. The likes of Cornish cod with brassicas and vadouvan, Devonshire duck with fennel, bitter orange and spiced jus, and lemon parfait with yoghurt, lemon thyme and honey show off the kitchen at its best.
How much: Six courses £120 (matching wines from £110 extra)
Where: 1 Kinnerton Street, SW1X 8EA
Restaurant Story, London Bridge
What: Chef Tom Sellers’ Restaurant Story seemed almost unbearably precious when it launched in 2013 thanks to its big idea of the menu unfolding like a story. Following a 2018 rethink, however, it’s now just a terrific tasting menu on which the inventive flavour combinations and beautiful presentation of the likes of grilled langoustine and black garlic are allowed to speak for themselves.
How much: Seven course £100; nine courses £145
Where: 199 Tooley Street, SE1 2JX
Sake No Hana, St James’s
What: You’d expect a Japanese restaurant owned by Hakkasan to be a glamorous proposition but the food is just as important as dressing up at Sake No Hana. A multi-course omakase menu is served at 7pm each night to only six diners; ‘omakase’ means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’ in Japanese and is the opportunity for the chef to put a creative spin on whichever ingredients are at their peak each day, complete with a tea ceremony.
How much: £135 (matching sakes £45 extra)
Where: 23 St James’ Street, SW1A 1HA
What: If you’re looking for good value when it comes to a tasting menu, you’ll struggle to find many better than that on offer at chef James Cochran’s Islington restaurant 12:51. For just £35 you will get five courses which show off Cochran’s experimental yet precise style of cooking. Playful dishes on the menu include treats such as a savoury take on a cherry Bakewell tart, which sees light chicken liver parfait pumped on top of a sharp cherry gel, and Cochran's signature jerk buttermilk fried chicken with scotch bonnet chilli jam. The added bonus here is that on midweek days (Tues-Thurs), you can also bring your own booze too!
How much: £35
Where: 107 Upper Street, N1 1QN
Can't get enough of fine dining? Here's every Michelin-stared restaurant in London.