Looking for famous places to eat in London? We’ve pulled together a little list of the capital’s most notable restaurants, from establishments run by famous (or sometimes infamous) chefs, to historic landmarks and restaurants that have been serving up good food for centuries.
London being the giant sprawling metropolis that it is, it’s no surprise that these streets are home to more than a few famous restaurants. Londoners have needed feeding for many centuries and there are a handful of restaurants - the likes of Rules and Wiltons - that have been around for most of that time, staying true to the comforting stodge of old school British pies and puds. The few of these that are still going are well worth a visit, not just for the novelty of stepping back in time, but also for the excellent food.
Other restaurants have been put on the map by their famous patrons. Hotels like The Ritz and The Savoy have made a reputation through housing famous actors, artists, musicians and politicians over the years, hiding them from the flashes of paparazzi cameras and the outside world. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely not escaped the steady stream of celebrities pictured heading in and out of Marylebone’s Chiltern Firehouse.
Last but not least of the iconic restaurants London has to offer, are the trailblazers - the likes of St John Smithfield, and The River Cafe. These are restaurants that have influenced generations, originally charting the course that we see British food on today. You can’t discuss iconic London restaurants without talking about St John’s whitewashed walls, or the ‘less is more’ style of The River Cafe.
So, whatever you’re looking for in a famous London restaurant, we’ve got a range of suggestions below that are worth checking out.
The Ritz, Mayfair
What: Perhaps London’s most iconic address after Buckingham Palace, The Ritz is, without doubt, one of the most famous restaurants in London. It’s a testament to exec chef John Williams that it has remained relevant for so long and in our opinion, the food is as good as it has ever been, matched by peerless service and arguably, the most spellbinding dining room in the capital.
Where: 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR
Book now: The Ritz
The Wolseley, St James's
What: The Wolseley is 20 years old now, but this magnificent Piccadilly landmark is so woven into London’s restaurant fabric, it feels as though it has been here forever. From high vaulted ceilings to pitch-perfect service and regular celeb-spotting, The Wolseley is one of the most popular restaurants in London with good reason, and it’s open all day, seven days a week, so there’s really no bad time to visit.
Where: 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB
Book now: The Wolseley
The Savoy Grill, Covent Garden
What: Another of London’s many ‘places to be seen’, The Savoy Grill was a famous celeb-haunt of the 1900s as the hotel was well-known for discretion, whisking celebs aways from the public eye. Not just popular with actors, artists and musicians, Sir Winston Churchill was also a regular guest, and the Grill has plenty of food history too, as the kitchen was once home to legendary French trailblazer Auguste Escoffier.
Where: Strand, WC2R 0EU
Book now: The Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay
Le Gavroche, Mayfair
What: In hindsight, Le Gavroche really was the beginning of London’s evolution into one of the best food cities in the world - Albert and Michel Roux’s unyielding commitment to top quality produce and French technique opened the door to what could be achieved in London, and the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White have cooked here over the years. Le Gavroche has modernised a little under Michel Roux Jr but the cosy dining room and comforting cooking remains faithful to the Roux family legacy.
Where: 43 Upper Brook Street, W1K 7QR
Book now: Le Gavroche
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Chelsea
What: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s famous foul-mouthed patron automatically qualifies it for this list, but dare we forget, Royal Hospital Road has been famous for a long time. Before Ramsay, this site was equally lauded as the home of Pierre Koffmann’s legendary La Tante Claire.
Where: 68 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HP
Book now: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone
What: A modern London icon, Chiltern Firehouse was the restaurant on everyone’s lips in the 2010s, famed for the constant stream of A to Z-list celebrities who would appear on its tables for a bite of a crab doughnut. The buzz has died down a bit these days, but it matters not - everyone has heard of Chiltern Firehouse.
Where: 1 Chiltern Street, W1U 7PA
Book now: Chiltern Firehouse
Quo Vadis, Soho
What: Quo Vadis has quite a history - this icon of Soho flamboyance and indulgence has had former lives as a brothel and as home to Karl Marx, before the likes of Marco Pierre White and Jeremy Lee brought it to prominence as one of the most popular restaurants in London.
Where: 26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
Book now: Quo Vadis
The Ivy, Covent Garden
What: The Ivy’s West End proximity made it popular with actors in its early days (Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward were all regulars) but it wasn’t until 1989 when The Ivy really became the restaurant it is today. Another Corbin & King masterstroke, the genius restaurateurs made The Ivy into the place to be in the early 90s.
Where: 1-5 West Street, WC2H 9NQ
Book now: The Ivy
Rules, Covent Garden
What: London’s oldest restaurant serves up quintessential Britishness at every turn, from the top-hatted doormen to the menu, which seems largely unchanged in over 200 years. If you’re after a taste of London's famous food, Rules always has quality pies on the menu (including a proper steamed steak and kidney with oyster).
Where: 35 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7LB
Book now: Rules
St John Smithfield, Farringdon
What: St John had already made waves when it opened in October 1994, mainly for having the gall to drag people out to the wastelands of Smithfield and charge them for a braised carrot with aioli. Some years later, the late great Anthony Bourdain would stumble upon Henderson and Gulliver’s masterful, era-defining style and proclaim it his favourite restaurant in the world, making St John an overnight worldwide icon.
Where: 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
Book now: St John Smithfield
The River Cafe, Hammersmith
What: Notable for its enduring influence and the endless list of great chefs who have cut their teeth in the kitchens, The River Cafe is right up there in a pantheon of London’s most important restaurants. The indelible marks of River Cafe culture are clear to see in restaurants all over the UK, as three generations of chefs are applying those lessons to their menus. It remains a glorious place to eat, too.
Where: Rainville Road, W6 9HA
Book now: The River Cafe
Dinner by Heston, Knightsbridge
What: Perhaps not as famous as The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston makes the list thanks to the worldwide appeal of namesake and patron Heston Blumenthal, as well as the recognisable quality of its smoke and mirrors dining. The meat fruit, for example (a liver pate disguised as a mandarin) is arguably one of London’s most famous dishes.
Where: 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
Book now: Dinner by Heston
If you're looking for something a little weirder and further from the beaten path, these quirky restaurants in London may surprise and delight. Or, check out our definitive list of cool and trendy restaurants in London, which includes all the hottest trailblazing places to eat in the capital.