Eating out with the kids can be trying at the best of times and if your London restaurant of choice isn’t geared up for children’s dining needs then it can be a complete disaster. To avoid any problems when taking the children out for a meal in London, check out SquareMeal’s really helpful guide to the best child friendly restaurants in London. Every one of the Child Friendly restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top Child Friendly restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.
61 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8SU
“Cool but not too expensive”, this casual spot deals in Spanish and Italian food with a “smoky twist”. The two-tiered space is suitably clad in wood, with assorted seating upstairs, more intimate corners and a large bar in the basement. A succinct small-plates menu is great for groups, from Ibérico pork fat chips or smoked burrata with zingy heritage tomatoes to morsels of “wonderfully rich and juicy” hot-smoked Gloucester pork belly served with smoked apple and cider – all given the treatment over single-species charcoal from Kent.
The menu is also peppered with trendy extras such as whipped jamón butter, brown crab alioli and chorizo ketchup, while a range of Spanish lagers and intriguing cocktails (acorn liqueur, anyone?) refresh the palate after all that smoke. Ember Yard delivers the goods, whether you’re after a beer and some buttery barbecued flatbread or a full-on celebration; meanwhile, “enthusiastic staff” add the final gloss to this “smoking” venue.
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11 Langley Street, London, WC2H 9JG
“The best steak in London, by a mile”, declares one reader, and we have to agree. The beefy Hawksmoor chain somehow manages to get everything right, from its glorious 35-day-aged steaks supplied by The Ginger Pig to its creative cocktails – all presented by staff with a genuine passion for service. It's easy to understand why there are now six branches in the capital (and another in Manchester), though this atmospheric site in the old barrel-vaulted Watney Combe Brewery is one of our favourites. Start with Old Spot belly ribs or sweetly caramelised roast scallops with white port and garlic, before taking your pick of the beefy cuts chalked up by weight on blackboards. Perfectly crisp triple-cooked chips, gut-busting macaroni cheese or grilled bone marrow make happy companions, but we urge saving some space for the addictive salted caramel Rolos too. The comfortable bar deals in burgers and lobster rolls as well as brilliant drinks, though between the hours of 3pm and 5pm Monday-Friday, you can dine from the full a la carte menu when booking in advance. Sunday lunch sees roast rump of Longhorn beef with all the trimmings for Sunday lunch. “Great for big groups and for couples”, notes one fan.
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20 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7EU
Once you’ve fought your way through the
cuddly merchandise inside the door, dining at the Rainforest Cafe entails descending into faux undergrowth, past lurking life-size gorillas and giant butterflies with trippy, flapping wings. There’s a long, American-themed menu of salads, BBQ favourites, chilli, noodles and ‘rasta pasta’, alongside a range of cocktails, beers and wines. It’s a huge place, with plentiful staff
who are good on allergies and excellent with tempestuous toddlers (children’s dishes include spaghetti with tomato sauce, dairy-free penne bolognese, meatballs, pizzas and proper jelly and ice cream). With thunder-and-lightning special effects and the occasional monkey cry from overhead, this is brilliant fun for families, office parties and anyone looking for something a bit different.
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50 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9LJ
This cavernous basement beneath the cobbles of Covent Garden has been serving up moules-frites and Belgian beer for years – in fact it’s worth a visit for the boozing opportunities alone. Take
your pick from 8 Trappist brews (including the stonkingly strong Rochefort 10) and 13 fruity offerings alongside blondes, whites, ambers and darks. The mussels come in ten versions, from
traditionelle (steamed with white wine, celery, garlic and onion) to kimchi (spicy Korean style, sweet and sour with Chinese cabbage and grilled chilli pepper), with non-mollusc alternatives including
Belgo Pils battered fish and frites, rotisserie chicken or carbonade and stoemp mash.
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7 Langton Street, London, SW10 0JL
As a “traditional, family-run Italian”, La Famiglia is a proud little vestige of Old Chelsea – a friendly, locals-orientated spot that has been trundling along for nearly 40 years. Blue-and-white tiled interiors channel the spirit of provincial Italy whatever the weather, while the sun-trap terrace is much sought after come summer. Over the decades, the kitchen has watched the culinary whims of the capital come and go, safely rooted in dishes from late founder Alvaro Maccioni’s beloved Tuscany – all ‘cooked the way mama taught us’. First-rate ingredients and Italian knowhow combine in regional classics such as pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), chopped chicken livers with capers and garlic on toast, rigatoni with Gorgonzola sauce, or roasted veal with Swiss chard. For dessert, the kitchen’s fresh fruit platter is a stunner, or you could try one of their creamy confections. Service gets strong reviews and the Italian wine list is fun to explore.
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4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London, E14 5FW
Serving up high glamour among all that bamboo and polished wood, Roka is the antithesis of a modest Japanese restaurant – and that makes it a natural victor among Canary Wharf’s suited-and-booted client-friendly offerings. Readers love the ambience created by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, not to mention the “very attentive service” and consistently top-notch food. The bar specialises in shochu (you can even keep a personalised jar for repeat visits), and there’s a terrace too, but the restaurant would argue that the heart of the operation is the robata grill with its line-up of fire-licked specialities such as sweet potato baked in a bamboo husk or baby back ribs in a spiced ‘master stock’ glaze. Elsewhere, you’ll find well-made modern-day sushi and sashimi, “wonderfully delicious” snacks (black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings, say), and specialities such as cedar-roast baby chicken. If you’re here outside the working week, try the all-inclusive koten brunch.
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187 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZB
Following its success in Beirut, BRGR.CO jumped onto London’s careering burger bandwagon with the launch of this “excellent-value” outlet in Soho. A ‘hall of fame’ comprising ‘cow heads’ created by local artists is a feature of the funky, brick-walled interior, while the burgers are built from 28-day aged Buccleuch beef. They come in three sizes (up to 8oz) and are supplemented by a medium-rare ‘butcher’s cut’ and a couple of veggie alternatives, with five sorts of fries to choose from (‘crunchy’, ‘messy chilli’, parmesan truffle etc). Starters bring sloppy Joes, buttermilk onion stacks and ‘savvy wedge’ salad, while the drinks list touts homemade lemonade with a choice of spirits, plus boozy iced tea, wines and American Huber beer. No bookings, but takeaways and local deliveries should suit deskbound Soho workers; otherwise, Sunday brunch comes with unlimited Bloody Marys.
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Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, London, WC1B 4DA
The most fun you can have in a pair of borrowed shoes, All Star Lanes offers an ace package of bowling, burgers, booze and bacon popcorn. Its stylishly got-up branches aim to please both occasional bowlers and regular Big Lebowskis. Unsurprisingly, menus look to America for inspiration, with ideas drawn from both the classic diner and its modern-day equivalent: consider buttermilk-fried chicken and jerk gravy, BBQ glazed baby back ribs or a nacho cheeseburger with taco shards. For the luxe experience, make it whole lobster and fries or truffled mac ‘n’ cheese. Drinking has been known to improve one’s game, so choose your poison from the likes of Brooklyn lager, hardshakes, Margaritas and picklebacks. Some lanes go to ‘walk-ins’, others can be reserved. It’s worth booking ahead and keeping an eye out for special offers and off-peak prices.
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3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BN
“Laid-back but fancy” is how one reader describes this Gordon Ramsay restaurant, although we think its sleek, sexy looks suggest a venue from his all-conquering protégé Jason Atherton. Everyone is welcome for food that’s “always of the highest standard” without demanding too much from the assembled company. Breakfast (home-baked raspberry and almond bread with vanilla butter, perhaps) kicks things off, and the globally influenced all-day carte knows how to please. Beef Wellington with truffle mash and red wine jus is “unbelievably good” according to one fan, although you can also get short rib or crispy chilli chicken burgers, fish pie and an accessible set option. An ice-cream bar menu, with build-your-own cones, sandwiches and wafer baskets, adds to the fun, as do staff who are “above friendly, and always very attentive”. A Coravin system keeps by-the-glass wines in good nick, while bottles are listed by style, grape and region.
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66-70 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9UP
For grown-up class with a hefty dollop of style and heritage, this Mark Hix outpost still cuts it. High ceilings and modern art from Hix’s YBA mates create a "perfect combination of cool and down-to-earth" that ensures a packed house throughout the week. Meanwhile, the patriotic menu keeps it seasonal and regional: start with snacks of snap-apart crackling dipped in apple sauce, and moreish cockle popcorn, before moving on to starters such as crispy Lyme Bay squid pepped up with spicy mayonnaise or a tangy helping of prawn cocktail.
To follow, there is a concise selection of stellar steaks or opt for the likes of lusciously fatty pork belly with a pea salad, or a prawn burger with fiery Scotch bonnet tartar sauce. Sweet-toothed diners will fall for the ‘credit crunch’ vanilla ice cream, which comes topped with chunks of honeycomb and lashings of warm chocolate sauce, while service has improved of late. Post-meal, a tipple or two in Mark’s Bar downstairs is a must.
Try an extremely smooth ‘Mischief’ G&T, a collaboration between Hix and Salcombe Gin to commemorate 10 years of Hix restaurants.
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15 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9EY
For more than 20 years Zafferano has managed to maintain the highest reputation despite changes of chef and the vagaries of London’s restaurant scene, so it’s safe to say that this Belgravia sophisticate is now very much part of the capital’s gastronomic establishment. No wonder it’s a go-to for a smart international crowd, who come here in search of reliable, precise Italian cooking with one foot the classical camp. Our all-time favourites include their signature lobster linguine, chargrilled rib of beef with roast potatoes and veal Milanese with saffron risotto, but in keeping with the seasons, there’s a sprinkling of white truffles in the autumn and black truffles in summer. Meanwhile, those looking for more innovative dishes should peruse the daily specials. Zafferano also scores highly when it comes to creature comforts (in the luxurious well-upholstered dining room and on the attractive pavement terrace), while top-notch service and a patrician regional Italian wine list add to its metropolitan kudos.
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Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA
Although artisan competition is fierce these days, we side with the fan who reckons that The River Café serves “the best ingredients-driven Italian food in London”. This convivial Hammersmith evergreen (30 years young in 2017), which is rightfully so happy in its skin, is a very slick operation and certainly in the capital’s gastronomic ‘Serie A’, although it gains added kudos by virtue of its entrancing views and seductive riverside terrace (an absolute must-do on balmy days) as well as its decor, which some say is “dated but iconic”.
The rustic glories of Italian regional cuisine are writ large in a seasonal menu that majors on daisy-fresh salads, glossy pasta and specialities from the imposing red log-burning oven: in summer, that might mean poached langoustines with aïoli and pea salad followed by clam risotto dressed with zucchini flowers or wild salmon baked in sea salt; in winter, Tuscan bread soup with Swiss chard could precede whole Anjou pigeon wood-roasted in Chardonnay with speck, smoked celeriac and watercress. Further classics might be turbot with the greenest of beans, lobster risotto or char-grilled calamari with rocket. To conclude, chocolate nemesis is still the go-to option, but fruity tarts, grappa-laced pannacotta and the citrusy almond and polenta cake are also delicious.
Prices are top lire (a bowl of cherries is £10), although “exceptional service” is as friendly and engaging as it gets in London. Meanwhile, a list of pedigree Italian wines served at the correct temperatures in the correct glasses makes The River Café is the most well-rounded of treats.
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13 Queensway, London, W2 4QJ
Following a full refurbishment in 2011, West London's premier dim-sum haunt is back with a bang. A gold-leaf ceiling and glossy black panelling overlaid with hand-painted Chinese art give the
large, windowless space an air of luxury, enhanced by an army of waiters who are keen to please. Queues can build for the aforementioned dim sum (served until 5pm), and the extensive menu features
the likes of prawn dumplings with coriander, fried crispy spring rolls and joyous roast-pork buns. Those heading along in the evening can expect a procession of greatest hits from sesame prawn
toasts to expertly handled Peking duck with pancakes, Cantonese honey-roasted pork, crispy shredded beef or whole steamed sea bass – all delivered with aplomb.
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9 Marshall Street, London, W1F 7ER
It wasn’t so long ago that ‘going for a curry’ meant throat-wrenching vindaloos, warm lager and lurid flock wallpaper. Masala Zone makes such provincial clichés seem like ancient history. This sparky, London-only group of Indian ‘brasseries’ is known for its smart service, ethnic soundtrack and folk art-bedecked interiors – the Rajasthani puppets at the Covent Garden branch are a must-see. As the cheap-but-chic member of the Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy and Amaya stable, bowls of bog-standard chicken tikka masala are beneath its dignity. No, Masala Zone is all about fresh, balanced meals inspired by Indian home cooking, market stalls and palace chefs. Kick off with street-food nibbles such as samosas, papdi chaat or jumbo prawns from the grill, ahead of a textbook thali featuring your choice of curry and daily changing accompaniments.
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135 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UT
“Perfect if you don’t fancy a packed Soho bar or full-on restaurant”, Princi is a seriously popular all-day pit-stop noted for its “fabulous Milanese decor” and “gorgeous Italian light bites”. Set up by serial restaurateur Alan Yau, the light-filled café does a roaring trade in chic breakfasts, all-too-tempting cakes, savoury pastries and colourful salads, with fresh juices, proper coffee, Italian wines and cocktails to wash it all down. It’s terribly chic, although it can seem like a “touristy madhouse” at peak times – even if the place is well managed by staff dressed in spotless white uniforms. Berths at the high communal tables and street-facing counters are at a premium, and there’s also plenty of action in the adjoining restaurant, where table service and a menu of excellent wood-fired pizzas beckon. There are queues for takeaways, too.
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39 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LJ
Since opening in 2008, this miniature artisan enterprise has built a cult following – thanks to the quality of its wood-fired sourdough pizzas, which are cooked in a special Tufac brick oven imported from Naples. Locals are attracted by the rock-bottom prices and meticulously sourced ingredients, so it’s no wonder that queues form around the block for a taste of Franco’s delicious offerings. Just six different versions are available, topped with various combinations of tomatoes (imported from Salerno), Gloucester Old Spot ham, sausages from Brindisa, organic mozzarella and ricotta produced at Alham Wood in Somerset, fresh herbs, mushrooms and the like. Charcuterie platters and panuozzi (flame-baked bread with various toppings) play a supporting role, while drinks range from a pair of Piedmontese organic wines (red or white) to Sam Smith’s organic blond beer.
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29 Clarges Street, London, W1J 7EF
Burger & Lobster definitely takes some beating. There’s a winning simplicity to its eponymous offering of hand-minced corn-fed Nebraskan beef and fresh lobster from Nova Scotian waters. The menu is short, but no worse for it – unless you’re vegetarian, of course. Take your pick from meaty burgers (with extra cheese and bacon), juicy steamed or char-grilled lobster, and buttery lobster rolls in toasted brioche with a lick of wasabi mayo – each served with fries and a salad at pocket-friendly rates. Drinks call for slightly more protracted decision-making, with a mixed bag of wines, beers, fizz and food-friendly cocktails to consider. No reservations; a short wait is the price you pay for affordable luxury.
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32 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3LX
Curious passers-by peer through the window to catch a glimpse of Damien Hirst’s ‘Cock and Bull’ installation housed in chef/art collector Mark Hix’s Tramshed. They should brave it and go on in; allcomers are welcome at this cavernous industrial space where Hix serves seriously sourced chicken and steak – crowd-pleasers both – to solo diners at the bar, rowdy parties in capacious booths, and everyone in between. In less capable hands, Tramshed would be a fail-safe ‘yawn’ of a concept, but Hix’s menu goes beyond salt-aged Glenarm beef and roast barn-reared chooks into lively international territory. To wit, whipped chicken livers served with an enormous duck-fat Yorkshire pud (as a British alternative to brioche), American-style bone-in rib and slaw, a fearsomely hot curry, and a no-airs-and-graces raspberry cheesecake – not that anything will lure the lunchtime crowd away from their steak sandwiches. Wines and cocktails are credible rather than posey.
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9 Battersea Square, London, SW11 3RA
Gordon Ramsay’s latest is the neighbourhood restaurant every neighbourhood wishes it could have. London House is smart enough for dinner with parents in its stylish dining room, yet relaxed enough for lazy weekends in the lounge bar – complete with leather sofas and fireplace. The large space is broken up into a series of small rooms, giving a cosy feel that’s helped along by welcoming staff. Chef George Lyon’s British food features on-trend dishes and native ingredients, but also shows real skill and passion for cooking. We kicked off with crispy pig’s head croquettes, moist and moreish, alongside a well-prepped plate of burrata and heritage tomatoes. Mains were equally impressive: we couldn’t fault melt-in-the-mouth beef braised in red wine, or classic grilled lemon sole with shrimps and brown butter. And don’t get us started on the delicious chocolate delice dessert… Great beers and cocktails, cut-price ‘Wine Wednesdays’, kids’ deals and weekend brunch are further pluses – as is the little hidden gem of a garden. Locals should find plenty of reasons to return here.
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Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, SW1X 7LA
With Bar Boulud and Heston’s Dinner in the same building, the Mandarin Oriental’s plush lounge is as cosseting as you would hope. This space has been used as a tea room since the early 1920s, so you can expect an afternoon tea which pays careful attention to tradition. The award-winning offering, served once breakfast (8am-10.30am) has finished, incorporates a wide selection of fresh sandwiches, creative pastries, scones and seasonal jams, all served from a mandarin-adorned metal tree (in tribute to Hyde Park).
There’s a carefully curated tea menu served up in delicately pretty china and there’s great coffee too, with a selection which includes matcha and ginger lattes. More casual than the restaurants, this is still a high-end Knightsbridge hotel, boasting all of the grand, high-ceiling elegance that comes with the territory. Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12N–6.30pm.
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66 Chandos Place, London, WC2N 4HG
Ex-MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers now oversees branches of her popular canteen-style eatery across the capital and beyond, luring good-timers and young families with its mix of colourful, fashion-conscious surrounds and ‘flavoursome’ Mexican cooking. Vibrantly spiced street food is the deal, which means tacos filled with grilled steak or marinated, slow-cooked pork pibil, crisp tostadas with ceviche or refried beans, taquitos, quesadillas and specials such as the queso fundido – Mexico’s answer to fondue. Salads, grills and burritos bulk out the menu, while a heart-stopping pudding selection includes churros y chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream. Wahaca’s eco-credentials bear scrutiny, and the upbeat young vibe is fuelled by copious Tequila cocktails – even if that true Mexican zing is sometimes missing from the plates. Note: no bookings, but you can always sip a margarita while you wait.
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47-51 Great Suffolk Street, London, SE1 0BS
With Gordon Ramsay's name proudly displayed in bright blue neon on the wall outside, there's no mistaking who's behind this eatery on Union Street. Warehouse chic, exposed brick walls and concrete floors might still be all the rage in Ramsay land, but this place also comes with a warm, friendly vibe and "fabulous" service – "it's just lovely every time we go", says one fan. The menu brings the Mediterranean to Southwark in the shape of, say, warm buffalo mozzarella wrapped in speck or refreshingly light gazpacho with raspberries and strawberries. Pasta is made fresh each day (our tagliolini with marjoram and mussels was spot-on), while whole lemon sole with peperonata and datterini tomatoes shows some serious skills. To finish, any mamma would be proud of the baked peaches filled with chocolate and amaretti. Round things off in the basement cocktail bar and you'll leave content.
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Corinthia Hotel, 10a Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5AE
THE NORTHALL AT CORINTHIA HOTEL LONDON WILL WELCOME NEW EXECUTIVE CHEF ANDRE GARRETT IN JANUARY 2019
Garry Hollihead’s striking restaurant in the five-star Corinthia Hotel is an opulent affair, with huge windows stretching up to double-height ceilings, no-expense-spared crystal chandeliers,
studded leather chairs and vases of picture-prefect blooms. Despite the flowers and sparkle, the overall mood is sufficiently masculine to make Woosterish out-of-towners feel right at home;
elevated prices are also aimed squarely at expense accounts and money-no-object tourists. The kitchen is keen on native produce, and Hollihead’s fastidious sourcing is evident from plump Maldon
oysters to melting slabs of Cumbrian steak and an all-British cheeseboard. Although some dishes needed more oomph when we visited (a rich chicken-liver parfait with Madeira jelly lacked depth),
desserts suchas a miniature, fruit-packed summer pudding served with dense Jersey clotted cream left a pleasingly sweet taste in the mouth. Don’t miss the expertly mixed, botanically infused
cocktails in the swanky standalone bar.
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69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE
Recently bolstered by nearby Café Monico, Soho House’s presence hereabouts is pretty strong, with its backbone being this classy British workhorse. Dine in enticingly soft armchairs, amid an abundance of heavy fabrics with low ceilings helping to absorb the chatter that constantly zips across the glowing room from the rammed wooden bar. Atmosphere is Townhouse’s trump card, so the menu plays it simple with lots of comfort on offer – from delectable lamb rump with grilled artichoke or partridge and oxtail on toast (lifted by the juice of blackcurrants), to salads of perhaps chicory, squash and walnut. It’s all thoroughly hearty, seasonal and rather pricey, although a full English for less than a tenner explains why breakfast is so popular here. Service is predictably cosseting, and a broad wine list should reveal something for most tastes. There’s an adjacent, cloistered room for those seeking a more muffled evening, but this “always entertaining” restaurant is best for higher tempo occasions.
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8 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JZ
Eating at Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-starred flagship brings you one step closer to la dolce vita – so writes a fan who adores this polished purveyor of “old-school glamour” and pure-bred Italian regional cooking. Beaded curtains, cream leather and dramatic domed mirrors create just the right amount of chic elegance, while neatly designed alcoves offer privacy for those who are at Locanda Locatelli for discreet assignations. Meanwhile, the kitchen delivers value, authenticity and culinary cred as it fashions an array of vivacious dishes inspired by provenance-led cucina rustica. Superlative hand-crafted pasta is the undisputed headline act (ring-shaped calamarata with monkfish, samphire, dry capers, chilli and lemon, for example), but everything at Locanda Locatelli is imbued with seasonal freshness – from a grilled vegetable salad with stuffed peppers, pine kernel and basil to roast grouse with stewed lentils and game chips. To round things off, try the Neapolitan ‘baba’ with Chantilly and orange cream or gorge on some artisan cheeses, offered lovingly with Italian honey. Service seldom falters and prices are “not ridiculous” – although you’ll need to shell out a pretty penny to do the patrician wine list full justice.
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44 Narrow Street, London, E14 8DP
At the last count, Gordon Ramsay had 14 restaurants in London and an even more fluid number overseas, so you're probably unlikely to meet him nursing a pint in this one-time watering hole by the Thames. In fact, you're unlikely to find anyone at the bar these days, which has dwindled while the dining side of things continues to expand. The menu here is hardly pushing any gastronomic boundaries, but so long as dishes such as scallops with rosemary mash and crisp pancetta are competently made, no-one's complaining. Vegetarians always have interesting options (perhaps orecchiette with roasted ceps, squash and pecorino), while the carefully considered wine list offers a wide range of styles, as you would expect from Ramsay. It's not going to win him any more Michelin stars, but if you're eating out in Limehouse, narrow your choice down to this one.
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Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, SW1X 7LA
Although it was lightly refurbished in early 2017, even regulars would be hard pressed to notice any changes to Bar Boulud’s wood and beige interiors. The design might be restrained, but the combination of super-flattering lighting, friendly staff and chattering diners makes this one of the capital’s buzziest dining rooms.
New York-based French chef Daniel Boulud may be a big name in global gastronomy but he’s very much in casual mode here, offering up the sort of Gallic classics that are many people’s idea of the perfect meal out. Starters of seared prawns and Burgundy snails are festooned with enough garlic to ward off a vampire, while lemon sole with grenobloise butter followed by a sweet slice of gateau basque and crème anglaise prove that this kitchen knows how to finish a dish with a fabulous sauce.
“Although it’s high end, it isn't snobby at all” say readers, so you can also pop in for a luscious croque madame with fries or one of the “mouth-watering” inch-thick BB burgers – not what you might expect from a dining room in the Mandarin Oriental. All in all, the “best fun” you can have in Knightsbridge.
More detail about Bar Boulud at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ
Always jam-packed, the brilliant Shoreditch branch of the Pizza East mini chain continues to deliver the goods. Funky, ‘attentive’ staff whizz round the outsized, wood-heavy dining room, delivering
fine pizzas with full-flavoured toppings such as San Daniele ham with mozzarella, porcini and pecorino or guanciale (pork cheek) with burrata and cipollini onions, while pizza-phobes can seek
solace in big boards of charcuterie, osso bucco or sea bass with borlotti beans and peppers. Starters are a step up from your typical pizza joint, too, whether it’s a plate of fritto misto or a
bowl of chicken livers on polenta with a spicy calabrese sauce. The Italian-leaning wine list does the job, with plenty of choice under £30. Afterwards, head downstairs to the aptly named Concrete
bar for thumping beats – and even a spot of ‘musical bingo’.
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27 Cale Street, London, SW3 3QP
With branches in Canary Wharf and St Katherine's Docks, Michelin-starred Tom Aikens’ boisterous, stripped-back brasserie side-line now has the makings of a mini-chain. Fans of robust British-inspired grub still congregate at the Cale Street original for bullish classics and seasonal dishes ranging from macaroni cheese, seven-hour confit lamb and shepherd’s pie to beetroot salad with pear and goats’ curd, roast wild duck with celeriac mash and port sauce or pumpkin cheesecake with spiced ice cream. Photos of ‘food hero' suppliers line the tiled walls, and the interior is a masculine (but not overbearing) mix of diminutive, tight-packed tables
and long benches. Despite its clean lines and smart attributes, the place can be let down by braying noise and big bills – although premier-league Chelsea prices don't deter the crowds, who also
pile in for full-English fry-ups (£13.50) and restorative weekend brunch.
Photography credit: David Griffen
More detail about Tom's Kitchen Chelsea
COMO Metropolitan London, 19 Old Park Lane, London, W1K 1LB
It's "still an all-time favourite", but the late 90s origins of Nobu Matsuhisa's first European outing have given it a time-capsule quality. It's a lovely bubble to be in though, with Hyde Park views through full-height windows and calming wood and stone all around. If the pale walls could talk, they might tell eyebrow-raising tales from a livelier past; that duty now falls to the party-hard Berkeley Street outpost. Here, it's clear to see what all the fuss was (and is) about: the fusion style hits umami squarely in the face. You can't go wrong with langoustines and red chilli shiso salsa, sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing, fiery Peruvian anticucho skewers and, of course, the emblematic black cod with miso – served on butter lettuce for that contemporary kick of clean-eating satisfaction. However, cocktails, saké and a wine list priced for big budgets will undo all that good work in an instant.
More detail about Nobu London at the COMO Metropolitan London
10-13 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP
The Maze Grill concept now inhabits two more reinvented Ramsay sites across town, but the Mayfair original still competes in a steak-crazy marketplace by refusing to slobber over down 'n' dirty juices. This is meat you eat with a knife and fork, in a room that's a symphony in taupe, on a square that has as much romance as history. With Maze next door, it's no surprise that sushi creeps onto the menu, along with iceberg salads, simple grilled fish and other warm-up acts. The main event is steak from a variety of sources (native British, USDA, Japanese etc), cooked in the charcoal-burning Josper oven and offered with all-American sides including onion rings and mac 'n' cheese. Breakfasts of ricotta hotcakes and eggs Benedict are also worth knowing about. As for the vibe, some detractors brand it more "prissy London chophouse" than NYC.
More detail about Maze Grill Mayfair
191 Portobello Road, London, W11 2ED
Adding a grungy vibe to the Soho House Group’s much-loved Electric Cinema, this revamped eatery ensures you won’t go hungry during one of its well-chosen films. The long, vaulted room pays homage
to the New York diner – complete with leather booths and a long, kitchen-facing bar done out with the group’s trademark finesse and good taste. The menu, compiled with help from high-end diner Au
Cheval in Chicago, is the real deal. Excellent hot dogs come in a soft, sweet brioche bap, double cheeseburgers can be pimped with a thick rasher of bacon, and hoppy American ales are the pick from
an excellent beer list. Meanwhile, those who want to keep things light should order moules marinière or sea bass with capers, and probably ignore the knickerbocker glory. Otherwise, simply undo a
belt notch and enjoy.
More detail about The Electric Diner
127-129 Parkway, London, NW1 7PS
John Nash (1752-1835) knocked up a few glam structures hereabouts, and this is one of them. Handsome is the word. Gordon Ramsay (1966- ) turned the old townhouse into a boutique hotel and it remains a useful address in NW1. The venue has much going for it: the one-time stables out back is the place to head for a well-crafted wood-fired pizza; there’s a zinc-topped bar for a smart cocktail or upmarket bar snack (spiced chicken wings with blue cheese dressing), and a restaurant decked out in underwhelming contemporary neutrality. Duck hearts on toast or pickled mackerel with beetroot purée are first courses showing fashionable rusticity, to be followed by the likes of loin of English lamb with a North African spin, or roasted fillets of plaice with sea purslane and fennel cream. We also like the wine list: of global reach and with plenty of choice by the glass or carafe.
More detail about York & Albany
160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB
“The daddy of them all” declares a fan of The Wolseley – and he’s not alone in cheering this “rather posh” grand café to the skies. Whether you’re here for the all-conquering breakfast, afternoon tea or a late-night pick-me-up, the barnstorming Wolseley always delivers – “it doesn’t matter what you look like, you’ll get treated like a VIP”. The sheer razzmatazz of the fabulously converted car showroom is part of its attraction, as regulars seek out their favourite tables, others mingle in anterooms and a regular trickle of walk-in celebs, creatives and shoppers adds to the spice of it all. To begin, you might find yourself dusting off the cobwebs over a bowl of Birchermuesli, a crispy bacon roll or a full fry-up; later on, thoughts could turn to steak tartare, salade niçoise, burgers, schnitzels or coq au vin – and there’s never a bad time for the Wolseley’s luscious array of creamy patisserie, cakes and ice-cream coupes. Service is always “top-notch” too. In short, The Wolseley is the complete West End package, and we concur with the reader who remarks that “I always come away with my high expectations satisfied and met”.
More detail about The Wolseley
43 Upper Brook Street, London, W1K 7QR
Stoically eschewing the cult of the new, Le Gavroche remains a bastion of haute cuisine in all its ancien régime finery – although you may need a certain worldly-wise mindset to fully appreciate this grandee’s many attributes. The dark exclusivity of the cocooned dining room, the fastidiously dutiful service and the indulgent extravagance of the food all seem to evoke a time gone by. As ever, Michel Roux’s Jr’s kitchen is intent on delivering classical cooking of the highest order, although he does allow the occasional flirtation with contemporary themes: trendy bottarga, two kinds of beetroot and ‘late-harvest’ Canadian vinegar balancing a dish of marinated and seared sea trout; ras-el-hanout spices adding exotic fragrance to a plate of stone bass, roasted peanuts enhancing some “incomparable” breast and leg of pigeon. Still, we take comfort in the classics – the ever-present and ever-gorgeous soufflé suissesse, the brilliantly succulent pig’s head terrine with braised snails, lemon and “inimitable” parsley purée, a perfect strawberry dessert highlighted with vanilla cream. Yes, eating here can be frighteningly expensive (especially if you dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers also extol the virtues of the all-inclusive set lunch. With its two Michelin stars, fans say Le Gavroche is “quite simply the best”.
More detail about Le Gavroche
175 Westbourne Grove, London, W11 2SB
Poor Bill Granger, arriving in London to find his trademark ‘Bill’s’ already snapped up by a Sussex grocer. Undeterred, this affable Australian restaurateur and writer reinvented his brand but kept the key aspects loved by hipsters in Sydney, Tokyo and nama
Hawaii. So, you’ll find all-day eating (though no reservations) in a bright, bustling room furnished with cheery yellow chairs. Granger’s cooking style is wholesome fusion-lite, using ingredients such as miso, quinoa, tahini and kimchi to perk up familiar European dishes. Readers adore the place: “great food, perfect for people watching” and “weekend brunch is a delight”. We agree: this is ultra-healthy, modern and colourful food that avoids worthiness. Hence, ricotta hotcakes come with banana and honeycomb butter; sweetcorn fritters with tomato, spinach and bacon. The full Aussie breakfast is another Bill classic. Sip on-trend juices such as cold-pressed green apple, cucumber, ginger, silver beet and chia seeds, or proper cocktails.
More detail about Granger & Co Notting Hill
23-27 Wadeson Street, London, E2 9DR
Once an insider’s secret on a seedy Bethnal Green backstreet, Bistrotheque has gone on to become a bona fide east London institution. Best known for its weekend brunch service, it’s always packed to the rafters and great raucous fun, thanks to the colourfully coiffed house pianist and decent nosh (plates of pancakes with poached rhubarb and pork chops with layered potatoes do it for us) and even better cocktails. The decor “just stays cool” and the clientele is a veritable Who’s Who of modern east London, with a host of designers, architects, artists and assorted locals using it for nibbles, drinks at the “magnificent” bar (“staff will make sure your glass is never empty”) and lively suppers – perhaps pressed lamb with spring vegetables, cod with romesco sauce, caramelised tomato tart with burrata or “the best steak tartare in the east End”. The food’s good, but the ambience is “amazing”.
More detail about Bistrotheque