Best London restaurants for star spotting

If you’re a fan of celeb spotting, London’s the place to be. While we don’t support stalking, even celebrities need to eat at some point, and just like the rest of us, they have their favourite restaurants. So scroll on for our pick o

Updated on 02 November 2018

The world of celebrity is bigger than it has ever been in today’s world and London is a prime destination for star spotting. Check out London’s great range of restaurants popular amongst the celebrity world with SquareMeal’s guide to London’s best celeb-spotting restaurants. Every one of the restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s best restaurants for celeb-spotting has been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.

Red Rooster at The Curtain

Red Rooster at The Curtain

45 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PT

The polishing up of Shoreditch continues with the arrival of The Curtain hotel (just round the corner from the equally new Nobu Shoreditch). Although this luxe offering comes with a rooftop swimming pool, its in-house restaurant retains its Shoreditch cool with quirky decor and painfully cool staff. Red Rooster has a twin in New York’s Harlem and, like its NYC sibling, the Shoreditch menu is a celebration of America’s southern soul food, carried off with panache. We kick-started our evening with a trio of snacks including fish tacos, bacon-loaded popcorn and crumbly cornbread slathered with sweet honey butter and spicy tomato jam. We then moved on to a starter proper of meatballs served swimming in zingy pickled gravy and dotted with perfectly crisp bites of gnocchi. As Red Rooster’s name suggests, poultry is the star turn, but we mixed things up, skipping the fried yard bird and herb-roasted chicken for a helping of tender, spicy jerk pork and prawns, served with sweet coconut rice and chunks of juicy pineapple. Desserts are just as indulgent (rum-soaked doughnuts anyone?) and our slice of red velvet sponge, served with cream cheese sorbet and chocolate cremeux, was as sweet as can be. With brunch on Sunday and live music most evenings, Red Rooster is an impressive addition to the Shoreditch scene. With all that US soul food though, it’s just as well that The Curtain has a gym.  

£30 - £49
North American
Cut at 45 Park Lane

Cut at 45 Park Lane

45 Park Lane, London, London, W1K 1PN

Cut stands out from the steakhouse crowd thanks to its Park Lane pricing, glammed-up globe-trotting clientele and the clout of A-list chef Wolfgang Puck. Provided you’re financially prepared, you’ll find a surprisingly unpretentious vibe in the very attractive (if hotel-ish) dining room, where soaring drapes and wood panelling head northwards to a ceiling hung with starburst lights. Service could be slicker, but the kitchen pulls out all the stops to justify the prices. Cuts of USDA Prime, South Devon Angus, New York sirloin and dizzyingly expensive Wagyu are presented in all their raw marbled glory before being returned to the table charred and crusted from the grill. Sides include wickedly buttery potato purée and glistening nuggets of bone marrow, while top-notch starters range from maple-glazed pork belly to a very pretty crab and lobster cocktail with spicy tomato horseradish. Desserts, should you get that far, are all-American sweet treats. Upstairs, Bar 45 dispenses classy concoctions in large glasses.

Over £80
North American
Bagatelle

Bagatelle

34 Dover Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4NG

It might have a French name but this glitzy import’s heart is in New York's Meatpacking District, where the original restaurant is famous for its brunch parties; this London outpost joins existing Bagatelles in Dubai, Miami, Punta del Este and St Barthélemy (among others). Mayfair feels almost dowdy in comparison.  

Interiors are much as you’d expect from a restaurant group with such a luxurious heritage. Plush blue velvet booths line the room, intricate chandeliers hang from the ceiling and Damien Hirst artworks scale the walls. Needless to say, this is not somewhere to come in search of a cheap eat: there’s a seafood platter for £450 and a Methuselah of Dom Pérignon will set you back £80,000.

In other ways, though, Bagatelle doesn’t conform to expectations. Just take the (impossibly attractive) staff, who are sweet rather than snooty and very well-versed on the menu. We were also pleasantly surprised by the standard of the cooking – people might be coming here to party, but the food is far better than mere stomach-lining. 

The sharing menu kicks off with smaller dishes such as a quartet of tender Angus beef sliders, slathered with decadent toppings including sautéed foie gras and black truffle mayonnaise. Elsewhere are pillowy pellets of homemade gnocchi and a creamy helping of burrata pepped up with fresh tomato.

To follow, diners are encouraged to order one of the larger sharing dishes, which easily fed our party of four. The whole grilled lobster linguine (de-shelled and served at the table) was a decadent treat of seafood chunks and juicy tomatoes entwined in ribbons of soft pasta. Desserts are more low-key; we’d recommend the light-as-air raspberry mousse served with a scoop of pistachio ice cream.

If you want the full, over-the-top Bagatelle experience, it’s best to visit in the latter half of the week, when French-themed parties and raucous brunches are the order of the day. A Mayfair party palace this may be, but it’s one with more substance than you’d expect.

International
French
Balthazar

Balthazar

4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5HZ

According to one reader, Balthazar could be “the best brasserie in London for atmosphere and service". Elsewhere, abundant praise for the lively buzz and "happy, friendly staff" is proof that this London outpost of Keith McNally's upscale bistro lives up to the reputation of his NYC original. By and large, the food wins approval too, with particular mentions for the "delicious afternoon tea" and "just the best dauphinoise potatoes". Order them alongside wickedly rich duck confit or coq au vin, preceded by chicken liver parfait, steak tartare or garlicky escargots. The all-day offer also includes delectable pastries from Balthazar’s boulangerie next door, omelette Arnold Bennett for brunch, plateaux de fruits de mer from the seafood bar or eggs mimosa followed by roast hake with bouillabaisse soup on the prix fixe. "It's a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner and business meetings" concludes one ardent admirer; another simply says “sit back, enjoy the buzz and don’t worry about your wallet”.

£50 - £79
French
Park Chinois

Park Chinois

17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 8EA

Replete with swathes of red velvet, powder-blue armchairs, ostentatious trappings and nightly live music (often jazz), Park Chinois is an opulent take on a 1930s Shanghai speakeasy that is built for big-money special-occasion dining – complete with a Chinese menu designed around separate western-style courses and served by “impeccable” staff. Dim sum is a top shout at Park Chinois, and rightly so: we love the spicy intensity of the Szechuan vegetable dumplings, the oh-so-crispy duck spring rolls and the summer truffle bao buns. Order from the carte and you might be treated to braised short-ribs with black bean sauce, red prawns with coconut, okra and tamarind or a veggie claypot of aubergines and tofu – although big groups go for the roasted-to-order full-strength Peking duck served with pancakes, shredded cucumber and baby leeks. To finish, there are some unmissable westernised desserts – do try the vanilla cheesecake twinned with passion fruit and strawberry sorbet. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something sultry, head downstairs to the plush-yet-cosy Club Chinois, where the entertainment is a little more risqué.   

Over £80
Chinese
Fischer

Fischer's

50 Marylebone High Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 5HN

Oh, Vienna: Corbin and King’s grand café has one misty-eyed for the city of cafés and giant schnitzels without ever leaving Marylebone. It’s not so much the food, though that’s a cold-weather dream: neat rye sourdough brötchen lined with beetroot and herring, followed by braised beef tafelspitz or pan-fried duck liver with grapes and redcurrants piled onto crisp rösti. It’s more the cumulative effect of the smart staff, low lights, leather accents, copious taxidermy and gorgeous views. This is a comfortable, well-padded kind of seduction, complete with cake plates brought to the table for you to choose from (go for the classic Sachertorte), and silver coupes filled with nutty ice cream. Mid-European wines are a feature, but so is coffee and a biscuit. We love it, although one disappointed punter thinks that Fischer’s needs to “up its game”, with the Ivy Café now grabbing headlines (and customers) on Marylebone High Street.

Austrian
La Bodega Negra

La Bodega Negra

9 Old Compton Street, London, London, W1D 5JF

We’re going to call it: this is surely London’s only Mexican restaurant hidden behind the facade of a sex shop. Such exterior bawdiness is increasingly hard to come by in Soho, although Bodega Negra’s Stygian urban-chic interior and “great service” have much in common with current restaurant trends. The kitchen’s proclivity for supreme tacos has never been hotter, with fillings including soft-shell crab accompanied by a slathering of smoky chipotle crema, while tostadas feature a winning combo of Serrano ham and tuna. We suggest ordering a selection, plus salad or a piquant plate of ceviche – although those with bigger appetites should look to wood-grilled pork belly with mezcal and salsa or a whole sea bream, tender from the fire. Bodega’s party vibes and low-lit interior aren’t for everyone, but if Tequilas galore and 50ml shots of mezcal sound like a good time, this basement den from funky restaurateur Will Ricker (E&O et al) is for you.

£30 - £49
Mexican
Hakkasan Mayfair

Hakkasan Mayfair

17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 6QB

Putting on the style is second nature to this scintillating, seductive and downright intoxicating branch of the global Hakkasan chain – whether you’re flashing it in the pulsating nightclubby bar or playing it cool in the sleek ground-floor dining room. Either way, devotees of the house style are in heaven as they drool over “incredible east-meets-west platefuls” of steamed langoustines wrapped in glass vermicelli with chilli and garlic sauce, spicy lamb salad with peanut dressing (one of our favourites) or stir-fried Norfolk quail with winter chestnuts, basil and lemongrass – a dish that’s unique to Hakkasan Mayfair. “Divine dim sum” such as steamed har gau crowned with gold leaf, homemade pumpkin tofu or smoked beef ribs with jasmine tea crank up the thrill factor even further (especially at lunchtime), and the whole Michelin-starred shebang is fuelled by premium sakés, brilliantly chosen matching wines and ritzy cocktails (“unusual, but in a good way”). As you’d expect, staff are immaculately groomed – although they’re not here just for show (even if their attention sometimes wanders). Eating at Hakkasan Mayfair may be a wallet-emptying experience, but “you’ll feel like a billionaire for a few hours”. 

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star
Kerridge

Kerridge's Bar & Grill

10 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London, WC2N 5AE

After a false start with the Jumeriah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, Tom Kerridge has finally opened his first London restaurant at the Corinthia hotel. It’s in a slightly no-man’s-land location between Embankment tube and Trafalgar Square – both central and off the beaten track – but Kerridge’s fame and the skill of his kitchen should ensure this London outpost becomes every bit as hard to get into as his two Michelin-starred Marlow gastropub The Hand and Flowers. 

Some of the dishes we treasure from The Hand are reproduced here. The signature glazed omelette of smoked haddock and Parmesan is pimped up with lobster and even better for it, the meat so sweet that the fabulously decadent concoction eats like a souffle. Other dishes were new to us, but demonstrated Kerridge’s trademark of lifting classic British cooking with sophisticated technique without losing any of its lip-smacking gutsiness.

So while a pig’s cheek pie was basically a pork pie, the buttery pastry lifted it into another realm entirely, with a devilled sauce (taking the place of mustard) to cut through the richness. Brown butter tart with buttermilk ice cream, meanwhile, was a straightforwardly sweet delight.

Vegetarians get three starters and mains apiece, set lunch and pre-theatre menus should appeal to theatregoers from the nearby Strand (or anyone put off by the steep pricing), while bar snacks such as venison sausage rolls and Welsh rarebit are another budget-minded way in.

To drink, draught beers, gins and 20 English sparklers keep the flag flying for Britain; elsewhere, grower Champagnes join the classic houses while there are more big names from France and highlights from the rest of the world on a wine list that shows the benefit of hotel funding; a long trek to the loos across the hotel lobby is, however, a downside.  

David Collins Studio has done its best to make the high-ceilinged space (formerly Massimo’s) feel more intimate, with diners grouped around clubby horseshoe leather banquettes, but clattery acoustics can make conversation hard to hear. But make no mistake: this really is food to shout about.

British
Mahiki Mayfair

Mahiki Mayfair

1 Dover Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4LD

It's worth remembering that, before it turns into a full-on party, this doolally 1950s-style Polynesian cabana is a civilised spot for a sundowner. Mayfair legend Mahiki is not the place for an Aperol Spritz, but they'll make one if you really must. The big attraction here is a line-up of rum punches, grogs and slings with names like Bikini Blast, Krakatoa, Bajan Whirlpool and ‘vicious’ absinthe-spiked Baron Samedi's Brew – all served in assorted tiki vessels. Otherwise, Armada Treasure Chest and Queen Ann's Revenge (a magnum of Cîroc, two bottles of Cristal and 20 shots) are the sort of fishbowls that would feature large on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents were the grown-ups snooping on their misbehaving progeny in Antigua rather than Ayia Napa. Asian snacks act as damage limitation as the action heats up in the downstairs club.

Bars
Hakkasan Hanway Place

Hakkasan Hanway Place

8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HD

“Wow, wow and wow!” exclaims a fan of Hakkasan, who reckons it’s definitely the “sexiest restaurant” he’s ever frequented. Certainly, there’s a “sultry charm” to this “sensual”, barely lit basement, with clubby VIP vibes, easy-on-the-eye staff and black-lacquered interiors making it “perfect for a hot date”. Kick off with Asian-inspired cocktails at the bar, then try definitive versions of takeaway classics and “impressive” ‘small eats’ such as jasmine tea-smoked ribs or “amazingly light” Shanghai dumplings boosted by chilli and vinegar. To follow, readers rave about the gigantic spicy prawns with asparagus, almonds, lily bulbs, spring onion and water chestnuts (“a riot of colourful tastes and textures”), but we’re hooked on the salt and pepper squid, the duck braised with truffle and the “riveting” crispy lamb salad with peanut dressing. No one escapes the top-end pricing, but readers agree that “you pay for what you get”. Multiple tasting menus can keep the bills in check, although the ambitious wine list might push them back up again. Either way, it’s “absolutely outstanding”.

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star
£50 - £79
Paradise by way of Kensal Green

Paradise by way of Kensal Green

19 Kilburn Lane, London, W10 4AE

GK Chesterton coined the phrase, which was clearly too much for the owners to resist – although the quirky moniker fits nicely with the oddball feel of this Kensal Green fun palace. From the wildly decadent interiors (marble busts, swirling drapes, chandeliers, grandiose paintings) to live bands and DJs, there’s a lot going on here – although the kitchen also puts plenty of effort into the food. Sit in the lavishly attired restaurant and enjoy seasonal dishes made from fresh locally sourced ingredients: Seared beef carpaccio, rocket, parmesan and roasted beetroot vinaigrette; Grilled prawns, avocado fattoush salad, tahini yoghurt and ?Spiced poussin with Jersey Royal potato salad, harissa aioli. With a great conservatory, private dining rooms, ‘cheeky Sunday roasts’ and more besides, this place has good-time distractions at every turn.

£30 - £49
Pubs
Bars
Gastropub
The Ivy

The Ivy

1-5 West Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NQ

Celebrating its centenary in 2017, The Ivy is a celeb-friendly fixture of the glamorous West End scene. Yet, behind the iconic harlequin stained glass, the old girl certainly isn't showing her age – thanks to a glittering 2015 makeover that gave pride of place to a beautiful vintage-styled bar. Although the hype around the refurb has died down, there's still a warm glow of approval from readers, who praise the "utterly impeccable" service, "unflappable staff" and "buzzy, not noisy" atmosphere. The eclectic menu is a winning mix of Ivy perennials such as the "truly wonderful" crispy duck salad and classic shepherd's pie, alongside on-trend raw dishes like "delicious" yellowfin tuna sashimi with avocado or salmon ceviche with tiger's milk, as well as ultra-trad confit duck or grouse with bread sauce. The kitchen’s special talent lies in the fact that it manages to cook such a varied range of dishes equally well. "The Ivy will always have a place in my heart", declares one fan, while another reckons it’s “a delight all round”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Lima

Lima

31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH

Forget the hot barometer of Peruvian food, Lima is one of the few restaurants in London making the unfamiliar utterly delicious. Start with an easy-drinking Pisco Sour plus some puffy pumpkin seed bread, but defer further choice to staff who know the baffling menu inside out. From crisp octopus tentacles on polenta-like maize and olive purée (a riot of purple) to blood-red potatoes set against sour, yellow dressing and artichokes, every dish is a picture in vibrant Technicolor. Elsewhere, sweet potato melded into corn purée is a veggie spin on ceviche, while the real thing is spiky, silky perfection involving dense-fleshed chunks of sea bass. Pressed suckling pig is a standout main (especially with a side of creamy sun-dried potato), while avocado cream and chocolate mousse is a knockout dessert. With its neat, grey-on-grey room recently revamped and extended, Lima is now a true destination – a “fun place with a fun atmosphere”.

£50 - £79
Peruvian
Farmacy

Farmacy

74-76 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 5SH

The hot new thing in Notting Hill, Farmacy is putting the joy into healthy food with delicious plant-based cooking free from dairy produce, refined sugars and additives. Filled with sunshine and flowers, the large airy room is a magnet for well-off locals of all ages during the week, with queues from further afield at the weekend. Along with soups, juices and snacks, there are hearty ‘earth bowl’ dishes of various sorts: try quinoa with avocado, seaweed, sauerkraut, greens, sweet potato and sesame ginger dressing. Burgers are made from millet, beans and mushrooms, ice cream from naturally sweet African tiger nut, and pizzas involve spelt sourdough and macadamia ‘cheese’. The menu is studded with on-trend ingredients, while drinks include proper cocktails and sulphur-free biodynamic wines. Despite her glamour and connections, owner Camilla Al-Fayed (of Harrods fame) is no spoilt little rich girl with a new toy: this is ‘clean eating’ in a fun and fashionable setting – and it works. 

£30 - £49
Vegetarian
Vegan
Siren

Siren

The Goring, London, SW1W 0JW

For a higher class of celebrity than you’ll find in the weekly gossip mags, look to The Goring – we’ve seen The Queen and Margaret Thatcher here over the years, while The Duchess of Cambridge spent her last night as Kate Middleton here.

Over £80
British
Fish
Nobu London at the COMO Metropolitan London

Nobu London at the COMO Metropolitan London

COMO Metropolitan London, Green Park, 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.

Japanese
China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel

China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel

53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1QA

Basement dining rooms must work hard to get noticed, and China Tang works harder than most in that department: down in the lower regions of The Dorchester, no inch of the restaurant goes unembellished. The inspiration is interbellum Shanghai, and while the dark wood and elaborate carpets aren’t looking box-fresh, it’s certainly an atmospheric way to kit out a dining space. China Tang’s food is straight-down-the-middle Cantonese, handled with care and served with a level of ceremony that suits the luxe hotel surroundings. To start, try delicate tomato and egg-drop soup, followed by golden prawns with salted egg yolk, stir-fried minced pigeon in lettuce wraps or, for a bit of fire and fragrance, fish braised with Szechuan peppercorns. Tang’s international clientele believe there’s no bad time for dim sum, so expect Shanghai dumplings, mango rolls, turnip cakes and roast pork buns right through the day. In the bar, cocktails are more fashion-forward than the food.

Over £80
Chinese
Dim Sum
sketch: Gallery

sketch: Gallery

9 Conduit Street, London, London, W1S 2XG

Nobody comes to Sketch for half measures, and that includes artist David Shrigley. No fewer than 239 of his new works are currently (but not permanently) displayed in The Gallery, which functions as a restaurant, exhibition space and – thanks to India Mahdavi’s design – the closest thing London has to a bubblegum bubble furnished with pink boudoir biscuits. Shrigley’s work also appears as specially designed tableware, which is artistically overlaid with über-chef Pierre Gagnaire’s riotous and reliably surprising take on brasserie food. A homage to Shrigley comes in the form of albacore tuna cream, rocket, pomegranate, and pulled farm-raised chicken with rosemary, whole roast Challans duck is offered in two elaborate services, and desserts feature an oh-so-British mint yoghurt and white chocolate croquant, green matcha tea meringue with coconut milk mousseline, or a selection of macaroons. The Shrigley/Gagnaire hook-up also makes for an extraordinary afternoon tea, served (of course) by men in boiler suits.

£50 - £79
Modern European
British
Afternoon tea
Sexy Fish

Sexy Fish

Berkeley Square House, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BR

With a waterfall behind the bar and a giant gold-plated crocodile hanging on the wall, it’s hard not to get caught up in the glamour of Sexy Fish – a lavish pan-Asian brasserie with real “wow factor”. Eager staff in multi-coloured waistcoats attend to diners’ every need, delivering thrillingly fashionable food at heavyweight prices to an equally fashionable crowd peppered with celeb faces. Wagyu ganku rolls come topped with white miso and black truffle, while scallops are pepped up with jalapeño sauce and pickled green apple, although the biggest hits are elsewhere – witness tender, honey-glazed duck breast sharpened with kimchi and pickled daikon or sticky pull-apart pork ribs from the robata grill dressed with green onions and chilli. Desserts are not to be missed either – the fluffy, sweet vanilla cheesecake embellished with a strawberry and golden lime sorbet is among the best we’ve tried in London. With its attention-grabbing interiors and moneyed clientele, wonderfully showy Sexy Fish won’t suit wallflowers, but everyone else has a ball.  

£50 - £79
Fish
Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard

1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF

“That restaurant with the Champagne buttons” is more than just a gimmick, although ostentation is undoubtedly blingy Bob Bob Ricard’s primary selling point: “I feel like I’m in Gatsby’s dining room”, notes one fan. Luckily, the palpable sense of enjoyment lends warmth to the glitz and gold, which is everywhere you look. Cloistered royal blue booths explain why celebs enjoy hiding out here, as does a sumptuous menu of comfort food – think mighty beef Wellingtons and deep-filled, steaming pies. A new executive chef has introduced some lighter (but no less lavish) additions to the menu in the shape of, say, lemon sole stuffed with scallop mousse or lobster in a sparky Champagne sauce. The Sunday roast lunch stars prime USDA Black Angus beef, drizzled with truffle gravy, while the pricey wine list favours treats from the French regions. Service glides effortlessly, and although prices are reasonably high, it’s worth it for the fun you’ll have.

£50 - £79
International
Jean-Georges at The Connaught

Jean-Georges at The Connaught

The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Vong at The Berkeley was a huge hit in the 90s (and much missed following its closure in 2002), but now the New York-based Alsatian chef is back with Jean-Georges at The Connaught. The curving space that was formerly the hotel's Espelette restaurant might still have the feel of a breakfast and afternoon tea rendezvous, but the food is far more adventurous than the setting suggests. Playful luxury is a running theme on the menu – silky egg yolks sandwiched between caviar-topped brioche toast, lobster partnered by a crispy fried squash flower stuffed with prawns, or a gooey pizza of Fontina cheese and black truffle. Ingredients are also top notch, from firm tentacles of grilled octopus arranged cruciform-style to a salad of sweet jumbo prawns dressed with Champagne vinegar. Exquisite-looking desserts should not be missed, although the spectacular-looking candy floss creation is easier to Instagram than it is to eat. Service is as deferential as the hotel setting demands, and the final size of the bill the only intrusion of reality into a delightfully escapist confection. 

£50 - £79
Afternoon tea
International
Dean Street Townhouse

Dean Street Townhouse

69-71 Dean Street, London, London, 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.

£50 - £79
British
Isabel

Isabel

26 Albemarle Street , London, W1S 4HY

Despite the lack of signage, there’s no mistaking this offshoot of Notting Hill’s Casa Cruz with its burnished copper door, bowler-hatted doorman and fabulously beautiful dining room – more gleaming copper, glossy monochrome tables and a ceiling studded with shiny brass discs, plus a multi-coloured geometric carpet like a giant op-art installation. The food follows the same low-carb, high-protein template as its forebear, a hotchpotch of Mediterranean-style dishes topped by uniformly excellent small plates designed for sharing – think delicate spears of green and white asparagus, vitello tonnato with a punchy and chunky tuna mayo or ruby-red raw tuna folded atop a hump of avocado arrestingly dressed with grassy olive oil. Isabel’s bigger plates don’t always cut it: the signature beef short-rib ravioli with black truffle was overwhelmed by its rich sauce, while our grilled dish of luxe pluma ibérico pork arrived uniform brown rather than medium-rare as requested. Some say Isabel is “vastly overpriced”, and we can’t ignore the misfires or the wobbly service – although nothing can dim the sheer thrilling beauty of the room itself. 

£30 - £49
International
Novikov - Italian Restaurant

Novikov - Italian Restaurant

50a Berkeley Street, London, London, W1J 8HA

This slick, flashy gastro-complex from Russian restaurant guru Arkady Novikov is best-known for its swanky Asian Restaurant, although the venue also includes an off-radar Italian eatery done out in more subdued style with oak-framed mirrors, handmade tiles and piazza-style trees in pots. The kitchen deals in upmarket trattoria food, including a host of antipasti ranging from a trio of smoked fish with fennel, prunes and lemon to classic vitello tonnato gussied-up with black truffle. After that, order pasta (tagliatelle with ceps or conchiglie with hare ragù and black cabbage) or trade up to something from the Josper grill or imposing wood-fired oven – perhaps beef tagliata or baby chicken with salmoriglio sauce. And if the place is “rammed to the hilt”, you can now eat in the downstairs bar from a menu of dishes taken from both restaurants.

Over £80
Italian
Nobu Berkeley St

Nobu Berkeley St

15 Berkeley Street, London, London, W1J 8DY

London moves on, but Nobu still parties. More than a decade after opening on Berkeley Street, the toast of the noughties has been heavily flattered by countless imitations, none of which has managed to unseat the original. The late David Collins’ fantastical design (all bamboo murals and burnished futuristic tones) is as dear to some customers as their own homes – perhaps more so, because it signals sheer fun. As for the food, fans rate the lunchtime bento boxes and waiters who take the time to explain their contents: the classic version features tuna sashimi salad, baby tiger shrimp tempura, sushi and the much-imitated miso black cod. Dinner might involve anything from field greens with the eponymous (Nobu) Matsuhisa dressing to secreto Ibérico pork roasted in the wood oven, via the house tacos filled with salmon or king crab or an array of well-made sushi and sashimi. There’s enough choice for multiple nights out, though the bill (especially with wine) only comes in one form – massive.

Over £80
Japanese
The Rum Kitchen Notting Hill

The Rum Kitchen Notting Hill

6-8 All Saints Road, London, W11 1HH

A group of smart young London entrepreneurs have captured the carefree, sun-kissed mood of a Caribbean beach shack with this restaurant and cocktail bar. The ground-floor dining room is decked out in colourful timbers, with an open kitchen and easy-going staff. Pop in for spicy soft-shell crab burger or salt-fish fritters, or settle down to a helping of jerk chicken or mutton curry with rice and peas. It’s fun and funky, promoted through social media and word of mouth among an upmarket, party-loving crowd – there’s no sign outside the door. “Everyone looked like they were having a good time. And so did we” reports one fan. From 11pm it’s party time and a playlist compiled by DJ Fast of Fun Lovin’ Criminals keeps the beat going in the basement. The dedicated rum bar holds more than 100 bottles; ask for a bespoke cocktail. 

 
£30 - £49
Caribbean
Oblix at The Shard (bar)

Oblix at The Shard (bar)

Level 32, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY

Reached down a dark corridor that feels like the entrance to a Zen spa, Rainer Becker’s slick, corporate restaurant in The Shard comes with an accompanying penthouse-chic lounge bar. The views “make you feel like a giant over teenie weenie London”, but almost as dazzling are the drinks, served with a side of live music: rat pack standards, urban loft loungecore, and swinging jazz, played throughout weekend brunch and each evening from 7pm. There’s a small no-bookings area, but it’s wise to reserve a table for the best views. Reformulated cocktails (£12.50) are simply named after their primary flavours, thus ‘Grapefruit’ brings Ketel One vodka, camomile, egg whites and soda to the mix. Alternatively, sip floral-fragranced Tanqueray Ten gin and Champagne sparklers (£14.50). Signature bar dishes include seared beef in lime, chilli and ginger; and grilled aubergine in yoghurt with mint and pomegranate – at predictably sky-high prices.

Bars
Sea Containers at Mondrian London

Sea Containers at Mondrian London

20 Upper Ground, Southwark, London, SE1 9PD

Built in 1977, Sea Containers House was a landmark long before Mondrian, but the US-based boutique hotel chain has done a good job of enhancing the building’s grandeur with a cruise-ship sized dining room that’s wittily decorated with, among other things, a yellow submarine suspended above the bar. Since opening in 2014, the menu’s all-encompassing range has been reined in a little, and it’s now focused on doing fewer things well. Small plates might promise crab on toast with avocado and pickled jalapeños, while salads look particularly enticing – shaved mushrooms with pine nuts, cheese and brown butter vinaigrette, for example. We also like the idea of large ‘family’ plates to share, such as double-cut heritage pork chop or leg of lamb roasted in the clay oven (enough for three people). Desserts tend to be witty takes on the classics, from profiteroles to rhubarb tart with Champagne jelly. “Amazing service” earns bonus points.

£50 - £79
International
Berners Tavern at The London Edition

Berners Tavern at The London Edition

10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3NP

“I love this place!” chimes one reader – and rightly so. Jason Atherton’s 21st-century reinvention of hotel dining has made Berners Tavern one of the hottest tickets in town. Sporting “the most beautiful dining room in London” (think towering ceilings, mosaics, gilt-framed oil paintings and a soaring, yellow-lit bar), this place oozes glamour, pizzazz and grandeur, without feeling remotely “stuffy”. There are many foodie triumphs here, although the reimagining of the hotel dining-room trolley is one to really savour – watch as a giant, perfectly cooked pork pie is sliced tableside and artfully arranged with pickled carrots, fennel, piccalilli and mustards. Other classic British options include the “best prawn cocktail ever” (loaded with sweet lobster jelly, avocado and crispy shallots), but the menu’s versatility ranges from gloriously indulgent five-cheese macaroni topped with slow-cooked beef blade (“to die for”) to roast Cornish cod with crispy squid, basil fregola and soothing tomato consommé. For a final touch of theatre, go for the buttermilk Alaska, finished with flaming liquor, soft hunks of rhubarb and pistachio. Service at Berners Tavern is “second to none” – as we’ve come to expect from Mr Atherton. 

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea
Novikov - Asian Restaurant

Novikov - Asian Restaurant

50 Berkeley Street, London, London, W1J 8HA

Unashamedly flash, Arkady Novikov’s double-handed celebrity magnet, touting both Asian or Italian dishes, comes with a broad remit for the big-money crowd. The headlining pan-Asian option might seem a tad heavy-handedly “exotic”, though the menu is ripe for cross-border plundering – from Padrón peppers to prawn tempura or sweet-and-sour chicken. Sashimi salads, spicy tuna rolls and various dim sum might open your account, while other dishes such as seared Wagyu sirloin or a porcini and truffle rice hotpot represent a line-up rich in eccentricities. Purists seethe at the very idea, but it’s supposed to be fun – albeit of a kind that’s not universally accessible. In the lounge, you can get Italian and Asian food, alongside a slightly overworked cocktail list. The heavily hyped private jet menu is one of Novikov’s more novel ideas, although any super-rich takers will miss the opportunity to see and be seen.

Over £80
sketch: Lecture Room & Library

sketch: Lecture Room & Library

9 Conduit Street, London, London, W1S 2XG

Hidden at the summit of the Conduit Street pleasure dome, Sketch Lecture Room & Library is a two-Michelin-starred homage to glorious gastronomic excess and indulgence overseen by super-chef Pierre Gagnaire. His highly stylised, whimsical dishes arrive as miniature banquets: ‘perfume of the earth’, for example, is a cornucopia involving hay-smoked ravioli of foie gras and redcurrant on borlotti beans and mushrooms, snails braised with wild mushrooms, basil and datterini tomatoes, a mouthful of bone marrow and croûtons on nettle purée, and even a thick slice of textbook pâté en croûte with tamarillo sorbet – wow. Ample mains such as hare ‘in three services’ or aromatic rack of salt-marsh lamb with ‘green crumble’, piquillo-stuffed Portobello mushroom, aubergine and Marguerite potatoes maintain the thrilling momentum, while dessert yields a six-plate sugar-rush of wildly creative patisserie like you’ve never seen before. The dining room is an opulent, ballroom-like show-stopper, and the wine list is extensive but manageable – thanks to sage guidance from genuinely passionate staff. Sketch Lecture Room & Library is rightly dubbed “one of the best places in London” by admiring fans.

Over £80
Modern European
Colbert

Colbert

50-52 Sloane Square, Chelsea, London, SW1W 8AX

If ever there was a corner of London that embraced the quintessence of central Paris, it’s Sloane Square – which makes it a perfect home for Messrs Corbin and King’s homage to the Gallic brasserie. From the black-and-white floor to art-deco flourishes and cream walls emblazoned with film posters, this spot has been fastidiously designed to look as if it’s been around for a lifetime. There’s the odd concession to current tastes on the all-day menu (crushed avocado on sourdough toast, say), but this is really a place for lovers of dyed-in-the-wool bistro cooking, from garlicky escargots and steak tartare to veal viennoise, herb-crusted hake with béarnaise sauce and desserts such as rum baba. Waiters in suited aprons are expertly drilled in the art of dutiful hospitality, while the oak bar is perfect for soaking up a Cognac or two. “Great local restaurant, buzzing from breakfast to midnight, love it”, says one fan. We wouldn’t argue with that.

French
Big Easy Chelsea

Big Easy Chelsea

332-334 King's Road, London, SW3 5UR

It’s almost impossible not to have a good time at this mini-chain of Deep South BBQ/ crabshacks – provided you don’t take things too seriously, of course. Big Easy was serving up baskets of bargain-priced lobster and dry-rubbed, pit-cooked ribs – complete with plastic bibs – long before many of its rivals got in on the act, and it still holds its own in the kitchen department.

On offer is a broadly based menu featuring gut-busting portions of voodoo chicken wings, piles of pulled pork, stacked burgers, charcoal-grilled steaks and lavish sides alongside its mainstays. But food is only part of the attraction here: Big Easy’s fun-loving punters start the night with boozy milkshakes or sharing bowls of fruity cocktails, before graduating to craft beers and easy-drinking wines – a perfect fit for the raucous vibe and nightly live music. We guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face.

£30 - £49
North American
Steak
C London

C London

23-25 Davies Street, London, W1K 3DE

Whether it’s Johnny Depp fresh from a Leicester Square premiere or X Factor judges recovering from a nail-biting deadlock, C London is the go-to diner for A-list celebrities. If that conjures up giddy images of beau-monde sophistication, think again: this is fundamentally a very expensive version of an old-school Italian, catering to the undemanding tastes of the international super-rich. There’s a ‘Dubai does art-deco’ feel to the dining room with its high-gloss woods, mirrors and marble, while dapper waiters are mostly past the first flush of youth. If you can stomach the excruciating prices, the kitchen’s very generous renditions of risotto primavera, veal milanese (£41.10) and calf’s liver veneziana are competently done, and there’s a treat to finish in the form of ice cream whipped tableside. Italy leads the wine list, with little under £50.

Over £80
Italian
Cecconi

Cecconi's Mayfair

5a Burlington Gardens, London, London, W1S 3EP

Brooklyn, Berlin, Barcelona, Miami – Cecconi’s has been shipped all over the world to great fanfare, but the original Cecconi’s Mayfair still holds a special allure for readers (and ourselves). Occupying a corner site on Burlington Gardens, the set-up is “faultless from the minute you walk in”: the decor “oozes class and sophistication”, while tuned-in staff can “answer any question”. Soft lighting, green leather chairs and zebra-striped floors radiate from a constantly buzzing bar, so settle in for a superb Italian-style aperitif before diving into the Venetian-inspired menu. The kitchen keeps things generous and gloriously simple, from perfectly crispy calamari fritti with lemon aïoli or zesty salmon tartare to rib-eye with broccoli and chilli or crab ravioli with perfect bite in a “sunshine” baby tomato sauce. Tables are at a premium, but spaces are always held at the bar, where you can pop in for a few rounds of Prosecco on tap while nibbling on cichetti. The vibe at Cecconi’s Mayfair varies with the crowd and the time of day – from hedge-fund lunches to weekend shopping treats and “testosterone-fuelled” Saturday jollies, not forgetting winningly enjoyable breakfasts. 

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49
Joe Allen

Joe Allen

2 Burleigh Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7PX

It was a dark day in Theatreland when it was announced that the unofficial actors’ canteen, Joe Allen, was going to close – not least because it was to make way for a boutique hotel owned by one of their own, Robert de Niro. But the move around the corner has re-energised this luvvies’ classic that first opened its doors on Exeter Street in 1977. 

A tighter, less labyrinthine layout concentrates the hubbub of the room, while fittings that have been moved lock, stock and piano from Exeter Street look as if they have been here for years. And the American comfort food is the same as ever – adequate rather than amazing, but more than cutting the mustard if you’ve come to soak up the pre- and post-theatre atmosphere or for a boozy weekend brunch with friends; it’s also as well suited to feeding an eight- or eighty-year-old. 

‘Eggs Joe Allen’ is a nicely poached Burford atop a thick slice of potato cake, spooned with hollandaise sauce; well-timed calf’s liver comes with mash that is stodgy not smooth; apple strudel is a as sweet as something you’d want to end Sunday lunch. To drink, a well-priced wine list has bags of choice for under £40, while an evening spent at the bar with classic American cocktails would be a hoot. Remember your waiter’s face: like former staffer Graham Norton, he may well be a star of tomorrow.

£30 - £49
North American
Burgers
Mr Chow

Mr Chow

151 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7PA

Like its evergreen septuagenarian owner, Michael Chow, this Knightsbridge institution seems to defy the sands of time. Almost 50 years down the line, it’s as handsome and elegant as ever with its chrome lampshades, monochrome colour schemes and artwork from the likes of Peter Blake. The restaurant’s rather sexy old-school demeanour lures in rich ‘new Knightsbridge’ types and corporate wallets – none of whom wince at the £30 price tag for a dish of citrus-flavoured crispy beef. The reason? When it comes to Chinese comfort food, few places can deliver quite like Mr Chow. There’s hardly a dish we don’t adore, from the sticky glazed prawns to lettuce wraps of minced spiced chicken, mixed seafood awash in a gooey white wine sauce, and – of course – the dessert trolley. Chow’s original vision of Chinese food served by Italian waiters happily lives on, epitomised by a charming maître d'.  

 

£50 - £79
Chinese
Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard

Level 31 The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, , Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

Swankily appointed Aqua Shard has one astonishing USP – 31 floors up on the Shard, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views, mainly across the urban sprawl leading to the North Downs. The views and the location alone should just about guarantee a full house every night, but it would be remiss to minimise the sterling contribution made by current head chef Dale Osborne (ex-Terroirs). With some mains breaking the £40 barrier, eating here isn’t cheap, but in return you’ll be offered some skilfully rendered and reassuringly seasonal modern British food: jellied ham hock with pickled heritage carrots and parsley oil; fillet of John Dory with Scottish girolles, sea beet, pickled samphire and lentils; Merrifield Farm duck breast with seared duck hearts and slow-roasted Evesham beets; cherry Bakewell tart with cherry sauce. Useful tip: they’re also open for breakfast, weekend brunch and afternoon tea, though prices are as sky-high as the views. Readers also reckon that drinks are “somewhat expensive”.

£50 - £79
British
Afternoon tea
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA

With Heston Blumenthal’s name attached and a menu of eye-catching dishes that play with our perceptions of British cookery, Dinner was always going to be a hit with London’s gastro-tourists, and there are plenty of reasons for them to leave feeling satisfied – not least the beautiful daytime view of Hyde Park, the fun of the nitro-fuelled ice cream cart and the switched-on staff.

“Attention to detail is second to none”, observes a fan. Even if you don’t buy into the restaurant’s date-stamped reinterpretation of historical recipes, there’s a formidable cornucopia of gastronomic delights to relish – from the ‘meat fruit’ (c.1500) disguised as a mandarin with subtle citrus notes to the soft, juicy ‘tipsy cake’ (c.1810) with spit-roast pineapple. Also brace yourself for other extraordinary conceits ranging from ‘sherried’ scallop tartare with mushroom broth to chicken ‘oysters’ invigorated with horseradish cream and pickled walnuts. Sides are not to be sniffed at either – the mash is among the creamiest we’ve tasted. Obviously, such a “luxurious experience” doesn’t come cheap (especially if you commit to the wine flights), although set lunches offer a more accommodating prospect. Either way, prepare to be astonished. 

£50 - £79
British
Two michelin stars
Sushisamba City

Sushisamba City

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38-39th floor), London, London, EC2N 4AY

“It’s all about the experience” at Sushisamba, from the moment the lightning-quick glass elevator whisks you up to the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. Once inside, you can’t miss the incredible floor-to-ceiling views or the covens of noisy young City types splashing serious amounts of cash at the bar. The “fabulous atmosphere” spills over into the restaurant, where the menu promises a thrilling fusion of Japanese and Latino cuisine – from shrimp tempura with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette to refreshing crispy lobster taquitos with avocado, aji amarillo, jalapeños and morado. Other standouts on our list include the multi-coloured sushi rolls, sweet potato noodles served with egg yolk and gold shavings, and a drool-worthy chocolate banana cake with maple butter, plantain chip and rum-spiked ice cream. Samba music blasts from the speakers, while innumerable staff are on hand to deliver “the best service ever”. It’s not everyone’s cup of saké, but high-octane Sushisamba is spot-on for City revellers with deep pockets.

£50 - £79
South American
Japanese
Scott

Scott's

20 Mount Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 2HE

Under the awning or amid polished oak panels, glamorous Scott’s is a top choice if you want to take clients out for some “sublime” seafood and a thorough spoiling, backed by service that’s “second to none”. Staff “really care”, so rest assured that the “best fish in town” will be delivered with seamless care and attention. The sight of glistening crustacea displayed at an ice-heaped bar serves as a reminder that it’s sometimes best to leave well alone. In that spirit, purists also enjoy potted shrimps, lobster mayonnaise and dressed crab, while more elaborate starters might bring tempura langoustine tails, char-grilled squid with ‘nduja or “delicious” sautéed monkfish cheeks with snails and bordelaise sauce. ‘Turf’ is always an option (try the chicken, mustard, bacon and quails’ egg pie), but many customers return to the sea for halibut with dashi broth and shrimp gyoza, battered haddock or fish for two on the bone. Despite the obvious luxury, Scott’s is widely judged to be “great value for money” – something to bear in mind when leafing through the wine list. In short, a “unique experience”.

£50 - £79
Fish
Buddha-Bar

Buddha-Bar

145 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7PA

“Full of people desperate to be seen”, this glitzy outpost of the acclaimed nightspot founded in Paris promises a similar blend of high-life vibes, pulsing world music and fashionably westernised pan-Asian cuisine. Spread over two floors, the interiors fuse colonial, baroque and oriental influences, with Swarovski crystal dragons, a huge Buddha in bronze mesh and a construction of 207 brass deities stretching up into the double-height ceiling. Try a killer cocktail and some nibbles in the seductive bar or go big in the restaurant where the menu runs from nigiri and maki rolls to Thai green papaya salad, Korean seafood soup, salmon teriyaki or Wagyu beef fillet with truffle butter. Also check out the Asian take on afternoon tea. Some feel it’s a case of style over substance, while the sight of bouncers on the door midweek should tell you everything you need to know.

£50 - £79
J Sheekey

J Sheekey

28-32 St Martin's Court, London, London, WC2N 4AL

“Old school dining at its best” says a devoted admirer of J Sheekey – a fondly admired veteran of the theatreland scene that is not only chic and fashionable but also democratic. With its cheerful buzz, fish “of the highest quality” and “some of the best service ever”, it invites diners to enjoy all the pleasures in a cosseting setting of leather banquettes and antique mirrors, with surrealist paintings and photos of legendary actors on the wood-panelled walls. Trawl through the menu for classics ranging from dressed crab and potted shrimps to magnificent fruits de mer and an inimitable fish pie, plus grilled halibut on the bone, fine Dover sole and lobster thermidor, but also be prepared for some daring detours – perhaps sardines marinated with harissa and pistachio dukkah or charred octopus with exotic green peppers. Fabulous puddings include crème brûlée and banoffee cheesecake, but we head straight for the Bramley apple pie and interesting tarts such as black fig with mascarpone and honey ice cream. To drink, fish-friendly wines include many Coravin selections – in short, J Sheekey is “an absolute must”. 

£50 - £79
Fish
34 Mayfair

34 Mayfair

34 Grosvenor Square (Entrance on South Audley St), Mayfair, London, W1K 2HD

Promising British hospitality at its finest, 34 is testament to the “slick”, “five-star” hospitality that marks out the Caprice Holdings stable. From the top-hatted doorman outside this former bank to the timeless art deco-style interiors – think table lamps, brown leather banquettes and a marble bar – every bit of the consummate experience is “perfectly executed”, cocktails included. The grill menu has steak at its heart, but also does a mean line in seafood – our sprightly lobster, shrimp and sea bass ceviche was a judiciously spiced appetiser for the oncoming meat fest. Yorkshire heritage breeds and top-end Wagyu both feature prominently, but it’s worth doffing your cap to the nearby American Embassy and opting for the USDA Prime chateaubriand – a glorious, “succulent”, hunk of beef for two served with truffle gravy and mushrooms. If you have space for dessert, a chocolatey peanut-butter crunch bar with blackcurrant sorbet is simple but satisfying. Dapper, ever-attentive staff earn due praise, and the sommelier is full of great recommendations (in our case, a gorgeous Los Vascos Grande Reserve 2012 Rothschild).  High prices reflect the postcode, but fans reckon 34 is “worth every penny”. 

£50 - £79
International
Zuma

Zuma

5 Raphael Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DL

Fifteen years on and London is still deeply in love with world-class Zuma: “fabulous” says one fan, “can’t beat it” exclaims another avid supporter. And the waves of adoration stretch far beyond the capital itself: this high-gloss, big-money rendezvous draws in a global cast of A-listers and jetsetters, all attracted by the age-defying industrial-Zen interiors and the sleek designer mix of rough-hewn wood, polished granite and shiny steel. Tables are predictably hard to come by, but we prefer chancing our arm with the no-bookings ringside seats by the kitchen. Kick off with a trend-setting cocktail (perhaps Wild Yasei, a macho yet graceful blend of rye bourbon and wild-cherry tea syrup), and expect to pay top dollar for the food. In return you’ll be offered some of the finest Japanese cuisine in the capital: sliced seared tuna with chilli, daikon and ponzu; warm aubergine in sweet miso (an umami-laden masterpiece); robata-grilled jumbo tiger prawns with yuzu pepper; marinated baby chicken roasted on cedar wood, and – of course – the much-imitated, but never-bettered black cod. Service is flawless, and for the final flourish, we suggest asking the dedicated saké sommelier for a tour of his exquisite list. In a word, awesome.

 

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Le Caprice

Le Caprice

20 Arlington Street, London, London, SW1A 1RJ

“A classic, but still one the best” says a fan of Le Caprice, the vintage St James’s hangout that gave Caprice Holdings its name. Star-seekers, celebs and grown-up hedonists are easily seduced by its David Bailey photographs, riffing piano player and “fantastic customer service” (directed by legendary maître d' Jesus Adorno), while the food is “easy on the palate” – but irresistible in its own way. Whether you’re in the market for rigatoni with rabbit ragù, crispy duck salad, miso-marinated salmon with stir-fried shiitake mushrooms or a classic brasserie plateful such as slow-roast pork belly with black pudding mash, caramelised apples and Calvados sauce, this kitchen is a failsafe option – and decent value to boot. There’s also fun to be had when it comes to desserts such as rhubarb and custard pavlova or the Cru Virunga chocolate crunch bar with cherries. Flutes and bottles of premium fizz match the mood, or you can get your boozy kicks from the zingy cocktails and classy international wines. With weekend brunch and Sunday night jazz added to the mix, Le Caprice is “always perfect” – even after all these years.

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49
Refuel at The Soho Hotel

Refuel at The Soho Hotel

The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, Soho, London, W1D 3DH

Residents at the discreet Soho Hotel can expect to receive whatever they wish for – be it a chilled flute of vintage Champagne at the zinc-topped bar, a devil-may-care cocktail in a squishy armchair or a chic meal without the need to brave the queues. On-spec diners also appreciate the modern lines and warm colours of the welcoming but “English eccentric” dining room – think checked and spotted upholstery, teddy bear motifs etc. The menu of breezy international dishes offers seasonal riffs for business or pleasure – from crispy ham hock fritters with apple, radish and Pommery mustard or seared tuna with sweet soy, wasabi emulsion and coriander via thyme-roasted chicken breast with sun-dried tomato pesto, fillet steak with béarnaise sauce or gnocchi primavera to comforting puds such as lemon meringue pie. Refuel is also recommended for a “civilised” afternoon tea.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Delaunay

The Delaunay

55 Aldwych, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB

Like its sibling The Wolseley, this "lovely buzzy restaurant" bears all the hallmarks of a Corbin & King success story, from "spot-on" service to please-all cooking for a big-city crowd. No wonder The Delaunay has become a perennial favourite on all counts: the welcome is "always friendly" and the David Collins interior "impresses straightaway" with its glossy dark wood, gleaming brass and polished stone floors. There's an "old-school Viennese" vibe here, so expect to find wiener schnitzel, choucroute and rich borscht, as well as traditional dishes from elsewhere in Europe such as chicken Kiev and the ever-popular kedgeree. Tempting patisserie and viennoiserie – including an exemplary sachertorte – are worth a visit alone: luckily the adjoining Counter at The Delaunay sells many of these goodies to go. We urge you to book ahead for the phenomenally popular pre-theatre slot, or start your day in splendid fashion with a gut-busting breakfast. In short, "a great London institution".

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea
HIX Soho

HIX Soho

66-70 Brewer Street, Soho, 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.

£50 - £79
British
Locanda Locatelli

Locanda Locatelli

8 Seymour Street, London, 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. 

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star
The Counter at The Delaunay

The Counter at The Delaunay

55 Aldwych, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB

Moments away from the bustle of the Strand, this café and wine bar offers solace from the world outside. Like its big brother The Delaunay next door, the space is decorated in dark wood and brass with the addition of an eye-catching display of cakes, pastries and pies. During the day, the venue takes on the spirit of a central European café with customers stopping by for coffee and cake – our favourites being the buttery vanilla cheesecake and glossy Sachertorte. Pan-European savoury dishes are also a draw; flavour-packed borscht, pastrami Reubens and pork schnitzel come in big portions, making the takeaway option particularly useful. In the evening, the concise wine list, crisp European beers and hearty bar snacks are popular with time-poor theatre-goers. Try pairing the currywurst sausages with a tankard of Steigl beer, while we also recommend grazing on the smoked ham and salami selection. Warm staff, generous plates and a relaxed vibe make The Counter ideal for dining at any time of the day.

Under £30
Afternoon tea
The Ivy Soho Brasserie

The Ivy Soho Brasserie

26-28 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8JB

The Ivy Collection has spread once again, with this large Soho site which is most closely related to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie. Unlike that site, Soho is a far clubbier proposition, perfect for this part of town and packed with flashy artworks and even flashier customers. It’s a testament to the formula that it feels different here, yet still unmistakeably The Ivy. That’s down to the menu which, just like every other outpost, offers the same please-all, international menu of prawn cocktails, chicken liver parfaits, steaks, grilled lobsters and that trademark shepherd’s pie. We can’t fault the food here, from a warm duck and watermelon salad crunching with toasted cashews, to jet-black, Dukkah-spiced aubergine atop sumptuous labneh. Prices are surprisingly accessible too (another Ivy trademark), while the cocktail list has been given particular attention, majoring in fizzing and fruity vodka-and-gin based mixes. With so much space, the restaurant is divided up into more and less informal sections and cubbies, while a large terrace is going to make this a hot summer ticket. Yes, it’s predictable stuff and yes, its gleaming demeanour won’t please Soho traditionalists, but it’s already popular and injecting a party buzz into this newly overhauled W1 street.

£30 - £49
Brasserie
Afternoon tea
The Wolseley

The Wolseley

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”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea
The River Café

The River Café

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, 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.

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star
Oblix at The Shard

Oblix at The Shard

Level 32, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, London, SE1 9RY

High in the sky above the sweeping London landscape sits Oblix, one of a handful of restaurants in tourist magnet The Shard. Boasting truly stunning views of the capital, alongside a menu of “first class” food, it has long been a favourite among SquareMeal readers.

At Oblix, moody modern aesthetics (the reception desk is in almost complete darkness) soon give way to truly stunning panoramic vistas. Owner Rainer Becker is better known for Asian-themed Zuma and Roka, but Oblix is more firmly rooted in Western gastronomy. The menu kicks off with snacks and small plates, including a decadent and crisp truffled flatbread which is topped with shavings of pancetta and flakes of ricotta. Elsewhere, try springy crispy squid pepped up with chilli and lime, or perhaps a super fresh and creamy lobster and clam linguini.

Sizeable mains come from the in-house Josper grill, rotisserie and wood-fired oven – think steaks in various sizes served alongside thick-cut chips and helpings of rich mac ‘n’ cheese, and a tender helping of duck with a crispy skin, dipped in a vibrant mango sauce. For pudding, the dessert platter is surely the only way to go, featuring miniature versions of Oblix’s entire dessert menu, including a bar of chocolate topped with crunchy bourbon ice cream, and a fluffy slice of New York cheesecake.

If dinner reservations prove hard to book, Oblix also offers a weekend brunch menu complete with an extensive dessert station, and a luxe Sunday lunch featuring the likes of lamb rump with puy lentils, parsley and mint. For the budget minded, a “good value” set lunch menu offers an affordable way in.

£50 - £79
International
Zela

Zela

ME London, 336-336 Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 1HA

Savvy Londoners are hard to impress, but this newcomer should win them over with its playful interiors, remarkably good food and links to starry investors Enrique glesias and Rafael Nadal. Based in the Spanish-owned ME hotel (but with its own entrance on Aldwych), Zela comes tricked out like a fantasy tropical forest complete with a cheerful melange of bright-blue banquettes, bamboo furniture, Spanish tiles and wooden floors. There are also high stools at the sushi counter, plus a cocktail bar and a DJ station. It’s a little bit crazy, but great fun.

The food is billed as ‘Meppon’, Japanese technique coupled with Mediterranean ingredients, and Zela’s light, fresh, often raw dishes are bang on target for fashionable, health-conscious diners. Thinly sliced scallops are dusted with dried chorizo for contrasting taste and texture, while yellowtail tiradito is bathed in a punchy chilli ponzu sauce. Familiar maki rolls include soft-shell crab and avocado with cucumber, but we prefer the standout red prawns with sushi rice and shreds of radish. You must suck the head – utterly delicious.

Pricey mains involve Wagyu beef, grilled lobster and caviar-dressed luxuries, although those on slimmer budgets might prefer lightly seared tuna tataki with almonds and mojama or a quirky take on duck à l’orange served with steamed buns. Do leave room for the white chocolate ice cream with citrus and vanilla jelly or – better still – order the plate of mixed desserts, a real show-stopper. Local businesses will enjoy Zela for its power breakfasts and lunches, while theatregoers and hot dates will warm to the seductive mood at night.

£50 - £79
Japanese
International
Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse

1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London, W1U 7PA

The fervour that surrounded André Balazs’ Marylebone hotspot has died down and you no longer need to be famous to secure a table, but Chiltern Firehouse still delivers in spades. Readers praise the outdoor-themed interiors as well as the high-decibel “party vibe”, and we’ve also been impressed by the all-inclusive attitude of the staff, who happily laugh and chat with diners. Meanwhile, in the open kitchen, chef Nuno Mendes and his team send out plenty of likeable big-time successes. Snacks such as bacon cornbread and the famous coral-dusted crab doughnut kick things off nicely, but there are other highlights too: char-grilled Ibérico pork comes with the unexpected additions of grilled peaches and red pepper kimchi, while a side of mac ‘n’ cheese is given a fiery kick with jalapeño peppers. Early risers pack in for breakfast (potted eggs with caramelised onions and curried potatoes), freelancers take advantage of the indulgent lunchtime offers (crab and lobster omelette, say), and we’d also recommend Chiltern Firehouse for a pre/post-meal trip to the botanically themed bar for cheekily named cocktails. Be warned – the bill (with impressive wines included) may have you reaching for the fire alarm.

£50 - £79
International