Check out London’s excellent choice of modern European restaurants with SquareMeal’s selection. Every one of the restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s best modern European restaurants has been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers, so check out the reviews and book a table with SquareMeal today.
“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.
Berners Tavern at The London Edition
“Incredibly inventive”; “consistently wonderful”; “simply outstanding on every level”: readers confirm that The Ledbury is still a paragon of fine dining in the capital. It may radiate old-school affluence, but Brett Graham’s über-suave destination comes across as an inclusive eatery for locals, tourists and perambulating foodies alike – a neighbourhood destination kitted out with arty chandeliers, leather chairs and mirrored walls. Diners descend on the place in search of “top-class contemporary food” from a chef who cooks with vigour, authority and audacious brio. Regulars suggest that tasting menus are the way to go: “every course is a surprise”, whether you begin with a Chantilly of oyster, sea bream tartare and frozen English wasabi or the “stand-out” flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso. There is stupendous meat and game too, perhaps Herdwick lamb with salt-baked kohlrabi, Padrón pepper and garlic or a sanguine-toned dish of Berkshire roe deer accompanied by smoked bone marrow, cherries, red leaves and vegetables. As thoughts turn to sweetness, the kitchen obliges with masterstrokes such as blackcurrant-leaf ice cream paired with buffalo-milk meringues and mead. Impeccable staff “genuinely enjoy their job”, and it’s worth engaging with one of the knowledgeable sommeliers if you want to get the best from the endlessly fascinating list. What more could you want from a two-Michelin-starred sophisticate?
The converted Victorian warehouse that houses Angela Hartnett’s Merchants Tavern used to be trailblazing Cantaloupe back in the 1990s. Some of the diners occupying its curvy leather booths might well recall those days, though they’re grown-ups now, schmoozing clients and drinking better wine. The kitchen's “solid combos” appeal to the assembled company: credible rather than cool, their classical foundations are leavened with contemporary touches and true seasonal flavours.
Some dishes, such as the “dynamite” deep-fried oysters with chilli and ginger or quail with hazelnut pesto and foie gras live up to their promise, while others verge on the “polite”: our sea bream with heritage carrots and preserved lemon was one such creation, although a brown-bread parfait with kirsch-laced cherries was impeccable. For an even more relaxed vibe, eat at the kitchen counter or hit the bar for sausage rolls and cool cocktails. “These guys are good”, affirms one reader.
Secreted beside a discreet Mayfair alleyway since 2011, Jason Atherton’s imperious Michelin-starred flagship, Pollen Street Social, remains “bang on the money” – a “masterpiece of fine dining” and a worthy winner of the SquareMeal Restaurant of the Year 2017. Step through the glass door and the good vibrations hit you straight away, while the clean-lined metropolitan dining room shows its cosmopolitan class with dramatic lampshades and eye-catching arty exhibits. Atherton may oversee a global empire these days, but he still puts in the shifts at PSS, and is often to be seen at the pass – a world-class hands-on restaurateur in his rightful place. Culinary influences and cross-fertilisation abound, but everything is underpinned by indigenous ingredients, from a witty Cockney riff involving smoked eel, buttermilk, beetroot reduction and jellied eel to South Downs fallow deer with pear, cocoa and chocolate vinegar or “staggeringly good” Lakeland lamb with beetroot, blackcurrant, savoy cabbage and a mini hotpot on the side – scintillating, exuberant food of the highest order, with maximum flavour delivering maximum satisfaction. To start, the ‘fruits of the British sea’ is a delirious array of maritime delights presented on a special stand – we love the oyster ice cream dressed with an oyster leaf, the lobster cocktail, and the Orkney scallop with pickled radish and jalapeño; to finish, the dessert bar promises close encounters with the likes of Brogdale pear sorbet, goats’ cheese ice cream, honey and bee pollen. Service plays it ‘social’ without ever losing its professional cool, and there are treasures galore on the ever-expanding wine list curated by the group’s whizz-bang sommelier Laure Patry. “Few places are such a treat” concludes one admirer of Pollen Street Social– amen to that.
Pollen Street Social
“Mind-blowing food, exceptional wines and perfect service” – that’s what punters can expect if they venture into this semi-secret dining space behind a leather curtain at the back of funky Bubbledogs. True to its name, Kitchen Table’s U-shaped counter fits snugly around the kitchen, where up to 20 diners can perch on stools, elbow-to-elbow with their neighbours, watching and listening to chef James Knappett’s team as they prepare (and often serve) the day’s Michelin-starred menu. Nibbles of chicken skin, bacon jam and rosemary mascarpone generally open the show, while each of the subsequent 12 courses is described by a single word on the blackboard (‘oyster’, ‘shrimp’, ‘potato’). That said, the results are bold, ultra-modern and revelatory: a dish simply entitled ‘scallop’ might see a fleshy raw bivalve in harmonious company with lightly pickled cucumber, elderflowers and a frothy elderflower kombucha (a fermented beverage). James’ partner/sommelier Sandia Chang takes care of Kitchen Table’s 100-bin wine list, which plunders the exclusive ‘grower’ Champagnes on offer at Bubbledogs next door. “A little pricey, but you really pay for what you get – namely quality”, concludes one reader.
Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
“Great place for the four Cs: celebrating, chilling, chatting and crowd-watching”, says a fan of the Oxo Tower’s restaurant – a perfectly located terrace venue on the eighth floor of the monolith, which still boasts “one of the best views in London”. The menu promises sophisticated dishes in the modern idiom, from seared peppered beef with smoked sweetcorn purée, tenderstem broccoli and roast asparagus to sea bream poached in vanilla anise accompanied by a stuffed courgette flower. To finish, why not share a cherry soufflé with vanilla ice cream and Black Forest gâteau. The wine list, from Harvey Nics, is a cracker (although you won't find many bargains) and afternoon tea also looks “very tempting” – no wonder fans say it’s “definitely a place to take a person you want to impress”.
OXO Tower Restaurant
Excellent staff continue to make all the difference on the fourth floor of Canada Place, where D&D London’s Plateau hybrid could otherwise lack a little soul. On the more casual side, the close-packed Bar & Grill turns out a popular set menu of international plates, but there’s more to hold punters’ interest in the restaurant – a classy, spacious dining room furnished with 20th-century design classics. Food-wise, many dishes now have French roots – from grilled gurnard to pan-fried duckling breast aux épices. We suggest plumping for the six-course tasting menu if you want to settle in for evening and round off with the drama of crêpes Suzette. A solid wine list is bolstered by occasional events and guest tipples.
High up on the eighth floor of the Oxo Tower, this fashion-conscious, brasserie-style eyrie offers the same great views as the posh restaurant next door, but prices are a fair bit cheaper and you
can rub shoulders with the throngs of beautiful people in more convivial, easy-going surroundings. The vibrant menu ranges far and wide, picking up the likes of soft-shell crab with watermelon
salad and black-bean dressing, Korean-style roast duck leg with a spring-onion pancake and kimchi, or grilled baby chicken with soft polenta, balsamic pickled onions and Gorgonzola butter.
‘Faultless service’ and the chance to dip into the neighbouring restaurant’s top-drawer wine list are undeniable plus points, while cool live jazz or mellow piano music adds extra sparkle in the
evening – especially if you’re lounging on the terrace overlooking the river.
OXO Tower Brasserie
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”.
Launceston Place has a long-standing tradition of employing chefs whose stars are on the rise, so it’s no surprise that readers deem it “the perfect canvas for new incumbent Ben Murphy’s exquisite cooking”. The tastefully refreshed, muted grey dining rooms of this 1830s townhouse provide a suitable backdrop for the chef’s generous carte and tasting menus, which are more than a match for the setting – witness the humble carrot wondrously transformed with lovage and caraway, pristine brill with verjus and turnips, rosy ibérico presa alongside crisp confit potato and steamed aubergine or an intricate chocolate sphere pointed up with yuzu and sesame. Elsewhere, a luxe reinvention of ‘egg and soldiers’ and an irresistible celeriac ‘carbonara’ draped in silky lardo both tip a witty hat to the classics – yes, this is tasteful flavour-first stuff and a “treat for any gourmand”. A bargain set lunch makes the whole experience affordable, the cheese trolley is a show-stopper, and the broadly chosen but inclusively priced wine list suggests a real passion for the subject – note the “exceptionally daring” pairings.
It may share the signature low-key glamour of Jason Atherton’s other Social restaurants, but the “most incredible views” from Tower 42 elevate City Social to statement status. With the fitting air of a 1920s boardroom, this dining room is custom-built for “business entertaining” – although it has a surprising intimacy given the scale of the setting. Minor grumbles, including music that’s “too loud” in the bar, are dwarfed by readers’ enthusiasm for executive chef Paul Walsh’s oh-so-pretty plates of Michelin-starred food – from cured Scottish salmon with watermelon, saké, cucumber carpaccio, soy and wasabi to tarte Tatin with caramel sauce for sharing. In between, he brings considerable experience to bear on interest-piquing main courses such as saddle of Lincolnshire rabbit with Parma ham, trompette mushrooms, spelt, lovage emulsion and black garlic, line-caught halibut with fondant potato, turnips, crispy prawns and tenderstem broccoli or heritage potato and caramelised onion terrine with Jerusalem artichoke and walnuts. Cocktails are classy, and the wine list is designed to accommodate high rollers – without putting everybody else off.
“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”.
Although it’s named after the Greek goddess of pleasure, first impressions of Hedone’s striking interior are of post-modern Nordic severity, with lots of bare wood, angular surfaces, a weird triptych set against exposed brickwork and a ceiling splattered with surreal sketches. The dining room has its own genteel buzz, but we’re with readers who prefer to bag a stool at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. Swedish lawyer-turned-blogger-turned-chef Mikael Jonsson has cemented his position in London’s Michelin-starred hierarchy by virtue of his boundless creativity and almost manic commitment to sourcing. He buys in limited quantities and varies Hedone’s menus incessantly (often from table to table), but the results are never less than startling. Extraordinary umami-rich creations come thick and fast, from a pairing of confit and semi-dried tomatoes with Amontillado sherry ice cream and milky-sweet almond sauce to a meaty scallop brushed with soy butter and sprinkled with nori dust or unbelievably succulent crab claws served with dollops of hazelnut mayo, crab consommé, diced Granny Smith apple and horseradish. Sweet courses such as fresh figs partnered by sharp elderflower jelly, thyme-yoghurt ice cream and crème fraîche break the mould, and matched wine pairings are spot-on too. Ambitious pricing reflects the kitchen’s ambitions, but an “amazing experience” awaits – especially if you’re served by Mikael Jonsson himself.
A lot of love goes into this charming neighbourhood restaurant: its elegant white and green decor still looks fresh, menus are updated regularly and service is always on point. That suggests dedication as well as strong heritage: the two chef/owners are graduates of Chez Bruce and have established a reputation for gutsy Euro-accented food built around an exceptionally well-priced set menu. To start, the signature crab raviolo is a fixture, although one reader highly recommends the duck-egg tart with sautéed duck hearts. Steaks are another mainstay, but much of the line-up changes seasonally: in autumn, you might begin with elaborate salad involving black figs, baby beetroot, Bayonne ham, goats’ curd, pickled onion and toasted hazelnuts, ahead of “delicious” rump of beef topped with snails or a richly flavoured pork fillet, served with pork cheek, boudin noir, wild mushrooms and pistou. Ask the enthusiastic sommelier for wine recommendations, and “request some Madeleines with your after-dinner coffee”.
“Everyone's favourite neighbourhood restaurant, now with star power!” declares one long-term admirer. Over the last decade, Trinity has grown from local gem to Michelin-gonged destination – thanks largely to chef-patron Adam Byatt and his team, who have created a genuinely bespoke experience here. The kitchen delivers a procession of “sublime” dishes well worth their accolades, from mini éclairs filled with rich, buttery cep mousse to the restaurant’s celebrated steak tartare – chunks of almost gamey Angus beef, mixed with pickled mushrooms, Daurenki caviar and smoked bone marrow, served in a vintage caviar tin. Elsewhere, pillow-like ravioli are filled with a fluffy, flavour-packed scallop and lobster mousse, while pink grouse breast comes dressed with hazelnuts and lardo, alongside creamy sweetcorn polenta and elderberries. To finish, the wobbly salt custard tart with salt caramel ice cream has us all a-quiver. Drinks are equally enticing, so sniff out the subtly hopped Trinity Ale or plump for a “gloriously different” G&T. The whole show takes place in a handsome room done out with parquet flooring, white tablecloths and muted colours, while service is deemed “amazing” and “delightful”.
Step off atmospheric St Swithin’s Street into The Don’s spacious foyer and prepare yourself for the sort of assured, personable and utterly grown-up experience that is a rarity among independent restaurants these days. Much of this is down to owners Robert and Robyn Wilson, who have been at the helm here for more than 18 years and in whom a veritable army of loyal City lunchers still place their trust.
With its vivid bursts of abstract artwork from John Hoyland, the well-spaced dining room has a personality that many of its corporate neighbours lack – and it’s adroitly manned by an ever-smooth team of waiting staff. The kitchen covers all bases, from the impressively inventive (tender octopus with different textures of tomato, lemon oil and saffron aïoli) to the reliably classic, such as buttery, deboned Dover sole meunière and a perfectly executed crème brûlée. Our only complaint is that portion sizes don’t always do justice to the City prices – our tiny pieces of monkfish with mussel ragoût and saffron cream left us needing to fill up on new potatoes.
The Wilsons are Kiwi vintners, and their love of wine is reflected in a lengthy global list, including bottles from their Trinity Hill vineyard in New Zealand. For a less formal experience, the Don Bistro downstairs has steak tartare and coq au vin, while the bar serves 30 wines by the glass alongside Adnams beer and croque monsieurs. We’d also suggest calling in at their sister site, St Swithins Wine Shippers, where four dozen wines are available to sample from an Enomatic machine.
The Don Restaurant
A charming addition to historic Somerset House, Spring showcases the considerable culinary talents of Skye Gyngell, who rose to foodie fame with a Michelin star at Petersham Nurseries Café. Her cooking puts impeccably sourced native ingredients centre stage in a seasonal menu that never fails to delight, and readers are full of praise for her “fabulous” but disarmingly simple dishes – perhaps delicate queen scallops coated in velvety lemon butter, grilled lamb with farro, cavolo nero and braised radicchio or perfectly moist guinea fowl accompanied by hearty seasonal greens and an indulgent corn and truffle sauce. Italian influences are evident alongside wider Mediterranean touches – think ricotta dumplings with spaghetti squash and spigarello or a zesty sorbet made with mandarins grown on Mount Etna. Spring’s elegant setting elevates dinner to a special occasion, with the Grade II-listed space transformed into an airy oasis of calm, where staff in pale uniforms deliver “knowledgeable, cosy and personal service”. Other plus points include the carefully assembled wine list, bespoke seasonal drinks and a little leafy atrium. “A real cut above the norm”, declares one fan.
“Reassuringly polished in every way” says an admirer of Bruce Poole’s remarkable restaurant, while another deems it “an all-time favourite at the top end”. We’re also enamoured of Chez Bruce’s sense of style, its neighbourly virtues and the fact that it can regularly deliver inspired Michelin-starred food at egalitarian prices. As a dressed-down local eatery of the best sort, its gusty Euro-inspired food pleases, excites and soothes in equal measure, from starters of trotter sausage with warm summer beans and confit rabbit to desserts such as the much-vaunted crème brûlée or pistachio meringues with lemon verbena and raspberries. In between, the kitchen’s big-hearted approach might yield roast cod with olive oil mash, Provençal tomato and gremolata or rump of lamb with stuffed tomato, sweetbread ragoût and courgette tarte fine – manna indeed for the well-fed burghers of Wandsworth. The magnificent cheeseboard is also a class act in its own right. Some feel Chez Bruce’s new layout is a tad “cramped” and it’s clear that pressure of numbers can occasionally impact on the kitchen, but impressively professional staff are always on top of things. In contrast to the “delightful small menu”, the wine list is an all-encompassing encyclopaedic tome offering diversity, style and quality in spades.
Equally suited to a quick business meet or a special night out, this “fantastic oasis behind Oxford Street” is clearly doing something right – perhaps because its three owners all met at Arbutus, where they learned the knack of serving classy food at unexpectedly keen prices. Picture’s six-course tasting menu is one of London’s bargains, but without a whiff of cost-cutting – witness Cheltenham beetroot tartare with pomegranate, feta and pine nuts, lightly smoked pork with Jerusalem artichoke, quince and pickled shallot, or cod fillet with sprouting broccoli, celeriac and trompette mushrooms. Elsewhere, crispy beef ‘bites’ and a dessert of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and milk jam are fixtures on the carte. The no-frills room is all bare boards and stripped, industrial-chic walls, but padded seats and glossy wood tables don’t compromise on comfort – no wonder it’s also a “great-value” lunchtime magnet for Fitzrovia’s too-cool media crowd. Service is “friendly and knowledgeable”, while savvy wines deliver on price and quality.
From the prosaic name to the determinedly plain decor, everything about this pint-sized Soho favourite is purely functional – apart from the food and wine, that is. The short, daily changing menu “always pleases”, pulling in ideas from Western Europe to point up its larder of British ingredients. You might find chicken hearts and livers with Brussels sprouts, Marsala and sage, Tamworth pork partnered with savoy cabbage and a scattering of soft pancetta or plump hake and spinach given extra bite with some dense chorizo. An all-day selection of smaller plates keeps things simple (think salted Padrón peppers, crumbed pig’s trotters or smoked mackerel with fennel), while adding some flashes of colour to the black-and-white room. You can reserve a table for lunch (“perfect”, says one fan), but dinner is no-bookings only: if you’re willing to queue, however, the wine list helps to spin out an evening with its brilliantly affordable selection from across the globe.
10 Greek Street
“Great food, informal and fun” sums up Social Eating House, Jason Atherton’s regularly rammed Soho outpost – a noisy Michelin-starred hangout that mixes cool-dude vibes and moody lighting with cooking that bears all the chef and restaurateur’s culinary hallmarks. Chef/patron Paul Hood (previously at Atherton’s flagship, Pollen Street Social) oversees proceedings day-to-day and his seasonal menu shows a trademark commitment to native sourcing as well as a fondness for all things creative and cheffy – we’re huge fans of the mushrooms and toast, a richly flavoured, artful melee punctuated with pickled girolles, creamy cep purée and onion marmalade. In a very British twist on steak tartare, tender chunks of Buccleuch Black Angus are paired with beetroot, horseradish and egg-yolk jam, while baked Cornish hake is served with hispi cabbage gratin and textured slices of Tokyo turnip laced with saffron. Simpler pleasures range from aged native-breed steaks with triple-cooked duck-fat chips to the addictive mac ‘n’ cheese with chanterelles and luscious sundaes for afters. Social Eating House’s well-curated wine list and spot-on cocktails are further pluses, while staff are hip, happy and on point (well, most of the time).
Social Eating House
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.
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”.