Best London restaurants with private rooms for more than 30 people

Looking for a private room? Whatever occasion you’re celebrating, be it a birthday, working lunch or celebration dinner, we’ve got the private dining room to suit your needs. For groups big and small, from tucked-away private rooms to mezzanine levels offering you the buzz of the restaurant below, let us curate a unique private dining experience for your special occasion with our list of the best private dining rooms in London.

If you need help finding a venue, booking a private room in a restaurant contact the SquareMeal Concierge team.

Updated on 19 January 2018

Take a look at SquareMeal’s list of the best private dining rooms for 30 people or more. Every one of the restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of the best private dining rooms for 30 people or more have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.

Coach & Horses - Bruton Street

Coach & Horses - Bruton Street

5 Bruton Street, London, W1J 6PT

Unlike Mayfair’s other Coach and Horses, this old-time boozer is the real deal. The place looks much as it did on its opening day as a coaching inn back in the 1770s, making it one of Mayfair’s oldest surviving, unreconstructed taverns – complete with original cellars and a cold room. In the hands of brewers Taylor Walker, you’ll find their own 1730 Special Pale Ale, London Pride and seasonal cask ales on rotation in pleasingly genteel, atmospherically archaic surroundings. Prices are far from ambitious, and the affordable ethos also extends to a range of bar snacks and traditional pub grub (pies, fish and chips, bangers and mash, veggie options) during the working week. This being Mayfair, any coach is likely to be an Audi or a Porsche.

Pubs
Haozhan

Haozhan

8 Gerrard Street, London, W1D 5PJ

Haozhan may no longer be at the cutting edge of Chinatown eating, but it continues to offer novel tastes, without a red lantern or dragon motif to be seen – instead, black walls, geometric mirrors and emerald-green lighting set a thoroughly modern tone. The extensive menu features twists on favourites such as aromatic crispy duck pancakes – although more adventurous diners are rewarded with ‘unusual selections’ including palate-jangling Szechuan soup, chilli quail, jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs or stir-fried chicken with lemongrass, lime and mint. Haozhan also majors on daytime dim sum (12N-5pm), offering everything from steamed king prawn dumplings and squishy roast pork buns to slippery cheung fun and gnarly chicken’s feet. House wine starts at £15.60; otherwise, a pot of ‘blossoming’ floral tea makes a soothing alternative. ‘Charming’ staff and ‘incredible value’ mean this Chinatown fixture comes ‘strongly recommended’ by readers.

£30 - £49
Chinese
Bleeding Heart Bistro

Bleeding Heart Bistro

Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1N 8SJ

Quirky and colourful, this classically styled French bistro could almost be a set from the hit movie Amélie. Inside, vintage posters line the ochre walls, table settings show off the tricolore palette and there are wine bottles everywhere; the outside area is a delight in summer, when lobster and rosé are the top shouts at tables on the cobbles. The offer may be a little corny but it "always delivers". Of course, the food is straight out of the bourgeois French repertoire, so expect the likes of moules marinière or asparagus with hollandaise sauce ahead of omelette aux fines herbes, lapin à la moutarde or salade niçoise. Retro also rules when it comes to desserts such as petit pot au chocolat with whipped cream. Wine lovers can take advantage of the full cellars at the Bleeding Heart restaurant across the way. "Top service" too.

£30 - £49
French
Canal 125

Canal 125

125 Caledonian Road, N1 9RG

Genuinely tranquil alfresco dining is a rare thing in this part of town, so Canal 125’s assets deserve to be treasured. On fine days, a waterside seat is idyllic, with only the quacking of ducks to disturb the peace. Come winter, the interior has its own appeal, with stylish fittings, relaxed ambience & a menu of Med-influenced Brit food. You might nibble on game pâté with pear chutney or chilli-marinated squid with a tomato, coriander & lime salsa, before moving on to a steak sandwich, fish pie or a feta & olive salad. Drinkers are also well served with classic cocktails, affordable wines & plenty of imported beers. On Sunday mornings, bright-eyed locals head over for pancakes or eggs Benedict; others dust themselves off for a generous traditional roast.

Bars
Vasco & Piero

Vasco & Piero's Pavilion

15 Poland Street, W1F 8QE

A resident of Poland Street since 1989, this unassuming low-key Soho Italian still exudes the comforting vibe of a well-loved neighbourhood restaurant. Tables are tightly packed in the long-narrow dining room (those at the rear are the best for privacy), while the kitchen delivers “comforting traditional food” with a strong regional slant. Expect a succession of delicately rendered Umbrian dishes from a menu that changes twice a day – perhaps handmade tagliatelle with a rich ragù or roast Tuscan sausages with black truffle butter and Pecorino. Elsewhere, a crisp endive salad with Gorgonzola, walnut and sweet mustard dressing shows the kitchen’s lighter side. The menu’s layout invites flexibility, although we recommend a conventional sweet finish – perhaps a serving of gooey bonet (chocolate, coffee and Amaretto mousse). Prices are modest considering the location, an all-Italian wine list explores the regions, and “superb” switched-on service will please West End diners looking for a mature, but thoroughly modern, Italian experience.

£30 - £49
Italian
Brasserie Zédel

Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood Street, London, W1F 7ED

Proving that chain restaurants don’t have all the fun on Piccadilly Circus’s tourist highway, this archetypal brasserie provides Gallic staples at low prices in the glitzy surrounds of a cavernous former ballroom dripping with marble-clad charm. Start with a hefty bowl of soupe à l’oignon or a clutch of escargots slathered in parsley butter, ahead of baked trout with almonds, smoked pork belly or something more exotic such as spicy merguez sausage with couscous. Steaks are also perennially popular, from good-value haché with pepper sauce all the way up to a luxe rib-eye with Café de Paris sauce. The separate gluten-free menu’s “wonderful choice” gets a special mention, while over 30 selections from the all-French wine list are sold in five measures. Accusations of “unexciting” dishes are not unfounded but, for those who want a good French meal in the West End at a reasonable price, Zédel is hard to beat – especially when you factor in surefooted service and the festive atmosphere.

£30 - £49
French
The Drapers Arms

The Drapers Arms

44 Barnsbury Street, London, N1 1ER

It may look gentrified, but The Drapers Arms is a lively place, with the ground-floor bar humming like a good ’un when the locals flock in. The Georgian building’s fine features have been left well alone, which makes for spaces of generous proportions and classic design. To drink, there are real ales at the bar and a wine list offering glass and carafe options. Head upstairs to the serene dining room to escape the hubbub (assuming it’s not booked for a private party). A patio garden provides another alternative in summer. The kitchen satisfies with its mix of modern comfort food, such as the house cheeseburger, but is equally happy knocking up duck breast with roasted black plums, or packing guinea fowl, bacon and mushrooms into a pie. To finish, gingerbread pudding competes with Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses with crab apple jelly (is it OK to have both?).

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Boisdale of Canary Wharf

Boisdale of Canary Wharf

Cabot Place West, London, E14 4QT

A reassuring alternative to the polished glass and hard edges of its Canary Wharf neighbours, Boisdale is positively tartan-tastic – there’s even a patterned rug for every knee out on the heated cigar terrace. It might sound doddery, but a businesslike crowd and live music (overseen by ‘sommelier of sound’ Jools Holland) add considerable verve – as does an enlivening selection of over 900 single malt whiskies. The Scottish skew continues on the menu, which opens with fine shellfish, pressed pheasant terrine and a mini roast haggis with neeps ‘n’ tatties – although mains widen the net to include, perhaps, chicken curry with winter squash dhal, poached Cornish sea bass or the house Aberdeenshire steak (served with Thai chilli mayo and the “obligatory” chips). Fittingly, a favourite wine order is “a bottle (or two) of the house claret”, polished off with something from the trolley of British farmhouse cheeses.   

£50 - £79
British
Refuel at The Soho Hotel

Refuel at The Soho Hotel

The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, 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
Blakes

Blakes

33 Roland Gardens, London, SW7 3PF

One of London’s most famous hotels and fusion restaurants in the 1990’s, the Anouska Hempel designed Blakes recently underwent a transformation. Nestled deep in the heart of South Kensington, Blakes is everything you would expect from a restaurant in one of London’s most expensive postcodes: luxurious décor that plays to the old money crowd and classic dishes that have been brought up to date. The restaurant is decked out in a black and gold theme right down to the scatter cushions, making it clear that Blakes is selling ostentatious luxury, but it does it well.  The crab salad starter was zesty and light. For mains, there is coconut and saffron curry, which replaced meat and rice with black quinoa and steamed vegetables to delicious effect. To finish, there is an aromatic green tea and vanilla mille feuille, followed up with miniature biscuits. The drinks menu has plenty to choose from, including a great range of cocktails, as well as some non-alcoholic ones for diners with an early start or a drive home. Like your dinner with some entertainment? Every Thursday, there's the option to enjoy your food while listening to some fantastic live jazz in the hotel's basement lounge, Blakes Below. While prices aren’t outrageous at Blakes, they certainly aren’t cheap – yet, with extremely friendly staff and high quality dishes, the expense is worth it. 

£50 - £79
Fusion
£30 - £49
Boisdale of Belgravia

Boisdale of Belgravia

15 Eccleston Street, London, SW1W 9LX

Boasting tartan chairs, kilted waitresses, hunting trophies and a selection of whisky to make any crofter sing, Boisdale of Belgravia clearly isn’t shy of trumpeting its Scottish heritage. There’s plenty of Caledonian flag-waving on the menu too, from haggis in various guises (try the mustardy Scotch egg riff with neeps ’n’ tatties) to beef from Buccleuch Estate, salmon, “wonderful” oysters and seasonal game. With classic sauces such as béarnaise and green peppercorn to go with steaks “cooked exactly as requested”, it’s not exactly cutting-edge stuff, but the jolly crowd are mainly here to enjoy themselves in surroundings that make them feel as if they’ve “stepped back in time”. Many scoot upstairs for a snifter whilst smoking something from the walk-in humidor after they’ve eaten; nearly all stay for the easy, lively jazz session that kicks in at 10pm. It can seem a tad expensive, but no one seems to mind. 

£50 - £79
Scottish
Steak
£50 - £79
York & Albany

York & Albany

127-129 Parkway, London, NW1 7PS

John Nash (1752-1835) knocked up a few glam structures hereabouts, and this is one of them. Handsome is the word. Gordon Ramsay (1966- ) turned the old townhouse into a boutique hotel and it remains a useful address in NW1. The venue has much going for it: the one-time stables out back is the place to head for a well-crafted wood-fired pizza; there’s a zinc-topped bar for a smart cocktail or upmarket bar snack (spiced chicken wings with blue cheese dressing), and a restaurant decked out in underwhelming contemporary neutrality. Duck hearts on toast or pickled mackerel with beetroot purée are first courses showing fashionable rusticity, to be followed by the likes of loin of English lamb with a North African spin, or roasted fillets of plaice with sea purslane and fennel cream. We also like the wine list: of global reach and with plenty of choice by the glass or carafe.

£50 - £79
British
Chamberlain

Chamberlain's

23-25 Leadenhall Market, London, EC3V 1LR

An atmospheric labyrinth across four levels of Leadenhall Market, "welcoming" Chamberlain's has a setting for most occasions, from intimate dining à deux on the mezzanine to power lunches upstairs and people-watching through the huge windows fronting the market. The kitchen delivers stylish food that aims to please, with impeccable fish as the star – thanks to links with Billingsgate wholesaler Chamberlain & Thelwell. Graze on tangy herring roes before melt-in-the-mouth foie gras with sweet spiced bread and pineapple chutney or Orkney scallops paired with Mangalitsa brawn, lardo and a rather overpowering onion purée. Elsewhere, truffles are generously shaved over sautéed turbot, and prices reflect the luxurious theme – so seek out the set menu if the company isn't paying. Desserts are inventive ideas including an upcycled take on jelly and ice cream with yuzu and rose. "This restaurant has it spot-on", says a fan.

£50 - £79
Fish
£50 - £79
Byblos Harbour

Byblos Harbour

The Waterfront, 41 Millharbour, London, E14 9NB

Tiny Byblos Harbour is one of the few Docklands restaurants to successfully achieve that elusive neighbourhood feel and credit must go to the staff who go out of their way to welcome locals and visitors from the nether regions of the capital. Billed as a ‘Lebanese brasserie’, it sets out its stall with a tempting array of hot and cold mezze – baba gannouj, foul moudamas (fava beans) and kibbeh (minced lamb and wheat balls) – before parading its main events. Expect a choice of grills such as lamb cutlets or baby chicken, which can be matched with a bottle of Château Musar from the short wine list. After that, a shot of arak or a shisha pipe on the waterside terrace keep it all authentic. A moped service whizzes £4 wraps to businesses around the estate.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Halal
£50 - £79
Manicomio City

Manicomio City

6 Gutter Lane, London, EC2V 8AS

Housed within a clean, boxy Norman Foster design, Manicomio’s City offer is a popular double-decker: the combination of an easy-going café downstairs and more formal restaurant above works “very well”, with “super-friendly” service and a “low-key, buzzing atmosphere” throughout. Bar snacks such as carta di musica with lardo and honey signal the kitchen’s attention to detail, but it pays to explore the full menu. Pasta is a high point (perhaps Cornish red mullet tagliolini with squid ink, tomatoes, anchovy and chilli), bookended by seasonal antipasti and inventive mains such as hen pheasant bombetta with smoked mozzarella, Parma ham and chestnut. Pudding might be a deconstructed rum baba (“lovely”) or tiramisu parfait given a dark twist with liquorice meringue. There are bold flavours to be found and enjoyed – especially alongside the opportunity-rich selection of Italian wines.

 

£50 - £79
Italian
The Prospect of Whitby

The Prospect of Whitby

57 Wapping Wall, London, E1W 3SH

Probably dating from around 1520, this riverside pub claims to be the oldest on the Thames: Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens reputedly drank here, and it was once a handy spot for a pint before or after an execution at the adjacent gallows, where pirates were regularly hanged. The gallows may have gone, but the uneven flagstone floors, dark rooms and a few of the old East End characters remain – although they've been joined by throngs of camera-toting tourists. It's now owned by Taylor Walker, so you could bend your elbow with a pint of 1730 Pale Ale while admiring the wood-panelled interior and pewter-topped bar, before sidling out to the small terrace for a view of the Wapping shoreline. The menu is full of traditional trencherman stuff – think pies, roasts, fish and chips or sausage and mash.

Pubs
Patio Restaurant

Patio Restaurant

5 Goldhawk Road, London, W12 8QQ

This year Patio celebrated its 30th birthday and – judging by a packed Friday night – there’s no sign the appetite is waning for its budget-priced Polish cooking. The appeal lies in the convivial atmosphere and chirpy owners, and while the food might be rather stodgy, £16.50 buys you three generous courses and a shot of vodka. Cherry-picking the lighter dishes from the starters is wise: perhaps pickled herrings with apple salad, or fish soup. It’s nigh-on impossible to avoid heavy sauces during the main course, whether it’s veal in a wild-mushroom sauce or cod in dill sauce. If you make it to dessert, expect cakes and Polish puddings, best accompanied by yet more vodka.

£30 - £49
Polish
Rivington Grill Greenwich

Rivington Grill Greenwich

178 Greenwich High Road, London, SE10 8NN

Whether you’re chomping burgers in the bar before a film at the Picturehouse next door, or literally going the whole hog with a suckling-pig feast for 45 on the comfier mezzanine level – this modern brasserie offers a safe pair of hands in genteel SE10. Clues to the Rivington’s pedigree (owners Caprice Holdings also run The Ivy and J Sheekey; the original branch is in Shoreditch) come with a 60-strong gin list and a roll-call of British comfort food. The place-mat menu features an ‘on toast’ section (think devilled kidneys or buck rarebit) alongside the likes of a sturdy Highland venison steamed pudding, or beer-battered haddock. To match the fuss-free food, a concise wine list incorporates good-value bottles from Oregon, Lebanon and even Morocco. Weekend breakfasts, BYO Mondays and free kids’ meals also keep Greenwich folk loyal. “A perfect local restaurant for all occasions” as one reader puts it.

£30 - £49
British
Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey

61 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NU

Milk & Honey remains as relevant today as it was in 2002, when this private members' club for grown-ups first got Soho excited. Unlike some venues, you can actually make it past reception, even if you haven't paid your £400 annual dues. How come?  If you’re a non-member with a prior reservation, you simply have to accept the house rules and you’ll be welcome in the ground-floor bar until 11pm. If you want to linger longer (you will), best get pally with a member rather than face the Cinderella walk of shame long before the clock strikes midnight. Champagne starts at £55 (BYO glass slipper) and wines by the glass are easy money, but you'd be mad to miss out on Milk & Honey’s old school sips such as Boulevardier, Floradora and Prescription Julep – top picks from a tempting range of spot-on shakes, stirs and pick-me-ups.

 

Bars
London Cocktail Club Shaftesbury Avenue

London Cocktail Club Shaftesbury Avenue

224 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8EB

Done out like a 1950s' tattoo parlour, this raucous rock ‘n' roll dive is the third venture from maverick mixologist JJ Goodman (the 2009 winner of Raymond Blanc's The Restaurant). As before, the drinks are sharper than any cooking skills on offer – so try something wacky such as a Tequila-based ‘coupet' of squid ink, smoked bacon, sugar, lemon and egg white. Alternatively, spend the best part of a tenner on a tipple that's ess ‘out there' – perhaps a rose-petal martini, a stone-fruit sour or Tommy's margarita. At ‘three for £5', pickled paprika eggs, prairie oysters and oven-dried tomatoes might not be everyone's first choice of ‘great British bar snacks', but cauliflower cheese croquettes, lamb koftas with tzatziki and Maman Blanc's ham-hock terrine work well at this likeable, if not super-slick Covent Garden gig.

Bars
Vivat Bacchus Farringdon

Vivat Bacchus Farringdon

47 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4LL

“Consistently good” is one regular’s verdict on this huge venue devoted to South African-accented wine and food (in that order). After more than a decade in business, Vivat Bacchus has entered a new phase, with the basement dining room now converted into a private space and more emphasis on the posh old-school wine bar. This animated arena tells two stories: the ‘walk-in' cheese room and vast Champagne fridge speak of flush epicurean punters, while blackboard promotions suggest workaday business dates. Open sandwiches and kangaroo burgers are always popular, but readers have also praised the healthy ‘five a day’ salads and “fantastic” BBQ short-rib with Coca Cola glaze, blossom honey, star anise, stem ginger and Asian slaw; after that, perhaps try mango pannacotta with vanilla and passion fruit. Bacchus himself would no doubt be impressed by VB's cellars holding over 18,000 bottles.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Jamaica Wine House

Jamaica Wine House

St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, London, EC3V 9DS

City history lives on in the traffic-free alleys behind St Michael Cornhill, where walking tours and thirsty suits descend on this venerable Shepherd Neame pub – known to one and all as the Jampot. The current building dates from 1869 and inside it’s a dark Victorian mix of embossed ceilings and wooden partitions – although its real origins go way back to Samuel Pepys’ day, when it was London’s first coffee house. Nowadays beer, not coffee, is the drink of choice: choose from Spitfire, Bishop’s Finger or Whitstable Bay Pale Ale on tap or slake your thirst with an Oranjeboom Extra Cold lager. Wine selections are chalked-up, while solid sustenance comes from hot or cold sandwiches, hot dogs and sharing boards at the bar. Alternatively, head downstairs to Todd’s Wine Bar for more filling international fare.

Pubs
Pescatori Fitzrovia

Pescatori Fitzrovia

57 Charlotte Street, W1T 4PD

A restaurant with a long and illustrious history, this Charlotte Street fish veteran is still packing in the crowds, who come to take advantage of its carefully rendered Italian seafood cookery, alfresco seating and colourful interiors – think black and orange leather banquettes, polished wood floors and prints on charcoal-grey walls. Prices are on the steep side, but there’s much to enjoy from the upmarket menu – perhaps fritto misto with garlic mayonnaise, ‘nduja-crusted scallops with cauliflower and truffle cream or baked whole sea bream with rosemary and Amalfi lemon. Lobster is a speciality: try it in a salad with mango, as a burger, cooked thermidor style or with a helping of linguine. To finish, desserts run the gamut from semifreddo and pannacotta to tiramisu and affogato. Wines and digestifs are equally inviting – just try to avoid footing the bill.

£30 - £49
Italian
Fish
Beach Blanket Babylon - Bethnal Green Road

Beach Blanket Babylon - Bethnal Green Road

19-23 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

Set in a converted warehouse, this East End sibling of the much-vaunted Notting Hill original ‘encapsulates the bohemian decadence of Cool Britannia’, according to the blurb. Ms Moss wannabes apply within. BBB’s maximalist décor is a well put-together fusion of funky château & old New Orleans maison close, while the mixology is similarly outré. Best bet is the speakeasy, juke-joint basement where you can sip a well-mixed pornstar martini or vanilla screw (an Eristoff vodka Collins) at £8.90 a go. Wines range from everyday Gascon gluggers at under £20 a bottle to gold tops such as Krug & 2002 Cristal (£400).

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB

Sit at the “lovely marble bar” at Bocca di Lupo for a quick refuel or book one of the wooden tables at the back if you have more time: the vibe is the same – busy, buzzy, noisy and fun, with a menu offering some of the very best Italian regional food in London. Although the idea is to share, there are full-size versions of nearly all dishes for diners who don’t like another person’s fork near their plate. The seasons dictate proceedings at Bocca di Lupo, but some items are all-year keepers: delicate sea bream carpaccio, anointed with orange zest and rosemary; unctuous arancini filled with soft cheese and pistachio; wonderfully rich and comforting tagliolini gratinati with prawns and treviso. Also expect simply grilled fresh fish (perfect) and soft slow-cooked specialities such as white polenta with suckling pig ragù. Gelati come from Gelupo (Bocca’s own ice-cream parlour across the road), and we’d recommend them over the restaurant’s more adventurous desserts. There are also some terrific Italian regional wines by the glass or carafe for refreshment.

£50 - £79
Italian
The Portman Marylebone

The Portman Marylebone

51 Upper Berkeley Street, London, W1H 7QW

Part of a small group that also includes Mayfair’s Only Running Footman, this elegant gastropub’s name reflects its location in the heart of the Portman Estate. Once used for law enforcement – the cells in the basement now hold cases of wine – The Portman is a foursquare, solid pub with an island bar downstairs & smarter dining room above (used mainly for functions). On sunny days, Sagres, Murphy’s & Amstel are drunk at the outside tables, while the menu loosely follows the seasons: expect curiosities such as spelt tagliatelle with confit rabbit, braised leeks & chanterelles, as well as standard breakfasts, Aberdeen Angus burgers & some lively fish dishes (perhaps sea bass with saffron potatoes, spinach & sauce vierge). The crowd is affluent, & it’s open 365 days a year.

£30 - £49
British
Gastropub
L

L'Escargot

48 Greek Street, W1D 4EF

Those seeking a taste of idiosyncratic old Soho should make a beeline for this multi-levelled townhouse on Greek Street. Dating from 1741, it became L’Escargot in 1927, with the titular gastropods earning pride of place on the menu: served steaming in a glossy garlic and parsley sauce, they keep company with the likes of celeriac and truffle soup, steak tartare or chicken liver parfait. To follow, half a grilled lobster is as swanky as the setting, while cassoulet just about passes muster (despite its “bland” sauce) – allow the clued-up, friendly staff to guide you towards more promising dishes, notably the daily specials. The menu has yielded to changing times with the odd plate of pak choi or dash of chilli but, like the homely open fire in the front dining room, it’s not concerned with the cutting edge. Myriad private rooms lend the restaurant a clubby lived-in buzz, while bar snacks and cocktails provide something more casual.   

 

 

£30 - £49
French
£30 - £49
Café Spice Namasté

Café Spice Namasté

16 Prescot Street, London, E1 8AZ

High ceilings, Victorian brass lamps and swagged curtains in spicy shades create a blend of east and west that's as seamless as the fusion in Cyrus Todiwala's "lovely, unusual Indian food". The high-profile chef is also a renowned champion of British produce, which appears in everything from the homemade pickles and chutneys to the prime fillet from the Duke of Buccleuch's estate that goes into a fiery beef tikka. Elsewhere, Goan flavours are to the fore in dishes such as a classic 'white' king prawn curry with organic red rice or spicy Chiltern pork vindalho, although regional riffs range from a luxurious Parsee-style chicken curry with puréed nuts and coconut to tamarind-marinated duck tikka from Kerala. Café Spice Namasté has long championed the pairing of wine with spicy food and there are helpful tasting notes on the list, which includes a Soul Tree Shiraz from India's Nasik Valley.

£30 - £49
Indian
£30 - £49
Da Paolo

Da Paolo

3 Charlotte Place, London, W1T 1SD

With countless black-and-white photos lining the walls and a red rose on every table, Da Paolo is an Italian restaurant from a generation gone by. Celebrating its 25th birthday in 2015, it still follows the old ways – serving up generous helpings of time-honoured and fairly priced trattoria food to a regular stream of tourists and budget-conscious workers. Keep it simple with calamari fritti followed by a plate of piping-hot lasagne or take a punt on something slightly less predictable – perhaps grilled Italian sausage with Pecorino, fresh crab ravioli with asparagus or chicken breast with lemon sauce, garlic and thyme, followed by Sicilian lemon cheesecake. Meanwhile, if it’s a sunny day and you’re just after a glass of Prosecco and some grissini, the alfresco tables on pedestrian-only Charlotte Place are hard to beat.

£30 - £49
Italian
£30 - £49
Locanda Locatelli

Locanda Locatelli

8 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JZ

Eating at Giorgio Locatelli’s Michelin-starred flagship brings you one step closer to la dolce vita – so writes a fan who adores this polished purveyor of “old-school glamour” and pure-bred Italian regional cooking. Beaded curtains, cream leather and dramatic domed mirrors create just the right amount of chic elegance, while neatly designed alcoves offer privacy for those who are at Locanda Locatelli for discreet assignations. Meanwhile, the kitchen delivers value, authenticity and culinary cred as it fashions an array of vivacious dishes inspired by provenance-led cucina rustica. Superlative hand-crafted pasta is the undisputed headline act (ring-shaped calamarata with monkfish, samphire, dry capers, chilli and lemon, for example), but everything at Locanda Locatelli is imbued with seasonal freshness – from a grilled vegetable salad with stuffed peppers, pine kernel and basil to roast grouse with stewed lentils and game chips. To round things off, try the Neapolitan ‘baba’ with Chantilly and orange cream or gorge on some artisan cheeses, offered lovingly with Italian honey. Service seldom falters and prices are “not ridiculous” – although you’ll need to shell out a pretty penny to do the patrician wine list full justice. 

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star
Champagne Charlies

Champagne Charlies

17 The Arches, Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG

Part of the dependable Davy’s stable, this sprawling basement bar in the arches beneath Charing Cross station features the group’s signature styling with sawdust floors, wood panelling, exposed brick & antiquarian knick-knacks. As the name suggests, there’s a range of fizz on the wine list – from reasonably priced Davy’s Célébration NV to Roederer’s Cristal at £200 – alongside interesting international reds & whites, bolstered by quality own-label bottles. Ports, sherries & Madeira feature too, while draft ales such as Old Wallop will please beer buffs. A revamped menu emphasises classic British dishes: think slow-cooked chicken leg in red wine, grilled chicken club or bangers & mash with Madeira gravy and homemade onion rings. Cooking doesn’t disappoint & swift service keeps local workers happy. ‘A cosy, reliable spot,’ concludes one reader.

£30 - £49
British
Wine Bars
£50 - £79
Number Twelve

Number Twelve

12 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0HX

Like a well-regarded family accountant, Number Twelve is eminently trustworthy but not desperately exciting – in other words, a typically corporate hotel dining room. That said, the smart space ticks plenty of business-friendly boxes, with a cocktail lounge out front and a handy location close to Euston station. The kitchen works to an appealing, Italian-inspired menu that makes the most of our native produce – think spaghetti with Devon crab, chilli and vine tomatoes, wild sea bass with salsa verde or Parmesan-crusted rack of lamb with minted cannellini beans and thyme jus. Steaks cooked on hot lava stones are a new thrill, while desserts might bring tiramisu or almond and peach tart with clotted-cream ice cream.  “Ridiculous” prices seem to be the only bugbear: “I’m glad I didn’t order wine, as I would have had to sell my first-born”, confessed one reader.

£30 - £49
Italian
Bistrotheque

Bistrotheque

23-27 Wadeson Street, London, E2 9DR

Once an insider’s secret on a seedy Bethnal Green backstreet, Bistrotheque has gone on to become a bona fide east London institution. Best known for its weekend brunch service, it’s always packed to the rafters and great raucous fun, thanks to the colourfully coiffed house pianist and decent nosh (plates of pancakes with poached rhubarb and pork chops with layered potatoes do it for us) and even better cocktails. The decor “just stays cool” and the clientele is a veritable Who’s Who of modern east London, with a host of designers, architects, artists and assorted locals using it for nibbles, drinks at the “magnificent” bar (“staff will make sure your glass is never empty”) and lively suppers – perhaps pressed lamb with spring vegetables, cod with romesco sauce, caramelised tomato tart with burrata or “the best steak tartare in the east End”. The food’s good, but the ambience is “amazing”.

£30 - £49
Modern European
The Golden Lion - King Street

The Golden Lion - King Street

25 King Street, London, SW1Y 6QY

There’s been a tavern here since God was a lad. This version sprang from the drawing board of prolific pub architects Eedle & Meyers, & it’s a boozer that ticks all Victorian design boxes: the decor has its full quota of bow windows, stained glass, brass & mahogany, while its list of former patrons includes the likes of Napoleon III, Oscar Wilde & Edward VII’s bit of skirt, the actress Lillie Langtry. The Golden Lion even has its own ghost – a barmaid murdered within is said to stalk its stairs. The Theatre Bar commemorates the elegant former St James’s playhouse next door, demolished in 1957 & replaced by a bland box. Messrs Eedle & Meyers would be crying into their Gale’s Seafarers – or whatever passed for a fine drop back in the day.

Pubs
The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

47-48 St John's Square, London, EC1V 4JJ

Given that she was born in Canada, raised in New Zealand and has parents with Belgian/Danish roots, it’s no surprise that fusion queen Anna Hansen takes her foodie inspiration from far and wide. Like her former gaff, The Providores, this Clerkenwell townhouse eatery is a place of two halves, with a buzzy ground-floor café/traiteur and a serene upstairs dining room with clean-lined contemporary decor. Breakfast and brunch are popular shouts, although the kitchen delivers “tremendously flavoursome food from start to finish”. Aubergine dengaku is a Japanese favourite, served with pickled mushrooms, while other dishes take a more European approach – a salad of buffalo mozzarella, roasted fennel and roasted peach, perhaps. After that, expect a riot of flavours: chermoula-infused sea trout comes with pea and yuzu purée, onglet steak gets its oomph from miso and tamarind, and pavlova comes fired up with Asian flavours. As expected, the wine list is a fascinating globetrotting compendium.

£30 - £49
International
Fusion
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
Kazan

Kazan

93-94 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DW

“Quite a find among the tourist dross at the back of Victoria”, Kazan is all about Ottoman opulence – antique lamps and silk cushions may have given way to sleek contemporary looks, but the soft glow from teardrop-shaped lights and the privacy afforded by ornate screens create a seductively romantic atmosphere. The kitchen shows its class with a mix of Turkish family favourites and Ottoman-style specialities – so expect numerous hot and cold appetisers (try the ‘drunken’ calamari marinated in vodka), plus ‘fire grills’ and specialities ranging from hunkar begendi (stewed spiced lamb on smoked aubergine relish) to monkfish and prawn kebabs with bulgur and salad. To finish, check out delights such as dark chocolate ‘pyramids’ with pistachio ice cream or apricots stuffed with clotted cream and walnuts. At lunchtime, there are speedy set menus and mezze feasts to share – perfect with an ice-cold Efes beer.

£30 - £49
Turkish
The Goring Dining Room

The Goring Dining Room

The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1W 0JW

A quintessentially British restaurant for a top-class family-owned British hotel, the Goring Dining Room is a real experience. Decked out in cream and gold, it manages to stay the right side of pompous thanks to whimsical cherry-tree chandeliers and keen-as-mustard service – a mood of “unrushed efficiency” prevails. Grilled Dover sole and beef Wellington are still there for the old guard, but elsewhere more on-trend dishes delight such as confit egg yolk with chicken wings and prosciutto (“a winner”), and delicate, cured sea trout tartare with myriad specialist tomatoes and seaweed vinaigrette. Roast chicken with truffled potato salad has also “pleased greatly” and we’ve been blown away by the perfectly timed cod with razor clams and shrimps. As you might expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen, it’s all very sophisticated and pretty, although “flavours and textures are a highlight”. The “incredible” cheese trolley gets rave reviews, and the wine list has everything you would expect of such a grand establishment.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
£30 - £49
sketch: Gallery

sketch: Gallery

9 Conduit Street, 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
Vinoteca Farringdon

Vinoteca Farringdon

7 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AA

‘Quick and easy, unfussy and unpretentious’, gregarious Vinoteca’s winning formula matches the oenophile virtues of a top-notch wine emporium with a penchant for smart brasserie cooking. Wine flights and by-the-glass selections are unmissable, and the full list of around 250 bins is stuffed with helpfully annotated bottles from every corner of the winemaking globe – although judicious food-matching suggestions are the mini-chain’s ’biggest USP’. British cheeses and European charcuterie are mainstays of the menu, but the regularly changing line-up runs from crispy confit duck, pear, orange and walnut salad (recommended with a glass of Weissburgunder 2011) to Cornish hake with cockles, arroncina beans, lemon and samphire – perfect with a Kumeu River Chardonnay 2007 on the side. Light airy interiors, funky lighting and retro posters create just the right mood, and the bill is always easy on the wallet.

Brasserie Vacherin Croydon

Brasserie Vacherin Croydon

48-50 South End, Croydon, CR0 1DP

Mini-empire builder Malcolm John has re-branded and re-launched his Fish & Grill as a Croydon cousin of Brasserie Vacherin in Sutton – complete with Parisian trappings and pictures of the French regions dotted around the dining room. Like its sibling, the menu offers a mix of bistro chart-toppers leavened with a few more generic European ideas, from spinach and goats’ cheese crêpes, moules marinière, cassoulet and confit Barbary duck with cherries to veal escalope with anchovy and caper butter. ‘Quick plates’ such as steak and Gruyère baguettes suit those on the move, while desserts keep it familiar with crème brûlée, tarte Tatin and chocolate fondant. Lunch and early-evening prix-fixe deals offer fair value (£10.95/15.95 for two/three courses), and there’s plenty of decent drinking by the carafe on the Euro-accented wine list.

£30 - £49
French
Formans

Formans

Stour Road, Fish Island, London, E3 2NT

Fish Island, just off Bream Street, makes a fitting address for the restaurant at H Forman & Sons’ smokery – although the venue is still “not the easiest place to find”. Nevertheless, it’s worth tracking down this useful little spot in among the industrial estates and street art of Hackney Wick, as there’s no better place than its terrace for a close-up view of the Olympic Stadium. Come for dinner (Thursday to Saturday only) to sample the Forman family’s famous ‘London Cure’ smoked salmon: with blinis or in a salad of crab, apple and fennel, perhaps with a glass or two of English or French fizz from the “perfectly complementary wine list”. Follow with turbot, scallops and clams with chorizo froth, or beef fillet and truffled dauphinois (the kitchen’s dial is set to ‘rich’, you’ll note). At the weekend, Saturday brunch and Sunday lunch are relaxed affairs with a grown-up vibe.

£30 - £49
International
Gaucho Hampstead

Gaucho Hampstead

64 Heath Street, London, NW3 1DN

Lucky north Londoners don’t have to travel far for prime Argentinian steak – Gaucho Hampstead is every bit as accomplished as its central London brethren. The chain’s reputation has been carved from its impeccable beef, offered in a range of weights and cuts: from juicy rib-eyes to the most tender of fillets. The meat is so good, it’s hard to fathom why anyone would want anything else, but the menu is an exhaustive read featuring ceviches and empanadas to start and spatchcocked chicken or slow-cooked lamb to follow. Look out for desserts featuring dulce de leche; they’re bound to be a treat. Also of note are the sultry cowhide interiors, cool and confident service, and the far-reaching wine list including a ‘fine and rare’ section to match the best of the meat.

£50 - £79
Steak
Argentinian
£30 - £49
Satay House

Satay House

13 Sale Place, W2 1PX

Readers ‘heartily recommend’ Satay House’s genuine family feel: founded in 1972 by Jaafar Shawal & Zaharah Hashim, it is now run by their daughter Fatizah, who keeps the satay coming for a loyal, mixed crowd of local Malaysians, shoppers & the odd famous face. Other starter options include deep-fried squid or prawns with sweet chilli sauce, while mains could include ‘excellent’ lamb curry or beef rendang, reduced to a dry, nutty richness. More spice comes courtesy of fried chicken with ground shrimps & chillis, or prawns & sator (aka ‘stinky’) beans with spicy sambal. Eat amid the wicker chairs, stripped woodwork & stencilled hibiscus flowers in the canteen-style room upstairs or take the more intimate option below. Drink cold Asian beer, chilled ‘mamak’ tea or bizarre sirap cincao (rose syrup with grass jelly).

£30 - £49
Malaysian
The Folly

The Folly

41 Gracechurch Street, EC3V 0BT

‘It’s chic and very now’ says one reader of this capacious, typically theatrical Drake & Morgan bar, laid out on two levels close to the north end of London Bridge. The decor has a garden theme, with lots of greenery, a resident florist and some pretty furniture with hints of Scandinavian modern and 50s ‘stil nuovo’; there are even some pop-up shopping opportunities too. Cocktails include classics-with-a-twist, low-cal ‘skinnies’ and punch bowls for sharing, while food is served from breakfast onwards, with a menu that rounds up everything from fondues to flatbreads, Thai green curry and club sandwiches. If looks and inventiveness were everything, The Folly would be an unqualified success, but quibbles over food and service suggest it’s sometimes a case of ‘style over substance’.

£30 - £49
Bars
The Bear

The Bear

296a Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RP

This dimly lit boozer, with its antique dressers, vintage bric-a-brac & board games, provides a welcoming Bear hug in an area that sometimes feels less than inviting. Beer lovers are treated to a steady rotation of well-kept cask ales & bottled imports such as Coopers Sparkling Ale from Australia. Wine lovers are also well catered for, with a choice selection of good-value bins. The daily changing food menu combines French country cooking with seasonal British ingredients, hence snails, bacon & wild garlic are combined in a pie, & tender guinea fowl is served with girolles. Sunday lunches are especially popular & generally include three meats – pork belly, lamb shoulder & rib of beef, say – plus a fish & vegetarian dish. Upstairs, an events space plays host to regular exhibitions & gigs.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Trader Vic

Trader Vic's London

22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE

Mahiki, Trailer Happiness and Kanaloa are testament to London’s appetite for all things tiki, but will they outlast the daddy of them all, Trader Vic's – a hula hideaway still going strong 50 years after it launched? The Beatles were yet to break America when this crazy Californian import first wowed London. Five decades on, Trader Vic’s Polynesian beachcomber kitsch, old-skool presentation and attentive staff dressed like extras from South Pacific make for a pleasingly retro experience. A mainstream US/Asian menu boasts tender, meaty spare ribs lathered with BBQ sauce made to the ‘original 1972 recipe’ alongside crab and grapefruit salad, spicy tuna tartare and moreish ‘maui waui’ (sweet and spicy coconut shrimps with slaw), while mains include lobster with black bean sauce, crispy duck pancakes, and a piquant curry of tender braised lamb. A wine list plays firm second fiddle to Vic's reasonably priced rum cocktails, served in fabulously tacky tiki mugs. Coffee liqueur digestifs are a must; dancing to samba disco hits, performed by wedding reception-style combos, is optional.

£50 - £79
Fusion
Daphne

Daphne's

112 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AE

A neighbourhood bolthole and gastronomic destination rolled into one, Daphne’s is the very personification of its Kensington clientele – handsome, refined and utterly assured. From the dark-pink marble bar with its green leather stools to the European modern art and baroque conservatory for private dining, this space resembles a tasteful and expensively clad Italian townhouse, complete with classic Jags and idling chauffeurs parked outside the concertina doors. The kitchen specialises in bold regional flavours: creamy burrata with intense cherry tomatoes and grilled focaccia; octopus carpaccio with crispy soft-shell crab; pappardelle with wild boar ragù; roast rump of lamb with caponata and salsa verde; seared slabs of tuna atop sweet peperonata. For dessert, the strawberry gelato is guaranteed to clear any rainclouds away. As you’d expect from Caprice Holdings, flawless and personable service is a given, while waiters “with a good sense of humour” take pleasure in steering drinkers through the exhaustive Italian wine list.

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49
Lansdowne

Lansdowne

90 Gloucester Avenue, London, NW1 8HX

It’s now well into its third decade, but the “lovely” Lansdowne is still one of the coolest pubs in the area – you’ll often find Primrose Hill’s celebrity elite sipping summertime pints and fizz at its pavement tables. Even without the jet set, a ridiculously trendy bunch of drinkers fills the cosy, woody frayed-at-the-edges interior, but thankfully pretension is kept in check and there’s generally a friendly vibe. Dreamy bar staff pour glasses of crisp Viognier and G&Ts, while the kitchen works hard churning out “fabulous” homemade pizzas plus “reliable” Med-style dishes from an enticing chalked-up menu. Expect Spanish red pepper stew with a baked duck egg, roast cod and sautéed celeriac with clams, peas and gremolata or wild boar meatballs with tomato ragù and pappardelle followed by some sturdy English puds such as apple and rhubarb crumble with custard In short, a fun-loving, if rather noisy, treat.

£30 - £49
Pizza
Gastropub
Bumpkin South Kensington

Bumpkin South Kensington

102 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7 3RD

It may be billed as ‘your local British brasserie’, but this “classy” branch of the Bumpkin mini-chain feels like a gastropub by any other name. Stripped-wood floors, upbeat pop music and a blackboard advertising ‘what’s in season’ set the scene, while the dining room displays sepia prints of iconic British brands. It’s a studiously tasteful version of rustic, farmhouse chic for the tweed-clad ‘Chelsea tractor’ crowd. The open kitchen works to a flag-waving monthly menu – think artisan breads, Dorset cured meats and perky starters such as scallops with cauliflower purée and sorrel. After that, hefty mains usher in venison burgers, braised beef pie laced with oyster stout or line-caught cod with triple-cooked chips, while patriotic puds might include gingerbread and sherry trifle with candied ginger. Drinkers pack the bar for British beers, botanical cocktails and a terrific selection of English wines.

£30 - £49
British
The Don Restaurant

The Don Restaurant

The Courtyard, 20 St. Swithins Lane, London, EC4N 8AD

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.

 

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49
Dion - St. Paul

Dion - St. Paul's Churchyard

65 St. Paul's Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AB

With its unbeatable location slap-bang next to St Paul’s Cathedral, this angular modernist Champagne bar is every inch as sharp-suited as its banking and broking clientele. Inside, the leather stools, tiled floors and dark wood may be as sober as a PowerPoint presentation, but Dion can get distinctly boisterous at peak times. If bubbles are required, you can fizz modestly or push the boat out with a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 (at £375 a pop). Alternatively, there’s some surprisingly affordable drinking on the French-led wine list, plus a decent slate of classic cocktails. At lunchtime, boost your energy levels with black peppered calamari, chicken Caesar salad, salmon and crab fishcakes or a hearty plate of cottage pie; in the evening, there are global nibbles, antipasti, burgers and mezze-style sharing platters for the drinkers. Live bands on Wednesday nights.

Wine Bars
The Trafalgar Tavern

The Trafalgar Tavern

Park Row, London, SE10 9NW

It’s hard to beat the riverside location of this historic Greenwich boozer (dating from 1837). At high tide, take a seat in a bay window projecting over the Thames – ideally with a pint from the choice of guest ales – & you’ll feel like you’re practically in the water. The atmospheric bar, with its dark-green walls & oil paintings of naval battles, seems to have changed little since Charles Dickens & William Gladstone drank here. By contrast, the large Collingwood Restaurant (fish is a forte) feels rather corporate, packing in tourists & displaying special offers on wine. All this history comes at a price; whitebait with paprika mayonnaise, the house special, costs £7 & you’ll pay upwards of £15 for mains, including baked haddock & Welsh rarebit, or spiced leg of lamb.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Ibérica Marylebone

Ibérica Marylebone

195 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5PS

 

Spanish powerhouse Ibérica has moved tapas on from a tick list of ordinary nibbles to specialities worth toasting with a glass of vintage cava. The group’s executive chef Nacho Manzano (winner of three Michelin stars) directs the kitchen, reprising his own signature dishes and putting them alongside some new-century tapas. Current Ibérica classics range from a gazpacho of red berries, beetroot and anchovy to spring onion tempura with lemon aïoli and soy, an oxtail ‘sandwich’ with potato cream, and near-legendary chorizo lollipops with pear aïoli, while the selection of cheeses, cured meats and preserved fish honours Spain’s centuries-old gastronomic traditions. Meanwhile, set menus and sharing dishes (including various paellas) provide another way in to the experience. Drinks cover the spectrum of Spanish booze from beer, cider and sangria to bespoke G&Ts, vermouths, countless sherries and sparklers by the glass.

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish
Big Chill Brick Lane

Big Chill Brick Lane

Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL

 

The Brick Lane outpost of the Big Chill – opened by the folk who organised the renowned outdoor music events of the same name – has plenty of festival spirit left for getting a party underway. Food is not its forte, but the daytime sourdough toasties filled with the likes of mac & cheese or pulled pork certainly sort out any hunger pangs, and the bar snacks (nachos, Scotch eggs and the like) help to soak up excesses of alcohol. The crowds don’t come for the food, however; the driving forces are the music and the drinks, sold at prices they can afford. With a cherry spiced Mojito at under £8 and a version of Iced Tea for less than £30 a jug, live music, cheap student nights and full-on DJs at the weekend – there’s bound to be a bit of overexcitement.

Bars
Annie

Annie's Chiswick

162 Thames Road, London, W4 3QS

Sitting pretty, just a stroll from the Thames, Annie’s is the sort of place where romantically inclined women yearn to bring their beaus. It’s easy to see why: the rococo interior of this cosy, corner restaurant features flying cherubs on ornately framed mirrors, a profusion of flowers, flickering candles and abundant fairy lights. Love-struck couples aren’t the only constituency, however. Families swoop here early doors, drawn by a brunch menu that ranges from toasted bagels with smoked salmon to eggs Florentine or the ‘full Monty’; others drop in for “homely” Sunday roasts and all-day, brasserie-style options such as sticky duck salad, moules marinière, shepherd’s pie or shrimp surf ‘n’ turf. Cocktails and fairly priced wines (including nearly 20 by the glass) go well with easy bar snacks, while pavement tables and a spacious private dining room offer further possibilities.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Brinkley

Brinkley's

47 Hollywood Road, London, SW10 9HX

Have you ever wondered what an unscripted episode of Made in Chelsea would look like? We reckon it would be pretty close to the scenes played out at this perennial local hangout on a nightly basis. Brinkley’s offer hasn’t changed in years, but its tried-and-tested formula of matching crowd-pleasing food with cut-price fine wines still attracts the well-groomed Chelsea set, who throw generous helpings of buzz and glamour into the mix. The food isn’t particularly refined, but when the people-watching is as rewarding as it is here, you won’t spend much time looking at your plate anyway. Avocado, mozzarella and tomato salad, chicken satay, merguez sausages with couscous, Brinkley burgers and seared tuna niçoise typify the classic menu, which is handled with due professionalism and skill. On balmy evenings, check out Brinkley’s Garden in what was the Wine Gallery next door.

£30 - £49
International
£50 - £79
Hawksmoor Spitalfields

Hawksmoor Spitalfields

157a Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ

Spitalfields is where it all started for Hawksmoor founders Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006 and while their newer restaurants became ever-more glamorous, this blueprint was still recognisably a City steakhouse. A recent refurb has brought it into line with its glossy siblings with acres of green leather and an all-round sheen, but what still sets Hawksmoor apart from the competition it spawned is the hubbub of happy diners anticipating some of the best steak in London, smoky from the chargrill and imbued with more character than the cast list of Game of Thrones. Non-carnivores should investigate such fresh-tasting treats as a mound of white crab meat piled on to thin crumpets, or three breadcrumb-scattered scallops served in the shell with a white port and garlic sauce. There’s no denying that Hawksmoor is expensive, but portions are so big that a steak and a couple of sides (treacle-sweet bacon, squeaky spring greens) should hit the spot for most appetites – though who could resist the lure of peanut butter shortbread topped with a smooth scoop of salted-caramel ice cream and concealing a well of syrupy sauce?

£50 - £79
Steak
British
The Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club

The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU

Despite expanding his ‘Cinnamon’ brand and his portfolio, Indian celeb chef Vivek Singh hasn’t taken his eye off the ball here in Westminster. Cinnamon Club remains the mothership and still hums with an influential hotchpotch of politicians, lobbyists, hacks and opinion formers.

A recent refurb improved the interiors while still referencing the grand old library premises, and Singh’s authentic but contemporary cooking remains consistently delicious. This is modern Indian dining at its best and readers love it: “faultless food, never disappoints”, cheers one fan. We’re also enamoured of the “wonderful setting and stunning flavours” and have enjoyed countless hits, from tandoori octopus with fennel salad to fenugreek-infused roast cod with curry leaf and lime crumble.

Textures and contrasts also make an impact: seared sea bass comes with luscious red lentils, coconut ginger sauce and crisp puffed buckwheat, roast saddle of lamb has saffron sauce and pickled root vegetables for company, and rice vermicelli partners wild king prawns flavoured with mango and coriander. To finish, France meets India in irresistible desserts such as lemon and ginger brûlée with masala-spiced sablé biscuits. The fact that sommeliers are on hand to guide diners through the wine list says a great deal about this supremely accomplished Indian destination.

£50 - £79
Indian
Beach Blanket Babylon - Ledbury Road

Beach Blanket Babylon - Ledbury Road

45 Ledbury Road, W11 2AA

It's sometimes berated for a lack of ‘substance', but that doesn't stop labyrinthine BBB getting packed out every weekend with dedicated followers of ‘style'. Opulent interiors go all the way, with ornate purple chairs, elaborate fireplaces and vaulted cellars suggesting a cross between the Palace of Versailles and a drag-queen club. The hordes of moneyed young things who gather here add to the lavishness of it all – linen suits, perma-tans and Russian accents abound. Cocktails hover around the £10 mark on a list that rarely breaks new ground – think million-dollar mojitos and Moscow mules. ‘Pedestrian' food also plays it safe, which means a trawl through chilli salt squid, seared tuna with couscous and apple pie with whipped cream. Service continues to get mixed reviews, ranging from ‘polite and efficient' to ‘appallingly slow'.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Savoy Grill at The Savoy

Savoy Grill at The Savoy

The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU

The legendary Savoy Grill has hosted a long list of famous diners since it opened in 1889, including Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra. You'll feel like an A-lister too, seated in the plush dining room beneath glittering chandeliers: "I love the experience whenever I go here," declares one devotee. Now a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, the menu pays its dues to the Savoy's culinary heritage, featuring omelette Arnold Bennett and peach Melba (both created here), as well as French staples that would be familiar to the hotel's first chef, Escoffier. But the main event is the "wonderful meat": generous grills and chops, with classic sauces such as marrowbone and shallot, feature alongside braises, roasts and pies, plus daily treats from the trolley – Wednesday is our favourite day for lunch, when beef Wellington is the star of the show. A traditional wine list lends support, while polished staff include "a helpful and knowledgeable sommelier". In short, the Savoy Grill delivers.

 
£50 - £79
Modern European
Mestizo

Mestizo

103 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 3EL

Smarter than most Mexican joints in the capital, Mestizo is trying to do something a bit different. Taking its name from the mixed-race descendants of the conquistadores, it offers a fusion of Mexican & Spanish flavours: begin by ordering some street food for the table (beef empanadas or deep-fried tortillas stuffed with spicy fish), before investigating regional specialities such as mole huasteco (a grilled chicken dish from Hidalgo served with a spicy chocolate sauce) or piña rellena de mariscos (a scooped-out pineapple filled with seafood & a spicy coriander dressing). There’s also a huge selection of tortillas, burritos & chimichangas at very friendly prices. Ignore the traffic roaring by on busy Hampstead Road & surrender to the brain-teasing temptations of myriad Tequilas & Tequila-based cocktails.

£30 - £49
Mexican
Simpson

Simpson's in the Strand

100 Strand, London, WC2R 0EW

Along with Rules (est. 1798) and Wiltons (1840), 189-year-old Simpson’s comprises a holy trinity of Empire-era, Rule Britannia British dining. It has just re-opened after a spruce-up, and entering the stained-glass and tiled lobby is like stepping into the booking hall of a gothic Victorian railway station. The dining room itself (or ‘Grand Divan’, to give it its proper title) is even more of a spectacle, a Grade II-listed showstopper of lustrous wood panelling and wedding-cake plaster moulding, oil paintings and leather banquettes, illuminated by chandeliers (there is no natural light) and, minus the cigar smoke, immediately recognisable to former patrons Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill. The food (from a British ‘bill of fare’ rather than a French ‘menu’) has been gently updated for modern appetites, losing some of its trencherman appeal along the way. A prettily presented pulled ham-hock salad, artfully arranged beef Wellington and a light gooseberry trifle all seemed aimed more at guests from the neighbouring Savoy (of which Simpsons is part) than Billy Bunter-ish City gents, although gently warmed potted shrimps to spread onto toast and sirloin with a slab of mushroom were in the comfort food tradition of old. And we were surprised that for a restaurant that prides itself on its trolley service (roast beef and Yorkshire pud, cocktails mixed tableside), the cheese selection turned out to be five pre-plated slices, presented without explanation. Overall, with Simpson’s-branded mustard and horseradish available to buy on the way out, we left with the impression that this is heritage-trail dining rather than a piece of living history. 

£50 - £79
British
Bluebird

Bluebird

350 King's Road, London, SW3 5UU

With a plum Chelsea location and plenty of space on the street-level terrace and first-floor restaurant, Bluebird keeps it simple to woo the King’s Road set with a please-all menu of globe-spanning flavours, lighter bites at the adjacent Bluebird Café and a large horseshoe bar. Following a refurbishment in autumn 2016, the sprawling dining room is a mishmash of styles – patterned fabrics and blue and brown leather ­­– beneath rusty-red girders and a large skylight. Diners share a collection of smaller options, or go for a traditional three-course meal. Our salad of crispy duck was piled with chewy nuggets of flesh and drizzled with a well-matched maple dressing, but a hefty Galician steak for two was too chewy and fatty for the price. Overall prices are reasonable and pescatarians are particularly well catered for. The staff are on-point and swift, while only the pickiest oenophile will struggle to find a wine on the lengthy list. 

£50 - £79
International
£50 - £79
Frederick

Frederick's

106 Islington High Street, Camden Passage, London, N1 8EG

“One of my all-time favourites for over 25 years now!” enthuses a dedicated follower of Frederick’s – an Islington “classic” with more than four decades of honourable service under its belt. The airy interior still looks dapper, the lovely alfresco space is “one of life’s pleasures” (especially with glass of rosé in hand), and the location amid the antique shops of Camden Passage is as endearing as ever. Meanwhile, the food has moved with the times, without ever chasing fashion or sacrificing consistency: stuffed courgette flowers ‘three ways’ is a modish opener, but also keep an eye out for the likes of organic salmon tartare with avocado, sesame soy dressing and pan carasau, curried monkfish with pappardelle and sautéed cauliflower or gigot of Welsh lamb with chips. It isn’t cheap, although affordable lunch/pre-theatre deals, Saturday brunch and kids’ menus deserve a cheer. There are also some “lovely wine choices” to peruse.

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49
Lemonia

Lemonia

89 Regent's Park Road, London, NW1 8UY

Occupying its corner spot for more than 30 years, Lemonia must surely qualify for the ‘institution’ moniker by now. The place is run by Greek-Cypriots who do their best to offer a slice of Mediterranean sunshine, even when the weather isn’t playing ball. Cosy booths and hanging baskets help recreate the taverna feel inside, and when the sky is blue the terrace garden with its plentiful foliage comes into its own. The food consists of unreconstructed Hellenic staples – what you might hope for, really, and probably what most people would expect: tarama, hummus, grilled halloumi and suchlike to get going, but there’s octopus salad, too. Main courses have the same familiar ring: it’s like being on holiday on your favourite Greek island. Moussaka, stifado, grilled fish and hearty charcoal-flamed meats rarely disappoint, and Greek bottles star on the wine list. Want a set meal? The meze awaits.

£30 - £49
Greek
£50 - £79
Anglesea Arms Chelsea

Anglesea Arms Chelsea

15 Selwood Terrace, London, SW7 3QG

“Small, unassuming gastropub with brilliant food”, proclaims a fan of this long-serving Chelsea favourite – although it has other laudable attributes too: the proper, welcoming bar still boasts guest beers, wooden seating and pretty flowers; a south-facing terrace gets packed in warm weather, and you can’t beat the button-back chesterfield beside an open when it’s chilly. The restaurant to the rear has the same simple accoutrements under a pitched glazed roof, while the open kitchen delivers a skilful, speedy and constantly changing menu of gutsy, wholesome food. In winter, you might fancy pickled mackerel with beetroot, red onion and horseradish followed by wild boar sausages with mash and kale, veal meatballs with linguine or corn-fed chicken breast with pot-roasted root vegetables and chestnuts. Generous portions, sensibly priced wines and sweet, willing staff make this durable hostelry well worth a detour.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Jamies Creechurch Lane

Jamies Creechurch Lane

18-22 Creechurch Lane, London, EC3A 5AY

Parlour palms, a glassy corner site & the chain’s trademark peppermint colour scheme add cheer to this smart Jamies outlet, which is dominated by a long bar complete with a cosy, burgundy-hued alcove at the far end. The brasserie-style menu makes it a popular lunchtime venue: share a mezze platter, try a sweet chilli chicken salad, or opt for a rib-eye or sirloin steak served with a portobello mushroom, grilled tomato & skin-on fries. The easy-to-follow, branded wine list comes with useful tasting notes & bags of choice, including a few ‘off-piste’ varietals such as Viognier & Chenin Blanc at affordable prices. The ace up this Jamies’ sleeve, however, is the 100-capacity private bar & function room, complete with a dancefloor. ‘Great for business lunches & after-work get-togethers’, says a fan.

£30 - £49
British
Mandarin Palace

Mandarin Palace

559-561 Cranbrook Road, London, IG2 6JZ

The only way is Essex if you’re looking for some of London’s best dim sum. Gants Hill’s Mandarin Palace, now well into its fourth decade, draws in diners from across east London all the way into Essex, with a blend of traditional Cantonese cooking & timeworn (although rather lovely) oriental opulence. Family parties, among them many Chinese diners, throng the place at the weekend for dim sum of superb quality & value. Slabs of creamy deep-fried turnip paste are enlivened with a fiery XO sauce, & lotus sticky rice with grated scallop also appears on the chef’s speciality list. Come the evening, the restaurant takes on a charming, romantic glow as couples pile in for the justly renowned barbecued meats & extravagant seafood dishes (lobster with ginger & spring onion, say), to be accompanied by some fittingly ‘grown-up’ wines.

£30 - £49
Chinese
Entrée

Entrée

2 Battersea Rise, SW11 1ED

Enter Entrée & you’ll discover it has plenty to offer: from an ambitious kitchen to a classy raised dining-room space, plus a smart ground-floor cocktail bar with jazz piano. The Franglais menu cleverly matches hake with chorizo, butterbeans & clams; meanwhile, modern interpretations of classics might include crab & scallop lasagne, & meat lovers will relish confit shoulder of lamb, here served with mutton chop, couscous & mint salad. With main courses around £20, this isn’t a cheap restaurant, & some might discern a little pretension about the place, but affluent Claphamites still come in numbers. Bookings are essential later in the week, when live music & cocktails jolly-up the bar crowd & the whole place lets its hair down.

£30 - £49
French
Christopher

Christopher's

18 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DD

Christopher's may have celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016, but the handsome Grade II-listed Victorian building has a longer history than that and was once home to London's first licensed casino. There's no need to take a gamble on the menu, which is a selection of reliably good stateside staples: juicy Maine lobsters and prime steaks hailing from the US, Scotland and Australia are the winning bets, but you'll also strike lucky with moist Maryland crab cakes or slow-cooked pork belly and Ibérico chop served with Boston baked beans and creamed corn. Lighter choices include fresh salmon carpaccio with a zingy tequila and key lime dressing, but you're likely to lose all will-power when you see the line-up of decadent desserts such as New York cheesecake or chocolate, peanut butter and caramel tart with espresso ice cream. Brunch is always a big deal here too, with readers rating the 'build-your-own pancake' menu, "delicious options" and "really lovely atmosphere".

£50 - £79
North American
Steak
£30 - £49
Seven Park Place by William Drabble

Seven Park Place by William Drabble

St. James's Hotel & Club, 7-8 Park Place, London, SW1A 1LS

Embedded within the wedding-cake surrounds of the St James's Hotel, this freestanding restaurant drips sobriety and good manners. Restraint is the watchword – even if your eyes have to cope with a mishmash of patterned carpets, patterned banquettes and dramatic patterned wallpaper in the petite, nine-table dining room. William Drabble delivers “the most incredible, genuine French food”, sourcing from the UK, but applying several coats of contemporary Gallic lacquer to his Michelin-starred food: scallops are marinated in blood-orange vinegar and served with Dorset crab and blood-orange mayo; saddle of Lune Valley lamb arrives with onions, turnips and thyme; roast veal sweetbreads are studded with truffle and partnered by crispy chicken wings, salt-baked celeriac and roasted chicken emulsion. To finish, try coffee-soaked savarin with coffee cream and caramelised hazelnuts. “Professional, dedicated staff” provide the icing on the cake.

£50 - £79
French
One michelin star
Bow Wine Vaults

Bow Wine Vaults

10 Bow Church Yard, London, EC4M 9DQ

‘I’ve been coming here for over 35 years, so it must be good’, remarked a long-time devotee of this enduring little Francophile restaurant and wine bar next to St Mary-le-Bow – sit at one of the buzzy alfresco tables and you could almost be in Lyon or Bordeaux. Alternatively, head indoors and make a beeline for the plush dining room or the unfussy panelled bar. Either way, the food keeps it straight and true, sending out gravadlax with dill dressing before char-grilled Scottish rib-eye steak with fat triple-cooked chips and Béarnaise sauce, liver and bacon, or roast cod fillet with romano beans and salsa verde. Many dishes are available in two sizes, and there’s a simpler menu of sandwiches, sharing platters, ‘great’ sausages and suchlike at the bar. ‘Superb’ staff know how to charm, and the French-led wine list is refreshingly broad.

£30 - £49
Modern European
British
Wine Bars
Cocochan

Cocochan

38-40 James Street, London, W1U 1EU

“A great hangout place between or after shopping”, this high-design proposition just behind Selfridges appeals to those with trim figures by touting contemporary Asian fusion small plates and exotic mains. Dim sum is an affordable sharing treat for retail-therapy refugees, while main courses keep it appealingly simple and eclectic – larger plates of black cod in miso and kimchee lamb cutlets interspersed with lighter bites including yellowtail carpaccio, shumai beef dumplings and the popular seared tuna tataki offer something for everyone. The striking, modernist interior is divided into three distinct spaces (‘dekoros’) coloured purple, white and gold respectively – all festooned with a riot of geometric screens, moody lighting, mirrored latticework and black bamboo tabletops. Terrific clued-up staff are also spot-on when it comes to suggesting innovative cocktails from the bar.

£30 - £49
The Rose Fulham

The Rose Fulham

1 Harwood Terrace, London, SW6 2AF

Situated just off a pub-heavy stretch of the New King’s Road, this pleasantly uncluttered little boozer more than holds its own against the local competition. Readers enjoy its ‘relaxed, bubbly and fun atmosphere’, although the place can get pretty raucous come the weekend. If the weather’s nice, bag a seat by the fountain in the charming beer garden; otherwise park yourself inside and order from a lively but ‘good value’ menu. A £20 note should easily cover a bowl of split pea soup followed by haddock and salmon fishcakes, plus a dessert (perhaps rhubarb crumble with ice cream) – so you can afford to splash out when it comes to the wallet-friendly, global wine list. As for service, ‘well-informed, friendly and enthusiastic’ staff keep things ticking along nicely.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Gun

The Gun

27 Coldharbour, London, E14 9NS

“If the sun comes out on the terrace, there’s nowhere better”, declares a fan of The Gun and its striking riverside position. Pints have been poured at this Docklands site for 250 years (famous drinkers include both Lord Nelson and Tinie Tempah), but the boozer passed into London food history as one of Ed and Tom Martin’s first gastropubs. Now owned by Fuller’s brewery, it’s still an “amazing location” full of possibilities for lazy Sundays – try the whole roast Suffolk chicken for two. Otherwise, bangers and mash are a speciality in the bar, alongside beer-friendly snacks including devilled whitebait. The restaurant set-up is smarter, with posh dishes such as seared scallops with brown onion consommé, charred button onions, grilled leeks and white onion purée followed by roast Yorkshire pheasant with sour pear jus or cod fillet with braised fennel fondue. Beers reflect the pub’s ownership, and there’s a full roster of food-friendly wines.

Under £30
British
Gastropub
China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel

China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel

53 Park Lane, 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
Royal China - Westferry Circus

Royal China - Westferry Circus

30 Westferry Circus, London, E14 8RR

"Perfect views of the Thames" are a given at this branch of the Royal China chain, which occupies a prime site facing a wide sweep of the river: with the Thames Ferry Pier next door, they've also put the terrace to good use. The group is famed for its tip-top, "extremely well-priced" dim sum, so be ready to work your way through exemplary steamed pork and radish dumplings, stuffed beancurd rolls, honey-roast pork puffs and a splendid rice pot of spicy chicken's feet and spare ribs. At teatime, the kitchen switches to a fancier menu of Hong Kong-style food, complete with helpful photographs. Cantonese classics such as crispy aromatic duck and lobster with ginger and spring onion line up alongside lemon chicken, stir-fried Dover sole with spicy salt or stewed pork belly with preserved cabbage. "Excellent service" makes the grade too.

£50 - £79
Chinese
Dim Sum
sketch: Lecture Room & Library

sketch: Lecture Room & Library

9 Conduit Street, 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
The Hawley Arms

The Hawley Arms

2 Castlehaven Road, London, NW1 8QU

Squeeze on your skinniest jeans and lace up your brogues: the preened indie kids at this cooler-than-school watering hole follow a strict dress code. Resurrected after burning to the ground in Camden’s 2008 fire, The Hawley Arms has shed its down-and-dirty interior and brushed up a bit – still retaining its unique sense of style, of course, with quirky musical artefacts scattered throughout the place. There are beers and lagers aplenty, plus a fair choice of wines that sit happily below £25. The food is equally low-key: a bumper range of Pieminster pies, fish and chips, Sunday roasts and moules-frites. Tune in for regular live music, and head for the roof terrace on sunny days.

Pubs
Kensington Place

Kensington Place

201-209 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7LX

Hands down “the best fish restaurant in the area” declares a fan of this longstanding seafood joint, which is run in tandem with an on-site fishmonger’s. The airy, modernist room could be sat on a seaside promenade, with floor-to-ceiling windows, bare café-style tables, portholes and a wire-shaped shoal construction reinforcing the maritime theme. Fans praise the “phenomenal starters” and we’ve also been won over – notably by the zesty tuna ceviche embellished with wasabi mayonnaise and toasted peanuts. Elsewhere, creamy lemon sole véronique with sea vegetables is a good call, haddock and chips does the business, and the freshness of the market fish menu is equally impressive – try a meaty tranche of grilled turbot with caper sauce. For dessert, the rich Pedro Ximénez trifle is enough for two. The bar deals in great cocktails, while the informal vibe and mini-sized dishes “hit the spot”.

£30 - £49
Fish
£30 - £49
Mulberry Street

Mulberry Street

47 Moscow Road, London, W2 5RT

Elvis would have loved Mulberry Street, not least because the leather booths are the same colour as his treasured purple Cadillac. Although the menu at this groovy, New York-style pizzeria boasts an assortment of pastas & salads (not to mention sautéed king prawns arrabbiata & ‘Milly’s meatballs’), the real draw is the line-up of 20-inch, thin-crust pizzas ranging from a basic margherita to the ‘chicken parmesan’. Kids are distracted by the vintage Tom & Jerry cartoons on the TV screens, while grown-ups knock back bottles of Brooklyn lager or shots of hard liquor. If your appetite isn’t sated by a New York ‘hot’ with extra pepperoni & jalapeños, you can always make like the King & round things off with a whopping hot fudge sundae or chocolate pizza.

£30 - £49
Pizza
Italian
Gaucho City

Gaucho City

1 Bell Inn Yard, London, EC3V 0BL

From the awning over the stairs to the buttoned black leather within, Henry Ford’s favourite colour is much in evidence at this stygian steakhouse in the vault where the Bank of England once stored its bullion. It’s dark & it’s sexy, with shades of Addams-family gloom perked up by cowhide upholstery that adds a frivolous touch of yee-ha! to the show. But it’s beef, not leather, that makes Gaucho the capital’s favourite Argentinian since Evita: 400g spiral cuts of marinated rump, slow-grilled chateaubriand to share & entraña fina (succulent marbled skirt of beef) all make an impact. Spatchcocked chicken & black cod cater for less red-blooded appetites, & there are a few options for stray veggies. The ‘prodigious’ Argentinian wine list is a vinous education, with fine & rare bottles in abundance, plus masses of beef-friendly Malbec.

£50 - £79
Steak
Argentinian
£50 - £79
Quaglino

Quaglino's

16 Bury Street, SW1Y 6AJ

Once a stunner, always a stunner. With its “all-encompassing” ambience and a shape that evokes a cruise ship’s lavish ballroom (an effect emphasised by the stage at one end), revamped Quag’s carries its glamorous past with it. Aware that the bleeding edge of London’s restaurant scene is now far off in the distance, owners D&D London concentrate on easy-to-like food with a satisfying element of flash. There are oysters, caviar and a pile-it-high lobster and langoustine cocktail, plus braised veal breast with truffled Comté mac ’n’ cheese, and big beefy grills. “Very attentive” service gives the experience some soul, and a striking central bar, topped with glowing marble, is a source of pleasant bustle, particularly at night. After 10pm, DJs, house bands and guest artists hit the stage, which may be a reason to arrive or leave; if it’s the former, a late-night menu on Fridays and Saturdays keeps things kicking into the wee hours.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Tom

Tom's Kitchen Chelsea

27 Cale Street, London, SW3 3QP

With branches in Canary Wharf and St Katherine's Docks, Michelin-starred Tom Aikens’ boisterous, stripped-back brasserie side-line now has the makings of a mini-chain. Fans of robust British-inspired grub still congregate at the Cale Street original for bullish classics and seasonal dishes ranging from macaroni cheese, seven-hour confit lamb and shepherd’s pie to beetroot salad with pear and goats’ curd, roast wild duck with celeriac mash and port sauce or pumpkin cheesecake with spiced ice cream. Photos of ‘food hero' suppliers line the tiled walls, and the interior is a masculine (but not overbearing) mix of diminutive, tight-packed tables and long benches. Despite its clean lines and smart attributes, the place can be let down by braying noise and big bills – although premier-league Chelsea prices don't deter the crowds, who also pile in for full-English fry-ups (£13.50) and restorative weekend brunch.


Photography credit: David Griffen

£50 - £79
British
All Star Lanes Holborn

All Star Lanes Holborn

Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, London, WC1B 4DA

The most fun you can have in a pair of borrowed shoes, All Star Lanes offers an ace package of bowling, burgers, booze and bacon popcorn. Its stylishly got-up branches aim to please both occasional bowlers and regular Big Lebowskis. Unsurprisingly, menus look to America for inspiration, with ideas drawn from both the classic diner and its modern-day equivalent: consider buttermilk-fried chicken and jerk gravy, BBQ glazed baby back ribs or a nacho cheeseburger with taco shards. For the luxe experience, make it whole lobster and fries or truffled mac ‘n’ cheese. Drinking has been known to improve one’s game, so choose your poison from the likes of Brooklyn lager, hardshakes, Margaritas and picklebacks. Some lanes go to ‘walk-ins’, others can be reserved. It’s worth booking ahead and keeping an eye out for special offers and off-peak prices.

£30 - £49
North American
The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont

The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont

The Beaumont, 8 Balderton Street, London, W1K 6TF

Elegance and a warm welcome come as standard at this upmarket hotel grill room, which has powerful echoes of New York’s old-timers with its art-deco murals and framed photographic portraits. The buzz here lasts all day from breakfast to midnight – although the Colony’s comfort food comes with a distinctly American twang.

On the carte, chicken pot pie and macaroni cheese vie for attention with buttermilk fried chicken and Cajun-spiced swordfish, while breakfast brings pancakes, French toast and duck egg hashes with a choice of black pudding, smoked haddock, mushroom and spinach or corned beef. For dessert, bananas Foster and a baked Alaska involving pistachios and cherries are prepared tableside. Jimmy’s (aka the American Bar) makes for an appealing, low-lit stopping-off point with a fondness for bourbon and American whiskey.

£50 - £79
North American
International
Simpson

Simpson's Tavern

Ball Court, 38 Cornhill, EC3V 9DR

In the restaurant business since 1757, Simpson’s is old enough to have fewer customers alive than dead – with Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens in the latter camp. Half-hidden in a courtyard off Cornhill, it’s got all the straight-backed stalls, brass rails and looming wood that tourists, City types and history-seekers might hope for in the capital’s oldest chophouse. Breakfast is a greasy-whiskered affair with non-stop toast, while it’s doorstop sandwiches and chips with (almost) everything at the bar. The week is measured out in daily specials, including pies of various ilk (pork, leek and cider, say), roast duck with apple sauce or liver and bacon with caramelised onions. There are no highfalutin’ aims in the kitchen or on the sub-£60 wine list, while a handful of ales keep beer drinkers hydrated, if not fascinated. Not surprisingly, Simpson’s makes an atmospheric spot for special events.  

£30 - £49
British
Jamies Fleet Place

Jamies Fleet Place

1 Fleet Place, London, EC4M 7RA

This branch of Jamies is aimed at City workers who need to have their daily grind massaged by a few cold glasses of white & a sunny terrace. Inside, it has a chic but laid-back feel, with leather banquettes, discreet booths & a comprehensive global wine list including some good Antipodean Sauvignon Blancs. There are light lunches in support (zesty mixed seafood salads), alongside bigger dishes such as baked farfalle with chargrilled asparagus. In the evening, food revolves around sharing platters, but that’s when the atmosphere gets funkier as the Fleet Place bankers clock off to drink pints under Jamies’ orange & pastel-pink lights. Wi-Fi is a boon for those who want to escape the office during the day.

£30 - £49
British
Royal China Baker Street

Royal China Baker Street

24-26 Baker Street, London, W1U 7AJ

Despite the burnished golden walls, black and gold seat covers and opulent swooshes all over the menu, we reckon that the 200-seater flagship of the Royal China group is starting to look a bit tired – although it still has more personality that some outlying branches of the chain. Expect queues for daytime dim sum at the weekends, when the seasonal menu encompasses deep-fried minced squid balls, prawn dumplings with coriander, chicken’s feet in Chinese rice wine, stuffed beancurd rolls and best-selling roast pork buns. In the evening (from 6pm), a hefty carte focuses on signature barbecued meats and crispy duck alongside competently rendered Cantonese standards including lemon chicken, stir-fried Dover sole with spicy salt, sautéed  beer with oyster sauce and peasant-style hotpots (stewed pork belly with preserved cabbage, for example). A favourite for big parties.

£30 - £49
Chinese
Dim Sum
Davy

Davy's at Canary Wharf

31-35 Fisherman's Walk, London, E14 4DH

Last year’s refurbishment has seen Davy’s waterfront venue up its game. This is one of the more user-friendly bars on Fisherman’s Walk, but the most attractive & business-appropriate by a country mile (its chic new ‘heritage’ look with stone floors, pretty glass lights & a zinc bar wouldn’t be out of place in a Cotswolds boutique hotel). Breakfast is served until 11am, when an all-day menu covering all bases from healthy superfood salad with grilled halloumi, edamame beans, quinoa and avocado to luxurious Donald Russell steaks. Shepherd Neame Master Brew & draught Asahi are draws on the beer front, but it’s the wine list that really impresses with two dozen by the glass, a handful of sherries & plenty of sub-£30 selections. Safe choices are Davy’s own-label claret & anything from Cloudy Bay.

£30 - £49
British
Wine Bars
Over £80
The Cow - Westbourne Park Road

The Cow - Westbourne Park Road

89 Westbourne Park Road, London, W2 5QH

In 2015, Tom Conran celebrated 20 years at The Cow by giving the place a makeover – well, the upstairs dining rooms at least. The ground-floor pub and terrace remain pleasantly scruffy, while the restaurant has been enlarged and smartened up with red leather banquettes, a matching colourful floor and quirky modern art. Thankfully there’s been no consequent hike in prices and the menu remains reassuringly unaltered wherever you eat: pâté with piccalilli, fresh soups, sausages and mash and so on. Shellfish and crustacea are the perennial stars (don’t miss the oysters and dressed crab), while daily specials ring the changes – from a trendy plate of smoked trout with fennel, samphire, orange and tarragon salad to stonking rib of beef with perky green peppercorn butter. You can order ales and Guinness in the pub, and there’s a refined wine list to choose from too.
£30 - £49
Gastropub
£50 - £79
San Lorenzo Fuoriporta

San Lorenzo Fuoriporta

38 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19 7PA

An old-school Italian for Wimbledon’s longer-toothed residents, this branch of the San Lorenzo mini-chain is no place for modern twists, innovation or subtlety. However, with an old-fashioned restaurant comes unhurried gentility and a kitchen that stays rigidly within the boundaries of what it knows. Start with deep-fried whitebait, follow with excellent pizzas, or spaghetti with lobster, or go the whole hog with saltimbocca or veal chop. The dining room, which has looked rather dated for several years, seems to be coming back into its own now, but the best place to be on a summery Sunday is in the lovely garden tucked at the back. The restaurant is very proud of the area’s tennis heritage. It’s the place to catch the crowd during Wimbledon fortnight – book well in advance.

£50 - £79
Italian
The Holly Bush

The Holly Bush

22 Holly Mount, Hampsted, London, NW3 6SG

‘Please don’t attempt to drive to The Holly Bush: you’ll spend hours trying to find it’ warns one regular, and it’s true. Set in a pretty residential nook at the top of Hampstead, this is a quintessentially English pub. The building looks peachy from the outside; inside it’s snug and toasty, a warren of softly lit wood-clad rooms with pictures cluttering the walls. Fuller’s took over the place in 2010, so regular pints include London Pride, but there are also guest ales such as Butcombe Bitter. The culinary offering is just as tempting, starting with bar snacks like Scotch eggs with onion jam and leading on to fishy platters featuring tea-smoked salmon and king prawns, or bigger plates of ribeye steak béarnaise, with nursery puds ending things on a high note.

£30 - £49
Pubs
British