Best restaurants for breakfast in London

Many cafés and eateries in London are perfect for an early weekday breakfast meeting, or a relaxing weekend breakfast date. We’re talking about the best breakfasts that gently help you re-energise from the night before or fill your tummy r

Updated on 16 January 2018

Start your day in London in style with breakfast at one of the capital’s top restaurants from SquareMeal’s guide to the best restaurants for breakfast in London. The most important meal of the day, breakfast is serious business, setting us up for the day ahead. Of course there are numerous places to grab some breakfast in London, but if you are looking for the best way to begin your day, find your perfect London breakfast at one of these great restaurants. Every one of restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top breakfast restaurants has been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.

Hai Cenato

Hai Cenato

2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London, SW1E 5DJ

The buzzing centrepiece of the shiny new Nova development near Victoria station, Jason Atherton’s homage to his favourite New York pizzerias is tricky to locate, but once inside you’ll find a slickly designed, noisy space lined with plate-glass windows and a wall of chef caricatures that’s proving popular with restaurant nerds. The line-up of sourdough pizzas includes plenty of “big hits”, from goats’ cheese and zucchini to a “hearty” combo involving lamb neck and aubergine, but that’s just the beginning. The kitchen also deals in “simple flavoursome food” done to Atherton’s usual high standards: confit guinea fowl and Barolo risotto offset by bitter radicchio; corzetti pasta topped with “decadently sticky” venison ragù; perfectly timed whole gilthead bream stuffed with saffron, lemon and fennel – cooking with real heart and soul. Sides of chilli-kissed cavolo nero almost steal the show, although the dish destined for signature status is salted caramel gelato sandwiched in a warm brioche bun. Sure, it feels a tad corporate, but with seven-day opening and a first-floor cocktail bar (The Drunken Oyster), Hai Cenato is a brilliant all-purpose addition to the Victoria scene. 

£30 - £49
Italian
Dishoom Covent Garden

Dishoom Covent Garden

12 Upper St Martins Lane, London, WC2H 9FB

Now with branches in Shoreditch, King’s Cross and Soho, Dishoom is going from strength to strength as its take on the café culture of old Bombay hits the spot with hungry Londoners. Quirky vintage styling includes bright Bollywood posters and formal family portraits, while pendant lamps and monochrome tiles keep things bang up to date in the bustling dining room. Drop in any time: you’ll find bacon naan rolls and sweet chai for breakfast, ahead of a reliable all-day menu that readers recommend as a “great standby for last-minute” dining. Highlights at Dishoom include an aromatic biryani dish of chicken berry Britannia, spiced lamb keema scooped up with buttery pau buns, and the “fantastic” house black dhal. The drinks list keeps up the good work, with lassis and craft beers, plus “different and delicious” cocktails to enjoy in the basement bar if you’re waiting for a table. “Reasonable prices” and “prompt service” too.

£30 - £49
Cafes
Indian
The Ivy Café Marylebone

The Ivy Café Marylebone

96 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QA

Readers seem more taken with The Ivy Chelsea Garden, but there’s plenty to recommend this classy brand extension. Marylebone loves a grand café, and all the details – heavy silverware, nets at the windows, huge floral sprays – are present and correct. A generous walk-in policy ensures that impulsive passers-by can click-clack over the expensively tiled floor and take a seat among shiny framed prints. Breakfast is a treat and, not surprisingly, there’s a strong comfort element to the rest of the menu; if you crave fishcakes, shepherd’s pie, duck curry or a hamburger, they’ve got your back. Meanwhile, cleaner eaters will find simply grilled fish and healthy-sounding salads (perhaps kale, quinoa, avocado and mixed seeds with ponzu dressing). The wine list is short but serviceable, cocktails include a three-strong Negroni tasting set, service combines formality with warmth, and they’re great with kids – “something for everyone” in fact.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Cafes
1 Lombard Street Brasserie

1 Lombard Street Brasserie

1 Lombard Street, London, London, EC3V 9AA

Next door to the Lord Mayor’s residence, 1 Lombard Street is firmly established in City diaries – although that’s not all down to the prime location or the handsome proportions of the Grade II-listed former banking hall. The Brasserie is both a habit and a pleasure for the local business community, who enjoy professional-grade people-watching under its high ceilings and Pietro Agostini cupola. Although 1776 (the fine-dining option) is well regarded, there’s nothing like a table in this buzzy all-day space for highly visible celebrations. The food might not steal the show, but standards are more than solid when it comes to crowd-pleasing iterations of Thai beef salad, grilled octopus with romanesco broccoli, veal milanese, no-nonsense steaks and curried fishcakes with lime yoghurt dip. Puddings are traditional standards, tidied up from the nursery and big on British fruit. By necessity, the wine list has got everyone covered, quick lunchers and big spenders included.

£50 - £79
Modern European
£50 - £79
Isabel

Isabel

26 Albemarle Street , London, W1S 4HY

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

£30 - £49
International
Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard

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

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

£50 - £79
British
One Canada Square

One Canada Square

One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AB

For 20 years, One Canada Square was the tallest skyscraper in London – the pyramid atop serving as Docklands' defining landmark. Sadly, you can only eat at the base of this obelisk, in the marble and leather-clad Gotham-like lobby. Owned by brothers Ed and Tom Martin, better known for their stylish gastropubs in the City, the bar here is a big after-work draw, with a terrific selection of beers, cocktails and wines by the glass. The a la carte offers a greater choice ranging from Hampshire trout, sauteed gnocchi, sprouting broccoli, garlic pesto to Flourless lemon and almond cake, candied kumquats, lemon sorbet. This place is also "perfect for business breakfast", while weekend brunch is "great value" and a "nice treat" with the bonus of a live piano player.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Bird of Smithfield

Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield Street, London, London, EC1A 9LB

Tommy Boland (Almeida, Tom Aikens, The Square) heads the kitchen, producing an alluring menu of modish British cooking. Our baked beetroot with celeriac and goats’ curd was a good-sized, well-balanced plate, as was the dish of fat, perfectly cooked scallops with squash purée and Jerusalem artichoke gratin. Mains tend to be big and rich: pan-fried sea bream with chanterelles and Parmesan gnocchi was delicious but intense, while roasted turbot arrived in a similarly generous portion. For pud, we recommend waiting for the light, creamy pistachio soufflé with bitter-chocolate ice cream. Open from breakfast, the five-floor establishment also houses a lounge bar, cocktail bar, private dining room and roof terrace. Service is attentive – sometimes overly so, as unnecessary top-ups filled our glasses to the brim (albeit with delicious Portuguese Chardonnay from a list starting at £20). There are worse crimes.

£50 - £79
British
Quo Vadis

Quo Vadis

26-29 Dean Street, London, London, W1D 3LL

Founded back in 1926, this quintessential “Soho sanctuary” isn’t drifting quietly into old age: autumn 2016 saw the ground-floor dining room reduced by two-thirds to make space for Barrafina Soho (both are owned by the Hart brothers), following the latter’s eviction from nearby Frith Street. The room looks the same, with brown-leather banquettes, “beautiful fresh flowers” and jewel-like stained glass windows, although there’s less all-round hubbub than before. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s menu is still a joyful celebration of the seasons, so expect anything from a warm salad of grouse and elderberries to a strapping leg of lamb garlanded with a pick-and-mix of gently cooked mushrooms. Lee’s refined repertoire also makes room for simple comforts such as chunky, lightly fried chips or steamed lemon pudding with rhubarb, while the trademark smoked eel sandwich is a must-order. None of this comes particularly cheap, but thanks to great service, really good Martinis and a dash of British eccentricity (John Broadley’s distinctive illustrations are a hoot), we reckon it’s great value.

£30 - £49
British
Hoi Polloi at Ace Hotel

Hoi Polloi at Ace Hotel

100 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JQ

‘An English modernist brasserie’ was the brief for this super-stylish all-dayer at the Ace Hotel, and the guys from Universal Design Studio really nailed it: nerds will find much to fawn over and fondle here, from timber walls to Ercol Butterfly chairs and Castiglioni ‘Snoopy’ lamps. You can enter via the ‘secret entrance’ in the florists, but we suggest using the adjacent hotel lobby for a better appraisal of the scene. It’s invariably buzzing here, with a seemingly endless supply of beautiful creatives lured in by Hoi Polloi’s fashion-conscious offer. Breakfast brings chia-seed Bircher muesli, lunch sees soft-shell crab rolls and teatime means cute googly-eyed fancies. Dinner heralds a more ambitious repertoire, from pretty plates of blackened sea trout with macerated fennel, or dry-aged pork chop with broad beans, peas and wild mushrooms, to pistachio and raspberry Eton mess. Cocktail hour is never dull, and we’re pleased that service seems to be on the up.

£30 - £49
Modern European
The Ivy Soho Brasserie

The Ivy Soho Brasserie

26-28 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8JB

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

£30 - £49
Brasserie
Cecconi

Cecconi's Mayfair

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

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

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49
Aster

Aster

150 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5LB

This restaurant and café is the work of D&D London (Coq d’Argent, Launceston Place et al), spread across two floors at the Nova development. Aster is the domain of Finnish chef Helena Puolakka, who has created a succinct, mid-priced menu of delicate Nordic dishes. The seasonal selection brims with seafood, including a hot-smoked Arctic char scattered with Greenland prawns. The char was as fresh and plump as you would hope, deftly balanced with the earthy tones of aubergine caviar. Elsewhere, soft morsels of milk-fed lamb were served alongside lingonberries and stocky minced meat wrapped in cabbage, making for a tight combination of complementing flavours. All portions were on the light side (perhaps characteristically so for this cuisine), making Aster a restaurant for the delicate of appetite. The restaurant’s look is a disorientating mix of industrial and softer elements, but the ground-floor café feels more cohesive with its earthy tones and marble bar, where the menu covers the same ground more casually and adds salads, smorgasbords and pies. A sumptuous array of wines by the glass (including fine drops via Coravin) and pre-theatre menus make this a good shout if you’re catching a show nearby.

£50 - £79
Scandinavian
Caravan Exmouth Market

Caravan Exmouth Market

11-13 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QD

The whizz-kids behind Caravan Coffee Roasters have come a long way since opening their first gaff on Exmouth Market. Now spread across the capital, each site follows the formula with urban-industrial interiors and a seasonally changing all-day menu bristling with ideas from around the world – including the jamon and smoked san simon croquettes with saffron mayonnaise. A sure-fire winner with vegetarians (try the green quinoa grain bowl with burnt grelots, grilled broccoli, miso verde, sprouts and cashews), this mini-chain also offers delicious pizzas at its larger sites, alongside the small-batch coffees that helped to kick-start London’s latest love affair with caffeine. Caravan set the bar high with its trendy brunch options too (we like the paprika and spring onion waffle with thick cut bacon and maple-date butter). A packed, convivial dining room is pretty much guaranteed, ably buoyed by reasonable prices and inexpensive Old World wines.

£30 - £49
Fusion
Roast

Roast

Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London, London, SE1 1TL

“What’s not to like about ‘meat and vegetables’?” quips an admirer of Roast – a determinedly patriotic eatery dedicated to the glories of traditional British cuisine. Built on a mezzanine floor in Borough Market’s iconic Floral Hall, it promises “fantastic views” from its handsome, light-filled dining room. We’ve been many times for breakfast and never been disappointed, although booking ahead is essential. If you’re more interested in lunch or dinner, you’ll find “reliable” and expertly sourced dishes prepared with a fair degree of dexterity, from Portland crab salad or Scotch eggs with piccalilli to braised ox cheek on creamed onion sauce or whole grilled sea bass with fennel and capers. The menus are keenly seasonal, so also expect spring lamb, summer fruits and game too (“this is the only place to eat grouse after the Glorious 12th”, insists one fan). “Always enjoyable” Sunday roasts naturally get the nod, and the Brit-accented drinks list is also on the money.

£50 - £79
British
The Wolseley

The Wolseley

160 Piccadilly, London, London, W1J 9EB

“The daddy of them all” declares a fan of The Wolseley – and he’s not alone in cheering this “rather posh” grand café to the skies. Whether you’re here for the all-conquering breakfast, afternoon tea or a late-night pick-me-up, the barnstorming Wolseley always delivers – “it doesn’t matter what you look like, you’ll get treated like a VIP”. The sheer razzmatazz of the fabulously converted car showroom is part of its attraction, as regulars seek out their favourite tables, others mingle in anterooms and a regular trickle of walk-in celebs, creatives and shoppers adds to the spice of it all. To begin, you might find yourself dusting off the cobwebs over a bowl of Birchermuesli, a crispy bacon roll or a full fry-up; later on, thoughts could turn to steak tartare, salade niçoise, burgers, schnitzels or coq au vin – and there’s never a bad time for the Wolseley’s luscious array of creamy patisserie, cakes and ice-cream coupes. Service is always “top-notch” too. In short, The Wolseley is the complete West End package, and we concur with the reader who remarks that “I always come away with my high expectations satisfied and met”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea
The Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club

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

The Cinnamon Club in Westminster has opened fully for breakfast from 7.30 to 10am, and if it's anything like its outstanding Indian evening grub, you're in for a royal treat. Bombay scrambled eggs anyone? Or what about a layered paratha or kedgeree with smoked haddock and poached egg? Less adventurous, but crowd-pleasing dishes such as a full English is also up for grabs.

£50 - £79
Indian
45 Jermyn St.

45 Jermyn St.

45 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6DN

To keep a caviar trolley going over many years is one thing; to build it into Fortnum & Mason’s 21st-century restaurant and cocktail bar is quite another. That oscietra- and beluga-loaded vehicle is just one luxury on offer here; other treats include potato, jamón and a fried duck egg for breakfast, a trio of Alba truffle dishes and a boozy ice-cream float for afters. The carte majors in ideas that feel safe, but indulgent: pine-nut crusted scallops with bottarga butter, perhaps, followed by lamb belly with leek and potato dauphinoise, plus something cold in a coupe for dessert (brandy cherries, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream, for instance). This venue used to be The Fountain, but the new look is bolder, with a line of tomato-red stools at the long marble bar and plenty for their occupants to drink. Everything is lovely – “as always with Fortnum’s”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Coq d

Coq d'Argent

1 Poultry, London, EC2R 8EJ

Going for the gold standard on a street called Poultry, Coq d’Argent is near the top of the City’s pecking order. We reckon its status as an “all-time favourite” in business diaries is down to a considerable clutch of attractions including gorgeous roof gardens, a heavily diverting wine list and the good looks of a cruise liner in its pomp. The Coq also delivers “consistently good food” from breakfast onwards, taking in gluten-free and vegan menus plus a surprisingly mature children’s offer. Wherever you sit – in the restaurant, grill or bar – the French accent is as robust as the pricing, conjuring Gallic luxury with careful flourishes. Lunch in the Grill might mean cauliflower soup with a poached egg followed by spiced braised lamb shank with white coco beans and wild mushrooms, while the restaurant promises higher levels of complexity – perhaps black truffle and ricotta tortellini with Parmentier espuma or immaculately balanced wild roe deer with a plateful of silky seasonal trimmings. The service at Coq d’Argent is equal to the demands of a confident clientele.

£50 - £79
French
£30 - £49
The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

47-48 St John's Square, London, 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
Balthazar

Balthazar

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

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

£50 - £79
French
South Place Chop House

South Place Chop House

3 South Place, London, London, EC2M 2AF

A stone’s throw from Moorgate station, D&D London’s first hotel comprises top-floor fish palace Angler and this all-day, 18th century-inspired chop house, replacing what was 3 South Place. Decked out in shiny silver with sloping glass panels and a choice of communal or banquette seating, the restaurant possesses a seasonal menu. Classic starters include London-cured smoked salmon, Dorset crabcakes and Waldorf salad, while the main event is all about the protein: UK meat and game such as Black Angus chateaubriand and milk-fed veal is sourced from HG Walter, a long-established butcher in Barons Court. Fish options such as thornback ray with mussels, or steamed Cornish cod, are sustainably sourced from across the British Isles. Factor in a dessert list which includes a knickerbocker glory and weekend activities such as a bottomless Bellini brunch, and this Chop House is a fun place to be. 

£50 - £79
British
St John Bread & Wine

St John Bread & Wine

94-96 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ

Proof that classic never goes out of fashion, this sparsely decorated canteen delivers "fantastic British food for adventurous eaters", according?to one reader. Whilst the acoustics might be poor, meaning you may need to shout to be heard, the more casual sibling of the mighty St John is still well worth experiencing for its "relaxed vibe", "impeccable service" and daily changing menu. Breakfast, cakes and pastries are always in demand here – one bite of the Old Spot bacon sandwich, chased by a sweet hit from one of the signature doughnuts, will explain why. But there's much more to explore on the full nose-to-tail line-up, from kohlrabi with brown shrimps and chervil via devilled kidneys or grilled mackerel with beetroot and horseradish to steamed lemon sponge or burnt vanilla cream. The sound but "pricey" all-French wine list kicks off with surprisingly good house selections by the glass.

£30 - £49
British
Riding House Café

Riding House Café

43-51 Great Titchfield Street, London, London, W1W 7PQ

Crammed with Fitzrovia’s media movers and shakers from morn till night, Riding House Café is still a trendy favourite hereabouts. Red-leather seating, parquet floors and frilly lamps are redolent of a gussied-up New York diner, though stuffed squirrels and panelled walls add some English eccentricity to the bustling room’s roaring atmosphere. Service is smart and speedy, but the cooking can be up and down: our buffalo wings were parsimonious, and sea trout (overcooked) was lost among fat slabs of tomato drenched in potent pistou, but – on the plus side – crisp salt beef croquettes, roast guinea fowl on ratatouille and a decadent hot chocolate fudge sundae hit the spot. Classy brunches spanning buttermilk pancakes, chorizo hash and lobster Benedict pull the crowds, while a pristinely tiled bar awash with laptops seems more about work than pleasure. Perhaps lone diners aspire to the compact wine list’s ‘reserve’ section.

£30 - £49
International
Hawksmoor Guildhall

Hawksmoor Guildhall

10 Basinghall Street, London, London, EC2V 5BQ

Owners Huw Gott and Will Beckett play knowingly to the City crowd at this branch of their beefy Hawksmoor chain. Dark panelling, acres of parquet and a distinct lack of embellishment conjure up an old-fashioned chophouse vibe, though service is satisfyingly modern – ensuring “no fuss or disappointments”. “Fantastic” breakfasts are done with a level of commitment that makes booking advisable for sharing platters of bacon chop, sausages, black pudding and trimmings or cornflake milkshakes with an optional slug of bourbon. At lunch and dinner, flawless British steaks (“always cooked to perfection”) are further enhanced by the likes of anchovy hollandaise, buttered sprout tops or beef-dripping chips. On either side, there might be roast scallops with white port and garlic, plus desserts such as a chocolate and honeycomb ‘Crunchy Bar’. Dive into the cocktail list and you’ll know all about Hawksmoor’s good, strong spirits, while a short bar menu caters to time-pressed carnivores.

£50 - £79
Steak
British
Boulestin

Boulestin

5 St James' Street, London, SW1A 1EF

Inspired by the eponymous French restaurateur, Boulestin is Gallic to its bones, but keen to demonstrate a wider perspective. After 10 minutes amid its striking interior (all black-and-white tiles, muted swish and lovely aromas), you’re unlikely to go for quinoa salad over oeuf en gelée, but the option is there; likewise, miso-blackened cod challenges the likes of artichoke risotto with girolles and baby leeks or ballottine of chicken with pea purée. Earlier on, breakfast is so popular that they continue the brunch theme on weekday afternoons with huevos rancheros or bacon and egg brioche. “Very accommodating” service begins at the booking stage, and a French-dominated wine list scores with a decent choice by the glass and ‘pot’. Outside, the little patio is, apparently, the site of the last duel to have been fought in England, though these days the main rivalry is for a table.

£30 - £49
French
Rail House Café

Rail House Café

8 Sir Simon Milton Square , London, London, SW1E 5DJ

This sibling of Village East and the Riding House Café in Victoria’s new Nova development is named after its proximity to the station and, with 330 covers, can accommodate almost as many diners as rush-hour at a London terminus. Sadly, Nova isn’t as charming a setting as Bermondsey or Fitzrovia but the designers have made a good fist of trying to create something with character amid all the plate glass, even if the scene outside looks more like Singapore than central London. There’s a similar internationalism to a menu that namechecks fashionable ingredients and techniques such as freekeh and ceviche, but we were disappointed with our dinner, finding average food and some ambitious pricing. Basics such as a doorstop cheeseburger and crispy chilli squid are done proficiently, but venture further into the menu and things can go awry: truffled mac ‘n’ cheese tasted mainly of (unadvertised) mushrooms and had a claggy texture, while overcooked prawns came in a meagre portion, considering the price tag. Just like Riding House, Rail House is best as a buzzy breakfast venue thanks to plenty of appealing early-morning options and all that natural light, or come back later for cocktails and draft beers in the first-floor bar.

£30 - £49
International
Duck & Waffle

Duck & Waffle

110 Bishopsgate, London, London, EC2N 4AY

Although it’s only two floors above Sushisamba, and shares the same incredible views, Duck & Waffle has a noticeably more relaxed vibe compared to its Japanese-fusion neighbour – and with 24/7 opening as its trump card, it’s also a shoo-in for “active Londoners” living la vida loca. Food-wise, the “creative menu” plays fast and loose with the world larder, and the daring, innovative flavours are guaranteed to please (and challenge) the taste buds. Irresistible snacks of sweet/savoury bacon-wrapped dates and crispy polenta with Parmesan and truffle get things rolling, while goat meatballs in thyme broth or warm ox-cheek doughnuts with apricot jam maintain the gutsy theme – although “nothing beats the eponymous house speciality”, a mouth-watering pile-up of waffles, confit duck leg and a fried egg. If you make it to dessert, we recommend the rich salted caramel choux buns. Chatty, knowledgeable staff are also happy to advise on the ‘wham-bam’ cocktail list: “Worth every penny”, concludes one fan of Duck and Waffle.

£50 - £79
International
Cecconi

Cecconi's City of London at The Ned

The Ned, 27 Poultry, London, EC2R 8AJ

Cecconi’s second London restaurant (following Cecconi’s Mayfair) finds its home in Soho House’s City hotel and dining complex, The Ned. The menu will be familiar to anyone who has eaten in one of Cecconi’s sister restaurants around the world (there are siblings in Berlin, Barcelona and Miami, to name just a few): light bites of cicchetti and salads, tartars and carpaccios as well as indulgent Italian staples of the veal milanese and lobster spaghetti ilk. The cooking impresses, whether puffy-battered calamari dipped in tangy tartar sauce, or a main of crab ravioli involving juicy shredded crabmeat wrapped in delicate parcels of pasta and bathed in a rich tomato sauce. Sides such as zucchini fritti and sautéed spinach are not to be missed, but be sure to save space for indulgent desserts such as profiteroles filled with creamy pistachio ice cream and drizzled with a warm chocolate sauce. While Cecconi’s City might not have the intimacy of the Mayfair original it definitely has all of the buzz, and if you want to prolong the fun of your evening you can head to The Nickel Bar, just a hop, skip and jump across the room. 

£50 - £79
Italian
Aquavit

Aquavit

1 Carlton Street, London, London, SW1Y 4QQ

Nordic noir, hygge, Noma – the world has become obsessed with all things Scandi in recent years, although New York’s two-Michelin-starred Aquavit has been banging the drum since 1987. As expected, its handsome new London outpost showcases all those enviable Nordic design tropes, from superb lighting to close-set, unclothed tables set with Georg Jensen cutlery and staff in Filippa K uniforms. The food is defined by clean flavours, simple presentation and healthy ingredients. A smörgåsbord of small plates might include Shrimp Skagen (small shrimps marinated in dill, mayonnaise and lemon), velvety black pudding sharpened with mouth-puckering lingonberries, pots of pickles, and an excellent version of celeriac rémoulade. To follow, a rich veal cheek set off by dill and salt-baked onions also hits the mark, likewise, an ‘Arctic bird’s nest’ pudding involving an ‘egg’ of goats’ cheese parfait nestling in a tangle of tuile strands. This is on-trend cooking served in a beautiful room that epitomises cutting-edge Scandinavian design rather than the homely comfort of hygge.

£50 - £79
Scandinavian
One michelin star
Nopi

Nopi

21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE

Aimed higher than his eponymous deli/café chain, Yottam Ottolenghi's "gleaming" spin-off hits its target with ease: the cream-coloured ground floor is a serene space artfully decorated with white tiles, polished marble and brass fittings, while downstairs offers large communal tables and an open kitchen. However, readers save most praise for Nopi's "exquisite", "healthy" and supremely tasty food: raw cauliflower is paired with sprouts, nectarines and Gorgonzola, sea trout gets a global makeover with koji rice, watercress pesto and labneh, while beef short-rib keeps more familiar company with smoked beer glaze and horseradish. Whether you're sharing dishes or going it alone with one of the more expensive mains, it's all about creativity and depth of flavour. Signature cocktails also pick up on the kitchen's eclectic ingredients. Some bemoan high prices and petite portions, but most reckon that Nopi is "worth every penny".

£50 - £79
Mediterranean
Fusion
Joe Allen

Joe Allen

2 Burleigh Street, London, London, WC2E 7PX

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

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

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

£30 - £49
North American
Burgers
The Ivy City Garden

The Ivy City Garden

Dashwood House, 69 Old Broad Street, London, EC2M 1NA

There’s something very full circle about this Ivy site, which is the second to possess the ‘Garden’ moniker after The Ivy Chelsea Garden. It was Vintage Salt under previous tenant Des McDonald, who himself used to be head chef at – you guessed it – The Ivy. Located right by Liverpool Street station in serene Bishopsgate Gardens, the space incorporates a restaurant, bar, private dining room and the namesake garden, all decked out in the brand’s well-groomed, colourful interiors. A long, cuisine-leaping menu features everything from the famous shepherd’s pie to tuna carpaccio; ask one of the one-the-ball waiters for advice if you’re stumped what to order. We’d recommend prawn tempura pepped up with a matcha tea sauce and sprinklings of green papaya, edamame beans and cucumber shavings, and a generously portioned main of perfectly-cooked lobster with a side of rich truffle-and-parmesan-topped thick-cut chips. Dessert was a real showstopper, a chocolate bombe on a bed of milk foam, soft vanilla ice cream and sticky-sweet shards of honeycomb, melted at the table with a hot salted-caramel sauce. Vibrant surrounds (including a DJ) help this incarnation of The Ivy keep up with its younger City counterparts, and for big groups there’s a 32-cover private dining room upstairs which overlooks the garden.

£30 - £49
International
Bistro Union

Bistro Union

40 Abbeville Road, London, SW4 9NG

With its daily specials written on rolls of brown paper, a bar adorned with homemade preserves, and pegs on the walls for hanging your coat – Bistro Union evokes the make-do-and-mend Britain of yore. Much of the menu produced by Adam Byatt’s team harks back to a time when food was primarily for comfort, reassurance and high-calorie fuel: there’s a breakfast fry-up, fish pie and toad in the hole for lunch, and rhubarb fool for pudding. Nevertheless, you’ll also find more interesting dishes that have left the nursery (and school dinners) behind. Try the grilled squid with parsley salad, served with a punch-packing aïoli; and finish off with a blackcurrant and almond tart (in essence, a very fine version of a Bakewell). Drinks include a couple of British sparklers, craft beers and ciders, but fear not: the wine list makes it easy to escape Blighty should you wish.

£30 - £49
British
The Providores

The Providores

109 Marylebone High Street, London, London, W1U 4RX

Peter Gordon’s double-decker fusion palace is supposed to be fun, and readers confirm that it’s a blast. At street level, there’s the no-bookings Tapa Room (named after a Rarotongan tapa cloth, which decorates the space): this noisy rendezvous is perpetually rammed with crowds who gather for breakfast (brown rice, apple, maple syrup and miso porridge with tamarillo compote, perhaps) and all-day dishes. Upstairs, the eponymous dining room pushes more boundaries, delivering multi-ingredient combos with a little more formality – think smoked Dutch eel with coconut and tamarind laksa, green tea noodles, soft-boiled quail’s egg, girolles and sweetcorn followed by Creedy Carver duck breast with figs, walnuts, grapes, sherry vinegar and membrillo. Every day’s a school day here, so ask if you’re not sure what something is (the staff are used to it) and reserve some time, money and attention to explore the seriously Kiwi wine list.

£50 - £79
International
Fusion
Magpie

Magpie

10 Heddon Street, London, London, W1B 4BX

This new bird from the team behind Pidgin in Hackney launched with a US-inspired concept as its USP: the idea was to bring an array of eclectic sharing plates to the table on trolleys and trays – a notion that met with a mixed response from punters (ourselves included). As a result, the trolleys have been parked and demoted to a supporting role in proceedings – namely the provision of ‘drinking snacks’ such as Viet-style rillettes when guests arrive. After that, everything comes as ordered from the kitchen – perhaps clams with saucisson and chilli crisp or burrata with herb oil, puntarelle and smoked almonds, alongside favourites such as smoked eel Caesar salad dressed with soy-cured Parmesan from Magpie’s earlier incarnation. There are also some bigger deals for sharing (beef short-rib with red cabbage and fried gnocchi, say), while puds include a cheeky ‘birthday cake’ with white chocolate crumble and ‘thousands of powders’. Overall, Magpie’s winning way with pilfering global ingredients certainly shows chutzpah and it deserves an extra cheer for its charming young staff and offer of a dozen wines on tap (including fino sherry).

£30 - £49
International