Best restaurants in St James's

Looking for a restaurant in St James's? We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to, and compiled a handy list of the best. Whatever your taste, SquareMeal is here to help, with a selection of the best restaurants for every occasion.

Posted on 18 December 2018

Best restaurants in St James's


45 Jermyn St.

45 Jermyn St.

£50 - £79
Modern European

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”.

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Franco

Franco's

£50 - £79
Italian
£30 - £49

61 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6LX

A venerable gentleman of Jermyn Street, this tasteful Italian has been smoothing out its diners’ careworn creases for more than 60 years. Alfresco tables are gold dust on summer evenings, while the dining room is calm and grown-up with a couple of particularly striking artworks and a brigade of staff who are full of courtesy and charm. Breakfast is a popular business call, but the kitchen saves its best for refined lunch and dinner menus. Creamy Burrata is given an indulgent lift with truffled mushrooms, pungent Parmesan sets off wafer-thin slices of beef carpaccio and sea bass is treated with a light touch (alongside aubergine purée, baby courgette and cherry tomatoes). Start with cocktails in the bar before moving on to something from the accomplished, mostly Italian wine list – just be wary of “real central London prices”.

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Seven Park Place by William Drabble

Seven Park Place by William Drabble

£50 - £79
French
One michelin star

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.

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Scully

Scully

£30 - £49
International

4 St James's Market, London, SW1Y 4AH

The latest addition to St James’s Market comes from ex-Nopi head chef Ramael Scully. Cosy interiors include copper pendant lighting, potted plants and a treasure trove of a glass-fronted pantry, stocked with herbs and spices from around the globe (the staff will let you smell a few). A large sharing table and an open kitchen add a communal vibe, but the marble-topped chef’s counter is undoubtedly home to the best seats in the house, where you can watch Scully and his team slice vegetables with expert precision and artfully plate up dishes on pretty ceramics, without ever breaking a sweat.

This captivating kitchen theatre is backed up by a truly intriguing menu, inspired by Scully’s heritage, which includes roots in Australia, Malaysia, India and Ireland. Nearly all the seasonally changing sharing plates impress, from a veggie-friendly tomato and coconut salad with green strawberries (summer in a bowl), to barbecued beef tendons, hidden by a dollop of smoky oyster mayo and served with salty fried tendon puffs for dipping. Elsewhere, there’s lusciously fatty pork belly with house-made XO sauce concealing a subtle flash of heat, and an outstanding plate of monkfish rubbed with sambal belacan, a tongue-tingling shrimp paste. Desserts toy with the balance of flavours, with mixed results: witness the love-it-or-hate-it dish of parsnip and coconut ice cream, which was more sharp than sweet, followed by the more impressive bitter grapefruit sorbet which arrived paired with a scoop of indulgent caramel ice cream – a delightful mix of sweet and sour.

Fastidious sourcing, impressively well-informed staff and an unflappable kitchen team swapping jokes while turning out plates of pure wonder all help to make dining at Scully a thrilling and eye-opening experience – we can’t wait to go back.

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Le Caprice

Le Caprice

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49

20 Arlington Street, London, SW1A 1RJ

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

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Quaglino

Quaglino's

£50 - £79
Modern European

16 Bury Street, London, 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.

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The Wolseley

The Wolseley

£50 - £79
Modern European

160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB

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

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Chutney Mary

Chutney Mary

£50 - £79
Indian

73 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1PH

Formerly residing on the King’s Road, Chutney Mary is now one of St James’s sumptuously decorated jewels. A smart doorman is on hand as you walk through to the buzzy Pukka Bar, where house cocktails such as a zesty Rangpur Gimlet with kaffir lime leaves set the scene for what is to follow – namely “high Indian cuisine” overlaid with judicious spicing and luxurious touches.
Hedonists can indulge in tandoori foie gras or lobster chilli fry, although standouts from our recent visit included juicy scallops in Mangalorean sauce (a southern Indian blend of coconut, fenugreek and turmeric) and moreish baked venison samosas, crispy cones stuffed with rich, moist meat. Elsewhere, a hearty Bengal lamb curry, scooped up with buttery naan, delivers the comforting warmth of slow-cooked spices, while a lighter prawn biryani is shot through with ginger, green chilli and saffron.
After that, desserts such as Madras coffee cappuccino kulfi are imaginative Anglo-Indian mash-ups noted for their eye-catching presentation (a feature of all Chutney Mary’s food). Staff are “an absolute delight”, and the thoughtfully assembled wine list is a solid match for the spicy fare – try an Alsace Gewürztraminer with those scallops.

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Cafe Murano St James

Cafe Murano St James's

£50 - £79
Italian

33 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HD

There are many diners who prefer Angela Hartnett’s dressed-down Café to her swanky Michelin-starred Murano, and it’s easy to be seduced by its low-it appeal. The long dining room feels tailor-made for rendezvous, whether gregarious business lunches on a round table at the front, something cosy à deux towards the back – or even just a solo meal at the bar, nibbling on some truffle arancini with a Negroni while deciding what to order. Pasta is the undisputed highlight, with highly appealing arrangements such as tagliolini with broad bean pesto and ricotta salata or spaghetti with chilli, garlic and bottarga all the better for being so simple. Elsewhere, the kitchen’s attachment to carefully chosen produce might yield such clean-tasting delights as lamb topside with goats’ curd, courgette and girolles, though Hartnett can also do classy classics too – think vitello tonnato or pappardelle with venison ragù. Some feel that portions are small given the prices, but there’s generosity aplenty in the welcoming nature of the friendly staff.

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Ginza Onodera

Ginza Onodera

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese

15 Bury Street, London, SW1Y 6AL

The corner of the West End where Mayfair segues into St James’s has become the spiritual home of London’s slick, modern Japanese restaurants. And so, after 23 years on Bury Street, traditional teppanyaki outfit Matsuri closed for six months, emerging £2.5m later as the London outpost of globe-spanning Ginza Onodera. Out go the tabletop hot plates, replaced by contemporary trappings including a robata grill, marble sushi bar, pale woods, monochrome furnishings and high-spec private rooms. However, this is not the place to come for California rolls or blow-torched tuna; rather, the kitchen deals in exquisite updates on the Japanese hallmarks of delicacy and refinement, alongside ultra-respectful versions of classic sushi and tempura. Our favourites included tuna tartare with spicy miso sauce and a crunch of roasted pine nuts, sticky chunks of yakitori made with Norfolk Black chicken skewered on cocktail sticks, and black cod with miso that actually tasted like fish, rather than just something very sweet. A wine cabinet groaning under the weight of Super Tuscans, sakés and Japanese single malts reveals Onodera's greatest asset: eye-opening food and drink matching. Just ask the enthusiastic staff (many from the Matsuri days) to recommend their favourite dishes. A ‘Tsubaki’ set menu for £45 offers an affordable way in, while the £250 ‘Takumi’ indicates how much one could easily spend here.

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Boulestin

Boulestin

£30 - £49
French

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.

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The Ritz Restaurant

The Ritz Restaurant

Over £80
French
One michelin star

The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

Nobody goes to the unimaginably opulent Ritz Restaurant on the off-chance – this is proper special-occasion dining, where chaps wear smart suits and ladies don their poshest back-of-the-wardrobe frocks. The pay-off is, of course, Michelin-starred food served in a “truly exquisite” fin de siècle dining room with cherubic pink-hued lighting and legions of tail-coated staff pandering to your every whim (service is “beyond this world”, drools one fan). Exec chef John Williams MBE is a master of the ever-present haute-cuisine classics (beef Wellington, Bresse duck, baked Alaska etc), but he’s no conservative – witness thrilling ideas such as poached langoustine topped with pickled fennel on crushed broad beans and verbena, veal fillet with girolles and Grelot onions or Dover sole with truffles and grapes and unctuous cauliflower purée. After that, there is much flambéing of crêpes Suzette in the grand Escoffier manner, although modernists might prefer coconut mousse with compressed pineapple and passion-fruit sorbet. If money’s tight (heaven forbid!), opt for the sommelier’s wine pairing; if not, indulge in the patrician glories of the full list. Either way, The Ritz Restaurant delivers “a night to remember”. 

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Wiltons

Wiltons

British
Fish

55 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6LX

Archaic, determinedly old school and one of the few restaurants where that outmoded jacket-and-tie policy still seems wholly appropriate, this impeccably groomed restaurant looks right at home among the streets of St James’s. Wiltons is a handsome fellow indeed, “a restaurant with purpose and life” – so switch off your electronic devices and tap into the velvety richness of it all. As fish sellers of yore, with a family tradition dating back to Georgian times, Wiltons still majors on the finest British seafood – some of the best oysters in town, dressed crab, Dover sole meunière, lobster Newburg et al. Meanwhile, those with other palates and preferences might prefer a bowl of beef consommé or a twice-baked Stilton soufflé ahead of a trencherman mixed grill or fallow deer with roast shallots, fennel and cherries. Lunchtime trolleys are weighed down with gargantuan roasts and other pleasurable repasts, while desserts mine a rich vein of nostalgic comfort – apple crumble with custard, bread-and-butter pudding, etc. Service is deferential to a fault, and the upper-crust wine list is generously endowed with vintage clarets and Burgundies from the great years – although its “astronomical” prices are unlikely to trouble the old brigade in their Savile Row suits. 

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Al Duca

Al Duca

£30 - £49
Italian
£50 - £79

4-5 Duke of York Street, London, SW1Y 6LA

Al Duca is the kind of reliable Italian that shuns fireworks in order to get the job done. Tricked out in terracotta tones, its looks are modest, but that’s all part of the venue’s ongoing appeal: here is a genuine neighbourhood restaurant among St James’s bigger hitters. Tastefully rendered tradition is the dominant culinary theme: to start, try the bitter hit of sautéed endive and radicchio with goats’ cheese and toasted hazelnuts or Culatello ham with pear, ginger, black pepper and truffle compote. Pasta includes classic crab tagliolini and homemade pappardelle with a rich beef ragù (as well as gluten-free options), while secondi are based around prime hunks of meat and seafood – monkfish with mushrooms pleased one reader. Puddings such as tiramisu and profiteroles hit the universally acknowledged sweet spots, and the “respectable” Italian wine list offers some pleasant discoveries (biodynamics included) for under £30.

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Ikoyi

Ikoyi

£30 - £49
West African

St James’s Market, London, SW1Y 4AH

Ikoyi’s West African cuisine stole the column inches when the restaurant opened in summer 2017. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to know your banga from your igbin to have a great meal at this smart restaurant. A glass-fronted, minimalist cube set in the St James’s Market development, Ikoyi’s interior is clad in blond-wood panels for a Scandi-cum-sushi vibe. Hanging clay lamps add a touch of African artisanship, low-ceilings create a real buzz and a bijou open-plan kitchen kicks out perfumed, smoky aromas.

Chef-patron Jeremy Chan has done his time in some A-list kitchens (Noma, Dinner by Heston) and his cooking delivers elegant small plates that draw on the heat and boldness of West African cuisine – witness a snack of crunchy plantain dusted in Scotch bonnet powder. Standouts on the short menu include a chargrilled octopus leg with spicy ndolé (a bitterleaf and spinach mix); pink slabs of Wagyu beef atop an unami-laden paste of mushroom, fermented chilli, walnut and olives, all sitting in a silky smoked eel sauce; and an absolutely stunning dessert of mouth-coating groundnut foam with zobo jam and meringue.

To drink, we loved the roasted plantain Old Fashioned, while wines are picked to withstand the spice (our robust, ever-so-slightly sour Riesling was a case in point). Prices aren’t cheap, so a good-value lunch menu (£35 for three courses) is definitely worth a punt for a restaurant that adds a real differential to the London scene.

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Imperial Treasure

Imperial Treasure

Chinese
Dim Sum

9-10 Waterloo Place, SW1Y 4BE

The Imperial Treasure brand might not yet be well-known in the UK but it’s a huge deal in Asia, where the Shanghai flagship holds two Michelin stars and the Hong Kong and Singapore branches have one each; 20 further restaurants extend to Guangzhou, South Korea and a Paris outpost scheduled for 2019.

It’s the sort of heritage that means the brand’s founder Alfred Leung has had the confidence to launch a three-storey restaurant occupying 8,500 square feet of prime St James’s real estate. And with a 25-year lease, Leung is in London for the long haul.

That confidence is well and truly deserved. For make no mistake: Imperial Treasure is the best Chinese restaurant to have opened in London since A Wong. Wagyu beef, Iberico pork, Scottish lobster and sea cucumber feature heavily, while Peking duck is carved tableside with all the theatre you would expect. But there are plenty of other treasures on the menu.

Dim sum contains superior ingredients encased in the most delicate of wrappings. Classics of har gau and cheung fun set a new benchmark for London (try the char siu har gau, which tastes of the most beautiful barbecued spare-rib meat imaginable) while there are new treats to discover such as the snow pork bun: basically a sugary, savoury doughnut that, like all of the cooking here, keeps the balance of salty and sweet in perfect balance. Then there’s prawn toast served as a fat coil of deep-fried king prawn encrusted with sesame.  

Full-sized dishes are handled just as deftly – kung po prawn keeps its chilli heat in check as deftly as any temperature-controlled thermostat – while lemon chicken is reinvented as juicy blocks of breast meat, coated in almond flakes and with a citrus-sharp lemon sauce on the side – although we preferred a blob of chilli sauce for seasoning. Even the fried rice would make a sumptuous meal by itself.

None of this comes cheap (the Peking duck is £100, dim sum around £8 a plate), but nor would you expect it to: the setting is luxurious without being ostentatious and there’s an army of solicitous staff to cater to your every need. Our only criticism was that the gap between dishes at lunch seemed to drag – but at these prices and with this quality of food, this is a ceremonial experience that you won’t want to rush.

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Aquavit

Aquavit

£50 - £79
Scandinavian
One michelin star

1 Carlton Street, 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.

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Sake No Hana

Sake No Hana

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese

23 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1HA

It might feel like being trapped inside a panda’s lunchbox, but beyond the swathes of cypress and bamboo there’s plenty to divert customers at “trendy” Sake No Hana. Perennially popular, it offers a vast menu that straddles the Japanese canon (and beyond), combined with a “superb atmosphere” and just enough pizzazz to make it all feel special at the price. The repertoire repays close attention. Start, perhaps, with colourful seared sushi or the umami riot of seared rib-eye beef with sesame dressing, before moving on to iron-pot rice topped with truffle and wild mushrooms or mirin-marinated black cod with yuzu, chilli and miso. A menu of this magnitude might expose weaknesses in lesser kitchens, but here the chefs are obviously well-drilled – especially when it comes to intricate desserts such as matcha pannacotta with mango sorbet. Saké classes, whisky and chocolate flights and a boozy Saturday lunch all help to maintain interest. “Excellent, as ever”, confirms one regular.

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The Game Bird at The Stafford London

The Game Bird at The Stafford London

£50 - £79
British

The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place , London, SW1A 1NJ

The Stafford hotel in St James’s has replaced the fussy and flouncy Lyttelton restaurant with something that very few London five-stars offer any more: a dining room serving traditional British food. Despite a very attractive re-style involving cherry-red leather, turquoise velvet and floral fabrics, The Game Bird feels less like a restaurant and more like a hotel lounge, but the food is well worth a visit from non-guests. Traditional is the way to go, such as the gently flavoured oak-smoked salmon, carved from a trolley. We also enjoyed a duo of sweet and savoury puddings: steak with rich gravy in a pliable suet crust, with a Lyle’s golden syrup sponge doused in custard to finish – the pistachio soufflé, dolloped with white chocolate ice cream, is a good shout too. Lighter options are every bit as good, from dressed crab piled with sweet, white meat, to an equally sweet jumble of thornback ray with brown shrimp, beurre noisette, grilled leek and red wine sauce. The most fun is to be had with the chicken Kiev however, loaded with so much garlic butter that it comes with a bib to tie around one’s neck. Prices are what you’d expect from a luxury hotel in St James’s, though a three-course Sunday roast for £40 is a local bargain – spend your saved pennies on the rather less kindly priced wine list, with its regal collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy stored in a 380-year-old cellar.  

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Estiatorio Milos

Estiatorio Milos

£50 - £79
Greek

1 Regent Street St James's, London, SW1Y 4NR

Part of an international chain that attracts a matching clientele, restaurateur Costas Spiliadis’s London outpost shows off a spanking-fresh ‘market’ of Mediterranean fish, with around 20 species waiting for diners to make their selection. It’s a justly confident way to sell a menu of sharing dishes, though it’s the only action in a rather plain and pale dining room. From the raw bar, you might choose oysters and clams, tuna sashimi or a Greek ceviche with wild Mediterranean herbs, beans and feta, while the list of classics features enough octopus, calamari and cuttlefish to eat with eight arms. Balance comes from veggie items including a dish of steamed wild and rarely seen greens. Unless you count the fried potatoes served with a small selection of steaks, your doctor is unlikely to disapprove of anything on the menu. Sadly, we can’t say the same about your bank manager.

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