£30 - £49
120 St John's Wood High Street, London, NW8 7SG
A Café Rouge conversion in a handsome terracotta building provides the location for this third branch of The Ivy's café brand, following The Ivy Café Marylebone and The Ivy Café Wimbledon. Straight away it becomes one of the best places to eat in St John’s Wood, one of those affluent London areas that’s curiously poor on the eating-out front. The familiar features from its siblings have been transplanted root and branch – all-day dining seven days a week, from breakfast through to supper via elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails and weekend brunch. But the operation is prevented from feeling formulaic by the warm welcome of the staff and the stylishness of the Martin Brudnizki design. An onyx bar, super-flattering lighting, marble floor tiles and burnt-orange banquettes feel a little bit Paris but very much London. Likewise, the something-for-every-mood menu hits the spot whatever the time of day. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner of Ivy classics: the properly crispy duck salad and richly warming (if not exactly generously portioned) shepherd’s pie, as well as crunchy fried prawns and squid with a gentle wasabi mayo, and chicken Milanese with a fried egg, truffle mayo and an au courant side order of creamed kale and spinach with pine nuts. To drink, a short and competitively priced Euro wine list makes ordering easy, there are appealing booze-free options – or try the Negroni tasting set. Very handy for Lord’s and London Zoo, too.
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£30 - £49
23–24 Aberdeen Place, London, NW8 8JR
Conceived by local entrepreneur Frank Crocker in 1898, this spectacular high-Victorian ‘folly’ was originally planned as the terminus for what is now the Marylebone line in St John’s Wood, but locals protested, the idea was ditched and the building became a gin palace. Lately, it has been lavishly renovated by the Maroush Group, who have fastidiously restored the interiors to something like their original splendour. Romanesque columns, cut-glass chandeliers, carved mahogany, ‘50 kinds of marble’ and huge open fireplaces form the backdrop to the new bar/restaurant, where Lebanese food is now the order of the day. Starters of baba ghanouj, mousaka and kibbeh set the scene for mains ranging from skewers of grilled meats, plump vine leaves and sautéed seafood with vegetables. The josper grills also provides more meaty large plates and desserts feature the obligatory baklawa and a selection of ice cream.
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£50 - £79
£30 - £49
3 Blenheim Terrace, London, NW8 0EH
Although it’s secreted away in the leafy suburbs of St John’s Wood, eating at this thoroughly romantic evergreen might just transport you to the heart of Paris – an illusion of bonhomie reinforced by gregarious owner Catherine Parisot and her thoroughly Gallic, genuinely welcoming staff. The handwritten, daily changing menus need little explanation, as long as you’re well-versed in bourgeois favourites, and you can’t go wrong with the classics here: mussels and scallops in saffron sauce; homemade foie gras terrine; roasted turbot with hollandaise sauce; rack of lamb with whole garlic; pan-fried magret of duck finished with cassis sauce. There are mighty ribs of veal for two to share, while desserts are all about indulgence – so forget your diet and go straight for the crème brûlée, chocolate truffle, warm apple tart or the stinky French cheeses. Set menus offer the best value.
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£50 - £79
Prince Albert Road (corner of Charlbert Street), London, NW8 7EN
“If this was a cruise ship it would be the old P&O Victoria, rather than a modern Cunard liner”, mused one reader after visiting this slice of vintage 1970s nostalgia. Oslo Court is certainly one of a kind – it’s like “time travelling backwards”, but in a good way, with charmingly retro salmon-pink decor, heavily starched linen and tuxedo-clad waiters wheeling around dessert trolleys. Likewise, the menu lists the kind of fare found in five-star hotels of a bygone era, with warm buttered rolls presented alongside coquilles St Jacques or garlicky mushrooms in puff pastry. Generosity is a given when it comes to mains, perhaps a whopping Dover sole meunière or roast duckling with a choice of orange, cherry or apple sauce, while puds of the crêpe Suzette and strawberry flan ilk aren’t exactly featherweight either. It’s all rather hypnotising, and the clientele of local, moneyed retirees would be lost without it.
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96 Clifton Hill, London, NW8 0JT
Tucked away in St John’s Wood, The Clifton is practically indistinguishable from the imposing houses lining the leafy street. Inside, though, and the classic north London gastropub has been brought bang up-to-date with a ‘drinking house’ bar area that feels more lounge bar than pub, making The Clifton the coolest thing to happen in NW8 since The Beatles sauntered across Abbey Road. Here you can snack on gooey mac ’n’ cheese croquettes or well-spiced Korean chicken wings while sampling half a dozen spins on the G&T and draught beer from the Camden Town Brewery. More substantial food is served from the ‘eating house’ menu in a small conservatory at the back. A starter of beef carpaccio, blobbed with octopus ink mayo and scattered with chunks of pickled radish, was big enough for two to share. Dingly Dell pork chop was a touch over-salted and its fat a tad under-cooked, but we loved the hispi cabbage on the side to mop up the meat juice, and with nearly all mains below £15, glitches in the kitchen can be overlooked. The European wine list is similarly kindly priced (lots under £30) and staff, just like the two brothers who own the place, are keen and chatty. With twenty-somethings propping up the bar and parents taking their grown-up kids out for dinner, The Clifton has all the makings of a much-appreciated local.
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