London's Hot 100 Restaurants

The SquareMeal London Hot 100 is the definitive list of the restaurants that are pushing Londoners’ buttons right now.

Updated on 01 January 2019

London's Hot 100 Restaurants

It does not set out to offer a run-down of the 100 restaurants serving the best food in the capital (although you’d be hard pressed to have a bad meal at any of them). Rather, through a combination of the almost 10,000 comments we’ve received in our annual surveys, and the restaurants receiving the most page views on our website, the Hot 100 reflects the restaurants that SquareMeal’s audience are most interested in right now.


Social Eating House

Social Eating House

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR

“Great food, informal and fun” sums up Social Eating House, Jason Atherton’s regularly rammed Soho outpost – a noisy Michelin-starred hangout that mixes cool-dude vibes and moody lighting with cooking that bears all the chef and restaurateur’s culinary hallmarks. Chef/patron Paul Hood (previously at Atherton’s flagship, Pollen Street Social) oversees proceedings day-to-day and his seasonal menu shows a trademark commitment to native sourcing as well as a fondness for all things creative and cheffy – we’re huge fans of the mushrooms and toast, a richly flavoured, artful melee punctuated with pickled girolles, creamy cep purée and onion marmalade. In a very British twist on steak tartare, tender chunks of Buccleuch Black Angus are paired with beetroot, horseradish and egg-yolk jam, while baked Cornish hake is served with hispi cabbage gratin and textured slices of Tokyo turnip laced with saffron. Simpler pleasures range from aged native-breed steaks with triple-cooked duck-fat chips to the addictive mac ‘n’ cheese with chanterelles and luscious sundaes for afters. Social Eating House’s well-curated wine list and spot-on cocktails are further pluses, while staff are hip, happy and on point (well, most of the time). 

More about Social Eating House

Book now

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

Over £80
Modern European
One michelin star

70 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QG

“Mind-blowing food, exceptional wines and perfect service” – that’s what punters can expect if they venture into this semi-secret dining space behind a leather curtain at the back of funky Bubbledogs. True to its name, Kitchen Table’s U-shaped counter fits snugly around the kitchen, where up to 20 diners can perch on stools, elbow-to-elbow with their neighbours, watching and listening to chef James Knappett’s team as they prepare (and often serve) the day’s Michelin-starred menu. Nibbles of chicken skin, bacon jam and rosemary mascarpone generally open the show, while each of the subsequent 12 courses is described by a single word on the blackboard (‘oyster’, ‘shrimp’, ‘potato’). That said, the results are bold, ultra-modern and revelatory: a dish simply entitled ‘scallop’ might see a fleshy raw bivalve in harmonious company with lightly pickled cucumber, elderflowers and a frothy elderflower kombucha (a fermented beverage). James’ partner/sommelier Sandia Chang takes care of Kitchen Table’s 100-bin wine list, which plunders the exclusive ‘grower’ Champagnes on offer at Bubbledogs next door. “A little pricey, but you really pay for what you get – namely quality”, concludes one reader.  

More about Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

Book now

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

£50 - £79
British
Two michelin stars

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA

With Heston Blumenthal’s name attached and a menu of eye-catching dishes that play with our perceptions of British cookery, Dinner was always going to be a hit with London’s gastro-tourists, and there are plenty of reasons for them to leave feeling satisfied – not least the beautiful daytime view of Hyde Park, the fun of the nitro-fuelled ice cream cart and the switched-on staff.

“Attention to detail is second to none”, observes a fan. Even if you don’t buy into the restaurant’s date-stamped reinterpretation of historical recipes, there’s a formidable cornucopia of gastronomic delights to relish – from the ‘meat fruit’ (c.1500) disguised as a mandarin with subtle citrus notes to the soft, juicy ‘tipsy cake’ (c.1810) with spit-roast pineapple. Also brace yourself for other extraordinary conceits ranging from ‘sherried’ scallop tartare with mushroom broth to chicken ‘oysters’ invigorated with horseradish cream and pickled walnuts. Sides are not to be sniffed at either – the mash is among the creamiest we’ve tasted. Obviously, such a “luxurious experience” doesn’t come cheap (especially if you commit to the wine flights), although set lunches offer a more accommodating prospect. Either way, prepare to be astonished. 

More about Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental

Book now

The Araki

The Araki

Over £80
Sushi
Three michelin stars

12 New Burlington Street, London, W1S 3BH

The Araki in numbers reads like this: three Michelin stars, nine seats, £300 set menu, zero ability to accommodate dietary requirements. But the proportions work nicely both for sushi master Mitsuhiro Araki and his customers – he couldn’t cater for more diners, and they wouldn’t want him to try. Exclusivity is a necessary part of the omakase experience, played out along a cypress wood counter with Araki-san moving swiftly and elegantly on the other side. Each day’s menu is built around Edo-style sushi, starting with a deeply flavoured but delicate clear soup, ravishing sashimi and a little cooked seafood – perhaps saké-steamed abalone with scallop ‘strings’ or grilled salmon with yuzu. Araki’s ability to bring out the flavours of tuna is much-admired and demonstrated beautifully in a trio of sushi using progressively fattier cuts. As you’d hope, every immaculate detail – including the gorgeous bespoke tableware and covetable saké glasses – is given proper attention. Talking numbers again, The Araki is simply a one-off.

More about The Araki

Book now

Zuma

Zuma

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese

5 Raphael St, Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DL

Fifteen years on and London is still deeply in love with world-class Zuma: “fabulous” says one fan, “can’t beat it” exclaims another avid supporter. And the waves of adoration stretch far beyond the capital itself: this high-gloss, big-money rendezvous draws in a global cast of A-listers and jetsetters, all attracted by the age-defying industrial-Zen interiors and the sleek designer mix of rough-hewn wood, polished granite and shiny steel. Tables are predictably hard to come by, but we prefer chancing our arm with the no-bookings ringside seats by the kitchen. Kick off with a trend-setting cocktail (perhaps Wild Yasei, a macho yet graceful blend of rye bourbon and wild-cherry tea syrup), and expect to pay top dollar for the food. In return you’ll be offered some of the finest Japanese cuisine in the capital: sliced seared tuna with chilli, daikon and ponzu; warm aubergine in sweet miso (an umami-laden masterpiece); robata-grilled jumbo tiger prawns with yuzu pepper; marinated baby chicken roasted on cedar wood, and – of course – the much-imitated, but never-bettered black cod. Service is flawless, and for the final flourish, we suggest asking the dedicated saké sommelier for a tour of his exquisite list. In a word, awesome.

 

More about Zuma

Book now

The Ledbury

The Ledbury

Over £80
Modern European
Two michelin stars

127 Ledbury Road, London, W11 2AQ

“Incredibly inventive”; “consistently wonderful”; “simply outstanding on every level”: readers confirm that The Ledbury is still a paragon of fine dining in the capital. It may radiate old-school affluence, but Brett Graham’s über-suave destination comes across as an inclusive eatery for locals, tourists and perambulating foodies alike – a neighbourhood destination kitted out with arty chandeliers, leather chairs and mirrored walls. Diners descend on the place in search of “top-class contemporary food” from a chef who cooks with vigour, authority and audacious brio. Regulars suggest that tasting menus are the way to go: “every course is a surprise”, whether you begin with a Chantilly of oyster, sea bream tartare and frozen English wasabi or the “stand-out” flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, Celtic mustard and shiso. There is stupendous meat and game too, perhaps Herdwick lamb with salt-baked kohlrabi, Padrón pepper and garlic or a sanguine-toned dish of Berkshire roe deer accompanied by smoked bone marrow, cherries, red leaves and vegetables. As thoughts turn to sweetness, the kitchen obliges with masterstrokes such as blackcurrant-leaf ice cream paired with buffalo-milk meringues and mead. Impeccable staff “genuinely enjoy their job”, and it’s worth engaging with one of the knowledgeable sommeliers if you want to get the best from the endlessly fascinating list. What more could you want from a two-Michelin-starred sophisticate?



More about The Ledbury

Book now

J Sheekey

J Sheekey

£50 - £79
Fish

28-32 St Martin's Court, London, WC2N 4AL

“Old school dining at its best” says a devoted admirer of J Sheekey – a fondly admired veteran of the theatreland scene that is not only chic and fashionable but also democratic. With its cheerful buzz, fish “of the highest quality” and “some of the best service ever”, it invites diners to enjoy all the pleasures in a cosseting setting of leather banquettes and antique mirrors, with surrealist paintings and photos of legendary actors on the wood-panelled walls. Trawl through the menu for classics ranging from dressed crab and potted shrimps to magnificent fruits de mer and an inimitable fish pie, plus grilled halibut on the bone, fine Dover sole and lobster thermidor, but also be prepared for some daring detours – perhaps sardines marinated with harissa and pistachio dukkah or charred octopus with exotic green peppers. Fabulous puddings include crème brûlée and banoffee cheesecake, but we head straight for the Bramley apple pie and interesting tarts such as black fig with mascarpone and honey ice cream. To drink, fish-friendly wines include many Coravin selections – in short, J Sheekey is “an absolute must”. 

More about J Sheekey

Book now

Restaurant Story

Restaurant Story

Over £80
British
One michelin star

199 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2JX

Tom Sellers gained a reputation as something of an enfant terrible when he opened his first solo venture, Restaurant Story, at the age of 26 in 2013; now he’s re-opened it with a refurb after a six-week closure. The whole place feels more grown-up; the stark Scandinavian look of the glass-walled room (Sellers spent a year at Noma in 2011) has been softened with tablecloths and sculptures, while the rather precious ‘story’ elements, such as guests being asked to bring a book to leave behind, have thankfully been pulped.

There’s no menu as such; guests are asked for any likes or dislikes before a procession of tasting-menu size dishes arrive, although they are likely to include story classics such as ‘Storeos’ – a savoury spin on an Oreo cookie filled with cheese – and Sellers’ signature dish of bread with dripping, in which a beef-fat candle lit at the table melts to become a dipping sauce for sour dough.

But it’s not all about the visual gags. Sublime turbot, Champagne and sea herbs, and chicken with morels and lettuce, bear witness to Sellers’ rock-solid training with some of London’s most famous chefs, while oscietra caviar, veal sweetbread and turnip showcased superb ingredients with every mouthful.

Even diners who have an allergic reaction to tasting menus are likely to be won over by the joy and invention on show here, although what elevated the meal for us from high-end rivals was the relaxed service led by witty and down-to-earth maitr’d Joe Paulinski who, for all his good humour, learnt his trade at the very serious Per Se. All in all, this is a Story that now knows how to put a smile on its customers’ faces, and if you haven’t returned since it first opened, it more than merits a re-visit.

More about Restaurant Story

Book now

Berners Tavern at The London Edition

Berners Tavern at The London Edition

£50 - £79
Modern European

10 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NP

“I love this place!” chimes one reader – and rightly so. Jason Atherton’s 21st-century reinvention of hotel dining has made Berners Tavern one of the hottest tickets in town. Sporting “the most beautiful dining room in London” (think towering ceilings, mosaics, gilt-framed oil paintings and a soaring, yellow-lit bar), this place oozes glamour, pizzazz and grandeur, without feeling remotely “stuffy”. There are many foodie triumphs here, although the reimagining of the hotel dining-room trolley is one to really savour – watch as a giant, perfectly cooked pork pie is sliced tableside and artfully arranged with pickled carrots, fennel, piccalilli and mustards. Other classic British options include the “best prawn cocktail ever” (loaded with sweet lobster jelly, avocado and crispy shallots), but the menu’s versatility ranges from gloriously indulgent five-cheese macaroni topped with slow-cooked beef blade (“to die for”) to roast Cornish cod with crispy squid, basil fregola and soothing tomato consommé. For a final touch of theatre, go for the buttermilk Alaska, finished with flaming liquor, soft hunks of rhubarb and pistachio. Service at Berners Tavern is “second to none” – as we’ve come to expect from Mr Atherton. 

More about Berners Tavern at The London Edition

Book now

The Marksman

The Marksman

£30 - £49
Gastropub
One michelin star

254 Hackney Road, London, E2 7SJ

This stylish born-again boozer is a co-creation from chefs Tom Harris (ex-St John) and Jon Rotheram (ex-Fifteen). They've gone with tradition on the ground floor, refurbishing the bar, but upstairs you'll find a highly original dining room with a woven ceiling and zany lino floor in primary colours. One menu is served throughout, with signatures such as kid goat curry, beef and barley bun or honey and brown butter tart alongside less attention-grabbing (but delicious) items including cod with leeks and brown crab or Tamworth pork with hispi cabbage and mustard. To drink, pick an Old World wine or join the locals for a pint of Meantime Yakima Red. Handy for Columbia Road flower market on Sundays, when the pub serves brunch and roast lunches.

More about The Marksman

Book now

Angler

Angler

£50 - £79
Fish
One michelin star

South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London, EC2M 2AF

From the moment you arrive for drinks on the gorgeous roof terrace, it’s clear that Michelin-starred Angler knows how to host its diners. Given that it’s located on the seventh floor of the South Place Hotel, superb views come as standard – thanks to a giant sloping window that looks out onto the busy street below. “Great seafood in a calming atmosphere” sums it up, with comfy striped chairs, light colours and an impressive foliage-motif mirror running along on wall of the opulent dining room. The kitchen matches the sophisticated vibe with a menu of precision-tuned contemporary dishes ranging from roast octopus with taramasalata, chipirones and spicy salsa verde to light-textured John Dory accompanied by coco beans, bacon and sardines. Meat eaters might go for smoked chicken wings with chanterelles followed by a tasting of Iberian pork, while dessert could bring a rich, warm chocolate cake with banana-milk ice cream and crunchy peanut butter. Service is impeccable, and a devoted sommelier is on hand to pair each course with wines from the varied list. Pricey, but highly recommended.

More about Angler

Book now

Counter Culture

Counter Culture

£30 - £49
Modern European

15 The Pavement, London, SW4 0HY

This totally on-trend tapas bar comes from chef-of-the-moment Robin Gill, who has transformed the old deli attached to his big-hitting Dairy into a 15-seat temple to inventive cooking, with just one chef behind the counter and one person out front. Counter Culture takes bookings, it’s BYO and it’s great value too. Standouts from the eight-dish menu are many and varied: earthy salsify ketchup, scooped up on a Quaver-like curl of pork crackling; a jumble of beef tartare, caviar and radishes, all gleefully rubbed around the plate to mop up bone-marrow salad cream; charred mackerel with spiced cabbage and capers. Virtually nothing goes to waste and nearly everything is made on site using labour-intensive methods – check out the curing room and smokehouse, shelves of fermenting bottles and beehives on the roof. The restaurant’s website calls Counter Culture ‘The Dairy’s naughty little brother’; we’d add that it’s also very nice.

More about Counter Culture

Book now

Brasserie Zédel

Brasserie Zédel

£30 - £49
French

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.

More about Brasserie Zédel

Book now

Scott

Scott's

£50 - £79
Fish

20 Mount Street, London, W1K 2HE

Under the awning or amid polished oak panels, glamorous Scott’s is a top choice if you want to take clients out for some “sublime” seafood and a thorough spoiling, backed by service that’s “second to none”. Staff “really care”, so rest assured that the “best fish in town” will be delivered with seamless care and attention. The sight of glistening crustacea displayed at an ice-heaped bar serves as a reminder that it’s sometimes best to leave well alone. In that spirit, purists also enjoy potted shrimps, lobster mayonnaise and dressed crab, while more elaborate starters might bring tempura langoustine tails, char-grilled squid with ‘nduja or “delicious” sautéed monkfish cheeks with snails and bordelaise sauce. ‘Turf’ is always an option (try the chicken, mustard, bacon and quails’ egg pie), but many customers return to the sea for halibut with dashi broth and shrimp gyoza, battered haddock or fish for two on the bone. Despite the obvious luxury, Scott’s is widely judged to be “great value for money” – something to bear in mind when leafing through the wine list. In short, a “unique experience”.

More about Scott's

Book now

Black Axe Mangal

Black Axe Mangal

Under £30
International

156 Canonbury Road, London, N1 2UP

When you take a hipster who’s spent 10 years working at St John Bread & Wine, a pop-up restaurant, a Copenhagen nightclub and a swish version of Turkish kebabbery, the result is bound to be pretty cool. Lee Tiernan and his wife Kate have created their own selection of ‘kebabs, beers and other tasty junk’. Forget pitta: instead you’ll find imaginative plates such as salty smoked cod roe and crisps, followed by plump mussels with deliciously fatty bacon and zingy chilli. A plate of meaty kids’ offal is a delight, gloriously balanced by a side of hispi cabbage. We greedily followed this with Chinese-spiced Adana of lambs' tongues (a revelation), which arrived with lashings of sauce that we dutifully mopped up with homemade flatbread. Drinks are equally good (including a cocktail list from Ryan ‘Mr Lyan’ Chetiyawardana): a Lagerita does the trick, counterbalancing the spice, but giving an extra Tequila kick. 

More about Black Axe Mangal

Book now

Hoppers Soho

Hoppers Soho

£30 - £49
Indian

49 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SG

Sometimes, very good things come in very small packages. This no-reservations South Indian eatery from the Sethi siblings (of Trishna and Gymkhana fame) goes from strength to strength, with the implementation of an app in 2016 eliminating one of very few negative points: the need to queue outside on Lexington Street. The average wait at dinner is still over an hour, but the pay-off is astoundingly good-value Sri Lankan and Tamil cuisine “full of delicate flavours and fragrances”. Pick an eponymous hopper (a bowl-shaped rice pancake) with a gooey egg embedded in its base or a sticky, crunchy dosa cone, then match your choice with a “perfectly balanced” kari (curry). Options range from lamb, black pork or fish to red pumpkin and gourd with cashew, irresistibly supported by fiery, must-order Bengali prawns or crisp and deeply meaty mutton rolls. Hoppers is perpetually packed, but “friendly, discreet staff” won’t rush you, so sit back and sip an exotic Margarita (pepped up with pickled lime and coconut salt) to compensate for the absence of a dessert menu.

More about Hoppers Soho

Book now

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.

More about Cafe Murano St James's

Book now

Holborn Dining Room

Holborn Dining Room

£50 - £79
British

252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN

Boasting an all-day menu that stretches from filling hot breakfasts to late-night suppers, this versatile brasserie within the smart Rosewood London receives generous praise for "amazing ambience, very good food and great service". The grand, marble-pillared room previously housed the underwriters at Pearl Assurance, and Martin Brudnizki's makeover captures that sense of heritage with a clubby look whose russet leather, reclaimed oak and antique mirrors are both traditional and on-trend; outside, meanwhile, the courtyard houses a tastefully elegant summer-only terrace.

Recent highlights from a crowd-pleasing menu included a juicy shrimp burger lifted with lobster thermidor tart, cornish crab toast and indulgent sticky toffee pudding, all preceded by exemplary White Negronis. Elsewhere, you'll find classic seafood dishes and a decent wine list to boot.

More about Holborn Dining Room

Book now

Roka Charlotte Street

Roka Charlotte Street

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese

37 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR

A Fitzrovia hit since launching in 2004, Roka’s trailblazing modern Japanese cuisine and “sophisticated atmosphere” are still a universal smash with readers. Some enjoy “chilling out”, others love its “romantic vibe”, but the expertly fashioned food is what really turns heads. Most diners are old hands at navigating a menu packed with modern-day classics (black cod in yuzu miso, wafer-thin truffled yellowtail sashimi, scallop and shiso lollipops, baby spinach in creamy sesame dressing) although clued-up staff still offer ever-changing seasonal tips – perhaps grilled cobia fish with mushrooms and truffle, or indulgent Wagyu tartare sushi rolls topped with caviar. The sleek glass-fronted room is all polished wood and industrial ceilings, with in-demand seats ringing the frantic action around the fierce robata grill (mercifully with an efficient extraction system). Prices merit either an expense account, or a very careful eye, so maybe grab a tasting menu to keep bills in check or skip the ostentatious dessert platters. Wine fits the top-end bill, but eye-opening saké and classy, shochu-based cocktails steal the show.

More about Roka Charlotte Street

Book now

The Quality Chop House

The Quality Chop House

£50 - £79
British
Wine Bars

92-94 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA

There aren’t many Grade II-listed dining rooms in London, but this is one of them, with wooden booths and black-and-white tiled floors recalling its relatively humble Victorian origins. Of course, The Quality Chop House is now a thoroughly modern enterprise, with a second dining room, private facilities and an adjoining butcher’s/food store. The daily menu displays a touch of wanderlust – just like our Victorian forebears – so expect Gloucester Old Spot pork chops with rémoulade, or red mullet partnered by Tokyo turnip and bagna cauda. Mackerel crudo with crème fraîche and chickweed makes a feisty little starter, while desserts such as pear and apple crumble are just the sort of thing you’d hope to see on the menu. Service is perfectly paced thanks to staff who are “enthusiastic and knowledgeable”. The wine list is updated monthly (co-owner Will Lander is Jancis Robinson’s son, so no pressure), and it’s a “damn fine piece of work”.

More about The Quality Chop House

Book now

Le Gavroche

Le Gavroche

Over £80
French
Two michelin stars
£50 - £79

43 Upper Brook Street, London, W1K 7QR

Stoically eschewing the cult of the new, Le Gavroche remains a bastion of haute cuisine in all its ancien régime finery – although you may need a certain worldly-wise mindset to fully appreciate this grandee’s many attributes. The dark exclusivity of the cocooned dining room, the fastidiously dutiful service and the indulgent extravagance of the food all seem to evoke a time gone by. As ever, Michel Roux’s Jr’s kitchen is intent on delivering classical cooking of the highest order, although he does allow the occasional flirtation with contemporary themes: trendy bottarga, two kinds of beetroot and ‘late-harvest’ Canadian vinegar balancing a dish of marinated and seared sea trout; ras-el-hanout spices adding exotic fragrance to a plate of stone bass, roasted peanuts enhancing some “incomparable” breast and leg of pigeon. Still, we take comfort in the classics – the ever-present and ever-gorgeous soufflé suissesse, the brilliantly succulent pig’s head terrine with braised snails, lemon and “inimitable” parsley purée, a perfect strawberry dessert highlighted with vanilla cream. Yes, eating here can be frighteningly expensive (especially if you dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers also extol the virtues of the all-inclusive set lunch. With its two Michelin stars, fans say Le Gavroche is “quite simply the best”.  

More about Le Gavroche

Book now

Sushisamba City

Sushisamba City

£50 - £79
South American
Japanese

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38-39th floor), London, EC2N 4AY

“It’s all about the experience” at Sushisamba, from the moment the lightning-quick glass elevator whisks you up to the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. Once inside, you can’t miss the incredible floor-to-ceiling views or the covens of noisy young City types splashing serious amounts of cash at the bar. The “fabulous atmosphere” spills over into the restaurant, where the menu promises a thrilling fusion of Japanese and Latino cuisine – from shrimp tempura with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette to refreshing crispy lobster taquitos with avocado, aji amarillo, jalapeños and morado. Other standouts on our list include the multi-coloured sushi rolls, sweet potato noodles served with egg yolk and gold shavings, and a drool-worthy chocolate banana cake with maple butter, plantain chip and rum-spiked ice cream. Samba music blasts from the speakers, while innumerable staff are on hand to deliver “the best service ever”. It’s not everyone’s cup of saké, but high-octane Sushisamba is spot-on for City revellers with deep pockets.

More about Sushisamba City

Book now

Clos Maggiore

Clos Maggiore

£50 - £79
French

33 King Street, London, WC2E 8JD

Whether you want to take your mum for lunch or your lover for dinner, Clos Maggiore has that special “touch of magic” with an added soupçon of Gallic ooh-la-la. Love is always in the air at this “gloriously romantic” restaurant – especially if you’re lucky enough to get a table amid the twinkling fairy lights, blossoms and foliage in the glass-roofed conservatory (open to the stars on balmy evenings). Bookings aren’t guaranteed in this inviting space, but you can always settle for one of the less enticing dining areas: either way, expect finely tuned French-accented cooking with some noticeable Mediterranean nuances. “Simply delicious” starters such as hand-picked Dorset crab with anchovy mayonnaise and char-grilled cauliflower or pan-roasted Les Landes duck liver with roasted fig and smoked duck ham open proceedings, ahead of a thumping dish of herb-smoked rack of lamb with goats’ curd and gratinated smoked aubergine for two to share. Vegetarians also fare well, while tricksy desserts feature the signature ‘caramelised chocolate sensation’ with burnt honey ice cream and Armagnac jelly. Clos Maggiore’s huge (but accessible) wine list also warrants serious exploration.

More about Clos Maggiore

Book now

Bernardi

Bernardi's

£30 - £49
Italian

62 Seymour Street, W1H 5BN

The Bernardi brothers’ eponymous Italian fits right into Portman Village, where appearances might not be everything but are certainly a factor: the neat streetside terrace, marble tables and mildly distressed leather provide a “chilled” bolthole for daytime socialising, the brothers’ Australian influences keep things playful and service is “very accommodating”. One-time Roux Scholarship finalist Sabrina Gidda has a handle on what’s needed in the food department: porchetta with spring greens, salsa verde and polenta roasties for Sunday lunch, aperitivi snacks of polpette and arancini, plus more serious dishes in between. Try spinach and ricotta gnudi with datterini tomatoes and basil, followed by stone bass fillet with mussels, saffron and samphire or lamb rump with goats’ cheese, stuffed artichoke and black olive sauce. Desserts are simple reworkings of the greats, from Amalfi lemon posset with fennel biscotti to mascarpone cheesecake with cherries and pistachio. Also check out the colourful Dog House basement bar and courtyard.

More about Bernardi's

Book now

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Over £80
British
French

68 Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4HP

“The top of Everest, the Roger Federer of fine dining” declares a fan of Gordon Ramsay’s three-Michelin-starred Chelsea flagship, adding that it’s “hands-down” the best place to eat in London. Former chef/patron Clare Smyth has moved on to open her own restaurant, Core in Notting Hill, but the kitchen is in safe hands under the stewardship of Matt Abé – a chef who has proved his worth as an alumnus of both Ramsay and Smyth. If proof were needed, consider the ever-delectable ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon (now enlivened with oxalis and sorrel), the pressed foie gras with green apple, turnips, watercress and smoked duck or roast pigeon pointed up with sweetcorn, lavender, honey and apricot. Vegetarians might be treated to gnocchi “as light as pillows of clouds”, while desserts are miracles of clarity and sweetness (a lemonade parfait with honey, bergamot and sheep’s milk yoghurt, for example). It’s all about consummate craftsmanship, combined with an acute eye for visual detailing. The dining room is cool and classy, with silky-smooth service to match, although it would be nothing without the gleeful attentions of genial overlord Jean-Claude Breton – a master orchestrator and a legend among maître d's. Like everything else at this gilded wow-inducing superstar, the staggeringly comprehensive wine list and the sommelier’s astute recommendations are “hard to beat”.

More about Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Book now

The Clove Club

The Clove Club

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star

380 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT

It’s all happened so quickly for The Clove Club. From supper club to pop-up to successfully crowdfunded launch in the space of three years, Isaac McHale’s Michelin-starred Shoreditch destination now rubs shoulders with the high flyers on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It has achieved its success by doing things differently, such as adopting a pre-paid ‘ticketed’ booking system for dinner reservations (a first for London). The food’s experimental, with multi-course tasting menus promising a cavalcade of thrilling, enthralling and seriously on-point seasonal cooking along the lines of flamed mackerel with gooseberry and English mustard, Aylesbury duck ‘three ways’ (consommé, breast and smoked sausage) or apricot sorbet with burnt honey and bee pollen – all offered with imaginative wine pairings. Some find it precious, some too challenging, but nobody could fault McHale’s commitment. The dining room is chilled-out and surprisingly serene, with the bar even more so serving on-trend cocktails and racy snacks: we love the venison sausages with greengage ketchup and the buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt. In short, an unmissable one-off that chimes perfectly with cosmopolitan 21st-century London.

More about The Clove Club

Book now

Gunpowder Spitalfields

Gunpowder Spitalfields

£30 - £49
Indian

11 White's Row, E1 7NF

On a backstreet behind Spitalfields Market, this cosy no-bookings Indian may be small and unassuming, but the menu is certainly explosive. “Great food, lovely atmosphere, fantastic service”, exclaims one fan – and we share his enthusiasm for Gunpowder’s spicy offer.

Set against an unfussy backdrop of exposed brickwork and steel chairs, the concise menu is rich in rustic Indian sharing dishes inspired by family recipes. Readers have singled out the venison and vermicelli ‘doughnut’, the aloo chat and the “sticky and sweet” Nagaland pork ribs with crunchy tamarind kachumber, but we’re fans of the ‘chutney cheese sandwich’ and the organic baby chicken char-grilled in tandoori spices.

The short dessert list also offers something for everyone: molten spice chocolate cake, comforting ‘old monk’ rum pudding or refreshing passion fruit and mint granita. Wine straddle the globe, but don’t ignore the Asian-inspired cocktails, made with ingredients such as masala Coca-Cola. “Reasonable prices” seal the deal.

More about Gunpowder Spitalfields

Book now

Jean-Georges at The Connaught

Jean-Georges at The Connaught

£50 - £79
International

The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Vong at The Berkeley was a huge hit in the 90s (and much missed following its closure in 2002), but now the New York-based Alsatian chef is back with Jean-Georges at The Connaught. The curving space that was formerly the hotel's Espelette restaurant might still have the feel of a breakfast and afternoon tea rendezvous, but the food is far more adventurous than the setting suggests. Playful luxury is a running theme on the menu – silky egg yolks sandwiched between caviar-topped brioche toast, lobster partnered by a crispy fried squash flower stuffed with prawns, or a gooey pizza of Fontina cheese and black truffle. Ingredients are also top notch, from firm tentacles of grilled octopus arranged cruciform-style to a salad of sweet jumbo prawns dressed with Champagne vinegar. Exquisite-looking desserts should not be missed, although the spectacular-looking candy floss creation is easier to Instagram than it is to eat. Service is as deferential as the hotel setting demands, and the final size of the bill the only intrusion of reality into a delightfully escapist confection. 

More about Jean-Georges at The Connaught

Book now

Sexy Fish

Sexy Fish

£50 - £79
Fish

Berkeley Square House, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BR

With a waterfall behind the bar and a giant gold-plated crocodile hanging on the wall, it’s hard not to get caught up in the glamour of Sexy Fish – a lavish pan-Asian brasserie with real “wow factor”. Eager staff in multi-coloured waistcoats attend to diners’ every need, delivering thrillingly fashionable food at heavyweight prices to an equally fashionable crowd peppered with celeb faces. Wagyu ganku rolls come topped with white miso and black truffle, while scallops are pepped up with jalapeño sauce and pickled green apple, although the biggest hits are elsewhere – witness tender, honey-glazed duck breast sharpened with kimchi and pickled daikon or sticky pull-apart pork ribs from the robata grill dressed with green onions and chilli. Desserts are not to be missed either – the fluffy, sweet vanilla cheesecake embellished with a strawberry and golden lime sorbet is among the best we’ve tried in London. With its attention-grabbing interiors and moneyed clientele, wonderfully showy Sexy Fish won’t suit wallflowers, but everyone else has a ball.  

More about Sexy Fish

Book now

40 Maltby Street

40 Maltby Street

£30 - £49
Cafes

40 Maltby Street, London, SE1 3PA

The secret is out. This boutique wine shop/ bar/bistro, once a favoured hangout of the Bermondsey dining cognoscenti, is now frequented by discerning oenophiles from across the capital. Occupying one of the railway arches along increasingly foodie Maltby Street, it also serves limited lunches and dinners to complement its succinct range of natural wines from France, Italy and Slovenia. Around six are open at any time, so pick a glass or buy a bottle for a flat £12 mark-up on the shop prices – the full-flavoured Sangiovese from Tuscan producer, Pacina, is a great match for the gutsy Mediterranean-style food on offer. Roast chicken with chanterelles is a rib-sticking delight, while egg mayo with anchovies is an exercise in simplicity and top-notch ingredients. No bookings, so arrive early to bag a table.

More about 40 Maltby Street

Book now

Yauatcha Soho

Yauatcha Soho

£50 - £79
Chinese
Dim Sum
One michelin star

15-17 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 0DL

“Still incredible after all these years”, ultra-cool Yauatcha Soho stakes its claim with “smart, snappy decor” and an inviting patisserie bar out front. The trademark blue-glass frontage gives way to a frenetic grey-toned room, while a glowing fish tank, candlelit tables and twinkling “night sky” lights await diners who descend to the “stunning” brick-lined basement. Wherever you sit, expect ultra-professional service, but with lots of winning smiles. The comprehensive menu is populated by “steamed to perfection” dumplings (try the edamame and truffle beauties) and other luxe Chinese ideas such as jasmine tea-smoked ribs and venison puffs – described by one salivating fan as “the sweetest, most crumbly piece of heaven”. Elsewhere, bigger items ranging from spicy steamed sea bass with pickled chilli or ‘lunar’ chicken hotpot with cured pork to homemade spinach tofu with shimejii mushrooms and baby asparagus are also in demand. “Spectacular-looking” chocolates, macarons and petits gateaux such as a ‘tropical’ dome of coconut dacquoise, passion fruit and pineapple get rave reviews, while a swanky line-up of classy wines, teas, sakés and killer cocktails completes Yauatcha Soho’s winning Michelin-starred package.   

More about Yauatcha Soho

Book now

The Five Fields

The Five Fields

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star

8-9 Blacklands Terrace, London, SW3 2SP

“Still on the up and up” confirms a regular visitor to Five Fields – an elegant but homely neighbourhood restaurant that “really does feel very special”. Muted grey and beige colour schemes set a soothing tone in the bijou dining room, although all eyes are on the gloriously fresh-flavoured food coming out of chef/proprietor Taylor Bonnyman’s kitchen. Much depends on seasonal pickings from the owner’s Sussex garden – floral tributes and herbal embellishments that make an impact in dishes as diverse as Lindisfarne oyster with green herbs, sea lettuce and radish or a disarmingly simple ‘late summer’ plate of tomato, pea and watermelon. Bonnyman’s sense of adventure and his culinary intelligence also show in unexpected pairings such as beef with peanut, broccoli and tamarind or red grouse overlaid with the contrasting flavours and textures of carrot, yoghurt and cucumber. To finish, ‘chocolate, sesame and smoke’ sounds darkly dramatic, but there’s fruity freshness too – as in Charentais melon with orange flower blossom, raspberry and praline. Staff are gracious, genuine and accommodating – a real boon when it comes to picking from the comprehensive 500-bin wine list. “Surprising and charming in equal measure” says a fan – a verdict we’re happy to endorse.

More about The Five Fields

Book now

Chez Bruce

Chez Bruce

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, SW17 7EG

“Reassuringly polished in every way” says an admirer of Bruce Poole’s remarkable restaurant, while another deems it “an all-time favourite at the top end”. We’re also enamoured of Chez Bruce’s sense of style, its neighbourly virtues and the fact that it can regularly deliver inspired Michelin-starred food at egalitarian prices. As a dressed-down local eatery of the best sort, its gusty Euro-inspired food pleases, excites and soothes in equal measure, from starters of trotter sausage with warm summer beans and confit rabbit to desserts such as the much-vaunted crème brûlée or pistachio meringues with lemon verbena and raspberries. In between, the kitchen’s big-hearted approach might yield roast cod with olive oil mash, Provençal tomato and gremolata or rump of lamb with stuffed tomato, sweetbread ragoût and courgette tarte fine – manna indeed for the well-fed burghers of Wandsworth. The magnificent cheeseboard is also a class act in its own right. Some feel Chez Bruce’s new layout is a tad “cramped” and it’s clear that pressure of numbers can occasionally impact on the kitchen, but impressively professional staff are always on top of things. In contrast to the “delightful small menu”, the wine list is an all-encompassing encyclopaedic tome offering diversity, style and quality in spades.  

More about Chez Bruce

Book now

City Social

City Social

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

24th Floor, Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ

It may share the signature low-key glamour of Jason Atherton’s other Social restaurants, but the “most incredible views” from Tower 42 elevate City Social to statement status. With the fitting air of a 1920s boardroom, this dining room is custom-built for “business entertaining” – although it has a surprising intimacy given the scale of the setting. Minor grumbles, including music that’s “too loud” in the bar, are dwarfed by readers’ enthusiasm for executive chef Paul Walsh’s oh-so-pretty plates of Michelin-starred food – from cured Scottish salmon with watermelon, saké, cucumber carpaccio, soy and wasabi to tarte Tatin with caramel sauce for sharing. In between, he brings considerable experience to bear on interest-piquing main courses such as saddle of Lincolnshire rabbit with Parma ham, trompette mushrooms, spelt, lovage emulsion and black garlic, line-caught halibut with fondant potato, turnips, crispy prawns and tenderstem broccoli or heritage potato and caramelised onion terrine with Jerusalem artichoke and walnuts. Cocktails are classy, and the wine list is designed to accommodate high rollers – without putting everybody else off.

More about City Social

Book now

Sushi Tetsu

Sushi Tetsu

£50 - £79
Sushi

12 Jerusalem Passage, London, EC1V 4JP

A quick glance at the website is essential before a visit to the tiny Sushi Tetsu as the chances are it may be may be fully booked. Still, once you’ve secured a perch and made it through the door, you’ll see a handful of punters, with chef/proprietor Toru Takahashi on the other side of the counter, calmly preparing the sushi and sashimi with near forensic precision. This is a husband-and-wife outfit, with spouse Harumi completing the perfect circle that is Sushi Tetsu. Since you’ve gone to all the trouble of bagging a seat, you might consider going for the bespoke ‘omakase’ menu at 96 quid a pop: what you get depends on what the chef decides is good enough, so glistening sea urchin, turbot, snow crab, black bream, octopus and (hopefully) seared otoro fatty tuna might be on the cards, all embellished with the necessary accoutrements (wasabi, soy, mirin, seaweed and chilli). From the rice to the saké, everything is impeccable.    

More about Sushi Tetsu

Book now

Little Social

Little Social

£30 - £49
French

5 Pollen St, Mayfair, W1S 1NE

“I can’t contain how happy I am when I eat here,” says a fan of this Jason Atherton restaurant, which is both little and sociable – note its size, noise levels and richly convivial French-skewed dishes. The proximity of big boy Pollen Street Social across the road might cast this “refreshing small gem” in the role of plucky upstart, but Atherton’s trademark polish and “immaculate” detailing are evident throughout – from the charming well-drilled staff and design with a purpose (think French fantasy with a knowing London wink) to the finely rendered seasonal food. Just as customers must speak up rather than murmur, the kitchen revels in flavours with presence – perhaps meaty roasted ceps with garlicky smoked almond butter on toasted brioche, côte de porc or roast cod with girolles, celeriac purée and jus gras. Steaks and burgers try to steal the limelight, tarte Tatin is now the default dessert for twosomes, and cannily chosen wines neatly sidestep the obvious.

More about Little Social

Book now

108 Garage

108 Garage

£50 - £79
Modern European

108 Golborne Road, London, W10 5PS

A tie-in between maverick money man turned rookie restaurateur Luca Longobardi and whizz-kid chef Chris Denney (ex-Viajante and The Square), this laid-back neighbourhood eatery is a mash-up of mesh chairs, bare light bulbs and Portobello Market crockery in a brick-walled, concrete-floored space that references 108’s former life as a garage. Denney also trained as an artist – something that’s apparent in still-life compositions such as pink slices of presa ibérica draped in a silky veil of lardo or a blackened hunk of ‘Jacob’s ladder’ beef adorned with a pretty jumble of dill-pickle tartare. His “refreshingly imaginative” approach to ingredients is akin to “food alchemy” (according to one disciple), as he wows diners with flavour-bombs that expertly balance rich satisfaction with startling sharpness: creamy veal sweetbread offset by charred king cabbage, say, or translucent slices of pickled fruits cutting through tangy Cheddar crumbled onto a sweet cracker. By contrast, the rest of the operation is refreshingly laid-back, with “surprisingly reasonable” prices and young staff who are engagingly friendly – if not always on the ball. Still, chilled-out locals are thrilled to have a chef of Denney’s talent on their doorstep.

More about 108 Garage

Book now

Xu

Xu

£50 - £79
Taiwanese

30 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DL

Erchen Chang and co made London fall in love with Taiwanese buns when they opened Bao, and they look set to repeat that success for the island’s other culinary delights with this impressive venture – a handsome slice of 1920s Shanghai chic complete with some original space-saving touches (note the tables that flip over to make mah-jong boards). But the most original thing about Xu (pronounced ‘Shu’) is the food, which runs from ‘xiao tsai’ small plates and ‘mian shi’ pancakes to ‘classics’ such as char siu ibérico pork. Highlights include ‘numbing’ beef tendon set in a jellied terrine pooled with fiery chilli vinaigrette, a pungent whip of creamy crab meat with fermented shrimp, garlic and more hot chilli, and a dish of sweetbreads cleverly enhanced with fermented greens. There’s “sensational” onion rice too, although nothing can trump that char sui pork, meltingly tender in the middle and crisped around the edges. Some ideas are a taste or texture too far (we’re thinking of the spongy taro dumpling filled with sausage meat), but Xu is an exciting introduction to an under-represented cuisine – and you’ll be pleased to hear that it takes bookings. 

More about Xu

Book now

Sparrow

Sparrow

Under £30
International

2 Rennell Street, London, SE13 7HD

Nestled between the high rises and multi-storey car park on Lewisham’s busiest highway, Sparrow is a surprise. Ex-St John husband and wife team Terry Blake and Yohini Nandakumar took a punt on up-and-coming Lewisham, and it’s paid off brilliantly – “a real winner” cheers one local fan. The glass-fronted kitchen works at full tilt, sending out sharing plates inspired by the world’s cuisines, with some “incredible flavour combinations” on offer – everything from summer pea and girolle bruschetta to massaman beef brisket with scorched rice. Sip the day’s cocktail while choosing what to eat, then settle in for delights such as tender bang-bang beef ribs with anchovy and miso aubergine (a punchy combo) or the subtle, spanking-fresh house-cured salmon with lemon and fennel seeds. If there’s pork belly on the menu, you will be treated to the crispest crackling south of the river. To finish, dark chocolate and caramel tart is sticky and just the right side of sweet, while everything on Sparrow’s refreshingly short wine list is available by the glass or bottle.

More about Sparrow

Book now

Smokestak

Smokestak

£30 - £49
North American

35 Sclater Street, London, E1 6LB

Discreetly housed in Shoreditch (the signage is hardly visible) is this BBQ smokehouse from David Carter, former front of house manager for Roka and Gordon Ramsay. The industrial, brooding two-floor site features an open kitchen on the ground floor and a bar below, with dark and moody interiors matching the young and bearded Shoreditch crowd. Food-wise, the menu is short with small plates and sharing dishes of grilled meats, with everything being served when ready. The kitchen delivers: our starting snack of crackled pig’s tail was so crispy and juicy that we asked for a second round; smoked girolle and beef-dripping toast was rich and gloriously messy; chunky, sticky and seriously tender pork ribs are paired with a cheese-slathered jacket potato. If you’ve got a sickly-sweet tooth, round it all off with the sticky toffee pudding, topped with burnt-butter ice cream. Staff are well-trained and the bartenders make a mean cocktail (we recommend the Plantation), or there are Dalston-brewed craft beers. Our only gripe is with the inconveniently placed toilets, which take the ‘industrial’ theme a little too far. Nevertheless, cracking food and pocket-friendly prices make this a smoking hot (sorry) debut for Carter.

More about Smokestak

Book now

Kiln

Kiln

£30 - £49
Thai

58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL

The name of Ben (Smoking Goat) Chapman’s second restaurant tells you everything you need to know: it’s cramped, full of fire and spins out baked clay pots filled with outstandingly appetising noodle dishes from the northern Thai borderlands. Kiln’s focus is on casual dining, with a long, metal counter running parallel to the open kitchen: various Thai-style barbecues deal with the clay-pot dishes, while modern grills turn out the meat skewers, smoked sausages and chickens that complete the menu. Our must-order is a sticky, dense assemblage of glass noodles with pork belly and brown crab, but there’s also grilled Tamworth pork loin paired with a sweet, dark fish-sauce dip and super-spicy Laos-style salad with roasted rice and a heavy dose of chilli. Order stir-fried greens or brown jasmine rice to counteract these intense, salty flavours, and drink quality beers or something from the ever-evolving wine list. Uncomfortable stools don’t encourage lingering and mark-ups sometimes seem high, but this high-voltage newcomer is an undoubted hit.

More about Kiln

Book now

MARCUS

MARCUS

Over £80
British
One michelin star

The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London, SW1X 7RL

Marcus Wareing’s one-Michelin-starred flagship brings together “the best of British and French culinary traditions” in an imposing high-ceilinged dining room done out in shades of chestnut brown with swathes of dark panelling, frosted glass panels and leather chesterfields. Wareing’s cooking is an “extraordinary celebration of flavour” as he applies tweezer-like precision to the very best ingredients – from a pairing of scallop, apple and lemon verbena with roasted beef dressing to Cumbrian rose veal embellished with beetroot, liquorice and parsnip. Readers also have their own “fabulous favourites”: a daring veggie creation involving Sharpe’s 1900 potatoes with girolles, Tunworth cheese and truffle; octopus with beef tea; Herdwick lamb with crispy breast, chimichurri and hispi cabbage; a dessert combo of toffee, peanut, milk chocolate and nougat (“heaven on a plate”). From nibbles of sourdough with Dorset snail and cap to pre-desserts such as lightly smoked milk and mandarin, every dish is a marvel of culinary dexterity. The mighty wine list is a pricey paean to global viticulture managed by a genius sommelier, while ultra-professional staff never miss a trick: “our waiter was incredibly smooth and charismatic”, noted one reader. In short “a truly delightful dining experience”.

More about MARCUS

Book now

Chiltern Firehouse

Chiltern Firehouse

£50 - £79
International

1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, W1U 7PA

The fervour that surrounded André Balazs’ Marylebone hotspot has died down and you no longer need to be famous to secure a table, but Chiltern Firehouse still delivers in spades. Readers praise the outdoor-themed interiors as well as the high-decibel “party vibe”, and we’ve also been impressed by the all-inclusive attitude of the staff, who happily laugh and chat with diners. Meanwhile, in the open kitchen, chef Nuno Mendes and his team send out plenty of likeable big-time successes. Snacks such as bacon cornbread and the famous coral-dusted crab doughnut kick things off nicely, but there are other highlights too: char-grilled Ibérico pork comes with the unexpected additions of grilled peaches and red pepper kimchi, while a side of mac ‘n’ cheese is given a fiery kick with jalapeño peppers. Early risers pack in for breakfast (potted eggs with caramelised onions and curried potatoes), freelancers take advantage of the indulgent lunchtime offers (crab and lobster omelette, say), and we’d also recommend Chiltern Firehouse for a pre/post-meal trip to the botanically themed bar for cheekily named cocktails. Be warned – the bill (with impressive wines included) may have you reaching for the fire alarm.

More about Chiltern Firehouse

Book now

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”.

More about The Wolseley

Book now

Som Saa

Som Saa

£30 - £49
Thai

43a Commercial Street, London, E1 6BD

Andy Oliver might be best known from the 2009 series of Masterchef, but he worked with David Thompson at Nahm – still the best Thai restaurant London has ever had – as well as spending two years at Bangkok’s even more highly rated Bo.Lan.

Oliver’s calling card is authentic northern Thai cooking, producing flavours unfamiliar to most Londoners. Lon gapi relish of shrimp paste with wild ginger and coconut cream was oily-rich, and satisfyingly dripped off crunchy crudités. Tamarind dipping sauce for a plump grilled chicken leg was worlds away from the usual sweet gloop, simultaneously sharp, sweet and sour. Burmese-style pork belly and shoulder curry arrived as a comforting pot of melty meat, but there was no hiding from the slap-in-the-face sour heat of som tam Isaan, a green papaya salad with snake beans, tomatoes and fermented fish sauce. 

Too full for dessert (palm-sugar ice cream with grilled banana, say), we opted for a Dragon’s Milk cocktail (a heady combination of sticky-rice rum, Kahlúa, coconut cream, condensed milk, salt and sesame) from a list boasting interesting takes on the classics. Previously a no-bookings joint, Som Saa thankfully now takes bookings for parties of any size.

More about Som Saa

Book now

Perilla

Perilla

£30 - £49
Modern European

1-3 Green Lanes, London, N16 9BS

On a corner of Newington Green with huge windows looking onto the busy streets, Perilla’s interior looks like a masterclass in salvage: old doors are repurposed as tables, drinking troughs serve as wine coolers and there’s a vintage terrazzo floor, while huge linen napkins add a welcome touch of luxury. The food is adventurous but genuine, with bags of imagination applied to good ingredients: shards of cauliflower-shaped ‘sparassis’ mushrooms are teamed with salted plums and ricotta, all shrouded in lustrous lardo, while mains include a wonderfully meaty dish involving 60-day loin of beef topped with a sliver of rump, served with steamed mussels and Tropea onions in a rich green sauce. To start, superb seaweed bread is brushed with roasted lamb fat and served with delicious burnt butter (sticky fingers all round!); to finish, don’t miss the sweet clover-infused custard with Muscat grapes and tarragon. The perfectly judged European wine list has plenty by the glass or carafe, but there’s also hipster local beer and a choice of homemade soft drinks. Perilla’s owners are on a mission – and the locals seem to love it.

More about Perilla

Book now

The Dairy

The Dairy

£30 - £49
International

15 The Pavement, SW4 0HY

This unpretentious bar/bistro is already a busy squeeze, although a central Clapham location isn’t its only trump card. Open all day from breakfast onwards, it also has a 2am late licence at weekends, when cool brand lagers and cocktails such as wild fennel and apple Hendrick’s are what to drink. Wines include a distinguished Lebanese Château Musar as well as everyday Tempranillo from a selection called ‘sleek, charming and fleshy’ – a description that might equally apply to the well-scrubbed clientele. Chef/owner Robin Gill’s adventurous, intricately presented tapas-style plates deploy ingredients from The Dairy’s garden – so expect smoked cod with sorrel, slow-cooked beef rib with ‘burnt’ onions and bone marrow or plates of black radish, Pink Lady apple, curd and hemp seeds – plus nibbles such as chicken liver mousse with rhubarb at the bar. Don't forget to check out recent addition Counter Culture, replacing the deli next door.

More about The Dairy

Book now

Hakkasan Mayfair

Hakkasan Mayfair

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star

17 Bruton Street, London, W1J 6QB

Putting on the style is second nature to this scintillating, seductive and downright intoxicating branch of the global Hakkasan chain – whether you’re flashing it in the pulsating nightclubby bar or playing it cool in the sleek ground-floor dining room. Either way, devotees of the house style are in heaven as they drool over “incredible east-meets-west platefuls” of steamed langoustines wrapped in glass vermicelli with chilli and garlic sauce, spicy lamb salad with peanut dressing (one of our favourites) or stir-fried Norfolk quail with winter chestnuts, basil and lemongrass – a dish that’s unique to Hakkasan Mayfair. “Divine dim sum” such as steamed har gau crowned with gold leaf, homemade pumpkin tofu or smoked beef ribs with jasmine tea crank up the thrill factor even further (especially at lunchtime), and the whole Michelin-starred shebang is fuelled by premium sakés, brilliantly chosen matching wines and ritzy cocktails (“unusual, but in a good way”). As you’d expect, staff are immaculately groomed – although they’re not here just for show (even if their attention sometimes wanders). Eating at Hakkasan Mayfair may be a wallet-emptying experience, but “you’ll feel like a billionaire for a few hours”. 

More about Hakkasan Mayfair

Book now

Duck & Waffle

Duck & Waffle

£50 - £79
International

110 Bishopsgate, 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.

More about Duck & Waffle

Book now

Bar Boulud at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Bar Boulud at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

£50 - £79
French

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, SW1X 7LA

Although it was lightly refurbished in early 2017, even regulars would be hard pressed to notice any changes to Bar Boulud’s wood and beige interiors. The design might be restrained, but the combination of super-flattering lighting, friendly staff and chattering diners makes this one of the capital’s buzziest dining rooms.

New York-based French chef Daniel Boulud may be a big name in global gastronomy but he’s very much in casual mode here, offering up the sort of Gallic classics that are many people’s idea of the perfect meal out. Starters of seared prawns and Burgundy snails are festooned with enough garlic to ward off a vampire, while lemon sole with grenobloise butter followed by a sweet slice of gateau basque and crème anglaise prove that this kitchen knows how to finish a dish with a fabulous sauce.

“Although it’s high end, it isn't snobby at all” say readers, so you can also pop in for a luscious croque madame with fries or one of the “mouth-watering” inch-thick BB burgers – not what you might expect from a dining room in the Mandarin Oriental. All in all, the “best fun” you can have in Knightsbridge.

More about Bar Boulud at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Book now

Temper Soho

Temper Soho

£30 - £49
Steak
South American
Barbecue
International

25 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 0DF

This buzzing bonfire of a restaurant is the first solo venture from BBQ-obsessed Neil Rankin, who co-founded Smokehouse and worked at Pitt Cue Co (now Little Pitt) back in the day. Temper is dedicated to the art and craft of cooking meat: below the small, ground-floor taco bar lies an expansive room featuring a theatrical open kitchen with a wood-fired grill and clay oven – bag one of the counter stools for a ringside seat. The name refers to Rankin’s commitment to tempering his meats, whether it’s Essex beef, Yorkshire pork or Welsh lamb. Take your pick from a high-octane cuisine-hopping menu that runs from must-order blowtorched mackerel tacos freshened with sweet white miso and mashed avocado to little bowls of Thai-style larb combining roasted rice with ‘burnt ends’ for a spicy clash of textures. We recommend ordering the full quota of sauces and finishing off with a gooey-centred cookie, baked in a cast-iron pan. Well-considered cocktails, Aussie wines and mezcal flights dominate the drinks list, while enthusiastic, committed staff seal the deal at this thoroughly modern BBQ bunker.

More about Temper Soho

Book now

Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Claude Bosi at Bibendum

French
Two michelin stars
£50 - £79

Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6RD

The latest iteration of iconic Michelin House unites two legends of the London restaurant scene: Bibendum’s co-founder Sir Terence Conran and chef Claude Bosi (formerly of two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus). Here in Chelsea, Bosi’s cooking is a little more relaxed, although the style is definitely more Hibiscus than Bibendum – witness clever amuse-bouches of pissaladière fashioned into lifelike ‘olives’ or eggshells filled with mushroom duxelles, coconut foam and curry powder. However, you’ll also encounter whopping stalks of intensely flavoured green and white asparagus, chicken that tastes of a life well lived and, best of all, a Staub pan brimming with chunky, funky tripe and cuttlefish gratin, plus hefty slices of pig’s ear and ham cake on the side: simple dishes elevated to the sublime by a kitchen versed in skilful technique. Prices are as unremittingly high as ever, although a set lunch and Sunday roasts are an attempt to make this special-occasion destination work for locals as well. But Bibendum’s food is only half the story: few dining rooms in London give such unremitting life-affirming pleasure, especially when the light is streaming through those famous stained-glass depictions of the Michelin man.         

 

More about Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Book now

Jamavar

Jamavar

£50 - £79
Indian
One michelin star

8 Mount Street, London, W1K 3NF

“Magnificent cooking in elegant old-colonial surroundings” is the promise at Jamavar – a Mayfair revelation that reminds readers just how good Indian cuisine can be in the right hands. The regionally inspired food is a perfect fit for the wood-panelled dining room’s “calm and refined” atmosphere. Top calls are many and varied: peppery soft-shell crab perked up with damson chutney; delicate scallops on a mound of puffed rice; char-grilled and pulled ‘Old Delhi’ butter chicken; stone bass tikka with green cardamom and avocado relish – in fact there isn’t a dud to be seen among the line-up of “memorable” dishes.

Such “high-calibre” food doesn’t come cheap and the sharing plates aren’t exactly generous, but set lunches and early-bird dinners are currently a Mayfair bargain. Smart and comfortable without seeming obtrusive, Jamavar is a destination that can confidently allow the food to do the talking. What was a downstairs bar is now a second dining room – much needed, judging by the packed house when we visited. 

More about Jamavar

Book now

Honey & Smoke

Honey & Smoke

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern

216 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5QW

This canteen-like Middle-Eastern grill is a larger follow-up to Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s Honey & Co, which is just around the corner. The Israeli couple have collected many fans for their cooking, which is clearly the priority: the room is sparse, functional and stills feels quite like the tiles showroom it once was. A fun crowd of enthusiasts lends it a friendly atmosphere, however. Too-small tables will have you jostling plates which arrive when ready, bringing the likes of burnt celeriac with chilli butter, or octopus grilled with red chillies. Our highlight was a sticky, cool and sweet combination of honey-drizzled charred pears with almond-speckled tahini. A generous portion of baba ganoush with seeded lavoush was fine but tame, as was lamb kofta with a meagre salad. Disorganised, understaffed service needs to be addressed, but Honey & Co's famed baking for dessert sweetens the deal. There’s a small list of interesting European wines, while the set menu offers good value for (very hungry) diners.

More about Honey & Smoke

Book now

Blacklock Soho

Blacklock Soho

£30 - £49
British

The Basement, 24 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D 7LG

As an affordable on-trend eatery with great food worth talking about, this cool basement chophouse is manna for West End diners on the prowl. Blacklock’s incognito street entrance adds to the allure, although it won’t prepare you for the rocking basement room that’s full to bursting with a garrulous young crowd. Vintage Blacklock foundry irons are used to press pork, lamb and beef chops on the charcoal grill, which also lends its smoky flavours to daily specials such as maple-cured bacon. Best of all is the menu’s all-in sharing option, which sees the day’s ‘skinny chops’ piled onto strips of toasted flatbread to catch the juices, with sides ranging from beef-dripping chips to courgettes with Doddington cheese. Cocktails start at a fiver, otherwise pick from a clutch of British beers and wines on tap. You can make a reservation (although Blacklock favours walk-ins), while the sought-after Sunday roast gets booked up months in advance.

More about Blacklock Soho

Book now

Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star

8-10 Pollen St, Mayfair, W1S 1NQ

Secreted beside a discreet Mayfair alleyway since 2011, Jason Atherton’s imperious Michelin-starred flagship, Pollen Street Social, remains “bang on the money” – a “masterpiece of fine dining” and a worthy winner of the SquareMeal Restaurant of the Year 2017. Step through the glass door and the good vibrations hit you straight away, while the clean-lined metropolitan dining room shows its cosmopolitan class with dramatic lampshades and eye-catching arty exhibits. Atherton may oversee a global empire these days, but he still puts in the shifts at PSS, and is often to be seen at the pass – a world-class hands-on restaurateur in his rightful place. Culinary influences and cross-fertilisation abound, but everything is underpinned by indigenous ingredients, from a witty Cockney riff involving smoked eel, buttermilk, beetroot reduction and jellied eel to South Downs fallow deer with pear, cocoa and chocolate vinegar or “staggeringly good” Lakeland lamb with beetroot, blackcurrant, savoy cabbage and a mini hotpot on the side – scintillating, exuberant food of the highest order, with maximum flavour delivering maximum satisfaction. To start, the ‘fruits of the British sea’ is a delirious array of maritime delights presented on a special stand – we love the oyster ice cream dressed with an oyster leaf, the lobster cocktail, and the Orkney scallop with pickled radish and jalapeño; to finish, the dessert bar promises close encounters with the likes of Brogdale pear sorbet, goats’ cheese ice cream, honey and bee pollen. Service plays it ‘social’ without ever losing its professional cool, and there are treasures galore on the ever-expanding wine list curated by the group’s whizz-bang sommelier Laure Patry. “Few places are such a treat” concludes one admirer of Pollen Street Social– amen to that. 

More about Pollen Street Social

Book now

Neo Bistro

Neo Bistro

£30 - £49
British

11 Woodstock Street, W1C 2AE

This idiosyncratically British interpretation of the Parisian ‘bistronomie’ movement combines high-end cooking with low-end prices in a casual setting with bare tables, strip lighting, fashionable artwork and counter seating for walk-ins. But while the prices might be high street, this is cooking that can easily compete with some of Mayfair’s better addresses. 

The kitchen is capable of delivering some really top dishes – try the “wobbly” veal sweetbreads (the best we’ve ever eaten) complemented by soft folds of pied de bleu mushrooms or a “daring pairing” of Herdwick lamb and smoky eel. But Neo Bistro can do delicate, too – witness a plate of white crab meat flaked over a vividly green courgette purée that sings sweetly of summer. Wines are equally off-piste: our charming waitress led us to glasses of Luxembourg Riesling and Austrian Blaufränkisch, for example. “Every reason to return”, says a Neo Bistro convert – and we’ll be doing just that.  

Isabel

Isabel

£30 - £49
International

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. 

More about Isabel

Book now

Murano

Murano

Over £80
Italian
One michelin star

20 Queen Street, London, W1J 5PP

Angela Hartnett’s flagship restaurant is Mayfair dining at its very best – “fabulous” food, “unobtrusive” staff and a first-rate wine list manned by a “brilliant” sommelier. The sleek white-and-beige dining room with the odd art-deco flourish may still have echoes of its Gordon Ramsay days, but Hartnett’s Brit-Italian cooking keeps Murano apace with London’s vanguard. The ultra-flexible menu lets you choose up to five courses at will, from an exquisite scallop crudo with plump greengages and crunchy oats, piqued by a lemon verbena foam to gorgeous parcels of rabbit meat and sage in a clear broth or a star dish of confit pink fir apples, crispy skins and a creamy Tunworth cheese foam. The huge wine list stays true to Hartnett’s Italian heritage, and you can keep costs down by ordering the “excellent-value” set lunch. “Murano is perfect for any occasion”, confirms one fan.

More about Murano

Book now

Lyle

Lyle's

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star

The Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

James Lowe of Lyle’s counts half the capital’s chefs and critics among his admirers – small wonder, since his stark, understated restaurant is a true original that dances to its own minimalist tune. Whether you’ll be nodding along is down to preference; we felt mildly chastised for not wishing to share and for requesting our filter coffee white (!), but came away wholeheartedly onside because Lowe’s beautifully rendered Michelin-starred food never fails to impress. Flavours are true, pure and intense, whether you’re grazing through the lunchtime small-plates menu or relishing the fixed-price evening deal. The former might range from lamb’s heart with gherkin, ramsons and capers to smoked eel with hispi cabbage and dulse seaweed, while the latter could take in mackerel with gooseberry and crab apple as well as a glorious seasonal plate of grouse with girolles and mulberries. Desserts are also on a roll at the moment: our caramel and espresso meringue almost trumped the signature treacle tart. To drink, expect some interesting picks from the new school of winemaking.

More about Lyle's

Book now

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

£50 - £79
Steak
British

11 Langley Street, London, WC2H 9JG

“The best steak in London, by a mile”, declares one reader, and we have to agree. The beefy Hawksmoor chain somehow manages to get everything right, from its glorious 35-day-aged steaks supplied by The Ginger Pig to its creative cocktails – all presented by staff with a genuine passion for service. It's easy to understand why there are now six branches in the capital (and another in Manchester), though this atmospheric site in the old barrel-vaulted Watney Combe Brewery is one of our favourites. Start with Old Spot belly ribs or sweetly caramelised roast scallops with white port and garlic, before taking your pick of the beefy cuts chalked up by weight on blackboards. Perfectly crisp triple-cooked chips, gut-busting macaroni cheese or grilled bone marrow make happy companions, but we urge saving some space for the addictive salted caramel Rolos too. The comfortable bar deals in burgers and lobster rolls as well as brilliant drinks, though between the hours of 3pm and 5pm Monday-Friday, you can dine from the full a la carte menu when booking in advance. Sunday lunch sees roast rump of Longhorn beef with all the trimmings for Sunday lunch. “Great for big groups and for couples”, notes one fan.

More about Hawksmoor Seven Dials

Book now

Gymkhana

Gymkhana

£50 - £79
Indian
One michelin star

42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH

A “classy”, low-lit contemporary Indian from the multi-talented Sethi family (Trishna, Bao, Lyle’s et al), Gymkhana channels colonial clubbiness over two floors on Albemarle Street – with a dash of “French brasserie” thrown in.

Food-wise, fans reckon that the “real stars are the starters”, and we have to agree after sampling the kid-goat methi keema piled into buttered buns, and soft (almost scrambled) duck egg bhurji with lobster and Malabar paratha. Happy customers also appreciate the flexibility of the service, with “efficient”, unflappable staff willing and able to accommodate last-minute changes to party sizes and orders.

In these situations, add a muntjac biriyani with pomegranate and mint raita (an instant classic) to your order of paneer tikka with cashew nut and corn chaat, partridge pepper fry, a “fiery, blow your head off” wild boar vindaloo or tiger prawns with red pepper chutney, then sit back and watch the contentment set in. Thoughtfully chosen wines and specially brewed Gymkhana lager get top marks, or you could try a Quinine Sour with fresh curry leaves in the atmospheric basement bar.

More about Gymkhana

Book now

Trinity

Trinity

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

4 The Polygon, London, SW4 0JG

“Everyone's favourite neighbourhood restaurant, now with star power!” declares one long-term admirer. Over the last decade, Trinity has grown from local gem to Michelin-gonged destination – thanks largely to chef-patron Adam Byatt and his team, who have created a genuinely bespoke experience here. The kitchen delivers a procession of “sublime” dishes well worth their accolades, from mini éclairs filled with rich, buttery cep mousse to the restaurant’s celebrated steak tartare – chunks of almost gamey Angus beef, mixed with pickled mushrooms, Daurenki caviar and smoked bone marrow, served in a vintage caviar tin. Elsewhere, pillow-like ravioli are filled with a fluffy, flavour-packed scallop and lobster mousse, while pink grouse breast comes dressed with hazelnuts and lardo, alongside creamy sweetcorn polenta and elderberries. To finish, the wobbly salt custard tart with salt caramel ice cream has us all a-quiver. Drinks are equally enticing, so sniff out the subtly hopped Trinity Ale or plump for a “gloriously different” G&T. The whole show takes place in a handsome room done out with parquet flooring, white tablecloths and muted colours, while service is deemed “amazing” and “delightful”.  

More about Trinity

Book now

Brawn

Brawn

£30 - £49
French

49 Columbia Road, E2 7RG

A "good concept" and a convivial proposition, this light and airy eatery serves up a daily-changing menu of small plates in a modern industrial setting. Rustic, peasant-style food with a French accent is the deal, complete with smooth terrines, hunks of bread and a wonderful selection of cheese and charcuterie (as you'd expect from the team behind Terroirs and Soif).

On your visit, you might find the likes of a creamy crab tagliolini, or perhaps pork chop, with chickpeas and courgettes. On a Sunday, go continental chic by dropping in for the fairly priced three-course lunch – plus a small supplement for cheese that we'd certainly advise you take.

More about Brawn

Book now

Frenchie Covent Garden

Frenchie Covent Garden

£50 - £79
French

16 Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8QH

‘Frenchie’ was the nickname Jamie Oliver affectionately pinned on Nantes-born Gregory Marchand when he was head chef at Fifteen – although it’s hard to spot many Gallic references amid the bare brick walls, low-hanging light bulbs, swish green leather and marble counters of this “cool but chic” spot run by a staff brimming with effusive charm. Marchand’s truly modern, eclectic menu is also more Blighty than Brittany: clotted cream with irresistible bacon and maple syrup scones; Keen’s Cheddar accompanying ‘cauliflower’ mushrooms and ceps in vin jaune; plump Cornish cod partnered by wild rice and bean ragoût – even a roasted Brussels sprout canapé. Sharing plates have been wisely jettisoned, although the cooking retains its irresistibly inventive flair – witness sea bream tartare buried in pear, yuzu and quinoa, just-cooked trout with courgettes and smoky merguez sausage or blushing honey-roast duck breast partnered by miso aubergine, hazelnuts and plum sauce. For afters, try chocolate and malt with coffee sauce and meringue. Frenchie’s plush bar serves up sophisticated but inventive cocktails, while sommelier Bastien Ferreri curates a list of quirky, affordable wines. Finally, the open kitchen downstairs is all fire and energy – we love it for private dining.

More about Frenchie Covent Garden

Book now

St John

St John

£30 - £49
British
One michelin star

26 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AY

St John’s utilitarian simplicity was revolutionary back in the day, and its ‘nose-to-tail’ concept raised a few eyebrows too. Once ahead of its time, it’s now of its time – and is still relevant. The industrial minimalism of the starkly white interior places the focus firmly on matters gastronomic (and the company you’re keeping, of course), while the menu reads like a foodie’s dream – “oh, the bone marrow and parsley”, sighs one fan. Alternatively, play it safe with a damn fine pea and ham soup or go for broke – braised cuttlefish and alexanders, lambs’ tongues with chicory and anchovy, or braised hare with swede, kid liver with turnips are “simply great”. As for pud, take your pick from the likes of quince and hazelnut pavlova or apple and blackberry pie. “Everything is good, I never know what to eat”, sums up readers’ heartfelt enthusiasm for Fergus Henderson’s trailblazer turned Michelin-starred City treasure. The wine list is exclusively French, with interesting options by the glass and bottles to take out too.

More about St John

Book now

Hedone

Hedone

Over £80
Modern European
Scandinavian
One michelin star

301-303 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 4HH

Although it’s named after the Greek goddess of pleasure, first impressions of Hedone’s striking interior are of post-modern Nordic severity, with lots of bare wood, angular surfaces, a weird triptych set against exposed brickwork and a ceiling splattered with surreal sketches. The dining room has its own genteel buzz, but we’re with readers who prefer to bag a stool at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. Swedish lawyer-turned-blogger-turned-chef Mikael Jonsson has cemented his position in London’s Michelin-starred hierarchy by virtue of his boundless creativity and almost manic commitment to sourcing. He buys in limited quantities and varies Hedone’s menus incessantly (often from table to table), but the results are never less than startling. Extraordinary umami-rich creations come thick and fast, from a pairing of confit and semi-dried tomatoes with Amontillado sherry ice cream and milky-sweet almond sauce to a meaty scallop brushed with soy butter and sprinkled with nori dust or unbelievably succulent crab claws served with dollops of hazelnut mayo, crab consommé, diced Granny Smith apple and horseradish. Sweet courses such as fresh figs partnered by sharp elderflower jelly, thyme-yoghurt ice cream and crème fraîche break the mould, and matched wine pairings are spot-on too. Ambitious pricing reflects the kitchen’s ambitions, but an “amazing experience” awaits – especially if you’re served by Mikael Jonsson himself.    

More about Hedone

Book now

RIGO’

RIGO’

£50 - £79
Italian

227 New Kings Road, London, SW6 4RD

Overlook the rather precious typography: RIGO’ is an Italian restaurant with an ambitious, wide-ranging menu that tests the talent and technique of well-travelled Piedmontese chef Gonzalo Luzarraga. He uses luxury and humble ingredients with respect and imagination: bone marrow with oscietra caviar, an umami hit of porcini and a bonito dashi, or oysters with salty plums and bitter puntarella (a variant of chicory), for example. The prix-fixe offers plenty of exceptional stuff, but it pays it pays to trade up to RIGO’s tasting menu – an extravaganza of flavours and textures, kicking off with snacks such as slivers of crispy tripe with salmon roe on home-baked sourdough. After that, we’d single out the chef’s take on bagna càuda involving a rich emulsion of sea urchin, fermented milk and quail’s egg, as well the gutsy Cinta Senese pork with broccoli, scallop coral and a plump oyster. To conclude, a luxurious spin on crème brûlée uses chestnut cream, porcini, black sesame and caramelised popcorn, and there are artisan cheeses with wild honey too. The restaurant itself is a long narrow space with pleasingly minimalist decor, while service is friendly and well informed. 

More about RIGO’

Book now

Moro

Moro

£30 - £49
North African
Tapas
Spanish

34-36 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE

The word “love” crops up repeatedly in Moro’s plaudits – a sure sign that it’s still held in high regard after rocking on for two decades. From day one, Sam and Samantha Clark’s ground-breaking eatery made an impact with its zinc-topped bar, pavement tables, wood-fired oven and compelling Spanish/North African cuisine. The whole shebang still thrills, although nothing can trump the food: heady spicing and subtly matched flavours are at the heart of things, from a lamb and saffron broth with wee dumplings, or a rustic salad of warm white beans and celery topped with bottarga, to luscious chocolate and apricot tart. In between, the wood-fired oven makes easy work of sesame chicken (served with couscous), while the charcoal grill offers up lamb with fava bean and bitter leaf purée. Alternatively, pick some small plates from the tapas bar menu – perhaps fried spiced chickpeas or anchovies on toast. The wine list shows the same geographical interests as the menu, and the sherry line-up warrants proper consideration. “Fabulous, I just love this place”, raves one fan.

More about Moro

Book now

Trullo

Trullo

£30 - £49
Italian

300-302 St Paul's Road, London, N1 2LH

“Always packed to the gills, Trullo hits the mark every time”, declaims a fan of this much-loved Islington spot. Everyone adores its lively (sometimes noisy) atmosphere, eager-to-please staff, calming contemporary interiors and a helpfully annotated regional wine list – not forgetting the “idiosyncratic Italian menu”. The “sublime” handmade pasta (perhaps pappardelle with exquisitely rich beef shin ragù, or ravioli of summer squash and sweet onions) is just the start. Also expect plates of wood pigeon with black figs and cobnut salad, baked skate wing with braised hispi cabbage and brown crab or char-grilled Dorset lamb rump with borlotti beans, datterini tomatoes and anchovy – “perfectly executed” dishes of top-drawer seasonal ingredients. To finish, we’re sold on the decadent chocolate tart and the regional Italian cheeses (Rocchetta Ubriaco) with matching wines. Be warned: this place is addictive.

More about Trullo

Book now

The Barbary

The Barbary

£30 - £49
North African

16 Neal's Yard, London, WC2H 9DP

The Barbary Coast evokes images of an exotic land of traders and pirates – and it provides inspiration for the second London restaurant from the team behind The Palomar. Like its big brother, The Barbary offers an enticing blend of Israeli cooking with Mediterranean ingredients, but also adds North African spices and cooking techniques. You’ll find a warm welcome and lively vibe in the cosy interior, which echoes a Middle Eastern courtyard with an open kitchen at its heart. No bookings are taken and there are just 24 counter seats. Breads are freshly baked: warm Jerusalem bagel comes with a traditional paper twist of za’atar spice for dipping. The short menu is divided into land (meat), sea (fish) and earth (vegetarian) dishes – all deftly spiced and seasoned, making flavours sing. We were transported to the Middle East with rich, tender Persian goat stew, slow-cooked for eight hours with turmeric, root veg and pomegranate juice. Perfectly grilled swordfish was simply served with capers, roast garlic and vine tomatoes. Desserts are sweet and fragrant – Beirut nights (semolina pudding with rose syrup) lives up to its name with enticing flavours – and another boon is the drinks list, encompassing trendy orange wines, vermouth and arak. 

More about The Barbary

Book now

Noble Rot

Noble Rot

£30 - £49
British
French

51 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB

Keenly priced but dripping with top-drawer sourcing, Noble Rot’s one-of-a-kind wine list stems from owners who are also responsible for the titular cult wine magazine of the same name. Its culinary credentials aren’t bad either, with Stephen Harris (of Whitstable’s Michelin-starred Sportsman) consulting on the ingredient-driven menu. Brilliant breads provided by The Sportsman and Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone are perfect as a pre-meal bite with Maldon rock oysters or pristine jamón Ibérico Bellota; then try smoked eel in a light gazpacho or grilled slip sole dressed with smoked butter (more memories of Whitstable). Elsewhere, guinea fowl breast in truffle cream with lettuce and broad beans or Swaledale lamb with spinach and fresh peas showcase serious ingredients for under £20 – pricing that’s in tune with the room’s black ceilings, papered walls and other shoestring trappings. The wine list is stuffed full of rarities and bargains, but staff seem reticent to make strong recommendations.

More about Noble Rot

Book now

Anglo

Anglo

£50 - £79
British

30 St Cross Street, London, EC1N 8UH

Anyone bemoaning the increasing dominance of big restaurant groups in London should visit this Farringdon newcomer. Anglo is a pocket-sized, pared-back British bistro serving high-end food in simple surrounds at just £45 for a no-choice, seven-course dinner (lunch is à la carte). It’s overseen by rising star Mark Jarvis, whose eclectic CV ranges from The Bingham, to Le Manoir and Zuma. He has no airs and graces, though: delivering food to the table himself and giving mercifully brief explanations of the dishes, followed by a touching smile. You’ll be smiling, too: the tasting menu brings big plates of small portions – exciting, beautifully fashioned assemblies of rare intensity. The flavours of each course segue harmoniously into the next, but we were particularly smitten by the bracingly acrid edge of a burnt leek tartlet; a delicate, petal-scattered scallop tartare with a deeply flavoured dashi; and the contrast between the saline tang of fat little mussels and the rich meatiness of ruby-red Devon beef – not to mention the cloud of house-whipped butter to spread on soft sourdough. To drink, nearly everything on the snappy European wine list costs less than £40 and is mostly available by the glass; there are beer and cider pairings, too. Our only complaint concerns the long waits between courses and glasses being topped up. On the other hand, the pleasure of not feeling rushed is yet another reason to cherish this endearingly independent one-off.

More about Anglo

Book now

Bao Soho

Bao Soho

Under £30
Taiwanese
Chinese

53 Lexington Street, London, W1F 9AS

Despite the opening of Bao Fitzrovia in 2016, the diminutive original still entertains lengthy (some say “interminable”) queues, such is the power of those Taiwanese steamed buns. With just 30 elbow-to-elbow pine seats, this minimalist, no-bookings outfit definitely rewards patience and an adventurous spirit. It’s worth the time spent in line to access Bao’s short, tick-box menu of calorific, sticky-and-sweet treats. Xiao chi (snacks) include deep-fried nuggets of pig’s trotter and fried chicken slathered in hot sauce – “strictly not for sharing”, warns one fan. That said, bao buns remain the “stars of the show”: try the classic version with moist shreds of braised pork, coriander and peanuts or the confit pork option, which adds crispy shallots and hot sauce. The balance of pillowy dough and intense flavours is just right, thoroughly addictive and a snip at a fiver or less. Service is rather solemn but highly efficient (a necessity given the demand), and we recommend ordering a glass of peanut milk to wash it all down.

More about Bao Soho

Book now

Berber & Q

Berber & Q

£30 - £49
North African
Middle Eastern

Arch 338, Acton Mews, London, E8 4EA

Nailing two huge food trends in one fell swoop, ex-Ottolenghi chef Josh Katz’s Haggerston railway arch hangout Berber & Q brings together smoky BBQ and culinary influences from North Africa and the Middle East. It hasn’t missed a beat since its 2015 opening, and we’ve been floored by its barrage of explosive flavours: blackened aubergine and egg ‘sabich’ are given a thrilling extra dimension with homemade mango pickle; cauliflower shawarma from the charcoal-fired mangal is dressed with tahini and rose petals, while a tray of sticky harissa chicken wings calls for several sides of serviettes (don’t even think about ordering this on a date). The atmosphere is energetic, the lighting low, the volume high; reservations aren’t taken (naturally), but there’s space at the bar, where you can sup their own Crate beer or amuse yourself with funky cocktails with names like Haggerstoned or Scammed in Marrakech.

More about Berber & Q

Book now

Pidgin

Pidgin

£50 - £79
British
International
One michelin star

52 Wilton Way, London, E8 1BG

Cosy Pidgin, tealights aflicker, does one menu, a four-course set with wines – three red, three white, all bargainous – that changes weekly. It’s the brainchild of writer James Ramsden and writer-musician Sam Herlihy, who have laid to rest their Secret Larder supper club to open this bricks-and-mortar restaurant on the teeny-tiny site previously occupied by Mayfields. They’re real restaurateurs now, with a real chef in Dan Graham (ex-Dinner by Heston), but they’re sticking with a friendly, low-key supper club vibe. We won on our visit with a nominally modern British menu loaded with funky Asian touches, and a peach of a Viognier from Languedoc. An impactful opener of barbecued squid, kimchi and (unnecessary) chicken-fat powder segued into a subtle autumn vegetable ‘salad’ with jasmine rice broth, followed by roast quail with creamed corn and herby ‘green sauce’, then sticky apple bread pudding with sticky miso butterscotch. Considering that the kitchen hasn't repeated a dish from its weekly changing menu in over a year, this is an exciting and successful dining concept, which made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

More about Pidgin

Book now

Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

£50 - £79
Italian

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.

More about Bocca di Lupo

Book now

Padella

Padella

£30 - £49
Italian

6 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TQ

Sometimes all you want in London is a concise, straightforward menu, superb food and good value. The team behind much-loved Highbury Italian Trullo have well and truly cracked it here. Split over two floors, this cramped, no-reservations pasta bar features a marble-topped counter overlooking the kitchen (watch the pasta being hand-rolled on site) and a black and gold, low-lit basement dining room and bar. We were treated to a classic 80s soundtrack and a full restaurant, creating an effortlessly congenial vibe. Antipasti include unembellished plates of beef fillet carpaccio and burrata, leaving a list of six pasta dishes to steal the show. We ordered a second plate of the unassuming pici cacio e pepe: fat, al dente spaghetti with butter, Parmesan and black pepper, astonishingly delicious and tangy, only £6. Pappardelle with Dexter beef shin ragu was similarly bursting with flavour, the beef cooked with due respect. Almond and rhubarb tart was a crunchy, sublime steal at £4. Some portions could be larger (although none of the dishes are more than £10) and there are just three cocktails and four wine choices – don’t miss the peachy, smooth Sussex Bacchus – being succinct is Padella’s core characteristic. In a city of endless choices, Padella is a supreme antidote.

More about Padella

Book now

Mere

Mere

£50 - £79
Modern European

74 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QH

Monica Galetti, MasterChef judge and former senior sous-chef at Le Gavroche, offered herself up for public scrutiny when she opened Mere, but reports of “understated excellence” suggest she is on a winning streak. An elegant, sumptuously upholstered bar allows guests to peruse the menu, and the striking design continues downstairs, where a double-height glass frontage makes Mere equally appealing for lunch or dinner. Galetti’s Samoan and Kiwi heritage blend seamlessly with Gavroche-style haute cuisine for a contemporary take on high-end dining that’s harmonious, pretty and shot through with “simply amazing” flavours and textures. A springy curl of octopus comes hot and sticky from the plancha with an addictive caper and raisin jam on the side, lobster is simply poached and served with potato purée, cabbage and a bisque sauce, while 30-day aged sirloin is accompanied by puffs of onion beignets, glazed cheek and a tarragon crème fraîche. After that, the coconut cream pie filled with roasted banana and drizzled with rum caramel is the stuff of sweet dreams. The wine list is also “a joy” – in short, Ms Galetti has stamped her identity on one of London’s most famous foodie streets.

More about Mere

Book now

The Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club

£50 - £79
Indian

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.

More about The Cinnamon Club

Book now

Elystan Street

Elystan Street

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

43 Elystan Street, SW3 3NT

“Phil Howard strikes gold with this stylish Chelsea gem” declares an admirer of Elystan Street – a slick yet informal affair untroubled by amuse-bouches, tasting menus and tablecloths. Having sold The Square after 25 years of critical acclaim, Howard decided to postpone retirement and return to the stove, where he is now delivering uncomplicated yet highly sophisticated food full of “clever and subtle flavours”. Expect out-and-out indulgence from, say, golden-roasted veal sweetbreads with a rich veal sauce and an autumn ‘slaw’, or grouse breasts cooked blushing pink with little croquettes of leg meat, root vegetables and elderberry sauce. Lighter options might bring mackerel rillettes with Porthilly oyster and dressed Poole prawns, while pasta is a forte – think a fat raviolo of scallop and langoustine in a delicate foaming bisque. After that, bitter chocolate mousse with milk ice cream and salted caramel sauce is the must-order pud. Prices are hardly kind (mind you, this is high-living Chelsea), but the dining room is a dream – all towering windows, polished wood and clean lines. With smart staff who get the low-fuss approach just right and a wine list that ticks all the boxes, this is the “perfect all-round package”.

More about Elystan Street

Book now

The Palomar

The Palomar

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
International

34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN

“What an experience!” shouts a fan of The Palomar – a fun-loving foodie hangout driven by funky chef Tomer Amedi’s infectious joie de vivre. The whole place feels like a house party, complete with hard drinks, kooky cocktails, loud beats, kitchen banter and “laid-back staff”. A grill-focused menu references the cuisine of modern Jerusalem, so be prepared for highly original food with a seasonal slant: we’re hooked on the ‘chicken under pressure’ with citrus, lentils and courgettes, the ‘Josperised’ octopus with chickpea msabacha, and the Persian pappardelle with artichoke, lemon and mangetout. Elsewhere, the bread is “fantastic” and the chopped liver is “sublime”, while the pick of the puds has to be ‘kiss kiss bang bang’ – a wicked confection of pomegranate ‘basbousa’ semolina cake, halva ice cream and almond palmier. You’ll need to queue for a seat at the no-bookings counter, but it’s worth it just to watch the kitchen’s livewire performances. When it’s really firing (and that’s most of the time), The Palomar is Soho at its best – and the perfect spot if you want to “impress your friends”.

 

More about The Palomar

Book now

The Ivy

The Ivy

£50 - £79
Modern European

1-5 West Street, London, WC2H 9NQ

Celebrating its centenary in 2017, The Ivy is a celeb-friendly fixture of the glamorous West End scene. Yet, behind the iconic harlequin stained glass, the old girl certainly isn't showing her age – thanks to a glittering 2015 makeover that gave pride of place to a beautiful vintage-styled bar. Although the hype around the refurb has died down, there's still a warm glow of approval from readers, who praise the "utterly impeccable" service, "unflappable staff" and "buzzy, not noisy" atmosphere. The eclectic menu is a winning mix of Ivy perennials such as the "truly wonderful" crispy duck salad and classic shepherd's pie, alongside on-trend raw dishes like "delicious" yellowfin tuna sashimi with avocado or salmon ceviche with tiger's milk, as well as ultra-trad confit duck or grouse with bread sauce. The kitchen’s special talent lies in the fact that it manages to cook such a varied range of dishes equally well. "The Ivy will always have a place in my heart", declares one fan, while another reckons it’s “a delight all round”.

More about The Ivy

Book now

Portland

Portland

£30 - £49
International
One michelin star

113 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 6QQ

Will Lander’s Portland is a rare thing – a thoroughly grown-up, relaxed and “cosy” restaurant that deals in neighbourhood fine-dining without a hint of stuffiness. The cool, “understated” dining room is as dashing as a Savile Row suit, with its dark-wood flooring, Scandi furniture and watercolour portraits – all leading towards the Michelin-starred open kitchen. The menu wows without overcomplicating things, and every dish “hits the heights” – from a show-stopping snack of crispy chicken skin loaded with rich chicken liver parfait to a little bowl of silky crayfish flan with a foamed, buttery bisque.

Elsewhere, simplicity also reigns – witness thick, creamy mozzarella topped with the last of the summer’s tomatoes, tarragon leaves and earthy kombu seaweed or a dish of translucent cod with squid ink, hazelnuts, kale and a plump oyster. For dessert, strawberries atop a yoghurt cake with cashew-nut butter really highlights Portland’s use of stellar ingredients. “Textbook” wines are listed on the back of the menu, “friendly” staff are “attentive but don’t hover” and portions are big enough to “satisfy a rugby player” – in fact, it’s hard to have anything less than a “great experience” here. 

More about Portland

Book now

Clipstone

Clipstone

£30 - £49
Modern European

5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB

Following the success of Michelin-starred Portland, comes this much-anticipated sibling – a less ambitious (but no less enjoyable) venture that’s destined to become a top-notch Fitzrovia favourite. Whitewashed walls, gleaming tiles, wood furnishings and wraparound windows set the scene, the atmosphere is welcoming and the menu spins through sharing plates and bistro-style dishes with lower prices to match.

Plump mussels poached in saké come with bouncy sourdough, and the same dough is used for pizzas (perhaps topped with clams, crème fraiche and garlic), although we favour the premium Yorkshire hogget, served pink atop coco beans and girolles, followed by Paris-Brest – a deliriously sweet, ridiculously enjoyable concoction of hazelnut praline and choux pastry. Wines also punch way above their weight, with superb on-tap options including Château Pesquié Terrasses Rouge. In short, the kind of relaxed, accomplished, good-value restaurant we’d all love on our doorstep.

More about Clipstone

Book now

Hutong at The Shard

Hutong at The Shard

£50 - £79
Chinese

Level 33,The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY

London flagship of the Hong Kong-based Aqua Group, this luxe eatery on Level 33 of The Shard is nigh on impossible beat for its beautiful interiors, glamorous vibes and “spectacular views”. Despite ‘hutong’ bringing to mind Beijing’s backstreets, the menu’s a sophisticated mix of Szechuan and Northern Chinese, with some “absolutely exquisite” Cantonese dim sum for good measure. Recent highlights have included Shandong shredded chicken (for stuffing into fluffy buns), boned lamb ribs (braised then stir-fried), and a plate of “soft, yielding and deeply savoury” braised beef in aged vinegar and ginger sauce. The full-on version of Peking duck is simply “fantastic”, and there’s also ma-po tofu, with a blend of chilli and Szechuan pepper giving it that distinctive numbing-hot effect known as ma-la. Spicing is considerably toned down from the full blast you’ll find in Chengdu, but that suits most of the suburban visitors and expense-account diners just fine. Prices are double what you’d pay in Chinatown, although readers are happy to shell out for such “phenomenal” food. “A real treat.”

More about Hutong at The Shard

Book now

A. Wong

A. Wong

£30 - £49
Chinese
One michelin star

70 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1DE

Located in a strange, transient part of Pimlico, Chinese big-hitter A Wong is an eye-opener for those used to provincial versions of the genre. Done out with blonde bentwood chairs and tables, it looks more Ikea café than Asian destination, and there’s plenty of bustle too. That said, there’s expertise and precision in the kitchen, along with a menu of regional specialities that begs to be explored. Dim sum rule at lunchtime; some items such as Chinese chive pot stickers are reasonably familiar, but we’re sold on the more esoteric stuff – both the rabbit and carrot glutinous puffs and the steamed-rice rolls stuffed with gai lan and poached yolk deserve to be tried. In the evening, you could settle for gong bau chicken with peanuts and Szechuan aubergine, although Cantonese honey-roast pork with wind-dried sausage and grated foie gras or Yunnan wild mushroom, truffle and red date casserole are hard to ignore. Tables turn quickly and there’s occasionally space at the kitchen bar.

More about A. Wong

Book now

Hakkasan Hanway Place

Hakkasan Hanway Place

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star
£50 - £79

8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD

“Wow, wow and wow!” exclaims a fan of Hakkasan, who reckons it’s definitely the “sexiest restaurant” he’s ever frequented. Certainly, there’s a “sultry charm” to this “sensual”, barely lit basement, with clubby VIP vibes, easy-on-the-eye staff and black-lacquered interiors making it “perfect for a hot date”. Kick off with Asian-inspired cocktails at the bar, then try definitive versions of takeaway classics and “impressive” ‘small eats’ such as jasmine tea-smoked ribs or “amazingly light” Shanghai dumplings boosted by chilli and vinegar. To follow, readers rave about the gigantic spicy prawns with asparagus, almonds, lily bulbs, spring onion and water chestnuts (“a riot of colourful tastes and textures”), but we’re hooked on the salt and pepper squid, the duck braised with truffle and the “riveting” crispy lamb salad with peanut dressing. No one escapes the top-end pricing, but readers agree that “you pay for what you get”. Multiple tasting menus can keep the bills in check, although the ambitious wine list might push them back up again. Either way, it’s “absolutely outstanding”.

More about Hakkasan Hanway Place

Book now

Locanda Locatelli

Locanda Locatelli

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star

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. 

More about Locanda Locatelli

Book now

The River Café

The River Café

£50 - £79
Italian
One michelin star

Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, W6 9HA

Although artisan competition is fierce these days, we side with the fan who reckons that The River Café serves “the best ingredients-driven Italian food in London”. This convivial Hammersmith evergreen (30 years young in 2017), which is rightfully so happy in its skin, is a very slick operation and certainly in the capital’s gastronomic ‘Serie A’, although it gains added kudos by virtue of its entrancing views and seductive riverside terrace (an absolute must-do on balmy days) as well as its decor, which some say is “dated but iconic”.

The rustic glories of Italian regional cuisine are writ large in a seasonal menu that majors on daisy-fresh salads, glossy pasta and specialities from the imposing red log-burning oven: in summer, that might mean poached langoustines with aïoli and pea salad followed by clam risotto dressed with zucchini flowers or wild salmon baked in sea salt; in winter, Tuscan bread soup with Swiss chard could precede whole Anjou pigeon wood-roasted in Chardonnay with speck, smoked celeriac and watercress. Further classics might be turbot with the greenest of beans, lobster risotto or char-grilled calamari with rocket. To conclude, chocolate nemesis is still the go-to option, but fruity tarts, grappa-laced pannacotta and the citrusy almond and polenta cake are also delicious.

Prices are top lire (a bowl of cherries is £10), although “exceptional service” is as friendly and engaging as it gets in London. Meanwhile, a list of pedigree Italian wines served at the correct temperatures in the correct glasses makes The River Café is the most well-rounded of treats.

More about The River Café

Book now

Barrafina Adelaide Street

Barrafina Adelaide Street

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

10 Adelaide Street, London, WC2N 4HZ

London’s three branches of “buzzing” Barrafina can hold their own against Spain’s finest, and Barrafina Adelaide Street, on a corner site in theatreland, is no exception. Each has its own personality and style, although the no-bookings policy, marble and glass interiors, long bar and attentive, enthusiastic staff are common to all three. As ever, dishes range from the dainty (little shells of zingy, sweet scallop ceviche) to the gutsy (gorgeous, creamy milk-fed-lamb’s brains breadcrumbed and served with a punchy olive and tomato sauce) – not forgetting the Harts’ lauded tortilla laced with spicy morcilla and piquillo pepper. “There’s always something new and wonderful to try”, and two of our favourites are hits from the daily specials board – grilled John Dory lathered in a silky olive oil, garlic and parsley sauce, and Josper-grilled baby vegetables atop romesco sauce. To drink, sniff out the owners’ hand-picked sherries, or pick something suitable from the carefully sourced Spanish wine list. If you’re used to Spanish pinxtos prices, you’re in for a shock – but then again, a trip to Barrafina Adelaide Street is cheaper than a flight to Valencia. 

More about Barrafina Adelaide Street

Book now

Dishoom Carnaby

Dishoom Carnaby

£30 - £49
Indian

22 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5QB

A vibrant menu? Check. Queues for dinner? Check. Kitsch Bombay nostalgia? Check. It’s business as usual at Dishoom’s fourth branch, but that’s good. Styling in this sprawling ground-floor bar-restaurant is inspired by the 1960s: Brimful of Asha in four dimensions. Professional staff galvanise the buzzy atmosphere. Mild spicing characterises a menu of small plates, grills and biryanis, the Carnaby sali boti special combining lamb with velvety meat gravy, showered with crisped potato shavings. Comfort food is a highlight: whether deeply creamy black dhal or a ‘Frankie’ naan parcel loaded with paneer and mint chutney. The spiced cocktail list includes bottle-aged options; wines focus on Europe; and the house chai (served to the hour-long queue outside) is delicious. With evening reservations for six diners or more only, Dishoom is ideal for parties: it certainly has the requisite vibes, flavours and drinks.

More about Dishoom Carnaby

Book now

Core by Clare Smyth

Core by Clare Smyth

Over £80
British

92 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2PN

Since leaving the three-Michelin-starred world of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth has “forged her own special path” – much to the delight of readers who have fallen head over heels in love with her new venture. Core is cor-blimey brilliant rather than a hardcore, haute-cuisine ordeal, complete with the sort of high-end interiors that covetous Notting Hillbillies dream about – think cute handbag stools, feather-light Zalto glassware and Bridget Riley artworks. Unclothed tables, meanwhile, indicate we’re in casual-luxe territory, while “gracious” staff do their very best to make the whole experience extra-special.

The room may be gorgeous in its own right, but everyone is here for food – and rightly so. Readers already have their favourites from Core’s carte and tasting menu: for some it’s the ‘potato and roe’ (actually a dish of skin-on charlotte potato topped with herring and trout roe sitting in a slick of seaweed beurre blanc), while our tip for signature status is the whole carrot topped with braised lamb served alongside a dollop of sheep’s milk yoghurt. These are “smile-inducing” dishes that extract almost unbelievable flavour from the humblest of ingredients.

Elsewhere, brilliant hits abound: a sweet Colchester crab doughnut alongside a glass of crab consommé; an even sweeter Roscoff onion stuffed with rich oxtail to accompany beef short-rib; countless nibbles including crispy smoked duck wings and jellied eel misted with a malt vinegar spray. And then there are the ravishing desserts – exquisitely reimagined versions of cherry Bakewell or warm chocolate tart, for example. Quite simply, this is “the epitome of thoughtful, stylish and technically brilliant gastronomy”.

The “fabulous” French-led wine list is a real head-turner, with plenty of fine drinking below £50, and you can also eat in the handsome bar, which is a cocktail destination in its own right. We’re in no doubt that Core is headed for the very top, and its many fans agree: “One of the best evenings we've ever had in a restaurant. Superb, understated excellence from start to finish”.

More about Core by Clare Smyth

Book now

Westerns Laundry

Westerns Laundry

£30 - £49
British
Fish

34 Drayton Park, London, N5 1PB

Despite a “rather lonely” location in suburban Drayton Park, this sibling of Stoke Newington big hitter, Primeur, is already proving its worth as a local destination that’s “something a bit different from the rest”. Occupying the ground floor of a 1950s industrial building, Westerns Laundry’s fashionably stark interior is brightened up with jugs of flowers, blue velvet banquettes and vivid paintings, while floor-to-ceiling glazed doors open onto a wide terrace. The daily blackboard menu focuses on small plates of seasonal food (chiefly fish) and the results are “absolutely delightful”: oysters are perked up with finely chopped shallot and lemon; home-salted sardine fillets are elegantly dressed with white balsamic vinegar; wild sea bass is accompanied by ribbons of sweet onions, artichoke hearts and succulent olives. Also, don’t miss Westerns Laundry’s version of fideuà, a traditional Andalusian one-pot dish of short pasta baked with seafood. If fish isn’t your bag, there are other beautifully composed dishes including creamy gnudi served with colourful courgettes and chopped hazelnuts. Wines are on point, with the emphasis on low intervention and small-scale producers. 

More about Westerns Laundry

Book now

Kricket Soho

Kricket Soho

£30 - £49
Indian

12 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HH

Cooked up by Rik Campbell and Will Bowlby, casual Kricket is a “modern memoir to time spent living and working in Mumbai”. The duo’s original shipping-container eatery at Pop Brixton has been making waves since 2015, but this is a proper restaurant with snazzy London embellishments including an open kitchen and dining counter, plus tables in the darker, atmospheric basement. The succinct small-plates menu changes daily, and Kricket’s game is a gentle one – the heavy pepper dusting on the signature Keralan-fried chicken is as fiery as it gets. Bhel puris come with a swirl of tamarind stickiness, crunchy puffed rice and dollops of yoghurt, while bright yellow kichri combines rice and lentils with morsels of haddock and lightly pickled cauliflower – all beautifully presented. Barbecue-blackened sweet potatoes and crunchy samphire pakoras make a convincing case for vegetarianism, while spice-infused cocktails and cheeky rum masala chai pep up the drinks list. With its fair pricing, cool vibe and bright, eager-to-please staff, Kricket is settling in very comfortably.

More about Kricket Soho

Book now