London is a veritable paradise for fans of the theatre, with the West End packed full of fantastic shows. SquareMeal’s guide to the best restaurants for pre- and post-theatre dining in London features the very best London restaurants catering for pre- and post-theatre diners. Every one of the pre- and post-theatre dining restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top pre- and post-theatre dining restaurants has been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.
5a Air Street, London, W1J 0AD
From turf to surf: the forecast at Will Beckett and Huw Gott's sexy deco den is meaty with a chance of seafood. The Hawksmoor signature of excellent British beef with boldly indulgent sauces and sides (Stilton hollandaise, macaroni cheese, grilled bone marrow) is still in evidence, but at Air Street, the price-by-weight beef is supplemented by a seafood selection devised in cahoots with restaurateur (and fish fanatic) Mitch Tonks. Expect anything from char-grilled Dartmouth lobster and turbot to steaks priced per 100g – although readers insist it's still "a treat place". Desserts such as a 'Crunchy bar' and strawberry and lime pavlova don't take themselves too seriously – an ethos that also applies to drinks in the "delicious" art deco-styled bar. Friendly, knowledgeable staff, a happy ambience and a wine list full of possibilities combine to ensure that Hawksmoor is "totally worth it".
More detail about Hawksmoor Air Street
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 detail about Dishoom Carnaby
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 detail about The Ivy
26-29 Dean Street, London, W1D 3LL
Founded back in 1926, this quintessential “Soho sanctuary” isn’t drifting quietly into old age: autumn 2016 saw the ground-floor dining room reduced by two-thirds to make space for Barrafina Soho (both are owned by the Hart brothers), following the latter’s eviction from nearby Frith Street. The room looks the same, with brown-leather banquettes, “beautiful fresh flowers” and jewel-like stained glass windows, although there’s less all-round hubbub than before. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s menu is still a joyful celebration of the seasons, so expect anything from a warm salad of grouse and elderberries to a strapping leg of lamb garlanded with a pick-and-mix of gently cooked mushrooms. Lee’s refined repertoire also makes room for simple comforts such as chunky, lightly fried chips or steamed lemon pudding with rhubarb, while the trademark smoked eel sandwich is a must-order. None of this comes particularly cheap, but thanks to great service, really good Martinis and a dash of British eccentricity (John Broadley’s distinctive illustrations are a hoot), we reckon it’s great value.
More detail about Quo Vadis
29 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5HP
Famous as the restaurant founded in 1867 by Auguste Kettner, the private chef of Emperor Napoleon III (Bonaparte’s nephew), and as the location of interval-time trysts between King Edward VII and Lillie Langtry, Kettner’s has been given the ‘Townhouse’ treatment by new owner Soho House. As at Dean Street Townhouse, there are now 30 or so bedrooms upstairs, while the downstairs restaurant and Champagne Bar have both been spruced up, and a fabulous Piano Bar added for good measure. The bars, in particular, look lovely, all low lighting and marble surfaces and conveying something of the metropolitan élan and exclusivity of the Soho House members’ clubs. The dining room, in contrast, feels rather provincial, an effect enhanced by the fussy plaster mouldings (original, and Grade II-listed) and a French-inspired menu that seems self-consciously special occasion but fails to rise to the occasion. Small plates and starters were the best bits: cheesy gougères, comforting French onion tart and bracingly wintry crab with celeriac remoulade and russet apple. Mains were far less assured: roast Banham chicken tasted only of truffle not chook and omelette Arnold Bennett was a very limp imitation of the Savoy classic. Breakfast (lobster royale) and pre/post-theatre (any three courses for £22) may be better bets, or eat small plates instead in the bars, with two dozen wines by the glass and beautifully served classic cocktails.
More detail about Kettner's Townhouse
20 Sherwood Street, 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 detail about Brasserie Zédel
The National Theatre, Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PX
After a much-needed overhaul, the National Theatre's defining concrete walls have now reappeared in their flagship restaurant House, creating a far less stifling atmosphere than before. The menu isn't as groundbreaking as some of the productions performed on the stages next door, but creature comforts such ?as steak tartare, treacle-cured salmon, fritto misto or bavette steak with chips and béarnaise hit the spot. Their venison shepherd's pie (for two) is a must if you're hungry, while glorious tarte Tatin makes for a deliciously sticky finale. Service is quick and efficient, all the more imperative when you've got a show to catch – although it also manages to offer charm and charisma too. Expect a mixed pre-show crowd, but with well-priced, simple food and your theatre seat just a convenient stroll away, House ticks all the boxes.
More detail about House Restaurant at the National Theatre
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 detail about Clos Maggiore
45 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AA
Margot is currently the name on everybody’s lips, because this classy Italian off Drury Lane is the result of years of impressive networking. Co-founders Nicolas Jaouën and Paulo de Tarso certainly know their hospitality: de Tarso spent nearly six years as maître d’ at Bar Boulud, while Jaouën was the first general manager of Balthazar. Attention to service is the top priority – from the bowler-hatted doorman and white-suited bar staff, to the ornate silver olive oil jugs. But on our visit, the kitchen wasn’t yet comparable with the cossetting ambience. The fairly priced menu follows the classic Italian route, incorporating interesting salumi and cheese, raw cuts, then starters, pastas and hearty mains. We began with a rather muted antipasti of crab salad served with pickled cucumber and avocado smears, followed by gnocchi in Amatriciana sauce that was fine and filling, if unmemorable. In contrast, baked veal osso buco wholly justified its high price, the jus-drizzled meat submitting to the fork with melting supplication, atop bright-yellow saffron risotto. And if you can judge an Italian by its tiramisu, Margot’s petite, light, creamy version shows a kitchen with ample potential. A jumble of patterns and artworks decorate the ground floor, leaving the more restrained basement dining room to conjure up the restaurant’s classiest, more subdued moments. With a weekend brunch menu and a wine list boasting Italian sparklers and French heavyweights, there’s much to enjoy here, but the food needs to dazzle as much as Jaouën’s smile if Margot wants to become Covent Garden’s next grande dame.
More detail about Margot
1 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ
“ENEKO BASQUE KITCHEN & BAR IS CLOSED DURING THE REFURBISHMENT OF ONE ALDWYCH HOTEL. IT WILL REOPEN ON 23 APRIL 2019. FORWARD BOOKINGS CAN BE MADE BY CALLING 020 7300 0300.”
With three Michelin stars awarded to his Bilbao restaurant Azurmendi, Basque chef Eneko Atxa’s arrival in London is quite an event. One Aldwych’s basement has been transformed, with part of the roof removed to create a double-height ceiling, allowing light to flood in while offering intimate dining beneath what is now a mezzanine. Dressed with chestnut tables and deep-red corner booths, the space is striking and appealing, if not cutting-edge stylish. The food is more accessible than at the chef’s continental establishment (Atxa will visit here once a month), with a succinct menu split traditionally into starters, mains and sides.
Prices aren’t quite as steep as an Aldwych hotel restaurant permits, with value more apparent once the food arrives: a theatrical starter of oysters, crabs and wild prawns rests atop smoking seaweed; an ordinary-sounding talo dish (a thin corn tortilla) is festooned with tomatoes, flowers, herbs and pearls of oil, pulsating with flavour. Our highlight was a lightly battered chunk of fall-apart hake, enlivened by a thick, red-pepper sauce swimming with confit vegetables. Not one dish we tried disappointed in taste or looks; presentation is paramount. Liquid accompaniment is provided by a well-edited if expensive, all-Spanish wine list; staff will lead you to appetising pairings. Atxa has certainly done his London research, producing an unfussy menu and setting with broad appeal. Dish descriptions are perhaps too sparse, and prices creep up, but diners wanting an introduction to The Basque Country’s scintillating cuisine (or simply a delicious meal) won’t be disappointed.
More detail about Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar
240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), W1B 3BR
As far removed from the Zen minimalist school as it gets, Aqua Kyoto does high-end Japanese with a bit of razzmatazz. Feel the vibe as you circumnavigate the central bar, past gorgeous kimono silk-padded booths, to reach the dramatic dining room with its showpiece sunken sushi bar crowned by an oversize red lantern. The clubby mood conjures up shades of Tokyo’s swanky Ginza district, likewise the menu’s luxurious bent. Go for broke by ordering king crab tempura with crab miso, Wagyu maki rolls and agedashi aubergine with roasted foie gras, or discover original creations ranging from chilli yuzu lamb teriyaki with Japanese artichokes to rabbit with green peach, pumpkin tofu and mustard ankake sauce. By contrast, lunchtime bento boxes and sashimi selections are gentler on the wallet. The terrace is perfect for a sundowner.
More detail about Aqua Kyoto
71 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4HN
Roka’s brand of high-gloss contemporary Japanese dining is showcased beautifully at its largest branch on Aldwych, where a stylish mix of natural stone, grey timbers and dried green oak creates a subtly sophisticated setting. Like its siblings across the capital, this outlet puts the robata grill centre stage, and many favourite items from Roka’s back catalogue are on display – from tender Korean-spiced lamb cutlets to black cod marinated in yuzu miso. There are also dazzling platters of sushi and sashimi showcasing impeccable sourcing – witness translucent slivers of yellowtail and morsels of sweet-fleshed shrimp with caviar. Elsewhere, top calls range from juicy grilled scallops with a textured wasabi topping to velvety Wagyu beef offset by pickled mushrooms. The high-end list of sakés, global wines and sexy shochu-based cocktails can also be sampled at the elegant bar, while smooth service is a hallmark throughout.
More detail about Roka Aldwych
11-15 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DG
More than a century down the line, Bentley’s still offers “the freshest oysters in London” with all the conviviality you’d expect of a restaurant owned by Richard Corrigan. Downstairs, shuckers get through Carlingford, Jersey and West Mersea bivalves like they’re going out of fashion, with support from celebratory seashore platters, fish and chips and even a sushi salad bowl. Things are noticeably less hectic in the upstairs grill, where punters have time to anticipate and savour sea bass carpaccio with langoustine and lime, ‘royal’ fish pie or grilled sirloin of Irish Hereford beef with salted bone marrow and black pepper onions. Dessert could be a seasonal trifle or a tropical arrangement of pineapple, mango, chilli, ginger and coconut, while the wine list matches these fulsome flavours with plenty by the glass and a global outlook among the bottles. When it comes to the bill, “Corrigan knows how to charge, but can be excused given the overall quality,” says one regular.
More detail about Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill
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 detail about Bocca di Lupo
39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LA
Set up by the Soho House group, Café Monico adds a much-needed sense of occasion to the Shaftesbury Avenue scene, with classic styling and a broad menu befitting its position between two major West End theatres. What was the double-height Avalon nightclub has had a mezzanine level added, with the upper level radiating around a central bar and blown-glass chandelier. Well-dressed “knowledgeable” staff run the show, jazz bubbles away in the background and swathes of green leather add a touch of class. Overseen by London veteran Rowley Leigh (founder of Kensington Place), the menu covers all the bases: in the evening, you might find devilled kidneys, crispy-topped spinach lasagne and Leigh’s signature – moreish Parmesan custard with chewy anchovy toast. Sea bass comes with black cabbage, while meaty lamb is paired with merguez sausages, chickpeas and a lightly spiced sauce. A short cocktail list offers refined classics, and the wine list provides ample mid-priced choice.
More detail about Cafe Monico
55 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB
Like its sibling The Wolseley, this "lovely buzzy restaurant" bears all the hallmarks of a Corbin & King success story, from "spot-on" service to please-all cooking for a big-city crowd. No wonder The Delaunay has become a perennial favourite on all counts: the welcome is "always friendly" and the David Collins interior "impresses straightaway" with its glossy dark wood, gleaming brass and polished stone floors. There's an "old-school Viennese" vibe here, so expect to find wiener schnitzel, choucroute and rich borscht, as well as traditional dishes from elsewhere in Europe such as chicken Kiev and the ever-popular kedgeree. Tempting patisserie and viennoiserie – including an exemplary sachertorte – are worth a visit alone: luckily the adjoining Counter at The Delaunay sells many of these goodies to go. We urge you to book ahead for the phenomenally popular pre-theatre slot, or start your day in splendid fashion with a gut-busting breakfast. In short, "a great London institution".
More detail about The Delaunay
The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EU
The legendary Savoy Grill has hosted a long list of famous diners since it opened in 1889, including Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra. You'll feel like an A-lister too, seated in the plush dining room beneath glittering chandeliers: "I love the experience whenever I go here," declares one devotee. Now a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, the menu pays its dues to the Savoy's culinary heritage, featuring omelette Arnold Bennett and peach Melba (both created here), as well as French staples that would be familiar to the hotel's first chef, Escoffier. But the main event is the "wonderful meat": generous grills and chops, with classic sauces such as marrowbone and shallot, feature alongside braises, roasts and pies, plus daily treats from the trolley – Wednesday is our favourite day for lunch, when beef Wellington is the star of the show. A traditional wine list lends support, while polished staff include "a helpful and knowledgeable sommelier". In short, the Savoy Grill delivers.
More detail about Savoy Grill at The Savoy
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 detail about Cafe Murano St James's
7 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8EE
Tom and Ed Martin’s Botanist has been rocking Sloane Square since 2008, so its recent Russell Sage refurb seems rather timely – note the vibrant paintings of parrots and elephants that now provide a backdrop to the restaurant’s leather banquettes and snug upholstered booths. The adjoining art-deco bar buzzes throughout the day, while adjustable glass screens shield diners from the lively after-work crowd. A versatile all-day menu kicks off with breakfast (perhaps a full English or ricotta pancakes with bacon and berries), ahead of an international line-up spanning everything from tuna tartare with avocado, radish and macadamia nuts or succulent scallops partnered by crisp Serrano ham and burnt cauliflower purée to veal schnitzel, chicken with wild mushrooms and polenta, spinach tortellini and fish dishes such as cod with chorizo and bean stew. There are also steaks and a Longhorn burger from the grill, while imaginative salads keep the veggies happy. With pre-theatre suppers, weekend brunch, a sensible wine list and exceptionally friendly staff, The Botanist is in fine form for its tenth anniversary in spring 2018.
More detail about The Botanist Sloane Square
39 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9BA
This seafood joint comes courtesy of the team behind The Ten Cases wine bar. Parsons is a jolly little spot, with green-and-white fishmonger-style tiles, tiny tables along one wall and a couple of eating counters poking out of the other – the sort of place that’s cosy in winter and breezy in summer, thanks to big windows that open on to Endell Street. It’s an appealingly individual set-up that, combined with friendly staff, decent prices and a brilliant location for pre- and post-theatre, have made it impossible to reserve a table for a couple of months ahead; try your luck with a walk-in instead.
But some hit-and-miss cooking took the edge off the good times for us. We loved Belgian-style potted shrimp croquettes filled with a creamy shellfish goo, salt-cod fritters encased in crisp, light batter, and a whopper of an octopus tentacle cooked to melting sweetness and accompanied by fabulously flavoured pork-fat potatoes. But chargrilled treviso with pomegranate and Pecorino was overwhelmingly bitter, sea trout tartare was ill-served by an assertive bloody Mary jelly, and brown crab pissaladière tasted acrid, as if the onions had caught in the pan – although like all of the dishes, it looked absolutely lovely. Larger plates of fish are available whole (plaice, sea bass) and by the fillet (turbot, gurnard), while around a dozen wines from the off-piste list are available by the glass and carafe.
More detail about Parsons
55 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6LX
Archaic, determinedly old school and one of the few restaurants where that outmoded jacket-and-tie policy still seems wholly appropriate, this impeccably groomed restaurant looks right at home among the streets of St James’s. Wiltons is a handsome fellow indeed, “a restaurant with purpose and life” – so switch off your electronic devices and tap into the velvety richness of it all. As fish sellers of yore, with a family tradition dating back to Georgian times, Wiltons still majors on the finest British seafood – some of the best oysters in town, dressed crab, Dover sole meunière, lobster Newburg et al. Meanwhile, those with other palates and preferences might prefer a bowl of beef consommé or a twice-baked Stilton soufflé ahead of a trencherman mixed grill or fallow deer with roast shallots, fennel and cherries. Lunchtime trolleys are weighed down with gargantuan roasts and other pleasurable repasts, while desserts mine a rich vein of nostalgic comfort – apple crumble with custard, bread-and-butter pudding, etc. Service is deferential to a fault, and the upper-crust wine list is generously endowed with vintage clarets and Burgundies from the great years – although its “astronomical” prices are unlikely to trouble the old brigade in their Savile Row suits.
More detail about Wiltons
278 King Street, London, W6 0SP
He made his name at Zafferano, but Andy Needham is now wowing Ravenscourt Park with this “wonderful neighbourhood gem” – an Italian restaurant that lives up to its amorous moniker. Inside it’s “pretty, stylish and cosy”, while the menu focuses on “really fabulous” ideas using carefully sourced seasonal ingredients. “Don’t be put off by the simplicity of the dishes”, notes one fan, singling out a “divine” plate of burrata, Parma ham, figs and rocket. Lunch is especially good value (our homemade pappardelle with pork belly ragù, guanciale and saffron was rich and satisfying), while dinner ploughs a similar furrow – although prices are a tad higher for the likes of cuttlefish with green beans and Taggiasche olives followed by chargrilled lamb with pickled girolles, peas and salsa verde or sea trout with asparagus and sauce vierge. To finish, try the orange, ricotta and almond cake with honeycomb ice cream. “Lovely service” earns bonus points.
More detail about L'Amorosa
The Other Palace, 12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA
If your heart sinks at the words ‘theatre restaurant’, this wine-focussed charmer will make you think again. The story goes that The Other Palace Theatre owner Andrew Lloyd Webber visited Brixton favourite Naughty Piglets and loved it, asking the husband-and-wife team Margaux Aubry and (chef) Joe Sharratt to open in his theatre. Housed on a mezzanine level reached by a majestic marble staircase, the restaurant itself is more down-to-earth, offering a selection of wooden counter seats and larger, communal tables. Decorated with rows of wine bottles and dimmed lights in the evening, the amber-hued, glass-walled space becomes brighter in the day. The same, globetrotting menu is served at lunch and dinner, with highlights on our visit including sticky-sweet grilled pear with crumbly blue cheese and artichokes crisps, as well as black pudding cake with strips of moist cuttlefish layered on top. Each delicate dish is a successful celebration of textures and, in keeping the menu succinct, the kitchen has ensured that every plate is of the same high quality. Prices are reasonable too (complimentary mineral water on tap is a nice touch) and the natural wine list lavishes attention on France and interesting, New-World bottles. We found service unrelenting, perhaps unsurprising for a theatre restaurant, so we recommend telling the staff if you’re not in a rush. In the context of Victoria’s sudden restaurant explosion, this likable, delicious newcomer is bubbling to the top of the pile.
More detail about The Other Naughty Piglet
10 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London, WC2N 5AE
After a false start with the Jumeriah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, Tom Kerridge has finally opened his first London restaurant at the Corinthia hotel. It’s in a slightly no-man’s-land location between Embankment tube and Trafalgar Square – both central and off the beaten track – but Kerridge’s fame and the skill of his kitchen should ensure this London outpost becomes every bit as hard to get into as his two Michelin-starred Marlow gastropub The Hand and Flowers.
Some of the dishes we treasure from The Hand are reproduced here. The signature glazed omelet of smoked haddock and Parmesan is pimped up with lobster and even better for it, the meat so sweet that the fabulously decadent concoction eats like a souffle. Other dishes were new to us, but demonstrated Kerridge’s trademark of lifting classic British cooking with sophisticated technique without losing any of its lip-smacking gutsiness.
So while a pig’s cheek pie was basically a pork pie, the buttery pastry lifted it into another realm entirely, with a devilled sauce (taking the place of mustard) to cut through the richness. Brown butter tart with buttermilk ice cream, meanwhile, was a straightforwardly sweet delight.
Vegetarians get three starters and mains apiece, set lunch and pre-theatre menus should appeal to theatregoers from the nearby Strand (or anyone put off by the steep pricing), while bar snacks such as venison sausage rolls and Welsh rarebit are another budget-minded way in.
To drink, draught beers, gins and 20 English sparklers keep the flag flying for Britain; elsewhere, grower Champagnes join the classic houses while there are more big names from France and highlights from the rest of the world on a wine list that shows the benefit of hotel funding; a long trek to the loos across the hotel lobby is, however, a downside.
David Collins Studio has done its best to make the high-ceilinged space (formerly Massimo’s) feel more intimate, with diners grouped around clubby horseshoe leather banquettes, but clattery acoustics can make conversation hard to hear. But make no mistake: this really is food to shout about.
More detail about Kerridge's Bar & Grill
4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ
According to one reader, Balthazar could be “the best brasserie in London for atmosphere and service". Elsewhere, abundant praise for the lively buzz and "happy, friendly staff" is proof that this London outpost of Keith McNally's upscale bistro lives up to the reputation of his NYC original. By and large, the food wins approval too, with particular mentions for the "delicious afternoon tea" and "just the best dauphinoise potatoes". Order them alongside wickedly rich duck confit or coq au vin, preceded by chicken liver parfait, steak tartare or garlicky escargots. The all-day offer also includes delectable pastries from Balthazar’s boulangerie next door, omelette Arnold Bennett for brunch, plateaux de fruits de mer from the seafood bar or eggs mimosa followed by roast hake with bouillabaisse soup on the prix fixe. "It's a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner and business meetings" concludes one ardent admirer; another simply says “sit back, enjoy the buzz and don’t worry about your wallet”.
More detail about Balthazar
30 Henrietta Street, London, WC2F 8NA
Covent Garden might not carry the same illicit cachet as Shepherd Market but the streets that would still be familiar to Nell Gwyn make an apt setting for this follow-up to Kitty Fisher’s, the most fashionable restaurant of 2015. Like Kitty’s, Cora Pearl is named after another of history’s good-time-girls, although the roles are reversed here: while Kitty’s has a bar above and a dining room below, here the bar is hidden away in the basement while the high-ceilinged, ground-floor restaurant is illuminated at both ends by big windows. Raffish without being scruffy and as suitable for romance as bromance, it’s the sort of room that is cosy in winter and sun-drenched in summer.
The menu might not have a must-order showstopper like the Galician beef that made Kitty Fisher’s the talk of the town, but there are several contenders. Starters of shrimp Ranhöfer – basically prawn cocktail on toast – and elegant-looking, naughty-tasting cheese and ham toasties are high-class canapés, begging you to lick your fingers.
To follow, ‘pork with onions’ turns out to be floppy slices of presa Ibérica draped with spring onions atop a deeply-flavoured onion purée, while veal fillet comes with an even better celeriac purée and a jug of Bordelaise sauce bobbing with bone marrow. Save this for dunking best-in-class chips made with layers of pressed potato: surely the most labour-intensive fries in London.
Cora Pearl is the sort of place where pre-theatre diners might consider missing the curtain-up for a creamy bowl of ‘milk and cookies’ and where tourists won’t believe their luck at having chanced upon that rarest of all pearls: somewhere in Covent Garden where both Londoners and anyone from out of town will feel right at home.
More detail about Cora Pearl
21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE
Aimed higher than his eponymous deli/café chain, Yottam Ottolenghi's "gleaming" spin-off hits its target with ease: the cream-coloured ground floor is a serene space artfully decorated with white tiles, polished marble and brass fittings, while downstairs offers large communal tables and an open kitchen. However, readers save most praise for Nopi's "exquisite", "healthy" and supremely tasty food: raw cauliflower is paired with sprouts, nectarines and Gorgonzola, sea trout gets a global makeover with koji rice, watercress pesto and labneh, while beef short-rib keeps more familiar company with smoked beer glaze and horseradish. Whether you're sharing dishes or going it alone with one of the more expensive mains, it's all about creativity and depth of flavour. Signature cocktails also pick up on the kitchen's eclectic ingredients. Some bemoan high prices and petite portions, but most reckon that Nopi is "worth every penny".
More detail about Nopi
18 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DD
Christopher's may have celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016, but the handsome Grade II-listed Victorian building has a longer history than that and was once home to London's first licensed casino. There's no need to take a gamble on the menu, which is a selection of reliably good stateside staples: juicy Maine lobsters and prime steaks hailing from the US, Scotland and Australia are the winning bets, but you'll also strike lucky with moist Maryland crab cakes or slow-cooked pork belly and Ibérico chop served with Boston baked beans and creamed corn. Lighter choices include fresh salmon carpaccio with a zingy tequila and key lime dressing, but you're likely to lose all will-power when you see the line-up of decadent desserts such as New York cheesecake or chocolate, peanut butter and caramel tart with espresso ice cream. Brunch is always a big deal here too, with readers rating the 'build-your-own pancake' menu, "delicious options" and "really lovely atmosphere".
More detail about Christopher's
36 Tavistock Street, London, WC2E 7PB
Like its St James’s sibling, this second branch of Café Murano showcases Angela Hartnett's modern Italian cooking in a more casual setting than her Michelin-starred Murano. Spread over two floors, it's a convivial spot for business or dates, though we prefer dining with a group of friends and sharing a selection of characterful regional dishes. The daily menu is fiercely seasonal and allows good ingredients to prove their worth, often in simple, yet effective combinations: a salad of octopus, borlotti beans, olives and preserved lemon, for example, might be followed by rich pork cheeks with creamy white bean purée and chicory. Pasta is a particular delight, either sampled in dishes such as spicy bucatini amatriciana or bought from the ‘pastificio’ next door to take home – along with a bottle of hearty Italian red, of course. "It's hard not to stop for lunch each day I walk past", confides one local. Decent Italian-themed cocktails are another plus, and service is “always with a smile”.
More detail about Cafe Murano Covent Garden
77 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9ZN
“If you love steak, go to MASH and enjoy” implores a devotee who worships at this Danish shrine to meat, which sprawls along beneath Soho’s pavements. With its racing-red leather, the odd art-deco flourish and high ceilings, the grand dining room is an appropriately capacious space in which to indulge voracious appetites, while the menu owes more to American traditions than Danish – witness mighty crab cakes with mango chutney to start, and heavy sides of mac ’n’ cheese or onion rings. Top billing goes to the Danish crown (a dry-aged rib-eye), but also look for new arrivals such as (comparatively) cheaper Uruguayan steak in a variety of cuts, alongside top-dollar Kobe, Black Angus, Australian and Nebraskan beef. The wine list is equally cosmopolitan with certain pricier bottles accessible by the glass, all overseen by master sommelier Jess Kildetoft. Prices are in line with the London steakhouse norm, while Sundays mean BYOB with no corkage.
More detail about MASH London
5 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DW
Offering an authentic slice of Gallic charm just off Trafalgar Square, Terroirs is a regular hit with readers who rate the "buzzy and lively" atmosphere, hearty charcuterie platters and garlicky snails. The seasonal menu changes daily, but always focuses on the freshest ingredients, with confident flavour combinations allowing them to shine through: we’d single out a starter of simply grilled mackerel paired with a punchy celeriac rémoulade, as well as melt-in-the-mouth Ibérica pluma (a neck cut) accompanied by earthy cavolo nero and rich pepper sauce. Exemplary steak tartare, the signature pork terrine and duck rillettes slathered on crusty baguettes are also good calls, ahead of cheeses and desserts such as poached pear with bergamot custard and pecan brittle. Like its siblings Soif and Toasted, Terroirs is big on ‘natural’ wine, with a joyous list featuring sustainable, organic and biodynamic bottles from artisan producers. Ask the clued-up staff for recommendations and buy your favourites to take home.
More detail about Terroirs
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP
Coda is the newest addition to the Royal Albert Hall’s food and beverage line-up, with a menu designed by French chef Eric Chavot (formerly of Brasserie Chavot). The restaurant is exclusive to ticket holders and opens two hours before shows begin. Set in a grand and stylish dining room, the space is decked out in tones of deep purples and greys, alongside plush seats and glittering chandeliers, while there is also a standalone bar by the entrance, which serves Champagne, cocktails and a selection of G&Ts.
The kitchen meanwhile turns out an agreeable menu of European, French-accented dishes, with starters, including a silky poached hen’s egg resting in a pool of smoky white bean velouté, impressing. Mains encompass roasted lemon sole and ricotta gnocchi, and a classic fillet steak, which comes with crispy, golden triple-cooked chips and onion rings. There’s a fun novelty to returning for dessert during the show’s interval, with refreshing options including a pot of creamy pistachio mousse and chilled chocolate, or a delicately assembled apple tart topped with crispy pastry and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Slick service ensures that you don’t feel rushed despite the time constraints, and considering the destination, prices are not unreasonable. Coda is not big on spectacle or innovation, but delivers with a well-executed menu in chic surrounds – just save the sparkle for the show.
More detail about Coda by Eric Chavot
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 detail about J Sheekey
2 Burleigh Street, London, WC2E 7PX
It was a dark day in Theatreland when it was announced that the unofficial actors’ canteen, Joe Allen, was going to close – not least because it was to make way for a boutique hotel owned by one of their own, Robert de Niro. But the move around the corner has re-energised this luvvies’ classic that first opened its doors on Exeter Street in 1977.
A tighter, less labyrinthine layout concentrates the hubbub of the room, while fittings that have been moved lock, stock and piano from Exeter Street look as if they have been here for years. And the American comfort food is the same as ever – adequate rather than amazing, but more than cutting the mustard if you’ve come to soak up the pre- and post-theatre atmosphere or for a boozy weekend brunch with friends; it’s also as well suited to feeding an eight- or eighty-year-old.
‘Eggs Joe Allen’ is a nicely poached Burford atop a thick slice of potato cake, spooned with hollandaise sauce; well-timed calf’s liver comes with mash that is stodgy not smooth; apple strudel is a as sweet as something you’d want to end Sunday lunch. To drink, a well-priced wine list has bags of choice for under £40, while an evening spent at the bar with classic American cocktails would be a hoot. Remember your waiter’s face: like former staffer Graham Norton, he may well be a star of tomorrow.
More detail about Joe Allen
L’Oscar London, 2-6 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4AA
Part of the glamorous L’Oscar hotel, The Baptist can be found inside a grade II listed double-height former chapel. The grand surrounds are matched by an equally decadent menu, which champions seasonal British ingredients. On your visit, you may find starters including foie gras torchon with trompette mushroom and cherry preserve, while mains might see the likes of truffle and liquorice glazed sweetbread with creamed polenta, mandarins and gremolata. Indulgent desserts include a lime tart with a dark chocolate sorbet, and a peanut and caramel opera cake served with banana ice cream, while drinks are taken care of via wines, cocktails and Champagnes, with plenty of options for splashing the cash.
More detail about The Baptist Bar & Grill at L'Oscar London
1 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8PS
With its smart terrace overlooking Covent Garden piazza, a dapper bar and populist all-day menu, this offshoot of The Ivy has plenty of all-round appeal. You'll detect a little of that famous Ivy magic in the air, thanks to confident service and an appealing buzz around the handsome room. Fans will even spot versions of The Ivy's signature dishes on offer, including shepherd’s pie, chargrilled hamburgers and crispy duck salad with watermelon. Other sound choices range from chicken milanese topped with a fried egg to juicy mussels cooked in cider, or slow-roasted lamb shoulder with creamed potato, garlic and rosemary sauce, plus simple grilled fish, steaks and comforting desserts, such as apple tarte fine. Cream teas for the tourists and quick-fix theatre menus are also popular options, while breakfast could be a rollicking full English or trendy crushed avocado on gluten-free caraway toast. The bookings policy is informal, with some spaces saved for walk-ins if you're feeling lucky.
More detail about The Ivy Market Grill
50-52 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AX
If ever there was a corner of London that embraced the quintessence of central Paris, it’s Sloane Square – which makes it a perfect home for Messrs Corbin and King’s homage to the Gallic brasserie. From the black-and-white floor to art-deco flourishes and cream walls emblazoned with film posters, this spot has been fastidiously designed to look as if it’s been around for a lifetime. There’s the odd concession to current tastes on the all-day menu (crushed avocado on sourdough toast, say), but this is really a place for lovers of dyed-in-the-wool bistro cooking, from garlicky escargots and steak tartare to veal viennoise, herb-crusted hake with béarnaise sauce and desserts such as rum baba. Waiters in suited aprons are expertly drilled in the art of dutiful hospitality, while the oak bar is perfect for soaking up a Cognac or two. “Great local restaurant, buzzing from breakfast to midnight, love it”, says one fan. We wouldn’t argue with that.
More detail about Colbert
1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF
“That restaurant with the Champagne buttons” is more than just a gimmick, although ostentation is undoubtedly blingy Bob Bob Ricard’s primary selling point: “I feel like I’m in Gatsby’s dining room”, notes one fan. Luckily, the palpable sense of enjoyment lends warmth to the glitz and gold, which is everywhere you look. Cloistered royal blue booths explain why celebs enjoy hiding out here, as does a sumptuous menu of comfort food – think mighty beef Wellingtons and deep-filled, steaming pies. A new executive chef has introduced some lighter (but no less lavish) additions to the menu in the shape of, say, lemon sole stuffed with scallop mousse or lobster in a sparky Champagne sauce. The Sunday roast lunch stars prime USDA Black Angus beef, drizzled with truffle gravy, while the pricey wine list favours treats from the French regions. Service glides effortlessly, and although prices are reasonably high, it’s worth it for the fun you’ll have.
More detail about Bob Bob Ricard
34-38 Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HF
Hot on the heels of The Frog E1 in Shoreditch, MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Adam Handling has opened this more formal all-day flagship in Covent Garden. It’s clear that Handling is looking to make himself a household name – his cookbook greets you at the reception desk, his name is emblazoned on staff aprons, and the moody basement bar is themed with Adam and Eve imagery. Self-indulgence aside, The Frog’s five or eight-course tasting menu impresses with high-octane combinations, including butter whipped with chicken fat, topped with crispy chicken skin and served with sourdough, and razor clams shrouded in dry ice. We opted for the five-course menu, starting out with impressive warm savoury doughnuts, oozing cheese and topped with shreds of earthy truffle. Other highlights are a tender helping of Iberico pork made sharp with kimchi and smoky roasted cauliflower, and an intriguing veggie option of a papery slice of celeriac folded over apple, date, egg yolk and thick cream. A knowledgeable and chatty sommelier explains unexpected wine options, such as the light pink, fruity number that comes with dessert. The final course is just as ambitious – a chocolate-covered marshmallow conceals bursts of raspberry with vanilla ice cream, while a mango and coconut cheesecake offers a lighter option. With its Instagram-baiting dishes and unique flavour combinations, it’s clear that Handling has big plans for The Frog (and himself), which was impressively busy on our midweek visit. Our money’s on him making the leap into chef stardom.
More detail about Frog by Adam Handling
21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT
This all-day British restaurant and bar seems to hold all the trump cards since its 2017 refurbishment, with an enviable Thames-side location, views of St Paul’s, guaranteed buzz from the neighbouring Globe and now, a star chef in Allan Pickett. Best known for his short-lived 2015 restaurant Piquet, Fitzrovia’s loss has been Swan’s gain because Pickett’s beautifully presented, best-of-British cooking feels right at home here. Sitting above a more casual bar and diner, the second-floor restaurant has been smartened up, with a few flashes of peacock-blue and plenty of bare wood, leaving the wall of windows to do the talking. The menus run the gamut from bacon brioche buns at breakfast to roast UK cuts on Sundays, with lunch and dinner offering the same array of classic British standards, all supported by a well-organised lineup of global wines. A disarmingly pretty dish of marinated scallops arrives dotted with jet-black squid ink mayonnaise, bursting with Granny Smith juice, while a potentially stodgy combination of faggot and venison haunch in gravy buzzes with the tang of pickled red cabbage and damson preserve. Of course, the seasonal menu changes often but Pickett’s delicate knack for maximising flavours should elevate Swan’s kitchen all year round. On the downside, vegetarians have little choice, while pricier, heartier mains are unfathomably served without adequate trimmings. These points aside, the Swan’s second act deserves to break a leg.
More detail about Swan, Shakespeare’s Globe