SquareMeal 4 Stars

SquareMeal uses a four star system to highlight its favourite restaurants on the basis of food, ambience, service and value. One and two stars are awarded to good and very good restaurants within a local area, three stars are given to excellent places well worth travelling for, and our highest accolade of four stars is given to our absolute favourite restaurants, that we would recommend people cross oceans for.

Updated on 07 December 2017

The Ledbury

The Ledbury

127 Ledbury Road, London, 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?



Over £80
Modern European
Two michelin stars
Bar Termini Soho

Bar Termini Soho

7 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JE

Bars
Scott

Scott's

20 Mount Street, London, 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”.

£50 - £79
Fish
The Cinnamon Club

The Cinnamon Club

The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, Westminster, 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.

£50 - £79
Indian
Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel

Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel

Dukes Hotel, St James's Place, London, SW1A 1NY

Is there anything better than a Martini from Dukes Bar? We think not. This classic hotel lounge inspired James Bond author Ian Fleming, who created the Vesper Martini here. A mix of Gordon’s gin, vodka and Lillet vermouth – shaken not stirred, of course – it appeared in the 1953 novel Casino Royale and the rest is history... White-jacketed head bartender Alessandro Palazzi is almost as legendary as 007 in bartending circles and his Martini trolley is a wonder to behold, though we advise slow sipping of his knockout mixes. All Martinis are made to order at your table, and with up to 200 served daily, you know you’re in safe hands. If you’re feeling adventurous, try Palazzi’s signature 89 Jermyn Street – a blend of tonka bean-infused vodka, rose, amber vermouth and chocolate bitters inspired by Bond's favoured cologne, Floris No 89. Also boasting a bijou Cognac and cigar ‘garden’ with potted palms, Dukes Bar is licensed to thrill. 

Bars
Chez Bruce

Chez Bruce

2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth, London, 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.  

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star
Sushisamba City

Sushisamba City

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38-39th floor), London, 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.

£50 - £79
South American
Japanese
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

68 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, 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”.

Over £80
British
French
Happiness Forgets

Happiness Forgets

8-9 Hoxton Square, London, London, N1 6NU

Regularly acclaimed by critics the world over, this wee dive bar has won more awards than we care to count: in 2016, it even scooped 'Best International Cocktail Bar' at America's prestigious Tales of the Cocktail bash. No bad for a prosaic, no-frills, "low-rent basement" (owner Andy Bird's description). This is no achingly cool 'concept', no big-budget design team's take on a Prohibition speakeasy, 1970s disco or any other corny theme you care to mention; there’s no pretentious molecular malarkey either: what Happiness has in spades, is heart and soul. It also has a team of chipper, capable staff who are keen to craft old-school favourites and gratifying new stirs to order: try Dirty Sanchez (a tropical cobbler involving Havana Selección rum, crème de banane, port, Manzanilla sherry and pineapple juice). Like the Burt Bacharach song by Dionne Warwick that inspired the bar’s handle, this seemingly effortless number oozes class and sophistication.

Bars
Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social

8-10 Pollen Street, Mayfair, London, 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. 

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
Hakkasan Mayfair

Hakkasan Mayfair

17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, 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”. 

£50 - £79
Chinese
One michelin star
The Connaught Bar at the Connaught

The Connaught Bar at the Connaught

The Connaught, 16 Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL

Few drinking dens in the capital can match the effortless glamour of The Connaught Bar. Designed by the late great David Collins and inspired by 1920s Cubism, it's a shimmering shrine to cocktails and home to a world-class team of bartenders. Their ‘expressions’ menu is a showcase for creativity, featuring on-trend ingredients and drinks inspired by natural elements. We fell for a Heart of Gold (a refreshing long mix of Amaro Lucano, lichen-aromatised Noilly Prat, Ruche, rhubarb soda and oregano blossom), but the jewel in The Connaught’s crown is its sleek Martini trolley. ‘The secret of a perfect Martini is the sound,’ smiles the mixologist as he slowly stirs Tanqueray 10 over blocks of hand-cut ice, mixed with the house vermouth and a choice of seasonal bitters to create a bespoke sip for every guest. A superb selection of whiskies and decadent canapés such as black truffle and Comté fritters with truffle mayo are further reasons to add The Connaught Bar to your ‘must-visit’ list. 

Bars
Hedone

Hedone

301-303 Chiswick High Road, London, 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.    

Over £80
Modern European
Scandinavian
One michelin star
Frenchie Covent Garden

Frenchie Covent Garden

16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8QH

£50 - £79
French
Oriole

Oriole

Smithfield Market, London, EC1A 9LH

Bars
Le Gavroche

Le Gavroche

43 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, 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”.  

Over £80
French
Two michelin stars
£50 - £79
The American Bar at The Savoy

The American Bar at The Savoy

The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0ET

The American Bar opened in 1893, when glamorous 'American-style' mixed cocktails were all the rage, and has played host to a procession of legendary bartenders – not least Harry Craddock, author of the iconic Savoy Cocktail Book back in 1930. Today you'll find Erik Lorincz behind the stick, heading up a team that's won pretty much every bar award going. The theme for their 2017 cocktail menu (it changes every year) is a regional tour around Britain, featuring creative mixes such as Arthur's Seat with Royal Brackla 16 Year Old whisky and the herbaceous Heathland History, with Gin Mare and mushroom-infused vermouth. Attention to detail is what really sets this bar apart, from its vintage decor and bespoke glassware to bartenders who remember your name and favourite drink. Shut your eyes; soak up the delicious buzz, tinkling piano and clinking of ice in cocktail shakers – and be transported back to the golden age of cocktails.  


Bars
The Clove Club

The Clove Club

380 Old Street, London, 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.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
The Five Fields

The Five Fields

8-9 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, 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.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
Core by Clare Smyth

Core by Clare Smyth

92 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2PN

Over £80
British
Gymkhana

Gymkhana

42 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, 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.

£50 - £79
Indian
One michelin star