SquareMeal Bronze Awards

SquareMeal Bronze Awards are given to ‘very good’ restaurants and bars that are stand-outs within their neighbourhoods. They are an award given to only a few establishments and are an assessment of the full experience: food – first and foremost – combined with ambience, service and value. SquareMeal’s Awards reflect a combination of professional critic opinion and current feedback from SquareMeal users/diners. As such, they reveal at a glance how strongly SquareMeal is recommending a restaurant or bar.

Updated on 04 December 2018

London is full of fantastic restaurants, meaning that choosing the right restaurant for you can sometimes prove to be quite a task. The opinion of those who have already experienced a restaurant can often be of help; therefore Square Meal has awarded stars ranging from one to three to some of London’s best restaurants as a guide to how good we believe these London restaurants to be.  All of the London restaurants featured in this list have been awarded 1 star by the Square Meal team, meaning that they are considered as London restaurants of a very high standard.

Not every London restaurant features in the Square Meal star categories, meaning those that do are considered to be some of the finest in London. If you can’t find what you are looking for here in the Square Meal 1 star guide you may want to also take a look at London restaurants with 2 Square Meal stars and London restaurants with 3 Square Meal stars.

Every one of the London restaurants with 1 Square Meal star featured in Square Meal’s list of the 1 Square Meal star London restaurants have been tried and tested by critics and our own customers so check out the reviews with Square Meal today. Each Square Meal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.

Brawn

Brawn

49 Columbia Road, London, 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.

£30 - £49
French
Chamberlain

Chamberlain's

23-25 Leadenhall Market, London, London, EC3V 1LR

An atmospheric labyrinth across four levels of Leadenhall Market, "welcoming" Chamberlain's has a setting for most occasions, from intimate dining à deux on the mezzanine to power lunches upstairs and people-watching through the huge windows fronting the market. The kitchen delivers stylish food that aims to please, with impeccable fish as the star – thanks to links with Billingsgate wholesaler Chamberlain & Thelwell. Graze on tangy herring roes before melt-in-the-mouth foie gras with sweet spiced bread and pineapple chutney or Orkney scallops paired with Mangalitsa brawn, lardo and a rather overpowering onion purée. Elsewhere, truffles are generously shaved over sautéed turbot, and prices reflect the luxurious theme – so seek out the set menu if the company isn't paying. Desserts are inventive ideas including an upcycled take on jelly and ice cream with yuzu and rose. "This restaurant has it spot-on", says a fan.

£50 - £79
Fish
£50 - £79
Baranis

Baranis

115 Chancery Lane, Temple, London, WC2A 1PP

We can't promise you a year in Provence, but a game of pétanque is certainly on the cards at Baranis – home to London's only indoor court. Things can get competitive after you've kicked off with a few shots of Pastis Janot or a French-themed cocktail – perhaps Julie's Mamou (a gin and elderflower sparkler), Applejack & The Green Fairy (a punchy mix of Calvados, crème de cassis and, of course, absinthe) or Le Pagnol (lychee liqueur, vodka and anise). The 'carte des vins' has a brilliant selection of characterful Corsican and Provençal bottles, while the food is supplied by the kitchens at Cigalon upstairs, so you can expect anything from top-notch charcuterie and French cheeses to socca (crispy chickpea pancakes) and anchovy-topped pissaladière. Sadly, St Tropez sunshine isn't on offer, but brightly lit brick arches give the basement space a cheerful feel.

Bars
Goodman Canary Wharf

Goodman Canary Wharf

3 South Quay, Discovery Dock East, London, E14 9RU

There are plenty of steakhouses in London, but some readers say that Russian mini-chain Goodman sets “the benchmark for quality meat and top-level service”. This branch is less cramped than its siblings, with leather-upholstered banquettes, low-slung lighting and big windows combining to produce an industrial twist on members’ club comfort. Customers who come for “the best steak money can buy” are certainly happy to pay the price for meat that is expertly dry-aged on site, then cooked on the Josper grill. Seek out the blackboard (aka ‘the cut’) to find out what’s best from the ageing room – perhaps Nebraskan USDA, Suffolk Wagyu, Australian Angus or Scottish Hereford. Building a meal around a vast steak takes restraint, but there’s always room for the tiger prawn tempura or lobster and corn chowder. California looms large on the “magnificent” wine list, which is also big on by-the-glass options and showboating larger formats.

£50 - £79
The Port House

The Port House

417 Strand, London, WC2R 0PD

Iberian tapas served in a restaurant owned by an Irish brewery sounds unlikely, but just wait till you step through the door. Part of a small group with outlets in Cork and Dublin, The Port House works to a tried-and-tested formula that brings together a gin bar, regional cooking and a cracking list of port and sherry – with warm hospitality and a cosy, candlelit setting thrown in. Start with a balloon glass of ‘gintonic’ before roaming the Basque-influenced menu with a crisp fino or mellow Rioja to hand. Star turns include generous pintxo skewers (intense morcilla with mustard sauce and crispy onion, for example), exem-plary jamón croquetas, and garlicky elvers with prawns in chilli. Impeccably sourced cheeses and charcuterie add further appeal, while Portuguese custard tarts and sugary churros seal the deal. Bookings are only accepted for groups of six or more.

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish
Mazi

Mazi

12-14 Hillgate Street, London, W8 7SR

The guys at Mazi are the peerless new Hellenic heroes of W8, bringing upbeat Greek hospitality to packed houses nightly. Slightly overwhelmed waiters manage to cope with the boisterous crowds who squeeze into the tiny space for a taste of sunny, progressive food that transcends the tired repertoire of old-school holiday tavernas. Home-baked breads arrive with various jars filled with the likes of grilled aubergine, soy and thyme honey or tarama mousse with lemon confit, while starters bring intensely flavoured and mouth-wateringly tender ‘grand mama's meatballs' piled on sliced cucumber with a mint and sesame dip. Succulent lobster with orzo pasta and herb-crusted saddle of lamb with a savoury baklava of its shoulder are signature dishes for good reason – just add a glass from the impressive, exhaustively researched all-Greek wine list for the perfect match.

£30 - £49
Greek
Wright Brothers Spitalfields

Wright Brothers Spitalfields

8a Lamb Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6EA

With a striking marble oyster bar as its centrepiece, this branch of Wright Brothers sets expectations swimmingly high from the start. Readers praise the “ideal” location amid vivacious Spitalfields market – best experienced from the sizeable Market Terrace. Otherwise, pull up a pew at the bar and watch as experts shuck oysters or load up mammoth seafood platters: often containing delicacies from WB’s wholesalers in Borough. The “tasty oysters and scallops” are singled out for special attention, but larger plates such as cod with salsify, celeriac and carpet-shell clams shouldn’t be ignored. If you’ve got the bucks, order lobster (they’re huge and served with due pomp); if you haven’t, the set lunch menu featuring sea bass fillet followed by lemon curd cheesecake is a welcome alternative. A diverse cocktail list and a happy-hour offer of £1 oysters (12N-6pm) also make this a sought-after pearl among the City’s seafood eateries.

£30 - £49
Fish
Cinnamon Bazaar

Cinnamon Bazaar

28 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7JS

Cinnamon Bazaar spices up Covent Garden's foodie hotspot, Maiden Lane, with this appealingly vibrant and relaxed bonne bouche that is Vivek Singh’s [Cinnamon Collection] most casual format restaurant to date. The budget menu revolves around different sized sharing plates, snacks and chaats (street food), with sides such as creamy black dal, mopped up with roti or paratha.

Under £30
Afternoon tea
Indian
Devonshire Terrace

Devonshire Terrace

Building 9a, Devonshire Square, Whitechapel, London, EC2M 4WY

Aimed with precision at its predominantly corporate clientele, Devonshire Terrace is an airy, tastefully attired Corney & Barrow bar-restaurant that comes equipped with retractable walls, allowing the space to morph into multiple configurations. Breakfast covers the spectrum, from a full English to French pastries, but the kitchen’s focus is lunchtime, when meat and fish get equal billing. The “good quality” choices include prime British ingredients such as seared wood pigeon (well-matched with honey-poached plums and rémoulade) and Devon Rose beef, alongside flavours from further afield: a Thai-style steamed cod in tangy lemongrass and coconut broth, perhaps. Come the evening, tapas sharing platters take over, with a French-leaning wine list providing the accompaniment. The design would never win a personality contest, but the trump card is alfresco dining: a canopied terrace on one side is mirrored by another within Devonshire Square, flooded with natural light but covered by a vast glass roof.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Polpo Soho

Polpo Soho

41 Beak Street, Soho, London, W1F 9SB

Russell Norman’s original take on a Venetian bácaro has spawned siblings and imitators across the capital, but Polpo’s queues still start early, whether you’re after a hit in the overflow Campari bar downstairs or a berth in the warmly lit dining room. The genre-defining mix of ‘rough edges’, brick walls and deliberately scuffed plaster, with brown-paper menus and glass tumblers atop worn tables feels too ‘cool’ for some, but great-value small plates win over most punters: try gooey arancini or anchovy-and-chickpea crostini, followed by rich meatballs on spaghettini or cuttlefish in a silky black-ink risotto – a dish that enjoys an evangelical following. Carafes of house wine(served in three different sizes) keep the bill from climbing, as do competitively priced all-Italian bottles. On the downside, ‘brusque’, scatty service can sometimes rub customers up the wrong way, however.

£30 - £49
Italian
Le Pont de la Tour Bar & Grill

Le Pont de la Tour Bar & Grill

36d Shad Thames, Bermondsey, London, SE1 2YE

The newly refurbished bar at this iconic restaurant is darker and more atmospheric in its new attire. Green art deco furniture gives way to a seductive, heated terrace outside, where – in accordance with the Franglais accent of the whole place – cocktails celebrate the very best of England and France. To eat, there’s a menu of nibbles and sharing plates – if a Nicoise Pan Bagnat with warm goats’ cheese and vegetables doesn’t please, perhaps roast quail with spring onion, chilli and lime will suffice. Come the weekend, expect live music with civilized acoustic sets of classic tunes and jazzy contemporary tracks. This is one for the sophisticats.

Under £30
Modern European
Shaker & Company

Shaker & Company

119 Hampstead Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 3EE

A recent venture from the eponymous bartender training school, Shaker & Company claims to be inspired by the swagger and abandon of New Orleans – although it has to make do with a berth beside Hampstead Road rather than the rolling Mississippi. A well-stocked timber bar can knock out all the classics (martinis, Manhattans, mules et al), along with a host of signature cocktails – say cowboys versus ninjas (bourbon with espresso-vanilla liqueur and whole egg) or the dillionaire (dill-infused Tanqueray gin with Campari, crème de figue and lemon). The kitchen takes its cues from the Mediterranean with Spanish meat and cheese boards, or stone-baked pizzas with toppings such as serrano ham, fig and orange truffle honey. A busy schedule including weekly comedy nights and a cocktail cinema club keeps punters coming back for more.

Bars
The White Swan Pub & Dining Room

The White Swan Pub & Dining Room

108 Fetter Lane, London, EC4A 1ES

It's a wrench to tear yourself away from the cosy wood-panelled bar on the ground floor at The White Swan but it's not such a sacrifice when you have a seat reserved in the dining room upstairs. Pristine white tablecloths, heavy leather chairs and a mirrored ceiling lend the place a clubby, urbane air, and the cooking is the perfect complement – in other words, sophisticated restaurant food rather than the pub grub served downstairs (think rib and shin burgers with smoked Cheddar). The kitchen puts its own spin on the classic repertoire – such as a pea velouté with ham-hock Scotch quail's egg or a bouillabaisse of red mullet, scallops and cod cheeks with saffron potatoes. For dessert, treacle tart is paired with zingy lemon and yoghurt ice cream. Wines start at £19, with the upper end dominated by France.

Gastropub
The Hoxton Pony

The Hoxton Pony

104-108 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3AH

When he’s not overseeing Baroque at the Playboy Club, Gerry Calabrese is entertaining a democratic mix of Joey Essex boys, stylists, catwalk models and Gucci-clad wannabes at his studiedly quirky pop-art/kitsch funhouse. Taxidermy and teacups filled with top-notch cocktails are the thing in the street-level bar, where sharp mixologists serve twisted takes on the classics. Try Mexican thyme (a leftfield margarita), the countess (a postmodern Negroni) or Johnny cobbler. Alternatively, trip out on Sergeant Pepper (gin, crème de mûre, Punt e Mes and Fernet Branca) or club together downstairs for one of the £50 ‘infusion jars’such as Hoxton market (a fruit cup built on Calabrese’s love it/loathe it grapefruit and coconut Hoxton gin). After that, ride ya pony to a mash-up of house, hip-hop, reggae and beats spun by cutting-edge DJs.

Bars
The Grill at The Dorchester

The Grill at The Dorchester

The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1QA

The Grill opened between the wars and has seen plenty of glamour, but its 2014 refurb delivered a transformation that regulars continue to relish. Between its parquet floors and striking Murano chandelier, the dining room sits just the right side of staid. The signature dish of blue lobster chowder with mushrooms and chives is classily realised, while mains run from suckling pig with butternut squash, sweetcorn and lemon to steamed cod with shellfish, braised fennel and Bellota ham – although rather pedestrian meat-free offerings such as mushroom risotto might leave vegetarians feeling unloved. For pudding, a clutch of soufflés in rich, dark flavours – hazelnut, coffee or rum, perhaps – show off what a well-resourced kitchen can do. Out front, “absolutely amazing” staff specialise in offering “seven-star treatment”, with matching wines from a big-hitting list that matches expectations.

Over £80
British
The Churchill Bar & Terrace at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

The Churchill Bar & Terrace at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill, 30 Portman Square, London, W1A 4ZX

Named after wartime leader and enthusiastic imbiber Winston Churchill, this luxuriously appointed bar is a soigné salon in which London's silver-spooned dames and silver foxes mingle with visiting bon viveurs. A well-stocked library reflects the young Winston’s interests, but for a gripping read turn to the cocktail list. 'Hi-balls', London iced tea, Provençal summer spritzes, and a  rhubarb and rosehip Bellini are fine, likewise a twisted Manhattan and a Raj Mojito that adds chilli and homemade ginger beer to the traditional recipe. Order your Martini as Churchill liked it (ice-cold gin, served ‘naked’ with a twist and a fine Cuban cigar from a well-stocked humidor), then repair to the covered terrace, where sits Winston himself, cast in bronze. Classy wines, fine French fizz and refined snacks would pass muster at Blenheim Palace, the aristocratic PM's family pile.

Under £30
Bars
£30 - £49
500

500

782 Holloway Road, London, N19 3JH

Named after the iconic Fiat Cinquecento, this personally run “Italian local” is old school, tiny and full of character. Despite cramped conditions and limited lunchtime opening hours, it's still in demand thanks to first-rate regional cooking, with deftly made pastas always high on the agenda – perhaps tagliatelle with clams and bottarga (cured mullet roe), strozzapreti with slow-cooked beef ragù or ravioli stuffed with Italian sausage and spinach. Main courses such as baked rabbit in porcini sauce with sautéed potatoes or char-grilled whole sea bream with Belgian endive and green sauce might leave you feeling stuffed, but it’s worth saving room for some tiramisu or the coppa 500 (poached quince and raisins in caramel and cinnamon, served with hazelnut ice cream and chocolate sauce). Old-fashioned service adds to the atmosphere, and the thoughtful wine list is a rewarding trek through Italy's regional vineyards.

£30 - £49
Italian
Bistro Union

Bistro Union

40 Abbeville Road, London, SW4 9NG

With its daily specials written on rolls of brown paper, a bar adorned with homemade preserves, and pegs on the walls for hanging your coat – Bistro Union evokes the make-do-and-mend Britain of yore. Much of the menu produced by Adam Byatt’s team harks back to a time when food was primarily for comfort, reassurance and high-calorie fuel: there’s a breakfast fry-up, fish pie and toad in the hole for lunch, and rhubarb fool for pudding. Nevertheless, you’ll also find more interesting dishes that have left the nursery (and school dinners) behind. Try the grilled squid with parsley salad, served with a punch-packing aïoli; and finish off with a blackcurrant and almond tart (in essence, a very fine version of a Bakewell). Drinks include a couple of British sparklers, craft beers and ciders, but fear not: the wine list makes it easy to escape Blighty should you wish.

£30 - £49
British
Taberna Etrusca

Taberna Etrusca

9-11 Bow Churchyard, London, London, EC4M 9DQ

Like some of the racing cars pictured on its walls, Taberna Etrusca has come to be regarded as a 1960s classic. The setting couldn’t be more Cockney (note the lovely courtyard almost beneath Bow Bells), but at heart this is a “typical” City trattoria with chummy service, good wines and “tranquil” evening sessions in contrast to busy lunchtimes. “Massive portions” satisfy on a basic level, but the kitchen has merits beyond mere sustenance: “full-flavoured” dishes often embrace international influences, as in a confit duck salad with peanut, orange and chilli dressing or anchovy tempura atop grilled Shropshire chicken with Caesar salad. There’s fresh homemade pasta too – try the chitarra spaghetti with sliced beef fillet sautéed in garlic, chilli and plum tomato. With its noticeable Italian tilt, the wine list provides gratifyingly wide choice at the lower end – a sensible approach to pricing that’s much-valued by regulars.

£30 - £49
Italian
Kenza

Kenza

10 Devonshire Square, London, London, EC2M 4YP

Etched brass, glowing lanterns, tapestries, embroidered pillows and the aroma of sweet spices all help to give Kenza its atmospheric vibe (the name is Arabic for ‘treasure’). Set up by Algerian-born Tony Kitous (of Comptoir Libanais fame), this exotic hangout is known for its heady mix of “charming” service, blasting North African beats and home-style Lebanese cooking. Char-grilled meats, kebabs, tagines and other mainstays loom large, although we recommend the feast menu with its ample selection of mezze: tabbouleh, batata harra (spicy sautéed potatoes with red pepper), falafel, fatayer sabanegh (spinach, pine nut and sumac pastries) and suchlike. For mains, there might be moussaka or farowj meshwi – charcoal-grilled baby chicken with a Lebanese salad, rice and harissa, which can be matched to a North African wine from the international list. Afterwards, pop down to the cocktail lounge for DJ sounds and belly dancing.  

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
OXO Tower Brasserie

OXO Tower Brasserie

Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9PH

High up on the eighth floor of the Oxo Tower, this fashion-conscious, brasserie-style eyrie offers the same great views as the posh restaurant next door, but prices are a fair bit cheaper and you can rub shoulders with the throngs of beautiful people in more convivial, easy-going surroundings. The vibrant menu ranges far and wide, picking up the likes of soft-shell crab with watermelon salad and black-bean dressing, Korean-style roast duck leg with a spring-onion pancake and kimchi, or grilled baby chicken with soft polenta, balsamic pickled onions and Gorgonzola butter. ‘Faultless service’ and the chance to dip into the neighbouring restaurant’s top-drawer wine list are undeniable plus points, while cool live jazz or mellow piano music adds extra sparkle in the evening – especially if you’re lounging on the terrace overlooking the river.

£30 - £49
British
Franklins

Franklins

157 Lordship Lane, London, SE22 8HX

This Dulwich veteran still looks the part after many years’ service and maintains its commitment to careful, seasonal sourcing. The menu is ‘blissfully free from affectations regarding provenance’, and with a farm shop next door ‘you know it’s good stuff’ – from spring chicken paired with quinoa, peas, salsify and broad beans to plaice embellished with samphire, fennel and saffron aïoli. Desserts are pure comfort (rice pudding with rhubarb, for example), or you can finish with something savoury such as Scotch woodcock. The gorgeous gilt-topped bar gets rammed with drinkers knocking back old-school cocktails, but things are more mellow in the downstairs dining room; either way, service copes well with the needs of boozy Sunday lunches and casual midweek suppers. Be warned that bills can stack up, especially with sides at £3 a pop.

£30 - £49
British
Provender

Provender

17 High Street, London, E11 2AA

Max Renzland’s well-used and well-loved neighbourhood bistro does a grand job of channelling the spirit of a Parisian café without descending into cliché. With its exposed brick walls, charcoal wool upholstery, red metal lights and vintage Editions Rossignol prints, the look is modern yet cosy and genuinely “authentic”. Great-value prix-fixe deals, plats du jour and petit dejeuner options at the weekend will provide everything from eggs mayonnaise and steak-frites to croque monsieur, shakshuka, tartines and pain au raisins. However, the kitchen demonstrates greater originality when it comes to dishes such as sea bass ceviche with avocado, basil and sesame croûtons or braised Vendée rabbit with confit ventreche bacon, asparagus, peas and artichokes, while desserts might venture into the realms of passion fruit pannacotta with mango sorbet and almond sabayon. The French wine list runs from decent vins de maison to more exclusive finds.

£30 - £49
French
Mark

Mark's Bar at Hix

66-70 Brewer Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1F 9UP

Like an upscale, arty members club that’s open to allcomers, the quintessentially cool basement bar at Hix Soho is as sharp as a Paul Smith Paisley shirt, as comfy as John Lobb ankle boots, as classic as a camel Crombie and as relaxed as your best, lived-in denims – the sort of wardrobe that understated core Hixters cleave to. Hix’s similarly stylish cocktails are a mix of familiar friends (Hanky Panky, Zombie, Gin Punch à la Terrington) and future ‘bezzies’ such as Dorset Donkey (a Black Cow vodka, cherry and sage mule). True to his West Country roots, the chef/ patron's list also includes cider-based swallows such as Temperley Sour. Prices are Soho average for above-average ‘snax’ of whipped squash with ricotta and toasted walnuts, steak tartare, chips with curry sauce, rock samphire pakoras or Essex cockle popcorn – a steal at three for a tenner.

 

£30 - £49
Bars
Long Bar at the Sanderson

Long Bar at the Sanderson

The Sanderson, 50 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3NG

At the dawn of the millennium, the Long Bar’s glowing onyx island counter was the see-and-be-seen hub of an impossibly swanky, Philippe Starck-designed hotel lounge, propped up by every Cool Britannia gossip column fixture worth quoting. Times change, and fickle fashionistas have flocked off to the ‘next big thing’, but we still carry a torch for The Sanderson's period-piece bar and its Zen courtyard garden, featuring vines and hanging plants. Party with nature-inspired drinks including Jade Garden (Bacardi, tomatoes, matcha tea) and The Great Wave (Ki No Bi, sake, brine, samphire), while rosemary polenta chips, duck rolls and beef sliders are among the modish bar bites.

Image credit: David Griffen

Bars
Under £30
Lardo

Lardo

The Arthaus, Richmond Road, Hackney, London, E8 3NJ

“Cheap, cool and fun”, Lardo has a new recruit in the kitchen: ex-Spuntino chef Rachel O’Sullivan – but fans of this on-the-pulse pizzeria-trattoria can rest assured that little else has changed. The fire-breathing oven still churns out exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza, and the open kitchen sings proudly of the seasons. For a quick bite, the signature lardo and egg pizza with a Negroni or homemade soda should do the trick, but it’s worth enlisting like-minded friends to give the menu (and modern Italophile wine list) a proper going over. Dip in to small plates, secondi, snacks and salads: for example, leeks with creamy cod’s roe and almonds; mackerel with cucumber, samphire and borage; or a generous tangle of buttery tagliatelle concealing the plumpest fresh girolles. To finish, try homemade gelato or snappy cannoli. Rooftop bar and sister venue, Coppa, pops up nearby each summer.

£30 - £49
Italian
Vinoteca Marylebone

Vinoteca Marylebone

13-15 Seymour Place, Marylebone, London, W1H 5BD

‘Quick and easy, unfussy and unpretentious’, gregarious Vinoteca’s winning formula matches the oenophile virtues of a top-notch wine emporium with a penchant for smart brasserie cooking. Wine flights and by-the-glass selections are unmissable, and the full list of around 200 bins is stuffed with helpfully annotated bottles from every corner of the winemaking globe – although judicious food-matching suggestions are the mini-chain’s ’biggest USP’. British cheeses and European charcuterie are mainstays of the menu, but the regularly changing line-up runs from crispy confit duck, pear, orange and walnut salad (recommended with a glass of Weissburgunder 2011) to Cornish hake with cockles, arroncina beans, lemon and samphire – perfect with a Kumeu River Chardonnay 2007 on the side. Light airy interiors, funky lighting and retro posters create just the right mood, and the bill is always easy on the wallet.

Hispania

Hispania

72-74 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9AY

The ground floor of Lloyds Bank's former headquarters is the setting for this "impeccable" Spanish aristocrat – a beautiful space with lofty ceilings, glossy tiled floors and an imposing central staircase. Antlers and framed prints ?add to the air of a noble old hacienda, soft lighting tames its potentially intimidating vastness and the "upmarket tapas" is spot-on – thanks to the presence of high-flying chef Marcos Morán. Graze on hand-carved acorn-fed Ibérico ham or crujientes de quesos (crunchy toffee-flavoured filo pastries stuffed with cheese) before tackling the roast Segovian suckling pig, braised oxtail with roasted onion and pine nuts or perhaps baked cod fillet with chickpeas and jellied spinach. Champagnes aside, the wine list is an all-Spanish affair, with some classy (and pricey) Riojas to tempt City palates. Service is "ever improving" and there's a definite buzz about the place nowadays that wasn't quite there when it opened.

£30 - £49
Spanish
The Fellow

The Fellow

24 York Way, London, N1 9AA

Messrs Farrow & Ball could well have provided the dark-blue paintwork and there's stripped wood aplenty, but don't pigeonhole this place as gastro-by-numbers. Whether you fancy sipping cocktails, nibbling on tapas or meeting up for Saturday brunch (buttermilk pancakes and Bloody Marys, anyone?), this member of the Geronimo Inns stable can provide. One reader who dropped by for a lunchtime burger describes it as "unexpectedly good", and the all-day menu offers everything from grilled aubergine and spiced wild rice salad to slow-roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary mash. The hidden roof terrace is a boon in summer, and it's worth venturing upstairs to The Black Door for weekly DJs and live events. With King's Cross station nearby, this pleasant Fellow is also "great for after-work beers" and doffs its cap to the modern-day boozer with aplomb.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Graphic

Graphic

4 Golden Square, London, W1F 9HT

Top-flight gins and urban art installations by hipster groovers have helped sustain this long-running lo-fi DJ lounge over the years. Soho office workers, shoppers and skivers spoilt for choice in terms of flavour, style and provenance, might make a resolution to sample a new brand every night: starting with A (for Aviation and Audemus Pink Pepper), they'd still be wading through the S's (Sipsmith, Sacred, Sloane's, Slingsby, SW4) come Christmas. Gin cocktails (other bases are available) look to the past for The Scofflaw, Pegu Club, Army & Navy, The Last Word and various disco drinks, while punches (served in paint tins) are flavoured according to their Pantone colour: ‘green’ means Hayman's gin, cucumber, mint and cloudy apple juice. Global snacks such as merguez sausages, samosas, pulled pork fritters and rarebit croquettes all feature on the menu at this Soho classic. 

 

Bars
Colbert

Colbert

50-52 Sloane Square, Chelsea, 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.

French
Mangal 1

Mangal 1

10 Arcola Street, London, E8 2DJ

As smoke fills a side road off busy Stoke Newington High Street, large buckets of charcoal are carried in to feed the roaring monster inside this Turkish ocakbasi restaurant. You're face to face with the ocak grill as soon as you enter, and tables are packed tightly into the small room, but sit here rather than in the calmer extension next door, because the thrill of the grill is what it's all about. A chilled cabinet is stocked with kebabs, chops, chicken wings and quails – just order a plate of juicy mixed meats and a pile of spanking-fresh salad, plus some creamy cacik (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic) and tuck in. You can buy Turkish beer and red wine, but almost everyone brings their own – making dinner here even more of a bargain.

£30 - £49
Turkish
Plateau Bar & Grill

Plateau Bar & Grill

4th Floor, Canada Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5ER

Plateau is the sort of slick contemporary proposition that could be in Toronto, Seoul, Frankfurt – or any other concrete and glass financial hub. Needless to say, suit-wearers predominate. But enter this fourth-floor restaurant’s curiously named ‘leather bar’ and you might encounter Forbidden Fruit and Jeux d’Amour: two from a varied and creative list of cocktails (from £9) that incorporates the classics as well as ‘signature serves’. Other sexy calls we like making here include Temptation (a vanilla-infused Ketel One and orgéat fruity cooler), and Estupendo (a Tequila, peach and cinnamon sour). Snacks have a Eurasian bent, with the likes of Korean-style wings or chilli-spiced rice balls vying for attention with cod pancakes, croque monsieur-ettes, and feta, tomato and olive parcels. The terrace is the place to sample the impressive cigar selection.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Sophie

Sophie's Steakhouse Chelsea

311-313 Fulham Road, Chelsea, London, SW10 9QH

Good for sober midweek dining as well as Friday-night revelling, this Fulham Road fixture made its name with British beef, and the kitchen now butchers and dry-ages all its carcasses. Crowds continue to pack the conservatively cool space, with its blood-red banquettes and stripped brickwork – although we were expecting more finesse in the presentation of Sophie's headline steaks and burgers. Elsewhere, the kitchen excels with vibrant starters of hand-picked crab with coriander, while puds keep it traditional with fruit crumble and cheesecake. The weekday express menu is cracking value, and well-drilled staff are helpful when it comes to the carefully chosen wine list. 

£30 - £49
Steak
British
HIX Oyster & Chop House

HIX Oyster & Chop House

36-37 Greenhill Rents, Farringdon, London, EC1M 6BN

This is where Mark Hix first got going under his own steam back in 2008 and, a shed load of oysters later, it’s still a useful address by Smithfield Market. The space is simple enough, a British brasserie if you like, and service can be “a little erratic to say the least” – although it’s never less than charming. Food-wise, it’s not all about Loch Ryan No 2s and Pyefleet Creek’s finest bivalves – the quality of the meat is also “superb” (try a whopping Moyallon pork ‘baron’ chop to share). Otherwise, char-grilled Torbay cuttlefish might turn up in a first-course salad, game is sure to figure in season, and eclectic dishes such as goat curry with rock samphire pakoras show the kitchen’s mettle. Well-reported Sunday lunches and Oyster Happy Hour (£1.25 oysters every day from 4-7pm) are added attractions, while cocktails and some compelling digestifs keep the party going.

£50 - £79
British
Bellamy

Bellamy's

18-18a Bruton Place, London, W1J 6LY

Regarded by some regulars as a club without a sub, Gavin Rankin’s hospitable restaurant and bar comes at the brasserie tradition by way of Bruton Place. An instinctive understanding of the pleasures of the table marks it out, even among showier offerings; an oyster bar, operational during the day, dispenses rarebits and toasted sandwiches alongside the rocks and natives, while the bar makes cocktail-drinking easy at a flat £10 a pop. Alongside the daily table d’hôte, Bellamy’s carte is the essence of elegant comfort: try iced lobster soufflé, goose rillettes or risotto milanese to start, followed by quenelles of pike with sauce Nantua or roast grouse with figs. To finish, it’s got to be îles flottantes. Such dishes are not light on labour, but there’s a sense that the kitchen abhors shortcuts. The wine list is French, but not eye-wateringly priced.

£50 - £79
French
Good Godfrey

Good Godfrey's at The Waldorf Hilton

The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4DD

Back in the Roaring Twenties, Howard Godfrey was leader of the Waldorf hotel's house band, entertaining flappers at wild parties in the Palm Court. The bar named after him strikes the right note with its polite service and menu of classic cocktails, and although the mood is rather restrained, it's a dependable choice for pre-theatre snifters in a smart setting. Skilfully?made drinks from a list dotted with historical snippets include the Vieux Carré (rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth and Bénédictine) and the Refined Madam (Tanqueray 10 gin with rose liqueur, cardamom syrup, lavender bitters and lime juice). Whisky-lovers will appreciate the good choice of global brands, though wine and beer selections lack imagination. To eat, classic Waldorf salads and international snacks (falafel, Thai fishcakes, etc) suit the hotel crowd.

Bars
Joanna

Joanna's

56 Westow Hill, London, SE19 1RX

“Imagine a land untouched by small plates, sliders and kimchi cocktails – in this land you’ll find Joanna’s”, writes a fan. The ol' piano may be long gone, but a Rat Pack vibe lives on at this aptly named all-day brasserie with its “quietly classy” wood-panelled surrounds, ceiling fans and impressive cocktail bar. More than 30 years on, Crystal Palace locals still seek comfort in well-sourced steaks, burgers and “char-grilled Americana”, but there's plenty more to pique the interest. The Selsey crab mac ‘n’ cheese sounds fun, likewise roast pork belly with caramelised black pudding, savoy cabbage and grain mustard sauce. Off-peak deals major in nostalgia, daily breakfasts bring a dose of stateside indulgence, and Saturday brunch is a winning affair topped off by “towering” chocolate sundaes., Drinks include some of the best vodka-espresso shots in SE19, and service can’t be bettered – “whatever the occasion”.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Blueprint Café

Blueprint Café

28 Shad Thames, Bermondsey, London, SE1 2YD

“On the button… I really rate this place!” enthuses one fan of the Blueprint Café – a bright, airy eatery floating above the Thames. A row of tables along one wall offers “fabulous” river views, although the main draw is top-notch cooking at prices that “don’t even break the bank”. The seasonal carte kicks off with crowd-pleasers such as potted duck with piccalilli or beetroot and goats’ curd salad, while mains have a sturdy patriotic feel – think chicken and leek pie, whole plaice with chips or Colne Valley lamb rump with cockles and samphire. There are “fabulously creamy” risottos too, while desserts offer yoghurt pannacotta and lemon cheesecake alongside lemon posset and Eton mess. The overall feel is sleek, efficient and a tad corporate (as you might expect from a D&D London outlet), although there’s no strain on the wallet: “go for their lunch menu!” recommends one price-conscious fan.

£30 - £49
British
£30 - £49
The Garrison

The Garrison

99-101 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey, London, SE1 3XB

Bermondsey favourite The Garrison is a stylish, relaxed venue that regularly plays to full houses. Mismatched chairs, slightly wobbly reclaimed tables and an eclectic array of lampshades make for a quirky space that serves eaters and drinkers equally well – there's even a highly recommended pocket-sized cinema in the basement. Sunday roasts can be rather hit and miss (we like our roasties crispy), but the evening menu shows more precise cooking – think crab on toast with watercress and samphire or glazed chicken breast with sweetcorn purée, crushed new potatoes, bacon and rosemary. To finish, the flourless chocolate cake is the stuff of pudding lovers' dreams. With decent prices, terrific breakfasts, all-day snacks, unusual beers and a decent wine list, it's easy to see why The Garrison is always packed.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Hawksmoor Guildhall Bar

Hawksmoor Guildhall Bar

10 Basinghall Street, London, London, EC2V 5BQ

Made to look satisfyingly old-school like the adjacent steakhouse restaurant, Hawksmoor Guildhall’s bar features ample wood and leather upholstery, which fits well with the airy, basement premises. Such sophistication continues on the drinks list, where £8.50 secures a Sherry Crusta (Manzanilla, Shipwreck and lemon juice) or a Blinker (with raspberries replacing grenadine syrup in an updated take on the rye whiskey and grapefruit 1930s Familiar). Equally on the money is Cork Street Buck (a Jameson Select Reserve Irish whiskey and Manzanilla sherry Mule). Super-premium ‘top shelf tipples’ provide yet more seductive swank… at a price; you’ll pay £18 for the distinctly modern-sounding Fo’ Shizzle Ma Nizzle Swizzle (Beefeater Crown Jewel, grapefruit juice, bitters and sherbet). Bar snacks range from traditional with a twist (potted beef and bacon with Yorkshires) to voguish lobster mac & cheese – for £20 a pop, mind.

Bars
Bone Daddies Soho

Bone Daddies Soho

31 Peter Street, London, W1F 0AR

"Confidently residing at the delectable end of the fast-food spectrum", this high-energy ramen joint continues to win fans – despite cramped, canteen-like conditions and a no-bookings policy. Head honcho Ross Shonhan knows how to conjure a magic mix of addictive flavours ("bone broth plus plastic bib equals noodle bliss", assures one fan), so bag a stool at one of the communal benches for a "delicious bowl of goodness". Sustenance arrives "lightning quick", and there's no shame in slurping your way through the different flavours – perhaps spicy miso with Padrón peppers or ground chicken with lip-tingling spice. The soundtrack often comprises "one soft-rock abomination after another", but snacks of soft-shell crab in high-octane chilli and ginger sauce or "unctuous" chashu pork and corn croquettes will keep you distracted. Strong cocktails make use of tangy yuzu, while shochu, whisky and saké take no prisoners.

£30 - £49
Japanese
Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop

ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 1HA

Impossibly glamorous (and sometimes impossible to get into if you haven't booked) the exclusive rooftop bar at ME London piles on the wow factor with its minimalist monochrome decor and views over the City skyline. On warm days, the prime spots are the white leather sofas by the rooftop edge: perfect for alfresco posing. House cocktails run from the Mexican (a refreshing blend of El Jimador Tequila, cucumber, mint and agave) to South Pacific (Leblon cachaça, kiwi, elderflower and apple juice), while the Champagne list is reassuringly extensive (and expensive), with bottles of Bolly for £100 and jeroboams of Cristal 1999 weighing in at a cool £5,000. Meanwhile, aficionados can pair Cognac or whisky with a Montecristo No.4 from the cigar menu. Daytime eats include risottos, salads and burgers, with dainty tapas on offer when the lights go down.

Mediterranean
Bars
Afternoon tea
Phoenix Palace

Phoenix Palace

5 Glentworth Street, London, NW1 5PG

“Nothing changes, and that’s the point” at this flamboyantly decorated fixture of the local Chinese scene.  Consistency is the watchword, and super-efficient service ensures customers get the best of a huge, 300-dish menu. Dim sum is the star at lunchtimes and weekends, when Chinese families and the Regent’s Park crowd roll in for exemplary renditions of, say, crispy lobster dumplings, briny pork croquettes, prawn cheung fun and nourishing congees. Otherwise, the full line-up runs from breaded scallops with mango sauce or shredded smoked chicken to braised duck with mushrooms or quick-fried squid with morning glory in shrimp paste. The cavernous dining room operates in its own little world, complete with carved screens, tassels and flashing illuminated gewgaws – you could get lost, or lose your companions in here. Still, “if you love the place, it’s probably like coming home”.

£30 - £49
Chinese
Dim Sum
The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont

The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont

The Beaumont, 8 Balderton Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 6TF

Elegance and a warm welcome come as standard at this upmarket hotel grill room, which has powerful echoes of New York’s old-timers with its art-deco murals and framed photographic portraits. The buzz here lasts all day from breakfast to midnight – although the Colony’s comfort food comes with a distinctly American twang.

On the carte, chicken pot pie and macaroni cheese vie for attention with buttermilk fried chicken and Cajun-spiced swordfish, while breakfast brings pancakes, French toast and duck egg hashes with a choice of black pudding, smoked haddock, mushroom and spinach or corned beef. For dessert, bananas Foster and a baked Alaska involving pistachios and cherries are prepared tableside. Jimmy’s (aka the American Bar) makes for an appealing, low-lit stopping-off point with a fondness for bourbon and American whiskey.

£50 - £79
North American
International
The Prospect of Whitby

The Prospect of Whitby

57 Wapping Wall, London, E1W 3SH

Probably dating from around 1520, this riverside pub claims to be the oldest on the Thames: Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens reputedly drank here, and it was once a handy spot for a pint before or after an execution at the adjacent gallows, where pirates were regularly hanged. The gallows may have gone, but the uneven flagstone floors, dark rooms and a few of the old East End characters remain – although they've been joined by throngs of camera-toting tourists. It's now owned by Taylor Walker, so you could bend your elbow with a pint of 1730 Pale Ale while admiring the wood-panelled interior and pewter-topped bar, before sidling out to the small terrace for a view of the Wapping shoreline. The menu is full of traditional trencherman stuff – think pies, roasts, fish and chips or sausage and mash.

Pubs
Corner Room

Corner Room

Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London, E2 9NF

Punters descend on the Town Hall Hotel's bijou and "very hip" Corner Room for two things: to have their picture taken against the now-famous 'light wall' (where a row of mismatched lamps hang artistically from the ceiling), and to try some of the most artfully assembled small plates in the East End. Head chef John Christie is experimental with his use of seasonal produce and the results are always surprising: in one instance, crispy rice and tapioca provide the textured counterpoint to smooth, iron-rich duck heart and salty shellfish mayo (a new twist on surf and turf perhaps). Similar themes are at work in the lamb's neck fillet with swede and mussel emulsion, while pork tenderloin with smoked apple and purple sprouting broccoli is reassuringly traditional and exceptionally well executed. Overall, it's "amazing value for money", especially the three-course lunch (£23).

£30 - £49
Modern European
Portobello Star

Portobello Star

171 Portobello Road, London, W11 2DY

It’s all change at this neighbourhood watering hole once synonymous with Portobello Road Gin No.171 (now made just north of here). The Star has been a Notting Hill fixture since 1740. Its new owners – also behind Soho’s Compton Cross – have stripped back the snug ground-floor lounge to appealing effect, courtesy of honey-colour washed brick, chocolate banquettes, and caramel-tone lighting. Head here for craft beers and competitively priced cocktails that rely on infusions bitters, syrups and liquors made in-house. Typical calls include a rosemary and cardamom-infused pink peppercorn Gin Sour and a Caribbean-style cousin of the Espresso Martini. Otherwise, choose classics such as a Brooklyn or Vieux Carré. DJs play at weekends and the upstairs ‘apartment’ (available for private hire) can squeeze in up to 30. Peckish? Given notice, The Star will lay on cheese or charcuterie platters, meatiness from Patty & Bun or pintxos from Pix. 

Bars
Copita

Copita

27 D'Arblay Street, London, W1F 8EN

Part of a wave of traditionally breezy Spanish eateries that turned the West End into a rather delicious barrio, Copita is as accomplished and popular as ever. The name translates as ‘little glass’, but with numerous sherries and affordable Spanish wines to sample, the ethos here is ‘little and often’. Such an offering cultivates a congenial mood as punters perch on wooden stools amid tile-clad walls and glowing candles. A daily changing list of tapas might include anything from crisp, gooey mushroom croquetas or pizza-style coca bread layered with soft roasted peppers and duck egg to scallops dolloped with cauliflower purée and chorizo. In similarly trendy vein, you might also find bao buns, playfully stuffed with silky Ibérico ham and spiced pepper sauce. To finish, nibble on a caramelised custard tart – paired with a copita of light Moscatel, naturally. Service is smiley and prices are fair, making this a welcome pit stop.

£30 - £49
Spanish
Petersham Nurseries Cafe

Petersham Nurseries Cafe

Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, London, London, TW10 7AB

Give yourself time for lunch at the Nurseries. In our opinion it’s a kooky, lovely place, though getting there isn’t easy – driving is discouraged, public transport is slow, and once there, service, though gracious, can be ditzy. It has been years since Skye Gyngell moved on, and the kitchen has never scaled the same heights since. Still, with many ingredients sourced from the beautiful walled garden of Petersham House and a River Café-esque team in the kitchen, you can expect up-to-the-minute seasonal cooking. 

 

Langoustine might be teamed with a colourful salad of dandelion, pistachio, fennel and nasturtiums, while ‘today’s game’ could appear with an autumnal assembly of horn of plenty, cavolo nero and polenta. Prices are high, yet this is a unique spot. If time or budget are important, try the tea room in the next-door glasshouse, which has great simple food at half the cost and without the wait.

£50 - £79
Modern European
St John Bread & Wine

St John Bread & Wine

94-96 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ

Proof that classic never goes out of fashion, this sparsely decorated canteen delivers "fantastic British food for adventurous eaters", according?to one reader. Whilst the acoustics might be poor, meaning you may need to shout to be heard, the more casual sibling of the mighty St John is still well worth experiencing for its "relaxed vibe", "impeccable service" and daily changing menu. Breakfast, cakes and pastries are always in demand here – one bite of the Old Spot bacon sandwich, chased by a sweet hit from one of the signature doughnuts, will explain why. But there's much more to explore on the full nose-to-tail line-up, from kohlrabi with brown shrimps and chervil via devilled kidneys or grilled mackerel with beetroot and horseradish to steamed lemon sponge or burnt vanilla cream. The sound but "pricey" all-French wine list kicks off with surprisingly good house selections by the glass.

£30 - £49
British
Chicken Shop Kentish Town

Chicken Shop Kentish Town

Ground floor, 53-79 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 1TL

Freeing fried chicken from its high-street chains, this small but growing operation is run by the hip folk at the Soho House Group. Branches have already sprouted in Tooting, Whitechapel, Holborn and Chicago (yes, the one in Illinois). Down in a woody, retro-styled basement beneath Pizza East (also part of Soho House), Chicken Shop focuses on just the one thing: spit-roasted free-range poultry – quarter, half or whole chickens – served hot, smoky or as they come. Add a few sides such as crinkle-cut fries or corn on the cob, squeeze in a lemon meringue pie at the end, and Bob’s your uncle. So, what’s the word on the bird? The chicken arrives tender and moist, with appropriately crispy skin: a winner. Heineken comes in a can, Camden Pale Ale and Moretti are on draught, and wine is served in jugs. There’s even a takeaway to eat in front of your TV.

Under £30
International
Nutshell

Nutshell

30 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4EJ

Serving up modern Iranian food in a modern, light-filled restaurant, Nutshell is a welcome respite from the chain restaurants of its Theatreland neighbourhood. Expect warm breads, saffron-spiced stews, rich dips and charred, smoky grilled meats.

£30 - £49
Persian
Middle Eastern
Pizza East Portobello

Pizza East Portobello

310 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TA

The Notting Hill incarnation of Pizza East's Shoreditch warehouse is a much more intimate affair than the original. A pseudo-industrial vibe still underpins proceedings, but floor-to-ceiling butchers' tiles, shabby-chic wood panelling and two roaring wood-fired ovens lend a more rustic feel to the place. The menu references California as well as Naples (Caesar salad, mac and cheese), although firm, chewy pizzas take star billing – the version with veal meatballs, prosciutto and cream is pure indulgence. Elsewhere, bone-marrow bruschetta is another decadent touch, while those after something lighter should consider monkfish with broad beans and tomatoes. The oven also delivers beef lasagne and slow-cooked pork belly with lentils, and those looking for a sweet hit should plump for the salted chocolate caramel tart. Reasonably priced wines come by the carafe, while service is friendly – if sometimes overrun.

£30 - £49
Italian
Lemonia

Lemonia

89 Regent's Park Road, London, NW1 8UY

Occupying its corner spot for more than 30 years, Lemonia must surely qualify for the ‘institution’ moniker by now. The place is run by Greek-Cypriots who do their best to offer a slice of Mediterranean sunshine, even when the weather isn’t playing ball. Cosy booths and hanging baskets help recreate the taverna feel inside, and when the sky is blue the terrace garden with its plentiful foliage comes into its own. The food consists of unreconstructed Hellenic staples – what you might hope for, really, and probably what most people would expect: tarama, hummus, grilled halloumi and suchlike to get going, but there’s octopus salad, too. Main courses have the same familiar ring: it’s like being on holiday on your favourite Greek island. Moussaka, stifado, grilled fish and hearty charcoal-flamed meats rarely disappoint, and Greek bottles star on the wine list. Want a set meal? The meze awaits.

£30 - £49
Greek
£50 - £79
Formans

Formans

Stour Road, Fish Island, London, E3 2NT

Fish Island, just off Bream Street, makes a fitting address for the restaurant at H Forman & Sons’ smokery – although the venue is still “not the easiest place to find”. Nevertheless, it’s worth tracking down this useful little spot in among the industrial estates and street art of Hackney Wick, as there’s no better place than its terrace for a close-up view of the Olympic Stadium. Come for dinner (Thursday to Saturday only) to sample the Forman family’s famous ‘London Cure’ smoked salmon: with blinis or in a salad of crab, apple and fennel, perhaps with a glass or two of English or French fizz from the “perfectly complementary wine list”. Follow with turbot, scallops and clams with chorizo froth, or beef fillet and truffled dauphinois (the kitchen’s dial is set to ‘rich’, you’ll note). At the weekend, Saturday brunch and Sunday lunch are relaxed affairs with a grown-up vibe.

£30 - £49
International
Hush Mayfair

Hush Mayfair

8 Lancashire Court, Mayfair, London, W1S 1EY

Tucked away in the heart of busy Mayfair, with a spacious outside terrace and a menu which isn’t eye wateringly-expensive, Hush is somewhat of a rare find. Once inside, leather banquette seating, a marble-topped bar and backlit displays remind you where you are, but the buzzy atmosphere remains warm and unpretentious. Friendly staff are happy to recommend picks from the lengthy menu, which includes adventurous dishes like the hearty confit duck shepherd’s pie, and an impressive cacio e pepe pasta, which is made in a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at the table. We’d also suggest making a beeline for the monkfish which successfully combines a fiery topping of grilled chorizo with the gentle, clean flavours of the fish and a helping of earthy white beans. Be sure to save room for the stand-out mars bar cheesecake, which is an intense, velvety dream. When the sun’s shining, make the most of Hush’s cobbled courtyard by enjoying a Peach Spritz and some deep fried, feta-stuffed olives, just be sure to book ahead for an outdoor table. Afternoon tea, a private dining room and a separate upstairs bar complete the picture.

 

£50 - £79
Afternoon tea
International
£50 - £79
Tayyabs

Tayyabs

83-89 Fieldgate Street, London, E1 1JU

Standing in line at venerable Tayyabs, it’s impossible not to wonder if it’s all worth it. But, once the queuing is over (factor in an hour), you’ll soon forget the hassle as the sound, smell and (finally) the taste of those sizzling hot tandoori lamb chops assails you. Since this “manic” family-run canteen started life on its east London backstreet in 1972, it’s been gussied-up just a little (the new bronze chairs and latticed screens actually look pretty smart), but it remains one of London’s favourite low-budget eateries, as popular with families and students as it is with rowdy City parties and mates on the town. Of course, you must have the lamp chops, but don’t overlook the biryani specials, “amazing” pumpkin curry and the better-than-it-sounds ‘dry meat’. Tayyabs is BYO, so choose something spice-friendly to go with your nosh. “Quick service” is exactly what’s required too.

Under £30
Indian
Halal
The Malt House

The Malt House

17 Vanston Place, London, SW6 1AY

This dressed-up SW6 gastropub with rooms originally dates back to 1729. By 1900 the pub was known as The Jolly Maltster and despite a major overhaul in 2013, many of the building’s standout Victorian features remain -think wood panelling, high ceilings and tasteful décor. Chef Oliver Tobias is behind the Bosi-approved menu, with classics such as steak, Guinness and mushroom pie or charcoal barbecued steaks alongside a list of seasonal specials. Sundays are a good excuse for a meaty feast of Duke of Buccleuch roast steak, pork belly or corn fed chicken breast, while sweet finishes include apricot and almond tart or white chocolate ice cream with biscotti. Berry Brothers & Rudd consult on the international wine list, there’s a range of craft lagers and cocktails and a snug, sheltered garden in which to enjoy them.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Camino Blackfriars (bar)

Camino Blackfriars (bar)

33 Blackfriars Lane, London, EC4V 6EP

The Camino group has followed the success of its hopping Spanish restaurants with a pair of specialist bars: the sherry-drenched Bar Pepito in King's Cross, and this cava-soaked bodega near Blackfriars. Drinkers are nudged towards a fine list of 'método tradicional' bubbles from Catalonia – including frisky rosés, aged Gran Reservas and tasting flights. But it's not just about the fizzy stuff: the magnums of Rioja and frozen mugs of draught Mahou lager are also in keeping with the vaulted cellar bar's traditional leanings. There's plenty of tapas to pick at as well – from boquerones and pata negra ham to salt cod ?and Idiazabal cheese buñuelos (dough balls). And for something at the heartier end, we would single out the mixed grill for two – a heaving plate of rib-eye steak, morcilla, presa ibérica and broken eggs.

Tapas
Bars
New Street Grill

New Street Grill

16a New Street, Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 4TR

“You’re treated so nicely and not rushed at all”, notes a fan of the New Street Grill – the “calm and cosy” flagship of D&D London's prestigious Old Bengal Warehouse development. Rich warm tones, soft lighting and comfy leather booths set the tone, with views over the street adding to the restaurant’s appeal. The kitchen prides itself on “great-value” Josper-grilled steaks, with knowledgeable waiters talking diners through the different cuts on offer: take your pick from, say, a 42-day dry-aged Hereford rib-eye or 40-day aged USDA Black Angus sirloin. While veggies might struggle, fish lovers have plenty of choice – dressed crab, grilled lobster and roast cod with Josper-smoked Jerusalem artichoke are all available. Seasonal desserts are also a hit – we recommend the poached pear and pecan sundae with butterscotch and cinnamon ice cream. Weekend brunch and a children’s menu get the thumbs-up, while the 500-strong wine list is sure to keep everyone happy.

£50 - £79
Steak
Burger and Lobster Mayfair

Burger and Lobster Mayfair

29 Clarges Street, London, London, W1J 7EF

Burger & Lobster definitely takes some beating. There’s a winning simplicity to its eponymous offering of hand-minced corn-fed Nebraskan beef and fresh lobster from Nova Scotian waters. The menu is short, but no worse for it – unless you’re vegetarian, of course. Take your pick from meaty burgers (with extra cheese and bacon), juicy steamed or char-grilled lobster, and buttery lobster rolls in toasted brioche with a lick of wasabi mayo – each served with fries and a salad at pocket-friendly rates. Drinks call for slightly more protracted decision-making, with a mixed bag of wines, beers, fizz and food-friendly cocktails to consider. No reservations; a short wait is the price you pay for affordable luxury.

Ibérica Canary Wharf

Ibérica Canary Wharf

12 Cabot Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5NY

Spanish powerhouse Ibérica has moved tapas on from a tick list of ordinary nibbles to specialities worth toasting with a glass of vintage cava. The group’s executive chef Nacho Manzano (winner of three Michelin stars) directs the kitchen, reprising his own signature dishes and putting them alongside some new-century tapas. Current Ibérica classics range from a gazpacho of red berries, beetroot and anchovy to spring onion tempura with lemon aïoli and soy, an oxtail ‘sandwich’ with potato cream, and near-legendary chorizo lollipops with pear aïoli, while the selection of cheeses, cured meats and preserved fish honours Spain’s centuries-old gastronomic traditions. Meanwhile, set menus and sharing dishes (including various paellas) provide another way in to the experience. Drinks cover the spectrum of Spanish booze from beer, cider and sangria to bespoke G&Ts, vermouths, countless sherries and sparklers by the glass.

£50 - £79
Tapas
Spanish
The Botanist Sloane Square

The Botanist Sloane Square

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. 

£50 - £79
Modern European
Anise

Anise

9 Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YL

Indian culinary star Vivek Singh's standalone cocktail lounge next door to Cinnamon Kitchen is a City hotspot, popular for office celebrations, first dates and after-work bashes. Its vision of spice-toned comfort is more modern-day Mumbai than Bollywood bling, but its tailor-made for indulging in Instagram-pretty east-meets-west cocktails with names like Emerald Elephant and Mystical Journey. If Rose Pink Sari and Lady Yang (a lychee and lavender-foamed vodka Martini available by the glass or pitcher) sound a touch too camp, the bartender will happily knock out a bourbon-based White Bullet or a hair-raising Chilli Black Mango (whisky, fireball, mango juice and spicy vanilla sugar topped with dried mango and a hint of black pepper). Reasonable prices extend to the roster of affordable 'bazaar street food' – think hot-and-sweet shrimp skewers, KFC (Kerala fried chicken) or grilled aubergine with sesame and peanut crumble

Bars
Royal China Queensway

Royal China Queensway

13 Queensway, Bayswater, London, W2 4QJ

Following a full refurbishment in 2011, West London's premier dim-sum haunt is back with a bang. A gold-leaf ceiling and glossy black panelling overlaid with hand-painted Chinese art give the large, windowless space an air of luxury, enhanced by an army of waiters who are keen to please. Queues can build for the aforementioned dim sum (served until 5pm), and the extensive menu features the likes of prawn dumplings with coriander, fried crispy spring rolls and joyous roast-pork buns. Those heading along in the evening can expect a procession of greatest hits from sesame prawn toasts to expertly handled Peking duck with pancakes, Cantonese honey-roasted pork, crispy shredded beef or whole steamed sea bass – all delivered with aplomb.

£30 - £49
Chinese
Dim Sum
Riding House Café

Riding House Café

43-51 Great Titchfield Street, London, London, W1W 7PQ

Crammed with Fitzrovia’s media movers and shakers from morn till night, Riding House Café is still a trendy favourite hereabouts. Red-leather seating, parquet floors and frilly lamps are redolent of a gussied-up New York diner, though stuffed squirrels and panelled walls add some English eccentricity to the bustling room’s roaring atmosphere. Service is smart and speedy, but the cooking can be up and down: our buffalo wings were parsimonious, and sea trout (overcooked) was lost among fat slabs of tomato drenched in potent pistou, but – on the plus side – crisp salt beef croquettes, roast guinea fowl on ratatouille and a decadent hot chocolate fudge sundae hit the spot. Classy brunches spanning buttermilk pancakes, chorizo hash and lobster Benedict pull the crowds, while a pristinely tiled bar awash with laptops seems more about work than pleasure. Perhaps lone diners aspire to the compact wine list’s ‘reserve’ section.

£30 - £49
International
St John

St John's Tavern

91 Junction Road, London, N19 5QU

The good folk at the strapping St John’s Tavern make no bones about their dedication to the food side of the operation – this is a pub of the gastro variety, with a retro finish, where the triumvirate of rustic tucker, cracking real ales and European wines keeps the punters happy. The Victorian-era space with its generous proportions is ideal for hosting both casual drinkers and full-on diners; shabby-chic decor confirms the everyman appeal. The kitchen’s repertoire, listed on blackboard menus, is grounded in British cooking, yet looks to the European mainland for further inspiration. Provenance is an evident watchword. Kick off with grilled herring with pickled tomato, or a classic fish soup, and then dive into English rose veal chop with wild mushrooms, or lemon sole with a Mediterranean spin. Puds have the same Brit/Euro mash-up, and Sunday lunch will warm your cockles – especially if you sit by the open fire.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Union Street Café

Union Street Café

47-51 Great Suffolk Street, Southwark, London, SE1 0BS

With Gordon Ramsay's name proudly displayed in bright blue neon on the wall outside, there's no mistaking who's behind this eatery on Union Street. Warehouse chic, exposed brick walls and concrete floors might still be all the rage in Ramsay land, but this place also comes with a warm, friendly vibe and "fabulous" service – "it's just lovely every time we go", says one fan. The menu brings the Mediterranean to Southwark in the shape of, say, warm buffalo mozzarella wrapped in speck or refreshingly light gazpacho with raspberries and strawberries. Pasta is made fresh each day (our tagliolini with marjoram and mussels was spot-on), while whole lemon sole with peperonata and datterini tomatoes shows some serious skills. To finish, any mamma would be proud of the baked peaches filled with chocolate and amaretti. Round things off in the basement cocktail bar and you'll leave content.

£30 - £49
Mediterranean
Bars
Italian
1776 at 1 Lombard Street

1776 at 1 Lombard Street

1 Lombard Street, City of London, London, EC3V 9AA

Almost shockingly elegant and calm after the buzz of the long-established Brasserie out front, 1776 is 1 Lombard Street’s fine-dining offer. A pale green room, dotted with dark-framed prints and chandeliers, provides the backdrop for decidedly high-end dishes with the option of some old-fashioned theatre; tartares of venison, Angus beef and tuna are all made tableside, and there’s a trolley for the statement roasts. As you might expect, prices are robust for luxe ideas such as red mullet with courgette tagliatelle and spiced brown shrimp beurre blanc, peppered fillet of fallow deer with crispy black cabbage, celeriac purée and cranberry sauce or herb-crusted rack of lamb with kale, oyster mushrooms and roasted figs. All of which makes the five-course set menu look very good value. On the wine side, seal that deal with something classy and French from the wine list: staff will provide discreet guidance, should you need it.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Dishoom Shoreditch

Dishoom Shoreditch

7 Boundary Street, London, E2 7JE

"Completely incredible food and service"; "reminds me of Mumbai"; "one of my favourite pop-in places" – readers simply can't get enough of Dishoom and its "wonder colonial decor". Whether it's a breakfast of bacon naans and chilli jam (with bottomless chai tea during the week) or dinner with "creative" Asian-themed cocktails such as the Bollybellini, this branch of the four-strong group delivers in spades. We're hooked on the keema pau (minced spiced lamb in a buttered bun) and the signature black dhal, but other items are well worth a punt – including the mahi (fish) tikka, the fried batura bread with chickpeas or the famous chicken berry Britannia (a biryani riff with cranberries), with kulfi on a stick to finish. The only problem is getting a table in the first place: bookings are only taken for groups of six or more, otherwise you need to queue. Even so, this is a "must-visit".

£30 - £49
Indian
Jerusalem Tavern

Jerusalem Tavern

55 Britton Street, London, EC1M 5UQ

By rights, The Jerusalem Tavern should be full to bursting with camera-wielding American tourists, but this higgledy-piggledy historic pub remains proudly off the beaten track. The tourists’ loss is the local workforce’s gain; this is a boozer to be proud of. Admittedly, its olde-worlde credentials are a little deceptive: there’s been a pub by that name in the area since medieval times, but they’ve only been pulling pints in this 18th-century building since the 1990s. Suffolk brewery St Peter’s runs the show with a keen eye on quality control – their own beers (six at a time on the taps) are as fresh and well kept as you would expect. Prices are favourable, so enjoy the likes of honey porter, IPA or English lager with upper-crust pub grub including Scotch eggs and sourdough doorstep sandwiches.

Pubs
£50 - £79
Cigalon

Cigalon

115 Chancery Lane, Blackfriars, London, WC2A 1PP

With its olive trees, ivy-clad trellises and airy glass-roofed dining room, Cigalon transports diners to sunny southern France – you’ll even hear a soundtrack of chirping cicadas in the background. Local legal eagles and regulars from the nearby French Chamber of Commerce choose from a first-rate regional menu that includes Provençal specialities such as pissaladière Niçoise alongside Corsican charcuterie and cheeses, plus excellent seasonal dishes ranging from red-mullet carpaccio topped with shavings of poutargue (pungent smoked mullet roe) to rustic lamb shoulder with artichokes and trompette mushrooms. Pretty desserts might include nectarine poached in rosé wine with lemon verbena and blackcurrant sorbet, while the drinks list is stuffed with rare regional tipples. Cigalon does most of its business at lunchtime, thanks to wallet-friendly set menus and an express ‘plat du jour’ (£12 for two courses), although service ‘could improve’.

£30 - £49
French
El Camion

El Camion

25-27 Brewer Street, London, London, W1F 0RR

Punters out late can live la vida loca at this dippy cocktail pit attached to El Camion’s Mexican grill. Choose from more than 300 class-act Tequilas, served with homemade sangrita (salt and lime is for Philistines), plus a savvy selection of mighty mescals. The Pink Chihuahua’s margaritas and daiquiris have plenty of bite – hardly surprising, given that the head honcho here is Dick Bradsell, the man who masterminded London’s ascent to cocktail capital of the world with help from protégés such as Tony Conigliaro. If Tequila isn’t to your taste, try fruity cachaça-based batidas or any off-menu fix you fancy – not forgetting bottles of cerveza served Mexican-style with spices. The low-rent decor is nothing to write home about, but when the DJ cranks up the party after midnight, this kooky kennel is top dog.

£30 - £49
Mexican
Baltic

Baltic

74 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8HA

Tardis-like, Baltic’s narrow frontage on noisy Blackfriars Road is a misleading introduction to what lies within. Step inside and you’ll discover an 18th-century coach-builder’s workshop that has been hollowed out and dressed in white –a barn-sized yet utterly elegant space with soaring ceilings, skylights and concrete floors. The dining room is reached through the bar, where inviting cocktails and icy vodkas may encourage you to linger. The menu roams across the Baltic and beyond, jumping borders and delivering a hotchpotch of culinary refugees from pierogi and pelmeni dumplings, spätzle and blinis with various toppings to gutsy winter-warming plates of pork shank with sauerkraut or lighter options such as red snapper in walnut and pomegranate sauce. There’s a generous list of Old World wines, jazz on Sunday evenings and a good-value set menu at £19.50.

£30 - £49
Eastern European
£30 - £49
Pizza East Shoreditch

Pizza East Shoreditch

56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

Always jam-packed, the brilliant Shoreditch branch of the Pizza East mini chain continues to deliver the goods. Funky, ‘attentive’ staff whizz round the outsized, wood-heavy dining room, delivering fine pizzas with full-flavoured toppings such as San Daniele ham with mozzarella, porcini and pecorino or guanciale (pork cheek) with burrata and cipollini onions, while pizza-phobes can seek solace in big boards of charcuterie, osso bucco or sea bass with borlotti beans and peppers. Starters are a step up from your typical pizza joint, too, whether it’s a plate of fritto misto or a bowl of chicken livers on polenta with a spicy calabrese sauce. The Italian-leaning wine list does the job, with plenty of choice under £30. Afterwards, head downstairs to the aptly named Concrete bar for thumping beats – and even a spot of ‘musical bingo’.

£30 - £49
Pizza
Italian
Oblix at The Shard (bar)

Oblix at The Shard (bar)

Level 32, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY

Reached down a dark corridor that feels like the entrance to a Zen spa, Rainer Becker’s slick, corporate restaurant in The Shard comes with an accompanying penthouse-chic lounge bar. The views “make you feel like a giant over teenie weenie London”, but almost as dazzling are the drinks, served with a side of live music: rat pack standards, urban loft loungecore, and swinging jazz, played throughout weekend brunch and each evening from 7pm. There’s a small no-bookings area, but it’s wise to reserve a table for the best views. Reformulated cocktails (£12.50) are simply named after their primary flavours, thus ‘Grapefruit’ brings Ketel One vodka, camomile, egg whites and soda to the mix. Alternatively, sip floral-fragranced Tanqueray Ten gin and Champagne sparklers (£14.50). Signature bar dishes include seared beef in lime, chilli and ginger; and grilled aubergine in yoghurt with mint and pomegranate – at predictably sky-high prices.

Bars
The Victoria - Sheen

The Victoria - Sheen

10 West Temple Sheen, Richmond, London, SW14 7RT

With a popular primary school behind and some of Richmond’s largest houses around the corner, The Victoria has its market on its doorstep. From breakfast to supper time, the place hums with activity, though is seldom overstretched. Celeb chef Paul Merrett’s menu ticks all the right boxes – properly poached eggs and decent coffee to start the day, moving on to appealing bar nibbles and snacks (almonds, king prawns a la plancha, chorizo) or a full-on menu. Merrett’s cooking has always been a draw, and with the likes of pan-fried sea trout on mussel and celeriac chowder, high-quality steaks with proper béarnaise sauce, and a Sunday slow-roast pork with apple sauce, he’s keeping everyone happy. The large enclosed playground allows children to let off steam at the weekend while their frazzled parents pore gratefully over the wine list or sample one of the cask ales from a choice line-up.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
York & Albany

York & Albany

127-129 Parkway, Regent's Park, London, NW1 7PS

John Nash (1752-1835) knocked up a few glam structures hereabouts, and this is one of them. Handsome is the word. Gordon Ramsay (1966- ) turned the old townhouse into a boutique hotel and it remains a useful address in NW1. The venue has much going for it: the one-time stables out back is the place to head for a well-crafted wood-fired pizza; there’s a zinc-topped bar for a smart cocktail or upmarket bar snack (spiced chicken wings with blue cheese dressing), and a restaurant decked out in underwhelming contemporary neutrality. Duck hearts on toast or pickled mackerel with beetroot purée are first courses showing fashionable rusticity, to be followed by the likes of loin of English lamb with a North African spin, or roasted fillets of plaice with sea purslane and fennel cream. We also like the wine list: of global reach and with plenty of choice by the glass or carafe.

£50 - £79
British
Aqua Shard (bar)

Aqua Shard (bar)

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

At the risk of upsetting the neighbours, if you only do one bar at The Shard, make it Aqua. For panoramic views, this high-level atrium lounge – three storeys high – beats the bar at Oblix. It’s slicker and sexier than Gong and is a hotter date than Hutong, above. The interior is decked out like a Manhattan-style loft; if you can discern the menu in the gloaming, try one of the gin- or tea-inspired cocktails. Start pleasantly with Devonshire Cream Cup (gin, Aperol, crème de fraise, lemon curd, tarragon balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, topped with Earl Grey ‘air’) before descending into wickedness with the Four Stages of Cruelty (Tanqueray 10 gin, Sauvignon Blanc, elderflower and Curious Brew beer). The bar is open throughout the day, so you can choose how to take your vista: with bright sunshine or with a myriad twinkling night-time lights.

Bars
HIX Soho

HIX Soho

66-70 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 9UP

For grown-up class with a hefty dollop of style and heritage, this Mark Hix outpost still cuts it. High ceilings and modern art from Hix’s YBA mates create a "perfect combination of cool and down-to-earth" that ensures a packed house throughout the week. Meanwhile, the patriotic menu keeps it seasonal and regional: start with snacks of snap-apart crackling dipped in apple sauce, and moreish cockle popcorn, before moving on to starters such as crispy Lyme Bay squid pepped up with spicy mayonnaise or a tangy helping of prawn cocktail.

 

To follow, there is a concise selection of stellar steaks or opt for the likes of lusciously fatty pork belly with a pea salad, or a prawn burger with fiery Scotch bonnet tartar sauce. Sweet-toothed diners will fall for the ‘credit crunch’ vanilla ice cream, which comes topped with chunks of honeycomb and lashings of warm chocolate sauce, while service has improved of late. Post-meal, a tipple or two in Mark’s Bar downstairs is a must. 

 

Try an extremely smooth ‘Mischief’ G&T, a collaboration between Hix and Salcombe Gin to commemorate 10 years of Hix restaurants.

£50 - £79
British
Quirinale

Quirinale

1 Great Peter Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3LL

Elegant Quirinale has all the trappings that suited-and-booted Westminster lobbyists and government flunkies appreciate: quiet, discreet service, a “traditional” Italian menu that aims to please without taking centre stage, and a kitchen that always delivers. The comfortable basement dining room has a buzzy feel at lunchtime with light flooding in through a huge skylight, while night-time sees a more relaxed, unhurried atmosphere as the lights are dimmed. The menu is blessedly short, but full of well-presented classics notable for their “excellent flavours”: start with beef carpaccio or smoked tuna with citrus and fennel, before tackling spaghetti with clams and bottarga, veal cutlet Milanese or cod fillet with tomatoes, capers and olives. For dessert, perhaps plump for tiramisu or a chocolate brownie. Champagne and port are essential additions to the otherwise Italian wine list, and a helpful sommelier is on hand to guide customers through its byways.

£50 - £79
Italian
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar

33-35 St Martin's Court, London, WC2N 4AL

A rebranding of what could be considered as London’s most famous fish restaurant has moved the focus from slippery bivalves to lots of other fish in the sea – the summer menu (enhanced by whimsical illustrations by the irrepressible Quentin Blake) has a special lobster section which includes an unmissable lobster and shrimp burger with tomato and horseradish sauce, but our order will include the lobster and shiso tempura served with chilli jam. Sit in the bar of the iconic actor’s restaurant or nab a table outside if they’ll let you – the all weather terrace allows for protection against the elements. Kick off with a Pimms or an Aperol spritz before a carafe of rose – but if you’ve something to celebrate, make yourself comfortable around their champagnes.

£30 - £49
Fish
Bar 45

Bar 45

45 Park Lane, London, W1K 1PN

All streamlined, spice-toned leathery luxe, the mezzanine at Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse is more filet mignon than beef skirt – as are its prices. Prepare to say ‘sayonara’ to close on £20 for a forbidden kiss (think liquidised Turkish delight and gin) or peace on earth – the sort of coconut rum punch you’d normally serve at your Bequia villa. Presentation is suitably recherché and unflappable staff have that five-star knack of anticipating precisely when to materialise before discreetly melting away again. Wines include a top-dollar selection of American labels, while snacks are listed as ‘rough’ cuts – although that means film-première goodies including tuna tartare cones (£21), crab and lobster rolls, mini Wagyu sliders and suchlike. Ultimately, Bar 45 feels like a set for an ad campaign for Hermès, the sort of label that passes as everyday mufti to its gilded clientele.

Bars
Noura Belgravia

Noura Belgravia

16 Hobart Place, London, SW1W 0HH

Dreamt up by two brothers who found fame in Paris during the 80s, the Noura chain has several outlets in the capital, including this impressive flagship in Belgravia– a two-tiered eatery comprising a casual brasserie and a more classy restaurant. The massive menu is built for sharing and covers all bases from hot and cold mezze to intensely succulent slabs of roasted or grilled meat (the mixed shawarma offers a bit of everything) and some terrific veggie choices ranging from meatless moussaka to bamieh (okra cooked with tomato and coriander). For afters, Lebanese-inspired ice creams, baklava or aish el saraya (a richly caramelised bread pudding with clotted cream) should fit the bill. A wallet-friendly lunch menu (£22.50) feeds the business crowd, while black-tied service keeps things slick and professional.

£30 - £49
Lebanese
Halal
The Narrow

The Narrow

44 Narrow Street, London, E14 8DP

At the last count, Gordon Ramsay had 14 restaurants in London and an even more fluid number overseas, so you're probably unlikely to meet him nursing a pint in this one-time watering hole by the Thames. In fact, you're unlikely to find anyone at the bar these days, which has dwindled while the dining side of things continues to expand. The menu here is hardly pushing any gastronomic boundaries, but so long as dishes such as scallops with rosemary mash and crisp pancetta are competently made, no-one's complaining. Vegetarians always have interesting options (perhaps orecchiette with roasted ceps, squash and pecorino), while the carefully considered wine list offers a wide range of styles, as you would expect from Ramsay. It's not going to win him any more Michelin stars, but if you're eating out in Limehouse, narrow your choice down to this one.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Caravaggio

Caravaggio

107-112 Leadenhall Street, London, London, EC3A 4DP

For two decades Caravaggio has been a favourite with Leadenhall locals, not least on account of its grandiose, art deco-style setting, much appreciated by readers as an “exceptional” place for discussing the day’s affairs. It’s a very well-proportioned room, with its own sense of drama provided by big windows, a flamboyant central staircase – leading to a mezzanine floor – and a stylish marble bar. On the culinary front Caravaggio’s “good-sized” dishes chime with the sort of up-to-date offerings served in trendier surrounds across town. Start with Jerusalem artichoke soup, al dente asparagus with quail’s egg and hollandaise, or octopus carpaccio and you’ll get the measure of a kitchen that challenges the stereotypes of the City Italian. To follow, there’s a comforting saffron risotto with asparagus, grilled calf’s liver with luganica sausage, or nicely sauced caramelised breast of Gressingham duck with celeriac mash. Desserts include Amalfi lemon tart with soft meringue, and a glass of Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos ’08 – a bargain at under a fiver. There’s further value in a set menu for under £20.

£30 - £49
Italian
£30 - £49
OXO Tower Bar

OXO Tower Bar

Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9PH

What’s not to love about the OXO Tower Bar at Harvey Nichols’ towering success on the river? Here you’ll find plausible cocktails, beef kimchi sliders, vegetable dim sum with ponzu, and grilled squid with a chilli rouille (£8.50). But the clincher is the postcard-perfect panorama of tourist London (including St Paul’s), seen across the water from the eighth-floor vantage point. Tables can be booked, with seating on curvaceous cream armchairs, but some places are saved for walk-ins until capacity is reached. The drawbacks? Well, 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends are ridiculously early closing times. We want to enjoy cherry Manhattans like they do in Manhattan, at an hour when others are fast asleep; and to have the option of ordering Dusk ’til Dawn (Ilegal mezcal, Cocchi, Punt e Mes vermouth and Lagavulin 16 whisky) from dusk to dawn.

Bars
The Westbourne

The Westbourne

101 Westbourne Park Villas, London, W2 5ED

During the afternoon lull, this Victorian boozer looks like your standard gastropub – all stripped wood, leather sofas and chalkboards. Yet hang around until early evening and the place transforms, as hordes of young media types flock to their drinking venue of choice. While the standing-room-only vibe is much of the appeal (especially when the weather's good enough to mingle out front), the kitchen also does a solid turn in Mediterranean-influenced Brit grub – perhaps Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle oil followed by grilled sea bream with roast fennel and tapenade or onglet steak with chips and béarnaise sauce. For afters, sticky toffee pudding vies with ‘pressed' chocolate cake. International bottled beers go down well with the locals and daily wines are chalked up on the board, with a handful available by the glass for under a fiver.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Shochu Lounge at Roka Charlotte Street

Shochu Lounge at Roka Charlotte Street

37 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR

More than a warm-up act for the excellent Roka restaurant upstairs, Shochu Lounge is a destination in its own right – a snazzy and ‘sexy' subterranean space dedicated to the eponymous Japanese spirit (similar to vodka, but usually weaker). Take a perch at the rough-hewn wooden counter and ponder the intricacies of the beverage – different flavours and varieties can be savoured on their own, over ice (carved from a huge block at the bar) or in various cocktails: try a Noshino martini (shochu, saké and cucumber) or the vertigo (Tequila, vanilla shochu and pineapple juice). The good news is that bar food comes straight from Roka's kitchen (think sushi, sashimi, tuna tataki or spinach leaves with sesame dressing); the bad news is that staff can occasionally be too snotty for their own good.

Japanese
Bars
The Punchbowl London

The Punchbowl London

41 Farm Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5RP

This gorgeous old wood-panelled boozer has seen plenty of Mayfair life over three centuries, including a spell under the ownership of Guy Richie, who drank here with his celeb chums. The former Mr Madonna sold up in 2013, but new owners have kept the real ales and essential pubbiness of the bar, and the pretty first-floor dining room retains its gold-painted ceiling and jovial yet more formal atmosphere. Smart staff move deftly between tables, distributing refined British gastro fare such as ale-battered catch of the day, minted peas and chunky hand cut chips. Main-course Norfolk chicken breast is pepped up with forest mushrooms, celeriac, roasted garlic and a truffled tarragon sauce, while generous portions of English ricotta and spinach ravioli receive a textural boost from courgette ribbons, lemon thyme and caper brown nut butter. Rolo chocolate and blood orange fondant with honeycomb ice cream and a handful of sugared almonds makes for a delightful ending, helped by a global wine list that is pitched at regular pub quaffers as well as local Mayfair millionaires.

£30 - £49
Vegetarian
Vegan
Steak
Burgers
Gastropub
Fish and Chips
Bistro
Arabica Bar & Kitchen

Arabica Bar & Kitchen

3 Rochester Walk, Borough Market, London, SE1 9AF

Deep in Borough Market, this restaurant spin-off from Arabica's popular food and spice stall has made quite an impression on readers, who love the "sheer breadth of tastes" on a menu that stretches "from Athens via Yerevan and Old Jaff to Cairo". The whole place may shake as trains rattle overhead, but its dramatic location beneath a railway arch (plus blaring music) adds to the fun-loving, "strangely comforting" vibe. Hits from the vast Middle Eastern/international menu have included big, crunchy lamb kibbeh, "superbly done" lahmacun (Armenian pizza), authentic tarama and slices of raw yellowfin tuna in a spiky dressing of citrus, chilli and rose water – although we're also fans of the knafeh (warm Levantine cheese pastry topped with orange-blossom honey and crushed pistachios). The cost of numerous small plates can soon add up, but punters are rarely disappointed.

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
Lebanese
Pizza Pilgrims Soho

Pizza Pilgrims Soho

11 Dean Street, London, W1D 3RP

"One of London's best pizzas!" trumpets one ardent fan, and we're inclined to agree with his verdict. Occupying a prime corner spot, Pizza Pilgrims started out as brothers Thom and James Elliot in a van on a pilgrimage across Italy to find a pizza worth worshipping. The pair clearly succeeded in their mission because their covetable and crisp Neapolitan sourdough pizzas belie the capabilities of a cramped open kitchen. "Excellent authentic ingredients" go into toppings such as portobello mushroom and truffle or margherita and n'duja, with back-up from sides of smoky tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella or piquant marinated artichoke hearts with prosciutto. Lemon sorbet or gelato from nearby Gelupo are spot on for dessert, while the drinks range from Italian and British craft beers to cocktails in tumblers, plus the specially created lemon Pococello. "Brilliant value for money" too.

£30 - £49
Pizza
Italian
Barcelona Tapas Bar y Restaurante - Middlesex Street

Barcelona Tapas Bar y Restaurante - Middlesex Street

1 Middlesex Street, Whitechapel, London, EC3A 7DT

EC3 may be all suits and briefcases, but this branch of Barcelona Tapas is a far cry from minimalist, corporate style. Summoning up the spirit of Las Ramblas, the space is decked out with gaudy mosaics and colourful tiles, while a flamenco soundtrack strums away in the background. The long tapas menu covers all bases, moving from charcuterie and cheeses via ‘los classicos’ small plates and the odd modern riff to more substantial items for sharing. Albondigas (meatballs), patatas bravas and crispy deep-fried baby squid with salsa romesco keep it familiar, while generous helpings of morcilla de Burgos with roasted peppers, skewers of spice-infused lamb or pans of paella are perfect for large groups. A fistful of desserts includes the usual crema catalana and Santiago tart, while the vast drinks list encompasses sangria, Spanish-style G&Ts and regional wines. Takeaways and local deliveries too.

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish
Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black

17-18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB

After years of enduring the dreaded 'veggie option', vegetarians should be giddy with excitement when faced with the remarkable creativity on show at Vanilla Black. There's not a pasta bake or soupy bean stew in sight. Instead, diners are treated to imaginative combinations such as a multi-layered dish of cornmeal, beetroot and horseradish with aged garlic oil, artichokes in hay, parsley root and hazelnut milk or dried-yeast ice cream with red pepper and almond milk purée, cured yellow pepper and avocado brioche – proof positive that experimental technique isn't the preserve of carnivore establishments. Some say Vanilla Black's unapologetically complex food has "a high opinion of itself", and the bill will certainly come as a shock to those who equate vegetarian fare with cheap prices – though the set lunch (£19.50 for two courses) will impress both bean counters and bean eaters.

£30 - £49
Vegetarian
Kanaloa

Kanaloa

18 Wine Office Court, Hill House, Shoe Lane, London, EC4A 3BQ

Throw a lei garland round your neck, slurp a cocktail out of a pineapple and turn a bad day at the office into a night on the town. There’s nowhere quite like Kanaloa (apart from A-list sibling Mahiki in Mayfair, of course). This City take on the tiki bar unashamedly touts the cheesiest of ‘guilty pleasures’ including limbo competitions, happy hours and party anthems, while delivering on its promise of a grass-skirted, bamboo-lined Polynesian paradise complete with carved totem poles. Meanwhile, revellers get into the spirit over ‘exotics’ and ‘sharers’ with ominous names such as Missionary’s Downfall, Krakatoa! or Dead Man’s Chest. There are snacks for sharing too (think seared beef sashimi, spicy nachos, baby back ribs and crispy duck platters), while a hard-to-resist burger does the job after a Kanaloa Kula or two. “Heavily themed, but good fun” is the verdict.

Bars
The Havelock Tavern

The Havelock Tavern

57 Masbro Road, London, W14 0LS

With its shimmering blue-tiled frontage and brickwork that matches the surrounding housing, The Havelock Tavern recalls the golden age of British pubs. Times have changed, but the good folk here in Masbro Road have the best of both worlds – a proper pub and somewhere to eat first-rate grub with a modern rustic spin. The interior is opened up and suitably bare (with rough wooden tables and mismatched chairs); the bar is stocked with beers from the likes of Battersea’s Sambrook’s Brewery and Truman’s of east London. Everything, from the bread to the ice cream, is made in-house and the menu crosses international borders with impunity: mussels infused with South-East Asian flavours, Greek lamb rump, and roasted fillet of cod dished up with a white bean and smoked bacon casserole. Then it’s back home for treacle tart with double cream. Outside, the patio garden is a fair-weather friend: another asset of this gem of a pub.


£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Jugged Hare

The Jugged Hare

49 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SA

“Fantastic place, really different, but not for the faint-hearted (unless you’re a complete carnivore)”, says a fan of The Jugged Hare – a well-polished gastropub from the ETM group, who also run the nearby Chiswell Street Dining Rooms. With its stag’s heads on the bare brick walls and strung-up rabbits by the toilets, it’s an unabashed celebration of huntin’, fishin’ and shootin’, with “top-quality game” as a standout feature of the seasonal menu: grouse, wild duck and venison shank (with crushed turnip cake and Cumberland sauce) all have their moment, but don’t miss the titular jugged hare – an extremely rich concoction served with heaps of creamy mash, cabbage and bacon. Starters of Brixham scallops, black pudding and cauliflower are filling and well-seasoned, while puds include sweet banoffee pie with salted caramel drizzle. Portions are huge, wines are carefully paired to each dish, staff are “faultless” and the whole place “delivers every time”.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Cow - Westbourne Park Road

The Cow - Westbourne Park Road

89 Westbourne Park Road, London, W2 5QH

In 2015, Tom Conran celebrated 20 years at The Cow by giving the place a makeover – well, the upstairs dining rooms at least. The ground-floor pub and terrace remain pleasantly scruffy, while the restaurant has been enlarged and smartened up with red leather banquettes, a matching colourful floor and quirky modern art. Thankfully there’s been no consequent hike in prices and the menu remains reassuringly unaltered wherever you eat: pâté with piccalilli, fresh soups, sausages and mash and so on. Shellfish and crustacea are the perennial stars (don’t miss the oysters and dressed crab), while daily specials ring the changes – from a trendy plate of smoked trout with fennel, samphire, orange and tarragon salad to stonking rib of beef with perky green peppercorn butter. You can order ales and Guinness in the pub, and there’s a refined wine list to choose from too.
£30 - £49
Gastropub
£50 - £79
Andrew Edmunds

Andrew Edmunds

46 Lexington Street, London, W1F 0LP

With a low-key, all-black frontage setting the tone, this Soho evergreen isn’t about to flaunt its near-legendary “romantic” charms. Space is at a premium here, but once you find a candlelit table, settle in for starters of plump confit pork cheeks with almond, peach and fennel or perhaps a delicate lobster bisque. The eclectic handwritten menu changes daily and “good value” mains keep things simple via a chunky Old Spot pork chop or fillet of stone bass with pine nuts, while puds might bring textbook pavlova or fresh figs drizzled with labneh, honey and walnuts. Personable, expert staff help to ease the digestion, while expertise and reliability characterise the superb selection of Old World wines – in fact the whole outfit is a friendly celebration of old-school restaurant values. The dimly lit, split-level premises may eschew anything remotely grandiose with its shabby, dated furnishings, but Andrew Edmunds delivers comfort and character in spades.

£30 - £49
Modern European
£30 - £49
Zander

Zander

45 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6BS

One of the longest bars you’re likely to encounter, Zander attracts swarms of thirsty commuters, hotel guests and visitors to the adjoining Bank restaurant with its mix of stainless steel, futuristic padded purple sofas, subdued lighting and comfy little nooks – perfect for a business tête-à-tête or sly assignation. Sit at the bar, admire the rows of spirits, and enjoy premier treatment from courteous staff. Martinis, Mai Tais, Mojitos, Daiquiris and other classic cocktails are designed for sharp-suited guys and high-heeled girls, as are newer riffs such as Kim Sha (Finlandia vodka, puréed white peach, raspberries, passion fruit, peach and pomegranate). You can also pick from a line-up of malt whiskies, draught beers and wines (a modest selection) to go with top-notch bar nibbles including Asian sharing platters, mezze, salads and burgers.

Bars