1 Billing Road, London, SW10 9UJ
Posho soldier-turned-troubadour James Blunt may be anathema to some, but he’s a hit with the Chelsea set, having rescued one of the area’s prettiest Victorian pubs. The Fox & Pheasant is set in The Billings, an enclave of postcard-pretty cottages at Stamford Bridge. Blunt has, sensibly, sparingly updated the 1930s utilitarian interior and built a smart new rear-courtyard dining room with retractable roof. Rock up here for a boozy weekend brunch or Sunday roast, or dine on modern English pub food starting with the likes of chicken liver parfait or spiced cauliflower salad with buckwheat and pomegranate. The menu continues with mains of cod-cheek scampi, or lamb and rosemary pie with mash and red cabbage, followed by classic sticky desserts. In the bijou saloon bar, sample Magic Rock gluten-free IPA among the draughts; sip Amaretto Sour, Negroni or Passion Fruit Martini; and snack on truffle, mushroom and Brie on toast.
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56 Upper Street, London, N1 0NY
Seminal 1990s Soho ‘style bar’, Alphabet, closed five years ago – but has now resurfaced in Islington, inhabiting airy, roomy premises that provide a fitting reprise of the original’s laid-back New York loft vibe.
The venue has already become an N1 magnet for A1 cocktails, courtesy of drinks consultants Salts of the Earth, owners of Brixton’s much-lauded Shrub & Shutter. We like the cheeky riffs on popular rinses – Mint Choc Chip Mojito, say, or Panettone Negroni – and love the sexy Smoke Signal (BBQ-smoked bourbon and roasted pineapple-infused gin, topped with air-dried ham).
The keenly priced cooking also has fans: southern Med-style food such as tagines, kebabs, loaded flatbreads, wraps and dips. Served tapas-style, Alphabet’s moist confit duck pastilla with tzatziki, and tender grilled squid with Levantine spices are ‘F’ for fine. The likes of fluffy, fresh tabouleh would be ‘A’ for ace, but for seasoning that needed more ‘O’ for oomph.
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Albany Street, Regents Park, NW1 3UP
This hotel-based London outpost of the internationally acclaimed Dry Martini bar group is dazzlingly decked out with a rather random mix of jewel-coloured sofas, patterns and neon, offset by chequered floors and eclectic modern art. You may need a drink to deal with the decor, but you’ve come to the right place as the list comes courtesy of world-class mixologist Javier de las Muelas. The signature dry Martinis are generously served and made to order (choose from an impressive collection of 101 gins), but more original creations are also well worth a punt. Try the spicy Moonwalk (Glenlivet 12-year-old, pineapple, lemon, fig syrup and hot chilli pepper droplets) or the sage- and rosemary-infused Spanish 43 made with 43 Liquor and topped with Freixenet Cordon Negro cava. To eat, Dry Martini serves tapas (of course), and you can also come here for a Mar-Tea-Ni afternoon tea.
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Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY
Its awkward seating arrangements may not be London's most accommodating, but bum deals are rare when it comes to head honcho Richard Woods’ singularly experimental creations at Duck & Waffle. Obscure ingredients boldly go where no mixologist has gone before: charred dandelion-root 'expresso', burnt toast, 'damp gin,' asparagus ends and cut grass are not for the timid. But if you duck the venue’s over-zealous waffle ('urban foraging vs urban decay'), you'll be amply rewarded. The likes of Pine Needle Lemonade, Avocado Aperitivo (Patrón Reposado, chocolate, toasted walnut, avocado skin infusion) and Hay! (Jack Daniel's, maple, salted caramel and hay infusion) just about justify their vertiginous cost at this hotspot’s perch atop Heron Tower. To eat, nibble on BBQ spiced pig’s ears, bacon-wrapped dates or crispy polenta with Parmesan and truffle. Just add some truly astounding City views and you’ll gather this is no lame duck.
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The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1W 0JW
A quintessentially British restaurant for a top-class family-owned British hotel, the Goring Dining Room is a real experience. Decked out in cream and gold, it manages to stay the right side of pompous thanks to whimsical cherry-tree chandeliers and keen-as-mustard service – a mood of “unrushed efficiency” prevails. Grilled Dover sole and beef Wellington are still there for the old guard, but elsewhere more on-trend dishes delight such as confit egg yolk with chicken wings and prosciutto (“a winner”), and delicate, cured sea trout tartare with myriad specialist tomatoes and seaweed vinaigrette. Roast chicken with truffled potato salad has also “pleased greatly” and we’ve been blown away by the perfectly timed cod with razor clams and shrimps. As you might expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen, it’s all very sophisticated and pretty, although “flavours and textures are a highlight”. The “incredible” cheese trolley gets rave reviews, and the wine list has everything you would expect of such a grand establishment.
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92-94 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA
There aren’t many Grade II-listed dining rooms in London, but this is one of them, with wooden booths and black-and-white tiled floors recalling its relatively humble Victorian origins. Of course, The Quality Chop House is now a thoroughly modern enterprise, with a second dining room, private facilities and an adjoining butcher’s/food store. The daily menu displays a touch of wanderlust – just like our Victorian forebears – so expect Gloucester Old Spot pork chops with rémoulade, or red mullet partnered by Tokyo turnip and bagna cauda. Mackerel crudo with crème fraîche and chickweed makes a feisty little starter, while desserts such as pear and apple crumble are just the sort of thing you’d hope to see on the menu. Service is perfectly paced thanks to staff who are “enthusiastic and knowledgeable”. The wine list is updated monthly (co-owner Will Lander is Jancis Robinson’s son, so no pressure), and it’s a “damn fine piece of work”.
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116 Petherton Road, London, N5 2RT
A converted 1930s garage in residential Stoke Newington provides the unlikely setting for this French-inspired neighbourhood favourite. Large concertina doors open on to the street in summer, encouraging punters to venture outside. Inside, all is dimly lit, cosy utilitarianism, with a large communal table and benches running alongside the open kitchen. Top-quality, seasonal ingredients are used to simple, stunning effect. A handful of daily dishes are written on the blackboard: perhaps a fresh, zesty plateful of squid, lemon, capers and parsley, or clams in a rich wine, garlic and parsley sauce – perfect for mopping up with sourdough. To follow, rare yet tender grouse with stuffing and a creamy bread sauce might provide a late-summer treat. All entries on the ever-changing wine list (also chalked up) are available by the glass. Nearby competition is sparse, so Primeur is frequently packed: it looks primed for success.
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The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, London, SW1X 7RL
A new conservatory has doubled the footprint at the luxuriously inviting Blue Bar, seamlessly marrying Richard Rogers’ glass pavilion (shades of a VIP airport lounge) to the David Collins-designed snug (a flatteringly lit, seductive salon complete with periwinkle-blue panels by Edwin Lutyens). Bar manager Rashid Ghuloom (ex-Berners Tavern) has produced a lavish drinks list that is colour-coded according to style and strength. Light, refreshing and low in alcohol, La Limonata adds sparkling lemongrass mineral water to kaffir lime, limoncello and blue agave nectar, while punchier hits include the deeply rewarding Smoke & Mirrors (a Manhattan involving Michter’s barrel-strength rye whiskey, Bénédictine, toasted cinnamon, rosehip, sherry and Madeira, produced in a puff of smoke from a crystal decanter). With its bold new space, tastefully tweaked design, five-star service, classy snacks, vintage Champagnes and top-notch whiskies, The Blue Bar is back with a bang.
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InterContinental Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7QY
One of the nicest chefs in London, Theo Randall celebrated a decade at the InterContinental in 2016 with a refurb intended to channel the more relaxed mood of the 2010s, rather than noughties fine dining. Gone are the tablecloths and moody lighting, replaced by an expanded bar area and a lighter colour scheme: it still feels very corporate, although no one is here for the surroundings. Instead, the unaffected charm of Randall’s “superb” cooking is the main attraction: pasta has always been the star, eschewing clichés in favour of fresh ideas such as plump ravioli stuffed with ricotta and cime di rapa, but there’s much more besides. Pan-fried calf’s liver is embellished with cavolo nero and earthy Castelluccio lentils, beef tagliata features a really excellent piece of Longhorn sirloin, while juicy scallops are spiked with chilli, vinegar and anchovies. The Italian wine list is oddly divided by season, although helpful staff are on hand to advise. “Fantastic cocktails” and notable private rooms, too.
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15 Old Burlington Street, London, W1S 2JL
There’s something very noughties about a star-spangled foreign chef opening a black-and-red basement dining room in Mayfair and charging top dollar for cooking influenced by street markets. With a booming house soundtrack, a no-bookings neon counter (recommended) and a theatrical open kitchen to gawp at, this is event dining with a vengeance, although plenty of chef David Muñoz’s dishes certainly merit the hype.
His signature Pekinese dumplings – filled with pig’s ear and presented on greaseproof paper splattered with strawberry hoisin sauce like a crime scene – offers an intriguing combo of sweetness and savoury crunch, while tandoori-grilled pigeon is a sublime take on a classic game dish, completed by miniature papadum’s topped with sticky tamarind chutney.
Sometimes, Street XO’s penchant for spectacle becomes rather jarring, with (delicious) cocktails served in plastic eggs and outlandishly large wine glasses rendered almost impossible to drink from, while the menu’s fondness for daft names and exclamation marks can become tiring. Despite this, we weren’t surprised that the place was packed on our mid-week visit, as there’s clearly a market for this brand of fast-paced, zany dining. There are many ways we could describe a meal at StreetXO, but boring certainly isn’t one of them.
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10 Adelaide Street, London, WC2N 4HZ
London’s three branches of “buzzing” Barrafina can hold their own against Spain’s finest, and Barrafina Adelaide Street, on a corner site in theatreland, is no exception. Each has its own personality and style, although the no-bookings policy, marble and glass interiors, long bar and attentive, enthusiastic staff are common to all three. As ever, dishes range from the dainty (little shells of zingy, sweet scallop ceviche) to the gutsy (gorgeous, creamy milk-fed-lamb’s brains breadcrumbed and served with a punchy olive and tomato sauce) – not forgetting the Harts’ lauded tortilla laced with spicy morcilla and piquillo pepper. “There’s always something new and wonderful to try”, and two of our favourites are hits from the daily specials board – grilled John Dory lathered in a silky olive oil, garlic and parsley sauce, and Josper-grilled baby vegetables atop romesco sauce. To drink, sniff out the owners’ hand-picked sherries, or pick something suitable from the carefully sourced Spanish wine list. If you’re used to Spanish pinxtos prices, you’re in for a shock – but then again, a trip to Barrafina Adelaide Street is cheaper than a flight to Valencia.
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61 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NU
Milk & Honey remains as relevant today as it was in 2002, when this private members' club for grown-ups first got Soho excited. Unlike some venues, you can actually make it past reception, even if you haven't paid your £400 annual dues. How come? If you’re a non-member with a prior reservation, you simply have to accept the house rules and you’ll be welcome in the ground-floor bar until 11pm. If you want to linger longer (you will), best get pally with a member rather than face the Cinderella walk of shame long before the clock strikes midnight. Champagne starts at £55 (BYO glass slipper) and wines by the glass are easy money, but you'd be mad to miss out on Milk & Honey’s old school sips such as Boulevardier, Floradora and Prescription Julep – top picks from a tempting range of spot-on shakes, stirs and pick-me-ups.
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44 Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9PA
The smartest of a trio of Belgravia gastropubs that also includes The Orange and The Alfred Tennyson, this perfectly proportioned Regency townhouse is appropriately named after one of London’s most renowned master builders. The ground-floor boozer (and a fair amount of the pavement outside) play host to drinkers and socialisers who can pick from an easy-going menu of pub staples ranging from chilli/salt squid to lamb burgers and fish and chips. Those wanting a smarter, more intimate repast head upstairs to the pretty Regency dining room, where the wine list takes precedence over the beer taps, and the cooking cranks up a notch – think seared scallops on radish tagliatelle or Middle White pork chop with black pudding, caramelised onions and some sweetly acidic gooseberries. Helpings are generous, but it’s worth bracing yourself for puds such as lemon and raspberry baked Alaska. “A really good local restaurant – not the cheapest, but a great vibe”, concludes one fan.
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8 Gillingham Street, London, SW1V 1HJ
Bright, modern and gregarious, this light and airy Italian ‘tapas’ restaurant was quickly adopted by the local populace, and has maintained its place thanks to snappy service, a great menu and an on-the-ball kitchen. The line-up looks as cheap as chips and regulars take full advantage at lunchtime, dropping by for pizzette topped with Taleggio, mushrooms and sausage or tomato, mozzarella and goats’ cheese, plus some elegant salad on the side – avocado, Parmesan and radish with baby gem, or asparagus and quail’s egg with black truffle, perhaps. The menu’s long enough to make it a three-day-a-week ritual, with smarter dishes such as roasted cod with clams or lamb Milanese useful for client entertaining. In the evening, there are larger, grander dishes to share – think chargrilled wild sea bass with salsa verde or rib of beef with rosemary and garlic. Alternatively, head to the attractive bar for Prosecco on tap and other potable pleasures.
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350 King's Road, London, SW3 5UU
Following a punchy summer 2016 revamp by owners D&D, the lounge bar at Bluebird is at the forefront of SW3’s social scene. The industrial edge on the first floor of this 1920s former garage has been softened by a pleasing Raoul Dufy-esque colour palette of mandarin, pomegranate, pinks and blues. Celia Birtwell prints, jazzy rugs, mismatched 1930s-style furniture and lush green ferns do their bit too. Sit at an art deco stainless-steel island bar to sample wine from £19 and an intriguing range of well-made, reasonably priced crustas, cups, cobblers and twisted classics including Gingerbread Mojito, Beaufort Beauty (pisco, dessert wine, passion fruit and sloe gin), and aged Old Fashioneds and Negronis served from (nice touch) miniature petrol pumps. Snack on tiger prawns aïoli, barbecued quail and guacamole, or olive and artichoke tapenade with croûtons – or simply gossip over G&Ts. Buzzy, brash and brilliant, Bluebird is back with a vengeance.
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37 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BA
Fun, flamboyant and fabulous, Bunga Bunga gets the party started – and knows how to keep it going. Named after the notorious romps organised by Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, it mixes all the clichés of Italian holidays with a sprinkling of euro trash to create a glorious tongue-in-cheek homage to the land that invented pizza. And seriously good pizza it is too: proper crispy bases loaded with quality toppings, such as the Julius Cheeser (gorgonzola, taleggio, mozzarella and goat’s cheese) or Po-pa-polla with sticky chicken, pancetta and barbecue sauce. Elsewhere, the menu runs to loaded antipasti boards, crisp zucchini fritti and creamy arancini balls, followed by gelato and classic tiramisu. To drink there’s Prosecco, Peroni and Aperol Spritzes, plus crowd-pleasing cocktails such as fruity, vodka-laced sharer The Vespa. Bunga Bunga is perfect for big groups, who can carry on the celebrations in Il Club upstairs at weekends, when there’s also a Saturday party brunch with karaoke. Private parties meanwhile can book L’Osservatorio or the top-floor Martini Prosecco Beach Bar, complete with parasols and its own photo-booth.
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168 Highgate Road, London, NW5 1QS
CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT. REOPENS AUTUMN 2019
With animal heads on its walls (nothing endangered, mind) and a bucolic finish, The Bull & Last has the feel of a country pub in the big city. The ground-floor bar can generate quite a buzz at busy times, so diners might prefer heading up the stairs to the (relative) poshness of the restaurant, where there’s more room to kick back and take in the menu.
Some appealing nourishment is on the cards, treading a line between hearty rusticity and metropolitan refinement. The charcuterie and fish boards offer sharing possibilities, or you could keep scallop ceviche all to yourself. Steak and chips or fish and chips crank up the comfort factor, with the likes of rump of English lamb with Jerusalem artichoke purée and lamb pastilla, and a dessert of black fig Tatin, revealing the culinary chops of the kitchen. London’s microbreweries get a good outing at the pumps.
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63-69 Canonbury Road, London, N1 2DG
Part of a wee gang of three covering N1 and EC2 (The Pig & Butcher and The Princess of Shoreditch being the other two), the Smokehouse is a gastropub through and through. It doesn’t open until 5pm Monday to Friday, yet despite the lack of daytime hours it is definitely a pub, with a stonking range of beers by draught and bottle – including a great showing from London. There’s a highly serviceable European-based wine list too. Rustic-chic is the order of the day when it comes to the decor, with plenty of wood and a verdant patio garden. But although you’ll find hearty smoky dishes on the menu to match, the food is actually rather refined, with the kitchen producing foie gras ganache with peaches and granola alongside the Highland cow-burger with Korean pulled pork, or smoked lamb shoulder with polenta. We also found a genuine passion for provenance here.
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1 Paul's Walk, London, EC4V 3QH
Crowned by a “gem” of a terrace, Northbank serves up a panorama of London that reflects modern-day developments, the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and all. Mind you, the view is equally appealing inside, where booth seating and dressed-up tables provide the backdrop for a contemporary menu that makes much of its Cornish connections. The county’s award-winning Yarg cheese appears in a tart flavoured with saffron, and there’s a terrine of rabbit and foie gras, pointed up with raw fennel and vermouth cream. Maritime hotspots such as Falmouth Bay and Helford provide much of the seafood on offer (monkish in a Thai green curry, say), while Devon Red beef is a cross-border interloper (try the deliciously tender brisket in a clear parsley broth). Desserts such as hot fudge sundae also hit the spot. A selection of mead cocktails hammers home the Cornish theme, and “it’s all in the best possible taste”.
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438 King's Road, London, SW10 0LJ
A lot of love goes into this charming neighbourhood restaurant: its elegant white and green decor still looks fresh, menus are updated regularly and service is always on point. That suggests dedication as well as strong heritage: the two chef/owners are graduates of Chez Bruce and have established a reputation for gutsy Euro-accented food built around an exceptionally well-priced set menu. To start, the signature crab raviolo is a fixture, although one reader highly recommends the duck-egg tart with sautéed duck hearts. Steaks are another mainstay, but much of the line-up changes seasonally: in autumn, you might begin with elaborate salad involving black figs, baby beetroot, Bayonne ham, goats’ curd, pickled onion and toasted hazelnuts, ahead of “delicious” rump of beef topped with snails or a richly flavoured pork fillet, served with pork cheek, boudin noir, wild mushrooms and pistou. Ask the enthusiastic sommelier for wine recommendations, and “request some Madeleines with your after-dinner coffee”.
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The Courtyard, 20 St. Swithins Lane, London, EC4N 8AD
Step off atmospheric St Swithin’s Street into The Don’s spacious foyer and prepare yourself for the sort of assured, personable and utterly grown-up experience that is a rarity among independent restaurants these days. Much of this is down to owners Robert and Robyn Wilson, who have been at the helm here for more than 18 years and in whom a veritable army of loyal City lunchers still place their trust.
With its vivid bursts of abstract artwork from John Hoyland, the well-spaced dining room has a personality that many of its corporate neighbours lack – and it’s adroitly manned by an ever-smooth team of waiting staff. The kitchen covers all bases, from the impressively inventive (tender octopus with different textures of tomato, lemon oil and saffron aïoli) to the reliably classic, such as buttery, deboned Dover sole meunière and a perfectly executed crème brûlée. Our only complaint is that portion sizes don’t always do justice to the City prices – our tiny pieces of monkfish with mussel ragoût and saffron cream left us needing to fill up on new potatoes.
The Wilsons are Kiwi vintners, and their love of wine is reflected in a lengthy global list, including bottles from their Trinity Hill vineyard in New Zealand. For a less formal experience, the Don Bistro downstairs has steak tartare and coq au vin, while the bar serves 30 wines by the glass alongside Adnams beer and croque monsieurs. We’d also suggest calling in at their sister site, St Swithins Wine Shippers, where four dozen wines are available to sample from an Enomatic machine.
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31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 90U
Squeezed in at the sharper end of The Shard, Gong is London’s loftiest bar. It resembles a Bond baddie’s penthouse in the sky – complete with separate Champagne bar and a swimming pool open for punters to lounge by (but not to dip into) from 8pm. From this high altitude, the city below forms a magical tapestry, and with a couple of drinks here costing much the same as the £31 ticket to the touristy viewing platform above, we rate Gong as the more civilised sightseeing option. Blue-sky thinking has gone into the bar’s 2016 ‘Circle of Life’ cocktail list. But while the drinks may be worthwhile, we’re not entirely persuaded by the overblown presentation that veers between kooky and kitsch (drinks served in Kinder Eggs or gilded birdcages, for instance). Such sophisticated mixes as Asian Explorer (Tanqueray 10, mushroom-infused Madeira, nigori saké, coconut and ginseng) have no need of flummery.
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56 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SA
It’s all about subtle luxury at this slick best-of-British restaurant/cocktail bar from the ETM Group, which also owns the neighbouring Jugged Hare: lime-green leather chairs, dark-wood floors and mirrored walls define the dedicated dining area, while an accomplished chef is on hand to deliver a menu of seasonal, unpretentious food underpinned by carefully sourced regional ingredients. Devon crab is sweetened by pink grapefruit and further enhanced by avocado and pickled radishes, while generous mains might feature a Saddleback pork chop served alongside pulled shoulder, pickled plums and spring onion, with a side of double-cooked chips. To conclude, try the “spot-on” Guanaja chocolate and salted caramel tart with pistachios and boozy cherries. Service is “impeccable”, and knowledgeable staff are happy to chat you through the extensive, reasonably priced wine list. Afternoon tea and “superb” pre-theatre deals are also offered, making this hard-to-fault dining room equally popular with City suits and Barbican concert-goers.
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Fifth Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), London, W1B 3BR
Although they’re increasingly common in other parts of town, rooftop bars are as rare as prolonged sunny spells in Soho – which makes Aqua Spirit’s open-air chill-out a poseur's paradise for blue-sky drinkers. Frequently themed according to the season, its terraces and cocktails are as smartly turned out as the venue’s fashion-conscious clientele: in 2016, the autumn highlight was the Hanging Gardens of Kyoto, a cute installation that followed hot on the Louboutin heels of summer's Veuve Clicquot Rosé garden. When the weather inevitably throws a tantrum, shelter indoors at the carousel bar, retreat to one of the kimono silk-lined booths and get stuck into a list of east-west Daiquiris, Saketinis and Shanghai-style classics such as Nippon Negroni, plus some Eurasian street food. Prices are more haute couture than bargain basement in this new incarnation of Dickins & Jones department store.
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London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE
“Nothing quite compares to Galvin at Windows”, declares one reader. With “unsurpassed” 28th-floor views adding something special to proceedings, seasoned chef-patron Chris Galvin heads up one of the slickest operations in the capital – a buzzy, handsome space overseen by Fred Sirieix (of TV’s First Dates fame) and underpinned by service that “never fails to leave you feeling pampered”. The kitchen adds a few Asian touches to the “excellent” Michelin-starred French food. Light mushroom tortellini in a tofu-laden unami broth is a delicate and well-balanced starter, while beef fillet accompanied by a wobbling slab of foie gras, braised short-rib and sticky bordelaise jus is no-holds-barred Gallic cooking at its best. A delightful sommelier globetrots to find the right match – full marks for the sweet, tropical New Zealand Riesling offered with a passion fruit and white chocolate soufflé. “Still our favourite place in London for a great night out”, concludes another fan.
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236 King Street, London, W6 0RF
The main attraction at this “upmarket Indian” is “high-end food” carefully prepared and presented by chef Manoj Vasaikar, who worked at top hotel restaurants in his home country before making his mark on London. Designed in line with the principles of vastu shastra – the harmony of earth, fire, sky, water and air – Indian Zing is a chic, relaxed and unassuming space, done out with crisp white tablecloths and stylish artefacts. Vasaikar’s cooking is refined and flavoursome, with deft, confident spicing and fragrance in dishes such as Goan-style clams poached in subtle green herbs and coconut broth or succulent chicken pointed up with dried fenugreek and griddled in the tandoor. There are classy renditions of the classics too: rogan josh is a marrow-rich version, thanks to slow-cooked lamb shank on the bone, while a variant on the kofta theme involves gamey seared venison meatballs. A well-judged wine list includes two Indian options from Maharashtra (Vasaikar’s home turf).
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254 Hackney Road, London, E2 7SJ
This stylish born-again boozer is a co-creation from chefs Tom Harris (ex-St John) and Jon Rotheram (ex-Fifteen). They've gone with tradition on the ground floor, refurbishing the bar, but upstairs you'll find a highly original dining room with a woven ceiling and zany lino floor in primary colours. One menu is served throughout, with signatures such as kid goat curry, beef and barley bun or honey and brown butter tart alongside less attention-grabbing (but delicious) items including cod with leeks and brown crab or Tamworth pork with hispi cabbage and mustard. To drink, pick an Old World wine or join the locals for a pint of Meantime Yakima Red. Handy for Columbia Road flower market on Sundays, when the pub serves brunch and roast lunches.
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76-77 South Parade, London, W4 5LF
“Wonderful modern French food” is the attraction at Le Vacherin, which also wins praise for its “consistently good service” and “warm, intimate, romantic ambience”. The clean lines, authentic trappings and white linen tablecloths lend a Parisian air to this dyed-in-the-wool bistro, which is “great for a celebration” as well as a cosy dinner à deux. Chef Malcolm John’s menu is classic and elegant, from starters of escargots de Bourgogne or seared foie gras with boudin blanc to suprême of sea trout with crayfish and crab bisque or an assiette of duck with preserved cherries. Sharing options including rock oysters, pot au feu or chateaubriand add to the romance, and desserts stay with the classics – think apricot tarte Tatin or crème brûlée with orange madeleines. Also check out the “incredible steak-frites offer”. The wine list favours France, but doesn’t exclude the rest of the world – note the selection of the month.
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Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, London, SE1 9PH
“Great place for the four Cs: celebrating, chilling, chatting and crowd-watching”, says a fan of the Oxo Tower’s restaurant – a perfectly located terrace venue on the eighth floor of the monolith, which still boasts “one of the best views in London”. The menu promises sophisticated dishes in the modern idiom, from seared peppered beef with smoked sweetcorn purée, tenderstem broccoli and roast asparagus to sea bream poached in vanilla anise accompanied by a stuffed courgette flower. To finish, why not share a cherry soufflé with vanilla ice cream and Black Forest gâteau. The wine list, from Harvey Nics, is a cracker (although you won't find many bargains) and afternoon tea also looks “very tempting” – no wonder fans say it’s “definitely a place to take a person you want to impress”.
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Prince Albert Road (corner of Charlbert Street), London, NW8 7EN
“If this was a cruise ship it would be the old P&O Victoria, rather than a modern Cunard liner”, mused one reader after visiting this slice of vintage 1970s nostalgia. Oslo Court is certainly one of a kind – it’s like “time travelling backwards”, but in a good way, with charmingly retro salmon-pink decor, heavily starched linen and tuxedo-clad waiters wheeling around dessert trolleys. Likewise, the menu lists the kind of fare found in five-star hotels of a bygone era, with warm buttered rolls presented alongside coquilles St Jacques or garlicky mushrooms in puff pastry. Generosity is a given when it comes to mains, perhaps a whopping Dover sole meunière or roast duckling with a choice of orange, cherry or apple sauce, while puds of the crêpe Suzette and strawberry flan ilk aren’t exactly featherweight either. It’s all rather hypnotising, and the clientele of local, moneyed retirees would be lost without it.
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119 Consort Road, London, SE15 3RU
Following its 2014 refit, Peckham Bazaar has transformed from a bish-bash-bosh outfit serving eye-opening Ottoman-inspired food into a serious neighbourhood restaurant. The cooking now takes place within the spruced-up dining room, where orange-tinged wood panels and pistachio-green walls channel 80s Greek package holidays. Flavour-wise, nothing has been lost – the grill’s smoky flavours still work their magic on an assortment of no-frills rustic dishes at “very reasonable prices”. Seafood is a top call, with Balkan-inspired specialities such as dukkah-spiced mackerel on dill-flecked rice or morsels of octopus with colourful dabs of homemade taramasalata drawing appreciative gasps. Enjoy them with a Greek wine from the fascinating list. Service can be so laid-back that you may end up stage-managing your meal, but the charming staff are instantly forgiven. Anyway, when you’re sat on the fairy-lit terrace on a summer evening, this lazy pace simply adds to the holiday feel. All in all, “a perfect local spot”.
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22 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HH
You wouldn’t come across Dinings by accident – and if you did, you might not think it was a restaurant at all. But this Japanese powerhouse isn’t defined by its postage stamp-sized premises on two floors of a backstreet townhouse as both technique and cooking are exemplary, allowing the repertoire to evolve into Japanese ‘tapas’ with inventive but complementary flourishes. Sushi and sashimi, such as open rolls of spicy tuna with sesame sauce and shichimi pepper, come from the ground-floor counter, or you could ring the changes with a crossover riff involving yellowtail topped with horseradish salsa, British caviar and wasabi jalapeño vinaigrette. Hot bites could be grilled chilli garlic black cod, while set lunches are donburi-based with toppings of freshwater eel and foie gras or Wagyu beef with garlic butter soy. Dinings’ fans are legion, so inevitably the basic basement dining room is a squeeze. If your heart is set on it, advance booking is a very good idea.
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11-13 Abingdon Road, London, W8 6AH
Readers regularly give a big thumbs-up to this “high-quality” Michelin-starred act – a collaboration between restaurateurs Phil Howard (ex-The Square) and Rebecca Mascarenhas (Sonny's Kitchen). From the “smart”, muted interiors, decked out with circular mirrors and tasteful artwork, to the first-rate service, Kitchen W8 has the same ‘neighbourhood-cum-destination’ feel as sibling The Ledbury. The team’s “outstanding” take on contemporary European cuisine rarely turns up a dud dish, from the crunchy tapioca crackers served as an amuse-bouche to wafer-thin slices of smoked eel paired with grilled mackerel, golden beetroot and sweet mustard sauce, or loin of Ibérico pork with hay-roasted carrots, spiced almonds, apricot and bulgur wheat. To conclude, Swiss roll with raspberry ripple ice cream and lemon verbena delivers a hit of exquisitely refined comfort food. The set lunch is reckoned to be one of the “best-value Michelin menus” in London, while wines rely heavily on the Old World. “Will we go back? You bet!” chimes one contented diner.
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31 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1JH
Forget the hot barometer of Peruvian food, Lima is one of the few restaurants in London making the unfamiliar utterly delicious. Start with an easy-drinking Pisco Sour plus some puffy pumpkin seed bread, but defer further choice to staff who know the baffling menu inside out. From crisp octopus tentacles on polenta-like maize and olive purée (a riot of purple) to blood-red potatoes set against sour, yellow dressing and artichokes, every dish is a picture in vibrant Technicolor. Elsewhere, sweet potato melded into corn purée is a veggie spin on ceviche, while the real thing is spiky, silky perfection involving dense-fleshed chunks of sea bass. Pressed suckling pig is a standout main (especially with a side of creamy sun-dried potato), while avocado cream and chocolate mousse is a knockout dessert. With its neat, grey-on-grey room recently revamped and extended, Lima is now a true destination – a “fun place with a fun atmosphere”.
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13 Well Court, off Bow Lane, London, EC4M 9DN
Like a parlour set from a Merchant Ivory film, this low-ceilinged Edwardian basement room (without a view) proudly boasts one of the world's largest assemblies of gin and rum – spirits distilled in London or shipped from the colonies to nearby wharves (check out The Pantry for bottles to take home). How many gins? We stopped counting at B for Bathtub and Boodles from a list that spans workaday and rare (read pricey) vintage distillations. Merchant House’s sterling stirs revive or reinterpret various heritage cups, coolers, Collins, grogs and beer cocktails such as Hodge (gin, gingerbread syrup and stout). Other good calls include numerous new-wave Martinis, Daiquiris and Zombies, plus more esoteric ideas such as Fields of Gold – a tot that calls for poitín, oat milk, orgéat and buttered genever. Food is limited to oysters, charcuterie, cheeses and a few dips.
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163 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5 0LJ
It might be rolling into its third decade, but “Abel Lusa’s masterpiece gets better every year”, according to one of his many loyal customers. There’s nothing old-fashioned about this “incredibly authentic” and wildly underrated Brompton Road flagship of the sophisticated Cambio mini-chain – a venue whose fizzing energy is fuelled by a packed dining room, clued-up staff and a constantly evolving menu. Regulars rave about must-order classics, such as the hollowed-out ‘nuevas’ patatas bravas filled with spicy tomato and alioli, but there’s also an excellent-value tasting menu, featuring innovations such as a riff on gazpacho involving tomato ‘water’ cherry sorbet, cod brandade and cristal bread or spicy suckling pig meatballs with crunchy ear, poached skate and Colombian tamarillo. Just as exciting are the “very long” all-Spanish wine list and the treasure-trove of gins and sherries – thanks to sibling bars C. Tonic and Capote y Toros, where you can continue the fiesta with live flamenco.
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7 Langton Street, London, SW10 0JL
As a “traditional, family-run Italian”, La Famiglia is a proud little vestige of Old Chelsea – a friendly, locals-orientated spot that has been trundling along for nearly 40 years. Blue-and-white tiled interiors channel the spirit of provincial Italy whatever the weather, while the sun-trap terrace is much sought after come summer. Over the decades, the kitchen has watched the culinary whims of the capital come and go, safely rooted in dishes from late founder Alvaro Maccioni’s beloved Tuscany – all ‘cooked the way mama taught us’. First-rate ingredients and Italian knowhow combine in regional classics such as pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), chopped chicken livers with capers and garlic on toast, rigatoni with Gorgonzola sauce, or roasted veal with Swiss chard. For dessert, the kitchen’s fresh fruit platter is a stunner, or you could try one of their creamy confections. Service gets strong reviews and the Italian wine list is fun to explore.
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One Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT
Whether you're warming up before a trip to the theatre or simply chilling on the terrace with something suitably intoxicating, the bar at this boutique Soho hotel is a "buzzy fun place with good service". As a chic, urbane oasis, it combines spicy tones and jazzy 1950s graphics with a thoroughly upbeat drinks list – think modern wines by the glass or carafe, fizz from small producers and plenty of zingy cocktails. We like the sound of Rosemary Vesper, and Black Mamba (Portobello Road gin, homemade spiced blackberry coulis, lemon and honey), as well as the Smoke 'n' Bubbles (mezcal, agave, lime and Champagne). If you fancy a nibble, pick from various melts, sliders and small plates (beer-battered oysters, for example) – plus 'profitabombes' such as pistachio custard, white chocolate and orange brittle for those of a sweet disposition.
More detail about Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel
34 Portman Street, London, W1H 7BY
Nordic influences now pervade London’s restaurant scene, but Agnar Sverrisson’s Michelin-starred restaurant remains one of the best places in town for a taste of the north. Butter and cream are given a wide berth, but there’s no lack of luxury in the kitchen’s focused and often ingenious approach to high-class ingredients. Seafood really sings – perhaps Norwegian king crab with coconut, ginger, lime leaf and lemongrass, followed by lightly salted Icelandic cod with avocado, brandade, tomatoes and chorizo – while land-based treats range from Lancaster beetroots with Gorgonzola, walnuts and ‘snow’ (a favourite flourish) to Limousin veal with artichokes, runner beans and cherries. Skyr may have hit the mainstream, but here it’s the real deal, served with vanilla, rye bread and blueberries, while white chocolate is ingeniously balanced with dill and cucumber. Sommelier and co-founder Xavier Rousset left in 2015 to open restaurants including Blandford Comptoir, but there’s been no obvious harm to the wine list, which remains a Riesling-fancier’s dream.
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35 Maiden Lane, London, W2CE 7LB
The tasselled lampshades, mahogany panelling and plush carpet may feel vintage, but this little bar has only been around for a decade – considerably less time than the venerable Rules restaurant below, founded in 1798. No matter; the mood here is precisely what you'd expect of a bar attached to London's longest-running restaurant, with impeccable old-school service and dependable classic cocktails, including the Sazerac and Clover Club. Happily, head bartender Mike Cook is no slave to tradition, so expect modern mixes such as Dick Bradsell's Bramble too, alongside a list of eight signature serves, including the sparkling Normandini (calvados, peach and sparkling Crémant wine) or Eau de Savoja made with rare 1960s Amaro Savoja. There's a knock-out selection of whiskies too, ticking off American rye and bourbon as well as some iconic single malts – great with bar food such as venison carpaccio.
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14 Red Lion Street, London, TW9 1RW
Eccentric, but in a good way, this characterful trattoria has won the hearts and minds of Richmond locals. Wine and oil bottles, and displays of fruit and cheese, are crammed into the already cluttered room. Tables are so close together that diners often start conversations with their neighbours. Customers must leave the ordering to chef-proprietor Riccardo. He serves four or five antipasti, whatever ravioli he has prepared, and a main course (slow-cooked chicken stew or suchlike). He also chooses the wine his guests will drink and seems inconsolable if they refuse his pièce de resistance, the tiramisu. Since the kitchen only has to concentrate on one menu, each component is usually well-prepared, but diners need to be hungry and easy-going to enjoy a meal. Explain any dietary requirements when booking.
More detail about Al Boccon di'Vino
The Goring, Beeston Place, London, SW1W 0JW
It’s almost inconceivable that there should be a grand private country house within a stone’s throw of Victoria station, but The Goring has all the necessary attributes, from a warm cosy drawing room and terraces for balmier weather to a garden with ducks waddling across the lawn. The bar’s line-up of Champagne is astounding and the barmen are adept at mixing and shaking anything that takes your fancy. Ultra-traditional, but also super-friendly, this gorgeous bolthole is equally appealing for a quiet business drink or a jolly get-together with a (smart-ish) bunch of friends. The simple bar menu has something for all comers (from caviar to soup of the day), all beautifully done in an understated way – they only boast about their connection with their royal neighbours when it comes to the “fabulous” afternoon tea.
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157a Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
Every bar attached to a branch of the bullish Hawksmoor restaurant group passes muster, but the charismatic standalone Spitalfields cellar is something extra special. Once a dodgy strip joint, there's nothing remotely sleazy or cheesy about this handsome hole-up's burnished art-deco bronze and blue-tiled 1900s Steampunk interiors. Anticipate excellent, keenly priced cocktails (a frozen Margarita at £7.50) and the sort of moreish grub that is manna for savvy City drinkers – think magnificently meaty burgers, chilli cheese dogs, lobster rolls, triple-cooked chips and a chicken riff on Canadian poutine (an on-trend mix of fries, gravy and curd cheese). To drink, around £20 with pay for bar legend Harry Craddock’s Marmalade Cocktail (an ‘anti-fogmatic’ spirit-lifter involving Beefeater gin, Campari, lemon and the breakfast preserve), plus a knock-out Shadow Boxer (Chivas 12, blackberry and maple shrub, sherry and Fernet Branca).
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36 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PG
The converted Victorian warehouse that houses Angela Hartnett’s Merchants Tavern used to be trailblazing Cantaloupe back in the 1990s. Some of the diners occupying its curvy leather booths might well recall those days, though they’re grown-ups now, schmoozing clients and drinking better wine. The kitchen's “solid combos” appeal to the assembled company: credible rather than cool, their classical foundations are leavened with contemporary touches and true seasonal flavours.
Some dishes, such as the “dynamite” deep-fried oysters with chilli and ginger or quail with hazelnut pesto and foie gras live up to their promise, while others verge on the “polite”: our sea bream with heritage carrots and preserved lemon was one such creation, although a brown-bread parfait with kirsch-laced cherries was impeccable. For an even more relaxed vibe, eat at the kitchen counter or hit the bar for sausage rolls and cool cocktails. “These guys are good”, affirms one reader.
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23 Connaught Street, London, W2 2AY
"Still the best steakhouse in town, taking value into account" insists a fan who loves everything about Casa Malevo. Owner Alberto Abbate is a keen ambassador of his native Argentina, so expect slabs of grass-fed pampas-reared beef ranging from fillet and rib-eye to slow-cooked flank served with a tasty bone marrow sauce. Chimichurri and criolla salsa are always on the table, although the signature horseradish sauce and anchovy salsa verde make for a vibrant contrast. Mediterranean influences also show up in everything from squid salad with avocado and chorizo to veal milanese or red mullet with almonds and tarragon. The ground-floor restaurant has a very agreeable, laid-back atmosphere with rough brick walls, atmospheric photos of gauchos and a glass-roofed conservatory at the rear. "Fantastic, knowledgeable staff" do the business, and the "outstanding" wine list is strewn with bottles from top Argentinian producers.
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26-29 Dean Street, London, W1D 3LL
Founded back in 1926, this quintessential “Soho sanctuary” isn’t drifting quietly into old age: autumn 2016 saw the ground-floor dining room reduced by two-thirds to make space for Barrafina Soho (both are owned by the Hart brothers), following the latter’s eviction from nearby Frith Street. The room looks the same, with brown-leather banquettes, “beautiful fresh flowers” and jewel-like stained glass windows, although there’s less all-round hubbub than before. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s menu is still a joyful celebration of the seasons, so expect anything from a warm salad of grouse and elderberries to a strapping leg of lamb garlanded with a pick-and-mix of gently cooked mushrooms. Lee’s refined repertoire also makes room for simple comforts such as chunky, lightly fried chips or steamed lemon pudding with rhubarb, while the trademark smoked eel sandwich is a must-order. None of this comes particularly cheap, but thanks to great service, really good Martinis and a dash of British eccentricity (John Broadley’s distinctive illustrations are a hoot), we reckon it’s great value.
More detail about Quo Vadis
4 Bathurst Street, London, W2 2SD
With its classic French menu, superb wine list, romantic art-nouveau interior and warm welcome, Thierry Tomasin’s bistro de quartier is a destination for diners bored with gimmicks. Readers applaud its “fantastic service and attention to detail”, while the kitchen delivers some beautifully executed, familiar food with some “really original” touches. From baked shallot and snail tarte Tatin with mulled wine reduction or scallops with morels, shaved cauliflower and dandelion leaves to guinea fowl with hop shorts and beer sauce or olive-crusted lamb fillet with lentil purée, roast parsnip and liquorice-spiked wine sauce, everything depends on “superb ingredients”. The menu is constantly refreshed with occasional exotics (roast duck with Szechuan pepper and pak choi, say), but you can eat what you like – from a full-on dinner to a single dish and a glass of wine. Given Thomasin’s background as London’s top sommelier, the wine cellar is mind-blowing (Cheval Blanc ’28 at £2,500 anyone?), but house tipples are excellent and available to take away.
More detail about Angelus
15 Poland Street, W1F 8QE
A resident of Poland Street since 1989, this unassuming low-key Soho Italian still exudes the comforting vibe of a well-loved neighbourhood restaurant. Tables are tightly packed in the long-narrow dining room (those at the rear are the best for privacy), while the kitchen delivers “comforting traditional food” with a strong regional slant. Expect a succession of delicately rendered Umbrian dishes from a menu that changes twice a day – perhaps handmade tagliatelle with a rich ragù or roast Tuscan sausages with black truffle butter and Pecorino. Elsewhere, a crisp endive salad with Gorgonzola, walnut and sweet mustard dressing shows the kitchen’s lighter side. The menu’s layout invites flexibility, although we recommend a conventional sweet finish – perhaps a serving of gooey bonet (chocolate, coffee and Amaretto mousse). Prices are modest considering the location, an all-Italian wine list explores the regions, and “superb” switched-on service will please West End diners looking for a mature, but thoroughly modern, Italian experience.
More detail about Vasco & Piero's Pavilion
4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London, E14 5FW
Serving up high glamour among all that bamboo and polished wood, Roka is the antithesis of a modest Japanese restaurant – and that makes it a natural victor among Canary Wharf’s suited-and-booted client-friendly offerings. Readers love the ambience created by a boisterous, enthusiastic crowd, not to mention the “very attentive service” and consistently top-notch food. The bar specialises in shochu (you can even keep a personalised jar for repeat visits), and there’s a terrace too, but the restaurant would argue that the heart of the operation is the robata grill with its line-up of fire-licked specialities such as sweet potato baked in a bamboo husk or baby back ribs in a spiced ‘master stock’ glaze. Elsewhere, you’ll find well-made modern-day sushi and sashimi, “wonderfully delicious” snacks (black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings, say), and specialities such as cedar-roast baby chicken. If you’re here outside the working week, try the all-inclusive koten brunch.
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75-77 Ridgway, London, SW19 4ST
Those who thought Light House would be a bit of a fly-by-night operation have been proved resoundingly wrong. This bright, airy dining room is slightly out of the way from the centre of Wimbledon
Village, but locals don’t seem to begrudge the five-minute walk. The wood-&-glass interior makes for a clattering background to dining here, & at busy times the noise can be oppressive.
Nevertheless, the restaurant’s good points – well-executed European cooking with global influences, a decent wine list, & a welcoming, neighbourly ambience – more than compensate. Start with
Picos blue cheese with pickled walnuts, then move on to cockle-warming lamb shank with mint jelly, or poached haddock with mussels & tarragon. Great-value set lunches keep the atmosphere
upbeat. Booking is essential, especially during Wimbledon fortnight.
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33c Holland Street, W8 4LX
Having built up a solid following in Notting Hill Gate, Chakra has uprooted and moved to Kensington’s quaint Holland Street. For us, it’s a deft move, ditching their former bling-filled premises in favour of this pretty, muted corner site, which comes complete with a charming outdoor terrace.
It creates the ideal setting for some rather sophisticated Indian cooking that takes its cue from the subcontinent’s royal kitchens. Our pimped-up kulcha arrived topped with decadent flecks of black truffle and wild mushroom, soon upstaged by a plate of plump tiger prawns marinated with lightly spicy chilli powder, and served with yoghurt and tomato coulis for liberal dipping.
After that, we were taken with a main of Khubani Murgh: gently braised chicken breast smothered in an apricot and nutmeg onion sauce, which provided a delightful clash of flavours. Chakra isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, but there are flashes of adjusting to modern tastes via an impressive selection of vegan and vegetarian options. Afternoon tea, brunch and set lunch menus are also available, while the Euro-leaning wine list is supported by classic cocktails.
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41 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX
Since opening, Flesh & Buns has been one of those Marmite restaurants that readers either love or loathe. A follow-up to Soho hit Bone Daddies, this is Ross Shonhan's take on an izakaya joint: loud, boisterous and lots of fun. The menu features Japanese 'drinking food', so get stuck into the liquor list straightaway. Highlights include 14 types of saké, numerous Japanese whiskies and craft beers, plus Asian-themed cocktails such as the Kyuuri-Yuzu (dark rum and yuzu saké, blended with lime, cucumber and mint). Soak up the booze by ordering some ‘flesh’ – try crispy piglet belly with mustard miso, barbecue steak or salmon teriyaki, which you pile into "light and fluffy" steamed hirata buns. Capably executed sushi rolls, sashimi and tataki also feature, and we're addicted to the spicy/sour Korean wings. Fans also rate "the best duck in town” and the delicious DIY s'mores (passion fruit marshmallows with almond chocolate). “Friendly and efficient" service gets the nod too.
More detail about Flesh & Buns Covent Garden
88 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2PY
Handsomely rejigged by its new owners in 2017, this Edwardian hostelry is drawing a crowd for its food and an improved range of craft brews. The oak-panelled ground-floor bar is where to sample the beers; upstairs, a smart dining room offers seasonal British menus. Starters of chilli salt squid, or Jerusalem artichokes, crispy kale and sunflower seeds with a truffle dressing set the tone for above-average pub food that might also include flaky pan-fried hake with leeks, and our rich, meaty (but over-salted) cottage pie. Finish with exemplary Bramley apple pie with caramelised chestnuts and cinnamon parfait. The 72, a sherry- and olive-tone basement bar reminiscent of 1940s Madrid, is worth discovering for its Poire William Martini, Honey & Ginger Mojito and Spicy Coach (Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Manzanilla, lime and green jalapeño). Small plates here include beefburger sliders, charcuterie plates and buttermilk chicken in spiced tomato and ale.
More detail about The Coach Makers Arms
4th Floor, Canada Place, London, E14 5ER
Excellent staff continue to make all the difference on the fourth floor of Canada Place, where D&D London’s Plateau hybrid could otherwise lack a little soul. On the more casual side, the close-packed Bar & Grill turns out a popular set menu of international plates, but there’s more to hold punters’ interest in the restaurant – a classy, spacious dining room furnished with 20th-century design classics. Food-wise, many dishes now have French roots – from grilled gurnard to pan-fried duckling breast aux épices. We suggest plumping for the six-course tasting menu if you want to settle in for evening and round off with the drama of crêpes Suzette. A solid wine list is bolstered by occasional events and guest tipples.
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193 Hackney Road, London, E2 8JL
While Sager + Wilde’s Bethnal Green branch, with its busy, buzzy courtyard bar, is the business for East End cocktails and food, we recommend this quieter original Hoxton gig for bon vivants keen to connect with modestly marked-up, top-notch wines from indie vineyards. Oenophile husband-and-wife team Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde's maiden venture is a charismatic, quirky, pared-down, post-industrial modern wine bar with a constantly evolving list that delivers pleasant surprises from biodynamic growers working on often unfamiliar small estates. Cue a classy Carignan from South Africa's Western Cape and a sensational organic Saumur by Domaine Guiberteau – a deceptively complex, lively Loire red that's perfect lightly chilled for summer evening drinking. Pair your chosen tipple with small plates such as chorizo and bean hotpot, hake, potato and pepperwort ceviche or S+W's cheese toasties in their various permutations – the stuff of local legend.
More detail about Sager + Wilde Wine Bar
15 Eccleston Street, London, SW1W 9LX
Boasting tartan chairs, kilted waitresses, hunting trophies and a selection of whisky to make any crofter sing, Boisdale of Belgravia clearly isn’t shy of trumpeting its Scottish heritage. There’s plenty of Caledonian flag-waving on the menu too, from haggis in various guises (try the mustardy Scotch egg riff with neeps ’n’ tatties) to beef from Buccleuch Estate, salmon, “wonderful” oysters and seasonal game. With classic sauces such as béarnaise and green peppercorn to go with steaks “cooked exactly as requested”, it’s not exactly cutting-edge stuff, but the jolly crowd are mainly here to enjoy themselves in surroundings that make them feel as if they’ve “stepped back in time”. Many scoot upstairs for a snifter whilst smoking something from the walk-in humidor after they’ve eaten; nearly all stay for the easy, lively jazz session that kicks in at 10pm. It can seem a tad expensive, but no one seems to mind.
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109 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4RX
Peter Gordon’s double-decker fusion palace is supposed to be fun, and readers confirm that it’s a blast. At street level, there’s the no-bookings Tapa Room (named after a Rarotongan tapa cloth, which decorates the space): this noisy rendezvous is perpetually rammed with crowds who gather for breakfast (brown rice, apple, maple syrup and miso porridge with tamarillo compote, perhaps) and all-day dishes. Upstairs, the eponymous dining room pushes more boundaries, delivering multi-ingredient combos with a little more formality – think smoked Dutch eel with coconut and tamarind laksa, green tea noodles, soft-boiled quail’s egg, girolles and sweetcorn followed by Creedy Carver duck breast with figs, walnuts, grapes, sherry vinegar and membrillo. Every day’s a school day here, so ask if you’re not sure what something is (the staff are used to it) and reserve some time, money and attention to explore the seriously Kiwi wine list.
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The May Fair Hotel, Stratton Street, London, W1J 8LT
Aiming to recreate the Med in Mayfair, the Kitchen has marble surfaces, large windows and dimmed lighting in its seductive dining room. Charming, ever-present waiters and a menu of Spanish and Italian tapas also do their bit. The focus is on ‘sharing, relaxation and conversation’ as diners tuck in to the likes of creamy Gorgonzola gnocchi, or a generous lobster risotto. Dishes are generally small, but while the burrata seems expensive, the plentiful poussin Milanese is well worth its price tag. Chilean sea bass might also appear rather dear, though its melt-in-the-mouth flesh pairs admirably with a glass of earthy Gavi di Gavi – from a commendable list of sunny southern European (and further afield) wines, bookended by Med-style cocktails and a selection of ports and sherries. For dessert, the deconstructed tiramisu is certainly not for sharing: sublime mounds of silky cream on a crunchy, spongy, boozy base. Cheese is also a top choice at this gratifyingly fuss-free venture.
More detail about May Fair Kitchen
16 St Matthew's Road, London, W5 3JT
Situated on the edge of picturesque Ealing Common, Charlotte’s Place has been a local favourite for a while. The big sister of the Charlotte group (there is the Bistro in Chiswick and W5 in Ealing) has a light and airy upstairs dining area, which boasts a splendid bird’s eye view of the Common, to compliment the restaurant’s cosy ground-floor. The seasonal modern European menu changes monthly and there is a refined style to the cooking. Starters of artfully arranged fresh-tasting goat’s milk yoghurt, beetroot and sesame, and the soft and delicate flavours of cured mackerel and cod cheeks sitting proudly on a creamy smooth vichyssoise with potato salad hit the mark nicely. Meanwhile, a chicken and mushroom terrine had plenty of depth and flavour and a crispy coated chicken wing with mouth-watering wild garlic butter lifted it to another level. A main of succulent pork with a potato and brawn terrine, cabbage and earthy blood pudding was a flavoursome, well-balanced dish. For dessert, a rich dark chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream and honeycomb rounded things off nicely. Lunch and dinner menus are keenly priced and a five-course tasting menu represents good value, while wines are taken very seriously, at a restaurant with a view worth dining out on.
More detail about Charlotte's Place
26 Smithfield Street, EC1A 9LB
Tommy Boland (Almeida, Tom Aikens, The Square) heads the kitchen, producing an alluring menu of modish British cooking. Our baked beetroot with celeriac and goats’ curd was a good-sized, well-balanced plate, as was the dish of fat, perfectly cooked scallops with squash purée and Jerusalem artichoke gratin. Mains tend to be big and rich: pan-fried sea bream with chanterelles and Parmesan gnocchi was delicious but intense, while roasted turbot arrived in a similarly generous portion. For pud, we recommend waiting for the light, creamy pistachio soufflé with bitter-chocolate ice cream. Open from breakfast, the five-floor establishment also houses a lounge bar, cocktail bar, private dining room and roof terrace. Service is attentive – sometimes overly so, as unnecessary top-ups filled our glasses to the brim (albeit with delicious Portuguese Chardonnay from a list starting at £20). There are worse crimes.
More detail about Bird of Smithfield
168 Bellenden Road, London, SE15 4BW
No one can accuse this “hip” Thai canteen of resting on its laurels: in 2016, the owners repurposed the terrace as an airy all-weather space, did away with the colour-coded prices on its menu, and developed a cute children’s offering. Other than that, it’s business as usual at The Begging Bowl. A constantly changing line-up of “amazing Thai tapas” still features exhilarating flavour combos shot through with full-throttle herbs and spices: try the “piquant” little fishcakes, “sticky, umami-rich” pork belly, caramelised tiger prawns in lime leaves (“so good we ordered them twice”) or the show-stopping whole sea bass, lavishly sprinkled with slivers of green mango, deep-fried chilli, Thai shallots and toasted rice. To drink, delicious eastern-inspired cocktails complement the spice-friendly wine list. And each night, dozens of would-be diners still vie for tables in the colourful, driftwood-decorated dining room – thankfully the friendly staff are experts at waiting-list diplomacy.
More detail about The Begging Bowl
St. James's Hotel & Club, 7-8 Park Place, London, SW1A 1LS
Embedded within the wedding-cake surrounds of the St James's Hotel, this freestanding restaurant drips sobriety and good manners. Restraint is the watchword – even if your eyes have to cope with a mishmash of patterned carpets, patterned banquettes and dramatic patterned wallpaper in the petite, nine-table dining room. William Drabble delivers “the most incredible, genuine French food”, sourcing from the UK, but applying several coats of contemporary Gallic lacquer to his Michelin-starred food: scallops are marinated in blood-orange vinegar and served with Dorset crab and blood-orange mayo; saddle of Lune Valley lamb arrives with onions, turnips and thyme; roast veal sweetbreads are studded with truffle and partnered by crispy chicken wings, salt-baked celeriac and roasted chicken emulsion. To finish, try coffee-soaked savarin with coffee cream and caramelised hazelnuts. “Professional, dedicated staff” provide the icing on the cake.
More detail about Seven Park Place by William Drabble
1 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9AA
Next door to the Lord Mayor’s residence, 1 Lombard Street is firmly established in City diaries – although that’s not all down to the prime location or the handsome proportions of the Grade II-listed former banking hall. The Brasserie is both a habit and a pleasure for the local business community, who enjoy professional-grade people-watching under its high ceilings and Pietro Agostini cupola. Although 1776 (the fine-dining option) is well regarded, there’s nothing like a table in this buzzy all-day space for highly visible celebrations. The food might not steal the show, but standards are more than solid when it comes to crowd-pleasing iterations of Thai beef salad, grilled octopus with romanesco broccoli, veal milanese, no-nonsense steaks and curried fishcakes with lime yoghurt dip. Puddings are traditional standards, tidied up from the nursery and big on British fruit. By necessity, the wine list has got everyone covered, quick lunchers and big spenders included.
More detail about 1 Lombard Street Brasserie
69 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AA
Tony Conigliaro’s cocktail bar opened up at 69 Colebrooke Row with the moniker ‘the bar with no name’, which might be a case of trying too hard by seemingly not trying at all. Whatever you call the place, Tony C has made it a destination for fans of classic cocktails and those seeking the cutting edge of this most un-dark of arts. You’ll find a classic 1950s vibe going down at this dinky backstreet spot. The Bellini is reinvented here with raspberry and violet purée replacing the standard peach, and the Prairie Oyster gets a kick with the addition of horseradish vodka. If you prefer a classic cocktail undisturbed by contemporary configuration, the bar staff are happy to oblige. There’s food, too, with little snacky options such as ceviche and a beefy pumpernickel sandwich. Masterclasses are up for grabs if you’re looking for a new life skill.
More detail about 69 Colebrooke Row
49-50 St John's Square, London, EC1V 4JJ
The ‘B’ word (that’s B for ‘boutique’) looms large at the Zetter Townhouse hotel, not least in the Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge with richly decadent colour schemes, assorted sofas, armchairs and “slightly sinister” artworks conjuring up the salon of some Victorian adventurer. The brainchild of cocktail whizz Tony Conigliaro and chef Ben Boeynaems, the space is suitably evocative and indulgent – just right for what follows. How about The Clipper (whisky, samphire syrup and a dash of absinthe) or Priory Sour (whiskey, this time, with beurre noisette and malted barley)? Alternatively go for a Lime Blossom fizz if you prefer something a little more effervescent (all the cordials and infusions are made in-house). The menu is short and to the point – assorted sharing boards, mugs of soup, nibbles and small plates such as potted smoked mackerel with pickled cucumber.
More detail about The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell
1a Argyll Road, London, W8 7DB
From its bijou space off High Street Ken, this little gem of a restaurant foregoes the culinary pyrotechnics of its nearby sibling, Ocean House, to concentrate on simple, masterfully crafted sushi. Take a seat at the handsome, green-tiled bar or head downstairs to the sleeker monochrome dining room, and indulge in a menu crafted by two Nobu-trained chefs. From the stunning, melt-in-the-mouth Hida Wagyu carpaccio to a beautiful salad of dressed baby octopus, seaweed and cherry tomato, flavours are pin-sharp and ingredients second to none. Also, we urge trusting the chefs when it comes to soy sauce: items such as yellowtail nigiri and yasai maki rolls with asparagus tempura come judiciously brushed with the condiment to avoid drowning out other flavours. Saké is a big deal here, with regular masterclasses on offer, while the pithy wine list has some interesting options – although, like everything here, prices are on the high side.
More detail about Yashin Sushi
71 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4HN
Roka’s brand of high-gloss contemporary Japanese dining is showcased beautifully at its largest branch on Aldwych, where a stylish mix of natural stone, grey timbers and dried green oak creates a subtly sophisticated setting. Like its siblings across the capital, this outlet puts the robata grill centre stage, and many favourite items from Roka’s back catalogue are on display – from tender Korean-spiced lamb cutlets to black cod marinated in yuzu miso. There are also dazzling platters of sushi and sashimi showcasing impeccable sourcing – witness translucent slivers of yellowtail and morsels of sweet-fleshed shrimp with caviar. Elsewhere, top calls range from juicy grilled scallops with a textured wasabi topping to velvety Wagyu beef offset by pickled mushrooms. The high-end list of sakés, global wines and sexy shochu-based cocktails can also be sampled at the elegant bar, while smooth service is a hallmark throughout.
More detail about Roka Aldwych
54 Brooks Mews, London, W1K 4EG
It’s now an international brand, but correspondents say London’s iteration of this Nice-inspired restaurant is superior for its light, fresh dishes. With a well-established buzz and a pale, clean-lined dining room splashed with colours of the Med, La Petite Maison “always feels special”. Starters double as small sharing plates that are true to their regional roots: a table laden with pissaladière, “fabulous” seafood carpaccio, sweet peppers in olive oil, sliced octopus and feta-topped ratatouille makes a transporting lunch. Mains might be duck glazed with orange, roast monkfish with spicy chickpeas or grilled lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine, while flourishes such as the fresh almonds served with a fillet of halibut show that the kitchen takes care with the details. Desserts may not reinvent the wheel, but warm chocolate mousse with malt ice cream will do just fine. In line with the food, wine prices exhibit a degree of ambition. “I could eat here every day”, confesses one fan.
More detail about La Petite Maison
17-20 Kendal Street, London, W2 2AW
Is this the funkiest dining room in London? The energy is pure Antipodean (very different from Japanese reserve) and the big glazed room rings with the noise of excited diners, “ultra-friendly” waiters, bartenders mixing extravagant cocktails and even live music from time to time. Kurobuta takes its cue from Japan’s rock ‘n’ roll izakayas, where small plates and drinks make the evening go with a swing. Flavours are full-frontal rather than polite, and while the menu offers riffs on familiar sushi, maki and tempura, it also promises snacks, raw dishes, salads, robata grills and Japanese ‘junk food’ – including a subversive take on pizza. Top calls range from beer-grilled beef fillet with wasabi salsa, miso chicken with spicy lemon sauce and the instantly addictive pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy to self-styled ‘significant others’ such as jumbo shrimps with BBQ cabbage, tamari and ginger or sticky miso-grilled aubergine with candied walnuts. The whole show is irresistible, boisterous and huge fun.
More detail about Kurobuta Marble Arch
143 Ebury Street, London, SW1W 9QN
The name alludes to Dante’s unfinished masterpiece, and there are quotes from the great poet all around this modern Italian – although most diners simply appreciate the ‘convivial’ atmosphere and admirable space between tables (“one can truly have a private conversation here”, notes a fan). There’s also some “excellent” Italian regional cooking to be had, from indulgent plates of San Daniele ham accompanied by bouncily soft burrata, or crunchy octopus with a rich nduja sauce, to a risotto with roast quail and red onion purée, or veal chop with fresh artichokes (“as good as I get in Venice”, notes one traveller). Handmade pasta is a sound shout for those that want it (we suggest pappardelle with seafood and raw Sicilian pachio tomato sauce), while zabaglione semifreddo drizzled with espresso coffee sauce make a fine finish. The “reasonably priced” wine list lacks informative notes, but staff are more than happy to suggest a decent Italian match for food and pocket.
More detail about Il Convivio
392 King's Road, London, SW3 5UZ
“Buzzy”, “busy”, “exciting”’ – 14 years in and Eight Over Eight still wears the crown as the epicentre of grown-up “party” fun on the King’s Road. The Zen-like black and white interiors, oriental screens and fluted lampshades have remained timeless, with chopstick holders and napkin dispensers keeping everything the right side of informal. Tables fill up quickly with “the usual pretty people”, all lured by the prospect of some celeb spotting and a super-friendly menu of “excellent” pan-Asian classics. From spare ribs with black bean sauce and yellowtail sashimi with citrus dressing to Malaysian lamb curry and the in-demand black cod with sweet miso, you’ll struggle to find a dud dish. Even the crispy banoffee spring rolls are a good shout. The streetside bar is equally popular thanks to its roster of top-notch Asian-themed cocktails, with the Pomegranate Margarita scoring particularly highly. Service is “quick” and the “friendly and chatty” staff keep the mood upbeat.
More detail about Eight Over Eight
64 Parkway, NW1 7AH
Grilling is the name of the game here and all the fiery action is on show as chefs skilfully handle the tandoor, sigri and tawa before your eyes. But that’s not to say this is a rough-and-ready sort of place, not a bit of it. Namaasté Kitchen has creamy leather banquettes, designer light fittings, and even a couple of chef’s tables – in other words, it’s a pin-sharp modern Indian restaurant. The menu reaches well beyond the curry-house favourites, with chukandari venison cooked in the tandoor (flavoured with beetroot and fennel), followed by Goan sea bass served with dhokla, or a Dorset crab vindaloo. Spicing is well judged throughout and everything looks rather splendid on the plate. To finish, mango brûlée is a contemporary fusion that wins the day. The wine list has a decent global spread, including options under £20.
More detail about Namaasté Kitchen
The Towpath, Richmond Riverside, London, TW10 4UJ
Swaggering and staggering distance from central Richmond, this branch of the Argentinian grill chain proves popular with the area’s macho men and their glamorous WAGs. Keep to the light, zingy fish ceviches and tiraditos for starters, to leave space for the main attraction. The steaks are beautifully cooked, with minimal fuss. Frankly, ordering anything else (sea bream with serrano ham, prawn risotto) is to miss the point. Puds are substantial, very sweet and largely unnecessary. The drinks list is full of punchy Argentinian wines and much-admired cocktails, so it’s a shame this beautifully sited venue on the Thames towpath no longer serves drinks to non-diners.
More detail about Gaucho Richmond
194 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3TQ
This is the smarter of José Pizarro’s two Bermondsey eateries, and the only proper sit-down option – although we recommend perching at the kitchen counter and enjoying some “great theatre” if you can. This is a good-looking place, contemporary without being achingly fashionable, and it attracts a local crowd to match. The ingredients are always top quality and handled with expertise by the kitchen team: meltingly soft chicken livers on sourdough are “a must-try”; grilled baby gem lettuce is paired with blue cheese, piquillo peppers and caramelised walnuts; Cornish hake might be grilled on the plancha and served with sautéed potatoes. To finish, expect inventive desserts ranging from a strawberry soup with basil and lime granita to cream-cheese ice cream with blackcurrant and chamomile syrup. The wine list is among London’s best for good Spanish producers and emerging regions. There’s a newer branch in the City, but fans tend to favour this “truly remarkable” original.
More detail about Pizarro
27 Battersea Rise, London, SW11 1HG
“Can’t stop recommending it” exclaims a devotee of Battersea Rise’s casual French wine bar and restaurant. We concur: Soif is still streets ahead of the local competition. The daily menu doesn’t only base itself on Gallic soil – charcuterie features heavily, but Italian coppa is listed alongside rillettes and cornichons; Lindisfarne oysters are up there with Gorgonzola and burrata – though classic French-Mediterranean flavours are the mainstay. Whether you eat tapas-style (clams, chilli, garlic and lemon, say) or go for a more formal meal (Montbéliard sausage with choucroute and potatoes, followed by pannacotta), the cooking is invariably up to scratch. Staff are keen their customers enjoy themselves, and happily make recommendations from the huge and impressive list of organic and ‘natural’ terroir-led wines and French ciders. The split-level room decorated with French posters soon fills, but hard wooden chairs discourage lingering, so tables usually aren’t long in coming free.
More detail about Soif
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
With no outside lighting and the backlit jewel colours of the mixologist’s toolkit giving a seductive hint of fun, time just slips away in this bar at the heart of the Mandarin Oriental, where the well-heeled drop by for a glass of something classy before heading to Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner.
If bubbles are your preference, Moët is the starting point, but if cocktails are up your street then there’s more than enough to float your boat. Many sips have a South American/Asian slant, as in Veiled Quebranta, which delivers plum- and apple-infused pisco with umeshu, matcha tea, nori, plum and yuzu. There’s not much demand for food from the darlings who hang out here, which is a shame, because both the sea bass ceviche, tomato tartare with caperberries, and beef tataki with roasted garlic make very good snacks.
More detail about Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BS
A beacon for Asian fine dining since 2003, Michelin-starred Benares brings French-inspired refinement to spice-based cooking “without depleting the authenticity of Indian flavour”. The kitchen delivers “awesome food” and “real creativity” across the board, although tasting menus are the undoubted showcase for the kitchen's talents – from pan-seared scallops with broccoli couscous and pine-nut podi (dry powder) to a crisp, puffy chicken tikka pie or tandoori lamb cutlets with rich, rogan-inspired jus and creamy black dhal makhani. Inventive set lunches might include piri-piri quail with smoked beetroot or prawn curry with Bengali-spiced kimchi, while a dessert of tarte Tatin infused with anise and fennel typifies the crossover approach. Kindly, engaging staff deliver “spotless service” in the slick, smart, white-on-black dining room, while street food and quirky cocktails are the main business in the lounge bar. Wine picks tackle the spicing admirably. “Pricey, but perfect for special occasions”, says a fan.
More detail about Benares
75 Westbourne Grove,Bayswater, London, W2 4UL
One of London’s smarter Lebanese options, Al Waha still has the friendly neighbourhood vibe that has made it a Westboune Grove fixture since the 1990s. Waiters navigate between the closely-set tables in the split-level dining room; tables by the windows have the best atmosphere, while those on the mezzanine are better suited to larger groups. As you might expect, hot and cold mezze are the menu’s highlight and will suit most appetites as an entire meal. Our top picks are hummus kawarmah (topped with diced lamb and pine nuts), the kibbeh nayeh (raw lamb with crushed wheat, spices and garnished with onions), the pizza-like arayes topped with minced lamb, parsley, sesame paste and pine nuts, and sambousek, cheese-stuffed pastries. Should you still have room, chicken, lamb and fish to follow comes with an irresistible smoky edge from the charcoal grill. To drink, the well-priced wine list leads with Lebanon and has loads under £30, while prices overall are very reasonable for the quality of food and the generosity if the portions.
More detail about Al Waha Restaurant
23 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1HA
It might feel like being trapped inside a panda’s lunchbox, but beyond the swathes of cypress and bamboo there’s plenty to divert customers at “trendy” Sake No Hana. Perennially popular, it offers a vast menu that straddles the Japanese canon (and beyond), combined with a “superb atmosphere” and just enough pizzazz to make it all feel special at the price. The repertoire repays close attention. Start, perhaps, with colourful seared sushi or the umami riot of seared rib-eye beef with sesame dressing, before moving on to iron-pot rice topped with truffle and wild mushrooms or mirin-marinated black cod with yuzu, chilli and miso. A menu of this magnitude might expose weaknesses in lesser kitchens, but here the chefs are obviously well-drilled – especially when it comes to intricate desserts such as matcha pannacotta with mango sorbet. Saké classes, whisky and chocolate flights and a boozy Saturday lunch all help to maintain interest. “Excellent, as ever”, confirms one regular.
More detail about Sake No Hana
10 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NP
Tucked away discreetly at the rear of this glossy hotel (also home to Berners Tavern), The Punch Room is an inviting, low-key hideaway with a blazing open fire. With the Venetian blinds drawn, fumed oak walls, low lights and tobacco leather, the vibe is a cross between a private yacht and a modern Soho members’ club, with slick service from laid-back, professional staff. As the name implies, the room's freestanding dispense bar is big on heritage punches. The hardback cocktail book is a painstakingly prepared, drinkable history of punch, peppered with strange ingredients and intriguing flourishes; fancy a serve which was sipped on board the Titanic? Then order the Punch a la Romaine, a blend of lemon foam, gin, dry curaçao, green tea and Champagne, originally used as a mid-meal palate cleanser. The menu is split into six flavour sections, which should cover most tastes. The bar’s on a self-proclaimed quest to challenge drinkers’ perceptions of punch but, with the option to order bowls in a variety of sizes, those looking for volume should be just as pleased as cocktail connoisseurs.
More detail about Punch Room at The London Edition
90 Berwick Street, London, W1F 0QB
“Vibrant, buzzing, yet elegant” sums up the mood at Duck and Rice, where Pilsner Urquell drinkers rub shoulders with Chinese food fans and the high-spec design features gleaming beer tanks, open fires and Chinese-style blue-and-white ceramic panels. The upstairs dining room is calmer than the ground-floor pub, although both serve the same muddled one-page menu of dim sum, chow mein, chop suey, crispy duck and various bites. If you’re feeling adventurous, order the fiery Szechuan chicken or the melting jasmine-smoked pork ribs. However, D&R’s more traditional dishes are barely above the bog-standard Chinatown norm, making much of the menu seem overpriced – order wisely from the capable staff to ensure the best outcome. Ale-based cocktails (Beer Negroni, anyone?) are joined by “amazing Gin Mares” and a big selection of French-led wines, while weekends are for dim-sum brunching. Finally, an events programme including bingo nights and drag-queen quizzes is exactly what the area needs.
More detail about The Duck and Rice
47-48 St John's Square, London, EC1V 4JJ
Given that she was born in Canada, raised in New Zealand and has parents with Belgian/Danish roots, it’s no surprise that fusion queen Anna Hansen takes her foodie inspiration from far and wide. Like her former gaff, The Providores, this Clerkenwell townhouse eatery is a place of two halves, with a buzzy ground-floor café/traiteur and a serene upstairs dining room with clean-lined contemporary decor. Breakfast and brunch are popular shouts, although the kitchen delivers “tremendously flavoursome food from start to finish”. Aubergine dengaku is a Japanese favourite, served with pickled mushrooms, while other dishes take a more European approach – a salad of buffalo mozzarella, roasted fennel and roasted peach, perhaps. After that, expect a riot of flavours: chermoula-infused sea trout comes with pea and yuzu purée, onglet steak gets its oomph from miso and tamarind, and pavlova comes fired up with Asian flavours. As expected, the wine list is a fascinating globetrotting compendium.
More detail about The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell
19 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8ED
Moscow-meets-Amalfi at this Russian-backed Italian, which - on the plate at least – does a pretty good job of whisking you away to an Italian trattoria. Cavernous Mayfair-by-numbers interiors (Imposing reception desk? Tick. Plush beige seats? Tick. Columns, muted colour scheme and lots of giant chandeliers? Tick, tick, tick.) are a million miles away from an alfresco table at a piazza, but it’s the quality of ingredients and an expert pasta chef that does the talking here.
We kicked off with a creamy, oozing buratta with cherry tomatoes and some exquisite wafer-thin coppa, before being bowled over by the quality of the freshly made pasta. Bright yellow tagliatelle swimming in a buttery sauce and topped with a decadent, perfumed and nutty black truffle, and a comparatively rustic (but devilishly hard to perfect) pici cacio e pepe – tagiatelle with pecorino Romano and black pepper – were truly bellisimo. The lengthy menu also features a host of trattoria staples – veal Milanese, frittura mista - as well as over a dozen pizzas. For desert, hazelnut semi-freddo is a good pick. This being Mayfair, service is top-notch and there’s a sommelier to help guide you through the Italian wine list, although none of this comes for cheap.
More detail about Bocconcino
The Capital Hotel, 22-24 Basil Street, London, SW3 1AT
NATHAN OUTLAW WITH LEAVE OUTLAW'S AT THE CAPITAL IN MARCH 2019 TO OPEN A NEW RESTAURANT AT THE GORING
Widely accepted as the modern master of British seafood, Nathan Outlaw stepped away from his Cornish home turf to launch in London in 2012. Five years on, this venue still feels like a well-kept secret. Perhaps the menu lends itself more to the coast than a conservatively attired hotel dining room, or perhaps Londoners want more culinary fireworks, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t find better or fresher seafood in the capital. Our octopus starter paired magnificently with almonds and a sharp sherry vinegar bread sauce, while a glorious thick slab of sea bass came with breadcrumbed oysters, sweet baby leeks and a generous dollop of lime hollandaise. No fireworks, no fripperies: just clean flavours and exemplary technique. After that, elderflower cream with strawberries and verjus maintains the seasonal theme. Service is five-star slick and, to drink, we’d recommend something from founder David Levin’s biodynamic vineyard – perhaps Mr L, a barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc.
More detail about Outlaw's at The Capital
Sartoria, 20 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PR
Libare is as sharp as a Savile Row suit. It’s the rebooted destination bar of Sartoria (following a major refurbishment by D&D London) and strikes a 20th-century Milanese-chic pose. Park yourself on copper leather high stools at the marble-topped bar where signori, sharp in Chartreuse velvet tuxedos, dispense aperitivo-hour spritzes, seasonal Bellinis, twisted Negronis, and liqueurs created by chef-patron Francesco Mazzei. New room, new ideas: we like fennel-infused gin Martini; a Mediterranean Mojito that adds basil and cherry tomato to the classic formula, and a deviant Smoked Bloody Mary that prefers Lagavulin 16 whisky and Don Julio Blanco Tequila to vodka – all good at £12. Order one of over a dozen by-the-glass wines from £5 with sliced Italian hams and salumi. Bar food also includes minestrone, veal in tuna sauce, anchovy and panzanella salad, plus ices and pastries. ‘Libare’ translates as ‘to sip’: a pleasurable pastime in such elegant surroundings.
More detail about Libare Bar at Sartoria
95 Forest Road, London, E8 3BH
Andy Bird has snapped up this handsome mid-Victorian Hackney hostelry, introducing subtle decorative tweaks and updates that make for a belting backstreet boozer worthy of wider acclaim. Bird’s track record – co-owner of irrepressible Hoxton cocktail joint Happiness Forgets, saviour of The Chesham Arms – bodes well for the Prince. A fine range of hoppy worthies also helps: Belgian-inspired Bristolian brewer Lost and Grounded’s Running With Spectres perhaps, or The Five Points Brewing Co from a roster of local heroes on rotation. Sensibly priced classic and modern pub food is served in the cosy, convivial saloon. For three months from December 2017 (pending the arrival of the in-house chef), Rita’s Dining fires up the stoves with dishes that typify future plans: hearty French onion soup or Jerusalem artichoke, pumpkin, curds and pecans to start; mains of roast cod with burnt leeks and butter sauce or chicken parmigiana in a rich tomato sauce.
More detail about The Prince Arthur
11-13 Frith Street, W1D 4RB
Modern and youthful, this champion of Nikkei cuisine (Japanese/Peruvian fusion) pulls out the stops in every department. Chotto Matte is a large two-floor venue: a neon-splashed nightclub of a restaurant where graffiti-covered walls are juxtaposed with low lighting and concrete pillars. The best thing we ate on an intermittently forgettable menu was a glowing sushi and sashimi platter, the delicately prepared flesh adorned with vibrant daubs of aji amarillo chilli. Every dish is presented with bravado; scorched gyoza parcels of pork, prawn and cassava are fanned out on a bright red and yellow bed of sweet potato and more amarillo. Pricey small portions make this an expensive prospect – we suggest one of the set-price sharing menus – and despite the peacock approach, some flavours fall flat. Stick to the barbecue and sushi elements, then raid the sprawling, inventive cocktail list. Chotto Matte’s sheer enthusiasm, as embodied by chefs Jordan Sclare and Michael Paul (‘The Nikkei Boys’), should ensure an entertaining night: after a more energetic alternative to Hakkasan? Look no further.
More detail about Chotto Matte
70 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4QG
Launched at the height of ‘gourmet fast food’ mania, Bubbledogs’ still-snaking queues prove that grower Champagne and high-class hotdogs are a combination built to last. This quirky match-up works, thanks to “awesome service” and a “cool ambience” in the smart, brick-on-wood room. Co-owner Sandia Chang’s passion for small-producer fizz rubs off on staff who know her treat-packed list inside out, while James Knappett’s kitchen applies similar respect to pork, beef or veggie dogs, with some 17 versions, including Sloppy Joe (beef chilli, Cheddar cheese and onions) and José (fresh tomato, avocado, jalapeños and sour cream). Our pick, however, is the purist’s dream – a New Yorker’s onions and sauerkraut drenched in table-top French’s and ketchup, backed up by ruthlessly addictive sides of ‘tater tots’ and sweet-potato fries. Those less enamoured of fizz will find on-point cocktails, craft beers and even a few still wines from the Champagne region.
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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
More detail about Anise
Swedeland Court, 202 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4NR
“Unapologetically old school”, and a welcome alternative to the chains hereabouts, the City branch of Boisdale might be mistaken for a gregarious gentleman’s club with its deep-red walls, leather seats, dedicated cigar list and assorted Caledonian memorabilia. That said, it’s far from pretentious, with friendly service and a menu of hearty Scottish fare keeping things relaxed. You might kick off with a plate of Highland venison and wild boar terrine with pistachios, pickles and toasted sourdough, before tackling roast Blackface haggis with mash and bashed neeps, some grass-fed, dry-aged Aberdeenshire beef or pan-fried fillet of Orkney salmon with braised violet artichokes, wild mushrooms and chervil. After that, how about a dark Valrhona chocolate parfait and peach jelly? With its fondness for live jazz and its show-stealing whisky selection, Boisdale oozes dressed-down masculinity, but it’s also “perfect for a girly lunch”, according to one fan.
More detail about Boisdale of Bishopsgate
The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, London, W1K 1QA
Basement dining rooms must work hard to get noticed, and China Tang works harder than most in that department: down in the lower regions of The Dorchester, no inch of the restaurant goes unembellished. The inspiration is interbellum Shanghai, and while the dark wood and elaborate carpets aren’t looking box-fresh, it’s certainly an atmospheric way to kit out a dining space. China Tang’s food is straight-down-the-middle Cantonese, handled with care and served with a level of ceremony that suits the luxe hotel surroundings. To start, try delicate tomato and egg-drop soup, followed by golden prawns with salted egg yolk, stir-fried minced pigeon in lettuce wraps or, for a bit of fire and fragrance, fish braised with Szechuan peppercorns. Tang’s international clientele believe there’s no bad time for dim sum, so expect Shanghai dumplings, mango rolls, turnip cakes and roast pork buns right through the day. In the bar, cocktails are more fashion-forward than the food.
More detail about China Tang at The Dorchester Hotel
5 Clipstone Street, London, W1W 6BB
Happy is the imbiber who waters at this trough, one of London's more plausible speakeasies in a quarter that's not exactly stoked with ‘cred' cocktail joints. Appealingly done out like a seedy Prohibition-era joint, Lucky Pig’s chaises longues and cushion-strewn, curtained-off vaults are perfect for a spot of canoodling, while weekends bring the live sounds of red-hot mamas, be-bop cats, Brylcreem-slick balladeers and rollicking DJ sets. To drink, order retro ‘giggle water’ (Sidecar or French Martini), or modern mixes dreamed up with the Fitzrovia and Marylebone mob in mind: Bullet Proof, Luciano Sour and Fingers Crossed (Zacapa 23 rum, Mozart chocolate liqueur, Pimento Dram rum-based liqueur, Coco Pops milk and Aztec bitters). For solid fuel, pick at pizzas, cheeses or a charcuterie platter – not such a lucky pig after all.
More detail about The Lucky Pig
44 Barnsbury Street, London, N1 1ER
It may look gentrified, but The Drapers Arms is a lively place, with the ground-floor bar humming like a good ’un when the locals flock in. The Georgian building’s fine features have been left well alone, which makes for spaces of generous proportions and classic design. To drink, there are real ales at the bar and a wine list offering glass and carafe options. Head upstairs to the serene dining room to escape the hubbub (assuming it’s not booked for a private party). A patio garden provides another alternative in summer. The kitchen satisfies with its mix of modern comfort food, such as the house cheeseburger, but is equally happy knocking up duck breast with roasted black plums, or packing guinea fowl, bacon and mushrooms into a pie. To finish, gingerbread pudding competes with Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses with crab apple jelly
(is it OK to have both?).
More detail about The Drapers Arms
85 Maple Road, London, KT6 4AW
It’s hardly surprising that this bijoux restaurant in Surbiton is popular as Eric (chef) and Sarah (Front of House) Guignard have been running their restaurant long enough to know exactly what their clientele want. Eric’s kitchen punches above its weight with starters like terrine of lobster and ham hock, set off with a sweet hit of confit watermelon, or an earthy slow-cooked duck egg paired with smoked duck breast and truffle-rich mushroom duxelle, with the likes of pearlescent roasted hake set off with a gentle crustacea sauce for mains. Sarah and her team greet diners as old friends and immediately put them at their ease. The wine list is built to accommodate special occasions (there’s decent selection of magnums and plenty of Champagne), but Sarah has a penchant for unusual and interesting wines, so it’s well worth checking out their seasonal list of wines by the glass and carafe. Those after something less formal should visit for lunch, or even drop into their lovely café/patisserie, The French Tarte, next door.
More detail about The French Table
418 Richmond Road, London, TW1 2EB
The choice of well-heeled locals for suppers and minor celebrations, A Cena continues to please. It’s an attractive space: all polished wood and white tablecloths. If possible, sit where the room mushrooms out behind the bar, as here the atmosphere is generally buzzing and the draughts have nowhere to go. The kitchen is perfectly competent at cooking the modish range of Italian dishes on the menu – start with a deep, rich Chianti-braised beef bruschetta, or a simple Parma ham and mascarpone risotto; move on to grilled sea bream with capers and lemon, or Gloucester Old Spot cutlet with baked aubergine and oregano. The standard may not cut the mustard in Knightsbridge, but it’s better than you might expect in the ‘burbs, and prices are kind: especially for the express lunch and dinner menus. There’s an interesting Italian wine list to match, and a barman versed in grown-up cocktails to boot.
More detail about A Cena
28 Frith Street, London, W1D 5LF
Strictly a domain for chilli-heads, this smart, light-filled Chinese delivers a riotous flavour ride, Szechuan-style. Complaints of “lucky dip” portion sizes have been addressed with the introduction of illustrated menus, which also help to identify the hottest propositions. Dry-wok options (stir-fried frog’s legs, pig’s offal and duck tongues) all arrive emblazoned with dried chilli, as do fleshy strips of boiled sea bass and appetisers such as sliced pork belly, nestled in a blood-red sauce. Moments of relief come in the shape of soothing soups, and stews, and you’ll probably be glad to see mango sorbet and coconut ice cream offered for dessert. The restaurant makes no bones about the fact that it uses MSG and aims to turn your table within two hours – two drawbacks that will be familiar to anyone who frequents neighbouring Chinatown. High prices are out of sync with the neighbourhood, but you’re paying for an “authentic”, thoroughly thrilling taste of central China.
More detail about Barshu Restaurant
29A Wentworth Street, London, E1 7TB
Squeezed into a former schmutter merchant's low-beamed storeroom, this is just the place if you want to wet your whistle in style off Petticoat Lane. As sharp as a mohair and silk suit worn by Marvin Gaye, Little Stevie Wonder or any similarly snappy 1960s dude who features on the retro cellar's Megawatt Northern Soul playlist, DSC’s cocktails measure up nicely: bespoke mezcal and poitín Old Fashioneds, elegant Daiquiris and rye Manhattans all represent off-the-peg perfection. Meanwhile, Two Smoking Barrels (Lapsang Souchong-infused brandy, whisky, Chartreuse elixir and bitters) for two to share is the sort of lethal slug that sartorial perfectionists Ronnie and Reggie Kray might have knocked back had this place existed in their heyday. Note that prices are more Cockney barrow boy than Bond Street boutique.
More detail about Discount Suit Company
55 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 5RB
This D&D London-owned, Conran-era classic has celebrated its 21st birthday with a gentle refurbishment that has effectively kept the grey-toned colour scheme the same as before. It remains one of the most elegant dining rooms in London, especially pretty at lunchtime when light floods through the arched windows overlooking St Marylebone churchyard, and in summer when the rooftop terrace is one of the capital’s best-kept secrets. Chef-patron Igor Tymchyshyn has worked here since 2008 and hasn’t ever deviated from the restaurant’s modern French template. Starters of perky cured mackerel with cucumber and horseradish or a really excellent Dorset crab with mango and wasabi might be followed by a signature tournedos Rossini with almost as much foie gras as steak. A trolley whiffy with 30 well-kept cheeses has always been what the place is most famous for – as too a 22-page wine list with some big names among the two dozen by the glass, with fine wine prices slashed on Mondays. Service is as formal as the business-friendly setting of well-spaced, white-clothed tables demands, without losing sight of friendliness. A set menu (£39) with four choices per course avoids the stiff cost of the à la carte (£59), while the tiny bar is a rare for the area cocktail spot.
More detail about Orrery
57 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9DS
Famous as one of the best places to eat duck and foie gras since opening in 1998, Club Gascon is moving with the low-waste and sustainable times, re-opening from a refurb with a ‘Garden’ section of the menu featuring six veg-focused starters and mains. Rest assured, however, that if slow-cooked egg with plankton, seaweed and bitter leaves doesn’t float your boat, all things duck still form the core of the menu – and are far and away the best things to eat here, foie gras especially: a smooth-as-butter terrine served with banyuls, fig and Argan oil to start or, spectacularly, served with a Bailey’s and mandarin sauce for pudding, beguilingly sweet and savoury; thick lobes of pan-fried foie gras sitting under a shell crammed with razor clams is another flavour bomb. Non-ducky options such as roasted sturgeon with leeks, bone marrow and Craster sauce, and roast grouse with popcorn, Guinness and oyster sauce seemed less appealingly individual and more fine-dining-by-numbers, but a kitchen that excels with pudding ensures things end on a high note, from a pre-dessert variation on prunes and Armagnac that left us wanting much, much more to a ‘millionaire’ dessert made from 72% Colombian chocolate with black olive, lemon gel and thyme ice cream, so rich it demanded to be savoured slowly. Eye-opening wine matching remains a strength, while the restaurant’s new look has a timeless modernity that should last for another 20 years.
More detail about Club Gascon
55 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BB
Like its sibling The Wolseley, this "lovely buzzy restaurant" bears all the hallmarks of a Corbin & King success story, from "spot-on" service to please-all cooking for a big-city crowd. No wonder The Delaunay has become a perennial favourite on all counts: the welcome is "always friendly" and the David Collins interior "impresses straightaway" with its glossy dark wood, gleaming brass and polished stone floors. There's an "old-school Viennese" vibe here, so expect to find wiener schnitzel, choucroute and rich borscht, as well as traditional dishes from elsewhere in Europe such as chicken Kiev and the ever-popular kedgeree. Tempting patisserie and viennoiserie – including an exemplary sachertorte – are worth a visit alone: luckily the adjoining Counter at The Delaunay sells many of these goodies to go. We urge you to book ahead for the phenomenally popular pre-theatre slot, or start your day in splendid fashion with a gut-busting breakfast. In short, "a great London institution".
More detail about The Delaunay
15 Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9EY
For more than 20 years Zafferano has managed to maintain the highest reputation despite changes of chef and the vagaries of London’s restaurant scene, so it’s safe to say that this Belgravia sophisticate is now very much part of the capital’s gastronomic establishment. No wonder it’s a go-to for a smart international crowd, who come here in search of reliable, precise Italian cooking with one foot the classical camp. Our all-time favourites include their signature lobster linguine, chargrilled rib of beef with roast potatoes and veal Milanese with saffron risotto, but in keeping with the seasons, there’s a sprinkling of white truffles in the autumn and black truffles in summer. Meanwhile, those looking for more innovative dishes should peruse the daily specials. Zafferano also scores highly when it comes to creature comforts (in the luxurious well-upholstered dining room and on the attractive pavement terrace), while top-notch service and a patrician regional Italian wine list add to its metropolitan kudos.
More detail about Zafferano
6-8 Elliott Road, London, W4 1PE
With a culinary CV including the likes of Pétrus, Chez Bruce and La Trompette, Michael Nadra has had no trouble transforming his self-named gaff into one of Chiswick’s go-to destinations. The restaurant’s chic neutral decor, animated atmosphere and courtyard garden make this “gorgeous venue” perfect for a romantic dinner, and it’s still lauded as the best value in the neighbourhood. A prix-fixe menu promises top deals at lunch or dinner, while a six-course tasting offer allows the chef’s skill to shine with refined dishes such as ceviche of salmon with yuzu and sweetcorn purée, steamed sea bass with prawn and chive dumplings, pak choy and lemongrass bisque or aged Angus fillet steak and braised cheeks with girolles and rich truffled mash. Desserts are indulgent classics (chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream, treacle tart with clotted cream), while the impressive 200-bin wine list includes some good options by the glass.
More detail about Restaurant Michael Nadra Chiswick
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG
Long before Coal Drops Yard upped King’s Cross’s cool factor, Rotunda was drawing in the crowds with its farm-to-table ethos and charming canal-side terrace. The restaurant underwent refurbishment in the summer of 2018 and while most of the cosmetic changes are subtle (splashes of orange in the colour scheme, a new hanging cabinet on display near the entrance), the biggest difference is the introduction of a buzzy chef’s counter. With much of the kitchen moved from downstairs into the restaurant, diners can now watch the chefs at work, while asking for their cooking tips of course.
Rotunda makes full use of its owner’s farm in Northumberland, while all beef and lamb on the menu is dry-aged, hung and butchered on site. Seasonally changing specials are also a fixture: on our visit, we devoured a tremendously decadent baked camembert, drizzled with honey and truffle oil and served with St John bread.
The kitchen’s commitment to process is evidenced in triumphs such as the 8oz beef burger. So often an uninspiring choice on restaurant menus, this perfectly cooked burger is gratifyingly greasy without overdoing it and is complemented by toppings of smoked bacon and Ogleshield cheese. If you’d rather eat fish, try the likes of fleshy, citrusy grilled Cornish scallops slathered in seaweed butter and topped with crispy samphire.
Things get a little odd come dessert, with some rather random combinations on offer (blueberry Eccles cake with espresso coffee choc pot anyone?). Nonetheless, our more conventional chocolate and almond lava cake with cherry compote was a warm, comforting end to a delicious meal.
Friendly staff and a fairly-priced wine list are further reasons to take a trip to King’s Place – it might have more competition now, but Rotunda’s still got it.
More detail about Rotunda
The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EU
The legendary Savoy Grill has hosted a long list of famous diners since it opened in 1889, including Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra. You'll feel like an A-lister too, seated in the plush dining room beneath glittering chandeliers: "I love the experience whenever I go here," declares one devotee. Now a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, the menu pays its dues to the Savoy's culinary heritage, featuring omelette Arnold Bennett and peach Melba (both created here), as well as French staples that would be familiar to the hotel's first chef, Escoffier. But the main event is the "wonderful meat": generous grills and chops, with classic sauces such as marrowbone and shallot, feature alongside braises, roasts and pies, plus daily treats from the trolley – Wednesday is our favourite day for lunch, when beef Wellington is the star of the show. A traditional wine list lends support, while polished staff include "a helpful and knowledgeable sommelier". In short, the Savoy Grill delivers.
More detail about Savoy Grill at The Savoy
118 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NW
This is a very Piccadilly take on Peruvian cuisine from restaurateur Arjun Waney, a man who can turn even the humblest ingredients into something glamorous. When its jet-setting crowd are in the mood, Coya can feel like the centre of a parallel universe, where the pisco flows and the charcoal glows. Eating is only partially the point, although top-notch ingredients help the food stand out among the capital’s growing crop of Peruvian eateries. Ceviche is “to die for”, from wild sea bass with bergamot, choclo (sweetcorn) and plantain to a Japanese-Peruvian version with celery juice, ginger and daikon for company. Smaller dishes celebrate other Peruvian favourites (corn comes Josper-grilled with extra crispy bits, sweet onion and red chillis), while ox heart is speared with panca chillis and parsley. From there, meat options climb steeply towards the Chilean Wagyu sirloin, and even a humble potato ‘iron pot’ casserole – albeit truffled-up – will set you back £20. Our advice? Go in with eyes and wallet wide open.
More detail about Coya Mayfair
20 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PD
Built in 1977, Sea Containers House was a landmark long before Mondrian, but the US-based boutique hotel chain has done a good job of enhancing the building’s grandeur with a cruise-ship sized dining room that’s wittily decorated with, among other things, a yellow submarine suspended above the bar. Since opening in 2014, the menu’s all-encompassing range has been reined in a little, and it’s now focused on doing fewer things well. Small plates might promise crab on toast with avocado and pickled jalapeños, while salads look particularly enticing – shaved mushrooms with pine nuts, cheese and brown butter vinaigrette, for example. We also like the idea of large ‘family’ plates to share, such as double-cut heritage pork chop or leg of lamb roasted in the clay oven (enough for three people). Desserts tend to be witty takes on the classics, from profiteroles to rhubarb tart with Champagne jelly. “Amazing service” earns bonus points.
More detail about Sea Containers at Mondrian London
Bulgari Hotel, 171 Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DW
Rivea London at Bulgari Hotel closed permanently on 2 January 2019
On a balmy evening in St Tropez, few restaurants can beat the original Rivea, a sun-drenched homage to Provençal cuisine. Sadly, something vital has been lost in transporting the restaurant to the glossy Bulgari Hotel’s windowless basement – chiefly, the sun. The glitzy art-deco interior does its best, but we can’t help feeling a vital component of the restaurant’s DNA is missing – a shame, because Alain Ducasse protégé Alexandre Nicolas can deliver some truly exquisite, flavoursome food. “Glamour and dainty plates” is the deal, and we’ve enjoyed many stonking small dishes: marinated slivers of sea bream in a citrus dressing; sautéed prawns the size of mini-lobsters accompanied by squid and cuttlefish; trofie pasta with a verdant, spiky pesto, and a stunning ‘cookpot’ of gently softened baby courgettes and flowers. There are also some conventional mains for those with big appetites (Riviera-style John Dory, say). Dishes don’t come cheap, but top-drawer service and a superb Franco-Italian wine list make it all worthwhile.
More detail about Rivea London at Bulgari Hotel
12 Upper St Martins Lane, London, WC2H 9FB
Now with branches in Shoreditch, King’s Cross and Soho, Dishoom is going from strength to strength as its take on the café culture of old Bombay hits the spot with hungry Londoners. Quirky vintage styling includes bright Bollywood posters and formal family portraits, while pendant lamps and monochrome tiles keep things bang up to date in the bustling dining room. Drop in any time: you’ll find bacon naan rolls and sweet chai for breakfast, ahead of a reliable all-day menu that readers recommend as a “great standby for last-minute” dining. Highlights at Dishoom include an aromatic biryani dish of chicken berry Britannia, spiced lamb keema scooped up with buttery pau buns, and the “fantastic” house black dhal. The drinks list keeps up the good work, with lassis and craft beers, plus “different and delicious” cocktails to enjoy in the basement bar if you’re waiting for a table. “Reasonable prices” and “prompt service” too.
More detail about Dishoom Covent Garden
10 Seymour Place, London, W1H 7ND
This “marvellous” Basque kitchen has always served the food and drink of San Sebastián and its environs against a backdrop of purest white, with touches of grained wood and marble – although it’s now reaping the benefit of a 2016 refurb. The food doesn’t need much flattery, even if the act of pouring natural Basque cider from great heights does add a certain ceremony to the experience. Excellent charcuterie dominates the selection of cold plates, while pintxos could be foie gras with walnuts and PX vinegar, jamón croquetas or tempura prawns with ham and mango. Bigger tapas dishes give meat and fish a starring role, as in Ibérico pork shoulder with romesco sauce, crispy-fried cod cheeks with squid-ink aïoli or marinated quail with spinach, pancetta and truffle oil. There are classic extras including blistered Padrón peppers and masterfully made tortilla too. Donostia’s owners started out in the wine import trade, and there’s quality in every glass.
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14 Station Parade, London, TW9 3PZ
Light and airy, but with a simple elegance that comes from clever, careful design, this sibling of La Trompette and Chez Bruce is the go-to destination for Kew’s smart set. It also gives its siblings a run for their money when it comes to quality, presentation and service, though it’s easier to get a table here. The menu is a showcase for seasonal British ingredients cooked with proper knowhow and an eye to the future rather than the past. The menu changes often, but you might find rich indulgence in the shape of roast duck breast with foie gras parfait and baby beets or Welsh lamb with crispy sweetbreads alongside contemporary dishes with a lighter touch: salmon and sea bream carpaccio dressed with lime and chilli or a heavenly mix of plaice, chorizo and squid, with an umami hit from anchovy dressing. Service is “terrific” and the wine cellar is “serious, though not necessarily pricey”.
More detail about The Glasshouse Kew
119 Brockley Rise, London, SE23 1JP
Readers applaud this “gem” of an Indian restaurant for its “artfully chosen” decor, “superb” cocktails and “exceptional” food. Babur is a long-standing neighbourhood favourite, where furnishings have become increasingly stylish over the years (currently, bare brick, tiled flooring, low-hanging lights and wooden partitions holding vibrant flower displays) and the Sunday buffet remains consistently popular. Food encompasses both northern and southern Indian cookery, so you’ll find clove-smoked lamb chops from the tandoor, as well as wild mushroom and pea dosa. But the new menu also contains a healthy dose of innovation. Dishes such as steamed spice-crusted shoulder of lamb with beetroot rice combine prime British ingredients with bold Punjabi flavours. Ostrich is marinated in a fierce Rajasthani masala, and even goat gets a look-in: slow-cooked to perfection and transformed with aromatic spices. To match these dishes, Master of Wine Peter McCombie has put together a list of food-friendly bottles.
More detail about Babur
33 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1HD
There are many diners who prefer Angela Hartnett’s dressed-down Café to her swanky Michelin-starred Murano, and it’s easy to be seduced by its low-it appeal. The long dining room feels tailor-made for rendezvous, whether gregarious business lunches on a round table at the front, something cosy à deux towards the back – or even just a solo meal at the bar, nibbling on some truffle arancini with a Negroni while deciding what to order. Pasta is the undisputed highlight, with highly appealing arrangements such as tagliolini with broad bean pesto and ricotta salata or spaghetti with chilli, garlic and bottarga all the better for being so simple. Elsewhere, the kitchen’s attachment to carefully chosen produce might yield such clean-tasting delights as lamb topside with goats’ curd, courgette and girolles, though Hartnett can also do classy classics too – think vitello tonnato or pappardelle with venison ragù. Some feel that portions are small given the prices, but there’s generosity aplenty in the welcoming nature of the friendly staff.
More detail about Cafe Murano St James's
15 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8DY
London moves on, but Nobu still parties. More than a decade after opening on Berkeley Street, the toast of the noughties has been heavily flattered by countless imitations, none of which has managed to unseat the original. The late David Collins’ fantastical design (all bamboo murals and burnished futuristic tones) is as dear to some customers as their own homes – perhaps more so, because it signals sheer fun. As for the food, fans rate the lunchtime bento boxes and waiters who take the time to explain their contents: the classic version features tuna sashimi salad, baby tiger shrimp tempura, sushi and the much-imitated miso black cod. Dinner might involve anything from field greens with the eponymous (Nobu) Matsuhisa dressing to secreto Ibérico pork roasted in the wood oven, via the house tacos filled with salmon or king crab or an array of well-made sushi and sashimi. There’s enough choice for multiple nights out, though the bill (especially with wine) only comes in one form – massive.
More detail about Nobu Berkeley St
165 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9QB
Mayfair’s Sumosan was among our favourite London restaurants for high-end modern Japanese food, so we were sorry to hear it was closing. But this elegant reincarnation in 50 shades of grey (in partnership with Twiga in Monaco) hasn’t strayed far, either in location or ethos. The four-storey property has a sweeping staircase linking a basement nightclub, first-floor dining room and spacious top-floor bar. On the food front, Sumosan’s Japanese menu has been joined by Italian dishes, so you could follow sushi with sea bass spaghetti, Dover sole or veal Milanese. We stuck with the Orient, and were as impressed as ever: fleshy wasabi prawns, crunchy rice ‘pizza’ topped with spiced salmon, punchy rack of Devon lamb with mustard sauce, and our all-time favourite: T&T sushi rolls, heady with truffle-laced tuna. To drink, there’s a Euro wine list and one of London’s best saké selections. The restaurant now offers a daily lunch service (weekends too). Prices? Yes, they’re high.
More detail about Sumosan Twiga
Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2TS
With its picture-postcard views of Trafalgar Square below and the city’s skyline beyond, The Rooftop is The Trafalgar St James Hotel’s crowning glory. The previous venue, Vista, has been swept away, replaced by a smart, all-weather, south-facing alfresco bar and kitchen – a rendezvous that deserves to attract Londoners and tourists. Cocktails are key here. Loll on cushion-strewn banquettes over classic sundowners Sidecar and Aviation, or any of a dozen signatures. Skyline (pink grapefruit, raspberry and lavender bitters and pisco) is a swell Sour, while a bourbon, apple and tea syrup Taittinger Champagne cocktail is certainly our idea of ‘Teatime’. There’s a useful selection of wines by the glass, plus Asian-style bar bites: grilled Korean beef brochettes, perhaps, or octopus, whipped cod roe and mushroom tempura. Yuzu and lime meringue tart is one of a trio of sweets at this much-improved skybar that also incorporates a 14-seater glass boardroom for hire.
More detail about The Rooftop at The Trafalgar Hotel
30 North Audley Street, London, W1K 6ZF
Roka’s brand of high-gloss contemporary Japanese food continues to wow the crowds on Charlotte Street and Canary Wharf, and owner Arjun Waney has now launched a further outlet – in the one-time
bank premises formerly occupied by short-lived Italian restaurant, Banca. Once again, the robata grill takes centre stage and many favourite items from Roka’s back catalogue are on show – from lamb
cutlets with Korean spices or black cod marinated in yuzu miso to soft-shell crab with roasted chilli dressing or rice hotpot with king crab and wasabi tobiko, plus a galaxy of sushi and sashimi
recast for glamorous big-city appetites. There are also a cluster of new dishes, and drinkers can enjoy the usual high-end list of sakés, global wines and sexy shochu-based cocktails.
More detail about Roka Mayfair
60 Blomfield Road, Little Venice, London, W9 2PD
Don’t be fooled by the seasonal moniker: The Summerhouse is now open right through the year – by popular demand. Dreamily located by the banks of Little Venice, just a skip from its sibling The Waterway, this breezy venue offers canal-side dining “with a Cape Cod influence” and sunny echoes of a Long Island beach retreat. Seafood is the main culinary event, with New England clam chowder and popcorn shrimps alongside seared scallops with truffled leeks and pancetta crisps, Canadian lobster with potato salad or beer-battered haddock and chips. Salads, mezze and steaks also get an airing, along with some “outstanding” desserts – perhaps pear and almond tart or spiced rice pudding with caramelised bananas. Drinks include international wines and seasonal refreshers such as River Cruise (Grey Goose vodka, Southern Comfort, amaretto, orange juice and grenadine). The Summerhouse has its own moorings, if you fancy turning up by boat.
More detail about The Summerhouse
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38th floor), London, EC2N 4AY
From the moment the glass-box express lift whisks you 38 floors up the face of Heron Tower, this cocky Japanese/Latino fusion pile screams ‘Las Vegas’ – a vision of slick selfie-stick perfection and pizzazz aimed at the big-money crowd. The later the hour, the louder the DJs and the livelier the scene as booze-fuelled high rollers ramp up the party vibe. To drink, investigate Asian-inspired takes on the classics: a Gimlet doctored with coconut and kaffir leaf, a Martini involving Grey Goose La Poire Nashi or a Negroni manqué made with Hibiki Japanese whisky and plum liqueur. If the latter doesn't warm you up, the fire pits and snuggly blankets on the breezy sky terrace should do the trick. With its centrepiece alfresco bar under the flame and metallic leaf canopy of a giant tree sculpture, this is a soothing sanctuary away from the mayhem.
More detail about Sushisamba (bar)
300-302 St Paul's Road, London, N1 2LH
“Always packed to the gills, Trullo hits the mark every time”, declaims a fan of this much-loved Islington spot. Everyone adores its lively (sometimes noisy) atmosphere, eager-to-please staff, calming contemporary interiors and a helpfully annotated regional wine list – not forgetting the “idiosyncratic Italian menu”. The “sublime” handmade pasta (perhaps pappardelle with exquisitely rich beef shin ragù, or ravioli of summer squash and sweet onions) is just the start. Also expect plates of wood pigeon with black figs and cobnut salad, baked skate wing with braised hispi cabbage and brown crab or char-grilled Dorset lamb rump with borlotti beans, datterini tomatoes and anchovy – “perfectly executed” dishes of top-drawer seasonal ingredients. To finish, we’re sold on the decadent chocolate tart and the regional Italian cheeses (Rocchetta Ubriaco) with matching wines. Be warned: this place is addictive.
More detail about Trullo
Arlington Street, London, SW1A 1RJ
“A classic, but still one the best” says a fan of Le Caprice, the vintage St James’s hangout that gave Caprice Holdings its name. Star-seekers, celebs and grown-up hedonists are easily seduced by its David Bailey photographs, riffing piano player and “fantastic customer service” (directed by legendary maître d' Jesus Adorno), while the food is “easy on the palate” – but irresistible in its own way. Whether you’re in the market for rigatoni with rabbit ragù, crispy duck salad, miso-marinated salmon with stir-fried shiitake mushrooms or a classic brasserie plateful such as slow-roast pork belly with black pudding mash, caramelised apples and Calvados sauce, this kitchen is a failsafe option – and decent value to boot. There’s also fun to be had when it comes to desserts such as rhubarb and custard pavlova or the Cru Virunga chocolate crunch bar with cherries. Flutes and bottles of premium fizz match the mood, or you can get your boozy kicks from the zingy cocktails and classy international wines. With weekend brunch and Sunday night jazz added to the mix, Le Caprice is “always perfect” – even after all these years.
More detail about Le Caprice
312 King's Road, London, SW3 5UH
Aussie chef/founder Scott Hallsworth has moved on, but Korobuta is still a good-fun local in SW3 – even if service is a bit wobbly and some of the original spark has gone. By and large, it’s business as usual, which means stripped-back interiors, a raucous rock soundtrack, racy cocktails and a menu touting everything from jazzed-up sushi and raw salads to robata BBQ and ‘significant others’ (miso-baked aubergine with candied walnuts). Nothing is taken too seriously, so graze your way through the in-your-face flavours of 'junk food Japan' (tako-yaki octopus doughnuts, Wagyu sliders or Korean short-rib tacos with chilli oil and avocado, perhaps). Under the heading 'something crunchy', there’s black pepper soft-shell crab tempura with wakame, while the robata-grilled pork belly in a satay-loaded steamed bun is an unctuous, nutty treat. Also expect a strong showing of maki rolls, nigiri and sashimi – all at friendly prices. The bar is a destination in its own right, with cocktails matching the mood: anyone for a Drunken Samurai with sparkling yuzu saké?
More detail about Kurobuta Chelsea
St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR
Matching the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s awe-inspiring grandeur would be a tall order for any restaurant, but on current form, Marcus Wareing’s team can compete with the architectural splendour of this fabulous dining room. We swooned over plates of cooked-pink duck hearts and perky chanterelles on smoked bone marrow, before chomping on red mullet and roasted prawns perched on creamy brandade, and a dish of silky hake with pickled egg purée, summer vegetables and black pudding. As for pud, we’d advise saving room for the gorgeous praline tart with caramel ice cream. Lunchtime set deals such as mackerel with gooseberries and runner beans followed by lamb shoulder with glistening pea broth are worth it just to gawp at the room’s vast architraves, glorious art and gold lamé pillars, while suited service hits an informed (but informal) sweet spot. Linger over the chunky wine list or indulge in a swift flute of something English before the train.
More detail about The Gilbert Scott
231 Ebury Street, London, SW1W 8UT
A restaurant like they used to make ’em, this blushing rose has been fluttering its eyelashes at customers for more than half a century – “it’s so French and so very romantic”, drools one long-time fan. With a quiet terrace for balmy evenings and a bare-brick interior filled with bushels of dried herbs, flowers and twinkly candles, La Poule au Pot has built up a charming patina over the years – half of London’s ladies and gents must have been here for dates, liaisons and family get-togethers. The menu is as predictably Gallic as the waiters’ accents (think soupe à l’oignon and escargots ahead of bouillabaisse, boeuf bourguignon and magret de canard with foie gras), but the cooking has always been good enough to warrant the fondness it engenders. To drink, the house wine (poured from a magnum) is fine, but prospective fathers-in-law prefer the posh Champagnes and clarets.
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65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY
‘Oh frabjous day’ when bar whizz Richard Wynne opened Callooh Callay. Inspired by the Victorian nonsense poems of Lewis Carroll, this Shoreditch scene-stealer's drinks list is always a good read. Take a trip through the looking glass to a louche den whose mind-altering potions push boundaries, but steer clear of the baroque stuff and nonsense of the 'progressive mixology' merchants. Butch, brown and big on flavour, Count of Monkey Cristo (Monkey Shoulder whisky, Innis & Gunn ale reduction, Fernet-Branca and Amer Picon) makes for a typically engaging adventure, while Tall & Oates (El Jimador Blanco Tequila, sherry, bitters, oat horchata and caramel waffle) should make muso fans smile. Bar bites are bussed in from 100 Hoxton Street’s kitchen. And if you can crack the key code, more wondrousness awaits upstairs where guest barmen take over the quasi-clandestine Jubjub lounge on a pop-up basis.
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Victory House, 99 Regent Street, London, W1B 4RS
Founded in 1926, London’s oldest Indian is currently under the aegis of MW Eat, the company behind Chutney Mary and Amaya. Those regal beginnings live on in a blingy room with silver ceilings and multi-coloured glass lanterns, while the old colonial relationship remains alive and well in cooking that blends tip-top renditions of the classic repertoire with some dramatic house specials.
Kick off with punchily spiced chicken tikka ahead of a rich roast duck vindaloo, or go off-piste with raj kachori (a crunchy puri filled with yoghurt and vegetables), followed by a pie of flaky pastry cracked open to reveal slow-cooked lamb shank. Also, don’t neglect vegetable sides such as cauliflower with chilli and cumin, which might very well be the best thing that you eat all night. The plum Regent Street location means that tourists and Indian families rub shoulders with gangs of City boys, but charming staff cope deftly whether you’re here for romance or blowing the bonus.
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58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR
Compared to the original 'blind pigs' – riotous mob-run Prohibition-era rackets that flogged illegal moonshine to parched punters – the destination lounge bar upstairs at Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred Social Eating House is hardly a den of iniquity. In fact, despite its tattooed barkeeps, this stab at a 1920s Yankee speakeasy feels positively restrained – a set for a Gatsby-style fashion shoot for Esquire or GQ perhaps? Refined rinses such as Vitamin C Vesper, Scarlet Martinez or Mexicillin (a smoky, peppy Tequila and mezcal slug) are generally more Boston gentry than Chicago hoodlum. And the only speakeasy that a Kindergarten Cup belongs in is Fat Sam's Grand Slam, as seen in 1970s kiddies’ gangster flick, Bugsy Malone. By contrast, chef-patron Paul Hood’s bar bites and jars are very much for grown-ups – think confit duck rillettes with mango, chorizo dogs, fried chicken with ponzu, and suchlike.
More detail about The Blind Pig
10-50 Willow Street, London, EC2A 4BH
It’s 20 years since London’s first Nobu launched on Park Lane and almost as long since Shoreditch became a destination with a ragtag of cooler-than-thou bars clustered around Old Street. Now the two worlds collide with the launch of the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch. Come for quieter lunches and weekend brunches to appreciate the calm beauty of the design. A long staircase leads down to a dramatically high-ceilinged, concrete-lined space of glass walls and gauzy curtains, tricked out in 90s neutrals and with a four-stepped terrace leading off the large bar area for when it’s not raining. Inside, it’s raining men: we spotted a total of four female diners hidden among the big tables of City boys of every age group. A menu that’s about half the size of Nobu London’s nods towards time-pressed City diners and touts the brand’s greatest hits, from black cod with miso to yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. Springy rock shrimp tempura encased in light batter and slicked in addictive creamy jalapeño sauce, and crisp tacos stuffed with lobster smeared in wasabi mayo, do the classics proud, while ‘Shoreditch specials’ include excellent pork belly with a beautifully balanced spicy miso caramel sauce. For pud, squidgy mochi cakes are perhaps more of an acquired taste, while a chocolate orb twice failed to melt on cue under its torrent of hot sauce. Cynics may carp that the arrival of one of the world’s foremost luxury lifestyle brands in EC2 shows how corporate the Shoreditch scene has become, but Square Mile diners will be thrilled to have somewhere on their doorstep with such a palpable frisson of global glamour.
More detail about Nobu Shoreditch
25a Warren Street, London, W1T 5LZ
Freshness and subtle spicing are the hallmarks of Honey & Co’s relentlessly popular re-invigoration of Middle Eastern dining. Punters pack the diminutive room surrounded by shelves deep-laden with preserves, produce and cookbooks, while the kitchen delivers “adventure and flair” right through the day. Like the space itself, staff are warm and inclusive, showing a passion for a menu that blends comfort and care. Mezze is the smart sociable choice, with tables heaving under bowls of pillowy hummus, carrot falafels, braised aubergines, feta borek, house pickles, labneh, olives and home-baked breads – all before the mains arrive. Our roast lamb on a zingy grape and bulgur salad was highly enjoyable, though minced lamb with a tahini and yoghurt crust proved an indulgence too far. The iced teas are a booze-free delight and the cheesecake with Greek thyme honey is irresistible. Meanwhile, breakfast pastries are a “favourite pick-me-up” for one regular.
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4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ
According to one reader, Balthazar could be “the best brasserie in London for atmosphere and service". Elsewhere, abundant praise for the lively buzz and "happy, friendly staff" is proof that this London outpost of Keith McNally's upscale bistro lives up to the reputation of his NYC original. By and large, the food wins approval too, with particular mentions for the "delicious afternoon tea" and "just the best dauphinoise potatoes". Order them alongside wickedly rich duck confit or coq au vin, preceded by chicken liver parfait, steak tartare or garlicky escargots. The all-day offer also includes delectable pastries from Balthazar’s boulangerie next door, omelette Arnold Bennett for brunch, plateaux de fruits de mer from the seafood bar or eggs mimosa followed by roast hake with bouillabaisse soup on the prix fixe. "It's a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner and business meetings" concludes one ardent admirer; another simply says “sit back, enjoy the buzz and don’t worry about your wallet”.
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Dickens Yard, Ealing, London, W5 2BF
What a fabulous space” exclaims a fan of Charlotte’s W5 – a big venue offering the good folk of Ealing a flexible space for socialising, snacks and drinks. Housed in what was a grand Victorian stable block, complete with a smart conservatory, “gorgeous” marble-topped bar and outdoor terrace, it provides ample opportunities for business breakfasts, blow-out dinners and everything in between. The “usual” does not apply here, with most dishes on the inventive contemporary menu advertised as tasters, small or large plates designed for sharing – veal carpaccio with cornichons and mustard mayonnaise, perhaps, or home-made ricotta with summer beets and cashews. To finish, groups can assemble luscious bespoke platters from desserts such as cherry sorbet with summer fruits or set Guernsey cream with peach and lemon thyme. Drinks are a serious business too, from single-origin coffee to craft cocktails, decent wines and an enticing gin selection “as long as your arm”.
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The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR
At the heart of The Ritz’s unashamedly opulent Edwardiana, The Palm Court hits a crescendo of gilded gold and lemon among polished marble pillars, Grecian urns and elongated birdcage chandeliers. Add the gentle tinkling of ivories, a veritable army of discreet white-jacket staff and compulsory Sunday-best attire, and you have the makings of afternoon tea at its most sedate and nostalgic – no wonder everyone wants a photographic memento of the experience. This is a three-tier event stacked in silver: at the bottom are childhood sandwiches – all crustless and finger-sized of course; above them, scones of unparalleled lightness with abundant clotted cream and jam; and at the top, a treasure trove of patisserie, from fruit-studded madeleines to cream-filled pastry boats. Crowning it all is tea itself, proffered in suitably ornate and weighty pots.
More detail about The Palm Court at The Ritz Hotel (afternoon tea)
94 Church Road, London, SW13 0DQ
Barnes locals who came here as teenagers with their parents now bring their own kids to this much-loved neighbourhood restaurant: the room may have changed its colours over the years and the kitchen has moved in different directions, but a happy, comfortable atmosphere still prevails – thanks to joint owners Rebecca Mascarenhas and multi-gonged Phil Howard. Menus change every session and the kitchen’s ambition is obvious: marinated octopus with burnt lemon and dots of dill-flecked squid-ink taramasalata makes an original and very moreish starter, while breast of guinea fowl sits indulgently on a luscious bed of sweet shallot purée with shimeji mushrooms. For afters, check out the peanut bar with banana ice cream. Old World labels dominate the wine list, with plenty by the glass and enough curiosities to keep the inquisitive oenophile happy. Set menus and simple Sunday suppers are the real bargains, although everything is terrific value.
More detail about Sonny's Kitchen
32 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3LX
Curious passers-by peer through the window to catch a glimpse of Damien Hirst’s ‘Cock and Bull’ installation housed in chef/art collector Mark Hix’s Tramshed. They should brave it and go on in; allcomers are welcome at this cavernous industrial space where Hix serves seriously sourced chicken and steak – crowd-pleasers both – to solo diners at the bar, rowdy parties in capacious booths, and everyone in between. In less capable hands, Tramshed would be a fail-safe ‘yawn’ of a concept, but Hix’s menu goes beyond salt-aged Glenarm beef and roast barn-reared chooks into lively international territory. To wit, whipped chicken livers served with an enormous duck-fat Yorkshire pud (as a British alternative to brioche), American-style bone-in rib and slaw, a fearsomely hot curry, and a no-airs-and-graces raspberry cheesecake – not that anything will lure the lunchtime crowd away from their steak sandwiches. Wines and cocktails are credible rather than posey.
More detail about Tramshed
21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE
Aimed higher than his eponymous deli/café chain, Yottam Ottolenghi's "gleaming" spin-off hits its target with ease: the cream-coloured ground floor is a serene space artfully decorated with white tiles, polished marble and brass fittings, while downstairs offers large communal tables and an open kitchen. However, readers save most praise for Nopi's "exquisite", "healthy" and supremely tasty food: raw cauliflower is paired with sprouts, nectarines and Gorgonzola, sea trout gets a global makeover with koji rice, watercress pesto and labneh, while beef short-rib keeps more familiar company with smoked beer glaze and horseradish. Whether you're sharing dishes or going it alone with one of the more expensive mains, it's all about creativity and depth of flavour. Signature cocktails also pick up on the kitchen's eclectic ingredients. Some bemoan high prices and petite portions, but most reckon that Nopi is "worth every penny".
More detail about Nopi
110 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 6PQ
Equally suited to a quick business meet or a special night out, this “fantastic oasis behind Oxford Street” is clearly doing something right – perhaps because its three owners all met at Arbutus, where they learned the knack of serving classy food at unexpectedly keen prices. Picture’s six-course tasting menu is one of London’s bargains, but without a whiff of cost-cutting – witness Cheltenham beetroot tartare with pomegranate, feta and pine nuts, lightly smoked pork with Jerusalem artichoke, quince and pickled shallot, or cod fillet with sprouting broccoli, celeriac and trompette mushrooms. Elsewhere, crispy beef ‘bites’ and a dessert of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and milk jam are fixtures on the carte. The no-frills room is all bare boards and stripped, industrial-chic walls, but padded seats and glossy wood tables don’t compromise on comfort – no wonder it’s also a “great-value” lunchtime magnet for Fitzrovia’s too-cool media crowd. Service is “friendly and knowledgeable”, while savvy wines deliver on price and quality.
More detail about Picture
10 Basinghall Street, London, EC2V 5BQ
Owners Huw Gott and Will Beckett play knowingly to the City crowd at this branch of their beefy Hawksmoor chain. Dark panelling, acres of parquet and a distinct lack of embellishment conjure up an old-fashioned chophouse vibe, though service is satisfyingly modern – ensuring “no fuss or disappointments”. “Fantastic” breakfasts are done with a level of commitment that makes booking advisable for sharing platters of bacon chop, sausages, black pudding and trimmings or cornflake milkshakes with an optional slug of bourbon. At lunch and dinner, flawless British steaks (“always cooked to perfection”) are further enhanced by the likes of anchovy hollandaise, buttered sprout tops or beef-dripping chips. On either side, there might be roast scallops with white port and garlic, plus desserts such as a chocolate and honeycomb ‘Crunchy Bar’. Dive into the cocktail list and you’ll know all about Hawksmoor’s good, strong spirits, while a short bar menu caters to time-pressed carnivores.
More detail about Hawksmoor Guildhall
9 Battersea Square, London, SW11 3RA
Gordon Ramsay’s latest is the neighbourhood restaurant every neighbourhood wishes it could have. London House is smart enough for dinner with parents in its stylish dining room, yet relaxed enough for lazy weekends in the lounge bar – complete with leather sofas and fireplace. The large space is broken up into a series of small rooms, giving a cosy feel that’s helped along by welcoming staff. Chef George Lyon’s British food features on-trend dishes and native ingredients, but also shows real skill and passion for cooking. We kicked off with crispy pig’s head croquettes, moist and moreish, alongside a well-prepped plate of burrata and heritage tomatoes. Mains were equally impressive: we couldn’t fault melt-in-the-mouth beef braised in red wine, or classic grilled lemon sole with shrimps and brown butter. And don’t get us started on the delicious chocolate delice dessert… Great beers and cocktails, cut-price ‘Wine Wednesdays’, kids’ deals and weekend brunch are further pluses – as is the little hidden gem of a garden. Locals should find plenty of reasons to return here.
More detail about London House
45 Park Lane, London, W1K 1PN
Cut stands out from the steakhouse crowd thanks to its Park Lane pricing, glammed-up globe-trotting clientele and the clout of A-list chef Wolfgang Puck. Provided you’re financially prepared, you’ll find a surprisingly unpretentious vibe in the very attractive (if hotel-ish) dining room, where soaring drapes and wood panelling head northwards to a ceiling hung with starburst lights. Service could be slicker, but the kitchen pulls out all the stops to justify the prices. Cuts of USDA Prime, South Devon Angus, New York sirloin and dizzyingly expensive Wagyu are presented in all their raw marbled glory before being returned to the table charred and crusted from the grill. Sides include wickedly buttery potato purée and glistening nuggets of bone marrow, while top-notch starters range from maple-glazed pork belly to a very pretty crab and lobster cocktail with spicy tomato horseradish. Desserts, should you get that far, are all-American sweet treats. Upstairs, Bar 45 dispenses classy concoctions in large glasses.
More detail about Cut at 45 Park Lane
61-63 Petersham Road, London, TW10 6UT
With its stamped silver ceiling and picture windows overlooking serene gardens and the majestic Thames beyond, the bar at the boutique Bingham hotel is one of the loveliest for miles around – but there are plenty of reasons to eat in the pretty gold-hued restaurant too. At lunchtime, the dining room bustles with punters taking advantage of demon fixed-price deals, while dinner is more of a special-occasion affair. Expect grand ingredients sculpted into “elegant” modern Anglo-European dishes – from scallop ceviche with lime and chilli salsa to Black Angus rump with smoked aubergine, girolles and beer-pickled onions or turbot with sauce vierge, Alsace bacon and summer peas. The “fabulous” wine list includes plenty of oddities, which the sommelier is always keen to share with his customers. It’s a tad expensive, but “great service and great staff” ensure that The Bingham “never disappoints”.
More detail about The Bingham
34 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2NH
From its prized modern art and groaning cheeseboard to legions of suited staff, Pied à Terre remains “timeless in its class” – “always original, always fun, always great”. Head chef Asimakis Chaniotis has made the kitchen his own and can deliver some truly dazzling dishes, judging by our recent experience: roasted veal sweetbread and plump cockles drenched in seaweed butter; delicate squid ‘linguine’ under buckwheat and sea herbs; and a modernist spin on coconut rice pudding have all impressed mightily. The classics aren’t forgotten either – roasted and braised lamb is served alongside London’s most sophisticated take on ratatouille, while original chef Richard Neat’s foie gras and borlotti beans in Sauternes consommé is still fresh after 25 years. Apart from the bargain set lunch, prices are reassuringly top-end, but there’s ample value in a book-sized wine list, with “incredibly helpful” sommeliers. While the detail-rich dining room is pokey for some (and cosy for others), a recently refurbished upstairs bar is perhaps Fitzrovia’s best kept drinking secret. “Just simply fabulous”, sums it up.
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27a Hay's Mews, London, W1J 5NY
It has sported two Michelin Stars since 2004, so expectations invariably run high at The Greenhouse. However, the arrival of new head chef Alex Dilling (ex-Hélène Darroze at The Connaught) has taken the set-up to a different level. Of course, some things never change: the sense of Zen-like calm as visitors arrive at this Mayfair “oasis” via a beautifully landscaped garden; the spacious and light dining room, and the highly professional attitude of the staff. What felt notably different, though, was the buzz – it was encouraging to see almost every table occupied on a midweek evening.
Dilling’s culinary approach involves sourcing the very best ingredients, combining them with an innovative flourish and presenting them beautifully. A super-soft yet deeply flavoursome smoked sturgeon mousse with crab and dill set the tone, and there were several high points to follow: we were bowled over by a breath-takingly original truffled egg concoction and a plate of Brittany turbot with boudin noir, girolles and young sorrel.
The vegetarian options also impressed, as did the wine pairings, drawn from one of London’s more voluminous lists (clocking in at 3,400+ bottles). On the downside, our A5 Gunma Wagyu beef was rather bland, and impatient diners may be troubled by the relatively long waits between courses. Still, The Greenhouse remains a bastion of serious fine dining – just be prepared to fork out handsomely.
More detail about The Greenhouse
51 Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8NE
It may be more modest and less capacious than some of its neighbours, but this “delicious and different” Chinese restaurant is still going strong after nigh on 35 years in Pimlico. There’s no menu – simply tell staff about your likes and dislikes, indicate your spice threshold (be conservative here) and leave the rest to chef Michael Peng and his team. In return, you’ll be taken on a fascinating culinary trip full of intriguing regional tastes and textures. Staples range from the signature steamed pork broth with ginger and mushrooms to crispy frog’s legs wrapped in fermented bamboo shoots with chilli, but other delights could include spring onion pancakes with daikon and beancurd skin, tempura green beans and braised ox tongue with mangetout, plus indigenous specialities such as wind-dried meats and stir-fried spicy aubergine. Expect around 12 little dishes, and match them with something suitably aromatic from the authoritative wine list, or stick to premium Chinese tea.
More detail about Hunan
10 Bread Street, London, EC4M 9AJ
Thrusting illuminated pillars, bold design details and a ready-all-day mentality make Bread Street Kitchen the lively antithesis of Gordon Ramsay’s more vanilla outlets. Reports on the ambience may run the gamut from “great” to “average”, but when Bread Street Kitchen is rocking, it’s really on song. Food ticks off global trends without alienating anyone: think potted salt-beef brisket with mustard, piccalilli and buckwheat crackers followed by superfood salads, Josper-grilled rare-breed meats or pork and fennel sausages with braised borlotti beans, ‘nduja and salsa verde. Bar food is based on flatbreads, with breakfast, brunch and Sunday’s ‘lazy loaf’ menu ramping up BSK’s reputation outside traditional City hours. Business clients come away “really satisfied”, thanks to impressively high standards across the board (including a wine selection housed on the mezzanine), but this place is also a winner for those with young ones in tow (kids eat free all day, every day).
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5a Berners Street,Fitzrovia,London, W1T 3LF, London, W1T 3LF
This smart, modern Thai has won plenty of fans, thanks to a winning formula of friendly staff, great cocktails and dishes packed with authentic flavours. Reliable classics such as creamy satay skewers, fragrant green chicken curry, pad Thai and fiery tom yum soup are all present and correct, but we think it's far more fun to explore the rest of the wide-ranging menu. Highlights on our last visit included the richly spiced signature red curry with duck and juicy, tangy tamarind prawns. Suda's take on som tam (a classic, hot-and-spicy papaya salad from Thailand's Isan region) is always a favourite, packed with fresh and fiery flavours. Cool coconut ice cream and gut-busting banana fritters offer final temptation. To drink, there's Singha beer on draft and a decent selection of wines served from Enomatics.
More detail about Suda
260-262 Merton Road, London, SW18 5JL
One of the first big successes of the gastropub movement, The Earl Spencer displays its big wood-lined bar, its ceiling fans and its chalked-up boards with pride. The kitchen still hasn’t taken its eye off the ball, producing a vibrant menu that changes every day and is full of seasonal interest. In summer you might find asparagus and poached eggs or strawberry Pavlova; in winter, daube of beef and sticky toffee pudding. There’s a thought-out wine list for accompaniment, but also plenty of interest for ale drinkers and those on the wagon, all fairly priced. A separate entrance leads to a function room for up to 100 people; given the non-corporate, individual nature of the pub, it’s hardly surprising that praise has been unanimous for events held here.
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69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE
Recently bolstered by nearby Café Monico, Soho House’s presence hereabouts is pretty strong, with its backbone being this classy British workhorse. Dine in enticingly soft armchairs, amid an abundance of heavy fabrics with low ceilings helping to absorb the chatter that constantly zips across the glowing room from the rammed wooden bar. Atmosphere is Townhouse’s trump card, so the menu plays it simple with lots of comfort on offer – from delectable lamb rump with grilled artichoke or partridge and oxtail on toast (lifted by the juice of blackcurrants), to salads of perhaps chicory, squash and walnut. It’s all thoroughly hearty, seasonal and rather pricey, although a full English for less than a tenner explains why breakfast is so popular here. Service is predictably cosseting, and a broad wine list should reveal something for most tastes. There’s an adjacent, cloistered room for those seeking a more muffled evening, but this “always entertaining” restaurant is best for higher tempo occasions.
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343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA
Satan's Whiskers is a neighbourhood cocktail bar – although few neighbourhoods can boast a drinking den that also does duty as an unofficial taxidermy museum. If you’re happy to keep company with jokey stuffed exhibits and fun skeletal sculptures, settle in and order from a regular retinue of reasonably priced rogues such as East 8 Hold Up (vodka, Aperol, lime and pineapple, served short). There’s also a daily changing entourage of twisted classics and contemporary signatures: our most recent favourite is 34th Brigade, a Calvados and apricot brandy fizz. Another notable hit is the bar's rendition of Tuxedo #2, (a take on 19th-century favourite Turf Club), as promulgated by tuxedo-wearing Harry Craddock in his 1930s bible for the bibulous, The Savoy Cocktail Book. Nibbles are grouped under ‘two fingers’ (mini Scotch eggs or merguez sausages) and ‘four fingers’ (pulled brisket rolls or baby back ribs).
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29 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5HP
Closed since 2016 after a 150-year run, this Soho icon, founded by Napoleon III’s chef Auguste Kettner, reopened its doors in 2018 as Kettner’s Townhouse following a wholesale refurbishment by new owners Soho House. Kings, cads and high society fops once canoodled with their floozies here in the cabinets particuliers (now hotel bedrooms). The focal point of the ravishing art deco Champagne Bar (reserved for hotel guests) is a marble-topped walnut-clad horseshoe counter. In a brand-new, similarly romantic piano bar, suave chaps in starched cream tuxedos turn out immaculate cocktails, many based on fine fizz from a stellar cellar – Ruinart Sparkling Sazerac, perhaps – and the likes of New Quarter, a compelling Vieux Carré /Hanky Panky hybrid. Swing by for Champagne luncheon or supper that includes rarebits, goujons, tarts and roast pepper marinière from a range of Anglo-French bar bites, or indulge in classic afternoon tea… also avec bubbles bien sûr.
More detail about Champagne Bar and Piano Bar at Kettner's Townhouse
15-17 Blandford Street, London, W1U 3DG
Trishna’s “modern take on Indian cuisine” is where the Sethi family’s restaurant story started. Their clutch of new openings may be markedly young ’n’ funky compared to the original, but that’s how Trishna’s fans like it – and there are plenty of them, including Michelin.
The food is beautifully presented to fit a restrained dining room with doors that open onto the street in summer. Although the prevailing breeze might not be coastal, much of the cooking has a noticeable briny tang: order pink prawns with chilli, garlic and smoked tomato chutney or quail pepper fry with Keralan spices to start, followed by the now-famous tandoori hariyali bream in a vivid green chilli-herb jacket.
Biriyanis are inventive, as in a wild mushroom and berry version with pink peppercorn raita, while venison and duck come with superior keema naans. Oenophile Sunaina Sethi has devised some “exceptional” wine pairings to match the complexity of the food: you are in safe hands.
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The Langham, Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA
Roux at the Landau, The Langham hotel’s more formal, food-orientated option than its Artesian bar and Wigmore pub, re-opened in summer 2018 following a refurb. David Collins Studio has done a subtle update on the high-ceilinged Edwardian room, adding Parma Violet-coloured leather chairs and pistachio green banquettes. A curving wall of windows in an elevated position above Langham Place remains the dining room’s biggest asset; there’s also now a central counter for solo dining, although without an open kitchen to eat around, it feels rather exposed.
Foodwise, the cooking has been simplified, although Roux luxury – Michel Jr oversees the menu – runs like a vein through the menu: XL Orkney scallop comes with oscietra caviar, braised turbot with native lobster ravioli. But there’s invention, too: seared foie gras is partnered by rabbit and pig’s trotters on toast, with pickled veg to cut through all the richness, while a Lake District lamb chop gets a North African accent with a dusting of ras en hanout. As at Michel’s Le Gavroche, there’s a good-value lunch menu (two/three courses £25/30), or a five-course tasting menu for £35, as well as à la carte.
It’s still a very hotel-feeling space, but that does make it a useful spot for breakfast and lunch meetings, while afternoon tea is served in the neighbouring Palm Court. And come the evening, it’s well placed for moving on to drinks at Artesian or The Wigmore.
More detail about Roux at The Landau
10-50 Willow Street, London, EC2A 4BH
Nobu’s strikingly modern new Shoreditch hotel has a choice of two drinking options. If you’re hoping for meaningful conversation, aim for the ground-floor Lobby Bar, a positively Zen proposition compared to the nightclubby tumult of the hotel restaurant’s bunker behemoth lounge bar. Done out in Nikkei-NY-Lon-style – all sleek natural woods, and a butch zig-zagging bar – this also includes a rather austere terraced courtyard. There is, however, nothing austere about the range of haute French fizz that kicks off with Veuve Clicquot by the flute, and a long list of classy wines; quality saké, exclusive to Nobu; and notable Japanese whiskies. Un-greedily priced cocktails on an East-meets-West theme are grouped by intensity and style. Try the light and refreshing Romeo & Juliet (a cucumber rose and lime Ramsbury Wiltshire gin cooler). Bar food comprises Wagyu sliders, and as you’d expect of Nobu, fishy fabness: lobster tofu or rock shrimp bun, say.
More detail about Nobu Shoreditch (bar)
28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London, W1K 7EH
It’s hard to imagine Richard Corrigan seated in the restaurant that bears his name – at first glance, the blue-toned dining room and polished expanses seem too elegant to contain him. But there’s something of the chef’s robustness in a heartily seasonal menu, the odd visual pun and a chef’s trolley which might proffer shoulder of suckling pig or Dover sole meunière. Corrigan’s puts nature’s larder on the table in a way that suits “occasions when you want to be spoilt”. Influences are wide-ranging, so you might find chicken congee with scallop or roasted boneless quail with red curry and prawn toast ahead of perfectly timed Cornish cod with stuffed baby squid or one of the justly renowned game specialities: if you’re going to have hare in Mayfair, have it here, or try roast wild duck with pumpkin, celery and walnut. Presentation is appealing, but a fair distance from fussy – and the same can be said of a wine list grouped loosely by style.
More detail about Corrigan's Mayfair
50 Connaught Street, London, W2 2AA
With glitzy branches in New York and Beverly Hills, it’s no surprise that the Bombay Palace group chose equally well-heeled Connaught Village for its first London site. Once through the doors, the dining room’s dark walnut tones, contemporary chandeliers and cream walls suggest real pedigree. Differing from the curry-house norm, the menu here specialises in regional cuisine and impresses from the starters onwards: a plate of gol guppe, hollow spheres of crispy fired puri stuffed with spicy chutneys, burst in the mouth, while a tongue-tingling chilli paneer consists of cubes of cottage cheese drizzled with a chilli garlic sauce. Mains are just as thrilling, witness the beautifully tender butter chicken in a yoghurt and herb-laden sauce, or the leg of braised lamb resting in a robust sauce pepped up with spice and flavour. All the usual sides, vegetables, breads and rice are up for grabs, (the garlic naan is a must-try), while desserts such as a warm carrot fudge hawla loaded with nuts and dry fruits maintain the Indian theme. Can’t be bothered to get all dressed up? Bombay Palace also does home deliveries.
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11 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AD
Reliable and predictable, this Roux outpost runs like a well-oiled machine. Though Michel Roux Jnr is the figurehead, the kitchen is headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals winner Steve Groves, whose cooking is beyond reproach. Sit in the bar over cocktails or a glass of wine with something light to eat (an open smoked salmon sandwich, say); otherwise, join the corporate types and Westminster lobbyists in the dining room for the whole caboodle. The menu is chock-full of grand ingredients such as langoustine with prawn tortellini, Goosnargh chicken with liquid sweetcorn and delicate Parmesan dumplings to start, while mains range from roast turbot with dill and seaweed butter to the star turn of silky-soft confit suckling pig scented with star anise. Ripe cheeses and smart puds follow (roast peach with raspberries, Muscat and oats, say), while the steeply priced wine list is built to impress.
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18 Market Row, London, SW9 8LD
Brixton’s Market Row is a real draw for foodies, but this pared-back dining room above what was Cannon & Cannon’s charcuterie shop is surely the pick of the bunch. Chef/owner Nick Balfe has hit his stride with a fiercely seasonal selection of dishes that showcase his considerable talents – as well as a zealous commitment to ‘zero waste’. His fixed-price menus are shot through with inventive touches and bright, perky flavours that showcase native produce. Dishes change regularly but might include creamy smoked squash topped with trompettes and pumpkin seeds for a richly comforting taste of autumn or pink salt marsh lamb with crispy slivers of Jerusalem artichoke and sprouting broccoli slathered in garlicky bagna càuda sauce (a regional Italian dip). But thankfully the addictive nduja croquettes are a permanent feature now. Salon Wine Store next door features an brilliant selection of artisan bottles – starting from as little as £10 – which you can buy to enjoy with your meal or takeaway; though we suggest plumping for the carefully curated wine pairings if you’re a real oenophile. Local craft brews and cocktails are also on offer, while weekend brunch features creative dishes such as poached duck egg with Sriracha chilli hollandaise.
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34 Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AY
Built for business, The Mercer’s black-and-white dining room has all the comforts required to sustain a working lunch or dinner, without the pretence of a leisure destination. It’s a balance that works for regulars who value straightforward British cooking and smartly paced service over gentle design and oodles of innovation. The menu offers some fond nods to the past including London ‘particular’ soup, rotating daily specials (corned beef hash means it’s Monday) and savouries listed alongside the cheese. Some ideas such as oysters with cucumber, gin and dill dressing are a little lighter, while mains major on simple grills, roast fish or venison, plus the house beef and Guinness pie. To conclude, desserts of vanilla rice pudding with roasted nectarines or white and dark chocolate mousse with clementine are largely of the soft and comforting variety. A neat selection of English bottles is a point of interest on an otherwise rather straight-laced list.
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COMO Metropolitan London, 19 Old Park Lane, London, W1K 1LB
It's "still an all-time favourite", but the late 90s origins of Nobu Matsuhisa's first European outing have given it a time-capsule quality. It's a lovely bubble to be in though, with Hyde Park views through full-height windows and calming wood and stone all around. If the pale walls could talk, they might tell eyebrow-raising tales from a livelier past; that duty now falls to the party-hard Berkeley Street outpost. Here, it's clear to see what all the fuss was (and is) about: the fusion style hits umami squarely in the face. You can't go wrong with langoustines and red chilli shiso salsa, sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing, fiery Peruvian anticucho skewers and, of course, the emblematic black cod with miso – served on butter lettuce for that contemporary kick of clean-eating satisfaction. However, cocktails, saké and a wine list priced for big budgets will undo all that good work in an instant.
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153-155 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6PJ
Avant-garde cocktail king Ryan Chetiyawardana (of Dandelyan fame) has reconfigured what was White Lyan as a two-in-one space with a zippy drinks-led diner (Cub) on the ground floor and Super Lyan in the basement. Dark, moody and superficially sleazy, with a lap-dancer’s metal pole adding to the room’s low-rent mien, the new bar marks a change of mood from the owner’s previously ascetic approach – even formerly banned cocktail components such as ice and fruit are back in fashion among a dozen deeply doable drinks. Star turns include Man on Fire – a refreshing, smoky Dewar’s 12 and Del Maguey mezcal sour made with lemon, pine honey and chilli-infused Chilean liqueur Ancho Reyes, served over an ice rock of Gibraltarian proportions. Top marks too for the bourbon-based Pillow Manhattan enhanced by ‘leathered cherry’, and an off-menu twist on a Vieux Carré that sharpens up the viscous New Orleans classic with a jigger of Calvados. Less ‘Super’, to our tastes, is the pre-batched Nitro Martini: dispensed from a gleaming chrome spout, its fizzed-up mix of bergamot, maple, Jack Daniels and cold-brew coffee falls flat. Fellow punters, however, argue in its favour: as ever, Chetiyawardana’s stirs stir up keen debate.
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5-7 Voltaire Road, London, SW4 6DQ
Serving up a little slice of stylish West End-dom, Tsunami brings pizzazz to this less-than-chic backwater off Clapham High Street. The bar is a cool hangout with great cocktails, while the restaurant’s Japanese-western hybrid cooking is good enough to attract smart young locals with their friends, their dates and their parents. Expect good sushi (there’s a bi-monthly sushi rolling school here, for those who want to learn to make their own) and a few Japanese classics such as deep-fried tofu with grated daikon in dashi broth. Much of the menu, however, steers away from the old school, giving a gentle nod to the East – roast pork belly with green beans, for instance, made piquant with piri-piri hoi sin; or rib-eye with exotic mushrooms and truffle sauce. There’s a decent wine list and plenty of saké, and while the à la carte isn’t prohibitively expensive, the set lunch is ridiculously cheap.
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5 Raphael Street, London, SW7 1DL
Zuma’s frenetic open kitchen might deliver the theatre at this Knightsbridge hotspot, but it’s the bar that provides the intoxicating en