SquareMeal Silver Awards

SquareMeal Silver Awards, our second-highest award, are given to ‘excellent’ restaurants and bars that we find ourselves constantly recommending as being among the best in the area.

Updated on 08 January 2019

Silver awards are given to only a few establishments and are an assessment of the full experience: food – first and foremost – combined with ambience, service and value. SquareMeal’s Awards reflect a combination of professional critic opinion and current feedback from SquareMeal users/diners. As such, they reveal at a glance how strongly SquareMeal is recommending a restaurant or bar.

Zafferano

Zafferano

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.

£50 - £79
Italian
Wulf & Lamb

Wulf & Lamb

243 Pavilion Road, London, SW1X 0BP

Under £30
Vegetarian
Vegan
Light House

Light House

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.

£30 - £49
Modern European
£30 - £49
Londrino

Londrino

36 Snowsfields, London, SE1 3SU

£30 - £49
Portuguese
Ralph

Ralph's Coffee and Bar

173 Regent Street, London, W1B 4JQ

Bars
Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar

Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar

1 Aldwych, London, London, WC2B 4BZ

£50 - £79
Spanish
Panzo Pizza

Panzo Pizza

50 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE

Under £30
Pizza
The Cocktail Trading Company Brick Lane

The Cocktail Trading Company Brick Lane

68 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6GQ

Bars
Trullo

Trullo

300-302 St Paul's Road, London, 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.

£30 - £49
Italian
Ginza Onodera

Ginza Onodera

15 Bury Street, London, London, SW1Y 6AL

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese
Afternoon tea
Knights Bar at Simpson

Knights Bar at Simpson's in the Strand

Simpson's-in-the-Strand, 100 Strand, London, London, WC2R 0EW

Established in 1828, Simpson’s has become a stolid institution for the British Establishment, and this eccentric, off-radar cocktail lounge is its upstairs bar. Knight’s was originally a chess club, hence the chequerboard fascia on its wee bar. Decor is reassuringly retro: frosted fern-coloured chesterfields and Louis XV repro gilt armchairs in matching silk damask. Bar snacks of potted shrimps, cauliflower curry, and pork and apple sausage roll appear alongside drinks on Knight’s notable new list. The cocktails – inspired by British traditions, and gin-led – have been developed in conjunction with Erik Lorincz, currently starring at sister bar, The American at The Savoy. Put The Kettle On (Earl Grey-infused gin, sloe gin, vanilla gomme, Campari and redcurrants) is certainly our cup of tea. So too is OMG!, a Champagne cocktail boosted with yuzu, gin, red vermouth and verjus. Another ginny jape aims to replicate the taste of fish & chips: OMG indeed!

 

Bars
Leroy

Leroy

18 Phipp Street, London, EC2A 4NU

£30 - £49
French
Roka Canary Wharf

Roka Canary Wharf

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.

 
£50 - £79
Japanese
Les 110 de Taillevent

Les 110 de Taillevent

16 Cavendish Square, London, London, W1G 9DD

£50 - £79
French
The Collins Room at The Berkeley

The Collins Room at The Berkeley

The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London, SW1X 7RL

Afternoon tea
International
Merchants Tavern

Merchants Tavern

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.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Red Rooster at The Curtain

Red Rooster at The Curtain

45 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3PT

£30 - £49
North American
Aulis London

Aulis London

Hidden location, London, W1F 0BN

Over £80
British
Galvin at Windows

Galvin at Windows

London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, London, 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.

£50 - £79
French
One michelin star
The Bloomsbury Club Bar

The Bloomsbury Club Bar

The Bloomsbury Hotel, 16-22 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3NN

Bars
Peg

Peg

120 Morning Lane, London, London, E9 6LH

From the team behind the now-closed Legs, comes Peg (see what they did there?), a casual wine bar and restaurant. Peg is very much a product of its time, which means it won’t be to everyone’s taste – this is a frenetic, no-frills experience set in a minimalist room where all of the ‘tables’ are actually just dining counters equipped with high stools. Needless to say, Peg is no reservations, and there’s not a trace of the daily changing menu to be found online.

But Peg will be a revelation for anyone who enjoys bang-up-to-date dining, to say nothing of bold flavours. In place of sushi and sashimi, the Japanese food instead majors in fermenting, pickling and grilled yakitori skewers (liver and heart, mackerel and meatball).

Stand-out dishes on our visit included a seriously good bowl of tofu topped with a spicy pork mince. The tofu is served agedashi-style in cubes which are crispy outside and have wobbly innards, similar to the texture of custard.

We also loved the eel rice cakes – four canapé-sized bites formed of a cube of sticky rice topped with a slice of sharp pickled cucumber, sparklingly fresh eel and a fleck of nori. Meanwhile, fried chicken wings were dusted with an addictive togarashi spice mix, which encouraged caveman-like consumption with messy fingers and all.

Sweet, knowledgeable staff and a wine list exceeding more than 150 bottles are further draws, as is the competitive pricing. The restaurant was packed on our midweek visit, so it’s clear that a concept like this has got legs – expect to see copycats soon.

Image credit: Charlie McKay

£30 - £49
Japanese
Wine Bars
The Library Bar at The Ned

The Library Bar at The Ned

The Ned, 27 Poultry, London, EC2R 8AJ

Bars
Northbank

Northbank

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”.

£30 - £49
British
£30 - £49
Tozi

Tozi

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.

£30 - £49
Italian
No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

197-199 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 2DR

£30 - £49
British
Bars
Babette

Babette

57 Nunhead Lane, London, SE15 3TR

£30 - £49
French
The Blind Pig

The Blind Pig

58 Poland Street, London, 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. 

 

Under £30
Bars
The Laughing Heart

The Laughing Heart

277 Hackney Road, London, E2 8NA

£30 - £49
Modern European
Social Wine & Tapas

Social Wine & Tapas

39 James Street, London, London, W1U 1DL

£30 - £49
Tapas
Wine Bars
High Timber

High Timber

Paul's Walk, 8 High Timber Street, London, EC4V 3PA

A wall of glass gives a view across the Thames to Tate Modern, but if you look the other way there are some interesting South African artworks on the walls of this sleek contemporary space – although High Timber’s Cape connection really shows when it comes to the wine list, since the owners’ portfolio includes the Jordan wine estate. Homemade biltong is one of a few nods to the motherland on a menu that offers the comfort of a burger as well as Asian-inspired five-spice duck with pistachio yoghurt. It’s a broad church, with a fashionable salad to start alongside more luxurious seared foie gras with carpaccio, plus “very good” steaks from grass-fed herds leading the line among main courses. The walk-in wine cellar is home to an impressive collection, with good options by the glass and a few greatest hits from around the world supporting the South African majority.   

£50 - £79
Modern European
Sager + Wilde Restaurant

Sager + Wilde Restaurant

250 Paradise Row, London, E2 9LE

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Wine Bars
Champagne Bar and Piano Bar at Kettner

Champagne Bar and Piano Bar at Kettner's Townhouse

29 Romilly Street, London, 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.

£50 - £79
Bars
Pied à Terre

Pied à Terre

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.

£50 - £79
French
One michelin star
The Delaunay

The Delaunay

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".

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea
Roka Aldwych

Roka Aldwych

71 Aldwych, London, 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.

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese
Seven Park Place by William Drabble

Seven Park Place by William Drabble

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.

£50 - £79
French
One michelin star
Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

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.

Bars
Nutbourne

Nutbourne

29 Ransomes Dock, 35-37 Parkgate Road , London, SW11 4NP

£30 - £49
British
Swans Bar

Swans Bar

Maison Assouline, 196A Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EY

In a devastatingly handsome 1922 Lutyens-designed former bank, luxury bookstore Maison Assouline incorporates a café-cum-cocktail spot for its well-heeled readers. Carefully considered Saint Germain-des-Prés chic informs Swans Bar, a private library-like location for the more cerebral members of Generation Instagram. Prepped by Monsieur (très élégant in a white tuxedo), cocktails are suitably stylish propositions, but predictably pricey at £14.50: the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Rat Pack Manhattan and Hemingway Daiquiri. Try The Spirit of Seville (named after an Assouline publication): a cocktail whose key ingredients – claret, Calvados, and Grand Marnier – are more in the spirit of Assouline’s native France. Alternatively, order coffee, patisseries and luxe daytime snacks such as avocado, artichoke and sun-dried tomatoes (£15); soupe du jour; foie gras baguette; top-notch Spanish ham with fresh figs; or go the whole hog and sample the Royal Fillet Tolstoy, ‘the world’s most exquisite smoked salmon’, no less.

Bars
Discount Suit Company

Discount Suit Company

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.

Bars
Savini at Criterion

Savini at Criterion

224 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9HP

SAVINI AT CRITERION CLOSED PERMANENTLY IN JUNE 2018

The definition of elegance, this Grade II-listed neo-Byzantine beauty dates back to 1874 and offers fine Italian dining, at prices as high as the gold mosaic ceiling. The similarly opulent Savini restaurant in Milan dates back to 1867, making this venture a seemingly wise move following the Criterion Restaurant’s descent into administration in summer 2015. The dramatic room features a bar and lounge area, secluded grey booths, chandeliers and glittering marble pillars, soundtracked on our visit by slightly kitsch, old-fashioned Italian tunes and not much else: the room was almost empty (Savini was infamously without a phone line for four months after opening), sapping the atmosphere in such lofty surrounds. A lavish menu redresses the balance however, with not one bum note: pungent yet light artichoke risotto is drizzled with truffle sauce, crowned by carefully cooked pigeon breast; dense pappardelle ribbons are laced with the tang and pepper of wild boar ragu; a slab of foie gras tastes fresher and more vibrant than its appearance suggests, lifted by strands of candied lemon. All-Italian service is as friendly, knowledgeable and classy as this style of dining demands, while classic cocktails and a superb collection of wines offer similarly comprehensive support. Eye-wateringly high prices may also explain a lack of custom for a restaurant at the centre of London’s tourist hub. If the word gets out and London’s fine diners once again fill this historic space, Savini will be a stellar special occasion destination.

Over £80
Modern European
St Leonard

St Leonard's

70 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4QX

St Leonard’s is the latest collaboration from chef duo Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, who oversee Brunswick House in Vauxhall. Butch, austere interiors involving an abundance of polished concrete look the Shoreditch part, while as at nearby Brat, St Leonard’s is a homage to flame-licked cooking, with an impressive wood-burning hearth tended to by a brigade of extravagantly tattooed chefs.

The menu of grilled meat, fish and veg reads simply but soon reveals its complexities. Take a dish of ‘flamed oyster’, in which the intensely smoky shellfish arrive flame-grilled under a heap of crisp, lardo-soaked fried breadcrumbs. Elsewhere, a daringly sweet set custard is topped with luscious foie gras and slivers of silky smoked eel, then finished with a swirl of crunchy chicharrones (fried pork rind).

Not everything is so successful. A small plate of golden beetroot topped with almonds and crème fraiche felt dull, while a dish of thick-cut, smoky pork jowl was too fatty to be enjoyable. There was no faulting side dishes, though, especially blackened hispi cabbage, dipped in pork fat and topped with a scattering of breadcrumbs.

Desserts are more conventional, but still impress. We were particularly taken with a sherry-injected salted caramel tart, perfectly offset with cardamom ice cream. If you prefer to finish your meal with a drink, head to the bar where you’ll find a 200-bin wine list available by the glass or carafe. Despite a few small missteps, we think St Leonard’s is well on its way to becoming a classic.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Namaasté Kitchen

Namaasté Kitchen

64 Parkway, London, 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.

£30 - £49
Indian
Erst

Erst

9 Murray Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 6HS

£30 - £49
Modern European
Barshu Restaurant

Barshu Restaurant

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.

Szechuan
Chinese
Manetta

Manetta's Bar at Flemings Mayfair

Flemings Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon Street, London, W1J 7BH

Post-WWII, boutique townhouse hotel Flemings’ cosy, conspiratorial cocktail lounge was a favourite haunt of foreign spies and British spooks based at MI5’s then HQ on nearby Curzon Street. A lavish refurbishment in 2017 – all Tabasco and tobacco-tone plush, ebony leathery luxe and dishy bronzed art deco – has only upped the appeal of this bijou gem. Staffed by dashing men, dapper in raspberry crushed-velvet waistcoats and dickie bows, the bar’s lethal slugs are as seductively put together as any of Ian Fleming's (a distant relation?) Bond girls. Unimpeachable, if pricey, signatures worth noting are Lost Generation, a Talisker Manhattan, and They Do It With Mirrors, a Herradura Blanco Tequila, crème de pêche, lavender, camomile and Zinfandel sour named after the Agatha Christie thriller. Bar snacks include sea bass ceviche and perfectly judged mushroom arancini. Christie set her 1965 novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, in a thinly disguised Flemings. Today’s great mystery is why such a thrilling den has not been sussed by even more discerning London drinks sleuths?

Bars
Myrtle

Myrtle

1A Langton Street, London, London, SW10 0JL

Myrtle is the first solo restaurant from Irish chef Anna Haugh, who has made a name for herself by heading up some of the kitchens of the big names in London restaurants (London House, Bob Bob Ricard) without fully stepping into the limelight.

Myrtle, at the World’s End end of King’s Road, is very much her chance to shine, and if the narrow proportions of the two-floor restaurant speak of the constraints of a chef funding her own restaurant, details like the Galway crystal used for the Baron Albert house Champagne, the green marble bar and butter dishes, and pewter water goblets that wouldn’t look out of place in Game of Thrones speak of an attachment to Haugh’s home country that feels heartfelt rather than corny.      

Haugh’s cooking likewise takes Ireland as inspiration but filters ingredients such as Burren Smokehouse salmon and Crozier blue cheese through a modern Irish sensibility. So while potato comes with black pudding, it is delivered as an elegant cylinder of Clonakilty black pudding tied up in a thin twine of fried potato strings.

Roasted beef fillet with boxty, meanwhile, is presented as an elegant fan of sliced meat cooked medium-rare and spooned with a glossy tarragon and confit shallot jus; there’s more beef inside the boxty, a quivering dome of potato pancake that eats like a sublime savoury dumpling.   

If there are faults, it’s that the cooking displays a little too much of the intricacy learnt at the Michelin-starred likes of Pied à Terre and The Square, and while the pricing is reasonable by Chelsea standards, portion sizes seem too skimpy to encourage the sort of loyal repeat visits that the nearby likes of Medlar prove exist at this tubeless end of SW10; our most filling dish was the knockout veggie option of celeriac pithivier.     

That said, there’s generosity aplenty in the repeated offers of the homemade soda bread (made with treacle for a spoonful of sweetness), the friendly staff deliver warm, personal service while a bottle of Provencal rosé from the well-assembled wine list was perfect for a warm summer evening when the full-length windows were open on to the street.

 

 

£50 - £79
Modern European
Irish
Tom Simmons

Tom Simmons

One Tower Bridge, 2 Still Walk, London, SE1 2LP

£30 - £49
British
French
Jack Solomons Club

Jack Solomons Club

41 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D 7NB

Chelsea steakhouse Sophie’s has a new Soho gaff with a dark secret in its bowels. The cavernous basement was once a gym owned by the eponymous Jack, the celebrated Cockney boxing promoter who first matched up Henry Cooper with Muhammad Ali. It has now been recast as a louche, dimly lit jazz-era lounge bar with low-level seating. The place isn’t easy to find: look for an unmarked door at a street-level deli. Inside you’ll find a Peaky Blinders twilight world soundtracked by live jive and late-night DJ sets. In petrol-blue velvet swagged booths, or a separate faux-seedy blood-red saloon, soak up punches, slugs and classic and advanced Martinis. Top billing goes to whisky cocktails, Black Jack (Laphroaig, Maraschino liqueur and lime) and Coffee & Cigarettes, a knockout Woodford Reserve Manhattan that, for us, shades it on points. Snack on baba ganoush, savoury croquettes or good ol’ fish & chips.

Bars
Wellbourne Brasserie

Wellbourne Brasserie

Unit 2 Westworks Building, 195 Wood Lane, London, London, W12 7FQ

£30 - £49
Modern European
Mr Fogg’s Residence

Mr Fogg’s Residence

15 Bruton Lane, London, London, W1J 6JD

With every junior royal, rich Russian and gossip-column rake on speed dial, those purveyors of Sloaney good times Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling (Cahoots, Bunga Bunga, Bart’s) are high-society lynchpins worth cultivating. As avowed theme-bar aficionados, the boys play a blinder with this convincingly staged interpretation of Phileas J Fogg’s madcap Mayfair mansion, stuffed to the gunnels with camp caboodle from the eccentric Victorian explorer's derring-do foreign forays. The whole fantastical set-up is a hoot: Eton boys in dapper period livery dispense plates of top tucker with 'tipsy teas' (ie. gin or Champagne cocktails in teapots), while Passepartout (Fogg's imagined French valet) preps hooch-charged puncheons, crustas, cups and long-lost recipes with colonial roots. Other wheezes include a summer garden veranda, guest bartenders, vaudeville turns and talks from adventurers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes. As we say, these chaps are connected.

£30 - £49
Bars
Afternoon tea
Sonny

Sonny's Kitchen

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.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Jolene

Jolene

21 Newington Green, London, N16 9PU

Under £30
French
Chotto Matte

Chotto Matte

11-13 Frith Street, London, London, 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. 

£50 - £79