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

SquareMeal Silver Awards

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.


Northbank

Northbank

£30 - £49
British
£30 - £49

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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Hunan

Hunan

£50 - £79
Chinese

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.

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Smoking Goat Shoreditch

Smoking Goat Shoreditch

Under £30
Thai

64 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

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José Pizarro Broadgate

José Pizarro Broadgate

£50 - £79
Tapas
Spanish

36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS

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MNKY HSE

MNKY HSE

£50 - £79
South American
Bars

10 Dover Street, London, W1S 4LQ

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Kyseri

Kyseri

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern

64 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DN

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Fare Bar + Canteen

Fare Bar + Canteen

Modern European

11 Old Street, EC1V 9HL

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Barrafina Coal Drops Yard

Barrafina Coal Drops Yard

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB

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The Gilbert Scott

The Gilbert Scott

£50 - £79
British

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.

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Indian Zing

Indian Zing

£30 - £49
Indian

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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The Glasshouse Kew

The Glasshouse Kew

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star
£30 - £49

14 Station Parade, Kew, 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”.

 

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The Ivy Café Wimbledon Village

The Ivy Café Wimbledon Village

£30 - £49
Modern European

75 High Street, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5EQ

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Kitty Fisher

Kitty Fisher's

£50 - £79
Modern European

10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF

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Nobu Shoreditch (bar)

Nobu Shoreditch (bar)

Bars

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. 

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The French Table

The French Table

£50 - £79
French

85 Maple Road, Surbiton, 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.

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Little Bird Battersea

Little Bird Battersea

Bars

1 Battersea Rise , London, SW11 1HG

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Flesh & Buns Fitzrovia

Flesh & Buns Fitzrovia

£30 - £49
Japanese

32 Berners Street, London, W1T 3LR

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Genuine Liquorette

Genuine Liquorette

Bars

6 Rathbone Place , London, W1T 1HL

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Sushisamba (bar)

Sushisamba (bar)

Bars

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.

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Gaucho Richmond

Gaucho Richmond

£50 - £79
Steak
Argentinian
£50 - £79

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.

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Mint Gun Club

Mint Gun Club

Bars

4A Brooke Road, London, N16 7LS

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Veeraswamy

Veeraswamy

£50 - £79
Indian
One michelin star

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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Jamavar

Jamavar

£50 - £79
Indian
One michelin star

8 Mount Street, London, W1K 3NF

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Nutbourne

Nutbourne

£30 - £49
British

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

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The Dog House

The Dog House

Bars

62 Seymour Street, London, W1H 5BN

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Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

Bars

157a Commercial Street, 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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Boisdale of Bishopsgate

Boisdale of Bishopsgate

£50 - £79
Scottish
Steak

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.

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Disrepute

Disrepute

Bars

4 Kingly Court, London, W1B 5PW

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Roux at Parliament Square

Roux at Parliament Square

£50 - £79
Modern European

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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Bassoon

Bassoon

Bars

Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2BD

Like its orchestral namesake, Bassoon strikes a smooth tone, thanks to a combination of great drinks, slick service and sophisticated surroundings – a cubist homage to the jazz era courtesy of the late David Collins. The glossy bar counter extends from an ebony baby-grand piano that plays live music most evenings, while perfectly pitched cocktails range from the delicate Bocal (Grey Goose La Poire, pomegranate, lemon and elderflower liqueur) to punchy El Estadista, a mix of whisky, sherry, curaçao and house-made grenadine. Classic Martinis and Champagne cocktails lend support, along with particularly impressive selections of whisky, Cognac and rum to go with swanky prawn tempura, Wagyu beef cubes and Grouville Bay oysters. Such style doesn’t come cheap: if you stray towards the vintage Champagnes and beluga caviar, your plastic will take a serious hit – though we doubt that's a problem for the Corinthia's well-heeled guests.

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Tramshed

Tramshed

£30 - £49
British

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.

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Bunga Bunga Battersea

Bunga Bunga Battersea

£30 - £49
Pizza
Italian

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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The Lost Alpaca

The Lost Alpaca

Bars

14 Garrick Street, London, WC2E 9BJ

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Corrigan

Corrigan's Mayfair

£50 - £79
British

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.

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Melabes

Melabes

Middle Eastern

221 Kensington High Street, W8 6SG

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Anise

Anise

Bars

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

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Cambio de Tercio

Cambio de Tercio

£50 - £79
Spanish
£30 - £49

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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Evans & Peel Pharmacy

Evans & Peel Pharmacy

Bars

42 Devonshire Road, London, W4 2HD

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Jolene

Jolene

Under £30
French

21 Newington Green, London, N16 9PU

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Boisdale of Belgravia

Boisdale of Belgravia

£50 - £79
Scottish
Steak
£50 - £79

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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Lurra

Lurra

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

9 Seymour Place, London, W1H 5BA

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Flesh & Buns Covent Garden

Flesh & Buns Covent Garden

£30 - £49
Japanese

41 Earlham Street, London, 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.

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The Don Restaurant

The Don Restaurant

£50 - £79
Modern European
£30 - £49

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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Roka Aldwych

Roka Aldwych

Over £80
Sushi
Japanese

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.

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Serge

Serge

£50 - £79
Spanish

The Mandrake Hotel, 20-21 Newman Street, London, W1T 1PG

Six Portland Road

Six Portland Road

£50 - £79
Modern European

6 Portland Road, London, W11 4LA

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L

L'Aventure

£50 - £79
French
£30 - £49

3 Blenheim Terrace, London, NW8 0EH

Although it’s secreted away in the leafy suburbs of St John’s Wood, eating at this thoroughly romantic evergreen might just transport you to the heart of Paris – an illusion of bonhomie reinforced by gregarious owner Catherine Parisot and her thoroughly Gallic, genuinely welcoming staff. The handwritten, daily changing menus need little explanation, as long as you’re well-versed in bourgeois favourites, and you can’t go wrong with the classics here: mussels and scallops in saffron sauce; homemade foie gras terrine; roasted turbot with hollandaise sauce; rack of lamb with whole garlic; pan-fried magret of duck finished with cassis sauce. There are mighty ribs of veal for two to share, while desserts are all about indulgence – so forget your diet and go straight for the crème brûlée, chocolate truffle, warm apple tart or the stinky French cheeses. Set menus offer the best value.

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The Square

The Square

Over £80
French
One michelin star

6-10 Bruton Street, London, W1J 6PU

18 months after he bought The Square from chef Philip Howard and restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin, Marlon Abela has put his own stamp on the famous Mayfair restaurant, re-opening it following a refurb and with a new chef. Clément Leroy has spent time in the kitchens of French legends such as Guy Savoy in Paris and has presumably been tasked with winning back the second Michelin star that evaporated when Howard left. Abela has said that The Square is “a modern take on haute cuisine”, which means that butter and cream are out and umami and a light touch are in over a four course à la carte (£95) or seven-course tasting menu (£110). Thus smoked Lincolnshire eel comes with caviar, potato and watercress (superbly subtle), red mullet is treated to a delicate Asian twist with aubergine, shiitake and Sarawak pepper, saddle of lamb gets its seasoning from razor clams and seaweed butter, while the flavour of salt-baked pineapple is amplified by salted butter ice-cream. This is top-flight cooking, to be sure, underscored by a deeply impressive Franco-Italian wine list that extends to almost 2,000 bins – but there was a sense of fun lacking on our visit; as at The Square of old, this sombrely furnished space remains a restaurant better tailored to a suited clientele on expenses than food-loving diners with personal accounts.

 

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Bistro Vadouvan

Bistro Vadouvan

£30 - £49
French

30 Brewhouse Lane, London, SW15 2JX

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A Cena

A Cena

£30 - £49
Italian

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.

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The Lucky Pig

The Lucky Pig

Bars

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.

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Purl

Purl

Bars

50-54 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HX

Reviving the illicit jazz-era speakeasy isn’t the most obvious move for bartenders in this postcode, but Purl has been evoking the glam end of clandestine drinking below Blandford Street since 2010. With raw brick, polished leather and aged objets, and alcoves for larger groups, it’s a hip rather than complicated space. All the detail is reserved for the drinks, which smoke, foam and fog out of unusual vessels, and often have a matching edible of some sort served alongside. Is that an old-school camera long lens, or a glass heaped with ice and mixed liquor? Both, of course. Bartenders have a sure mastery of their art and the experience can be captivating for the patient drinker, who is wise to book ahead. If you act on a spontaneous urge for high-class moonshine, you may be turned away. There’s live jazz on Wednesdays, and cocktail masterclasses make an enlivening team activity.

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Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard

£50 - £79
British

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

Swankily appointed Aqua Shard has one astonishing USP – 31 floors up on the Shard, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views, mainly across the urban sprawl leading to the North Downs. The views and the location alone should just about guarantee a full house every night, but it would be remiss to minimise the sterling contribution made by current head chef Dale Osborne (ex-Terroirs). With some mains breaking the £40 barrier, eating here isn’t cheap, but in return you’ll be offered some skilfully rendered and reassuringly seasonal modern British food: jellied ham hock with pickled heritage carrots and parsley oil; fillet of John Dory with Scottish girolles, sea beet, pickled samphire and lentils; Merrifield Farm duck breast with seared duck hearts and slow-roasted Evesham beets; cherry Bakewell tart with cherry sauce. Useful tip: they’re also open for breakfast, weekend brunch and afternoon tea, though prices are as sky-high as the views. Readers also reckon that drinks are “somewhat expensive”.

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Nobu Berkeley St

Nobu Berkeley St

Over £80
Japanese

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.

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Lahpet

Lahpet

Under £30
Burmese

58 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 8JW

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The Bar at Bluebird Chelsea

The Bar at Bluebird Chelsea

£30 - £49
Bars

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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Barshu Restaurant

Barshu Restaurant

Szechuan
Chinese

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.

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L

L'Amorosa

£30 - £49
Italian

278 King Street, London, W6 0SP

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Ralph

Ralph's Coffee and Bar

Bars

173 Regent Street, London, W1B 4JQ

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Champagne Bar and Piano Bar at Kettner

Champagne Bar and Piano Bar at Kettner's Townhouse

£50 - £79
Bars

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.

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Petit Pois Bistro

Petit Pois Bistro

£30 - £49
French

9 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU

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Cattivo

Cattivo

Under £30
Bars
Italian

207 Ferndale Road, London, SW9 8BE

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Noble Rot

Noble Rot

£30 - £49
British
French

51 Lamb's Conduit Street, London, WC1N 3NB

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Perilla

Perilla

£30 - £49
Modern European

1-3 Green Lanes, London, N16 9BS

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The Blind Pig

The Blind Pig

Under £30
Bars

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. 

 

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Clipstone

Clipstone

£30 - £49
Modern European

5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB

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Tate Modern Restaurant

Tate Modern Restaurant

£50 - £79
British

Switch House, Level 9, Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG

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Quilon

Quilon

£30 - £49
Indian

41 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6AF

Serene and peaceful, with shell motifs and an undulating wave-like ceiling pointing up the maritime theme, this Michelin-starred South Indian specialist is perfectly positioned under the mighty Taj Hotel in Victoria – a comfortable refuelling point for residents, local businesses and well-heeled visitors. Seafood is the undoubted high point of the menu, and dishes such as crab cakes gently spiced with curry leaves, ginger and chilli or giant juicy shell-on prawns cooked in an onion, tomato and coconut masala are well worth a trip across town. There’s also plenty for meat eaters and vegetarians: slow-cooked lamb shank, steeped in herbs and spices is meltingly good, while a dish of snow peas and asparagus, sautéed with coconut, mustard, curry leaves and chilli is supremely moreish. Service isn’t exactly slick, but it’s well-meaning, kind and enthusiastic. The wine list has been carefully designed to match the food – look out for plenty of aromatic whites and soft easy-drinking reds.

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The White Onion

The White Onion

£50 - £79
Mediterranean
French

67 High Street, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5EE

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Pitt Cue

Pitt Cue

£30 - £49
North American

1 The Avenue, Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YP

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Plot

Plot

£30 - £49
British

70-72 Broadway Market, SW17 0RL

Tooting locals Mark Kimber and Harry Smith celebrate the best of British at super-casual Plot, where the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible (Chadwicks butcher on Tooting High Street and Clapham fishmonger Moxon’s, for example). Sit on wooden benches, or pull up a stool at the marble-topped counter for a prime view of Giles Elstob. The chef has created a deceptively simple, seasonally changing menu of small plates that put individual ingredients in the spotlight. White flakes of roast cod are served with a clashing, curried tartare sauce, while sweet cubes of confit pork belly are pointed up by an intense shallot purée and pickled mushrooms. Vegetables are a particular highlight: hispi cabbage is roasted with hazelnuts, packed with flavour and texture; rich slivers of sherry-pickled onion add extra depth to creamy, charred cauliflower cheese. The local theme continues with the drinks list, so look out for craft beers such as Wolfie Smith Amber IPA from Wandsworth microbrewery By The Horns, while English sparkler Nyetimber Classic Cuvée takes the place of Champagne. There's also a short, eclectic wine list, all available by the glass or bottle. Plot’s all-day offering adds considerable kudos to Broadway Market's burgeoning food-and-drink offering.

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Dean Street Townhouse

Dean Street Townhouse

£50 - £79
British

69-71 Dean Street, London, 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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Ziggy

Ziggy's

Bars

Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street , London, W1B 4DY

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Tozi

Tozi

£30 - £49
Italian

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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Zheng Chelsea

Zheng Chelsea

£50 - £79
Malaysian
Chinese

4 Sydney Street, London, SW3 6PP

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TT Liquor

TT Liquor

Bars

17b Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA

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Blacklock Shoreditch

Blacklock Shoreditch

£30 - £49
British

28-30 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3DZ

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Manetta

Manetta's Bar at Flemings Mayfair

Bars

Flemings Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon Street, 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?

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The Fox & Pheasant

The Fox & Pheasant

£30 - £49
Gastropub

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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Artusi

Artusi

£30 - £49
Italian

161 Bellenden Road, London, SE15 4DH

Blink and you’ll miss this narrow strip of a restaurant with its matt-black frontage, the name painted in tiny white type. Inside, pared-back, minimal surroundings allow the no-fuss Italian food to do the talking. The kitchen takes the best of the day’s produce and crafts a menu of bold simplicity, offering just three starters, three mains, and a couple of pasta dishes of either size. The list provides the perfect antidote to those tired trattorie with their dozens of ‘specials’. Because the chef uses cheaper cuts (lamb shoulder or ox heart on our visit), and concentrates on pulses and seasonal veg, prices are kept spot-on for a neighbourhood joint – though many would cross the capital for gutsy cooking of such quality. The ice cream alone is worth a detour. The all-Italian wine list needs better descriptions, though the friendly staff will make suggestions.

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Hawksmoor Spitalfields

Hawksmoor Spitalfields

£50 - £79
Steak
British

157a Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ

Spitalfields is where it all started for Hawksmoor founders Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006 and while their newer restaurants became ever-more glamorous, this blueprint was still recognisably a City steakhouse. A recent refurb has brought it into line with its glossy siblings with acres of green leather and an all-round sheen, but what still sets Hawksmoor apart from the competition it spawned is the hubbub of happy diners anticipating some of the best steak in London, smoky from the chargrill and imbued with more character than the cast list of Game of Thrones. Non-carnivores should investigate such fresh-tasting treats as a mound of white crab meat piled on to thin crumpets, or three breadcrumb-scattered scallops served in the shell with a white port and garlic sauce. There’s no denying that Hawksmoor is expensive, but portions are so big that a steak and a couple of sides (treacle-sweet bacon, squeaky spring greens) should hit the spot for most appetites – though who could resist the lure of peanut butter shortbread topped with a smooth scoop of salted-caramel ice cream and concealing a well of syrupy sauce?

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Cub

Cub

£30 - £49
British

153 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ

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The Prince Arthur

The Prince Arthur

Pubs

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.

 

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The Drop

The Drop

Wine Bars

Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB

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Experimental Cocktail Club

Experimental Cocktail Club

£30 - £49
Bars

13a Gerrard Street, London, W1D 5PS

Like its Shoreditch sibling, Joyeux Bordel, ECC is from the same stable as à la mode Parisian thoroughbreds such as Prescription in St. Germain-des-Prés. Beyond the scruffy door, guarded by a friendly (or otherwise) greeter, you’ll discover a moody boho pile packed with Pinteresting people and arranged over the upper floors of a Chinatown dwelling: opinions of the full EEC experience are invariably divided, although few would dispute that it delivers consistently good drinks knocked out by keen-to-please/snottily superior staff (make up your own mind). Expect to shell out at least £70 for a quartet of contemporary spins on classic recipes: the line-up varies, but those we have loved include the Martini Suissesse (a blend of absinthe, vermouth, mint and orgéat that tastes like pimped-up Pernod) and Old Cuban (a rum, ginger and shampoo coupe). Steer clear of cocktails made with vintage spirits – unless you're feeling really flush and really flash.

 

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Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Bar at Ham Yard Hotel

Bars

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.

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The Whitechapel Refectory

The Whitechapel Refectory

Under £30
Cafes

Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX

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Bar Three

Bar Three

Bars

65a Brushfield Street, London, E1 6AA

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Bocconcino

Bocconcino

£50 - £79
Pizza
Italian

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.

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Bryn Williams at Somerset House

Bryn Williams at Somerset House

£30 - £49
Modern European

Somerset Hosue, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

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Nanban

Nanban

Under £30
Japanese

426 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF

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Kurobuta Chelsea

Kurobuta Chelsea

£50 - £79
Japanese

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?

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Donostia

Donostia

£30 - £49
Spanish

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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Balthazar

Balthazar

£50 - £79
French

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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Caractère

Caractère

£50 - £79
Modern European

209 Westbourne Park Road, London, W11 1EA

The first solo project from husband and wife Diego Ferrari and Emily Roux, the daughter of Michel Jnr. The couple met when Ferrari was head chef of her father’s restaurant, Le Gavroche, and at Caractère he is once again in the kitchen while Roux is front of house.

Caractere is determinedly contemporary and striking. Velvety, dusky pink chairs are set at marble-topped tables in a brick-walled room, with herringbone on the floor, dramatic lighting on the ceiling and picture windows running down two sides.

The grub is full of character: Cacio e pepe sees strips of celeriac in place of strands of pasta acting as a subtly flavoured foil to a full-throttle Pecorino sauce, with a few drops of intensely concentrated balsamic vinegar added at the table. The same balance of savoury and sharp works similarly well in a beautiful slice of roast wild duck breast, sharing a plate with fondant chervil root and blackberries. Roast diver scallops with salsify purée, mustard and beurre blanc is a more gently flavoured but equally satisfying dish. To finish, we preferred a magnificent warm chocolate cake with pecan praline and salted caramel sauce to a rather virtuous-tasting ‘millefeuille’ made out of sliced fig.

An exclusively French and Italian wine list focuses on big name regions with prices to match, though there are enough interesting wines under £40 to appeal to less plutocratic wallets.

With The Ledbury almost next door, the recently closed Marianne down the road and Core by Clare Smyth a short walk away, Notting HiIl has a well-established appetite for sophisticated modern cooking served in a high-end setting. Roux and Ferrari seem to be fitting into the neighbourhood like a glove.

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Ukai

Ukai

£30 - £49
Sushi
Japanese

240 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LL

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The Palace of Humbug

The Palace of Humbug

Bars

65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY

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Savini at Criterion

Savini at Criterion

Over £80
Modern European

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