New West End restaurants might hoover up all the attention but ask any Londoner to name their favourite places to eat and, chances are, one of them will be that little place they know that has been making locals happy before many of its customers were even born. Read on to discover our pick of the neighbourhood gems that are worth crossing town for – and tell us about your own local favourites by leaving a reader review on SquareMeal here.
This Islington classic has more than four decades of honourable service under its belt. The airy interior still looks dapper, the lovely garden is a joy in summer (especially with a glass of rosé in hand), while the modern British food has moved with the times, without ever chasing fashion or sacrificing consistency. Thumbs up, too, for affordable lunch and pre-theatre deals, Saturday brunch and kids’ menus.
Find out where else we rate in N1 with our list of the best restaurants in Islington
Lemonia, Primrose Hill
The sort of old-school taverna you’d hope to find on your summer holidays, Lemonia has been a Primrose Hill institution for over 30 years, and when the sky is blue, the suntrap garden does a pretty good impression of a terrace in Greece. Mezze staples include tarama and hummus, there’s moussaka and charcoal-flamed meats, while a pavement table offers celebrity-spotting opportunities aplenty.
89 Regent’s Park Road, NW1 8UY
Find out where else we rate in NW1 with our list of the best restaurants in Primrose Hill
Oslo Court, St John’s Wood
This slice of 1970s nostalgia (accessed via the lobby of an interwar mansion block) lays on the vintage charm with salmon-pink decor, heavily starched linen and tuxedo-clad waiters wheeling around dessert trolleys and bringing the retro likes of garlicky mushrooms in puff pastry, roast duckling with a choice of orange, cherry or apple sauce, and crêpe Suzette. It’s all rather hypnotising, and very, very comforting.
Prince Albert Road, NW8 7EN
Find out where else we rate in NW8 with our list of the best restaurants in St John’s Wood
Bistrotheque, Bethnal Green
What: An east London legend best known for its weekend brunch service, Bistrotheque is always packed to the rafters and raucous fun whenever you choose to visit, thanks to the colourfully coiffed house pianist, decent nosh (plates of pancakes with banana butter and the best steak tartare in East London do it for us) and even better cocktails. A clientele of local creatives maintain Bistrotheque’s cool credentials.
Where: 23-27 Wadeson Street, E2 9DR
Fish Island, just off Bream Street, makes a fitting address for the restaurant at H Forman & Sons’ smokery – and there’s no better place than its terrace for a close-up view of the Olympic Stadium. Come for dinner (Thursday to Saturday only) to sample the Forman family’s famous ‘London Cure’ smoked salmon – perhaps with a glass or two of English fizz – and follow with turbot or salt-marsh lamb.
Stour Road, E3 2NT
Orford Saloon, Walthamstow
With a deli room for those without bookings or anyone wanting a quick snack, and a main eating area with pretty tiled tops, Orford Saloon does its best to feed as many of its loyal regulars as possible. The exhaustive Spanish menu offers three kinds of paella, shellfish every which way and a solid bedrock of delicious tapas. Prices are low and portions large, with plenty of Spanish wines and sherries behind the bar.
32 Orford Road, E17 9NJ
The French Table, Surbiton
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 dishes like saddle of wild boar teamed with haunch of boar ravioli, wild garlic leaves, celeriac gratin and juniper sauce, while Sarah and her team greet diners as old friends.
85 Maple Road, KT6 4AW
Joanna’s, Crystal Palace
Celebrating its 40th birthday this month, this all-day brasserie offers reassurance from the off with its classy wood-panelled surrounds, ceiling fans and impressive cocktail bar knocking out vodka espresso shots. The menu has a strong American accent – well-sourced steaks and burgers, crab mac ‘n’ cheese and chocolate sundaes – and service can’t be bettered.
56 Westow Hill, SE19 1RX
An institution much loved by its elegant regulars and occasional celebrities, Riva is renowned for simple, well-prepared Italian cooking overseen by its charismatic owner, Andrea Riva, who has a knack of remembering names, faces and food preferences. He’s prepared to go off-menu for favoured diners, recommending whatever he knows will suit them – so dinner can be exceptionally personal. A restaurant habit worth starting.
169 Church Road, SW13 9HR
Find out where else we like in SW13 with our list of the best restaurants in Barnes
L’Amorosa, Hammersmith (above)
What: A certain other Hammersmith Italian might attract all the column inches but regular diners on the high-end restaurant scene will know that Andy Needham was head chef at Zafferano in Knightsbridge for years and his first solo restaurant promises cooking every bit as good. Deceptively simple dishes are based on carefully sourced seasonal ingredients – burrata with Parma ham, figs and rocket, say – and there’s good value on the wine list.
Where: 278 King Street, London, W6 0SP
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Le Vacherin, Chiswick
What: Wonderful French food is the attraction at Le Vacherin, which also wins praise for its consistently good service and romantic atmosphere. The clean lines, authentic trappings and white linen tablecloths lend a Parisian air to this dyed-in-the-wool bistro, which is great for a celebrations as well as a cosy dinner à deux. The repertoire of classic dishes is elegantly done, from escargots and foie gras to chateaubriand and tarte Tatin.
Where: 76-77 South Parade, W4 5LF
Find out where else we like in W4 with our list of the best restaurants in Chiswick
Restaurant Michael Nadra, Chiswick
What: With a culinary CV including the likes of Pétrus, Chez Bruce and La Trompette, Michael Nadra has had no trouble transforming his self-named gaff into one of west London’s go-to destinations. The restaurant’s chic neutral decor, animated atmosphere and courtyard garden make this gorgeous venue perfect for a romantic dinner, the refined cooking is excellent value for money, while the impressive 200-bin wine list has good by-the-glass options.
Where: 6-8 Elliott Road, W4 1PE
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