Our city is awash with cuisines, and lucky Londoners are able to flit between all manner of Asian, American, European or fusion-minded restaurants as they please. What better time than St. George’s Day to focus our attentions closer to home as we round up nine of the capital’s finest English restaurants
This buzzing venue in the heart of Soho comes with a fascinating historical back-story, having been inhabited by aristocrats, artists and composers, and graced by celebrities from Fred Astaire to Francis Bacon. The all-day dining experience skips from breakfast to afternoon tea to supper with everything in-between. Expect hearty renditions of good old-fashioned English grub, from crumpets with preserves, to mince and potatoes and pear cobbler with clotted cream.
Dinner continues to wow with its thoughtful takes on historical dishes that reach back as early as the 14th century. Savoury must-tries include the signature 'meat fruit' chicken-liver pâté and the improbably juicy Black Foot pork chop with spelt and Robert sauce. Top treats on the dessert menu range from the much trumpeted tipsy cake to brown-bread ice cream – a staple of Victorian England – with salted-butter caramel, pear and malted-yeast syrup.
Chef Marcus Wareing took a leaf out of Heston’s book when he opened this stunning, historically inspired restaurant at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in spring 2011. The grandiose setting, in a dining room that retains many of its original features, sweeps diners back in time, while the menu plunders England’s cookbooks, taking in 19th-century food writer Mrs Beeton. Plump for something old school, such as the homemade black pudding with mash and apples, or try an updated version of a timeless classic, such as London Pride beer-battered cod with mushy-pea mayonnaise and chips. Don't miss drinks in the beautifully restored bar.
Hawksmoor, various locations
What better way to celebrate St. George’s Day than with superb English steaks? Hawksmoor sources its beef from native breed cattle, all raised and slowly reared in the country. The beef is then dry-aged for at least 35 days in order to bring out its flavour and create a succulent texture. Hearty sides such as triple-cooked chips and roast mushrooms are ideal accompaniments to the beef, while artfully created cocktails and carefully sourced wines are further pluses. Or opt for an English ale, of course.
Former Ramsay deputy and Kent dweller Mark Sargeant’s London outpost in the lavish Great Northern Hotel puts a gently modern spin on traditional English dishes. From steamed mussels to steak via fresh-as-it-comes veg, he really excels at letting the ingredients do the talking – and you can rest assured it’s all sourced from as locally as possible. The namesake dessert of plum & spilt milk is an example of the restaurant’s playful side: homely stewed plums and custard served with restaurant vigour.
Pitched just above foodie mecca Borough Market, Roast boasts top-quality ingredients at its fingertips. The menu pays serious attention to provenance, with suppliers and regions name-checked throughout. Opt for comforting dishes such as brown egg with haggis and piccalilli, followed by meaty ham hock and snail pie; there is even an admirable vegetarian selection. Check out the great selection of English wines, too.
Rules, Covent Garden
The capital’s oldest restaurant (serving since 1798) has fed some of England’s most revered icons, from Charles Dickens to Charlie Chaplin – all featured in the hall of fame that makes up the decor of this most established of eateries. The menu majors on game when in season, and is packed full of traditional and heritage dishes, from roast squab pigeon with potato rösti and cabbage, to steak-and-kidney puddings and pies.
Along with Rules (est. 1798) and Wiltons (1840), 189-year-old Simpson’s comprises a holy trinity of Empire-era, Rule Britannia British dining. It has just re-opened after a spruce-up, and entering the stained-glass and tiled lobby is like stepping into the booking hall of a gothic Victorian railway station. The food (from a British ‘bill of fare’ rather than a French ‘menu’) has been gently updated for modern appetites.
What can be more English than fish & chips, eh? Well, the best place to get it in London is without a doubt at Poppie's. Owner Pat ‘Pop’ Newman has been in the fish and chip business for over 60 years, starting at the age of 11 when he cut the newspapers to wrap the fish in; if you’re after a takeaway, they’ll still wrap it in newspaper for you. The original Splitafields site is a legend, but the Soho and Camden outlets are equally (if not more) satisfying. Fish arrives daily from Billingsgate, as well as jellied eels, saveloys and fishcakes. The look is just what it should be: a celebration of 70s Formica and Anaglypta wallpaper.