London’s best restaurants (from reliable sources)
With London now regarded as one of the world’s best dining destinations, these are some of the recommended restaurants. The capital is now home to many of the world’s most innovative and impressive chefs and its restaurants cater to all tastes and budgets with ever-increasing variety.
West End and Central London
Texture, Portman Place
Won a Michelin star in 2010. Provides fresh ingredients, both British and Icelandic, with lots of fish and herbs, sit alongside a phenomenal wine list (Rousset is the sommelier). Lunch menus £19.90 for two courses and £24.90 for three. Menus from £79 per person, for the whole table.
Location: 34 Portman Street, London W1.
Contact: 020 7224 0028, www.texture-restaurant.co.uk
Galvin at Windows, Park Lane
Chef Patron Chris Galvin’s restaurant opened in 2006 on the 28th floor of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, with staggering views of Hyde Park and the capital. Its excellent modern French haute cuisine – attractively rich – recently earned a Michelin star: altogether a very glamorous night out. (Lunch menus from £25).
Location: Park Lane, W1, between Hyde Park and Mayfair.
Contact: 020 7208 4021, www.galvinatwindows.com
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
This light-filled restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental grabbed headlines for its reinterpreted historic British dishes, from 18th-century Salmagundy (chicken, salsify, marrow bone) to Taffety Tart (apple, rose, fennel and blackcurrant sorbet). Go: the food is delicious, with interesting stories, the service delightful – and the views over Hyde Park aren’t bad, either.
Contact: 020 7201 3833, www.dinnerbyheston.com
The Wolseley, Piccadilly
The Wolseley never lets you down; if you can get in, that is. It calls itself a café “in the Grand European tradition” and the glamour comes from the lively crowd and its setting in an Art Deco former car showroom is an eye catcher. The food is perfect for hangover breakfasts, business lunches or taking your parents out.
Location: 160 Piccadilly, W1, ideal for Mayfair and St James’s.
Contact: 020 7499 6996, www.thewolseley.com.
Wild Honey, off Hanover Square
This tiny restaurant just opposite St George’s Hanover Square serves seasonal food – try the delicious rabbit pork and apricot terrine – with impressive wine selection Courses from £21.
Location: 12 St George Street, W1, in the heart of Mayfair.
Contact: 020 7758 9160, www.wildhoneyrestaurant.co.uk
Café in the Crypt, St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square
St Martin’s converted its 18th-century crypt into a cafeteria-style restaurant some years ago – it feels almost like a gallery café – and does hearty English food: proper teas, big breakfasts and nice soup-and-a-roll options. Sunday lunches for £7.95 right in the centre of London, is not bad at all.
Location: Trafalgar Square, WC2
Contact: 020 7766 1158, www.smitf.org
Morito is a tapas bar and little brother to next-door Moro, Sam and Sam Clark’s excellent Moorish – restaurant in Exmouth Market restaurant. Tiny explosions of flavour, most of them under £8 with very reasonably priced wine selection. Probably not the place to choose if you’re ravenous: Lunchtime booking only, dinner first come first served, closed for dinner on Sunday.
Contact: 020 7278 7007, www.moro.co.uk
Fernandez & Wells
This cosy little cafe and wine bar opened five years ago on Soho’s Lexington Street and has spawned two sister ventures nearby and two more at Somerset House and on Exhibition Road, South Kensington. It’s simple – wooden counters, cured hams, good coffee machine – with food and drink to match: jamon, parmesan, crusty bread, soups, stews, daily platters. Only open until 10pm, though.
Contact: 020 7734 1546, www.fernandezandwells.com
With its circular tin tray of yummies known as a thali it has made its mark: it’s one of the specialties served by this cheery chain of cafeteria-style restaurants. So successful has the Panjabi sisters’ idea, that they now have eight different outlets across London, including Covent Garden and Bayswater, all of them busy.
Contact: See www.masalazone.com for numbers of individual restaurants.
Restaurateurs D&D know their market and this rooftop restaurant, bar and brasserie on top of James Stirling’s pink-and-terracotta striped building, No 1 Poultry (you can’t miss it; it looks like a Frazzle) does classic French food during the week, but relaxes with jazz and brunch at weekends. Top marks too for the £28 Sunday Jazz Lunch.
Location: No 1 Poultry, EC2
Contact: 020 7395 5000, www.coqdargent.co.uk
This restaurant and bar doubles as Threadneedles’ in-house dining room, but its separate entrance means that it is jammed with bankers and traders on Thursday and Friday nights. The restaurant serves modern European food, with Asian accents – there’s an Asian feel to the surroundings, too, lots of sleek wood and exotic flowers – but does a three-course lunch menu for £19.95 and one of the best value hotel teas in London at £15.95. The restaurant (though not the bar) closes at weekends and both close on Bank Holidays.
Location: 5 Threadneedle Street, EC2
Contact: 020 7657 8090, www.theetoncollection.co.uk
If you are ever in danger of forgetting that the City was once the exclusive preserve of chaps in pinstripes carrying furled umbrellas, pop along to this 120-year old fish and seafood establishment. It’s in a former shop, so you can see the fish being delivered and prepared. Be warned though; it only opens between 11.30am-3pm, shuts at weekends and refuses to take any bookings.
Location: 39 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4
Contact: 0844 5672326; no website
It’s odd how rare it is to get a river view on the City side of the river, so restaurateur Christian Butler did well to snaffle this location on the Thames Path looking up at the Wobbly Bridge. Not only is the food good – Modern British, unfussy – but they are good on deals: under 12s eat lunch free on Saturdays, for example. Best of all, there is an outside terrace with views across at Tate Modern.
Location: Millennium Bridge, One Paul’s Walk, EC4
Contact: 020 7329 9299, www.northbankrestaurant.com
Grand Café, Royal Exchange
D&D’s roofed-in piazza café in a Grade II listed building feels slightly like a film set but manages to combine the atmosphere of a Champagne bar with that of an upmarket cafeteria, guaranteeing excellent eavesdropping. It also serves a mean cooked breakfast for £11.50 (not bad, for this area), lots of salads and some excellent puddings. No wonder it’s always crammed with suits.
Location: Royal Exchange, EC3
Contact: 020 7618 2480, www.royalexchange-grandcafe.co.uk
Half the fun of eating at Simpson’s is finding it, by weaving your way through the tiny alleys just south of Bank, and savouring the atmosphere of two 17-century houses, consisting of bottle-bottom glass windows, knocked together. “Good honest fare” is served in old-fashioned stalls in the Grill Room or Restaurant. If you fancy pies, puddings and English cheeseboards, this is for you.
Location: Ball Court, 38 Cornhill, EC3
Contact: 020 7626 9985, www.simpsonstavern.co.uk
Two Michelin stars have made this converted pub extremely difficult to book for most of the year – they suggest eight weeks in advance – but do so if you can: the Australian head chef, Brett Ellis, cooks lovely strong, confident dishes using largely British ingredients and European techniques, which excite both the appetite and the imagination.
Address: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ
Contact: 020 7792 9090, www.theledbury.com
It’s almost 30 years since Sally Clarke opened her eponymous restaurant in a tiny site on Kensington Church Street. It was Lucien Freud’s favourite (to be fair, he lived next door) and still pulls in the crowds; it’s always packed with people rejoicing in her famous three-course set meals and trying not to nip into the shop next door, added on – along with a wholesale bakery – in the 1990s. She did seasonal food before seasons were even invented.
Address: 124 Kensington Church Street, London W8 4BH
Contact: 020 7221 9225; www.sallyclarke.com
This sleek neighbourhood restaurant opened in 2009, all smooth chairs and banquette seating in shades of café au lait and bitter chocolate. The food is sophisticated and delicious – enough so to earn them a Michelin starin 2011 – and they describe it as “English food with French soul”, everything from smoked eel to rhubarb supplied by seasonal producers across Britain. Neighbourly touches include BYO Sunday evenings and great-value set menus.
Address: 11-13 Abingdon Road, London W8 6AH
Contact: 020 7937 0120, www.kitchenw8.com
This large, light-filled restaurant at the top of Kensington Church Street has always had a happy, Mediterranean feel, with long, ocean-blue banquettes and a huge mural. It’s been in Notting Hill for 25 years but was revamped in 2011 by D&D, with new décor, a new head chef – Brighton boy Daniel Loftin – and a new menu with the focus on fresh fish and seafood (they have a fish shop next door).
Address: 201 Kensington Church Street, London W8 7LX
Contact: 020 7727 3184, www.kensingtonplace-restaurant.co.uk
The Frontline Restaurant
Near Paddington Station and part of the club of the same name (recommended in our Attractions section), the Frontline occupies a large room with sunburst windows set against bare brick walls – it was formerly a warehouse – and serves up great food supplied by its own Norfolk farm. It also does a special two-course early evening/late night menu for £20 and has a well-priced wine list.
Address: 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ
Contact: 020 7479 8950, www.frontlineclub.com
Situated at the bottom of Kensington Church Street, Maggie Jones stands out in a style of its own. Behind its tall wood-framed doors and windows is a glimpse of the 1970s – warm pine settles and scrubbed tables, walls hung about with everything from cartwheels to pottery faces – and it serves French bistrot food at an excellent price.
Address: 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, W8 4PL
Contact: 020 7937 6462, www.maggie-jones.co.uk