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With so many restaurants in the capital, it’s hard to know which to choose. Head straight for a winner dinner, with this tried and tested selection of the best eateries across the city.
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The best restaurants in central London
Cora Pearl, a small, buzzing Covent Garden restaurant, has a menu that is reassuringly comforting. Everything sounds familiar – confit potatoes (aka domino potatoes) are listed simply as chips, modestly downplaying the kitchen’s skills. The menu also consists of dishes such as leek terrine, fish stew, pork and onions and a seasonal trifle that are perfect for two.
Must try confit potato chips
If you want to eat at Borough Market but perching on a kerb balancing a Scotch egg on your knee isn’t your style, Padella offers a foodie haven – just don’t expect any calm from the hubbub outside. This casual, no-reservations pasta specialist from the team behind Highbury’s Trullo has near-permanent queues thanks to much-Instagrammed dishes like pici cacio e pepe (thick hand-rolled long pasta, butter and pepper – no adjective can capture its unassuming wonder) and pappardelle with eight-hour ragu. The small menu offers around six pasta dishes, plus excellent starters and desserts. Their speedy cooking method is the lynchpin of the whole magical operation: peer over the open counter to study the kitchen team ‘saucepanning’ the pasta to unctuous oblivion and those queues start to make a whole lot of sense.
Must try cacio e pepe
Pasta from £4
‘Simple made splendid’ could be the tag for this tiny restaurant in London’s Chinatown. Tucked beneath the pub floor of The Blue Posts in London’s Chinatown is teeny, tiny Evelyn’s Table with all of 15 seats mostly arranged around a bar. The beef tartare with toast is stupendous. Pasta is made daily at 3pm and the fish from Looe market is shown to you in all its perky freshness before it is cooked. Order cocktails from the Mulwray two floors above to kick off with and if tarte Tatin is on the dessert menu, choose that – it’s a leader in its field.
Must try beef tartare with toast
Rochelle Canteen at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), London, is Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold’s second restaurant. Like the gallery, it’s a light, airy space with window seats overlooking the Mall. The food is deceptively simple, packed with flavours that show the skill of cooking and the pedigree of ingredients. Starters include dishes such as grilled sardines, fennel & marjoram and girolles & fried egg on toast. Rabbit often features: in pies, braised and served with borlotti beans or as here – fried to crispness on the outside and meltingly tender within. The desserts, meanwhile, are sublime.
Must try rabbit pie
This sleek industrial restaurant is ideally located to serve both the city and visitors to nearby Borough Market with a concise menu made up of dishes that suit all day eating (arrive before 12 if you want breakfast). Small plates include chorizo and smoked cheese croquettes, while mains straddle the brunch-lunch gap with dishes such as sweet potato harissa cakes, and there’s flat iron chicken with baby potatoes, a mean burger, or steak with Béarnaise, if you prefer. The coffee at London Grind is excellent, as it should be from a business built on flat whites. If it’s drink o’clock, one of the three house cocktails built around coffee are a must order – especially the old fashioned.
Must try sweet potato harissa cake
Mains £8 to 18
Tandoor Chop House
Tandoor Chop House is a mash-up between a North Indian dhaba (diner) and an old-school (think 19th-century) British chop house. The front window showcases the menu, fine cuts and quality naans, and this is exactly what you’ll get – no curries, no messing about. Out of the tandoor ovens come skewer after skewer of roasted meat and veg, and piles of blistered naans. Smoke and wafts of spice fill the air – this isn’t timid cooking. Cocktails include the Punjabi sour and there’s a choice of four gin & tonics. Start with a punchy, substantial snack like the keema naan (made with Dexter beef), then pile up sizzling Amritsari crispy lamb chops, house tandoor chicken and tandoor cauliflower chaat. Finish with a cooling malted kulfi with caramel bananas.
Must try Amritsari crispy lamb chops
Carousel is more than a neighbourhood restaurant, although it’s laid-back vibe and comfortable-but-pared-back interior give it exactly that feel. By night, guest chefs take up residence, bringing new techniques and ingredients to the kitchen. Along with his own ethos about ingredients and a playful enjoyment of making great dishes, the lunch menus are a seasonal parade of delights. It’s affordable too, with snacks from £3.50, small plates and puddings from £5. Expect foraged ingredients, such as the sea herbs used in the starter here; cross- cultural cuisine, as with the Spanish tomatoes and Japanese stock in the same dish; plus the best ingredients served in simple, flavour-packed dishes – this grilled chicken is a blinder. Plus, he makes the best churros you’ll ever taste.
Nestled into a railway arch in London’s Borough Market, El Pastór is a twinkly, buzzy, modern slice of Mexican eating. The team are hot on detail and it shows, from the cups made from hollowed-out nuts for the mescal, and locally sourced Mexican cheese from Gringa Dairy in Peckham, to the grinding of their own masa for the tacos, they’ve thought carefully about everything. Cocktails include a negroni and frozen margarita on tap, the menu offers tacos (including the ‘Al Pastor’), tostadas, quesadillas, and a fantastic collection of salsas, ranging from mild to handle-with-care. You can’t book, so come early to bag a spot, or expect to queue.
Must try Al Pastor taco
Starters, tacos and quesadillas £4.5-£8.5
Sharing plates (two-four people) £14.50-17.50
Comfortable, colourful and dotted with personal references, Jikoni is a restaurant to settle into and take your time. Dishes cross national boundaries and make their own unique place in global cuisine. Small plates include sweet potato bhel, as well as a choice of quail Scotch eggs, one of which is prawn toast with banana ketchup and pickled cucumber. The menu changes seasonally – in colder months you’ll find mutton keema sloppy Joe and tiger prawn Khichdee and, in the spring, dishes such as the salmon with pineapple & tamarind salad featured here.
Must try mutton keema sloppy joe
Bar snacks £5.50-£6.50
Small plates £10-£12.50
Big plates £12.50-£26
Clipstone has a neighbourhood feel, with sharing and small plates, and food that’s bold and full of flavour. It’s about knowing you’ll get a quality lunch or dinner with great wine for a reasonable price. The decor is simple – dark wooden floors and tables, and light wooden chairs. The open kitchen is inviting and laid-back. You’ll find jars of fermented and pickled fruit and veg on the bar. The focus is definitely on the cooking – there’s no over-the-top decoration to distract you. Their on-tap wine is a more economical and cost-effective way to drink what you like by the glass.
Must try Haunch of venison
The Ninth offers a blend of French-Mediterranean cooking. Typical dishes include a sublime rabbit agnolotti, pan-fried livers & girolles, duck and foie gras Scotch egg and yellow tail carpaccio, tomato consommé & pickled radish. Set over two floors, both dining spaces have a warm, contemporary feel, with bare-brick walls and copper panelling. Midweek, a two-plate set lunch menu is brilliant value at £21 per person. Even better, Mondays are BYO, when you can take along your own wine with no corkage charges.
Must try rabbit agnolotti
Eneko at One Aldwych
Following the success of three-Michelin-starred Azurmendi in Bilbao, Spain, Eneko Atxa opened Eneko, a restaurant specialising in Basque cuisine in Covent Garden. Typical dishes include slow-cooked oxtail with Idiazabal cheese, pintxos, hake tempura and grilled whole sole. Eneko at One Aldwych is a special occasion destination, with a contemporary look and a smart vibe. The cooking is knockout, particularly the dreamy dessert buffet trolley, and the selection of Spanish wines includes some straight from Eneko’s own vineyards.
Must try grilled whole sole
Large plates to share £12-£19
From the charcoal oven (for two-three to share) £43-£55
The best restaurants in west London
The Kensington outpost of Dishoom is the sixth in co-founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar’s restaurant stable and serves quality, reasonably priced dishes based on the old Irani cafés of Bombay (Mumbai). Dishoom Kensington is the newest and most glamorous of the venues, with its art-deco style, green and red banquets and marble tables. Known for its famous bacon naan at breakfast and the must-order black dhal and spicy lamb chops, there’s a new house special at the Kensington branch – mutton pepper fry. As for the okra fries, they’re so moreish it’s likely you’ll need to order more than one portion.
Must try black dhal and spicy lamb chops
Going for a Vietnamese in the UK usually means a relaxed café-style experience – perhaps a quick, nourishing bowl of pho, the staple noodle soup. Chef Jeff Tan has lifted the experience at Go Viet to something more akin to a special occasion. Soft leather booths, a neutral colour scheme and flattering lighting create a soothing effect. The menu is equally upmarket, with delicate, aromatic flavours in dishes such as carpaccio scallops balanced with punchier offerings, like Jeff’s 16-hour slow-boiled beef bone marrow pho or the seemingly simple appetiser bí mat tomato, which requires peeling cherry tomatoes and marinating them in 10 different herbs over 10 hours. Good-quality ingredients, preparation time and exquisite presentation are key.
Must try slow boiled beef-bone-marrow and chicken pho
To start £4.20-£10.80
The best restaurants in east London
A former Victorian pub, the Marksman is an amalgam of a classic British pub and upscale dining room. Downstairs there’s glossy wood, leather banquettes and a fully stocked bar with enough reasonably priced beers on tap to keep locals happy; and upstairs, a colourful and modern dining space. Chef-owners Jon Rotheram and Tom Harris make the most of excellently sourced meat and fish, married with veg grown locally with care, like the pot roast Hereford short rib, stout & watercress Cornish new potatoes & greens, as well as a little urban foraging which is most evident in the jars of flavoured syrups and vodka behind the bar. The meat-filled buns are famous, as is the Sunday lunch with roast chicken, roast beef or a pie for two on the menu.
Must try classic Sunday roast
Centred around a wood-fired grill, Tomos Parry’s latest venture Brat delivers flavourful food that is deceptively simple. Cooking mostly happens on the flickering wood-fired grill which adds a lick of its breath to everything from fresh pea pods to whole fish and cheesecake. The name Brat is an old English term for turbot and this is a star turn, cooked slowly so the collagen breaks down and adds to the sauce that is served with it. Desserts include caramel cream, a choice of ice creams and burnt cheesecake.
Must try whole turbot
Mains £18.50-£80 (whole turbot, £80)
Old Spitalfields Market
Sood Family, founded by Carlo Deho and Michele Pompili is a restaurant-come-takeaway based in Old Spitalfields Market, east London. This tiny kitchen serves a seasonal menu to three sought-after counter seats. Or, grab a takeaway and eat at one of the nearby tables – the ones opposite the counter are bookable if you ring ahead. Aperitivo (from 5pm), handmade fresh pastas such as spaghetti all’ amatriciana and tortelloni vongole and broccoli, seaweed, fresh herbs, meat dishes like the beef carpaccio with purple sprouting broccoli and cured meats and cheeses (the burrata is a staple) all feature, alongside plenty of seasonal veg. Though dishes are classic at their core, they are styled with a modern twist and made with a large dose of panache.
Must try beef carpaccio
Snacks and starters £3.50-£8.50
The best restaurants in south London
Santo Remedio is a lively, modern Mexican cantina that’s perfect for dining with friends. There’s a bar upstairs (mescal and tequila are a speciality), seating on both floors, and décor that is a riot of colour and cacti. Dishes are regional Mexican, with some specialist produce sourced there, such as chillies, cactus and the (optional!) grasshoppers for the guacamole. Expect tacos with soft shell crab, beef barbacoa and pork belly, slaw made with cactus, silky-but-chunky guacamole served in a stone molcajete and incredibly moreish chuletas al carbon.
Must try soft shell crab tacos
Plates range from £3.50-£17
Levan, another dynamic addition to the south-east London restaurant scene, was described to us as the ‘naughtier’ sister restaurant to Salon in Brixton. Where Salon is led by seasonal produce, Levan is a somewhat more indulgent version. Find modern European bistro-inspired dishes like baked onions with a bleu d’Auvergne sauce & grated walnut or cod crudo with grapefruit & tarragon. It’s a real treat of careful cooking framed by a relaxed and informal modern setting, supported by a passionately curated wine list. Dishes are for sharing and come in a range of sizes, so pick a few from each section – but don’t forget to leave room for dessert.
Must try potato, black trompette & vacherin pie
Plates range from £2.50-£16.50
The Bingham Riverhouse Hotel in Richmond is located in an arty Georgian townhouse with floor-to-ceiling French windows and balconies overlooking their gardens and the River Thames. The surroundings are airy and chic, and the staff are friendly and attentive. The menu specialises in new British food and has recently been reinvented by head chef Andy Cole – the plates might look like works of art but the good-quality ingredients are allowed to speak for themselves. Expect dishes like salt-baked kohlrabi with honey & soy-glazed turnip or guinea fowl with Jerusalem artichoke and Earl Grey tea sauce. The lunch menu is excellent value at £28 for three courses.
Must try: Roasted aubergine with coco beans and tamarind sauce
Dinner menu: Two courses for £37
Dinenr menu: Three courses for £45
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