The Classic London Guide
Our guide to the most iconic spots of this much-loved city, perfect for both locals and visitors alike.
Café Murano33 St. James St., Mayfair | +44.020.3371.5559
Regional Italian dishes that include a memorably great Osso Bucco are served up at Murano’s more laid-back sister restaurant, where chef Sam Williams has taken the helm. It’s relaxed in an upscale, Mayfair sort of way: Seats at the long marble bar are first-come-first-serve, and the booths are the perfect spot to spend the better part of an afternoon drinking aperitivi with friends. Must order: The truffle arancini. There's also an outpost in Covent Garden.
China Tang53 Park Lane, Mayfair | +44.20.7629.9988
Like stepping back into old-world Eastern elegance, this beautiful dining room serves exquisitely-executed, upscale Cantonese classics, like their whole suckling pig, which requires 24-hour notice and £150 pounds. It's a splurge but makes for a memorable meal, particularly if it's served in one of the three adjacent private rooms that seat up to 26—Ping, Pang, and Pong—or combined to seat 80. The dim sum, which is less of an investment, is also great, the seafood and veggie sides are as fresh as they come, and they've totally nailed cha siu. A meal here is best enjoyed with an expense account, but you can always hit the swanky bar for one very delicious cocktail.
Chisou4 Princes St., Mayfair | +44.20.7629.3931
Even though it's a total gem, you won't find Chisou in any London guidebooks. It's traditional Japanese, and the experience is rounded out with hand towels and a serious sake menu. Make sure you try GP's pick, the spinach salad with spicy shrimp (GP loves it so much she orders two). If you're short on time or budget, try Chisou To Go, where you can pick up sushi, salad, and noodles for the road.
Kensington Pavilion96 Kensington High St., Kensington | +44.20.7221.2000
Residents are pretty thrilled about this newcomer, as there is a surprising dearth of good restaurants in the neighborhood. Adjacent to a private member's club, Pavilion does give members special perks like priority booking and "room service," but also welcomes non-members for chef Adam Simmonds' truly worthy British menu. While he's not breaking any rules, the food—straightforward standards like steaks, local fish, and lamb—is great. Plus, when you’re greeted with a bouquet of flowers from the on-site florist and then dine in a somewhat dazzling Art Deco-inspired setting, it makes any meal feel special.
Wiltons55 Jermyn St., Mayfair | +44.20.7629.9955
Perhaps it's because Wilton's has been operating in London since 1742 that it just feels so...British. It's definitely an upscale experience (with the clientele to match), but you get what you pay for because the service is warm, discreet, and impeccably precise. You'll want to do the sensible thing and order the classics: oysters from the Essex coast and a buttery Dover sole.
Rules35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden | +44.20.7836.5314
Operating since 1798, Rules has the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in London (as they point out, their existence has spanned the rule of eight monarchs). The straightforward menu is all about classic British cuisine, with an emphasis on game that the proprietors raise themselves on an Essex estate.
The Lansdowne90 Gloucester Ave., Primrose Hill | +44.20.7483.0409
This is pretty much the perfect pub. And in a city famous for its wateringholes, that’s some truly high praise. Long, wooden tables fill a huge, bright dining room, which is packed with locals (and their dogs) on evenings and weekends. The impeccable thin-crust pizza, made with quality ingredients like Parma ham and taleggio, is another huge draw.
Umu14-16 Bruton Pl., Mayfair | +44.20.7499.8881
The kaiseki here is traditional in its form but often modern in its offerings, with a set menu of eight exciting, meticulous, and ingredient-focused dishes and an impressive wine and sake list. With a choice between a regular or a sushi kaiseki, the offerings vary on what's in season, and you can really tell that whatever arrives before you was plucked from a stand that very day. They also have à la carte sushi options, but if you can, go with the set menu, as it's worth it for the experience.
The Delaunay55 Aldwych, Covent Garden | +44.20.7499.8558
This spot comes from the same team behind the iconic Wolseley, and while it's a bit more low-key, it has the same "grand café" theme. The low-lit, low-ceilinged rooms are pretty great, and the all-day menu mimics the same feel with old-style Germanic standouts like wiener schnitzel, in addition to other European classics. Photo: David Loftus
J. Sheekey28-34 St. Martin's Court, Covent Garden | +44.20.7240.2565
J. Sheekey is known for its super fresh oysters and its quiet, old-school British vibe, which makes sense, because it's been around forever and the quality is always the same. You'll get consistently fresh fish, great service, and a seamless experience any day of the week.
Locanda Locatelli8 Seymour St., Marylebone | +44.20.7935.9088
Chef Giorgio Locatelli is a real innovator in the food space, but we're also fans of his persistence and strength—he had to close and re-open the restaurant after a traumatizing gas explosion blew through his recently renovated space. It's since re-opened, and is as quiet and comfortable as ever, guaranteeing a perfect grown up night out. Get ready for light, imaginative and seasonal Italian that won't disappoint.
La Petite Maison53-54 Brook's Mews, Marylebone | +44.20.7495.4774
La Petite Maison is another restaurant by Arjun Waney (the investor behind Zuma), and it's based on the restaurant of the same name in Nice, meaning the food has a distinctly southern French soul. Plates come small and to share, so you can theoretically sample it all. The salads and fish carpaccios from the starter menu shouldn't be missed, and for the main course, the fish is always perfect and the macaroni with truffles is to die for. The real star of the show is the black leg roasted chicken, though: Order it right when you sit down. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes, but it justifies the wait.
AmayaHalkin Arcade, Motcomb St., Belgravia | +44.20.7823.1166
Nestled in the heart of Belgravia on the absurdly charming Motcomb street, Amaya is one of our favorite spots for Indian food. Most of the dishes are grilled, which lets you enjoy Indian flavors without the gut bomb that the cuisine can sometimes deliver. Favorite menu items: the grilled fish, the duck, and the grilled broccoli.
Made in Italy249 King’s Rd., Chelsea | +44.20.7352.1880
This noisy, crowded spot in Chelsea makes fresh pizza in wood-burning ovens. The crust has that Neopolitan just-chewy-enough consistency that makes it impossible to put down, even after you're a few slices in.
St. John Bread & Wine94-96 Commercial St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7251.0848
If you happen to be wandering through Spitalfields Market, make sure you stop into this innovative and lively restaurant. The menu constantly changes with seasonally available ingredients. As the name suggests, the baked goods and wine list are the superstars, but they're almost out-shined by the nose-to-tail style meat dishes.
The Grenadier18 Wilton Row, Belgravia | +44.20.7235.3074
If you’re visiting London, it’s sort of a requirement to visit a pub, and the Grenadier is our long-time favorite. It’s tucked away in a cobblestone mews and features a cozy fireplace for rainy days. Once you’ve settled in, take the time to sample the fantastic beer menu and indulge in some classic pub food.
The Engineer65 Gloucester Ave, Primrose Hill | +44.207.483.1890
In a city heaving with pubs, The Engineer—in pastel-pretty Primrose Hill—is top of the list. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, their traditional Sunday roast is a force to be reckoned with—perfect plates stacked high with roasted meat, buttery vegetables, towering Yorkshire puds, and port reduction jus. The space itself—named for famed English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the Great Western Railway—is more stylish gastro-pub than dark watering-hole, with wood-paneled walls, mahogany tables, and cozy leather booths to sink into. Through the long London winter, the roaring fire, well-curated wine list, and comfy seating make lingering into the evening over drinks with friends all too easy. In the summer months, the outdoor patio is the spot to snag a table for an al-fresco afternoon of elevated British grub, booze, and pudding, walked off with a post-lunch amble through nearby, leafy Regent's Park.
The Churchill Arms119 Kensington Church St., Kensington | +44.20.7727.4242
Not only is the Thai food delicious here but it's served at awesome prices—all amid myriad green, overgrown hanging plants in the back dining room. The bar area in front is traditional English style and gets crowded.