The London Foodie Guide
There are tons of new spots in London that are quickly becoming classics. Thanks to the arrival of Andre Balasz’ Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone is sprouting all kinds of greatness, plus there are loads of more affordable (and verifiably great) restaurants popping up all over town, Lina Stores and Sabor being particular standouts.
Gymkhana42 Albemarle St., Mayfair | +44.20.3011.5900
Modeled after a Raj-era Indian sports club, Gymkhana balances old-world interiors with some of the best Indian in London: It was voted the number one restaurant in London in 2013 before going on to win a Michelin star in 2014. The food is served family-style—Tikkas, Biryanis, Saags—but things get really exciting when it comes to the bread. The duck egg bhurji with lobster, for one, is epic. Perfect for intimate, private dinners, the restaurant also has two beautifully appointed vaults that seat 9 or 12: They are tasting menu only so, go prepared for a big meal.
The Duck & Rice90 Berwick St., Soho | +44.20.3327.7888
It's not a big surprise that restaurateur Alan Yau—Wagamama, Hakkasan, and Yauatcha—has moved on to his next big concept. (He’s sold all three of his ventures.) While the food and the beer list at this Chinese gastropub is undeniably stellar (as expected, the Cantonese roasted duck is the thing to get), the interiors, by Turkish design firm Autoban, might just be good enough to usurp the spotlight—You don't miss out on either in either of the private rooms which seat up to 12.
Yauatcha15-17 Broadwick St., Soho | +44.20.7494.8888
Michelin starred dim sum? Yeah, we're game. All of the dumplings are worthy of the rating, but the Peking spring rolls, sticky rice in a lotus leaf (with chicken and shrimp) are also amazing. Their delicious desserts and pastries are a well-kept secret and a welcome departure from green tea ice cream.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Knighstbridge | +44.20.7201.3833
Well, the actual dinner you'll eat will be created by Ashley Palmer-Watts, the executive head chef of the Fat Duck group, who worked with Blumenthal to create the exquisite modern British fare here. Being that this place is inside the Mandarin Oriental, it attracts a high-profile clientele—both hotel guests and locals—who like to linger in the warm, handsome room. (It's worth noting that the Mandarin is temporarily closed for renovations.)
HKK88 Worship St., Shoreditch | +44.20.3535.1888
If leisurely tasting menus are your thing, don't miss this fusion Chinese restaurant, which offers a lot of bang for your buck. Go for the full 15 courses if you're feeling adventurous or stick to eight for a less extreme but equally solid meal. They also have a vegetarian option and a great five-course duck lunch menu.
Pizarro194 Bermondsey St., Bermondsey | +44.20.7407.7339
Jose Pizarro has two restaurants in Bermondsey that are really worth going south of the river for: Pizarro, which is a sit down Spanish restaurant, and Jose, a tapas bar just up the street. You will find Jose himself in either kitchen on any given night and his dedication shows. The food is really excellent, with a thoughtful wine and sherry list to match. Pizarro in particular, occupies a really warm, welcoming room with a partially open kitchen, making it great for a date or a night out with friends.
Lyle’s56 Shoreditch High St., Shoreditch | +44.20.3011.5911
It’s no surprise that Chef James Lowe cut his teeth at the Fat Duck and then at St. John Bread & Wine, as his first restaurant has the "nose-to-tail" ethos down pat. The à la carte lunch and set dinner menus change daily, where you’ll come across parts of fish, vegetables, and meats you’d never known to be delicious before. Beyond the local, seasonal cuisine, it’s the lightness of the way it’s served that makes the meal: The white-tiled room is spacious and airy, and the servers will tell you all about each dish without rushing through the details (many of the ingredients are quite unusual, so you’ll have questions). Another highlight is the wine list, selected by the River Café veteran sommelier, featuring some fantastic and unusual wines, sourced everywhere from Santa Rita, California to Slovakia.
Ottolenghi63 Ledbury Rd., Notting Hill | +44.20.7727.1121
Mediterranean-inspired Ottolenghi sort of defies categorization: The four locations differ slightly in their offerings, but they all feature some level of sit-down dining, a deli with premade takeout, and excellent catering. Don't be surprised to find a line no matter what time you arrive but know that it's worth the wait for the near-perfect pastries, quiches, and salads. If you don't have time to cook before a dinner party, it's an excellent choice for a meal that you can pick up and bring home.
The Providores109 Marylebone High St., Marylebone | +44.20.7935.6175
So this isn't Spanish Tapas at all, which is a popular misconception. Instead, Providores serves up powerful, punchy small plates of fantastic Antipodean cuisine with innovative combinations like truffled prawn siu-mai alongside a tortilla with urfa chili yogurt. The upstairs is the more formal dining room upstairs, which you have to book in advance, but it's actually a bit more fun in the rowdy Tapa Room—named after a traditional Rarotongan textile, not Spanish tapas—downstairs. The Sunday brunch is one of the best in London; just expect to wait for a table.
The Clove ClubShoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7729.6496
The Clove Club serves a short but exciting menu in the historic Shoreditch Town Hall. The meals are beautifully prepared and presented, but the most impressive aspect is the quality of each locally sourced ingredient: from Zerbinati melons, to pine salt, to the freshest heritage tomatoes. It's a set menu (£35 for a three-course lunch and £65 for dinner) with a choice for each course, though if you're not in the market for a full meal, stop by for a drink and a few à la carte dishes in the front bar room.
Tapas Brindisa46 Broadwick St., Soho | +44.20.7534.1690
The encyclopedic menu ranges from traditional (acorn-fed chorizo) to deliciously inventive (air-cured tuna loin with pear) and also includes fantastic charcuterie (the ham is out of this world) and cheeses. It's also worth noting that this is a restaurant where the vegetarian dishes definitely don't feel like a consolation prize. The Borough location is the original, with a large outdoor seating area, but the buzzy Soho space is also worth a visit.
Yashin Sushi1A Argyll Rd., Kensington | +44.20.7938.1536
This spot offers small plates and inventive nigiri that's served sans soy sauce to keep the spotlight on the beautiful, natural flavors. The dishes at Yashin are more gourmet than traditional, so imagine offerings like miso cappuccino and truffle infusions in addition to a few hot, tapas-style picks. Come here for excellent food in an unpretentious setting. Case in point: the £30 omakase option.
Barrafina26 - 27 Dean St., Soho | +44.20.7440.1456
Restaurateurs (and brothers) Sam and Eddie Hart were among the first to bring a tapas-centric menu to London. Their tiny Barrafina, which has three outposts, only offers seating at the bar, and since they don't offer reservations you'll want to get there on the early side. The menu is old-school when it comes to tapas, so we recommend classic favorites like the traditional Spanish tortilla or the chorizo with potato and watercress. The original has now moved a few steps away and into Quo Vadis, the private club that the Harts also own, while there are also two other locations on Adelaide Street and Drury Lane.
Tate CaféTate Modern, Bankside | +44.20.7887.8888
After a long day of sight-seeing, even the most stoic foodies can succumb to the typically sub-par and soggy dining options inside most museums. Not so at the Tate Modern, whose award-winning, riverfront café pretty much blows other museum dining options out of the water. The full menu caters to adult and children's dining needs with everything from a light, flavorful smoked salmon salad (and a seriously good wine list) to perfectly crispy fish and chips. Did we mention that kids eat for free?
Bocca di Lupo12 Archer St., Soho | +44.20.7734.2223
Bocca di Lupo's Chef Jacob Kennedy recreates classic Italian dishes from all over Italy—from Sicily to Piedmont and back—with true authenticity and at a very reasonable price. All the dishes on the menu, including appetizers, come in small and large portions so you can piece a meal together with a scattering of smalls, or heck, have the appetizer as a main. It’s a popular place, so book ahead.
The Barbary16 Neal's Yard, Seven Dials, Covent Garden
From the team behind Palomar, a major hit for its take on Israeli food, comes this spot which delves deep into the food of the Barbary coast in North Africa, which greatly influenced Levantine cuisine. At the Palomar, everyone knows the best seats in the house are at the bar, so now at The Barbary, the only seats in the house are at the 24-seat bar where much of the food is prepared. The vibe is as electric as at its counterpart and the food is as spectacular if not more. Order a wide selection of dishes to share, and don't miss the roasted aubergine, the chicken msachen and the lusciously crumbly, buttery, knafeh for dessert.
Sake No Hana23 St. James's St., Mayfair | +44.20.7925.8988
Sake No Hana turns out some of the best sushi in London. The Kengo Kuma–designed restaurant is an interpretation of what a forest of the future might look like: The ceiling and walls are made of interlocking bamboo and cypress tree rods, warmed up with the reflective glow of the amber lighting, like the sun peeping through the pines. This is a proper restaurant that has not succumbed to too-noisy, too-dark clubbiness. Sit at the bar to watch the chefs at work, and if in doubt, go for the tasting menu for Sake No Hana’s greatest hits, all beautifully presented. Skip the traditional desserts and get the Japanese whiskey flight—three tasters, each one accompanied by a lone chocolate that complements the flavors. Dining here, while undoubtedly a commitment, is worth every penny: The food is exquisite and the service faultless.
Rochelle CanteenRochelle School, Arnold Circus, Shoreditch | +44.207.729.5677
Margot Henderson knows a thing or two about cooking—her husband, Fergus, owns London nose-to-tail staple St. John Bread and Wine. But, Rochelle Canteen is about much more than food. This is the place you go to hang out, especially in the summer. At the sunny tables in the pretty courtyard, one glass of wine turns to two (or three?) as the afternoon passes by in a pleasant haze of good food and great people-watching. The food is traditional, almost retro, but there’s a reason the British spent most of the twentieth century tucking into mustardy Welsh rarebit and flaky, pastry-topped leek and chicken pies. It’s mouthwatering comfort food that makes us feel happy, full, and deeply understood. Subtle details like the Aalvar Alto tables and the line of straw hats hung along the walls make for restrained, chic decoration in the whitewashed-brick room. The light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling window is the main decoration. (For a dose of Henderson’s fare that doesn’t require a trip east, stop by Rochelle Canteen’s second location at the ICA on the strand.)
Little Duck Picklery69 Dalston Ln., Dalston | +44.750.307.7398
If three chefs wanted to abandon their basement kitchen and tinker around with jars and ferments and natural wines in an airy space, the result would look a lot like Little Duck Picklery. The restaurant was an experiment for the owners, and it’s a delightfully unexpected dining experience for the guests. Jars of pickles, fizzing kombucha, and vinegars line the windows; many of the contents perk up the dishes. We recommend gorgonzola and pickled quince for a (somewhat) light meal, saffron fettucine with bone marrow and butter for something more substantial—all washed down with biodynamic wine. Little Duck Picklery is the baby sister to Raw Duck and Duck Soup and is the immediate favorite. Take a spectator seat by the bar to watch the chefs at work, or commandeer a window seat for a breakfast sampling of the house-made tinctures and elixirs with a bowl of granola.
Sabor35-37 Heddon St., Mayfair | +44.20.3319.8130
Heddon Street is the closest thing Mayfair has to a back alley—and nipping down the side street for a feast of full suckling pig and one too many glasses of fine sherry feels suitably illicit. Sabor is flavor—and lots of it. The two-story space cheerily decked out in Spanish tile and exposed brick hits the sweet spot of having both the dip-in-and-out cozy seats at the bar for a few tapas and the communal table packed with your rambunctious extended family for several courses upstairs. From the same people behind Barrafina, the traditional food here is good, really good. Grilled bread with a scraping of smashed tomato; oily, garlicky prawns to tear into with your fingers; and a whole suckling pig (it comes in a half or quarter sizes, too) so meltingly tender it arrives with only a spoon to serve.
Evelyn’s TableThe Blue Posts, Cellar, 28 Rupert St., Soho
How do you create what is possibly the perfect restaurant? Take a beautiful grey marble bar, put the kitchen right there in the bar, slide eleven seats around it, and serve rich, fresh dishes inspired by southern Europe. Come with one other person or go big and book out the entire restaurant. Then order the mackerel with pickled carrots, the rich duck capelletti, and the unexpected cuttlefish ragu with tapioca crisps. Whatever you order, you won’t regret. And finish it off with a bottle of…sake. The selection is impressive and unexpected (there’s also a wine list if you want to go that route).
Brat4 Redchurch St., Shoreditch
Brat is Welsh slang for turbot, so it follows that that’s the thing to order here. It’s a perfectly-cooked whole fish, grilled over a fire, and meant for sharing. It’s a technique they use for many menu items, including the bread (always a reliable indicator of the dishes to come), which is almost a satisfying meal in itself, grilled and made of flour from one of last standing stoneground mills in the UK. Even the cheesecake is smoked and accompanied by brown bread ice cream, a familiar treat in the UK and Ireland but rarely seen stateside. Once you have a bite you’ll wonder why.
Portland Restaurant113 Great Portland St., Fitzrovia | +44.20.7436.3261
Portland strikes the perfect balance between casual and formal in Fitzrovia. It’s relaxed enough for a midweek dinner when you’re in jeans, but sophisticated enough for a nice evening out with your parents. The food is a kind of New British, which really means the best of Brit ingredients dressed up with modern trends, like fermentation and smoking. Cornish mackerel comes with preserved cucumbers and green strawberries, the smoked pigeon with baby English radishes, and the little starter of plate of baby pickled vegetables—intended to just be an accompaniment—was a standout. Given that there’s an option to order as much as you want off the menu for sixty-five pounds per person, it would seem unreasonable not to. Come hungry.
Kudu119 Queen's Rd., Peckham | +44.20.3950.0226
South Londoners keep quiet about the food in Peckham. Its restaurants are so good (Peckham Bazaar), so affordable (Banh Banh), and so atmospheric (Artusi), locals want to keep this surprisingly-amazing gastronomical post code to themselves. Kudu fits right in. South African-inflected dishes like braai lamb loin with smoked yoghurt, salt-baked carrots with kefir, vegetable potjie, and spiced biltong (South Africa’s answer to charcuterie) make up the menu. The décor matches the food in terms of detail—mauve walls, chevron wood floors, and intimately small, glass-topped tables. It’s a worthy addition to the already-great Peckham neighborhood.
Lina Stores51 Greek St., Soho | +44.20.3929.0068
Every Londoner who frequents Soho knows Lina Stores. The Italian deli has occupied the same spot for close to eighty years, keeping pantries stocked with obscure pastas and excellent tomato sauce. The owners have had the good sense to open a restaurant on nearby Greek Street, and we can confidently say the pasta here is better than anywhere else in the area. Sit at the bar—it’s always the best seat anyway—and watch the chefs prepare your dinner. Classic Roman puntarelle (a bitter chicory) is on the menu, doused, as it should be, in a salty anchovy dressing. Pappardelle arrives in a rich rabbit ragu. The crab pasta is spicy and citrusy, and the gnudi smothered in brown butter and sage are is so good we ordered two. Bonus: practically every dish costs less than ten pounds.