The London Art & Architecture Guide
You can’t really walk a block without stumbling across a cultural monument, a great gallery, or one of the world’s best museums—and thanks to its long and storied history, most of its shops and restaurants occupy pretty notable environs, too.
The Arts Club40 Dover St., Mayfair | +44.20.7499.8581
Owner Arjun Waney (he's behind London favorites like Zuma, Roka, and Oblix) seems to have nailed that special formula for modern dining, which obviously involves great food. If the meals alone don't fully justify the membership fee, the art collection (you'll see a John Baldessari and a Tomas Saraceno sculpture in the stairwell) and exquisitely decorated common spaces for gathering over coffee and afternoon tea definitely do. Members and their friends can also book one of the Club's 16 enormous, gorgeously-appointed hotel rooms, which offer 24 hour butler service. Perhaps most importantly, though, members get access to 1863, the club's intimate bar and performance space, where you can see some of London's best musicians perform literally feet away.
The River CaféThames Wharf, Rainville Rd., Fulham | +44.20.7386.4200
The River Café hardly needs an introduction. Serving unmatched Italian since 1987, it is a landmark among restaurants everywhere. They've always been known for their simple, seasonal fare, and the location right along the Thames makes it the perfect spot on a sunny day for Sunday lunch or a special dinner. There's also a private room just off the main dining room that seats up to 18 (fitted out with the Café's signature hot pink rug, and minimal tabletop), which makes an ideal venue for an occasion. You'll definitely want to try something that's been cooked to perfection in their pink wood-fired oven, which has been the central focal point of the restaurant since its renovation, undertaken under the watchful eye of architect (chef Ruth Rogers' husband) Lord Richard Rogers.
SpringSomerset House, Lancaster Pl., Covent Garden | +44.20.3011.0115
Set in a huge, light-filled space in Somerset House, Spring is helmed by chef Skye Gyngell, who won a Michelin star for her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries—and then promptly left. She’s finally returned after a long time away and is back to her old tricks: Light, seasonal, Italian-inflected dishes that are essentially perfect. For a private meal or event, there's the Salon, which is a pretty magical light-filled space located under an original glass atrium that can seat up to 45 at tree-lined tables (yes, tree-lined).
Zuma5 Raphael St., Knightsbridge | +44.20.7584.1010
A few years ago, it felt as if nobody could stop talking about Zuma. Sometimes too much hype can turn you off of a restaurant, but that's not the case here. More than ten years after its opening, this favorite still serves one of the best meals in London. The nouvelle Japanese cuisine remains creative and unexpected, and the sushi chef, Endo, is still dishing up our favorite sushi outside of Japan. The vibe here can be a little bit loud and clubby, but it doesn't matter—we would literally sit outside in the rain to eat this food.
OblixThe Shard, 31 St. Thomas St., Bermondsey | +44.20.7268.6700
You'll find incredible views of the city from either side here, along with rotisserie chicken with skordalia, grilled lobster, and every conceivable kind of steak, all thanks to an amazing sounding Josper oven/grill contraption. The chef, Rainer Becker (of Zuma fame), totally knows what he's doing—and it doesn't hurt that the restaurant is stretched out over the 32nd floor of The Shard. Meanwhile, they offer a weekday lounge lunch, which is a quick in-and-out three course meal for business meetings. Photo: Richard Southall
Craft LondonPeninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula | +44.20.8465.5910
So it's a bit of a trek to Greenwich Peninsula, but as far as London's big-name developers are concerned, it won't feel that way in a few years. The first top-notch restaurant to land in the area is a collaboration between chef Stevie Parle and London's designer of the moment, Tom Dixon. Diners are treated to beautiful views of the city from the depths of Dixon's sumptuous, and a touch 70's interiors, not to mention an entirely local, British meal that is Parle's specialty. Everything from the honey, to the cheese, to the salt and pepper is sourced nearby by suppliers as nutty about quality as Dixon and Parle. Be sure to hit the bar on the top floor before dinner for well-crafted cocktails and the best sunset views.
The Wolseley160 Piccadilly, Mayfair | +44.20.7499.6996
Famed restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King's transformation of the Motor Car building spectacularly highlights the original features (marble pillars, grand staircases, and modern arches) of this art deco gem. The grand café boasts a loyal following, delicious European brasserie fare, great brunch, and an excellent afternoon tea. Their breakfast is particularly good: Case in point, the abundant pastries, cappucinos, and poached eggs over salmon on toast.
Sea Containers20 Upper Ground, Southwark | +44.20.3747.1000
Chef and restaurateur Seamus Mullen famously cured himself of rheumatoid arthritis by changing his diet and eating anti-inflammatory, seasonal foods: He wrote a book about it, Hero Food that we interviewed him about for goop. In New York, he's part of the vanguard that's transforming restaurant cuisine, making it as delicious as it is good for you. And now, he's hopped across the Atlantic and landed at the Sea Containers in London, bringing his unique brand of seasonal to the city for the first time. And, while guests devour his brand of Spanish/Mediterranean/Moroccan/deliciousness—think house-made ricotta, wild salmon crudo, lamb meatballs, oven-roasted flatbreads, and the like—they do so in a beautiful, Tom Dixon-designed space that overlooks the Thames.
Restaurant Story199 Tooley St., Bermondsey | +44.20.7183.2117
Chef Tom Sellars studied under Tom Aikens when he was just 16 before heading to René Redzepi at Noma. It's at Restaurant Story that he received his first Michelin star at just 26. Offering remarkable views of the Shard, in old Bermondsey square, the vibe here is youthful, with laid-back but attentive service. The menu is equally playful (the first course of our tasting menu was a lit beef candle that where you caught the drippings with bread). As the name suggests, each dish comes with a story about its provenance, ingredients, and inspiration. The tasting menus go for £55 for 6 courses and £75 for 10.
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.
Hélène DarrozeThe Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair | +44.20.7499.7070
At Hélène Darroze, delicious and traditional French cuisine is served in an airy and elegant setting. The food is reminiscent of lazy meals on weekend mornings in southwestern France, where the chef grew up—the Saturday brunch is not to be missed.
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.