The Local’s London Guide
These spots are the kind of places that make it into many a Londoner’s daily and weekly routine—meaning they’re equal parts great and essential (and good for visitors, too).
Bibendum Oyster Bar81 Fulham Rd., Kensington | +44.20.7589.1480
The bright, large and airy room with tiled floor, cast iron panes on the many windows, and tasteful garden furniture (it's attached to the classic Conran Shop) has some of the best oysters in the city, and magnificently simple seafood. There's a more formal eating space upstairs, but for a true European air, the relaxed oyster bar is where it's at.
Annabel’s44 Berkeley Sq., Mayfair | +44.20.7629.1096
Founded in 1963 by London hospitality legend Mark Birley, Annabel's is something of a London institution. Generations of London royalty from Princess Di and the Rolling Stones to Poppy Delevigne have turned up there to rub elbows on its intimate and tiny dance floor. Annabel's may not be as red-hot as it was in the old days, but it retains its sense of history, its exclusive clientele, and the impeccable service and style that made it famous in the first place. If you're lucky enough to be a member (or a friend of one), do remember the dress code—men will need a jacket to get in.
The Detox Kitchen10 Kingly St., Soho | +44.20.7498.6417
The Detox Kitchen is quite simply the OG (and best) health food and detox delivery service in London. This location—the brand's first—is booming, and yielded a whole new troop of beetroot brownie and spiralized zucchini salad devotees. Now, its enlightened founder Lily Simpson is moving on to bigger and better things with a big new flagship in a fancy new development in Fitzrovia. The new Detox Kitchen melds food and exercise into a healthy lifestyle emporium. It's the full package with amazing, uber-healthy, raw, and delicious salads and treats, alongside exercise classes with some of the city's best teachers.
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.
Coya118 Piccadilly, Mayfair | +44.20.7042.7118
Arjun Waney (of Zuma, Roka and La Petite Maison) took a bit of a departure by opening this Peruvian eatery. The food is fantastic and skews traditional with fresh ceviche and lots of skewered meats and fish. The basement houses the main restaurant while the ground floor and terrace, which includes an open grill and a pisco bar, are members only.
The Natural Kitchen7 Pepys Street, Trinity Square, City of London | +44.20.7702.4038
The Natural Kitchen is the perfect stop on the High Street: Take a seat at their communal wooden tables and dig into a smoothie and salad. We're hooked on their butcher's chicken sausages. The concept is expanding with more healthy eateries popping up across the city. The concept is expanding fast with locations in Marylebone, and the City.
The Draper’s Arms44 Barnsbury St., Islington | +44.20.7619.0348
Hidden away on a quiet street in Islington, the Draper’s Arms attracts a faithful following who come for casual tipples and full meals. The British gastro-pub fare is wonderful as is the small selection of wines; and, this being England and all, the beer and ales selection is definitely on point. Old wooden tables, checkerboard floors, board games, and a wall full of classic orange-spined Penguin paperbacks drives the cozy vibe home.
Ffiona’s51 Kensington Church St., Kensington | +44.20.7937.4152
Ffiona's serves traditional, rustic staples, like steak and kidney pie and an amazing sticky toffee pudding, but the raison d'être is the ever-present eponymous owner who makes every customer feel like a personal guest in her small, wooden, candlelit restaurant. Ffiona has recently added an excellent brunch every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with everything from the full English breakfast to fluffly pancakes (and a free cocktail on Saturday). Her traditional Sunday Roast is not to be missed.
Trullo300-302 St. Paul's Rd., Islington | +44.20.7226.2733
This Italian spot is great with a few friends because it means you get to share a bunch of the delicious, seasonal offerings. Their menu is constantly changing, so you can always expect to be pleasantly surprised. Downstairs, you'll find a slightly glitzier (though still very tasteful and understated) vibe and small plates that are a little fancier.
La Poule au Pot231 Ebury St., Belgravia | +44.20.7730.7763
This idyllic little French restaurant in Chelsea is well documented as one of the most romantic restaurants in London. The decor is French countryside without being cheesy, complete with candle-lit nooks, dried flowers, and cluttered wall decorations. The classic French fare (ratatouille, coq au vin) lives up to the ambience. The chocolate mousse is not to be missed.
The Connaught BarCarlos Place, Mayfair | +44.20.7499.7070
Like the luxurious apartment on the top floor of the hotel, the bar at The Connaught was designed by the late David Collins. The art deco interior with its black marble floor, long mirrors, and custom-made leather chairs is a testament to his sophisticated taste. Order a martini, and a server will roll over an old-fashioned cart (the "martini trolley") so you can pick from custom flavors like cardamom, ginger, or grapefruit for your drink. Trust us, it's a memorable experience.
Taqueria141-145 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill | +44.20.7229.4734
Mexican friends living abroad have proudly declared Taqueria as the best Mexican restaurant in London. This bustling Notting Hill establishment offers excellent comida corrida, which isn't easy to find in England. The tacos and antojitos are fresh and authentic, and you can even buy their salsas, spices and tortillas to take home for your own taco night. Dropping in is easy; though it’s always full, the tables move quickly.
The Anchor & Hope36 The Cut, Lambeth | +44.20.7928.9898
Anchor & Hope has been a standout on the London gastropub scene from the moment it opened—and not just for the excellent roasts. What sets it apart is the constantly evolving menu: Rustic British classics like lentils with pheasant and seven-hour lamb shoulder (a massive dish meant for sharing) are rounded out with desserts like seasonal tarts and the like. They don't take reservations, so make the most of the wait in the cozy bar area.
Hereford Road3 Hereford Rd., Notting Hill | +44.20.7727.1144
Hereford Road's head chef Tom Pemberton (formerly of St. John) opened the restaurant in 2007 in a former Victorian butcher shop; in the summers, they open up the butcher's window to the street, creating a pseudo open-air space. Though the focus is on British cuisine bolstered by locally sourced, seasonal produce, the menu at Hereford Road definitely caters to adventurous eaters. Get the sea bass, which is intended for sharing.
Moro34-36 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell | +44.20.7833.8336
Helmed by married chef duo Sam and Sam Clark (nope, that's not a typo), Moro's Southern Mediterranean cuisine is inspired by the couple's extensive traveling and eating in Spain, Morocco, and the Sahara: a combination that inspires soulful but inventive cuisine. The list of favorite dishes here is endless, but some standouts include slow-cooked pork in milk, egg cooked in yogurt, and roasted quail. Don't miss dessert—the chocolate apricot tart is a knockout.
St. John Bakery72 Druid St., Southwark | +44.20.7237.5999
It all began with the Maltby Street Saturday Market, when St. John started selling its legendary breads (and then doughnuts) out the back of its bakery. Word spread among London’s foodies and very quickly the sourdoughs and indulgently overfilled custard and jam doughnuts started flying out the door. The logical next step was to make the bakery a proper spot to dine, and not just on Saturdays on the fly. We make the pilgrimage to South London for Welsh Rarebit on the best bread in town—all washed down with a good glass of wine.
Vintage Salt189 Upper St., Islington | +44.20.3227.0979
Considering the preponderance of eateries on Islington High Street, it's surprising how few actually stand out. This nautically-themed spot is one of those few. The offering is way more complex than the name suggests (though their Fish & Chips are reportedly great): We’re fans of the fish curry and the shrimp burger.