63-64 Frith St., Soho
Anthony Demetre, the chef at this Michelin star establishment, is serious about seasonality, though while the menu changes constantly, the food remains impeccable. This is a great place for a nice pre-theater meal in Soho. While it's not so easy to get in, if there are just two of you, you can usually snag a seat at the small bar. It is French-style cuisine in the best sense. The duck egg with asparagus served on cast iron skillets is really delicious.
161 Bellenden Rd., Peckham
Peckham has become London’s new neighborhood of reckoning, and Artusi—a small, sleek dining room on a Bellenden Road corner—leads the pack. The food is modern Italian; instead of big, heavy, saucy dishes, expect small neat plates of seasonal vegetables and twirls of house-made pasta. Try the sunchokes with hazelnuts and gorgonzola to start. And follow that with Artusi’s interpretation of pasta, which is the opposite of boring: fresh bucatini with chard, or Taleggio with the unexpected addition of raisins goes down surprisingly easy. Wine-wise, the list leans heavily on organic and biodynamic wines, sadly still a rarity in London. And across the board, the chef takes provenance seriously, listing all suppliers on the menus, which change daily. Reservations are essential.
Ba Shan (Closed)
24 Romilly St., Soho
This is one of London's best spots for Chinese. At first glance it looks a bit on the small side, but because it's actually split into several levels, it can comfortably accommodate bigger parties (make a reservation). The home-style tofu is a favorite among locals as are the pork buns, which are served as if they are little burger buns. As a whole, the menu errs on the spicy side, so ask for milder, kid-friendly options.
6 Hollywood Rd., Chelsea
In an ultrafeminine, light-filled space punctuated by large olive and clementine trees, a living wall of ferns, and plenty of copper accents, Bandol evokes a somewhat modern take on the airy, relaxed (yet totally upscale) restaurants of the French Riviera. Chef Zsolt Ferencz's food achieves that very same feel, with a menu of large, family-style sharing portions of Provence's greatest hits—everything from a perfect salade Niçoise to a warming bouillabaisse and a delectable duck confit. And then, of course, there's brunch, featuring all the classic egg dishes along with a select menu of tartines. The sharing platters are made for large parties, so it makes sense they have two coppered-up private dining rooms, too. Even in the dead of winter, this homey, gleaming spot makes you feel like you've walked straight off the beach in Saint-Tropez.
46 Peckham Rye, Peckham
When five first-generation siblings decided to bring 1940s Saigon to London, they weren’t messing around. The menu, inspired by their Vietnamese grandmother, is short and to the point. The prawn pancakes are unlike anything we’ve had: puffed turmeric pancakes, a king prawn embedded into each one, served in a piping hot skillet with a plate of fixings (you wrap each pancake in lettuce and herbs and douse it in fish sauce). And on a cold day, there is nothing better than the salty, spicy beef pho. The exposed-brick walls, simple wooden seating, and sprinkling of plants feel thoughtful. The servers always remember you like extra hoisin sauce, the Vietnamese coffee is better than any dessert, and walk-ins are generally accommodated.
53 Lexington St., Soho
Baos are soft, doughy rice-and-milk buns, stuffed with any number of Taiwanese-style delicacies, like slow-cooked pork or daikon. And there are lines out the door for them at this sleek, wood-lined shoebox of a spot in Soho at any given time of day. (They also serve really good battered fries and chicken nuggets.) Like many good things in London, the founders first gained popularity for their Baos with a roving market stall that's still going in Hackney (where the lines are just as long). They're so popular that only a few months later, they opened another spot in Fitzrovia which is just as popular (if not more.)
66 Knightsbridge Rd., Knightsbridge
This sister restaurant to renowned chef Daniel Boulud's original in NYC is a super chic bistro and wine bar in the Mandarin Oriental that boasts sleek décor with vaulted ceilings and an open kitchen. Everything from the Little Bites to the charcuterie and crustaceans is wonderful for dinner, and the £23 prix-fixe lunch is a great value. You also can't go wrong with a cocktail and the outrageously good burger. (It's worth noting that the Mandarin is temporarily closed for renovations.)
18 Charlotte St., Fitzrovia
This place is a total 180 from the Ollie Dabbous original: Rather than industrial and urban, it's shack-like, and in lieu of delicately plated dishes, the fare is heavier, home-style cooking. But it’s great. In fact, it may just serve the most finely prepped cauliflower cheese, sausage roll, and bubble & squeak in town.
26 - 27 Dean St., Soho
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.
10 Adelaide St., Covent Garden
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. There other locations are on Frith Street and Drury Lane.
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