London’s leafy and well-heeled quarter is replete with great pubs, from Hampstead’s plethora of cosy boozers – think the stellar gastronomical fare at The Holly Bush, The Flask and The Spaniards Inn – to the bustling foodie scenes of Islington and Marylebone. The former boasts some of the best steaks in town at Smokehouse, a butcher-on-site establishment that will have vegans running down the road to Wild Food Café – a hero of the vegetarian and raw food scene.
Ever since the arrival of Chiltern Firehouse in 2014 (the exclusive hotel, restaurant and celebrity magnet, orchestrated by Chateau Marmont maestro André Balazs) with its sumptuous menu by Michelin-starred Nuno Mendes (try the cornbread), Marylebone has emerged as one of the shining lights of North London’s food scene. Marylebone high street is tripping over itself to tempt your taste buds, with Corbin & King’s Vienna-inspired Fischer’s, the Spanish flavours of The Providores and shiny new opening Xier, a modern, globally inspired feast cooked up by ex-Babbo head chef Carlo Scotto.
Les 110 de Taillevent on Cavendish Square, which has been serving up its titular 110 bottles of wine since 2015 and has just announced its new head chef, Ross Bryans formerly of Pollen Street Social.The menu takes its inspiration from classic French dishes, which it seamlessly (via its ingeniously-designed menu) pairs with a different wine. The food is delicate yet filling, with highlights including the butternut-squash agnolotti, the highland venison and, carved at the table with admirable flourish- their scene-stealing tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream.
Closer to central London, you’ll find the endless delights of Soho; from the faultless sushi at Chotto Matte (the sake dragon rolls are other-wordly) to the relaxed, classic dishes of Ivy Soho Brasserie, which just celebrated its second birthday with a brilliant new cocktail menu (try the Rolling Stones-inspired ‘Satisfaction’).
No discussion of North London could, of course, be complete, without the myriad restaurants at Kings Cross’s brand-new development Coal Drops Yard. Stand-out stars include the stirring middle-eastern cusinee at Asaaf Granit’s Coal Officeand a mecca for sweet-teeth: Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse.
Star attraction: Neptune
Opened in 2018, in the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in the emerging food scene of Bloomsbury, this lux seafood restaurant has as many shucked oysters as it does buckets of old-school charm. The central pewter-top bar serves classic cocktails and an eco-conscious wine list, curated by Isabelle Legaron MW and served by an array of sommeliers, perhaps none more curious or excellent than Ramiro Fernandez. The food is lip-smackingly good. Do not miss the seafood platter – not for nothing does this place specialise in sea fare- nor the burrata, which is indecently tasty. Yet it gets a gold star for the dessert menu, featuring a refreshingly original Yorkshire rhubarb and custard tart, which is possibly the best pudding in London right now.
You’ll find arguably some of the best pasta in London, just off the Old Street roundabout, at Passo; where there’s equal-parts a sleek, cool elegance and a homespun cosiness, as well as ravioli you’d kill your grandmother for. Stroll down to Shoreditch and you’ll find endless gastronomical charms, from The Clove Club’s Michelin-starred finery to expertly smoked meats housed in an old furniture factory at Blacklock, Thai-inspired hits at Smoking Goat (the coconut and pumpkin curry is a dead-cert for veggies) to the elegant dining room HoiPolloi at Ace Hotel, where their cheeseburger is a must-order. Down Hoxton Street, you’ll find possibly London’s best pastrami and salf-beef- at least that’s the aim of Monty’s Deli, which started out life as a market stand and is now one of the premier ‘Jewish Soul Food’ establishments in the capital. They’ve even started serving Shabbat Dinners on site.
When was the last time you had Filipino food? If the answer was never, then what are you waiting for- Kinilaw & Buko is your immediate next stop, where they serve the eponymous kinilaw (a Filipino ceviche) seasoned with vinegars.
Over in the city, the new Bloomberg Arcade plays host to a smorgasbord of restaurants, including the latest creation of the team behind Gymkhana: Brigadiers, a vast Indian dining hall inspired by military bases in Colonial India, Kym’s the latest stunning Chinese from award winning chef Andrew Wong, and moments away from Liverpool Street, you’ll find sublime brunch spot Crispins, which makes an exemplary smashed avocado on toast. Yes, really.
Star attraction: Gloria
This is what happens when Italy explodes into a small enclave in Shoreditch. The menu is bursting with Italian classics just like mamma used to make, with their signature dish; La Vera Pasta al Tartufo, served in a vintage copper pan, family style. The dining room is decorated with marble from Carrera and the basement is a late night dining haven (open till 2am from Thursday-Saturday) all mirrored ceilings and velour banquettes. It’s eminently instagramable; with its painted crockery and artfully cluttered interior, but the food is simple, tasty and unpretentious. Try the tiramisu or the delectable pistachio ice cream- both of which come in bountiful portions.
Clustered around Sloane Square and snaking up the Kings Road you’ll find some of South London’s premier eateries. There’s the cosy, faux-French bistro Colbert,which makes a mean croque monsieur that is not playing around, neighbouring old favourite The Botanist, which can be relied upon for classic, well-orchestrated fare and, a smattering of fine pubs, from The Cross Keys to The Phene; which offer reasonable and delicious menus.
Make your way towards Knightsbridge and you’ll hit Restaurant Ours, perhaps unfairly more famous for its social-media-friendly décor than its menu, it should not be so readily discounted. The cocktails are fantastic and the food is brilliant, especially its inventive vegetarian menu, which features such gems as golden beetroot carpaccio.
Head down to Lambeth and, nestled within the unimposing Crown Plaza Hotel, by the river, is a little hidden gem: POTUS. No, not Trump, but a humorously-titled, elegant restaurant that serves up some all-American classics with a twist. The New England Clam Chowder is almost offensively tasty, as is the fried soft-shell crab with buttermilk blue-cheese dressing and the San Francisco Cioppino: a spiced lobster broth.
Within the breath-taking architectural feat that is the Serpentine gallery in Hyde Park is CHUCS Serpentine, which, beyond its own delightful menu is currently playing host to a revolving door of stellar guest chefs as part of their supper series, from Ruth Rogers back in winter 2018 to their upcoming Phil Howard (of Elystan Street fame) takeover on the 7th March.
Head further south, and there’s freshly-refurbished Bingham Riverhouse (previously The Bingham) in Richmond right, as you would expect, on the river. It’s a beautiful renovation, enlivening an already splendid establishment. The menu has renewed its commitment to seasonal produce under chef Andrew Cole and is a sizzling treat; particularly the Jerusalem Artichoke tartlet and the fondant potato.
Meanwhile, Battersea Power Station- in the midst of becoming yet another premier London living destination, has an emergent new gastro hub encircling it. Circus West Village has some stellar restaurant choices, from Italian Fiume and paired-back pizza joint Mother to the Japanese eatery Tonkotsu.
Star attraction: Dinings SW3
Blink and you’ll miss Dinings SW3, tucked off a residential street in Knightsbridge. But that would be a mistake, because this place is phenomenal. Opened in May 2018, this intimate restaurant serves up some of the most intricate and imaginative Japanese food in London, headed up by chef Masaki Sugisaki. The concept is ‘Japanese Izakaya’- combining traditional Japanese techniques with European cuisine. The soba noodle salad looks like worms and tastes like heaven, the tuna tartare is criminally good, the miso soup will end up all over you- but it’s worth it- and the sushi is punchy but brilliant. Then there’s a little gem lettuce salad: essentially a giant chunk of lettuce that, inexplicably you are meant to eat with chopsticks and, equally inexplicably, is absolutely delicious.
The attention-seeker of West London has long been Notting Hill, with its amazing blend of Caribbean cuisine (can you really say you’ve been to Notting Hill if you haven’t been to The Globe?) and exemplary gastro pubs from The Cow with its surprisingly good oysters to The Prince Bonaparte on Chepstow Road, with its Asian-fusion menu taking pub-grub to another level. The Ledbury, (2 Michelin stars) remains the grand dame of the area, where something as seemingly-innocuous at white beetroot is taken to new heights. Bella Freud-designed member’s club Laylow,on Golborne Road, does a great truffle risotto and you can’t beat the area’s Venetian juggernaut Polpo which can change your world one bruschetta board at a time.
Nearby Maida Vale doesn’t pull its punches, with The Elgin still dominating the scene as one of the finest gastro pubs in town and Chiswick continues to produce great eateries- notably the Italian haven that is Villa di Geggiano.
West London is also seeing some serious contenders from emerging areas, like Kensal Green, with its gorgeous new William IV, Ladbroke Grove’s blindingly good (and stunningly stylish) Turkish BBQ joint Fez Mangal, sleepy Willesden Green’s star player, the cosy and delicious Italian bistro Sanzio and Ealing’s new sleek Soane’s Kitchen outpost, Walpole Park. Set within Pitzhanger Manor’s original walled garden- it’s a tranquil idyll that feels miles away from the city, serving lunch and (bottomless) brunch and the wild mushroom mac and cheese with truffle and sourdough crumb is as mind-blowing as it sounds.
The new kid on the block is White City’s Television Centre, the BBC’s old home, which now plays host to a selection of restaurants, from Bluebird to Kricket as well as White City House; Soho House’s latest West London outpost.
Star Attraction: Southam Street
On the corner of Golbone Road, Southam Street pops out of its relatively suburban enclave with serious firepower. The ground floor restaurant of this townhouse is buzzy -packed with locals as well as those drawn to its unique charms from further afield, meaning it is seldom quiet. The menu is a panoply of Asian influences that blend marvellously, with some notable highlights; including the tuna tataki and steamed bao buns. You can add everything to the aptly-titled “dirty” fries made with melted cheese and curry sauce before heading upstairs to the intimate labyrinthine bars spread over the upper floors, where you can wash dinner down with whiskey cocktails whilst reclining on velvet armchairs.