Besides the world-famous tourist attractions, acclaimed nightlife, renowned hotels and the West End, the exquisite food on offer in London is another reason to visit the capital. With such a vast number of restaurants to choose from, with too many Michelin stars between them to count, it can all get a bit overwhelming deciding where to eat here. Whether you want to spot a celebrity, party whilst you eat or impress a date, there is always something on offer in London and here is a guide to our favourite eateries based on cuisine and ambiance to make choosing a bit easier for you.
Best for an experience, favourite for interiors
We wouldn’t even have to eat here and it would still be on our list. Located in Christian Dior’s former London salon, the Lecture Room and Library at Sketch is an Art Deco masterpiece with Chinese and French compositions that combine spectacularly. With two Michelin stars, the cuisine of Master Chef Pierre Gagnaire engages the sense and is full of twists and somersaults. It is also feast for the eyes. You cannot go wrong with the extensive and acclaimed wine list, awarded ‘Best Award for Excellence’ by the Wine Spectator. Service could not be better with charming and attentive staff and the loos, oh the loos, you have not ‘been’ without seeing them! Stunning.
Best for Modern European, favourite for views
With a gorgeous outside terrace that overlooks Tower Bridge, Le Pont de la Tour will never go out of fashion. Whether you want to spot a celebrity or court your lover Le Pont will never let you down. The evolved French menu is traditional yet innovative, evoking 1930s Parisian chic. We recommend you try the banana soufflé pudding – it really is quite scrumptious. Service is improving, the staff very friendly and knowledgeable. They also do a children’s menu so bring the whole family, the laid-back ambiance of the place is the great for a family lunch. With an extensive cocktail list that rivals the exquisite food, you can truly spend an entire day here – it is always a lovely experience.
Best for French, favourite for Dates
If you were to pick one word to describe Clos Maggiore it would be beautiful. Wonderfully romantic, the unique interior is inspired by country inns of Provence and Tuscany boasting panelled rooms full of gorgeous paintings and a blossom-filled courtyard conservatory. During winter, candles and a roaring log fire make a cosily chic experience. The excellent service really makes you feel quite spoilt. The contemporary French cuisine is scrumptious and exudes understated class. The wine list (which runs to 90 pages!) is superb and carefully explained by the sommelier. All in all, it is a winner. French cuisine and ambiance like no other in London.
Best for British, favourite for informal dining
You simply cannot come to the British Capital and not eat British. Claiming to have ‘searched the world’ for the finest steak and finding it right here in Britain, Hawksmoor Air Street is a nod to all things British. The half-surf, half-turf menu is perfect for picky eaters; you simply cannot go wrong. The Art Deco interior is simple yet refined and match the laid-back ambiance of the place with its wonderfully friendly staff. We recommend a steak, any steak in fact – they are all cooked sublimely. For a digestif, order a Shaky Pete – they are quite tantalizing and oh so British.
Best for afternoon tea, favourite for tourists
It is quite a crime to come to England and not have an afternoon cream tea. Made popular the 7th Duchess of Bedford, they are the quintessentially English and nowhere quite does Englishness like Fortnum & Mason. Served in the beautiful Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, you find the most traditional and scrumptious cream teas here. The savoury menu is as delicious as the sweet and both compliment the exceptional teas (they offer more than one hundred!). If you have trouble picking what to have, the charming ‘Tearistas’ will help and advise you. Treat the little-ones as they also have a children’s menu. A wonderful experience on any occasion.
Best for seafood, favourite for hip vibes
Perched on to top of South Place Hotel, this rooftop dining room with its floor-to-ceiling is simply stunning. The Terrace is the hippest spot on the square mile, hosting BBQs and live DJs in the summer, and heated parasols and cost blankets during winter. With a Michelin star, the food is simple yet sophisticated with exquisite pairings of texture and flavor. The quality of every ingredient is first-rate and comes from small, family-run fishermen. Start with a mouth-watering cocktail in the rooftop bar then have a scrummy lobster pie in the restaurant – both are served by friendly and attentive staff.
Best for hotel eating, favourite for exclusivity
If, when vacationing, you are one of those people who does not like to wander too far from the hotel for dinner, then you must stay at The Connaught. Here, Hélène Darroze’s two Michelin-starred restaurant uses exceptional produce, of impeccable seasonality and provenance, to deliver French culinary craft with a contemporary flourish. Dishes include “Sea urchin” (creamy pannacotta with Oscietra caviar) and “Chicken” (foie gras with black truffle). The food looks as good as it tastes, the visual beauty of each dish working in harmony with the soothing interior. You only get The Best here, really. The food is to die for, the pairing wines exquisite and the service is ledgendary. Nothing is left to chance here and every visit truly is an experience – you must visit.
Best for Indian, favourite for service
Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, contemporary Indian food meets old fashioned British charm at the Cinnamon Club. The first Indian restaurant to take the pairing of Indian food and wine seriously, the wine list is superb. Dishes use the best available British produce and are so ludicrously pretty they are almost meditative. If the roast loin of wild Oisin red deer with a rich onion sauce does not have you sad to leave, the faultless service from the longstanding members of staff will. We recommend you have an aperitif in the library before starting your gastronomic voyage as the cocktails are really quite special. Make sure you book in advance – it is always very busy (but never noisy).
Best for Asian food, favourite for celeb spotting
A celebrity favourite, Zuma brings you authentic Asian flavours with a sophisticated twist on the traditional. The décor (by Tokyo-based designers Super Potato) oozes geometric chic and is very sophisticated. The food is just gorgeous; the signature black cod is outstanding, the fish carpacio with truffle oil dreamy and the sushi really is the best around. The selection and execution of the cocktails is spot on, pairing freshly prepared fruit juices with Japanese spirits and sake. The service is friendly and down to earth which compliments the informality of the place. The atmosphere is electric, the interior sleek and the food sensational – it is a must visit for all Asian-food lovers.
Best for Italian, favourite for light eating
The River Café combines authentic Italian food with splendid views. There is a certain je ne sais quoi about the place, perhaps it is the romantic views of the thames, the passion behind the food or the loving atmosphere. The freshest British seafood and vegetables come together in generously portioned traditional dishes; it simple but perfectly executed. The service could be grand but is charming and not remotely stuffy. Take advantage of the garden area and have a drink by the river; the kitchens herb garden makes a romantic backdrop to enjoy the delicious food.
Ceri Tinley is the Co-Founder and MD of Consensio Holidays.