London's top 50 restaurants: The full list

A full list of the very best restaurants in London. These are the 50 best London restaurants you need to know about right now

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Time Out asked its food critics to come up with a list of the 50 best places to eat in London. And here it is: from capital curries to great gastropubs, as well as suggestions for where to eat on the cheap, if you want to impress, or are just looking for great service and value. Go forth and feed. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.

10 Greek Street

  • Rated as: 5/5

It’s not big, it’s not showy, but it is clever. This no-booking spot in Soho is the kind of place you’ll want to come back to time and again. Headed up by Australian chef Cameron Emirali, there are only a handful of dishes on the seasonally changing menu, but chances are you’ll still have trouble choosing between them – they all look good. Dish descriptions are kept simple, as is presentation, but there’s plenty to admire in Emirali’s cooking skills. Be prepared to get friendly with your neighbours as the tables are pretty tightly packed and its no-bookings for dinner, but that’s all part of the charm.

When to go: To enjoy well-constructed small plates in an unpretentiously convivial atmosphere.

What to have: Order a handful of plates from the regularly changing menu, and you’re bound to find plenty to satisfy.

  1. 10 Greek Street, W1D 4DH
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Amaya

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Much of the menu at this chic bar and grill is grilled on the tawa (a thick iron plate), sigri (coal grill) or in the more familiar tandoor (hot clay oven) right in front of diners, which adds a great sense of theatre to the sparkling surrounds. The biryanis are light and aromatic; and if you’ve ever wanted to try proper ‘Awadhi’ dishes, from Lucknow at the height of the Moghul empire, this is the place to go.

When to go: When you crave Indian food but are tired of ‘curry’.

What to have: Biryanis, kebabs, or ask for any of the Awadhi dishes.

  1. Halkin Arcade, (Motcomb Street), SW1X 8JT
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L'Autre Pied

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4

This Pied à Terre offshoot positively purrs with the pleasure and efficiency of a restaurant at the top of its game. Marcus Eaves’s Modern European cooking is accomplished and precise, with imaginative yet well-considered flavours. They look good too: try translucent poached egg sat upon a vibrant green bed of crushed peas and broad beans. The surroundings are like a French take on an Oriental theme, with screens and dark wood; all that’s missing is Kato springing out of a cupboard.

When to go: With friends who admire both style and substance.

What to have: The lunch and pre-theatre menus (6-7pm) are particularly good value at £20.95 for three courses.

  1. 5-7 Blandford Street, W1U 3DB
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Bar Boulud

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4

It pains us to rate a US import so highly – Bar Boulud’s a branch of the original in New York. But the fact is, this is a seamless dining experience, with faultless service and exquisite French food in a smart Knightsbridge hotel – and all at prices which seem like a bargain for this standard of restaurant. Charcuterie takes centre stage, with an array of terrines, pâtés, hams and sausages. Mains run from classic croque monsieur to coq au vin and steak frites. To finish, there are cheeses divided by type (‘stinky’, ‘old and hard’) and classic puddings. So how does Bar Boulud make any money? The wine list is the answer – go easy on the delightful, but pricey wine list if you want to keep the bill below three figures for two.

When to go: When you want to show someone you really love them.

What to have: The charcuterie is a must; the set-price meals a steal.

  1. Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
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Barshu

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice
  • Offer

Since opening in 2006, Barshu has done much to popularise Sichuan cuisine in London. The strong flavours of slow-cooked dong po pork knuckle in chilli oil is typical of the dishes that give your taste buds an invigorating whack. Spice lovers we may be, but we still recommend avoiding the dishes marked as hot, because here they really mean it. Barshu remains an exceedingly charming venue, its decor modelled on that of an old Beijing teahouse, complete with elaborate wood carvings and tasselled lanterns. Its owners also now run two other restaurants nearby, Ba Shan which champions northern dishes, and the cheap Baozi Inn café.

When to go: If you know your way around a Cantonese menu, and want something with more kick.

What to have: Classic Sichuan dishes such as fish-fragrant aubergines or dong po pork.

  1. 28 Frith Street, W1D 5LF
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Berners Tavern

  • Rated as: 5/5

Jason Atherton’s third opening of 2013 takes a different turn from his highly successful Social ventures (Pollen Street Social, Little Social and Social Eating House) with an impressively showy setting. From opulent chandeliers to floor-to-ceiling framed art, enjoy Atherton’s signature Modern European dishes in the grandest of settings. Your credit card is sure to get a battering – this kind of decadent dining doesn’t come cheap. But, for a special occasion it’s the ideal place to get your glad rags on and eat in style. Be sure to enjoy a cocktail in the Punch Room (booking advisable) before heading into the glitzy dining room.

When to go: When you’re in the mood for a bit of glamour.

What to have: Perfectly cooked pan-braised halibut with savoury squid ink risotto is a must.

  1. 10 Berners Street , W1T 3NP
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Bistro Union

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

Claphamites are lucky indeed to have such a good neighbourhood restaurant. Self-styled as a British bistro, the staff are chummy, the look rustic and the clientele ever appreciative – it’s seriously popular. The food at this second Clapham venture from Adam Byatt (who also runs the even smarter Modern European restaurant Trinity) riffs on a range of hearty Anglo, American and French influences, but given a British makeover. The likes of toad in the hole and fish pie sit comfortably besides chicken liver parfait and mac ’n’ cheese – all are prepared with impressive precision. For the best spectator seats head to the tall stools by the bar.

When to go: When you’re after an excellent plate of comfort food in the company of a few neighbours.

What to have: Don’t miss the bar snacks, they are bound to surprise and impress. The menu changes regularly, so ask the staff for the latest recommendations.

  1. 40 Abbeville Road, SW4 9NG
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Bistrot Bruno Loubet

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Chef Bruno Loubet has a short menu of Modern European dishes that reads like a dream. Beetroot ravioli, fried breadcrumbs and sage with rocket salad could be followed by a course of braised beef with mango and herb salad. This restaurant initially seems to lack the ‘wow’ factor of some of our other top-rated restaurants, but once you’ve tried the dishes, then you’ll understand why we rate it as one of the capital’s best – and most enjoyable – meals out.

When to go: For an understated meal out with exceptionally well-rendered dishes.

What to have: Whatever Bruno suggests – he’s a celebrity chef who’s always there, visible in the open kitchen.

  1. 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ
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Bocca di Lupo

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

It’s not so much a lone wolf: this Soho trattoria has garnered quite a following. Jacob Kenedy is a skilled hand when it comes to executing the treasured dishes of Italy, and most dishes are offered in small or large sizes – very conducive to sharing. Every dish is annotated with its region of origin (cheekily, house creations are marked as ‘BDL’), pleasing food nerds everywhere. Sit at the bar for the best experience.

When to go: For a pre- or post-theatre meal, with a few close friends who like to share.

What to have: Anything that fascinates you.

  1. 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB
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Bull & Last

  • Rated as: 4/5

Locals are spoiled with this gastropub on their doorstep, though good luck to them on a weekend – the food is certainly worth travelling for, and people do. The attraction is a combination of chummy pub service (dog- and child-friendly), well-kept ales and a menu that keeps on giving. Own-made charcuterie is definitely a draw, while British produce is championed relentlessly – an impressive roster of local suppliers is clearly visible. Adventurous eaters can go for duck hearts sautéed with sherry, crispy pigs’ ears or trotter wontons. The menu is typically meaty, featuring great slabs of local beef and venison cooked with skill.

When to go: When you’re overdue a meat-up with friends.

What to have: The ‘boards’ (charcuterie or fish) are must-have for starters.

  1. 168 Highgate Rd, NW5 1QS
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Cah Chi

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This original branch of Cah Chi in Raynes Park (the second is in Earlsfield) has long been one of our favourite Korean restaurants. You won’t find watered-down Korean food – all the dishes we’ve tried here have been confidently rendered with no compromise on flavour. Crisp pa jeon (a sort of pancake) filled with fresh seafood and spring onions, or strips of raw beef sizzling in a stone bowl (dolsot) with rice, pickles and vegetables, being just two of many great examples. There are plenty of more esoteric dishes for the adventurous, such as pigs' ears casseroles, pig's liver dishes and blood pudding.

When to go: For Korean food without the clichéd barbecue-side theatrics.

What to have: Fill up on the panchan (small side dishes) and move swiftly on to the grilled marinated meats.

  1. 34 Durham Road, SW20 0TW
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Ceviche

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4

There was a flurry of Peruvian openings in London in 2012, but Ceviche was the Machu Picchu of several highlights. Showcasing the eponymous dish of citrus-cured fish spiked with chilli, there are half a dozen versions of ceviche here. But the kitchen knows a lot more than just how to skin and slice a fish – there are also excellent chargrilled meat and fish skewers (anticuchos), crumbly corn cakes and other nibbles also on offer. Be sure to sample a pisco sour or two at the bar while you’re there.

When to go: When you’re after a Latin party on your palate.

What to have: The ‘Don Ceviche’ , sea bass chunks in citrus with a scattering of red chilli and soft diced sweet potato, is a showstopper.

  1. 17 Frith Street, W1D 4RG
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Dabbous

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Chef Ollie Dabbous and his eponymous restaurant (pronounced ‘Daboo’) were the runaway success of 2012. Within weeks of opening, the phones were ringing off the hook with tables becoming some of the most sought after in London. Dish names may be simple, but the execution of his inventive food is of the highest standard.

When to go: Whenever they can squeeze you in.

What to have: Barbecued Iberico pork with acorn praline has had tongues wagging.

  1. 39 Whitfield Street, W1T 2SF
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The Delaunay

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 4/4

The team behind The Wolseley have done it again with this elegant all-day brasserie in Aldwych. It’s not the place to go for an innovative modern menu, but if you’re in the mood for a nostalgic taste of mittel-European fare like schnitzel, sachertorte and strudel, The Delaunay will be happy to oblige.

When to go: Pop in for a spot of afternoon tea in a fine setting, or settle in for an evening meal.

What to have: An oldie but a goodie, the wiener schnitzel is just how it should be.

  1. 55 Aldwych, WC2B 4BB
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Dinings

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

This tiny Japanese restaurant, set in a beautiful Georgian townhouse, is a place we recommend for a treat. The contemporary take on Japanese cuisine means small plates are rechristened as ‘Japanese hot tapas’ and nigiri are topped with salsas, truffle and jelly cubes of ponzu (a citrus-tinged soy sauce) – to delicious effect. Dishes are immaculately styled, yet presentation is always trumped by flavour; slivers of lightly seared rosy duck breast served with a shiso salsa and ponzu sauce looks as divine as it tastes. It’s no surprise, then, that a meal here doesn’t come cheap.

When to go: With some fashionable friends in tow – these plates were meant for grazing.

What to have: Tickle your tastebuds with the delightful ‘tar tar’ chips – like mini tacos filled with crabmeat or scallop, salmon and tuna tartare.

  1. 22 Harcourt Street, W1H 4HH
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Fino

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Sam and Eddie Hart have pioneered a wave of top-class Spanish eateries in Fitzrovia, first with Fino, then with Barrafina. Over the last year or two we’ve noticed Fino edging ahead of the more casual Barrafina for service and food – the menu’s far more extensive at Fino, and the prices appreciably higher too. Main courses change twice daily, although you’ll find that signature dishes such as pork belly are a fixture. Fino offers a modern take on classic Spanish flavours – morcilla iberica with quail eggs, seared tuna on a piquillo pepper salad. Fino’s the smartest option of the Hart brothers empire, in every sense (they also own Quo Vadis, which is not Spanish).

When to go: For a smart night out; book well ahead.

What to have: A glass of sherry or two, some jamón, the day’s specials.

  1. 33 Charlotte Street, entrance on Rathbone Street, W1T 1RR
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Grain Store

  • Rated as: 4/5

Bordeaux-born chef Bruno Loubet has a lofty reputation for artfully prepared dishes, and his latest venture does not disappoint. Housed in a cavernous Victorian warehouse in King’s Cross brimming with hip factor – also home to Caravan and St Martin’s School of Art – the menu is a pick ’n’ mix of ingredients and cuisines all perfectly prepared. Vegetables play a starring role and there is plenty to dazzle both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Excellent cocktails at the bar are supervised by innovative mixologist Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row.

When to go: For an understated meal in the new hipsville with exceptionally well-rendered dishes.

What to have: The vegetarian dishes on the seasonally changing menu put many dedicated vegetarian to shame.

  1. Granary Square, (1-3 Stable Street), N1C 4AB
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Hakkasan

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Offer

The original branch founded (then sold) by Alan Yau still remains an iconic venue for smart lunchtime dim sum or an evening cocktail or two. The A-listers may have moved on, but it still attracts a crowd who like to flash their cash. Make sure you peruse the tea menu and if you’re after a more reasonably-priced meal, the set lunches make a good choice.

When to go: When you feel like putting on your glad rags and splurging on something decadent.

What to have: Start with a platter of perfectly turned out dim sum, then see what takes your fancy from the list of mains.

  1. 8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD
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Harwood Arms

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4

On the corner of Walham Grove and Farm Lane, SW6 1QP, this is the sort of place that would make one proud to be British. While a wee bit posh with its thick hessian napkins and bread in linen bags (and one Michelin star), its heart is still firmly set in the gastropub tradition. Owners Mike Robinson and Brett Graham (head chef of The Ledbury) have put in a lot of effort, heavily promoting the ethos of using seasonal, local and natural produce. The ‘pub’ part is not forgotten either, with the bar dispensing fashionably good British ales. Chef Stephen Williams, who has been leading the kitchen ever since its inception, will be moving on to pastures new, but we’re confident that the quality will be upheld.

When to go: When you’ve got a visitor who still remains sceptical about the concept of ‘great British food’.

What to have: You’ve got to be game for game. And what could be more English than earl grey baked custard?

  1. Corner of Walham Grove and Farm Lane, SW6 1QP
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Hawksmoor Seven Dials

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The original Hawksmoor in Spitalfields is a great bar and grill – but this newer branch is a truly sensational one. The entrance is a bit hidden, despite the Covent Garden location, but once inside it’s a real beauty of a basement which looks as if it’s been there a century – in fact, it only opened as a restaurant at the end of 2010. The meat’s better quality, and better cooked, than at many more expensive Mayfair steak restaurants. Hawksmoor’s not cheap, though – you’ll easily part with more than £50 per head, but dining here’s quite an experience, and very ‘now’.

When to go: When your carnal urges will only be satisfied by something big and bloody.

What to have: A small steak – because the large ones would feed a family of bears.

  1. 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JJ
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Hereford Road

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

When it opened in 2007, the trend for bold, British cooking wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Tom Pemberton, who cut his teeth at St John and St John Bread & Wine, was one chef who helped propel British cuisine into the limelight. The menu continues to change daily (it’s updated online diligently), and common ingredients include plenty of offal (calves’ brains and kidneys, lamb's sweetbreads) and classic British puddings (vanilla rice pudding, apple crumble). Hereford Road may no longer seem as revolutionary as it did back then, but the food still has the power to wow.

When to go: When you want solid British cooking on the west side of town.

What to have: Hone in on the mains made for sharing – whole lamb shoulder or oxtail, say.

  1. 3 Hereford Road, W2 4AB
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Hoi Polloi

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4

When the hip US boutique hotel chain Ace arrives in town, you might expect the catering to be as distinctive as the eclectic décor – and Hoi Polloi doesn’t disappoint. Rocking a retro fifties look, somewhere between a school canteen and a Scandinavian cruise ship, it’s a place to see and be seen. As for the food, it’s the best of British from the team behind equally innovative Bistrotheque in E2 and Shrimpy’s at the Old Filling Station in King’s Cross. Expect hearty British ingredients such as turnip and horseradish soup with crispy beef, or hake with cavolo nero and braised celeriac, celery and hazelnut.

When to go: When you want to up your hip-factor.

What to have: The slow-braised pork cheeks with chunks of spiced apple and pickled carrots are a real treat.

  1. Ace Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JQ
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Honey & Co

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

If you’re in Fitzrovia it’s worth making a beeline for this little Israeli-run café. The menu is full of homely Middle Eastern dishes alive with colour and texture. The husband-and-wife team who run it have impressive credentials as the ex-head-chef of Ottolenghi and executive chef of Nopi. Made fresh on the premises, their window is filled with breads, pastries and exotic jams.

When to go: When you want to be transported to a sunny Middle Eastern place.

What to eat: Plenty of small to plates to pick at, plus something sweet – their cakes are too good to pass up.

  1. 25a Warren Street, W1T 5LZ
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Hummus Bros

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

As the name suggests, this laid-back snack bar is devoted to one of its most popular preparations of the humble chickpea. Topped with anything from guacamole to salad or sautéed chicken chunks, their houmous is silky-smooth and delicious. Sides include zingy tabouleh, falafel salad and smoky, slow-cooked aubergines. Young, up-beat staff keep things moving at an efficient pace.  

When to go: It ain’t glamorous, but it’s perfect for lunch – or a quick, cheap evening meal.

What to have:  Houmous, obviously. We're particularly keen on the cumin-scented fava beans topping.

  1. 88 Wardour Street, W1F 0TJ
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Hutong

  • Rated as: 4/5

Halfway up The Shard, this glitzy Hong Kong import offers high-end Chinese food with some of the best views in London. The smoulderingly stylish interior, with plenty of dark wood and red lanterns, makes Hutong a sophisticated dining spot for anyone aiming to impress their guests. Dishes are no less showy with the likes of deep-fried softshell crabs arriving in a huge bowl of fiery red chillies – the latter purely for decoration. Southwestern and northern Chinese dishes less commonly seen on London menus are the main attraction, but there are also more familiar dishes such as crispy duck or steamed dumplings to choose from on the lunchtime dim sum list.

When to go: When you’re planning to splash the cash on a love interest.

What to have: The de-boned and deep-fried lamb ribs are tender and packed with flavour.

  1. The Shard, Level 33, 31 St. Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
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Koba

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Koba is one of the most consistent Korean restaurants in central London; we’ve yet to have a bad meal here. The menu features a roll-call of classics like barbecued kalbi beef, stir-fried glass noodles (japchae) and crisp Korean pajeon pancakes. Slick service too.

When to go: When you're in the mood for some table-top barbecue.

What to have: Bulgogi beef wrapped in lettuce leaves with a smudge of bean and chilli paste.

  1. 11 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NA
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Koya

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Japanese ethos of devoting a restaurant to one dish or ingredient is admirable, yet rarely seen in this city. The fact that Soho would become home to a highly authentic udon-ya (a place specialising in udon – a thick, springy wheat noodle) was perhaps unthinkable even a year ago. The noodles are freshly made daily, utilising a traditional foot-kneading method to achieve that desirable chewy texture, and the broths are deeply flavoured with three types of dried fish. Udon dominates the menu, but the small plates (such as slow-cooked pork belly, or lotus root salad) are excellent as side orders, too. Chilled tap water is free, the staff are sweet and while seating might be cramped and the queues inevitable, a bowl of these noodles is always worth the wait.

When to go: All year round – opt for cold noodles in a chilled dipping sauce in hot weather, or a bowl of piping hot udon in broth when you’re chilled to the bone. Always go off-peak.

What to have: All variations are excellent, but none are complete without that silky smooth slow-cooked egg (onsen tamago) to go on top.

  1. 49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG
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The Ledbury

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Brett Graham’s Notting Hill restaurant is fiendishly consistent when it comes to cooking and service. The Modern European menu doesn’t read like many others either, with just enough flair to impress but not alienate. The service is some of the best in London, too – the friendly, Aussie-accented staff really know their stuff. The weekday set lunch is astonishing value considering the calibre of cooking: £27.50 for two courses, £33.50 for three, with all the amuse bouches, pre-desserts and petits-fours included. An affordable luxury.

When to go: When you want the best midweek lunch in London.

What to have: The celeriac cooked in ash is a classic, but scallop ceviche with horseradish ‘snow’ is a rising favourite.

  1. 127 Ledbury Road, W11 2AQ
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Little Social

  • Rated as: 4/5

Rather than make a carbon copy of his ever popular Pollen Street Social, Jason Atherton has tweaked the formula a little for the restaurant’s younger sibling. Located just across the road from the original, Little Social is a luxe homage to Paris with a slightly Manhattan accent. Dishes put seasonal ingredients to good use with bold flavours and impressive execution.

When to go: When you’re after a French bistro with a modern twist. And, with set lunches at £25.50 for three courses, there’s no need to save it for a special occasion.

What to have: The braised ox-cheek with a thick sticky sauce and buttery mash was old-school French, and excellent, but most of what we tried was exemplary.

  1. 5 Pollen Street, W1S 1NE
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Malt House

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Offer

Claude Bosi recently opened his second gastropub in a handsome old boozer in Fulham. The food, rather than the drink, is the star of the show here – it’s British-style cooking of the highest standard. Meats are cooked to tender perfection and the desserts warrant a look too.

When to go: Perfect for chinos and jacket days, or a smart Sunday meal.

What to have: The menu changes daily, but if they’ve got them, don’t miss the pork scratchings.

  1. 17 Vanston Place, SW6 1AY
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Mangal Ocakbasi

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Stoke Newington is Turkish territory and a fine place to eat, but kebab connoisseurs know to head down a quiet side street to this longstanding ocakbasi favourite. The in-out service and occasionally raucous atmosphere doesn’t make it a place for relaxed dining, but as an informal dinner stop-off it’s perfect and still brilliantly cheap. Choose one of the juicy skewered meats on display, enjoy the anticipation as the dextrous grillsmith chars it to perfection, then tuck into one of the best meaty meals in the city.

When to go: Only when seriously hungry. Far more than just a ‘kebab shop’.

What to have: Lamb shish.

  1. 10 Arcola Street, E8 2DJ
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Medlar

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Even if you don’t live near Chelsea, you should try to visit this exceptional restaurant at least once. The decor is understated: soothing grey-green colour scheme and unobtrusive artwork. The real artistry arrives on the plates, which are astoundingly good. Though dish descriptions run long, you’d be hard pushed to find a flavour out of place in the impressively executed French-skewed dishes. Both savouries and sweets are handle with confidence, and they’ll even accommodate off-piste requests. The wine list is of a calibre to match the food and includes a high-quality selection of wines under £30.

When to go: When you’re after world-class cooking with exceptional flavour combinations.

What to have: Save room for the wonderful puds.

  1. 438 King's Road, SW10 0LJ
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The Modern Pantry

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

Chef Anna Hansen used to work with Peter Gordon at Providores, and stylistically, her eclectic cooking reflects this shared heritage. A signature dish of sugar-cured New Caledonian prawn omelette with spring onion, coriander and smoked chilli sambal is a winner, and we love the ambition and invention in the likes of Vietnamese-style braised pigs’ cheeks with pickles, Thai basil and deep-fried chilli; or tonka bean shortbread with lemon custard, gooseberry compote and prosecco jelly. Modern Pantry’s particularly appealing in the summer, when you can sit outdoors in a quiet square.

When to go: It’s the best place in London for alfresco dining.

What to have: Breakfast and brunch are just as appealing as the dinner menu.

  1. 47-48 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
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Momo

Momo’s brunch! Every weekend from 11am until 3pm,...
  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

North African food in a very atmospheric setting, immediately evocative of fantasy casbahs. The sour-sweet flavours of the meat and fruit tagines are pleasures fit for a king and the grainy couscous is a good foil to the watery sauces. But while the cooking’s good, it’s not why most people come here: the atmosphere, the drop-dead gorgeous staff, and the buzz are just as much of an attraction.

When to go: For escapism and North African romance.

What to have: A couscous dish and some of the aromatic teas.

  1. 25 Heddon Street, W1B 4BH
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Moro

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Blending Moorish flavours from Spain, North African and the Middle East, Sam and Sam Clark’s restaurant has been a popular Exmouth Market eatery for over a decade now. Expect aromatic dishes jewelled with nuts, herbs and dried fruits, plus hearty peasant-style stews, spiced roasted meats and seafood. If they’re all booked up (which they regularly are), pop into their tapas offshoot – Morito – a couple of doors up.

When to go: When you’re after something filled with fragrant spices in Farringdon.

What to have: The menu changes regularly, but if the yoghurt cake with pistachios and pomegranates is on the menu, it shouldn’t be missed.

  1. 34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
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Moti Mahal

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Its Covent Garden location and lots of online offers means a regular flow of slightly more adventurous tourists and theatregoers populate the room, but serious Indian food fans shouldn’t turn their noses up. While lacking the glam factor of other top-end Indian restaurants, the room is smart enough and the refined new-wave cooking more than makes up for the bland interiors. Careful spicing and flashes of creativity means the menu is peppered with classic dishes (a ‘pickling spice’ lamb curry) to please conservative diners, as well as more inspired interpretations of well-known recipes. The prices on the à la carte are not too kind, but we’d dare you find a menu more vibrant and wondrous than this in theatreland.

When to go: When the idea of a budget Ruby Murray has lost its sheen.

What to have: Skip the online set menu meal deals, which are cheaper, but they’re also duller; go à la carte.

  1. 45 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AA
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Ottolenghi

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Credited with making deli dining a fashionable pursuit, Yotam Ottolenghi continues to wow the capital with his bright, bold flavours, drawn from the Med, the Middle East and beyond. Given the casual ambience the prices can be a surprise, but as with all things of exceptional quality, you get what you pay for.

When to go: Weekend brunch for a treat, or pop in on a weekday evening for a slightly special supper.

What to have: There's no such thing as 'ordering badly' here, but the roasted aubergine with Iranian lime yoghurt, harissa and pomegranate will change the way you think about salad forever.

  1. 287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ
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Polpo Soho

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

There’s a charm to restaurateur Russell Norman’s restaurants, with their New York styling meets Venetian bacaro – and menus to match. Sohoites have lapped up the ‘small plates’ revolution, which also goes one further (or smaller) at Polpo in the form of cicheti (Venetian bar snacks), which are often bite-sized; there’s even a dedicated cicheti bar in Polpo’s basement now. A few of these with, say, a plate of sliced flank steak with heady truffle cream, or slivers of tender cuttlefish cooked in ink and embellished with gremolata, is all you need to be happy.

When to go: No bookings are taken at dinner, so rock up early or very late. Or book for lunch.

What to have: About three small plates per person is the magic number.

  1. 41 Beak Street, W1F 9SB
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Rasa

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The original branch of Rasa has been drawing in an appreciative crowd since 1997. The all vegetarian Keralan menu includes crisp dosas filled with spicy potato masala and coconut chutney and unusual curries like beetroot and spinach in a spiced yoghurt sauce. You’re guaranteed to leave with a full belly and a barely dented wallet.

When to go: When you’re after a wholesome veggie feast that packs an aromatic punch.

What to have: The shredded cabbage thoran flecked with mustard seeds and fresh coconut is a must.

  1. 55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0AR
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Rochelle Canteen

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Fondly remember that sneaky fag round the back of the bike sheds? It was never like this, as Rochelle School’s former bike sheds are far too salubrious a setting. The blond tables of the airy dining room are populated by arty types enjoying the seasonal modern European menu.

When to go: For a leisurely lunch - bring your own if you want to make it boozy.

What to have: The menu changes daily, but don’t miss out on old-school desserts such as sticky date pudding.

  1. Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES
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Roka

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Zuma’s little sister has no trouble standing up for itself. The glass-fronted façade gives passers by a peek of the chefs at work preparing robata-grilled goodies. As well as all things charcoal-cooked their raw dishes are also worth exploring like ruby red tuna sashimi. If you’re in need of a stiff drink, head down to the Shochu Lounge bar in the basement.

When to go: It’s a popular spot for media schmoozing, but also suited to a special occasion when you don’t mind parting with a fair few pennies.

What to have: The robata-grilled scallops with wasabi cream made it into our 100 Best Dishes in London.

  1. 37 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RR
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Royal China

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

For authentic dim sum at a reasonable price, the original branch of Royal China is the place to go. The bustling dining room had a spruce up in 2012, so you can now enjoy your dumplings in black lacquer and gold leafed splendour. Be prepared to queue to get in – they don’t take bookings and at peak times you’re likely to have to jostle for a table.

When to go: Make a Sunday afternoon of it with steamed buns and copious cups of tea.

What to eat: The Royal China cheung fun (roast pork wrapped in rice pasta and prawns with beef and water chestnuts) is a must-order.

  1. 13 Queensway, W2 4QJ
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Salt Yard

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The people behind Salt Yard hit on a winning formula: Spanish and Italian modern ‘tapas’, plus good wines by the glass. It’s been so successful that a branch, Dehesa, opened near Carnaby Street; and then in January 2011, Opera Tavern in Covent Garden. Well-sourced charcuterie, Spanish and Italian cheeses and creative, elegant tapas dishes are the main draw, but the wine list offers interesting selections from lesser-known regions of Italy and Spain and excellent sherries.

When to go: For a bite and glass on the go in Goodge Street.

What to have: Tapas until you drop.

  1. 54 Goodge Street, W1T 4NA
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Song Que

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The over-enthusiastically long menu at this Kingsland Road stalwart might not suggest anything special is going on in the kitchen, but the nightly queues out the door dispel all doubts. While neighbouring restaurants have chased the trendy Shoreditch pound by tarting up their interiors, Song Que remains resolutely perfunctory in design (although the toilets have been seriously spruced up – not before time). The draw is the low prices and the fairly high standards of the food. Almost all dishes on offer are good, but the perfectly balanced broth in the pho is a work of art.

When to go: When you need a cheap, large, appetising meal in Shoreditch.

What to have: It’s got to be the pho.

  1. 134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY
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St John

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

As ‘British cuisine’ continues to establish its own identity, it becomes clearer how groundbreaking Fergus Henderson’s Smithfield restaurant really was. It’s far from faddy, and St John’s commitment to well-sourced, simply cooked traditional food has stood the test of time: it’s still one of the most reliably exciting places to eat in London. Forgotten cuts and obscure ingredients grace the twice-daily-changing menu, and while this stripped-down luxe doesn’t come cheap, St John remains a model other restaurants aspire to.

When to go: When entertaining serious food lovers.

What to have: Something you’ve never heard of or wouldn’t normally try. It will be great.

  1. 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
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Terroirs

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Why do we rate this wine bar so highly? Because it’s a place we’re happy to return to time after time, and also somewhere we feel utterly confident in recommending to food lovers in a very central location. When it opened more than two years ago, the small tasting plates of Frenchish, pan-European food seemed almost revolutionary, because they were more than just an afterthought to the extensive wine list –in fact, they eclipsed the standard cooking of most French restaurants in the Big Smoke. The menu is a frequently changing list that takes in charcuterie (pistachio and pork terrine is first-class), tapas-style bar snacks (duck scratchings, Marcona almonds) and plats du jour (pot-roasted quail, bavette steak). Two years on and little has changed, except that Terroirs has expanded a little, it’s still packed, and it’s much-imitated. The new branch, Brawn in Bethnal Green, is good too – but not as good as this original.

When to go: When nibbling near Charing Cross.

What to have: The tasting plates.

  1. 5 William IV Street, WC2N 4DW
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Viajante

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4

Everything about Nuno Mendes’s restaurant is hip – the name (‘traveller’ in Portuguese), the location (in ‘up-and-coming’ Bethnal Green, the Nordic-meets-Tate Modern decor). But pretentious it isn’t, even when you’re presented with an amuse-bouche titled ‘Thai Explosion II’ and the chefs plate up using tweezers. There’s a sense of fun here, in part due to Mendes’s infectious enthusiasm (he often serves some of the dishes to diners himself) and the food is genuinely creative and accomplished. It’s quite unlike anything else in this city. Prices are, of course, among the highest in east London – pay £100 or so per head for dinner (yes, really).

When to go: When you want your tastebuds to do the travelling.

What to have: No choices here, just pick a number – three, six, nine or 12 courses?

  1. Patriot Square, E2 9NF
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The Wolseley

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

It looks like it’s been there forever, and the polished service seems to be from another era too. However, The Wolseley only opened in 2003 and painstakingly recreates the fin-de-siècle brasserie of popular imagination. It’s open for early breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, and while the food won’t get the pulse racing (it’s largely European classics with some decadent touches – oysters, game, caviar – thrown in), the strikingly opulent interior and film-star treatment won’t fail to impress. Oh, and famous people go there, apparently.

When to go: Breakfast at The Wolseley should be on everyone’s London must-do list.

What to have: Cream tea, for the luxe experience at a friendlier price, although nothing’s extortionate.

  1. 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB
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Yalla Yalla

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4

From the original shady Soho side street to a new spot just off Oxford Street, this likeable Lebanese café now has two branches in locations with very different feels. The second branch (Winsley Street) benefits from a space more than three times the size of its Soho sister, so the risk of a stranger’s elbow straying into your baba ghanoush is considerably lower. The variety of little mezze dishes to supplement the hearty mains (smoky grills with fluffy vermicelli rice, say) are fresh and balanced, and well-priced to boot. You can eat very well here for under £20 a head.

When to go: For a quick post-shopping fuel-up.

What to have: Mix and match the mezze (we love the houmous and chicken wings in pomegranate syrup) with charcoal-grilled lamb or chicken.

  1. 12 Winsley Street, W1W 8HQ
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Yashin Sushi

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

London may not be lacking high-end sushi restaurants, but Yashin’s offerings manage to bridge a gap between quality and creativity. Like some sushi bars in Japan, soy sauce and wasabi are not offered at the table for diners to use as they please; instead, the itamae (sushi chef) crafts and seasons each piece differently, to bring out certain qualities of every (shell)fish. Here, a fatty piece of salmon nigiri may be lightly blowtorched to bring out its flavoursome oils, which is then cut through with cubes of tangy, citruous ponzu jelly. Or a sweet milky scallop may benefit from the gentle heat of a jalapeño salsa. The combinations are exciting (tuna and gorgonzola, anyone?), but never reckless. This is the place to truly experience omakase – that is, to leave everything in the chef’s (very capable) hands.

When to go: When you can’t take another day of fridge-cold supermarket sushi.

What to have: Sushi, naturally, but don’t miss its brilliant own-made silken tofu.

  1. 1A Argyll Road, W8 7DB
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Zucca

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Years on, food bores will probably be waxing lyrical about how this modest Bermondsey restaurant started a movement for clean, simple modern Italian food at bargain prices – River Café lite. It wouldn’t be implausible, after all. Zucca is a brilliant newcomer, its food refreshingly simple yet achingly good, the prices decent and the design neat and unfussy. It’s a return to letting ingredients speak for themselves, in a time where fussy food seemed to have reached their zenith.

When to go: Date night. After all, great Italian food and wine, chilled out service and wallet friendly prices – that’s amore.

What to have: Everyone will tell you to have the eponymous zucca (pumpkin) fritters, but we have eyes only for the juicy, rosy grilled veal chop.

  1. 184 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ
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Users say

20 comments
Luther B
Luther B

A lot of Italian restaurant in the list , I am not surprised.


However most of them (e.g. Bocca di Lupo) are not genuine Italian restaurants. The chef is not Italian, the receipes are modified and (sorry to say so) the quality is average for any Italian who had the bad idea to go to those restaurants (like me). 

Overpriced non-genuine Italian food, this describes 80% of the posh or famous Italian restaurants in London.

Anne H
Anne H

Great list! Cinnamon Soho should be in list. Food and services are excellent and their infrastructure is awesome!! Mind blowing Offers for Easter Celebration. Grab it!

Just seen this map of the best and most unusual restaurants in London  - lots on there I hadn't heard of, they all look good though, although some fairly nutty ones on there... insects!?! http://www.discount-london.com/tastesoflondon.htm 

Rose and Cardamon
Rose and Cardamon

Tartufo should certainly be in this list! Their food and service is outstanding, my personal favourite in 2013.

Frank Randall
Frank Randall

Try 500 restaurant in Archway. You'll love it!!

Kadir
Kadir

This list seems a bit unrealistic unfortunately......

Maria
Maria

'LE COQ' the best chicken rotisserie in London I think!!!Combines the delicious taste with healthy food!!!I adore it!!!!

Elaine
Elaine

What about The Clove Club??? It was voted the 5th best restaurant in the UK a few weeks back and it's amazing.

Vicky
Vicky

New World Chinese Restaurant 1 Gerrard Pl, London W1D 5PA, England (Leicester Square /Shaftesbury Avenue. This is an excellent for Chinese after tea Dim Sum. The restaurant is spacious. We were in the restaurant on a quiet afternoon. We were there for a long time but the waiters did not seems to mind. There were good chioce of dim sum dishes. Excellent value for money. 1 Gerrard Pl, London W1D 5PA, England (Leicester Square /Shaftesbury Avenue

wado
wado

Dinner by Heston in knightsbridge should be top of this list - it's the only UK restaurant still in world's top 10 and it's cheaper than some of the places listed here.

bob sedgwick
bob sedgwick

Have you tried Punjab 58 on Stoke Newington Church street?I think its church streets ahead of Rasa!

Concha
Concha

Surprised about not mexican food. So if you are looking for it i will highly recommend Mestizo restaurant , it is really authentic mexican food. I love Viajante! One of my fabs!

Rory
Rory

Surprise Marcus Wareing doens't make an appearance. Trinity in Clapham is also excellent and deserves a mention. The Hawksmoor is quite overpriced when compared to excellent places such as Buen Ayre. Polpo is really average IMO!

Ellie
Ellie

No Sushi Tetsu, no Dabbous? This list seems very out of date. Hummus Bros!? Wowsers. Also Manchurian Legend is horrendous.

Ellie
Ellie

No Sushi Tetsu, no Dabbous? This list seems very out of date. Hummus Bros!? Wowsers. Also Manchurian Legend is horrendous.

BETI
BETI

I LOVED ZUMA AND HAKKASAN

Jo
Jo

For me, Zuma in Knightsbridge would have to be in this list, beautiful Japanese food, delightful (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) cocktails, lovely service.

Nick
Nick

If our last visit was anything to go by, Malt House is very average. Medlar on Kings Road is miles, miles better. Otherwise, a decent list, with lots still to tick off!

Sara
Sara

Woah, woah, woah.. no Pizarro or Bottega Prelibato?