Setting the criteria for our list of the 100 best restaurants in London was the easy bit. Anywhere we felt compelled to revisit again and again was instantly in. The city’s latest culinary trends had to be acknowledged, of course, but only those at the top of their game could be considered for inclusion. We fretted, we sweated, we chewed on toothpicks while dramatically shortening shortlists with a big red marker. Until, at last, we had London’s best restaurants, all divided up neatly according to price.
So in the list below – surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London – you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving cheap eats where you’ll have to eat with your fingers. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place.
Reviews by Tania Ballantine, Guy Dimond, Richard Ehrlich, Phil Harriss, Celia Plender, Stephen Farmer
Produced by Laura Richards
When to go: When you feel like five-star Italian quality at one-star prices.
What to have: The daily specials of silky pasta, saving room for own-made gelato and wicked sweet stuff from the oven.
The non-existent décor and amateurishly presented menus of this tiny, no-frills Kentish Town restaurant might explain how they can do what they do: serve some of the best Italian food in the capital at laughably low prices. The owners have worked at big London hitters such as The Ledbury, Sketch and Le Gavroche – and it shows. From the daily specials to the exceptional ice creams, sorbets and baked desserts, there’s fantastic quality throughout. Anima e Cuore translates as heart and soul, and it’s clear the owners have thrown theirs lovingly into this wonderful little restaurant. And did we mention that it’s BYOB? Just one more reason why we love it.Read more
When to go: When you need some relief from the chaos of Borough Market, and a cool drink with some lovely mezze is an appealing prospect.
What to have: The breads, which are baked to order, and the many vegetarian small dishes and sharing plates.
Outside of the Edgware Road, London’s Levantine restaurants tend to be basic cafés or marble palaces built to attract Gulf money, but Arabica is neither: it’s a fashionably modern place in a railway arch, attracting people who are interested in trying new flavour combinations. The Borough Market location is, of course, perfect for food lovers. Nearby you can shop for victuals, then come here to drop your bags and get pampered by the attentive staff. Arabica started out as a market stall selling imported Middle Eastern provisions; now this lovely newish restaurant (opened in summer 2014) showcases the same ingredients on their menu, while you can still buy pretty jars, dried spices and other edibles from the front counter.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you want to surprise someone with south-of-the-river sophistication.
What to have: The homemade pasta is a knockout – but leave room for the day’s cake (olive oil and nectarine, perhaps).
This classy venture in Peckham thumbs its nose at run-of-the-mill local Italians. With its smart looks, daily menu of simple yet accomplished dishes and carefully chosen cellar, it could give the best central London Med joints a run for their money. The minimal interior, complete with communal table and open kitchen in the back room, lets the food do the talking. The short menu – full of punchy propositions such as asparagus with gorgonzola and horseradish, plus own-made pasta and wickedly good ice cream – is an ambitious labour of love that further ups the ante on Peckham’s poshest street.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re in the mood for vodka, merriment and the authentic taste of central Europe.
What to have: Soul-satisfying kaszanka (black sausage); blini with an assortment of toppings; or the choucroute of golonka (ham hock), karkowka (pork neck) and biala (unsmoked sausage) with braised sauerkraut.
Baltic was one of restaurateur Jan Woroniecki’s original London ventures, along with the now-departed Wódka and Chez Kristof. Though more than a decade old, Baltic retains its glamour and is incredibly popular. This is a big place, loud and with closely spaced tables, so it’s better for revelry than a quiet date. But for Polish and central European classics, sometimes with the modern touch that Woroniecki brings to these underrated cuisines, it has few peers in London. Starters of blini or herring give way to earthy braises or more refined fish dishes. And the drink of choice is, obviously, vodka, from an extensive list.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re looking for grub that will light your fire without burning a hole in your pocket.
What to have: If you’re feeling adventurous, cold pig’s ear, tongue and tripe; otherwise, a lustrous gong bao tofu and long beans with marinated minced pork.
Baiwei means ‘100 flavours’ in Chinese, and it’s an apt name for this cosy place serving authentic, home-style Sichuan, Hunan and northern Chinese dishes. Along with Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn, it’s one of the Gang of Four masterminded by menu consultant Fuchsia Dunlop, Britain’s leading authority on Sichuan cooking. The key to these cuisines is flavour, in very robust doses: Dishes from the Southwest of China use dried chillies, Sichuan pepper and fragrant garlic in near-industrial quantities – stay away if you like it mild, or can’t abide chilli-fire. At Baiwei, ‘100 flavours’ translates as ‘100 ways to dazzle your taste buds’. Extra bonus: uncommonly friendly service.Read more
When to go: When you’re in the mood for fiery food you can eat with your fingers.
What to have: The fried chicken or confit pork bao, though the small plates (pig’s blood cake, trotter nuggets) are brilliant too.
Forget Narnia. This is a wardrobe you really want to enter, but then stay in. Okay, Bao isn’t actually a wardrobe; but the interior of the dinky Soho eatery feels so much like being inside a giant wood-veneered Ikea creation, you can almost hear the couples debating whether they really need 350 tea lights. But looks aside, Bao is a truly exceptional place. It serves award-winning Taiwanese street food with plenty of kick (having started life as a tiny Netil Market stall before grabbing the attention – and financial backing – of Trishna’s deep-pocketed chef-patron Karam Sethi). It’s the kind of stuff that’s great if you’re a little bit drunk. Just not paralytic – it’s too good to be wasted on the wasted.Read more
When to go: When there are four of you (so you can sit in a booth) – but expect to queue.
What to have: A bit of everything – portions are small and prices fair, so knock yourself out.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Barnyard is another me-too joint trying to hitch a ride on the homespun comfort food bandwagon: this Fitzrovia restaurant was created by chef Ollie Dabbous and chums. This no-bookings younger sibling of Michelin-starred Dabbous, which is just down the road, may have swapped industrial luxe for farm chic (oil-barrel seats, distressed wood, a huge tree) and haute cuisine for homestead cooking, but sky-high standards and culinary blazed trails is something they’re keeping in the family. Dishes are of the ‘pimped’ variety: roast beef on toast with horseradish buttermilk, smoked paprika chicken wings, acorn flour waffles.Read more
When to go: On a carefree sunny weekend for brunch, Sunday roast or alfresco cocktails.
What to have: Wood-grilled meat and fish are the kitchen’s calling card.
Located under the railway arches of Hoxton Overground, this enticing three-in-one offering (bar, restaurant and café) owes its hip looks to New York’s coolest districts, with bare brickwork, industrial lighting and grown-up colours adding an edge to the proceedings. Chef James Ferguson deals in gutsy platefuls of seasonal ingredients, but his light touch lifts the likes of rabbit rillettes with pickled cucumber or juicy Suffolk lamb with grilled aubergines, chickpeas and labneh to another realm. Cocktails on the terrace – which is heated and covered when necessary – are a must.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re with your very best mates and you want to eat, drink and get the party started.
What to have: The cauliflower shawarma (order an extra plate – do it!) and the hummus. For something more meaty, it has to be the joojeh chicken thighs.
First things first: Berber & Q is not the place if you want a quiet chitchat, or if you’re one of those chronic hand-washers who can’t touch anything sticky. This stripped-back, under-the-arches Haggerston spot (near neighbour to Tonkotsu East) is loud and dark; food comes heaped on sharing trays, and eating with fingers is encouraged. Flavours are Middle Eastern and smoky, but unlike most grill joints, it’s the vegetarian dishes that really shine. The deliciously charred cauliflower shawarma, with its balance of sweetness and smoke, softness and crunch, is mind-blowingly good, but don’t overlook the tahini-slathered, pine nut-strewn hummus either. Team it with a cocktail – we love the Haggerstoned, a citrusy muddle of tequila, green Chartreuse, pistachio syrup and orange bitters.Read more
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.
Claphamites are lucky indeed to have such a good neighbourhood restaurant. Self-styled as a British bistro, it’s a place where 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 Trinity, the even smarter Modern European restaurant – riffs on a range of hearty Anglo, American and French influences, but gives them a British sheen. The likes of toad-in-the-hole and fish pie sit comfortably alongside chicken liver parfait and mac ’n’ cheese – and all are prepared with impressive precision. For the best spectator seats, head to the tall stools by the bar.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re in the mood for well-constructed small plates in an unpretentiously convivial atmosphere.
What to have: Order a handful of dishes from the regularly changing menu – you’re bound to find plenty to satisfy.
It’s not big, it’s not showy, but it is clever. This spot in Soho is the kind of place you’ll want to come back to time and again. There’s only a handful of dishes on the seasonally changing menu – octopus with cucumber, preserved lemon, chilli and yoghurt, perhaps, or lamb with caponata, runner beans and anchovy – but you’ll still have trouble choosing. Be prepared to get friendly with your neighbours as the tables are tightly packed and it’s no-bookings for dinner, but that’s all part of the charm. The team now have another great restaurant, 8 Hoxton Square, in Shoreditch.Read more
When to go: Very early – the queue builds from 6pm nightly.
What to have: Get that holiday feeling with sardines a la plancha and a glass of albariño.
A stool around the marble bar of this animated tapas joint is still one of Soho’s hottest seats due to the authentic menu, feel-good vibe and sheer spectacle – dishes are cooked before your eyes. Pick from assured versions of the tapas top ten – including tortilla, croquetas and pimientos de padrón – plus daily specials dominated by bracingly fresh market catches, then watch as a tight brigade of unflappable chefs delivers the goods. Despite the crowds waiting on your seat, rushing you through a meal is anathema here. Just as well, because it’s all too easy to keep ordering more, and the excellent by-the-glass wine list encourages experimentation. But be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait. There’s are equally brilliant branched on Adelaide Street, near Trafalgar Square, and on Drury Lane.Read more
Venue says: Barshu is offering a set lunch for £15.90 per person (minimum of two people), Monday to Friday, noon-3pm. Ideal for a quick business lunch.
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 dongpo pork.
Since opening in 2006, Barshu has done much to popularise Sichuan cuisine in London. The strong flavours of slow-cooked dongpo pork knuckle in chilli oil are typical of a cuisine that gives 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; we’re talking about chilli peppers by the wok-ful. Barshu remains an exceedingly charming venue, its decor modelled on that of an old Beijing teahouse, complete with elaborate woodcarvings and tasselled lanterns. Its owners also run two other restaurants nearby, Ba Shan, which champions northern dishes, and the cheaper Baozi Inn.Book Online Read more
When to go: For big-hitting Korean food with influences from Mexico.
What to have: The long-smoked brisket in a bao, or smoked pork ribs in a finger-licking pear sauce.
Fusion feels a tad Noughties these days, but this excellent East Asian barbecue is doing things a little differently – and it’s something we’re yet to see much of in London. Taking his cue from David Chang’s New York mega-influential Momofuko group, Roka alumni Jan Lee combines the cuisines of Korea and Mexico. And he does so with the kind of aplomb to make you coo. Meats from the barbecue are particularly good but kimchi quesadillas and crunchy sweet potato fries with a kimchi mayo are belters, too. To eat here is to surf on wave after wave of umami – expect serious flavour throughout.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re overdue a meat-up with friends.
What to have: The ‘boards’ (charcuterie or fish) are must-have starters. But save space for the delicious house-made ice creams: from honeycomb and amaretto to the signature Ferrero Rocher.
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. The menu is typically meaty, featuring great slabs of beef and venison cooked with skill.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you fancy a French experience of ‘Amélie’-esque proportions.
What to have: A golden oldie such as chicken chasseur.
Ask anyone to list 20 things they’d expect to see in a classic French bistro and chances are you’ll find at least 15 of them at this dinky Gallic charmer, including lettered mirrors, tobacco-coloured walls and a tubby Michelin figurine behind the bar. The restaurant has been full from day one because of its sensible prices, artful grub, elbow-to-elbow bonhomie and peerlessly efficient staff. The chalkboard menu majors in boldly flavoured French hits such as fish soup, steak tartare and boeuf bourguignon, plus plenty of wines by the carafe – including special selections from Les Cave d’Alex.Read more
Venue says: Great for pre- and post-theatre dining in the heart of Soho.
When to go: When you’re after a Latin dance 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 the Strictly winner of the raw-fish world.
There was a flurry of Peruvian openings in London in 2012, but Ceviche – which has since spawned an Old Street offshoot – was the Machu Picchu towering over several peaks. Showcasing the eponymous dish of citrus-cured fish spiked with chilli, the place serves half a dozen versions of ceviche. 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 on offer. Be sure to sample a pisco sour or two at the bar while you’re there.Read more
When to go: If you’re hungry at dinnertime. Also the bar menu has few peers in SW-anything for a light lunch.
What to have: Whatever they’ve put on the menu on the day you happen to visit. Save room for dessert.
This might look like just another Clapham wine bar, but the dishes at The Dairy are the sort you’d expect from a very big cheese. Chef Robin Gill and his wife Sarah worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, among other high-end restaurants, and the pedigree shows in dishes that may look rustic but display exceptional finesse. The monthly-changing menu is divided into snacks, garden, land, sea and sweets. They do in-house curing (for things like applewood-smoked butter) and grow their own (including honey, up on the roof). Attention to detail verges on the fanatical, yet the effect is of simplicity rather than showiness. Claphamites – and everyone else – should hurry over and lap up the cream.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you don’t want the food to distract you from the gossip.
What to have: The smoked haddock soufflé is good enough to eat twice.
A permanently buzzing hidey-hole for London’s social animals, this grand dame of the Soho scene puts its serious face on during the day. That’s when media types hold meetings and those old enough to know better soothe their hangovers with brunch. And then it plays hard with the best of the rest come clocking-off time. The long bar and polished loucheness of the Georgian-era dining room are great for cocktails and people-watching, while the menu of comfort food – think rib-eye with chips and béarnaise, or Dover sole – is familiar and failsafe. The main draw, however, is being in the thick of it all.Book Online Read more
Venue says: Looking for a late-night dinner spot or a quick and delicious post-theatre meal? Our kitchen is open until midnight Thursday-Saturday!
When to go: It’s off the beaten track in Soho, so you can afford to be a little spontaneous; but ring first anyway, and avoid peak times.
What to have: The meats and fish are all beautifully grilled, but make sure you try some of the less-expected vegetable dishes, such as the stuffed courgette flowers drizzled in honey.
The Salt Yard Group have produced some stunning but little-known restaurants such as Dehesa and Opera Tavern, going from strength to strength as they add new branches. Taking the Italian-Iberian small-plates ethos of Salt Yard, but with the cooking done over smoky coals, Ember Yard goes one better. The ground floor is a wine bar and restaurant with lots of warm woods; if you’re in the basement, try for the bar counter. Every tapas flavour combination is a winner; tender octopus coated in a peperonata sauce, say, or Ibérico pork ribs grilled to melting softness.Read more
Venue says: Come and enjoy our new bar snack menu with deep fried mac 'n' cheese, hot wings, brisket slider and homemade pickles for just £14.
When to go: When you want to show someone you really love them.
What to have: The charcuterie is a must, the set-price meal a steal.
Bar Boulud’s a branch of the original in New York, and it is a seamless dining experience, with faultless service and exquisite French food in a smart Knightsbridge hotel – and all at prices that seem like a bargain for this standard of restaurant in this kind of mega-rich neighbourhood. 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 in colourful language (‘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 bottles if you want to keep the bill below three figures for two.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re in the mood for a bit of glamour.
What to have: Any of the classics-with-a-twist starters: aged beef tartare with salsa verde, chopped duck egg and croutons, perhaps, or prawn cocktail with lobster jelly, avocado and crispy shallot.
Jason Atherton’s third opening of 2013 took 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.Read more
When to go: When you’re eager to please the one you love.
What to have: Everything’s going to be good, but the fruit-based desserts will leave your loved one weak at the knees.
Nowadays, seasonality and sourcing are a part of mainstream gastronomic language. In 1984, when Clarke’s opened its doors a short walk from Notting Hill Gate, few London restaurateurs understood the concept – except Sally Clarke, a pioneer of simple cooking aimed at highlighting excellent ingredients. A dish of pan-roasted Cornish fish fillet with slow-cooked English peas, samphire, grelot onions, lettuce hearts and Jersey Royals is typical of the cooking style, and vegetables are an integral part of the presentation throughout. The upstairs room, enlarged by moving Clarke’s renowned deli across the road, is the preferred option of most regulars for its quietly serene elegance. And the café next door is a pleasant place to have a drink and a light snack.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’ve got a big, hairy man in tow.
What to have: Something off the ‘cuts’ board, which changes daily.
It’s no coincidence that the three branches of Goodman (Mayfair, the City and Canary Wharf) are where London’s big-money men congregate. When you think you’re the king of the jungle, and you’re on the hunt – not just for meat, but for the finest meat that money can buy – Goodman will serve you well. At this W1 branch you may find a lesser-spotted hedge fund manager or a skulking private banker, but the treatment of the meat is the same at each location: it’s dry-aged on site, in a temperature-controlled, dehumidified environment, then cooked over charcoal. The quality of sides may vary, but you should save your money for the meat.Book Online Read more
When to go: Lunchtime for a light but lively bedazzlement, dinner for a full wallah-wallow in Raj reveries.
What to have: Kick off with one of the selection of posh tikkas – the tandoori broccoli, perhaps, or the pricey but delicious stone bass tikka.
Gymkhana models its look on Indian Colonial clubs in the days of the Raj. But if the look and feel are retro, chef Karam Sethi’s cooking is anything but. Based on regional cuisines from across the subcontinent, the cooking is modern in approach, and the spice can be serious without overwhelming the layers of big and subtle flavours that bring this menu to life. There is even a nice touch of theatricality: Indian punches come in sealed medicine bottles, with an ice-filled silvery goblet on the side.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you don’t mind waving flag for the concept of ‘great British food’.
What to have: You’ve got to be game for game, whether it’s wood pigeon faggots with Jerusalem artichokes and grapes, or loin of Muntjac deer with crisp pressed potato, baked celeriac and hazelnut.
This is the sort of place that makes one proud to be British. While it’s 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 led the kitchen from its inception, has moved on to pastures new; but we’re confident that the current high standards will be upheld.Book Online Read more
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 cheetahs.
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 you’re inside you see it’s a real beauty of a basement bar and dining room, 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, of course, but dining here is an experience that every omnivore should have at least once.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you want to be treated like royalty.
What to have: For nostalgia, the shepherd’s pie, which comes sitting on a puddle of veal jus and is about as comforting as a just-washed slanket. Order sides too: the parmesan-crusted courgettes are sensational.
If you’d told us a year ago that The Ivy would be one of this year’s best new entries, we’d have discreetly left the room and checked your medication. Iconic name though it was, the Ivy had become the restaurant equivalent of a celebrity has-been, destined only for reality shows or the graveyard shift at a Vegas casino. But after an extreme refurb where they flogged everything that wasn’t nailed down (and plenty that was), and a complete remodelling of the dining room, the Ivy has emerged, phoenix-like, as a glorious Art Deco beauty. The new central counter bar is a stunner, flanked by cosy tables and intimate booths, and it no longer matters if you’re not a ‘sleb, because the unstuffy, polished staff will make you feel like one.Read more
When to go: To bolster your credentials as a sophisticate with a post-theatre supper.
What to have: Fish pie or a plateau de fruits de mer. But really, anything that has (or had) a shel or some scalesl.
The Sheekey brand is so well-established, and so well-known among tourists, that you’d be forgiven for assuming it couldn’t possibly be maintaining high standards. Wrong. They buy the cream of the marine crop and serve it in (mostly) simple styles that do it justice. The menu in this lovely, capacious bar, fronted by a line of red canopies along St Martin’s Court, differs relatively little from that of the main restaurant. It offers convenience (this is the heart of Theatreland), and comfort. You can eat quickly to make your curtain, or dawdle if you wish. A classic.Book Online Read more
When to go: Whenever you can get a table (book ahead or go off-peak if it’s a special occasion, otherwise just try walking in for counter seats).
What to have: All the small plates, from ‘posh things on toast’ (taleggio with London honey, wholegrain mustard and truffle shavings; whipped cod’s roe on dainty soldiers) to grilled things, like the lamb cutlets, with their pink middles, deliciously charred outers and coating of mint, parsley and anchovy.
As with the eighteenth-century courtesan it's named after, you pay Kitty Fisher’s a visit if you want to leave with a smile but don’t mind paying for the pleasure. One signature dish, beef from ten-to-12-year-old Galician milking cows (chargrilled and served with cheese-stuffed potatoes and blackened onion), costs £80 for two. Happily, other dishes are equally good and easier on the wallet. The basement dining room is intimate and atmospheric; the street-level wine bar best on a sunny day (as are the two alfresco tables overlooking so-picturesque-it-should-be-in-a-Richard_Curtis-movie Shepherd Market). Putting your meal together from small plates is the best way to leave without having spent a fortune.Read more
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.
Much of the menu at this chic bar and grill is cooked 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, which originated in Lucknow at the height of the Mughal Empire, this is the place to go.Book Online Read more
When to go: When David Beckham asks you out for dinner. It’s the easiest way to get a table.
What to have: The kitchen can do fiddly and pretty, exemplified by stunning appetisers such as the tiny, slider-like ‘doughnuts’ filled with crab meat. We love love love the steak tartare so much that it’s one of our Top 100 dishes.
If you think you’re just going to pick up the phone and book for dinner tomorrow, dream on. Chiltern Firehouse was the restaurant sensation of 2014, featuring in tabloids weekly as yet another huddle of celebrities were papped leaving the premises. Yet despite the unsavoury media frenzy, Chiltern Firehouse is actually an excellent restaurant. The warm service and unusual modern international combinations from chef Nuno Mendes make it even more memorable than the clientele. Sit by the kitchen counter if you can, where you can watch the dishes being assembled: it’s like watching the Bolshoi Ballet limbering up.Read more
When to go: When you want upscale Indian food with all the fine-dining fripperies – and world-class cooking.
What to have: Lal maas – slow-cooked lamb with garlicky onions, red chillies and charcoal-smoked cloves.
The Panjabi sisters who own this pioneering restaurant certainly have plenty of form for this kind of thing – they also run Veeraswamy, Amaya, the Masala Zone group and Masala Grill. But they made their name with Chutney Mary some 25 years ago, when they first put refined Indian dining firmly on the map. Mary recently moved to a plush set-up in St James’s, with the huge, lavishly decorated dining room proving a fancy foil for some seriously good regional Indian cooking. Sure, it’s expensive. But this is about as good as Indian food gets in the UK.Read more
When to go: When your Instagram and Twitter accounts need some attention.
What to have: It’s Hobson’s choice – although vegetarians get their own menu.
A self-consciously hip affair, with a no-choice tasting menu of on-trend ingredients in out-there combinations, The Clove Club unashamedly puts food at the centre of its experience. The stark, Shaker-style dining room with its attractively utilitarian furniture and most open of kitchens feels part pop-up, part school dinner hall. But the food is a major departure from both. Seasonal, esoteric ingredients fill the ever-changing menu, although some signatures are a constant, such as chef Isaac McHale’s buttermilk-fried chicken with pine salt – a throwback from his days at east London residency Upstairs at The Ten Bells. The cosy bar is worth a try, too, with excellent bar snacks that make a lighter (and cheaper) alternative to a full meal.Read more
When to go: Whenever they can squeeze you in.
What to have: The menu changes constantly, but Dabbous is particularly skilled with fruit, veg and foliage: if it’s got leaves, herbs or flowers in it, order it.
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 and tables became some of the most sought after in London. Dish names may be simple, but the execution of this inventive food is of the highest standard. The four-course set lunch (£35) is terrific value, but for a show-stopping special occasion dinner, it’s worth saving up for the £68 tasting menu. (There’s also a middle ground: the four-course set dinner, at £56.) Whichever way you pay and play, you won’t be disappointed.Book Online Read more
When to go: With some fashionable friends in tow – these plates were meant for grazing.
What to have: Tickle your taste buds with the delightful ‘tar tar’ chips – like mini tacos, filled with crabmeat or scallop, salmon and tuna tartare.
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 re-christened 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 chargrilled 40-day-dry-aged steak with garlic lemon soy and yuzu kosho looks as divine as it tastes. It’s no surprise, then, that a meal here doesn’t come cheap.Read more
When to go: When you’re planning to splash the cash on a love interest – these heights are romantic.
What to have: The deboned and deep-fried lamb ribs are tender and packed with flavour.
Halfway up The Shard, this glitzy Hong Kong import offers high-end Chinese food with some of the best views of 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 soft-shell 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.Book Online Read more
When to go: When nothing less than the best of the best will do.
What to have: The tasting menu if you’ve won the lottery, the set lunch if you haven’t. Oh, btw: flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber has been on the menu since the dawn of time - must be a reason for that.
Though recognised internationally as serving some of the best food (and wine) in the world, The Ledbury retains the feeling of being a neighbourhood restaurant. Yes, it is luxuriously kitted out and very expensive. But it still has the laid-back atmosphere of the bistro round the corner where they greet you by name. A key word for people who might only eat here once is consistency. We have yet to hear anyone say, ‘I must have been there on an off-night.’ The cooking of Australian-born Brett Graham aims at turning unsurpassable raw ingredients into dishes that taste unforgettably good; and flawless execution by a well-drilled brigade ensures that it happens, apparently, every single time. Plan several months in advance to bag a table in a prime dining slot, even for lunch. The wine list is world-class and not scarily expensive considering the greatness of the restaurant. Our number one dining spot.Book Online Read more
When to go: When you’re feeling flush: the ten-course menu costs £95, without wine or service.
What to have: What’s put in front of you, as it’s a set, no-choice menu. If you’re on a budget, visit at lunchtime Tuesday-Thursday for the £39 set meal deal.
London’s Victorian lavs get put to many unusual new uses, but a modernist restaurant in Bermondsey must be one of the more bizarre. For such a young chef, Tom Sellers has plenty of ambition and a clear idea of what he wants. The style mimics the set-price, multi-course, deconstructed and playful approach that has swept across Europe, spanning San Sebastian to Copenhagen – and he does it with aplomb: think dill-scented cucumber ash, desserts served in tiny milk bottles, ingredients such as hay or foraged greens. The interior owes much to the time Sellers spent working in Scandinavia, with its clean lines and understated colours.Book Online Read more
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.
Zuma’s little sister has no trouble standing up for itself. The glass-fronted façade gives passersby a peek of the chefs at work preparing robata-grilled goodies. Their lamb cutlets with Korean spices rank among the best grilled dishes in London. 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 in the basement.Read more
How many have you eaten at?
We can all be a bit competitive when it comes to dining out in London. That’s why we’ve assembled a checklist for you to work out just how many of London’s best restaurants you’ve been to. Take the test and share your score to see if you’re the king or queen of London’s dining scene.Read more
Vote for your favourite
We browsed our way around restaurants galore to find you the best tables in town. But what did you think of our top 100? Perhaps you think one of our lower entries is the capital’s finest eatery? Well here’s your chance to vote for your favourite restaurant in London.Read more