From cutting edge cuisine to firm culinary favourites, British food has made a dramatic comeback in the past decade. Whether you're looking for a simple pub lunch or a new twist on an old classic, there's an abundance of great British restaurants in London. We've rounded up a few of our favourites below. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
This is another long-term pop-up, in Fitzrovia, from Scottish game specialists the Wild Game Co. The restaurant has hard benches, shared tables, a chill counter and a blackboard menu like a hymn board. It’s about as sparse as a John Knox sermon. True to the name, they serve venison from their own estate in Sutherland, at the far north of the Scottish mainland. The menu is a short one: simple platters of venison steak with chips (£12.50), venison burgers (from £6), a squash-based salad (with optional venison steak or venison carpaccio) and even stovies (£3.50). Scottish children are raised on stovies as they’re cheap, and sold from chip vans and caffs across the land. Here, this stew of mashed-up new potatoes is cooked up with onion, seasoned with pepper, and – in this case – mixed with venison mince to add flavour. Venison steak, the fanciest and priciest dish, was very well executed. Tender in the centre, not too gamey-tasting, nicely carved and served with crisp beef-dripping chips and hollandaise sauce on a wooden board as sturdy as a drawbridge. Despite the presence of the token salads, vegetarians are definitely better off elsewhere. The Wild Game Co may be more chip van than ‘Wicker Man’, but authentically Scots nonetheless.Read more
Venue says: Enjoy our spring 'staycation' menu - just £19 for two courses or £23 for three courses. Available Mon-Sat until Saturday 18th April.
Typical of the ETM chain, the Gun is an attractively spruced-up pub, with attentive staff and stiff prices. The focus is on making both diners and drinkers feel at home. The restaurant menu is available throughout – not just in the smartly dressed dining space – and there’s a standalone bar menu too. The handsome bar counter is lined with real ales (Adnams bitter is a regular, and there’s always a guest ale), but also offers cocktails and a global wine list. Cooking is assured, if not quite good enough to justify the prices: slow-cooked Middle White pork belly with battered skate knobs, carrot purée, sprout tops and ginger and port jus cost £19 for a small portion – making sides such as chips or dauphinoise potatoes a neccessity. Also, £9 seemed a lot for a (not very) devilled chicken liver starter. Better value is to be found on the bar menu, where £7.50 buys a substantial ‘fish finger sandwich’ (more like goujons in toast) served with plenty of tartare sauce, and a decent steak sandwich with caramelised onions and horseradish cream is £9.50. Lightly themed (prints and a few antique pistols), with wooden floors, white walls and an open fire, the Gun is a fine spot in any weather, but its USP is the terrace. Refurbished in spring 2013 with fold-back glass panels, this is right on the river, looking out over the O2. Neophytes, beware – the pub can be tricky to find first time around. For more ETM pubs, go to their website.Read more
Venue says: Come enjoy a two-course set menu for £11.95 at Boisdale of Canary Wharf.
This highly enjoyable member of the Boisdale triumvirate is almost laughably incongruous. On the second floor is an appropriately smart bar-diner that offers a brasserie menu and mollifying puffs in the Cigar Library or on the terrace, but the third-floor main restaurant has a cod-Scottish gentlemen’s-club theme entirely at odds with the office-casual modernist architecture around it. No cliché is knowingly ducked – mounted stag’s head and angling trophy, tartan carpet, table-top thistles – yet they’re delivered with a cheerful wink (a slightly lascivious wink when it comes to the waitresses’ tartan miniskirts). From the £19.75 ‘Jacobite’ menu, we were content with potted mackerel, despite it arriving cold rather than warm, and relished haggis with a quenelle each of orange neep and white mash: no fussy presentation, just gut-stuffing good flavours. A la carte prices trespass on expense-account territory, but crab tian (with another quenelle: avocado, this time) and king prawn caesar salad were up to the mark, big in size and taste. After 9pm there’s a stiff cover charge to watch jazz or blues from a stage at the far end of a pewter bar counter (where there’s a daunting number of fine whiskies).Read more
Venue says: Set lunch offer: bread and wine plus two small plates, £19; or bread and wine plus one small plate, £14
Inside the long-established Myhotel off Tottenham Court Road, Gail's Kitchen is a little different to the upmarket bakery chain's usual offering, as across the hotel lobby is a first foray into the restaurant business. Housed in what used to be the hotel’s bar, the interior at Gail’s Kitchen is bright and breezy. Ginger banquettes line one wall, salvaged wood tables and white wire-frame chairs punctuate the room. In pride of place by the counter bar is a display of rustic loaves and seeded cracker breads. A little plateful of these appears on your table,sliced up and served with oil and butter, it’s tempting to fill up on these before your dishes even arrive. As you’d expect, bread plays a central role on the menu of small plates, which features dishes such as mackerel rillettes with toasted rye, or steak sandwiches with comté cheese. Our smoked prawns, served with a charred slice of caramelised garlic-pocked bread, came in the shell in an appealing pile, ready to be dunked into a pot of aioli. Fresh from the pizza oven proudly on display in the open kitchen, the ‘white’ pizza took the form of an oblong of pillowy baked dough drizzled with plenty of quality olive oil and topped with rich burrata cheese, violet artichoke wedges, parma ham – and bread croutons for some added bite. The light gruyère scones that accompanied a creamy bowl of seafood chowder were another demonstration of Gail’s impressive baking abilities. But the chefs are not just here to showcase the bake-ofRead more
Restaurateur Jason Atherton has had a great year. Berners Tavern is the third restaurant he’s opened in the West End this year; the other two, Little Social and Social Eating House, were very well received for their playful and appealing dishes. This new venture is more of the same, but in a much grander setting. It’s housed in the new Edition hotel in Fitzrovia, which looks like the older, more sophisticated sister of the Sanderson hotel just down the road. Both places were given makeovers by hotelier Ian Schrager, but Edition is an exercise in slick metropolitan taste, with opulent chandeliers, framed art-by-the-yard covering entire walls, and improbably elegant staff. The huge lobby bar looks fabulous; but the vast dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling, very low lighting and lively bar area, looks even better. The menu’s prices are alarmingly high – but most of the dishes we tried were very good. Head chef Phil Carmichael turns out tender pork belly with a sauce of sharp capers, golden raisins and apple coleslaw to cut through the fat. The flavours of this and a pan-braised halibut (perfectly cooked) with a little saucepan of savoury squid ink risotto were sublime. A starter of ‘egg, ham and peas’ updates a signature Atherton recipe; a breadcrumbed duck egg is held upright by a purée of fresh peas, the crisp Cumbrian ham almost a garnish. The only culinary disappointment was a chocolate éclair dessert, as the pastry – which should be very slightly stale – wasRead more
It’s not easy to open a spate of brand-new restaurants and maintain high standards, but chef-patron Jason Atherton has clearly moved on from being the sorcerer’s apprentice (under Gordon Ramsay) to being the sorcerer himself. His Little Social deluxe bistro only opened in March 2013, right opposite his fine dining Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. He followed this up, weeks later, with an even more ambitious restaurant in Soho, by delegating the chef role to his buddy and long-time head chef at Pollen Street Social, Paul Hood. The ground-floor dining room has a mirrored ceiling to create the sensation of space in a low room; upstairs is a smart cocktail bar, called the Blind Pig, which also has a separate entrance. Most of the action is in the dining room, though, with a kitchen brigade who are clearly at the top of their game. Smoked duck ‘ham’, egg and chips is a dish that’s typical of Pollen Street Social’s playfulness. ‘Ham’ is cured and smoked from duck breast on the premises, served with a breadcrumbed duck egg that’s molten in the middle, but with an aroma of truffle oil. Umami – savouriness, the taste that enhances other flavours – was also plentiful in a roast cod main course that uses powdered Japanese kombu seaweed in a glaze, served with a creamy sauce of roasted cockles and just-in-season St George’s mushrooms. Presentation is a strong point of Hood’s dishes, just as they are for his mentor Atherton. A starter of ‘CLT’ – crab meat, a fan of blonde castelfrancoRead more
Cast an eye over the menu and it’s evident that Golden Union can talk the talk – fish delivered daily from sustainable waters, grade-A potatoes, a combo of two frying oils changed at least four times a week, and freshly made beer batter. The point is, it can walk the walk too. Fish is chunky, flaky and perfectly cooked in a light, crispy, complementary casing; chips are crisp, firm and fluffy; pies and fish cakes are own-made and look it – there seems to be no weak point. Decide to eat-in and the top-of-the-range large cod and chips will set you back £12.95. Side dishes are priced at the expensive end of the scale. The decor is retro with a knowing wink: tiled walls, plastic-topped wooden tables and chairs, and plastic tomatoes filled with ketchup. The music is up to date and not too intrusive, combining well with the busy atmosphere – and the vibe is maintained by young staff who seem genuinely proud of what they’re serving. Chances are you’ll be planning your return visit before you’ve even paid the bill.Read more
This Spitalfields steakhouse has wooed much of London since opening in 2006; word-of-blog has only served to create an even bigger buzz around the restaurant and its food. A case of the emperor’s new clothes? We think not. Hawksmoor’s USP is in supplying excellent produce cooked well, focusing on top-quality beef from renowned London butcher Ginger Pig. There’s a serious attitude to beef provenance and an impressive list of breeds; Longhorn is always available, but guest breeds range from Herefords to Lincoln Reds. The savvy staff do a terrific job of explaining the differences. Steaks are seared on Josper charcoal grills to crusty-outside, tender-inside perfection. The menu doesn’t stop at the bovine, with Tamworth pork ribs, crab and samphire salad, and lobsters all making an appearance. The luxe burger, studded with nuggets of bone marrow, might seem to be gilding the lily, but it’s certainly pretty good. For dessert, chocolate fudge sundaes and strawberry trifle are dependable options. Hawksmoor’s looks aren’t a forte (it occupies a mundane, low-ceilinged room behind a drab frontage), but owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott have long had dreams of expansion, and a new Covent Garden branch opened in 2010.Read more
Venue says: Book a private lunch in our Josephine Room and receive a complimentary three course meal for four!
After years of very thin pickings, the Barbican has recently acquired not one but two classy gastropubs. This, and the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms (opened in 2011) are both part of Ed and Tom Martin’s ten-strong empire. The Jugged Hare was once called the King’s Head; it’s been handsomely remodelled, with a lovely oak floor, red leather seating and more than a scattering of stuffed and mounted animals. The bar is an idealised version of an old drinking haunt; pints of real ale (four on draught) are downed at tables fashioned from antique whisky barrels. Bar snacks are a cut-above: chips and gravy; pork crackling with apple sauce; venison scotch egg with Cumberland sauce. There’s a bar menu in the same vein. Vegetarians will have got the message by this point. Meat rules, with just one veggie dish of the day, though there’s plenty of seafood on the dining room menu (prettiest item: poached langoustine worthy of a still life painting). Game is a feature; a perfectly cooked wood pigeon (from the rotisserie) was helped to star status by accompanying lentils with dripping. Also good was a super-size wild boar and venison sausage, which we paired with a sprightly beetroot and fennel slaw. The kitchen can do delicate too – a salad of spring pea, broad bean, radish, dandelion, goat’s curd and walnut made a refreshing starter only marred by bullet-like peas, while lemon junket with blood orange jelly was a dreamy finish. Dishes come from an open kitchen, a space that adds warmthRead more
There’s a vast bar-restaurant in Helsinki called Zetor (‘Tractor’), where Finns go to sit on hay bales, admire each other’s checked shirts, then indulge in wildly drunken barn dancing. It’s also a place to witness the infamous Finnish capacity for booze. Heavy drinking is something that Londoners do well too. Getting in touch with our inner bumpkin, however, is still a niche interest in London, and it’s one that Barnyard is now here to satisfy – particularly those with a more sober desire for rus in urbe than the Finns. Barnyard’s walls are corrugated iron, the tables stripped planks; plates are enamelled, some seats are oil drums. But wait a minute, isn’t this the latest venture from Ollie Dabbous, a chef so cutting edge he could probably chop down a wild elderberry shrub with his bare hands while out foraging. Of the modernist restaurant Dabbous, the one that’s fully booked until the northern hemisphere runs out of chilled pine infusions and fig leaf broth? Ollie Dabbous doesn’t just do hifalutin’ cookin’, that’s clear; he can also do casual, family-friendly, and affordable. Barnyard’s menu at first glance can read like motorway service station caff – cauliflower cheese, sausage roll, chicken in a bun – until you delve a bit deeper. ‘Lard on toast’ and ‘mince and dumpling’ are just that, in small-plates portions – but both dishes were full-flavoured and beautiful in their simplicity. More complex was the crispy chicken wings, rubbed with smoked paprika, garlic and lRead more
The Goring Dining Room
Gaze around the plush dining room at this exquisite, family-owned hotel as bow-tied waiters glide serenely by, and only the branch-like Swarovski chandeliers remind you we left the Edwardian era a long time ago. Carpets and drapes are thick, colours muted, mobile phones most unwelcome. A recent refurbishment by Viscount Linley’s design company gently updated the decor while preserving the refinement and understated luxury of the 103-year-old restaurant. Food is anything but stuffy, with sophisticated interpretations of British classics to the fore. Much is made of the only-the-best ingredient sourcing policy, and the quality is clear. A light hand in the kitchen is evident in the likes of a flavour-packed ham knuckle terrine with a zingy cider apple foam, or a generous slice of poached Wester Ross salmon surrounded by painstakingly sliced slivers of crunchy spring vegetables.Those were both from the pre-theatre menu, which though not exactly cheap at £33 for two courses, is more affordable than the £49.50 for three on the à la carte. Puddings and cheeses are served from a trolley, as is beef wellington, in a wonderfully traditional manner. An indulgent experience: old-world English glamour with a modern touch.