American restaurants in London bring out the best in the sought-after cuisine of the US. Think burgers, barbecue, hot dogs, ribs and other delicious forms of meaty goodness and you're on the right track. But read our list below and you'll discover there's so much more to US cuisine, especially when it's done to a tee in London restaurants. Can't find your favourite in our list? Let us know in the comment box below.
RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in London for...
The best American restaurants in London
In early 2013, Keith McNally’s much-anticipated NYC import Balthazar finally opened, and London got to see what this Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie was actually like. We love signature dishes such as the onion soup and duck shepherd’s pie. Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls and mosaic floors, but to British eyes, the decor can look a little too close to any old chain brasserie.
Venue says: “Free birthday bubbly for parties booking in for drinks at Blues Kitchen Camden on Friday nights. Get in touch for more details.”
This lively, contemporary bar-diner on the main Camden drag celebrates American musical heritage in song (live shows, DJs, free harmonica lessons), spirits and sustenance. The food is all-American in spirit and substance, with barbecue and burgers featuring prominently. Though you can, if you insist, order a 'superfood salad.' There are around 50 bourbons in a variety of categories, some used as bases for cocktails. There's a newer branch also worth a visit in the heart of Shoreditch.
Venue says: “Simply the best burger and lobster in town. See our Facebook page for the latest news and updates.”
Proof that less can be more, the late 2011 launch of Burger & Lobster, with its no-nonsense, three-item menu of burger, lobster, or lobster roll, was a runaway hit. This second branch – a large Soho diner tricked out with lobster-red banquettes – is no less popular, While it’s possible for groups or lunchtimers to book, this joint is geared towards walk-ins, with a clipboard waiting list and a cocktail bar for loitering. Food costs £20, an all-in price that includes a huge carton of thin-cut fries and even a side salad: you won’t go hungry here. For ultimate value, choose the lobster.
Venue says: “We are a social enterprise – a not-for-profit restaurant working to improve things for young people in our area.”
London runs on fried chicken in the way it used to run on oysters. And like oysters, fried chicken has been reappraised for the discerning set. All over London new poultry purveyors have opened claiming their birds’ range to be the free-est, their buttermilk soaking to be the most luxurious, their batter to be the crispiest this side of the Atlantic. Every day, it’s a battle of the birds. Tottenham’s Chicken Town is a chicken shop, but it’s different. For a start, it’s non-profit, which is tantamount to communism in 2015’s London. The chicken is free-range. It’s steamed, then quickly fried to crisp up the coating (and is, by the way, delicious). Sides include the likes of sweet potato wedges and kale – try asking for that in Delaware Fried Chicken.
This Covent Garden fixture reopened in spring 2013 after a major refurbishment of its grand, imposing premises (Grade II-listed and formerly a casino). Two clichés of London’s American restaurant scene, caesar salad and crab cakes, are flawlessly executed. From the set lunch, beef carpaccio is top-notch yet almost overshadowed by a main of blackened salmon with ‘jambalaya risotto’. The flavourful rice shows real understanding of cajun seasoning – rare in London – and the flavourful fish is properly blackened while remaining juicy within. You can pay serious money for steak or Maine lobster, but the Martini Bar serves relatively inexpensive meals. The pre- and post-theatre set menu is a bargain, and brunch offers everything from granola to ribeye steak.
Comfort Kitchen is a street food stall created by Jayne Arthur and Ellie Vidler, who spent six months researching recipes. Ellie had also travelled extensively in the Deep South. They decided to ‘stick to traditional Southern cooking’, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. People often equate Southern cooking with big, hearty flavours, but mildness and moderate seasoning are more characteristic. This is the way Comfort Kitchen does its chicken: in a slightly tangy, lightly spicy buttermilk batter that complements the (organic) chicken fillets rather than swamping them.
Venue says: “Experience a pop-up of Wolfgang Puck's flagship California restaurant Spago between June 28 – July 1 here at CUT at 45 Park Lane.”
When a US celeb chef, such as Wolfgang Puck, arrives on our shores, it’s going to be marked with a hefty dose of hype. His London restaurant is the sibling to a clutch of glamorous steakhouses in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and Singapore. The obligatory high-cheekboned staff have perhaps been chosen for looks over experience. The food is exceptional, though. Steakhouse classics are given the luxury treatment, with high-end ingredients and thoughtful presentation. Light and creamy (as is the American way), a shellfish salad is rendered as a tian of lobster and Dorset crab, while steak (one of only four choices at lunchtime), comes perfectly cooked, with a ruby-red middle and flavour imparted by an expensive broiler. But a simple £15 burger steals the show.
Decatur was initially a temporary residency, bringing a taste of New Orleans to Pammy’s drinkers, but it was such a get-out-your-jazz-hands-success that it’s sticking around. The best of the menu – hardly surprising when you consider it was originally designed as bar food – is anything small or snacky. So instead of saving yourself for comfort food mains, be sure to go large – mammoth, please – on the little plates. Like the baked oysters. If you’re the sort of person that thinks that oysters taste like a) the sea when you think you might be drowning, b) the inside of a can (metallic, minerally), or c) a giant bogey, then try having them baked. Specifically, Decatur-baked. These moist, juicy bivalves come with a cheesy, salty, fiery topping (butter, pecorino, garlic, hot sauce) and are dangerously addictive.
With its unfinished brick and concrete walls, low lighting, french grey-painted plank ceiling, red leather banquettes and lively open kitchen down one side, Electric Diner evokes a sort of chic US railway car diner. The hip vibe extends to the menu, which features artery-unfriendly American classics: cheeseburgers (which arrives in a pretentious presentation on a small plate with a sharp knife sticking out of it like a sinister birthday candle), hot dogs, milkshakes (pleasantly creamy, sensibly sized). But each classic dish is well-thought-out and composed of good ingredients. Desserts are a must-have: a slice of classic lemon meringue pie is as big as Texas, and as bold.
The beauty of Flat Iron is that while it’s no bookings, it’s also no choice. Which means that even if you do have to wait a while to be seated, the moment you sink your bottom on to a chair, you can go straight ahead and order. Sure, there’s the occasional blackboard special, but essentially the deal is this: one steak (a ‘flat iron’, the US term for a full-flavoured but affordable leg cut) for £10. It comes long and thin, like a deboned rabbit, then sliced into fat little mini-slabs, on a slate, with a dinky pot of lamb’s lettuce that’s more garnish than salad. Proper sides (crispy fries, steamed greens) are only £2.50 a pop. Everything is just as it should be – which, when you factor in affordable wine (with plenty by both glass and carafe) and friendly, helpful staff, makes for a pretty good deal.
Find the best burgers in London
The burger bandwagon rolls on and on. But which ones are the trailblazers, leaving the rest for dust? Here are the best ten in town (excluding the bigger chains, and in alphabetical order). Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Tucked in between the Central YMCA and 24-hour diner VQ, Tang is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Singaporean noodle joint specialising in dairy-free broth. You can choose between rice, glass or wheat noodles: a nice touch. Chinese newspapers plaster the walls and chef Chen Ng serves straight to communal wooden tables once diners have ordered at the counter. The rich, spicy broth in a bowl of ‘prawn tang’ came with a generous dollop of caramelised onions and fat king prawns, though another bowl of gingery ‘chicken tang’ sadly lacked depth. Portions are huge but expensive (around £11 a pop), so it’s best to forgo the pimp-my-soup protein extras (pulled pork ribs, six-minute-egg). If you’re really starving, there are generous starters such as crisp battered black bean tofu, which comes piping hot with a tangy, homemade white miso dip; it’s a moreish combo. On my Wednesday lunchtime visit, the place was deserted, but staff were sweet-natured and more accommodating than that YMCA next door.
Venue says: “The heat is coming in quickly! Don't worry, pair one of our local Juices from Kent with a cold noodle salad for under £10!”