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London’s best British restaurants

From hearty pies to complex seasonal cooking, British cuisine has never been so widely lauded – and here’s why

By Time Out London Food & Drink |
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Jessica Jill

NOVEMBER 2019: Our latest picks include Nest (a small but fizzing little spot in Hackney) and the slick Southwark reboot of Native (which used to be in Covent Garden), as well as The Coal Shed by Tower Bridge (sizzling home-reared meats and sustainably sourced seafood) and The Green in Clerkenwell (part boozer, part restaurant). We’re also delighted to see the iconic Quality Chop House and Rochelle Canteen at the ICA on such fine form.

Yeah, greasy spoons are great – but our national cuisine is about way more than fry-ups, roasts and even (whisper it) fish and chips. London is a veritable goldmine of national culinary treasures: from 220-year-old aristo joints and top-hatted doormen to smoked eel sandwich-slinging brasseries and modern British steakhouses, we’ve rounded up 42 eateries that will make you come over all weirdly patriotic.

Restaurants, British

12:51

Angel

The name references a song by The Strokes, there are vinyl sleeves on the walls and the tables are all scuffed up, but it’s quality all the way at this near-flawless solo venture from chef James Cochran (ex-The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms). The food is exciting and complex (but never intimidating), with British combos sitting alongside ideas inspired by Cochran’s Caribbean roots. Sunday lunch consists of one ginormous true-Brit plateful of 60-day dry-aged sirloin and brisket of Dexter beef.

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© Michael Franke
Restaurants, Italian

40 Maltby Street

Bermondsey
4 out of 5 stars

Scurry under the arches on Maltby Street for a fix of natural wine topped off with some sustainably sourced food. Located inside Gergovie Wines’ warehouse, this no-bookings joint specialises in bottles and by-the-glass selections from boutique European producers, while the blackboard menu summons up modern British dishes with sunny Med overtones. Expect a weekly selection of around 12 items with an emphatic seasonal accent – perhaps juicy roast mallard with apple sauce, crispy bacon bits and turnips.  

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Restaurants, British

Battersea Pie Station

Covent Garden

Proper British pie and mash served in one of Covent Garden Market’s subterranean arches might seem an odd fit for this tourist-trap neighbourhood, but Battersea Pie Station pulls it off and keeps it real. Traditional meaty fillings sit alongside veggie innovations, while the owners are also dab hands when it comes to pastry and well-whipped creamy mash. BPS’s stylish caff vibe deserves a gold star (white tiles, flagstone floors, marble tables), as do its knock-down prices.

Restaurants, British

Berners Tavern

Fitzrovia

Surely the grandest and most glamorous of Jason Atherton’s Midas-touch restaurants, Berners Tavern is a real humdinger with its vast baroque-style dining room, portrait-lined walls and show-stopping pork-pie trolley. The kitchen gives seasonal British ingredients an on-trend workout, and the results are often sublime – briny, fresh seafood, grass-fed Scottish steaks, fish and chips, salads and patriotic puds all have their moment. Breakfast and afternoon tea also fly the flag. Just steel yourself for a punishing bill – especially at dinner.

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100 best restaurants in London - Bistro Union
© Michael Franke
Restaurants, British

Bistro Union

Clapham

It’s nostalgia a-go-go at this quintessentially British offshoot of Adam Byatt’s Trinity in Clapham – just look at the enamel pie dishes, jars of homemade preserves and specials scrawled on rolls of brown paper. Not surprisingly, Britannia rules on the menu too – dressed crab muffins, lancashire hotpot, fish pie and apple crumble hold their own alongside fancier dishes with European overtones. You can also drop by any time if you fancy nibbling some snacks at the bar.

Restaurants, Grills

Blacklock Shoreditch

Shoreditch
4 out of 5 stars

The look may be classic hipster Shoreditch, but this trendy take on a British chop house is still a cut above when it comes to deliciously crusted, smoky hunks of flesh. Herb-flecked flatbreads are on hand to soak up the juices, while jazzy cocktails provide a boozy kick. You’d also expect a Brit-inspired meat temple to be clued up when it comes to Sunday roasts, and Blacklock really nails it. There are outlets in Soho and the City.

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© Rob Greig
Restaurants, British

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack

Fitzrovia

A cockle-warming member of the Bonnie Gull group, this dinky Fitzrovia beauty comprises a counter at the front and a locker-sized bolthole with tables out back. Come here for fastidiously fresh seafood from old Blighty: oysters, fishcakes and battered haddock are fixtures, but also expect cheffy ideas depending on the day’s catch – peterhead stone bass with roasted and pickled pumpkin, for example. The vibe is instantly seductive, so close your eyes and imagine you’re by the sea. Also try the Bonnie Gull in Soho.

Restaurants, British

Clove Club

Old Street

Everything about the Clove Club screams ‘look at me’, from the austere dining room in Shoreditch’s old Town Hall to the intentionally avant-garde cooking and the tasting menu – a masterpiece of contemporary aspirations in nine courses. It’s British yet esoteric, accessible yet obscure, and it delivers absolutely ravishing flavours. Hot tip: the corner bar is a destination in its own right, complete with creative cocktails and a bespoke small-plates menu from the same kitchen.

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Restaurants, Contemporary European

The Coal Shed

Tower Bridge

Sizzling home-reared beef and sustainably sourced fish cooked over coals are the headliners at this London offshoot of Brighton’s Coal Shed – a handsome space of smoky mirrors, metal and dark wood, with a jazzy laid-back soundtrack as accompaniment. Although 35-day, dry-aged Scottish steaks with beef-dripping chips and plates of wood-fired seafood from the south coast boats hold centre stage, don’t ignore their memorable smaller cousins (‘market’ oysters or short-rib croquettes, for example). Brilliant service seals the deal.

Venue says Celebrate the festive season with our delicious Christmas menus

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Tom Baker
Restaurants, British

Corrigan's Mayfair

Mayfair

Promising regal hospitality and impeccable cooking in romantically lit surroundings, Richard Corrigan’s Mayfair gaff piles on the luxury – and positively whiffs of old money. As a proud Irishman, the chef loves his fish and game, although he lets rip in every department – don’t miss his toast-of-the-town soda bread or his sigh-inducing fruit crumble soufflés. Wine is also a big deal here – so indulge. And if you’re counting the pennies, Corrigan’s set lunches and Sunday roasts have come-hither prices.

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Restaurants, British

The Dairy

Clapham

Don’t be fooled by the recycled furniture, Robin Gill’s Dairy is no run-of-the-mill neighbourhood joint. It may look rough-hewn, but the food shows a level of finesse that would be the envy of many top-end Japanese restaurants, let alone an easy-going bistro/bar in Clapham. Seasonal British ingredients are the stars, so expect creative small-plate dazzlers along the lines of Cornish mussels with green kimchi and brown shrimps. Modest? Yes! Affordable? Yes! Brilliant? Yes!

Restaurants, Gastropubs

The Green

Clerkenwell

From the folks behind The Culpeper in Aldgate, this attractively airy spot just off Clerkenwell Green deals in the kind of hearty, fad-free seasonal cooking that turns heads and dominates conversations. There are big British hits all the way in the upstairs dining room, including ribeye beef wellington with creamy wild garlic mash – a thumping dish that also challenges the roasts come Sunday lunch. Meanwhile, locally brewed ales and low-intervention/organic wines get tongues wagging in the jolly ground-floor bar.

Venue says First-floor dining room available for private hire!

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Restaurants, British

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

Seven Dials

Like its meaty siblings across London, the Seven Dials branch of the Hawksmoor bandwagon puts mighty slabs of British-reared beef above all else. Set in a buzzy wood- and leather-clad basement with irresistible dressed-down appeal, it offers drool-worthy steaks (and much else besides) to go with gutsy red wines, craft beers and killer cocktails. Hawksmoor Borough, Guildhall and Spitalfields offer something similar, while the branches in Air Street and Knightsbridge are also great for seafood.

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Harwood Arms

West Brompton

Is it a pub? Is it a restaurant? In truth, this upmarket Fulham boozer is a bit of both – although with a serious wine list and a Michelin star to its name, we know where its priorities lie. Prime British produce is the key, with furred and feathered game receiving special attention in season.

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Restaurants, British

Hereford Road

Notting Hill

Quietly confident and refreshingly laid-back – and that’s just the service at this much-loved Notting Hill favourite housed in a one-time butcher’s shop. Ex-St John chef Tom Pemberton’s nose-to-tail training shows in a seasonal menu of butch but stylish British dishes cooked with real flair and panache: on a typical day that might mean anything from skate with fennel to braised hare leg with turnips and pickled walnuts. Prices are all-round neighbourly.

 

Restaurants, Seafood

J Sheekey

Covent Garden

After well over a century of service, J Sheekey’s status as a West End institution is assured. From the top-hatted doorman and the legions of obliging white-aproned staff to the glamorous theatreland vibe and the bounteous menu of top-drawer super-fresh British seafood, everything is as it should be in the wood-panelled dining rooms. Prices are high, but for your money you get an unbeatable sideshow of luvvies, minor celebs and eccentric London types. Tip: don’t miss Sheekey’s legendary fish pie.

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Restaurants, British

Lupins

Southwark

Bang outside Flat Iron Square, pocket-sized Lupin is in the British small-plates business – and boy does it know how to deliver. Cobble Lane charcuterie and sourdough from Little Bread Pedlar supplement an eclectic seasonal menu that’s maxed out for colour, vibrancy and zing – think grilled onglet with swede purée, carrots and miso or rolled pork belly with smoked russet apples and celeriac rémoulade. Amazingly, everything comes from a kitchen that’s no bigger than the cooking area in your average Londoner’s flat.

Restaurants, British

Lyle’s

Shoreditch

Dinner at Lyle’s is a leisurely affair, so kick back, take in the understated interiors and chat to the sweet staff before getting stuck into some palate-dazzling food from one of the most talented cooks in town. Formerly part of the ‘Young Turks Collective’, James Lowe regularly hits his mark when it comes to fine-tuned new-breed British cuisine. Lunch revolves around small plates, while dinner is all about the four-course set menu – either way, there’s no table-turning (hooray!).

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Restaurants, British

Mac and Wild

Fitzrovia

If you’re a fan of ‘Bambi’, look away now. This cosy Fitzrovia joint from street-food alumnus Andy Waugh has a big Scottish heart and an almost evangelical fondness for venison – although the kitchen is filled with all manner of different ingredients from the Highlands (don’t miss the haggis pops, the ‘venimoo’ burger or the outrageously tender chateaubriand). There are more than 100 wee drams on display in the stylish dining room, alongside animal skins and hunting storyboards.

Venue says Fight the Monday blues with Meaty Mondays at Mac & Wild. Enjoy 50 percent off our finest butcher’s cuts, every Monday, lunch and dinner

Restaurants, British

Marcus

Knightsbridge

Marcus Wareing’s grandiose blue-blooded dining room within the Berkeley Hotel is a richly panelled, claret-toned Belgravia cocoon where the food is fashioned with surgical precision and sommeliers wheel around trollies of vintage champagne on ice. The kitchen does clever-clever things with British ingredients including Herdwick lamb, Galloway beef and Cornish cod, although you’ll pay top dollar for the privilege: if you think £50 for three courses (without wine) is a good deal, go at lunchtime.

Venue says We're now open on Sundays! Dine from the a la carte menu, or settle in for our five- or eight-course tasting menus over lunch or dinner.

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Restaurants, British

Native

Bankside

A grown-up but gorgeous Southwark reboot of the charmingly pokey Covent Garden original, Native celebrates all things wild and just-plucked from these fair isles – although the kitchen’s efforts are slicker and showier than before. Everything’s spot on, from the line-up of clever ‘wasting snacks’ (made from ingredients destined for the bin) to its exemplary home-cured meats, Cornish fish and seasonally bagged game (the biggest thrill of all). It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s magnificent – and you can book.

Restaurants, British

Nest

Hackney

Do you like your plates small and your options even smaller? Then you’ll love Nest with its seven-dish no-choice seasonal menu and its limited opening times (Wednesday to Saturday only). The owners focus on just one rare-breed cut each month (perhaps rose veal or 60-day dry-aged Yorkshire beef), although there’s more to the line-up than meat – anyone for cod’s roe with seaweed or honey and lavender tart? Three cheers for Nest’s fizzingly enthusiastic owners, funky soundtrack, low-intervention wines and all-round feel-good vibe.

Venue says Join us for Sunday Roasts - built around our In House Meat at the time - currently Yorkshire Beef before we move on to Hogget in February

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holborn restaurants, noble rot
© Ming Tang-Evans
Restaurants, British

Noble Rot

Bloomsbury

Set up by the guys behind Noble Rot wine magazine, this wine bar/restaurant mash-up not only boasts a dazzlingly innovative wine list, but also sends out some cracking ingredient-led food – thanks to connections with the Michelin-starred Sportsman pub near Whitstable. They call it ‘franglaise’ food, but British seasonal flavours are everywhere – from the slip soles with smoked butter and calf’s brains on toast to the steamed ginger sponge with boozy custard.

Restaurants, British

Nutbourne

Battersea

Founded by the go-getting Gladwin brothers (owners of Rabbit and The Shed), Nutbourne is yet another faux-rustic eatery with a green and pleasant feel – although it’s a much bigger space with plenty of alfresco dockside seats to boot. Bang-on seasonal ingredients from the family farm in Sussex do the business, with top marks going to the wood-grilled home-reared meats and perky salads – a riot of fresh snappy flavours. There are also wines from the family’s namesake Nutbourne vineyard.

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Restaurants, British

Ormer Mayfair

Mayfair

Super-sumptuous and hyper-exclusive, Ormer resides within a luxuriously appointed and hushed basement room beneath Flemings Mayfair – an achingly swish backdrop for starry chef Shaun Rankin’s upscale food. Famous as a champion of seasonal British flavours and ingredients (especially seafood), Rankin’s cooking is all about quality and class – so prepare to give your plastic a pounding, especially if you go for the smart wine pairings. Luckily, the ever-present staff and blue-riband service make it all worthwhile.

Restaurants, British

Plot

Tooting

It’s not quite as ‘brass monkeys’ as your average allotment, but it pays to wrap up warm when visiting this Plot on Tooting’s wind-blown Broadway Market. As for box-ticking, the kitchen has it covered. British? Yes. Seasonal? Of course. Punchily flavoured small plates? Every time. Just add clued-up service and an appealing ‘outside-inside’ ambience. Plot’s line-up of properly local beers also deserves a sniff, and the night-time vibe is just magical. Be warned – we’ve noticed a hike in prices of late.

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Restaurants, British

Quality Chop House

Clerkenwell

Originally a ‘workers’ canteen’, this Grade II-listed chop house now feeds Clerkenwell creatives and others in a setting that oozes Dickensian nostalgia – think dark wooden church pews, glimmering lights and chequerboard tiled floors. To eat, expect top-notch steaks, chops and game, plus ‘fashionably trad’ dishes along the lines of crunchy swaledale lamb croquettes or cornish pollock with gnocchi, white port and blewits. Tip: if there’s no room inside, try the owners’ equally vibey deli/wine bar two doors down.

Restaurants, British

Quo Vadis

Soho

On the way to its centenary in 2026, the self-proclaimed ‘Great Dame of Dean Street’ is a patriotic flag-waver par excellence – even though its shrunken dining room now sits cheek by jowl with Spanish big-hitter Barrafina. The familiar stained-glass windows still shine, while homegrown flavours loom large as the kitchen gives British standards a modern makeover – don’t miss the pork rillettes with pickles, the daily pies with lashings of silky mash or the now-famous smoked eel sarnies.

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Restaurants, British

Rabbit

King’s Road

Sandwiched between The Shed and Nutbourne on the Gladwin brothers’ restaurant portfolio, Rabbit is pretty damn good in its own way – even if the faux-farmyard decor is a bit much (check out the decorative timber planks and the tractor bonnet over the bar). The sibling owners have bucolic blood coursing through their veins, and this small-plates menu is littered with seasonal pickings from the family farm in Nutbourne, Sussex (they produce their own wine too).

Restaurants, British

Rochelle Canteen

Shoreditch

Margot Henderson’s ‘hidden treasure’ is housed in the bike shed of a former school, but that doesn’t deter Shoreditch media types from using this self-styled canteen as an all-day refuelling point. Inside, things are charmingly low-key, while spaces in the allotment-cum-yard are like gold dust on warm days. The short daily menu deals in simple Brit-inspired seasonal fare with nose-to-tail overtones and the odd Mediterranean flourish – in other words, heart-and-soul dining at user-friendly prices.

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Restaurants, British

Rochelle Canteen at the ICA (Restaurant)

The Mall

Rochelle’s ground floor-café at the ICA is for chatting over coffee and toasties, but the serious action takes place upstairs in two swish mezzanine dining rooms with arched windows overlooking The Mall. Stripped-back bare-white interiors allow the daily line-up of full-frontal, seasonally inclined British food to shine (think St John in Smithfield without the Michelin gongs), while hospitable switched-on staff cope admirably with singletons, couples and groups of all sizes.

Restaurants, British

Rules

Covent Garden

The oldest of golden oldies, Rules still holds sway as Covent Garden’s ultimate culinary aristocrat, a magnificently antiquated institution with a rich history dating back to 1798. As a proud purveyor of stout British food, Rules pleases both the old guard and their trend-conscious grandchildren. Yorkshire game and beef are the undoubted stars, but the kitchen also deals in simple but carefully cooked classics ranging from potted shrimps to golden syrup sponge pudding with custard.

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Restaurants, British

The Shed

Notting Hill

Its currently making waves with Rabbit and The Nutbourne, but this bucolic-themed eatery is where it all began for the Gladwin brothers. Playful barnyard interiors set the mood (piggy portraits and cartwheels on the walls, tractor bits rebooted as furniture, etc), while the cooking is in-vogue British – ie inventive seasonal ‘mouthfuls’ and small plates of ‘slow-cooked’ or ‘fast-cooked’ food stuffed with ingredients from the family farm in Sussex. Wickedly good puddings and home-produced Nutbourne wines earn bonus points.

 

 

Restaurants, British

Social Eating House

Soho

Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred Soho enclave is one of his more frenetic outposts – a sprawling dining room with a mirrored ceiling, bare concrete, Victoriana and a menu of reimagined British cooking delivered by chef/patron Paul Hood and his impressively skilled brigade. Native ingredients such as Devon crab, Herdwick lamb, Cumbrian pork and Buccleuch beef shine brightly and the resulting dishes are complex, inventive and, well, Instagram-pretty. Dive into the fascinating wine list if you’re feeling flush.

 

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Restaurants, British

St John

Farringdon and Smithfield

The original nose-to-tail pioneer and a Michelin-starred restaurant for those who run from the very idea, St John is a defiantly casual, bare-bones kind of place with come-as-you-please decor and famously full-on cooking. Born-again British dishes are given a surprisingly sophisticated spin that often belies their humble origins. We’re talking snails with barley and bacon, devilled kidneys, eccles cakes with Lancashire cheese and, of course, the emblematic bone marrow and parsley salad. Powerful stuff.  

best breakfast in london, st john bread and wine
© Stefan Johnson
Restaurants, British

St John Bread & Wine

Spitalfields

A resounding hit for breakfast (and also afternoon tea), St John’s Spitalfields offshoot has the same workaday style as its big brother in Smithfield – although its USP is a utilitarian bakery counter selling breads and pastries. Elsewhere, savoury dishes are true to the cause, so expect under-appreciated British ingredients and vintage recipes all over the menu – don’t miss the ‘scotch woodcock’ (toast with scrambled eggs and gentleman’s relish) or the slabs of just-crisp blood pudding with house brown sauce.

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