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.
"Wild Brunch Club, Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-4pm. Bottomless brunch cocktails."
Veniphobia. It’s not an official phobia, like arachnophobia, agoraphobia or my personal favourite, omphalophobia (the fear of belly buttons). But it should be. We all know someone who suffers from it: an irrational fear of venison. Mac & Wild is the cure. A cosy Fitzrovia newcomer with a Scottish heart, it specialises in wild deer that has none of the off-putting ‘gaminess’ people associate with venison -- it also happens to be mind-bogglingly tender. Most of the meat comes from co-owner Andy Waugh’s father’s estate, the rest from other trusted highland hunters, all of whom use state-of-the-art refrigeration techniques. On our visit we watched a waiter convince a table of fashionistas to go for venison, rather than beef chateaubriand: ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll take it off the bill.’ They devoured every morsel. Mac & Wild’s origins date back to 2010, when Waugh drove down to Borough Market with a van-load of raw deer meat. This led to him selling venison-based street food (as ‘The Wild Game Co’) at markets and pub residencies, before finally opening a 2014 pop-up. It was so popular that within weeks Waugh and his team were looking for a permanent site. The result: Mac & Wild, a stylish place filled with rough-hewn wood tables, bare bricks, and modish lighting. The Scandi-leaning Scottish food it serves (the chef is Danish) is mostly sensational. In addition to terrific venison ‘steak frites’ (£11) and order-by-weight chateaubriand, there are beefy alternatives
Most of London’s really exciting new restaurants open in the centre of town – and you’ll pay two limbs for the pleasure of eating in them. So when somewhere special opens in a residential area, word gets around. This last happened in Clapham in 2013, when The Dairy – a wine and British tapas bar –introduced an innovative, but reasonably priced small plates menu to the neighbourhood. The Manor is run by the same team, but this time has a fully fledged dining room as well as a bar. Prices are a little higher – but still reasonable – as the cooking has gone up a few notches, too. The Manor looks and feels casual, like a slightly more grown-up version of The Dairy, despite the graffiti, old desks and industrial light fittings. But the imagination and skill of the kitchen places it among the city’s most cutting-edge restaurants: The Clove Club, Story or Lyle’s, to give just a few examples. Case in point: two slivers of meat resembling pork belly were in fact crisp chicken skin. Something that resembled soft cheese turned out to be the flesh from a cod’s head mixed with sour cream. Fermentation, one of the most transformative kitchen techniques, is used to good effect on the ‘malt granola’ and fermented grains, both served with the claw-on leg and breast of partridge. The New Nordic technique of scorching and burning is used successfully on both kale and cauliflower, and a smoky aubergine purée (coloured green using mint) served with Irish-inspired potato scones was sublime. Th
If ever proof were needed that all caffs are not equal, this Grade-II listed greasy spoon on Bethnal Green Road is it. The food may not be much more than reasonably above-average caff grub, but the atmosphere and decor are second to none. Opened in 1900, and still in the hands of the same family, Pellicci’s is an east London landmark. It has an almost opulent feel, harking back to a time when caff culture was king. Chrome-lined Vitrolite panels line the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is filled with Formica tables and art deco touches. Food is still prepared with pride every day by Mama Maria – queen of the kitchen since 1961. The kids, Anna and Nevio Junior, serve it up with a wink, a smile and as much banter as you can handle. Fry-ups are first rate, and the fish and chips, daily grills and Italian specials aren’t half bad either. Desserts, from bread pudding to Portuguese pasteis de nata, are worth a punt too. But it’s the vibrant welcome, served with a healthy helping of mickey-taking, that makes the place so special. Check out more of London's best breakfasts and brunches
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 – was
"Happy hour at Heirloom - weekdays 5-7pm, 50% off drinks by the glass."
Heirloom makes a more convincing case for a United Kingdom than most politicians. It hoists the flag for modern British cooking by plating up heritage vegetables, succulent rare-breed meats and Cornish fish, serving them with British craft beers and Old World wines. It’s a smart-looking upmarket spot that’s softened by a pubby-style bar, chunky wooden tables and friendly service. On our Sunday lunch visit, classic roasts were the order of the day, and included the likes of Old Spot pork, Belted Galloway beef and braised Blackface lamb. These were all cooked just-so and served with meaty gravy, splinter-crisp spuds, mile-high Yorkshires and the sauciest own-made accompaniments such tart apple and zingy mint sauces or peppery horseradish cream. It’s Brit-tastic cooking all the way. A la carte choices might include roast monkfish partnered with sea-salty samphire and Jersey cream-enriched mash, or smoked gammon hock with duck egg and sucrine lettuce. The rollcall of heritage produce includes novelties such as prickly cucumber or stubby atlas carrots. Puddings read like something from Enid Blyton – treacle loaf with raspberries and Jersey cream, or plum trifle steeped in port-like Maury – though the Famous Five would have had adventures of a different order after a dalliance with Maury.
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 castelfranco
As one door closes, so they say, another opens. As we process the sad news that Neal Street’s Food for Thought, a veggie institution with rock-bottom prices, is closing after more than 40 years, only a couple of streets over, newcomer Jar Kitchen shows how far good café food has come in that time – but also how some things never change. Most of us still need friendly places serving good, imaginative food at fair prices – especially in Covent Garden. Run by Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero, this smart café sits at the northern end of Drury Lane. The kitchen is open to the ground-floor dining room where Brown, a former model agent, was busy greeting and waiting tables on our visit. So far, so ordinary. What makes Jar Kitchen super is the brief menu, prices midway between caff and restaurant, and delightful dishes. An Ottolenghi-ish mixed-grain salad looked great, with its pomegranate arils and fresh mint leaves, toasted almonds, roasted heirloom carrots and drizzle of coconut yoghurt. A sizeable bowl costs £8; for an extra £3, the kitchen adds shreds of braised lamb shoulder. Another simple but brilliant dish was a green chopped salad, costing a mere £3.50, featuring pert mixed leaves and an attractively tangy dressing. Jar Kitchen does vegetarian dishes well, but it’s not a vegetarian restaurant. Scraps of ‘ceviche style’ sea bass (£6.50) came with creamed avocado, chopped fennel, and a multi-seed dressing. Orther dishes might include roast pork belly, or lemon sole with brown
Aqua Shard is in two parts: a smart, fine-dining, expense-account venue with magnificent views, and an attached cocktail bar with equally fabulous views, reviewed here. Aqua Shard is itself only one part of the Aqua Group's premises set halfway up the Shard. Hutong, a fine-dining Chinese restaurant, is on the floor above (and, of course, also has terrific views). The Aqua Group is a Hong Kong-based company, best known for its well-regarded and very stylish restaurants in Hong Kong, including the original branch of Hutong. In London they also run two attached restaurants just off Oxford Circus, Aqua Kyoto (Japanese) and Aqua Nueva (Spanish).
"Brighten up your weekend with the 'afternoon jaunt' at GNH Bar. Two-for-one drinks on selected drinks every Saturday, 2–7pm."
If security checks and passport queues have left you mourning the glamour of travel, dine here. On the first floor of the Great Northern Hotel just beside King’s Cross Station, the check-in for Eurostar at St Pancras is but a fond adieu across the road, and the classy dining room seems to buzz with the excitement of having just arrived or preparing to set off. Directed by Michelin-starred chef Mark Sargeant, the kitchen showcases contemporary and classic British cooking. My dish of orange-poached figs in a salad with beets and English blue cheese was tangy, soft and well matched with crisp, candied walnuts. Mains aren’t cheap, but my companion’s lamb was pink, tender and, I’m assured, well worth the outlay, while my baked marrow melted deliciously on the tongue, and was served with heritage carrots that were earthy and delicately seasoned with coriander. Without a Continental train journey on which to snooze it all off, it was good to see that desserts are offered in two portion sizes. Thanks to the friendly guidance of the attentive but unassuming waiting staff, the piquant iced peanut and salted caramel mousse ‘little pudding’ proved just the ticket.
This former fruit warehouse is now Carnivore Central in Will Beckett and Huw Gott’s confidently expanding empire, and the bar a place of pilgrimage in its own right for cocktail geeks. Winner of Time Out’s Best New Restaurant award in 2011, the discreet-fronted basement location is elevated to a high-end destination with a characterful interior of reclaimed materials and the fan-boys’ zeal for premium meats and other taste sensations. The bad news is, with a similar appreciation of gustatory pleasures (a couple of cocktails, say, followed by crab or lobster, sirloin and side dishes, wine and pudding), dinner here can easily set you back £100 a head. The good news is the express menu (ideal pre-theatre when tables are easy to snare) proffers two courses for £25 and three courses for £28 – and still allows enjoyment of fine Ginger Pig Longhorn ribeye (a more-than-strictly-needed 250g), and bone marrow with onions. Desserts here, in our experience, don’t benefit from the same obsessive attention to detail as the beef dripping chips, kimchi burger, hot dogs or historic anti-fogmatics – still, there’s the post-prandial cocktail list to peruse featuring the likes of Climpson’s espresso martini. See more mouthwatering Sunday roasts in the capital
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.