The yearly unveiling of the Michelin Guide’s Great Britain and Ireland edition is always big news in the food nerd world. For very good reason, too – London’s one of the top-ranked cities in the world for fine dining. And it’s got plenty of stars to cement that status.
While Michelin’s expertise on expensive, upmarket restaurants is well-known, the Michelin Guide has also been criticised for its relevance to ordinary diners. Conspicuous by their absence are more affordable places to eat – you'll find many restaurants in five-star hotels in the list below.
The canny eater, it should be said, should consider aiming at the board’s Bib Gourmand list – a kind of ‘highly commended’ round-up that doesn’t require the formal fripperies of the starred system. Really, it’s where the most exciting stuff lies, and plenty of those places appear in our meticulously compiled list of the best restaurants in London. On a plus note, Michelin is one of the few publications to visit anonymously and pay for its meals, just as Time Out does (pats on the back for us).
However, if you’re feeling flush then read on to find all London restaurants with a Michelin star.
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London restaurants with one Michelin star
Venue says: “Our opulent Russian inspired winter terrace is now open. Voted one of the best in London.”
The team behind South Place Hotel – D&D London – understand their City clientele. Smooth service is always required, as is a reliable and consistent dining experience. As such, their fine dining restaurant on the sixth floor is never going to be the most daring restaurant in London, but it makes up for this in technical excellence and professionalism.
Make the most of it and book a stay at South Place Hotel.
The London branch of Robuchon’s high-end globe-spanning chain (there are also outposts in Las Vegas, Taipei and his native Paris) could be anywhere in the world, but thinks it’s funkier than most gastronomic shrines. Customers are mostly tourists, drawn by the reputation for quality control and clever layering of texture and flavour.
If proof is needed that tapas is fashionable, the queues at Barrafina are it. And there will be a queue: bookings aren’t taken and hopeful diners can expect to wait at least an hour, any evening of the week. Yet seldom does anyone leave Barrafina disappointed. The place is part restaurant, part theatre, in which diners play a part.
This glamorous first-floor cocktail bar and stylish restaurant blend modern furnishings with traditional Indian touches. The venue attracts big spenders – suits on expense accounts, romancing couples and curious tourists. Fronted by well-known chef Atul Kochhar, the kitchen produces modern cooking in the haute-cuisine league.
London restaurants with two Michelin stars
Head chef Ashley-Palmer Watts, protégé of Heston Blumenthal, ensures that Dinner is one of London’s most sought-after destinations. While the flagship restaurant, Bray’s Fat Duck, celebrates futuristic flamboyance, Dinner updates historic dishes with flair and precision.
Make the most of it and book a stay at the Mandarin Oriental.
This restaurant colossus offers unapologetically old-school fine dining. First opened in Chelsea in 1967 by the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, it’s now run by Michel Roux Jr who took the reins in 1991. Le Gavroche continues to be the go-to haute cuisine establishment for a dignified, extremely wealthy crowd. While it may bear the name of the street urchin from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, there’s nothing scruffy about the club-like decor. Naturally, prices are high, although the set lunch for £52.60 (including half of a bottle of wine) is great value.
Solicitous greetings abound the moment you cross the threshold; the Greenhouse is a place where chairs are tweaked, tables brushed and every detail seen to by a considerate team. Short dish names on the menus merely hint at the perfumes and jewels to come, and the set lunch is barely less pretty and opulent than the carte, which is three times the price.
Genial staff take obvious pleasure in working this historic dining room, with its beautiful wood panelling and floral plasterwork ceiling. Waistcoats, silver jugs and Baccarat crystal denote formality, so first-timers may be surprised by the rusticity of the food on display. Such is the special-occasion nature of the place that everyone is presented with a personalised souvenir menu; but rest assured, the experience is memorable in its own right.
Make the most of it and book a stay at the Connaught.
Few haute establishments have the hospitable hum of the Ledbury. Whether it’s due to the off-centre location, the Aussie input, or diners’ sheer delight in securing a table, this former pub remains top-tier for gustatory good times. British ingredients – Hampshire buffalo milk curd, smoked eel, Cumbrian lamb – line up alongside delicacies such as foie gras, Tokyo turnips, Bresse chicken and black truffle, but it’s chef Brett Graham’s clever contemporary treatment of them that sets the place apart.
The former restaurant 'Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Hotel' has now been rennovated and reopened at 'Marcus'. Expect the same sommeliers wheeling over trollies of champagne on ice and talking you through the various bottles offered – frankly, it’s hard to say no. Things just get better from amuse-bouche and beyond. Desserts are a particular strong point.
Make the most of it and book a stay at The Berkeley.
Venue says: “Ascend the stairs to the Lecture Room & Library, Sketch's two-Michelin Starred fine dining restaurant.”
Flooded with light from a glass ceiling dome, and governed by immaculately tailored staff, it’s the most classical space in the complex, with the food providing the trademark fantastical note. It’s a positive procession of the pretty, witty and gay, from the first amuse-bouche to the last pink petit four.
Venue says: “Umu's kaiseki tasting menu is now being served - eight exquisite courses, full of seasonal produce from the British Isles.”
With a futuristic sliding entrance door (set off by placing your hand on a sensor), a plush, dark interior and polished service, Umu is guaranteed to impress. The bill too is likely to leave a lasting impression, so it’s best to save this swanky venue for a special occasion unless you have an expense account. On such a celebratory occasion, opt for the multi-course tasting menu (£115) and you’ll get to explore an elaborate range of Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine, presented on attractive dishes.
London restaurants with three Michelin stars
It is perhaps a tribute to London’s international status that there’s a niche for this restaurant in the capital; relatively few people apart from star footballers are in a position to frequent it. Nor would we want to: indeed, there are other places we’d rather visit elsewhere within the Dorchester. The cooking and setting are undeniably lovely, yet the overall experience lacks wow factors – apart from the bill – largely because of its unfashionably restrained, traditional approach to fine dining. Still, the restaurant commands a loyal clientele.
Make the most of it and book a stay at The Dorchester.
Clare Smyth MBE has now been appointed chef-patron of Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Chelsea restaurant. Her name features on the intelligently inventive menu, and the cool, elegant dining room has been refurbished with distinctly feminine touches, including lilac-toned silk-screen print panels. Dishes tantalise then delight the senses; no element of the complex assemblies seems showily redundant – even the pouring of sauces at table adds visual and aromatic impact. We left with a smile, and lifted spirits.
See Time Out's top 100 restaurants
Eat at a top-rated restaurant then stay at a top-rated hotel
You've found your dream restaurant. Why not push the boat out and book an overnight stay to match? Whether it's a five-star hotel in Mayfair, a budget option near the Eurostar, a chic cheap hotel in Camberwell or a Bloomsbury-era B&B minutes from the British Museum, you'll find them in our definitive list of the best hotels in London.