Thronging with museum-bound tourists and suited diplomats it may be, but bustling South Ken has a very fertile – if inevitably spenny – food scene. From superlative Michelin-starred spots to upmarket chain restaurants, timeless Eastern European stalwarts and faux-rustic haunts for the Barbour brigade, there’s something for everyone in this flash part of town (with some of London’s outright best restaurants and best dishes chucked in there, too).
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After a spot of retail therapy in the nearby shops, stick-thin ladies who lunch (and others) repair to this relaxed seafood café in the tiled foyer of the Bibendum building. Oysters, crabs and lobsters are the prime attractions (naturellement), but there are also elaborate plateaux de fruits de mer for those who fancy sharing. Prefer something meaty? Try the charcuterie or veal meatballs.
Tailor-made for South Ken’s Barbour-and-brogues brigade, this branch of Bumpkin serves up patriotic British fare in designer-approved country-chic surroundings complete with wooden crates and sheaves of wheat. Artisan breads, pies, roasts, steaks and old-fashioned puds such as apple and quince crumble all feature, alongside a perky roster of British beers, English wines and botanical cocktails.
Pedigree and provenance are everything at Brindisa (the much-vaunted importer of Spanish provisions), so it’s no surprise that this tapas bar, deli and shrine to jamón is a hot proposition on one of South Ken’s main drags. Top picks range from Catalan spinach, croquetas and chorizo tortilla to lamb cutlets with celeriac or octopus with mojo verde. Spanish sherries and regional wines seal the deal.
A bona fide London institution with a new fine-dining powerhouse at the helm, Bibendum remains London’s nattiest and most heart-warmingly pleasurable dining room – although über-chef Claude Bosi (of Hibiscus fame) is putting his own dizzyingly technical and dazzlingly creative stamp on proceedings. Prices are unnervingly high, but the food is overwhelmingly excellent – so go on, blow the budget and prepare to be blown away.
It has perked up following its post-fire refurb in 2014, but Daphne’s current incarnation will forever be compared to its Princess Di glory days. Togged out like a snazzy Italian townhouse, it serves punchy regional food – leavening its muscular pastas and grills with more delicate salads and carpaccios. Service remains a strong point, honed by years of attending to a gaggle of Bolly-glugging regulars.
A home-from-home for expats since 1947, this much-loved grand-dame among London’s Polish restaurants strides valiantly onward – although it has a breezier, shabby-chic brasserie look these days. The exiled Polish president was a regular, and today’s punters still come for flavourful no-nonsense dishes from the old country (and beyond). Expect bowls of gut-busting, cockle-warming comfort washed down with Polish beers and head-banging vodkas.
Everything about this Chelsea follow-up to Japanese hotspot Dinings in Marylebone is an improvement, from the glitzy, capacious dining room to the quietly ambitious, head-turning menu. Signatures such as the ‘modern’ sushi and bang-on teriyaki Wagyu beef buns have made the trip southwest, but also look for palate-jangling newcomers including the Josper-charred pork loin with sage and fermented miso. Tiny portions, complex precision-tuned flavours.
You know the score: meticulously presented high-end food served in warm low-lit surrounds with a suitably hefty price tag. However, the fact that Elystan Street is fronted by Phil Howard (who had two Michelin stars at The Square) may persuade you to give this sleek Chelsea rendezvous a go. In return, you’ll be rewarded with a procession of immaculately rendered, Euro-accented dishes backed by big-ticket wines.
Sunny Sicily breezes into SW7 in the shape of Iddu – a light-filled spot that deals in highly pleasurable food with emphatic healthy overtones. Organic ingredients, raw stuff and gluten-free panini abound on a menu that sings with bright flavours – try the virtuous Aeolian vegetable salad, the flawless caponata or the tuna tartare with dried tomatoes. Genuine Sicilian coffee and gutsy Sicilian wines are a must-have too.
A jewel box of a restaurant if ever there was one, L’Etranger entices the beau monde of Kensington with its Franco-Japanese fusion cooking, expansive wine list and moody decor – all gleaming mirrors, black-leather banquettes and chain-mail curtains. Maki rolls and caviar are equally at home on Jérôme Tauvron’s dual-nationality menu, which runs from confit lamb shoulder with ratatouille to caramelised black cod with miso.