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Photograph: Jerome Galland
Photograph: Jerome Galland

The most jawdropping dining rooms in London

From an extravagant Italian-style terrace to an opulent Indian dining cart, these are the restaurants with the best interiors

Written by
Liz Darke
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Food isn’t the only factor to consider when picking a place to eat these days, interiors are just as crucial to the restaurant experience. Although attractive furnishings and stylish aesthetics aren’t a new thing, chefs and restaurateurs have never been more aware of how crucial they are to the powerful (and profitable) business of going viral on social media.

Sessions Art Club’s grand eighteenth-century ex-courthouse room and Ave Mario’s neon-lit toilet cubicles, for example, have been snapped countless times and lured thousands of punters through the door. Luckily, many of London’s most handsome restaurants put as much thought and care into their dishes as they do their decors, so diners can satisfy their palates while feasting their eyes. Here are the most stunning dining rooms that will seriously impress. 

London’s most beautiful restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Clerkenwell

What is it? Chef Florence Knight’s achingly elegant British-Mediterranean restaurant, set in a Grade II-listed former courthouse.

Why go? Arched doorways and windows, ornate ceilings, patchwork walls, stripped-back wooden floors, brushed velvet, flickering candles: Sessions Arts Club is the epitome of shabby chic, with an aesthetic that interweaves a traditional Palermo townhouse and the set of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The modern, seasonal dishes here are for sharing, though you could easily finish off the much-hyped eel-and-potato dish and squid-and-tomato calamarata (thick, ring-like pasta) solo. For pud, do as you would if you were actually in Sicily and order the blood-orange granita, which comes perfectly encased in a whole frozen orange.

24 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0NA.

  • Restaurants
  • Argentinian
  • Soho

What is it? A sophisticated pan-South American restaurant imported from Buenos Aires.

Why go? When Argentinian-born chef Fernando Trocca brought Sucre to London last summer, he did it with some serious swagger. Bagging the cavernous basement of a 300-year-old townhouse on Great Marlborough Street, he enlisted Japanese architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu (whose restaurant design CV includes Zuma and Roka) to help match the building’s traditional beauty with some modern flair. The result is a vast but seductively lit restaurant, boasting corniced ceilings, mirror panelling and striking chandeliers made from glass decanters. There’s a real fizz of excitement in the air here, which could well be down to the top-notch cocktail menu. Cheers any occasion with the Insta-ready orange Latinoamericano, made with Argentinian gin, mezcal, rosso vermouth and pink grapefruit soda.

47b Great Marlborough St, W1F 7JP.

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What is it? A fabulously flamboyant Italian hotspot in the heart of Covent Garden.

Why go? The third London venue from out-there restaurant group Big Mamma is split into three distinct styles. Enter Ave Mario through its very phallic neon arches and you’ll be hit with monochrome striped walls (supposedly inspired by the ‘zebra’ cathedral in Siena), blood-red banquettes and a bottle-lined curved bar. Drop down a level and the vibe is more traditional, with chequered tablecloths, rustic tiles and vintage magazine covers hanging on the walls. Head into the basement and you’ll find the pièce de résistance: the toilets. Each darkened cubicle is lit with a rainbow of coloured neon strips and has its own infinity mirror. Never have bogs been the location of so many selfies. While co-founder Victor Lugger recommends the pesto linguine, the stracciatella gelato, shaved off a 60cm-tall ice-cream tower and drizzled with caramel sauce, will definitely excite your followers.

15 Henrietta St, WC2E 8QG.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Mayfair

What is it? A small but very smart Mayfair spot that specialises in Michelin-level Indian chaat and grills.

Why go? This recent opening from hospitality giant JKS sees chef Chet Sharma showcase his Indian heritage in the form of delectable sharing plates as well as considered decor. While the likes of raw Highland beef pepper fry and bhel puri with pear granita are a proper treat for the taste buds, interiors nuts will fall in love with the Indian tribal artwork, mustard-and-white marble tiled floor, grasscloth-lined walls (often found across south India) and Kashmiri paisley-patterned bar stools that replicate the design of Sharma’s grandmother’s shawls. Warmly lit, utterly inviting and using limited space brilliantly, Bibi will definitely provide inspo for your dining area at home.

42 North Audley St, W1K 6ZP.

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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? Seasonal British ingredients and stylish Italian cooking in the chicest of settings.

Why go? While its superb ‘Britalian’ cuisine and spot-on cocktails are undeniably the main reason to visit Luca, the Clerkenwell restaurant offers better surroundings for slurping down spaghetti and spritzes than most. Interior designer Alexander Waterworth, whose work includes Soho Farmhouse and Big Mamma’s Mamma Primi in Paris, wanted to ‘honour’ Luca’s British-meets-Italian philosophy, so throughout the intimate bar and sun-drenched conservatory you’ll find white marble tabletops, curved oak counters and art-deco lighting. Most photogenic of all is the secluded terrace. Exposed brickwork conceals a cobbled patio, imposing concrete fireplace, verdant olive trees, spiralling jasmine and leafy, overflowing planters, all of which looks straight out of the Med. Enjoy with a glass of house-made limoncello.

88 St John St, EC1M 4EH.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • St James’s

What is it? A resplendent all-day venue serving classic Gallic dishes.

Why go? At Maison François, you’ll get all the elements of a brilliant French brasserie: plates of pâté en croûte and entrecôte de boeuf with pomme frites cooked exactly as you remember from your weekend in Paris (or possibly better, what with ex-‘MasterChef’ finalist Matthew Ryle in the kitchen), smart service and a fail-safe wine list. But you’ll also get a dollop of Spanish-influenced design as an added extra. The man in charge of curating the space, creative director John Whelan, drew inspiration from La Fábrica, a former cement factory near Barcelona that the late architect Ricardo Bofill turned into his home and headquarters. Maison François’s tall, terracotta-coloured arches with mirrored insets mimic the windows of La Fábrica, while the high ceilings are slapped with rustic faux cement. Walnut booths, white linens and sunny art-deco lighting add to the Mediterranean colour palette, though the dining room’s centrepiece is a proper nod to SW1. The imposing, overhead metal clock is said to be inspired by the grilles of the many Rolls Royces you’ll find parked up outside.

34 Duke St, SW1Y 6DF.

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  • Restaurants
  • Brasseries
  • Piccadilly

What is it? The capital’s most famous European grand café and London bucket list perennial.

Why go? For somewhere oozing so much grandeur and traditional glamour, The Wolseley isn’t half as old as you’d expect. The building was designed by English architect William Curtis Green in 1921 as a car showroom for the aspiring Wolseley Motors Limited. Barclays Bank took over the site in 1927, adding a banking counter and managers’ offices (today used as the bar and tea salon). Only in 2003, when restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King acquired it, did this place become the bustling, stately café that it is today. With its original domed ceiling, black marble pillars, geometric monochrome floor and suited-and-booted waitstaff, the vibe is very much Tim Burton does ‘Downton Abbey’. And while the photo op may beckon you, the prices will likely make you wince – this is Mayfair after all, darling. Our tip? Book a table for breakfast and you can have the signature fried duck egg with bubble and squeak with a coffee for less than 20 quid.

160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB.

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