Destination: England: London
Much of the former staff of mainstay club Annabel’s runs Bellamy’s, which opened in 2004. Purported to be the only London restaurant where the Queen has dined, the restaurant features French cuisine and a chic, brasserie-style décor.
Café at Café Royal Hotel
Evelyn Stern, the Argentine-born wife of architect Sir David Chipperfield, says the inspiration behind this lovely café were the chic walk-in pasticceria of Italy where she lived for several years. The elegant room is lined with pretty, pale yellow marble counters and has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto bustling Regent Street. Chef Simon Jenkins, formerly of Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, is in charge of the cosmopolitan menu with pastries hailing from Italy, France, Germany and beyond.
J. Sheekey Oyster Bar
J. Sheekey in Covent Garden has been a British institution since 1896 when it first started catering to the after-theater crowd, and it regained glamour when it was taken over by the owners of the Ivy and Le Caprice more than a decade ago. In the space just next door to the original, where there was a bookshop, a new 30-seat counter has opened. Though everything from the mirrors to the zinc countertops is recently installed, the effect is to recreate the authentic Old World oyster bar that Joseph Sheekey first ran. It’s so convincingly done, you may expect ladies in white gloves and men in bowler hats to appear on the stools next to you.
A particular favorite among London celebs and food critics, this hot spot brasserie located in Mayfair never lets you down. The sister restaurant to the Ivy, Le Caprice has a more welcoming relaxed feel, with a friendly and unpretentious staff and the food is reliable. The perfect solution for any special occasion or a fun dinner out with friends, the menu offers classic fare like its famous fishcakes, steak tartare, or eggs Benedict.
The tranquil setting of this restaurant, on the banks of the Thames, is outdone only by the quality of its contemporary Italian dishes, where “fresh and seasonal” is the kitchen mantra. Opened in 1987, by Ruthie Rogers and Rosie Gray, the River Café is still pulling in the sophisticated artsy crowd, despite its noncentral, Hammersmith location. Reservations must be booked far in advance, and during the summer, ask to eat outside. Check the monthly menus on the website to really work up your appetite.
The oldest restaurant in London (founded in 1798), Rules is a reliable stop for dinner or drinks pre- or post-theater.
Many beloved institutions tire or become trite but the Ivy has been the place to see and be seen in London for decades. Opened in 1917, the Covent Garden restaurant has been a hit with actors from its inception. (A popular actress is credited with giving it its name.) The interiors were renovated extensively by Caprice Holdings, of which it is now part, and the restaurant remains a magnet for moguls and movie stars. Among the modern innovations that have proved how even classics can stay with the changing times: a vegan menu and on-line reservations.
Housed in a former bank building, the Wolseley was transformed by starchitect David Collins into the quintessential European grand café in 2003 and has been the place for high-powered breakfasts and see-and-be seen lunches ever since. The imposing room with its high-ceilings, marble columns and massive arches is softened by the always convivial atmosphere. Breakfast at the Wolseley will brighten the grayest of London days. The onetime car showroom and then Barclay’s Bank branch has a vibe similar to La Coupole in Paris. Take refuge and sip a charged Lapsong tea or a thimbleful of espresso with a perfect cap of crema. Fill up on the birchermüesli —a cereal with grated apple, raisins, dried cranberries, hazelnuts, honey, milk and cream. Or for those who would rather have a traditional start, try the porridge with brown sugar. Hedonists should go for the heavenly pancakes with caramelized bananas or the rich eggs Benedict; the extra calories never felt so worth it. The Dover sole at lunch is a crowd pleaser. Up a staircase is a lovely private dining room for groups up to 12 in size.
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