The Mayfair restaurant from Richard Caring, owner of Sexy Fish, Annabel’s, Scott’s and J. Sheekey, 34 manages to marry a warm and cozy atmosphere with a chic and sophisticated ambience. Designer Martin Brudnizki has successfully combined Edwardian English and Art Deco influences to create an eye-catching interior. For those who don’t crave Argentine beef, the menu also features equally delicious seafood and vegetarian options.
45 Jermyn Street
Fortnum & Mason’s triumphant flagship restaurant, 45 Jermyn St., ushers visitors into its glamorous, old-school interiors, with terracotta-red leather banquettes, rosewood tables and parquet flooring. The menu, meanwhile, is pure contemporary European, populated with the likes of game consommé and Dover sole à la meunière. The caviar trolley, offering a choice of three ‒ Iranian Beluga 000, Golden Oscietra and Siberian sturgeon ‒ with blinis, toast, new potatoes and eggs scrambled tableside, adds a dramatic flourish to a menu of perfect pre-theatre fare.
5 Hertford Street
Londoners love their private clubs and 5 Hertford Street is no exception. Opened by Robin Birley—son of the late legendary social wizard Mark Birley who made Annabel's where the jet set and the who's who of England partied for decades—5 Hertford Street is not just super buzzy but as one friend said, “smashingly stylish.” The Mayfair building housing the members-only club is painted a high-gloss tomato red and has no signage or number. Curtains are drawn across the windows to keep passersby or paparazzi from peering in but once the doorman ushers you inside, you find yourself in a warm, house-like space that is a mix of English country house cozy and 21st century London indulgence. Upstairs are comfy rooms for drinks that feel like the living room or library that Robin's mother Lady Annabel Goldsmith might have in one of her houses. Though these were done up by Turkish designer Rifat Ozbek with a bohemian bourgeois polish. Fireplaces are lit and surrounded by deep sofas and club chairs, oriental carpets and smart art that mixes eras and styles as would happen in a family home with generations of art buying. There are private dining rooms upstairs for small group dinners and downstairs are a series of dining rooms, each decorated differently but with excellent taste; one has handpainted de Gornay wallpaper with silvery fish; on the walls of another are hung blue and white porcelain plates. An interior conservatory stocked with blooms of the season hosts the smoking set, and down a steep set of stairs to the basement is Loulou's the disco for late night dancing. Unfortunately for non-members, the only way to get a reservation is to be invited by a member but get an invitation for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dancing and you will understand what the fuss is about.
Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is one of the city’s gourmet treasures. The food, service and surroundings are sublime, and there is a welcome serenity and understated quality to the experience that seems in tune with the times. (Yes, it is still an expensive adventure, but the food is exquisite and it’s not about fanfare but formal French choreography.) Before this site opened, Ducasse declared that he expected this restaurant to offer the contemporary aesthetic of his Tokyo outpost Beige with the freshness of the Louis XV in Monaco, his very first three-star Michelin. Table to request: the one hidden behind a shimmering curtain of crystals in the center of the room.
The Four Seasons’ three-story Italian bar and restaurant, including an outdoor terrace, takes its cue and name from the plum-colored Amaranthe flower. Inside, it’s romantic and cozy with rich burgundy tones, wine-colored velvet armchairs, padded red leather walls and a sleek black-leather bar. Bold touches by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon include colorful Murano glass installations featuring the four seasons and the martini trolley, the latter personally designed by Rochon. It’s a fabulous spot for a cocktail after a Mayfair shopping or sightseeing afternoon.
One of the rare Indian restaurants to win a Michelin star, Amaya has been one of the city’s hot spots for spicy food in sexy surroundings since it opened in 2004. With its entrance off of a courtyard arcade off of Motcomb Street, Amaya serves lunch and dinner to Londoners who can view the chefs at work slicing, dicing and spicing the food in an open kitchen area at the back of the main dining room. During the day, natural light streams through a central sky light lending a loft like feeling; at night, the sleek black furniture, sandstone and crystal accents and spotlit sculptures create a lounge-like atmosphere. A lively bar scene and long communal tables notch up the revelry factor. But no matter how many glamorous figures are in the room, the food remains the real star. The freshest ingredients and flown-in-from-India spices elevate all of the dishes. Tip: The tasting menus at lunch are excellent value. If you cannot get in to Amaya, try its sister restaurants Chutney Mary and Veeraswamy.
The American Bar at the centrally located Savoy is a great spot for a cocktail.
Andrew Edmunds is a long way from the sleek and style conscious restaurants that populate central London but perfect if you want to sidestep the beaten path for a cozy evening of honest, good food. Beloved by couples and theater darlings, the menus are hand written, there are candles in wine bottles on the table and a polite note to turn off cell phones. The menu, with an Irish and Mediterranean influence, is good for fish lovers and the desserts are traditionally British. The downstairs is on the cramped side so for a leisurely meal, request a table upstairs.
This excellent wine bar emphasizes organic and biodynamic wines and serves small plates of artisanal cheese and charcuterie.
Arcade Food Hall
Arcade Food Hall at Battersea Power Station
It is no surprise that the London outpost of New York institution Balthazar has been packed to the rafters since it opened in the heart of Theatreland, Covent Garden Piazza, in 2013. It boasts the same formula used by Keith McNally at the original: all-day brasserie dining with impeccable service, classic dishes and a buzzy, informal yet sophisticated atmosphere, appears to work equally well in London. The drinks are very special, and turning up for an early evening cocktail might help you bag an elusive table for dinner.
This Spanish brainchild of restaurateurs Sam and Eddie Hart is perfect for a glass of sherry or cava before or after a show. Grab a seat at the marble-topped bar to watch the chefs prepare their superlative tapas: golden ham croquettes, prawns, tender lamb cutlets and fresh squid.
Much of the former staff of mainstay club Annabel’s runs Bellamy’s, which opened in 2004. Purported to be one of the few London restaurant where the Queen has in fact dined, it features French cuisine and a chic, brasserie-style décor.
There is heated debate about whether Amaya or Benares serves the best Indian food in London, but neither place will disappoint in their sophisticated takes on traditional dishes from the subcontinent. Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar appears regularly on British food shows, and is credited with elevating modern Indian dining. The tandoori dishes and curries are not to be missed. And for those who want to learn from the master, Kochhar opens his kitchen for students a few times a year and shares his skills, but classes fill fast so sign-up early. Tip: If you cannot get a reservation in the main dining room, ask about booking a table in the bar.
Old-fashioned Bentleys brims with expensive antiques, vintage luggage, bowler hats and 1920’s airplane propellers.
Berners Tavern became an instant hot spot when it opened in Ian Schrager's London Edition hotel. The dining room manages to mix historical bones (a fabulous plasterwork ceiling) and traditions (a veritable gallery of paintings—211 to be exact) with modern touches like glass windows on to the kitchen and bar tables with leather barrel chairs that are perfect for single diners or a cozy drink for two. Star chef Jason Atherton (of Little Social and Social Eating House fame) presides in the kitchen and turns out scrumptious updated English fare like Jersey royal potato and wild garlic soup with Dorset snails, foie gras and morels; crispy rock shrimp roll and chips and chargrilled Dingley Dell pork chop, braised chicory, pickled plum purée and turnips. Of course, there is a whole section of grass-fed British beef to be served with sides like triple cooked chips, minted peas and butter and purple sprouting broccoli.
Located in the original 1924 Bluebird Garage, then the largest in Europe, Bluebird's hip brasserie, pit-stop café and deli burst with delicious French and Italian treats.
Bocca di Lupo
This Italian eatery just behind Shaftesbury Avenue (theater central) is a rare find in the maze of South Soho and perfect for the pre/post dinner theater crowd. The thumb-size olives and bouncy focaccia that appear as you sit down are a sign of the quality and attention that’s to come, and the Italian-speaking waiters can guide you through the vast menu of raw and cured, fried, roasted, souped and stewed dishes, plus the risottos and pastas. Eat on the go with a large glass of wine on one of the stools at the bar, or settle in with friends in the lively main restaurant. Booking is essential.
A delicious Italian eatery in Mayfair is a great spot for lunch or an elegant family dinner or a fun night out with friends. The bi-level restaurant has an upstairs, farmhouse style room that is more sedate than the buzzy downstairs room with an open kitchen. The menu features delicious Italian classics like freshmade pasta and enormous thin crust pizzas as well as more substantial entrees such as osso bucco and grilled fish. The atmosphere is glamorous but casual. It is open for breakfast as well and offers 'bottomless pizza' brunches on weekends.
The grand Beaux Arts/Art Deco interiors by David Collins make this all-day brasserie worth visiting. The huge restaurant, a tamer British version of Paris’s La Coupole, is usually packed with a slightly touristy, less dressy clientele. Night owls can enjoy cabaret at the cozy white, black and red Crazy Coqs cabaret and jazz venue.
Brigadiers, from the team behind hot spots Gymkhana and Hoppers, has several dining spaces, all serving dishes inspired by the bars and taverns of India. Patrons can feast on tandoori chicken club sandwiches, chili cheese naan, Afghani lamb kebab skewers and more while playing pool or billiards, lounging on the terrace, watching live sports on the telly in the bar or catching up with friends in the dining room.
Burger & Lobster
This fun, popular, no-frills spot essentially serves just three dishes: burgers, lobsters and lobster rolls (deliciously offered on a toasted brioche with mayonnaise, lemon and chives.) All options come with french fries and a side salad, and are a bargain in its Mayfair neighborhood. There are but a handful of appetizers (billed as 'small plates') and desserts are even more limited, but cocktails are delicious, as is the beer on tap. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are welcome, too. Additional locations can be found throughout London as well, including Soho, Knightsbridge and the City.
Café at Café Royal Hotel
Evelyn Stern, the Argentine-born wife of architect Sir David Chipperfield, says the inspiration behind this lovely café inside the Café Royal Hotel was the chic 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.
Angela Hartnett opened the little sister to her Michelin-starred Murano in 2013, in with the aim of it being the sort of relaxed restaurant you can drop into every day and feel at home. Here you’ll find her signature gutsy Italian cuisine with impeccable attention to detail, but focusing on a simpler style of north Italian cooking – Sausage Ragu with Radicchio and Tagliatelle, Chicken Puttanesca.