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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even before André Balazs (of Chateau Marmont and Mercer fame) officially opened his first London hotel in Marylebone, its restaurant had become the must-have reservation in the city. Set in a flamboyant Victorian firehouse, the brasserie-style restaurant serves delicious American comfort food like crab doughnuts, slow-roasted short ribs and roasted chicken but despite how good the food is, it is the celebrity factor that has made it such a London hot spot. Everyone from Kate Moss and Jade Jagger to Tony Blair and David Beckham seems to have made this their dinner spot. It is open for brunch on weekends as well and has a great ambience throughout the day.
Claude Bosi at Bibendum
Restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the duo behind the Wolseley, Delaunay and Brasserie Zedel took over the space of Oriel, a tired café that still drew a following for its central location. The casual, brasserie–style Colbert is in the same vein as Paris’s Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, with all-day dining from breakfast until late.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
A wine bar first and foremost, this divine spot set in a charming yard in Covent Garden has also made various ‘best new restaurant’ lists. Its small but perfectly formed menu is devoted to charcuterie and cheese and spiced up with hearty dishes of the day such as squid ink risotto. Run by the talent behind Experimental Cocktail Club, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels (CVS for short) is perfect for a special meal in a somewhat touristy area.
When it opened in early 2015, Fenchurch quickly earned a reputation for inventive seafood served in sumptuous surroundings atop the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, London’s newest landmark skyscraper at the time. The airport-grade security as you enter on the ground floor is the first glimmer of the unusual dining experience ahead, which is confirmed when you reach the upper floors, a triple-height glass atrium (or "Sky Garden") filled with lush vegetation and extravagant restaurants and bars. The fine dining operation, Fenchurch, is (literally and figuratively) a cut above the building's alternative all-day brasserie, Darwin. Thanks to its tasting menu replete with inventively concocted crowd-pleasers, it's perfect for a classy business lunch or special occasion dinner.
Flat Iron, Covent Garden
The brainchild of Charlie Carroll (formerly of hit Mexican franchise Wahaca) aims to serve excellent steak at affordable prices. This was achieved by pouncing on a hitherto underrated cut: flat iron, a well-marbled, juicy slice of goodness priced at a ridiculously affordable £12. Their flagship restaurant in Covent Garden retains a pared-back menu, but advertises special cuts on the blackboard, along with excellent sides like beef dripping chips. With craft beers on tap and delicious cocktails, Flat Iron shows you a good time at a fraction of the cost of Hawksmoor.
J. Sheekey in Covent Garden has been a British institution since 1896 when it first started catering to the after-theater crowd. It regained glamour when it was taken over by the owners of the Ivy more than a decade ago. Today, you'll find four clubby, interconnecting rooms decorated with black and white photos and a 30-seat horseshoe bar with classic mirrors and zinc countertops. The effect recreates the authentic Old World oyster bar that Joseph Sheekey first ran and is so convincingly done, you may expect ladies in white gloves and men in bowler hats to appear at the table or barstool next to you.
Kerridge’s Bar & Grill
La Petite Maison Mayfair
Nice’s fashionable hot spot, whose regulars include Elton John, Bono and Rod Stewart, spread its Gallic wings into London’s Mayfair in June 2007 and became one of the area’s perennially chic eateries. Tucked away in a backstreet mews near Bond Street shopping, Claridge’s and Cipriani, La Petite Maison has a pleasant, airy feel, with giant windows, pale rustic wood floors, cream walls and high ceilings. Better still is the Provençal menu, which is based on a “sharing” philosophy, which works well as long as you order plenty of dishes. Don't miss dessert, either, which has been known to feature pistachio soufflé and sorbet.
Princess Di’s old Kensington hangout was given a new lease on life by the owners of D&D London. The food is delicious and original: Spring salad with chick pea puree, pickled carrots, parsley and chervil tubers with a honey reduction; Iberico suckling pig loin and belly with black pudding, Braeburn apple and English brassicas; Whole roasted pineapple for two with lime and bourbon cheesecake and pineapple ice cream.. The restaurant is just off Kensington Palace in lovely neighborhood known for its seasonal cherry blossom trees.
Chef Marcus Wareing’s calling card is comforting, clever British creations that appear deceptively familiar on the menu yet prove a revelation on the plate. At his eponymous restaurant in The Berkeley, marine blue and green interiors exude an air of relaxed opulence, the perfect backdrop for occasion dining. All menus feature trusted local purveyors, from Orkney scallops to Lake District lamb. Exceptional vegetarian options — both tasting menu and à la carte — also await. The four-course lunch menu is especially good value; vegetarian options can also be subbed in.
For residents of West London, a trip to Richmond to dine at Petersham Nurseries is what summer weekends are made for. A historic, impossibly picturesque garden center with a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s well worth the trip west for some bucolic country air. During the day, the café is a great place to spot London fashion designers and artists digging into tea and sandwiches. There are also fabulous supper club events throughout the year. Additional location: A newer location at 2 Floral Court in Covent Garden draws inspiration from the original, and is more convenient to central London.
Sam and Eddie Hart, the owners of popular Fino and Barrafina, have revamped this iconic Soho eatery into a private members’ club and restaurant. In its past life, Quo Vadis was both a brothel and a home to Karl Marx. In its 21st-century incarnation, it's gone British with traditional dishes prepared for more modern tastes.
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 still attracts a 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.
Plenty of hedge fund bonuses have been spent at this Mayfair restaurant, which became the “it” spot under owner Richard Caring, a fashion magnate who also owns the Ivy and J. Sheekey. Sit at the oval-shaped oyster bar, the see-and-be-seen focal point of this chic seafood eatery, and people watch over a glass of bubbly and some delicious Dover sole or freshly-shucked oysters. Original works by such British artists as Gary Hume, Michael Landy and Fiona Rae adorn the walls. And celebrity doorman Sean McDermott is still there to greet and to bid adieu. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that its neighbor the Connaught is one of the most glorious hotels in London and that Mount Street is one of the city’s best shopping streets.