London’s 19 Greatest Restaurants

Credit: Le Gavroche

London has a love affair with restaurants. It’s a city where you can get just about any cuisine in the world and dine in any spot, from MICHELIN-starred eateries to affordable joints serving up home-cooked flavours. Indeed, there are thousands of restaurants across neighbourhoods all over the city, working in concert to create a world-class dining scene. 

Some of those thousands stand out in how they help define the city’s dining scene. Restaurants like Hawksmoor, which sets the standard for what to expect from prime cuts, or the Duke of Hamilton, one of London’s oldest pubs dating back to the 1700s, are so deeply rooted in the culture of the city that it’s difficult to imagine London without them. Newer spots —including Core by Clare Smyth, which opened in 2017 and has already won numerous accolades including three MICHELIN stars—layer on modern takes and diversity. 

While diners are spoilt for choice when choosing somewhere to eat, only a small number of restaurants make up the greats. Here, find 19 of London’s best restaurants, from laidback to fine dining, plus a quintessential pub or two.

 

St. JOHN (Smithfield)

St. JOHN offers British fine dining without any of the bells and whistles. Created by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver – often described as the ‘beating heart of British cooking’, the restaurant is a stripped-back affair with white-washed walls and the conspicuous absence of any art or music. The settings are styled that way for good reason: it’s a blank canvas where food takes centre stage. Dishes typically feature three ingredients, and there are lunch, supper, bar and feasting menus on offer. The latter is available to groups of eight or more and has favourites such as potted pork, braised lamb and strawberry mousse. The success of St. JOHN has seen it open other locations as well as a bakery. The restaurant’s dynamic approach to food also saw it previously named one of the World’s 50 Best. 

Dining at the restaurant: St. JOHN offers indoor dining with wooden chairs at tables dressed in paper tablecloths. 

 

Roka (multiple locations)

Roka first left its mark on the London dining scene in 2004, at its Charlotte Street location. Rip-roaring success saw the Japanese restaurant expand with sites in Canary Wharf, Mayfair and Aldwych, as well as international locations. The focus here is on robata barbeque techniques, but with a full range of Japanese-style cooking available. Menu options are extensive, with tasting menus featuring sashimi moriawase (tuna, sea bass and salmon sashimi), while brunch and a weekday menu offer gindara no saikyo-yaki (black cod marinated in yuzu miso) and kobuta no ribs yawaraka nikomiyaki (baby back ribs with sansho pepper and cashew nuts). Everything about Roka exudes upscale style, from the minimalist design that makes each location feel brand new to the open kitchen that invites diners to get a closer look at the food.

Dining at the restaurant: Multiple locations offer a mix of indoor and outdoor dining.

 

Core by Clare Smyth (Notting Hill)

Core by Clare Smith restaurant London

Credit: Core by Clare Smith

Since opening in 2017, Core by Clare Smyth has quickly established itself as one of the best places to dine in town, as evidenced by its accolades: three stars in the 2021 MICHELIN Guide, 10/10 in the Good Food Guide, five AA rosettes, Best Restaurant at the GQ Food and Drink Awards. Smyth cooked for Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, and Core is her first restaurant. Located in Notting Hill, it serves fine British cuisine prepared by white-jacketed sous chefs who move and cook in front of diners, like a choreographed dance. Menu highlights include a classic tasting menu with dishes like scallop tartare, roasted cod with shrimp and wild strawberry with meringue and lemon verbena.

Dining at the restaurant: The spots directly in front of the chefs, with a front-row view of all the action, is the go-to move here.

 

Tandoor Chop House (Covent Garden)

Tandoor Chop House Restaurant London

Credit: Tandoor Chop House

A meaty British chop house meets the spices of Indian tandoor cooking at Tandoor Chop House. Located just off the Strand, the restaurant is impossible to ignore thanks to the smoke and scents of chillies and spice rubs wafting through the air. The bone marrow naans are a favourite here (and probably what you can smell when you walk through the door), and they’re a fine example of how well Chop House does meat, along with the house Tandoor chicken and masala boti rubbed ribeye. Inside, wooden-panel walls and patterned tiled floors set in a large and airy space set the scene. 

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is available, and diners can sit in front of the glassed-enclosed kitchen to see the chefs in action. 

 

Petersham Nurseries (Richmond)

Owning a prestigious restaurant was never part of the plan for Francesco and Gael Boglione. They only bought the adjoining garden nursery to their Petersham House when it closed in an effort to stop anything happening there they didn’t like. Fast-forward 15-plus years, and diners enjoy British, and Italian-inspired seasonal produce from Devon served as pretty dishes decorated with flowers, leaves and herbs. Petersham Nurseries has been so successful that it opened pop-ups in central London, quickly followed by a permanent spot in Covent Garden. Still, there’s nothing quite like the original. And a trip to Richmond should involve a visit to Petersham Nurseries, which is more of a lifestyle destination than a mere dining spot with its plant nursery, a shop selling an assortment of items, a teahouse with homemade cakes and seasonal dishes, and a greenhouse restaurant. 

Dining at the restaurant: Grab an outdoor spot during the warmer months and feel like you’re in a traditional English country garden. 

 

Cecconi’s at The Ned (Bank)

Cecconi serves Italian cuisine but has a global presence with restaurants in Los Angeles, Miami, Istanbul, Berlin, Barcelona, New York, Mumbai and Mayfair. However, one London location wasn’t enough, and Cecconi opened another site at the The Ned hotel, where it shares a space with seven other restaurants. The African malachite Art Deco pillars give this spot a grand vibe, while old banking counters have been reinvented as room dividers for each restaurant, including The Ned.  As for the food, the menu is simple with handmade pasta options like tagliatelle beef bolognese and wood-oven cooked pizzas with toppings that include buffalo mozzarella and wild mushroom. All the ingredients come straight from Italy. 

Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant’s interiors and ambience make it ideal for date-night or a celebration. 

 

Restaurant Story (Tower Bridge)

Restaurant Story London

Credit: Restaurant Story

Any restaurant awarded a MICHELIN star just five months after opening deserves recognition. That’s certainly the case for Restaurant Story in Tower Bridge, which was inspired by acclaimed chef Tom Sellers’s culinary career. Located in what used to be a public bathroom, Story conveys the elegance of fine dining with a touch of style that shows it’s not trying too hard with simple Scandinavian-inspired decor. The real story here, however, is the food: It spotlights seasonal British produce with dishes like lamb Caesar and Paddington Bear, a cardamom scented pain perdu with clementine marmalade and shaved foie gras. The menu is also accompanied by a wine list featuring small producers. Look out for 3.0 in the autumn, as Story adds another storey to its space. 

Dining at the restaurant: Sit by the wall-length floor-to-ceiling windows to see the world go by while you dine. 

 

Le Gavroche (Mayfair)

Le Gavroche restaurant London

Credit: Le Gavroche

Le Gavroche first opened its doors in 1967 in Chelsea before relocating to Mayfair in 1982. It’s hard to imagine the restaurant scene in the capital without this well-loved fine-dining spot and its two MICHELIN stars. Diners can expect crisp white linen fused with heritage paint colours in the main dining room, while the cosy bar offers a chance to sample an extensive wine list featuring more than 60,000 bottles. The food is classically French here, from the seven-course tasting menu with roast veal loin to the a la carte featuring torched salmon and lamb cutlets with courgette. Indeed, there’s all-out French swishness at Le Gavroche, a look and feel that has remained in place for over 50 years.  

Dining at the restaurant: Wide, spacious tables with comfy seats await—although there is a smart dress code. 

 

The Fox and Pheasant (Chelsea)

It’s impossible to have a list of the greats in London without including a pub, the quintessential British destination. But The Fox and Pheasant isn’t just any watering hole; it allows Londoners to experience the charm of a little country pub right in the heart of one of the city’s most stylish postcodes. Here, you’ll find traditional pub grub with a twist: Alongside the a la carte menu, diners can sample bar snack favourites like pie, pork chops and, of course, beer-battered fish and chips. There’s also a dartboard if you’re feeling competitive and dog biscuits for your four-legged friend. 

Dining at the restaurant: Perhaps the best time to visit The Fox and Pheasant is in the winter, thanks to its three fireplaces and cosy indoor setting. Then again, the roof in the conservatory winds back during the summer for a spot of outdoor(ish) dining. 

 

BaoziInn (Chinatown)

BaoziInn brings Northern Chinese street food to London with locations in London Bridge and Chinatown. It’s the latter that stands out among a sea of exemplary dining options in the neighbourhood. BaoziInn is known for its fiery flavours, especially seen in its dim sum such as its pan-fried dumplings served with chilli oil. The brainchild of the Barshu group, known for the nearby, acclaimed Barshu Restaurant, BaoziInn goes beyond the more commonly found Sichuan and Hunanese food to shine a spotlight on street foods from Northern China, such as jiaozi dumplings. The restaurant’s name means ‘the people’s canteen’ in English—a fitting nod to its casual, welcoming vibe and the menu. 

Dining at the restaurant: This warm and cosy restaurant has 80 seats spread throughout its indoor dining room. 

 

Casa do Frango (Shoreditch)

From Portugal’s Algarve region to Shoreditch, Casa do Frango has mastered the art of peri-peri chicken. In English, Casa do Frango translates to ‘house of chicken’, and there’s no better way to describe this joint. The Shoreditch site  occupies a corner just off the high street. The chicken is cooked over a wood charcoal grill alongside traditional Portuguese sides like bacalhau (dried, salted cod) and batatas fritas, or potato fries. Options like Piri-Piri half and full chickens, along with grilled chorizo and  bacalhau fritter), encourage diners to enjoy the meal Portuguese-style, where everything is meant to be shared.

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining is spread across two floors, with a bar and cafe-style seating on the ground floor, while an open kitchen, warm colours and bench seating are waiting for diners upstairs. 

 

Balthazar (Covent Garden)

Balthazar is just a few steps from the famous Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and offers a French brasserie-style menu. Inside, it’s all incredibly French, with red leather seating and grand set pieces. Esteemed bartender Brian Silva runs the bar, and diners can expect high-end service from the staff who buzz about ensuring diners are happy. Expect a wide variety of dishes when it comes to the menu, including lobster spaghetti and  steak frites (it is a French joint, after all). The weekend brunch is particularly popular with dishes such as eggs benedict with fries, and banana and blueberry pancakes.

Dining at the restaurant: Along with regular indoor dining options there are private dining rooms bookable for business meetings, cocktail receptions and celebrations. 

 

The Duke of Hamilton (Hampstead)

This iconic pub in Hampstead welcomed customers for the first time in the 1700s. Fast forward some 400-plus years and it’s still one of the most sought-after spots in NW3. Its rich history is underpinned by smashing pub grub and an impressive dessert menu featuring Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding. Even after its recent restoration, the pub retains a distinct Victorian decor, and its hidden-away location offers intimacy and exclusivity. Since new owners took over in 2018, The Duke of Hamilton has also become home to the Hampstead Jazz Club. You’ll find it located below the pub area, where diners are encouraged to enjoy a pint and a bite while listening to soothing sounds. 

Dining at the restaurant: There’s a typical local pub vibe here with wooden furnishings throughout. Grab a seat at one of the tables if you’re dining or stand by the bar for drinks. Outdoor dining is also available. 

 

Hawksmoor (multiple locations)

London certainly isn’t short of steakhouses. For that, you can thank Hawksmoor, which set the bar when it comes to prime cuts in the capital. Today, there are more than ten Hawksmoor locations and two more in the works, spread across six cities, including New York. But it all started in East London’s Commercial Street after Will Beckett and Huw Gott took their East End restaurant experience and opened a steakhouse. The menu has expanded over the years to offer seafood, breakfast and roasts. However, it’s the British-bred beef that keeps diners coming back. For many, dining at Hawksmoor is reserved solely for special occasions at a restaurant that’s reputation precedes it. 

Dining at the restaurant: The original Hawksmoor on Commercial Street sets the scene with dark wood interiors and leather seating for a traditional steakhouse vibe. 

 

The Cinnamon Club (St James’s)

The charm offensive starts at The Cinnamon Club the minute you walk into the restaurant, which is located in the Grade II-listed former Old Westminster Library with books on the walls still intact. It’s hard not to be instantly impressed by the space, the tables far enough apart that you almost feel like you’re dining in privacy, and the warm and friendly staff waiting to greet you. Food-wise, there’s a team of 18 chefs serving seasonal lunch and dinner menus. Indeed, ordering options are extensive, with dishes such as chettinad-style duck leg curry, tandoori chicken breast In pistachio korma and grilled king prawns, on the menu. OpenTable’s Cinnamon Club’s Experiences include the three-course Legendary Library Lunch, Jazz Brunch, Early & Late Dinner and a four-course vegan tasting menu. 

Dining at the restaurant: Bright and spacious indoor dining awaits with tables spaced far apart in an iconic building that retains its upmarket library setting. 

 

Brawn (Bethnal Green)

Located on Bethnal Green’s Columbia Road (known for its famed flower market) Brawn is a neighbourhood favourite. It appeals to the hip East London crowd, who spend their Sunday mornings browsing the flower market before going to sample the restaurant’s seasonal French and Spanish-inspired menu. Dishes include beef sirloin, trout and pork loin, while the space is reminiscent of a typical East London studio full of creativity and buzz. There’s also an on-site store, which opened in 2020 and sells a wide selection of Brawn’s food, wine list and merchandise. 

Dining at the restaurant: Grab a spot by the large windows that afford plenty of natural light and watch the crowds do their thing on Columbia Road.

 

J Sheekey (Covent Garden)

Arguably one of London’s busiest neighbourhoods, Covent Garden is where you’ll find street entertainers, bars open until the early hours and London’s theatre district. A visit here is an over-the-top, loud and proud experience. Amid all the hustle and bustle lies J Sheekey, one of the capital’s best-known spots for seafood. It offers an escape from the noise and has a menu featuring oysters, fish and shellfish. Think of J Sheekey as an elegant yet unpretentious old-fashioned restaurant where you can sip back on a few glasses of wine and tuck into some oysters before rejoining the chaos of Covent Garden. 

Dining at the restaurant: An outdoor terrace with 50 seats is popular in the summer, while the restaurant’s Atlantic Bar gives you a seat right in front of  the open kitchen.

 

Frenchie (Covent Garden)

Frenchie restaurant London Convent Garden

Credit: Frenchie

Parisian-inspired restaurants are a dime a dozen in London, but Frenchie leads the pack with its small dishes, chic, chalky grey interiors and a prime Covent Garden location. An import from Paris, Frenchie is the creation of acclaimed chef Gregory Marchand. Unlike its Paris counterpart, which is more bistro than fine dining, diners at Frenchie Covent Garden can expect a swanky affair and a menu with middle white pork, goat’s curd agnolotti and Cornish turbot. The cuisine is inspired by Marchand’s experiences cooking in the UK, US, Spain and Asia, at high-end restaurants such as Savoy, Mandarin Oriental and Fifteen. 

Dining at the restaurant: There are two floors: on the ground you’ll find a cocktail bar, while the basement has an open kitchen. 

 

Vasco & Piero’s (Soho)

Finding an Italian restaurant in the capital is easy, but coming across one that makes fresh pasta on the premises might be a little trickier. Enter Vasco & Piero’s, which has been going strong since opening its doors in 1971. Located in Soho, Vasco & Piero’s is all about the food and little else. Dishes aren’t made for social media. The menu changes twice daily and features Italian classics, such as spaghettini, tagliatelle and handmade tortellini as well as Tuscan sausages and grilled lamb cutlets. Vasco, which originated in Italy’s Umbria region, still imports much of its ingredients from there, and diners keep returning for its top-notch food. 

Dining at the restaurant: Expect indoor dining at white-cloth tables, wood flooring throughout and large windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of Soho.