New to London? Here are the best restaurants for first-timers

Welcome to one of the world’s most diverse dining destinations.

A nouveau-pasta wave of meat ragu and ribbony carbs swamped London a few years ago and looks like it’s here to stay. While Padella is the most recognised instigator, there’s rarely a table free. The newer (and bookable) Bancone is a more than worthy alternative. Try the Insta-famous silk hankerchiefs with walnut butter and confit egg yolk.

The Quality Chop House
This old school but still cool butchery-cum-restaurant is a whopping 150 years old. The menu changes daily but don’t miss their famous confit potatoes – essentially the ultimate chip.

Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the most important culinary figureheads not just in London but in Britain and beyond. His six restaurants and delis (Rovi being the latest), as well as his cookbooks, have brought Middle Eastern flavours to the masses.

Darjeeling Express
Those avidly following Netflix programme Chef’s Table will already know about Asma Khan. A formidable and inspirational character, her hospitality and her ethos is best experienced at her restaurant. Expect homestyle Indian cooking that’s well worth queuing for.

Holborn Dining Room
London is experiencing a mini pie-renaissance, thanks in part to what Calum Franklin is doing in his Pie Room at Rosewood Hotel. His creations, which involve curried mutton and classic steak and kidney, are so exact it almost seems a shame to eat them. They’re available to go or in the restaurant proper, along with steaks, seafood and a huge range of gins.

Though bao already existed in the capital, Bao opened up Taiwainese steamed buns to the masses in 2013. London’s been going through a love affair ever since.

Poppie’s Fish & Chips
Often on trips to London or the UK, guys and girls only want one thing: battered fish and chips. A la East End, Poppie’s source fish from the legendary Billingsgate Market, and serve it in restaurants adorned with ‘50s kitsch.

St. John
St. John is an institution in every sense of the word. The name’s been going since the ‘90s, building a reputation for hearty British cooking under the affable Fergus Henderson. Be prepared to eat the whole beast, from bone marrow (on toast), to pig’s head (and potato pie).

Black Axe Mangal
Though it takes similar cues to St. John – see the lamb offal flatbread – traditional would not be a word to describe BAM. Whether talking about the music or the late-night flavour-first food, it’s all on the tasteful side of hardcore.

This being an island nation, who exhibits British seafood the most competently? Bentley’s, among those who’ve done it for the longest, has their hat firmly in the ring – getting through nearly 1,000 oysters a day.

London’s palate for Indian restaurants goes back some 200 years. These days, among the leading servants to those appetites is Gymkhana, a nod to the clubs of the same name in India, where the gentry go to eat, drink, and play sport. The 2-course lunch is a veritable feast for £27.50.

Inspired by the cafés of Bombay, Dishoom has become famous nationwide for its accessible, affordable, share-worthy Indian food. Once you’ve tried their black dahl, you’ll be dreaming up reasons to go back.

Harwood Arms
Harwood Arms’ culinary director Brett Graham helped make The Ledbury into one of the most highly praised restaurants in the world. A pub masquerading as a restaurant, Harwood Arms dials down the formality that often accompanies fine cooking.

This is just the start! Visit OpenTable to discover more restaurants in London or ask our experts for recommendations on Twitter.

This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.