Agree or disagree with our top London restaurant picks? If you want something truly brilliant to eat in the capital you’re truly spoilt for choice and we’re always hunting down brilliant places, no matter our budget or fancy.
So, as we’ve been around the block we thought we’d share six of our favourite London restaurants with you.
You may agree, you may disagree – that’s fine. And please do leave your comments and ideas, opinions etc in the comment box at the bottom of this page.
We’re not trying to uncover hidden gems or provide unique insider knowledge, these are well-known establishments. But we’d be totally gob-smacked if you didn’t go to one of them and then have a sudden urge to come round and shake us by the hand for pointing you in the right direction.
So, as we’ve now set ourselves up to be blasted, we’ll reveal (in no particular order) six fantastic London restaurants we simply love…
1. The Wolseley
Located in St James’, Picadilly The Wolseley buzzes with atmosphere, is grand, elegant and good any time of day, from breakfast and lunch, through to afternoon tea and dinner.
Expect high ceilings, towering pillars, arches and stairways in what’s best described as a grand cafe-restaurant. Previously a prestigious car showroom in the 1920s before it was turned into a bank, it’s now a firm favourite with pretty much everyone, including restaurant critic Giles Coren who says “Christmas shopping is unbearable without stopping in for both lunch and tea.”
The menu is wide and varied and includes such dishes as pea and lettuce soup, oysters, omelettes, salads and a range of steaks and fish. It completely typifies the term smart casual when it comes to dining and will not let you down.
2. Pollen Street Social
We were going to say that Jason Atherton is one of the rising stars of the foodie world but we think he’s already risen. He’s opened a string of establishments that have wowed critics and punters alike over the past few years, such as 2013’s opening of Berners Tavern at the London Edition hotel just off Oxford Street.
Pollen Street Social has been open since 2011 and gained a Michelin star (which it still holds) within its first year. This was Atherton’s first solo gig after working with some of the best in the business and was full of various dining ‘concepts’ (what a dirty word) which have all pretty much been dropped, aside from the Dessert Bar. Before he branched out on his own, Jason was probably best known for opening Maze along with Gordon Ramsay back in 2005 – which is not on this list but an excellent place to go.
We warn you that, along with most top places, getting a table at Pollen Street Social at a decent eating hour is not always straightforward, but we love it. Arrive in time for drinks at the bar where friendly, knowledgeable staff will rustle you up something fantastic and make recommendations so as to tempt you into trying something new – and why not? Then into the restaurant where the service is top notch, especially from the suave sommelier.
The food is adventurous and tasty and, although we’re not sure orange does go with lobster, plates of brilliant food will find their way to your table such as Orkney sea scallop carpaccio, and Roasted Lake District rack of lamb with shepherd’s pie and sweetbreads – delicious. We’ve only been for dinner thus far but reckon it’d be just perfect for a boozy, rather tasty lunch.
3. The Square
You’ve no doubt seen Phil Howard on TV cooking up something delicious and The Square definitely deserves its two-Michelin star status – a level it’s been able to boast about since 1998. Phil is co-owner and has been since the Mayfair restaurant opened in 1991 with current head chef Gary Foulkes keeping up the high standards regular guests have come to expect.
It’s not huge yet it is spacious and had been on our list for ages before we finally got around to having lunch there. The dining room is clean, offering simple elegance but the food is the star. We’ve not eaten tastier dishes, anywhere, ever. There’s a well-priced menu of the day, and on the a la carte you’ll find gems including Lasagne of Dorset Crab with a Cappuccino of Shellfish, as well as Tartare of Milk Fed Veal with Artichoke Cream and Buffalo Milk Mozzarella.
Service is brilliant, as are the wines and if you fancy a pre-meal drink we suggest a quick one in the Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel a few steps away.
4. Min Jiang
Forget China Town or ordering a number 52 from your local take-away, this is sumptuous Chinese food with wonderful views of Kensington Gardens and the London skyline.
You can find Min Jiang at the very top of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington and its light, airy space is perfect for lunch, when the views can be best enjoyed.
The service is impeccable and there is plenty of room in a world where many restaurants pack you in so you’re practically eating in relay.
The signature dish is its ‘Legendary Beijing Duck’ which is well worth ordering, but you have so much choice you know early on that you’ll have to come back. There are set menus which work well for groups, as well as a variety of dim sum options. The a la carte includes such dishes as Alaskan Black Cod Fillet and Clay Pot Venison in Spicy Sichuan Sauce. We have not eaten better Chinese food and this is a great destination restaurant too.
Said to be London’s oldest independent restaurant there is so much character that it’s essential that we eat there in the run-up to Christmas when Rules is dressed to the nines. Nowhere makes us feel more festive when it comes to the London eating scene.
As you might expect, the food is traditional but don’t be fooled into thinking that means boring – this is British cooking at its best. In fairness, Rules has had time to get it right over the years, opening back in 1798 and specialises in classic game cookery, oysters, pies and puddings. Oh god, the thought of that steak and kidney pie… or the traditional roast….
Some tables can be a little on top of each other and the clientele is eclectic but this is a place that’s always busy. And you can chuckle at the unsuspecting tourists who enter the establishment only to find out that they have no chance of a table as you tuck into your Dressed Crab with Melba Toast, or perhaps you’ll opt for Roast Suckling Pig.
There’s plenty of history attached to the place, as you might expect. Indeed, the fine cocktail bar upstairs (worth a visit even if you’re not dining) boasts to be where Edward VII and his mistress Lillie Langtry used to dine in private – hence the subtle side entrance.
From the red velvet booths to the fabulous array of pictures on the wall, it’s a cosy place you can fall in love with any time of year – but it comes into its own when the nights draw in and the weather turns chilly.
6. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Now people like to bash old Gordon but this is his flagship restaurant on Hospital Road in Chelsea, just down the road from the barracks. It must be doing something right, boasting three Michelin stars, first won back in 2001 and it’s provided us with what can only be described as flawless dining experiences (we actually didn’t think that existed and haven’t seen it anywhere else in the world).
It has been home to some world-class chefs and in March 2013 re-opened following an art deco re-design and with Clare Smyth at the helm. It has the best service (we really mean it) and the best food – what else do you want? The restaurant itself is surprisingly small when you first visit but the intimate setting is ideal for a truly gastronomic experience.
You can push the boat out and sample one of the amazing tasting menus or enjoy three courses without going over the top. Tuck into Isle of Gigha halibut with Atlantic King crab, Bresse pigeon with sautéed foie gras or Roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham. Don’t think the dishes sound that adventurous? They’ll blow your mind.
If we had one last meal, it would be here.
So, that’s what we think, let us know your thoughts and eating suggestions in our comments below.