There are so many great restaurants in London, with cuisine from every corner of the globe. From elegant, contemporary French dining in Chelsea and exotic, spicy Far East cuisine in Soho to the famous steakhouses of Mayfair there is a taste experience to suit every palate.
Choosing just nine from such a vast and eclectic range was always going to be a tall order, but a visit to any of them should leave most diners more than satisfied. All prices and menus are subject to change.
If you ‘re looking for a Classical French dining experience, then Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in Mayfair should be high on your list of places to visit. The two Michelin star Le Gavroche has been serving quality French cuisine – with a Roux twist – since 1967, and re-opened in February 2014 after a new kitchen fit, now offering a private room called the ‘Chef’s Library’. Starting her seventh year as head chef is Rachel Humphrey and if Michel is in the premises he will often greet guests personally. Samples of some of the food on offer include Souffle Suissesse (cheese souffle cooked in double cream) and canette rotie (roast Goosnargh duck). Dress code is generally smart casual, but men are required to wear a jacket for lunch and dinner.
If you prefer something a bit more laid back than Le Gavroche, but still run to professional standards, Chez Bruce (named after owner Bruce Poole) serves up a range of classical and regional French dishes, cooked in a traditional way, and served in a relaxed, contemporary setting on Wandsworth Common. Head chef is Matt Christmas, and the restaurant takes a customer-centric view of dining with an emphasis on in-house preparation (they make their own bread and charcuterie products). Example dishes are lamb breast croquette with tongue and kidney, and wild turbot with crab and scallop ravioli. Prices are reasonable, with three courses available from £45.
Situated in Marylebone, L’Autre Pied is a sister restaurant to Pied a Terre, but at a fraction of the cost. For example, the lunch set menus offer two courses from under £25. Whether you choose Cornish cod with sprouting broccoli, spring lamb with red pepper ketchup and violet artichoke or green and white asparagus with fermented garlic, you can be sure of a dish which has been precisely engineered to deliver a burst of intense flavour combinations.
In terms of décor, L’Autre Pied have a penchant for swirls, curls and floral motifs with decorated screens adding an exotic touch to an otherwise classic, rosewood interior. The restaurant opened its doors in 2007 and by the end of 2008 it had scooped awards from Time Out, Square Meal and the Good Food Guide. Andy McFaddon is currently the head chef.
The Italians know how to do family and romance, and the warm staff at Fulham’s Luna Nuova (Italian for New Moon) know exactly how to make guests feel welcomed. From complimentary Italian breads and olives on arrival to generous gifts of roses, visitors are sure to feel well looked-after throughout, whether they are on a Valentine’s Day date or a family celebration.
Much of the food is cooked in-house, and the restaurant are happy to consider changing ingredients to suit particular palates. Prices are good too, and from £25, diners can enjoy dishes such as Ravioli di Ricotta e basilico or spigola al forno, followed by tiramisu or poached pears in wine (red, of course).
An intimate ambience is skilfully created with a backlit bar and candles gently illuminating the interior of exposed brick and dark wood.
At the time of writing, Chelsea’s Five Fields sat second in Trip Advisor’s list of London restaurants, based on customer ratings. The restaurant offers a creative take on British and European cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Five Fields is widely respected for the quality of service which strikes the difficult balance between attentiveness and a relaxed approach that puts diners at ease. Menus are around the £50 mark, and examples include Cornish cod, Yorkshire lamb and pigeon, with golden beetroot parfait and warm chocolate tart on the dessert menu. Between them, head chef Marguerite Keogh and her team have worked in fine restaurants from London and Paris to New York.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Seven Dials is one of four Hawksmoor restaurants opened by Will Beckett and Huw Gott to cater for the unashamed carnivore (ironically it is a former fruit warehouse). Offering some of the best steaks east of the famous steakhouses of Mayfair (including T-bone, fillet, bone-in-sirloin, rib-eye and D-rump), Hawksmoor focuses on quality cuts, skilful preparation and generous portions (they do warn you about the size). This does mean that you are unlikely to get much change out of £100 a head unless you opt for the express menu. For those who prefer seafood, there is lobster and lemon sole on the menu.
If you’re looking for a really special dining experience, and have the money to pay for it, Chelsea’s Restaurant Gordon Ramsay should be high on your list. In addition to its three Michelin stars, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey is part of an elite group of six that have been awarded a score of 9 or more by the Good Food Guide for the quality of its food. Head chef, Clare Smyth, was the Guide’s Chef of the Year in 2013 with the restaurant itself placed fifth in the UK in 2014.
Guests like the service to a well-oiled machine with attentive and professional staff creating a surprisingly intimate and relaxed environment. The Prestige menu (£135) currenty serves delicacies such as bresse pigeon with grilled polenta and ravioli of langoustine, lobster and salmon, while the £55 three-course lunch menu includes roasted fillet of skate and confit pork belly, cheek and trotter.
The prices are designed to suit a range of budgets. At the higher end, £80 will get you a four course meal with mouth-watering dishes such as Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd followed by jowl of middle white pork with chervil roots. On the other hand, opting for the set lunch menu will cost just £45.
L’Atelier Des Chefs
For those who fancy themselves as chef material, the L’Atelier des Chefs concept offers restaurant-based professional tuition and the chance to enjoy the results afterwards. Classes cover everything from 30 minute ‘Quick Thai’ sessions to 2 hour Moroccan cuisine classes, learning all about couscous, flatbreads and rose water jellies. Knife skills, vegetarian food, cooking the perfect steak, baking cakes and macaroons are also among the extensive range of offerings; there is even a British-themed class to get you used to cooking what the natives eat. There are two venues to choose from: the original in Oxford Circus, and a second near St.Paul’s cathedral in the heart of the city.