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The culinary scene in London has come a long way over the past decade and now more than holds its own against longer established global contemporaries.
From modern fine dining, contemporary Indian, fusion Peruvian, immaculate sushi and dim sum, to casual tapas, London has it all, served up with the high-octane buzz of one of the world’s great capital cities.
LTI looked at 48 contenders, before settling on this eclectic selection of 20 of the UK capital’s best luxury restaurants where you can enjoy your food and drink:
Smith & Wollensky
This renowned American steak house has made the trip across the pond to open its first non-US location in London.
Located in the Art Deco Adelphi Building, and spread over two floors, it’s a classic New York steak house – all leather, wood, brass and huge steaks in a power house atmosphere.
Mirroring the Smith & Wollensky green and white theme, the London outpost has its own dry aging room and three party rooms.
Obviously steaks are the main food option, but there is also a great choice of shellfish, fish and poultry.
To start we recommend Wollensky’s famous pea soup, their signature jumbo lump crab cake or burrata with tomato salad.
When it comes to main courses, this is the only London steak house to have USDA prime on its menu – we especially love the Cajun bone-in rib eye, though all steaks have been matured between 21 and 28 days and will not disappoint.
Smith & Wollensky, The Adelphi Building, Covent Garden Riverside, 1-11 John Adam St, London WC2N 6HT; +44 20 7321 6007
Mere, pronounced Mary, is overseen by former Le Gavroche duo Monica Galetti and her husband David Galetti.
Monica Galetti is more widely known for her TV appearances on UK cooking show “Masterchef,” and David Galetti is the former sommelier at Le Gavroche.
The restaurant’s head chef is Canadian-born Renee Miller, who has worked at Michelin star level. As you would expect, the dishes are expertly executed and very well presented, with unusual as well as classic combinations.
We like that the menu is uncomplicated – it has just six options for each course, which depend on what’s in season. There’s also a three-course set menu, but it’s not as impressive.
More unusual dishes include roasted squab with manuka glazed swede and a starter of scallop with black curry. All tables are well spaced and agreeable, but the sofa tables under the murals are the most comfortable.
Mere, 74 Charlotte St, Bloomsbury, London W1T 4QH; +44 20 7268 6565
Giorgio Locatelli still personally oversees our favorite Italian restaurant in London, which is looking better than ever since undergoing refurbishment after a fire.
Legendary interior designer David Collins devised this cream and dark wood, intimate but luxurious dining space that’s all about relaxed indulgence.
Soft, rounded banquettes curve around large tables, and the ambiance is welcoming and cozy, yet elegant.
The menu consists of melt in your mouth pastas and the emphasis seems to be on letting the natural quality and flavors of the ingredients shine through, with many elements imported directly from Italy. A wide and impressive variety of breads are made fresh on the premises.
Roast monkfish in walnut caper sauce is one of the many stand out dishes and we also love the Tiramisu, which is perfect for sharing.
Locanda Locatelli, 8 Seymour St, Marylebone, London W1H 7JZ; +44 20 7935 9088
Henrietta sees Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous and the group behind the Experimental Cocktail Club come together to create a hotel restaurant with real personality.
With award-winning Parisian designer Dorothée Meilichzon in charge of the décor, the interior makes a real impact.
Forest green velvet chairs, exposed brickwork and a glass ceiling combine with pressed flowers pay homage to the area’s gardens of yesteryear – creating a holiday vibe in the process.
The restaurant’s spirit-heavy bar produces imaginative cocktails inspired by great authors – The Citadel, a tangy blend of absinthe, gin and orange bitters, is a stand out.
As for food, Henrietta’s menu is creative, French and pleasingly affordable with mains starting at around £19 ($25). There’s also a selection of grilled flatbreads that are great for sharing and the perfect madeleines make a wonderful dessert.
Henrietta, 14- 15 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8QH; +44 20 3794 5313
Chef patron Atul Kochhar carries the distinction of being the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star (at Tamarind), before earning one for Benares.
The restaurant, which occupies a large piece of prime Mayfair real estate, has a relaxed vibe despite its elegant surroundings. Tables are well spaced and the lighting creates a moody and romantic vibe.
The menu is made up of innovative, sophisticated and modern Indian cuisine using the best British ingredients, showcasing Kochhar’s tireless research of regional Indian recipes and global travels.
All the dishes prepared in the tandoor oven are excellent. Other stand outs are the crispy soft shell crab and the roasted rump of English lamb. The three-course set lunch is a good deal, and there’s a very interesting street food menu, but the tasting menu is ideal for special occasions.
Benares, 12a, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6BS; +44 20 7629 8886
Sam and Eddie Hart now have three Barrafina restaurants, serving the best tapas and robust Catalan cuisine in London, with its original earning one Michelin star. A no reservations policy means queuing for one of the coveted bar counter seats, which would be very off-putting if the food was not outstanding.
The ethos here is to use the freshest and finest ingredients, and to interfere as little as possible. Barrafina’s famous specials board changes twice daily.
Head chef Angel Zapata Martin, who replaced Nieves Barragán Mohacho in 2017, presides over an ever-changing menu showcasing tapas from every region of Spain.
There is no bad choice here, but the restaurant serves some of the most flavorful pan con tomate and the specials are well worth trying, particularly the fresh fish.
Barrafina, 26-27 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 3LL; +44 20 7440 1456
The iconic Ivy is back to its best following a major and much publicized refurbishment. It used to be known for its good and bad tables, but since its reopening and new layout, all tables thankfully share the same billing.
The small cramped bar at the entrance has been replaced by a majestic bar, designed for lingering and dining. However some of the restaurant’s more memorable features have been retained, such as the famous diamond shaped stained windows and leather banquettes.
All the old favorites are still on the menu such as shepherd’s pie, liver and onions, sausage and mash, but these now sit alongside a more eclectic choice such as miso blackened salmon and tuna sashimi.
We love the burrata with datterini and beetroot salad to start, followed by fish and chips, rib eye steak (with one of the sauces on offer).
When it comes to service, the staff are very knowledgeable, which unfortunately sometimes comes across as being aloof.
The Ivy, 1-5 West St, London, WC2H 9NQ; +44 20 7836 4751
This Mayfair seafood stalwart is part of Richard Caring’s restaurant and private club empire, and still draws a well-heeled, attractive crowd.
Dominated by a quietly majestic, marble topped seafood and champagne bar, dark red banquettes are discreetly glossy, fine silverware and crystal gleam gently under universally flattering light. The tables by the bar are the most sought after, as they give diners a perfect view of the entire room.
When it comes to food, the oysters are king when in season, otherwise there’s assorted crustacea such as the classic Lobster thermidor and a dizzying array of fresh off the line fish.
While Scott’s is a seafood lover’s paradise, the menu also has some game and meat dishes like venison and roast Cornish lamb.
It also offers an impressive 42 wines by the glass (with many available by the half-bottle carafe), showing an admirable commitment to the modern restaurant ideal.
Scott’s, 20 Mount St, Mayfair, London W1K 2HE; +44 20 7495 7309
André Balazs’s hot entrée into the London hotel and dining scene in 2013 created more controversy than any other establishment in recent history.
Covering 4,000 square feet, the hotel restaurant accommodates 120 people and is divided into four interflowing sections; a small bar, a main area, a more private area behind a partition just off the main dining area, and a narrower back area.
The vibe is lively, yet still manages to feel cozy, while a stringent reservation policy keeps tables on the most-coveted list.
Chef Nuno Mendes (formerly El Bulli) takes the helm at the kitchen, reinterpreting an American inspired menu with a lighter hand, while the wine menu offers everything from the reasonable to the stratospheric.
Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA; +44 20 7073 7676
Madrid Michelin star chef David Munoz (Diver XO) has brought his Avant-garde style cuisine to London, complete with a lot of artistic showmanship.
Set in an industrial style basement, the décor comprises red Formica tables, leather chairs and lots of art including a stand out neon fish over the counter area.
If you don’t take things too seriously and embrace the theater of it all, you’ll have a relaxed and fun evening.
Munoz has previously worked at Nahm and Hakkasan, and there are Asian influences in his dishes here, as well as European and South American.
The menu, which changes regularly, is varied and original, with steamed club sandwich, Pekinese dumplings, prawn suqet stew amidst the wildly colorful options.
It’s worth noting that the background music here is loud – so it’s not an ideal venue for those who want a quiet night out.
StreetXO, 15 Old Burlington Street. Mayfair, London W1S 2JR; +44 20 3096 7555
The original Zuma that started it all is still one of the English capital’s most in demand restaurants, humming with energy seven days a week.
Created to deliver authentic, high quality Eastern flavors, within a bustling, fun, sophisticated izakaya style setting, it succeeds in spades.
The vibe is accordingly lively and casual, but sophisticated, and the décor exemplifies modern Eastern simplicity, with bare wood tables, simple beige chairs and slatted wood partitions.
The menu contains something for everyone, from Robata grilled and cooked temptations to the freshest sushi and sashimi. Meanwhile the Sake bar contains over 40 varieties of sake, Zuma signature cocktails.
Zuma, 5 Raphael St, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DL; +44 20 7584 1010
Colony Grill Room
Inspired by grill rooms of the early 1900s that offered gentlemen a welcome respite from the constraints of formal evening dress and dining, the atmosphere at Colony Grill Room is quietly cozy and relaxed, even when the dining room is full.
Tucked away in the hip yet discreet Beaumont, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s debut hotel, its decked out with plush deep red leather banquettes, white linen covered tables, sepia-toned deco inspired wall murals and framed images of yesteryear personalities.
The menu contains transatlantic classics such as chicken pot pie, Colony Club chopped salad, oysters (when in season) and beloved back catalogue hits like shepherd’s pie.
We recommend the build your own ice cream sundaes for dessert.
The Colony Grill Room, The Beaumont, 8 Balderton St, Brown Hart Gardens, London W1K 6TN; +44 20 7499 9499
Located in a wing of Somerset House on the Strand, this former government tax office has been transformed into a beautiful contemporary space with chef Skye Gyngell at the helm.
The main dining room is adorned with a stunning white marble bar, wide planked oak wood floors, pastel walls, high ceilings, white pillars and honey leather dining chairs.
Spring’s daily changing menu is committed to using only the freshest, seasonal produce, and there is a straightforward, elegant approach in the kitchen.
Recent options have included Guinea fowl with buttered leeks, chanterelles and crème fraîche and wild sea bass with crushed borlotti beans, braised tardivo and rosemary.
Spring, Somerset House, Lancaster Pl, London WC2R 1LA; +44 20 3011 0115
Alan Yau’s high-end Chinese restaurant is a sight to behold – its interior is as graceful as an 18th century French building, with a nod to 1930s Shanghai glamor.
Park Chinois provides the perfect full night out, with cocktails, great food and entertainment – there’s a live jazz bar on most nights – and it’s open until 2 a.m. every night.
All tables are excellent, but if you want to be closer to the action we suggest a table near to the small live music stage.
And although there’s much to admire on the menu, the duck for sharing is what most diners come for.
Complemented with steamed pancakes and hoisin sauce, Thai cucumber and spring onions, as well as a choice of caviar (a classy touch), it’s a particularly memorable dish that elevates Park Chinois into our London favorite list.
Park Chinois, 17 Berkeley St, Mayfair, London W1J 8EA; +44 20 3327 8888
This super glamorous addition to the Richard Caring empire is an Asian-inspired fish and seafood restaurant with German chef Bjoern Weissgerber at its helm.
It’s essentially a super luxe and impressive brasserie with plenty of magnificent bespoke art on display including installations from Damien Hirst and excellent works by Frank Gehry (designer of the Guggenheim in Bilbao).
The Asian-inspired menu includes a tempura section, as well as an array of seafood-filled salads, soups and noodle dishes, and of course, plenty of fish.
There’s also a selection of meat dishes including bone-in rib eye steak and Japanese wagyu.
Sexy Fish also comes with a wine list that means business, concentrating firmly on European icons, big name domaines and chateaux, and with impressive vintage depth for those with pockets to match. Sexy Fish remains one of the hottest in London, so make sure to book well ahead.
Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square W1J 6BR; +44 20 3764 2000
Serving contemporary Cantonese cuisine with a twist, this second London outpost of the now international Hakkasan brand has gone from strength to strength.
The split-level restaurant features a bar and large casual dining area on the ground floor and a more intimate, den-like lower ground floor restaurant area.
Hakkasan pioneered a look and ambiance best described as nightclub Chinoise at their original restaurant on Hanway Place, with a stunningly moody, dark, Christian Liaigre designed interior and Hakkasan Mayfair continues the blue and black color theme and nightclub vibe.
Stand out dishes include roasted silver cod in champagne and honey, stir fried Chilean sea bass and black truffle roast duck.
It’s wine list has been ruthlessly curated for food harmony, each one is tasted with at least four dishes to ensure that all match seamlessly to the food.
Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street, London W1J 6QB; +44 20 7907 1888
Restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King opened Delaunay following the huge success of The Wolseley in Piccadilly – and it has proved to be another big hit for the dynamic duo.
The dining room, modeled on the grand cafés of Vienna and Budapest, is undeniably stunning, with Old World charm in spades. Imposing chandeliers and leather banquettes add to its grandeur.
The menu is split into lots of sections, from soups, starters and wieners to crustacia, caviar, cakes and coupes – with lots in between.
Dishes are simple but well executed and, while the food is not fine dining, the sense of occasion being the comes from being in this brass and dark wood venue makes up for it.
We particularly recommend the Wiener Schnitzel and the steak tartare, and a crab cocktail to start.
The Delaunay, 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB; +44 20 7499 8558
Duck & Waffle
Bringing 24/7 dining to new heights, Duck & Waffle is based on the 40th floor in the Heron Tower, in the heart of London.
Its magnificent views and fun, playful take on traditional British comfort food make for a winning combination. Inside is industrial chic, from the graffiti in the bar area, to the wood planked ceiling, simple uncovered tables, farmhouse style white wooden chairs and the large u-shaped leather banquettes.
The restaurant’s small bar is also a fun destination in its own right thanks to its stellar views.
As for the menu, the eponymous duck and waffle (perfectly crisp duck confit, fried duck egg and waffle, accompanied by mustard maple syrup) is among the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
The majority of dishes here are ideal for sharing, which we highly recommend.
Duck & Waffle, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY; +44 20 3640 7310
This modern Peruvian restaurant offers fresh, contemporary cuisine from one of its three kitchens – the ceviche bar, charcoal grill, and central kitchen.
Its extensive menu requires lengthy perusal before ordering, but the fun and lively atmosphere helps keeps things casual.
Starters are divided into four categories, anticuchos (skewers), ceviches, tiraditos and small plates while mains are categorized by animal type and cooking style.
The standout dishes include sea bass ceviche, crab and avocado tacos, quinoa salad, arroz Nikkei (Chilean sea bass and rice, lime and chili in a miniature iron pot) and Chuleton (28-day aged rib of beef). We’re particularly fond of the family style sharing plates.
Coya, 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7NW; +44 20 7042 7118
Following his star turn at The Square in Mayfair, two Michelin star chef Phil Howard is back on the scene, along with his business partner Rebecca Mascarenhas and head chef Toby Burrowes, with this very charming Chelsea restaurant.
The interior is stylish, with moody lighting and chic, concrete tables.
While the menu isn’t as complex as The Square, it’s still very innovative, adventurous and fun. Recent additions include langoustine tartare and duck salad with caramelized vegetables and red onion.
And while Elystan Street doesn’t have a bar, the cocktails are inventive and there’s also a great beer list.
Elystan Street, 43 Elystan Street, Chelsea, London SW3 3NT; +44 20 7628 5005
London’s restaurants thrive with a new found, eclectic global energy. Chiltern Firehouse and The Ivy draw in the celebrities, and Sexy Fish is super glamorous.
Benares is our top pick for contemporary Indian, while for Italian it has to be Locanda Locatelli.
Zuma continues to dominate as the top tier Japanese for quality of food and a lively atmosphere, and a host of fun casual eateries (Barrafina, Duck & Waffle, Coya) breathe new life into an already burgeoning restaurant scene.
Our top choice for steak, meanwhile, is Smith & Wollensky, and for reliable all day dining we favor The Ivy and The Delaunay.
Park Chinois is a real class act – for the food, the ambience and the late night entertainment. And for something completely different: StreetXO is full of theatrical dishes from hot Spanish chef David Munoz.
There has never been a better time to eat out in London, just be sure to book well ahead.
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