London’s dining scene mirrors its old-new soul. And the city’s most standout restaurants celebrate its tapestry of cultures, interlacing history with culinary innovation.
Find some of the British capital’s finest housemade pasta in an Art Deco marvel—a former bank downtown. A contemporary Indian restaurant in Westminster serves its royal paneer platter against a regal library backdrop. A beloved Chelsea watering hole channels a quaint country pub in one of the city’s most stylish postcodes.
The restaurants that define this fast-paced metropolis welcome both longtime residents and those passing through. Read on for a guide to 18 places integral to London’s identity.
St. JOHN (Smithfield)
St. JOHN offers a refreshing take on British fine dining, sans bells and whistles. Chefs and co-owners Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver are culinary heavyweights who have been referred to as the “beating heart of British cooking.” Their flagship restaurant, which opened in 1994, is a stripped-back affair with white-washed walls and the conspicuous absence of art and music. The settings are styled that way for good reason: they form a blank canvas for the food to take centre stage. Expect a menu that champions nose-to-tail cuisine and spotlights traditional British recipes featuring underappreciated cuts such as pig ears and duck hearts. The result is a time-honoured London mainstay with multiple well-loved locations.
Roka (Mayfair, Fitzrovia, Aldwych, Canary Wharf)
Roka first made a splash in London in 2004 and has since expanded from its original Charlotte Street site to Canary Wharf, Mayfair, Aldwych, and even international locations. The sophisticated Japanese spot specialises in robata barbeque techniques with standouts such as spicy beef and chile pepper skewers with yuzu kosho soy and sea bream fillet with green chile, yuzu, and pickled red onion. With its sleek minimalist design and open kitchen—an invitation for diners to get a closer glimpse at the food—Robata is a go-to for chic Japanese dining in the British capital.
Core by Clare Smyth (Notting Hill)
Since opening in 2017, this British fine-dining restaurant has scooped up many accolades including three MICHELIN stars (making it the first and only restaurant led by a British woman to score that honour), perfect marks on the Good Food Guide, five AA rosettes, and more. Smyth cooked for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, and Core is her dazzling debut of a restaurant. White-jacketed sous chefs move and cook with choreographed precision to serve up a classic tasting menu of scallop tartare, roasted cod with Morecambe Bay shrimps, and wild strawberry with meringue and lemon verbena. Book a table here for one of the best seasonal British meals in town.
Tandoor Chop House (Covent Garden)
Meaty British staples get the north Indian spice-and-heat treatment at Tandoor Chop House. The cross-cultural restaurant is impossible to ignore, thanks to the signature scent of chiles wafting through the air on Adelaide Street. Fan favourites include bone marrow naan (a prime example of how well Chop House does meat), the house tandoor chicken, and a masala boti-rubbed ribeye. Wood-panelled walls and patterned tile floors set an inviting tone. Come for the one-of-a-kind Indo-British fusion and stay for the warm communal vibes.
Petersham Nurseries (Richmond)
Gael and Francesco Boglione transformed a simple garden nursery into the renowned Petersham Nurseries in 2004. The Richmond gem was purchased to preserve the tranquillity of Petersham House, a stately 17th-century residence, and has since blossomed into a culinary haven serving Italian-inspired dishes such as pumpkin gnocchi and risotto with kale, spinach, and bottarga. The sustainable spot recently earned a MICHELIN green star and its success has fueled pop-ups in central London and a permanent place in Covent Garden. But Petersham Nurseries’ beating heart remains in Richmond, where it’s more than a restaurant—it’s a teahouse, shop, and above all, a vital part of any visit to this tranquil riverside location.
Cecconi’s at The Ned (Bank)
Cecconi’s is a swanky Italian restaurant with global ambitions, boasting outposts in Istanbul, Berlin, New York, Mumbai, and more. In London, Cecconi’s has two well-trafficked locations, including a newer address at bank-turned-hotel The Ned. African malachite Art Deco pillars bring the grandeur, and old banking counters double as room dividers. It makes an arresting backdrop to feast on superb housemade pastas such as crab ravioli, plus wood-fired pizzas topped with buffalo mozzarella and spicy salami—all straight from Italy.
The Fox and Pheasant (Chelsea)
Drawing up a list of London greats without including a pub, the quintessential British destination, just doesn’t make sense. The Fox & Pheasant is known for top-notch bar food that includes a beef burger and beer-battered fish and chips, but its menu also features modern English fare such as a daily fish served with asparagus, Jersey royal potatoes, and nori chile butter. There’s also a dartboard if you’re feeling competitive, plus dog biscuits for four-legged friends. The Fox & Pheasant isn’t just any urban watering hole. Instead, it lets Londoners experience the charm of a quaint country pub in the heart of one of the city’s most stylish postcodes. And it just so happens to be owned by singer-songwriter James Blunt.
Le Gavroche (Mayfair)
Le Gavroche first opened its doors in 1967 in Chelsea before relocating to Mayfair in 1982. It’s hard to imagine London’s restaurant scene without this adored fine-dining spot—and its two MICHELIN stars. Diners can expect a classic French feast in the regal dining room, whether that means a seven-course tasting menu starring roast veal loin or an a la carte option featuring barbecued and glazed red prawn with dashi broth. Kick off your meal at the cosy bar—the wine list includes more than 60,000 bottles. There’s an all-out French chicness about Le Gavroche, and it’s a winning formula that has steered the renowned restaurant for over a half-century.
Baozilnn’s Chinatown edition (it also has a London Bridge location) stands out even among a sea of exemplary restaurants in the neighbourhood. Crowds come for fiery flavours, best sampled in its chile oil wontons and shredded beef with carrots and chile sauce. The menu stretches beyond Sichuan and Hunanese faithfuls and instead shines a spotlight on lesser-known street foods from Northern China, such as jiaozi dumplings stuffed with prawn, pork, chicken, or vegetables. The restaurant’s name means “the people’s canteen” and makes a fitting moniker for the laid-back and welcoming city staple.
Casa do Frango (Shoreditch)
Casa do Frango channels Portugal’s Algarve region with a knockout piri-piri chicken. Its popularity has seen two new openings in Victoria and Soho, but it’s the original corner joint in Shoreditch that started it all. Here, Casa do Frango’s birds (available in half and full form) are cooked over a wood-charcoal grill and served with traditional Portuguese sides such as bacalhau (dried salted cod), Iberico pork cutlets, and traditional Portuguese fries. For the ultimate Algarvian feast, enjoy the meal family-style—sharing is most definitely caring at this acclaimed Portuguese gem.
Balthazar (Covent Garden)
Balthazar—a New York City import—is just a few steps from the famous Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and all about a polished French brasserie-style menu. The interiors evoke a slice of Paris, all red leather seats and giant antique mirrors. Esteemed bartender Brian Silva runs the fine drinks program, and diners can expect pitch-perfect service from the attentive staff. The kitchen churns out a polished transatlantic lineup with must-orders such as lemon sole meunière and steak frites, plus a very popular weekend brunch of eggs Benedict and mixed berry pancakes, best washed down with a signature bloody Mary. Though Balthazar was born across the pond, its London location is a force to be reckoned with.
The Drapers Arms (Islington)
The Drapers Arms is equal parts traditional pub and culinary hotspot. High ceilings, chandeliers, and chequerboard floors channel a classic English atmosphere, while a charming garden area makes an ideal perch for London’s precious sun-soaked days. MVPs on the menu include its legendary roasts, suet crust steak, and bacon pie. And let’s not forget the killer drinks, which include an old world wine list from France, Spain, and Greece, plus craft keg pale ales and lagers that reflect the pub’s signature free-of-tie status.
Hawksmoor (Bank, Borough, Spitalfields, Knightsbridge and Covent Garden)
There is no shortage of winning London steakhouses. But Hawksmoor set the gold standard with its prime cuts when it opened in 2006. Today, there are 12 Hawksmoor locations spread across six cities, including New York. But it all started on East London’s Commercial Street after co-owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott parlayed their East End restaurant chops into a steakhouse of their own. Over the years, the ever-reliable menu has expanded to include seafood, roasts, and breakfast. But it’s the British-bred beef that keeps diners coming back to this revered London institution.
The Cinnamon Club (Westminster)
The charm offensive at The Cinnamon Club begins the minute you walk into the award-winning Indian restaurant, housed in the Grade II-listed former Old Westminster Library—with books still intact. It’s hard not to be instantly awestruck by the striking interiors, which are decked with spaced-out tables that make you feel you’re dining privately. Innovative South Asian dishes are created by renowned chef and Cinnamon Club founder Vivek Sing and include camphor and sandalwood chicken breast, kokum-crusted halibut, and tandoori portobello. Not to mention engaging experiences such as a three-course library lunch, a four-course vegan tasting menu, and a jazz brunch (all bookable via OpenTable). Pair your spice-forward meal with thoughtfully sourced wines or a bold cocktail—The Cinnamon Club has an impressive gin collection—and tuck into one of the most elegant Indian spreads in London.
Brawn (Bethnal Green)
Brawn is the brainchild of restaurateurs Oli Barker and Ed Wilson (Terroirs, Soif) and was recently featured in the National Restaurant Awards’ top 100 spots. The restaurant regularly attracts Londoners who flock here after a morning at the famous flower market nearby. They’re here for sensational Spanish and French-inspired dishes such as trout rillette, fried baby squid with aioli, and a modern riff on gazpacho, topped with an egg mimosa and croutons. The interiors channel a quintessential East London studio—think mismatched furniture and expensive stemware. It all makes for one of the area’s most laid-back and leisurely spots to snack and sip on biodynamic wines. For those who can’t get enough of the eclectic wine bar-restaurant, there’s an onsite store, which sells food, wine, and merch influenced by Brawn’s menu.
J Sheekey (Covent Garden)
A visit to Covent Garden—arguably one of London’s buzziest neighbourhoods— is an over-the-top experience. J Sheekey, one of the capital’s best-known seafood spots, lies amid all its hustle and bustle. A meal here promises an escape from the noise and regularly attracts the pre-theatre crowd. Be prepared to be whisked away to a bygone era (the storied restaurant has been around since 1896) via a classic seafood menu that includes one especially iconic fish pie. Oak-panelled walls lined with black-and-white photographs add to the vintage ambiance. Post up at Sheekey’s horseshoe-shaped bar, sip on a crisp white wine, and slurp some oysters before rejoining the chaos of Covent Garden.
The Wolseley (Piccadilly)
With a sought-after Piccadilly location in a 1920 car showroom neighbouring The Ritz, The Wolseley is ideally positioned for you to soak up the West End before or after your memorable meal. The restaurant strikes an exquisite balance between sophisticated and relaxed, and it’s no wonder critics have described the Wolseley as one of London’s “loveliest dining rooms.” Maître d’ Matthew Silcock, a familiar face who has greeted diners here since 2004, is also responsible for The Wolseley’s popularity. As is the food, a combination of all-day British and European staples. Whether you kick off your day with an eggs Benedict and smoothie combo or come for the vichyssoise and sea bream fillet at lunch, a meal at this glamorous city stalwart is British luxury at its best.
Vasco & Piero’s (Soho)
Finding an Italian restaurant in the capital is easy, but coming across one that makes fresh pasta on-site is trickier. Enter Vasco & Piero’s, a Soho old-timer which has served a cherished Umbrian-inspired menu since 1971. The dishes here are refreshingly fuss-free (read: not made for social media), with a menu that changes twice daily. Expect spaghettini with king prawns, chile, and tomatoes, handmade mushroom tortellini, plus Tuscan sausages and grilled lamb cutlets. Vasco & Piero’s still imports most of its ingredients from central Italy and is proof that a restaurant can move with the times without pandering to fleeting trends.