Fancy restaurants can be very silly. Everyone knows that. From the tweezer obsession, to the staff’s silent and diehard commitment to your hydration, to the last words of a single leaf of radicchio you hear before eating it. It’s all OTT. But sometimes, OTT is what you want. Maybe it’s your birthday, or an anniversary, or you’re just in the mood for someone to lift the lid off of an extravagant bowl to reveal one single holy water boiled chickpea for you to eat. Whatever the reason, you want to be in a restaurant and eating food that feels a bit ~fancy~, and these are the spots for just that.
Although it adheres to all of the usual OTT fancy restaurant tropes - white table cloths, concerning-ly engaged staff, classic plates of food that likely have their own blueprint - Pollen Street Social manages to feel kind of, like, relaxed. Yes, a series of unexpected snacks will appear. But no, you don’t always have to pay three figures. Their three-course set lunch is just £50 and considering you’re sitting in a lauded Mayfair restaurant, combined with the fact the food (and the song and dance around it) is very good, it’s pretty good value.
Tasting menu: Lunch £55, Dinner £135
Endo’s 16-seat omakase bar in White City serves sushi that will make you regret eating anything else for the rest of your life. Less of a restaurant and more of an interactive eating experience, everything here is led by Endo - the headline act and head chef - while members of his backing band expertly prep rice and chat tuna, before handing you an eye-twitch-inducing piece of six-day-aged otoro nigiri. Every course from the 18+ you’ll be served - from miso soup, to outstanding raw fish, to wagyu beef - will make you pause, savour, and wonder. Wonder whether it’s worth shelling out almost £200 for a once-in-lifetime-experience, twice. At Endo, it is.
Tasting menu: £195
Hide is the kind of gloriously OTT restaurant that feels like it’s the lovechild of Russian billionaire and one of the world’s most revered wine boutiques. Probably because that’s exactly what it is. Overlooking Green Park, Hide Above is where you’ll find their tasting menu. This is categorically a ‘once in a lifetime’ restaurant experience and - depending on how well your foray into cryptocurrencies is going - is probably also a once-in-a-lifetime restaurant thanks to their hefty prices. It’s formal without being stuffy, and rather than silence and tweezer food being the order of the day, this place is committed to classy excess fuelled by things like hand-picked crab in a deliriously fresh lime leaf broth and an expert wine-pairing experience that is second to none.
Tasting menu: from £110
Ikoyi is London’s first West African fine dining restaurant and it’s also one of London’s most consistently exciting restaurants to dine in (in a fancy AF environment). The glassy, angular St James’s block where Ikoyi is very new but the food on its menu mixes old school European cooking techniques with big Nigerian spices and other West African flavours. You can expect to see things like jollof rice and suya on the menu, but just don’t expect the modern takes to look like what you’re used to.
Tasting menu: Lunch £50, Dinner £150
At Hunan you don’t choose the menu, the menu chooses you. While that sounds a little like J.R.R Tolkien might be the restaurateur behind this place, it actually just means that this is a no-menu Chinese restaurant. It’s a strictly ‘trust us’ policy (but of course you can call ahead with allergies) and the results are excellent. Deep-fried green beans, crispy pork that comes in a tearable paper bag, duck pancakes and, of course, banana fritters with ice cream. Almost everything is top notch.
Tasting menu: £70
Core By Clare Smyth is exactly the place to get involved in fine dining if you’re someone who, shockingly, actually wants a proper meal. Headed up by a chef whose CV reads like The Michelin Guide To Planet Earth, this converted townhouse in Notting Hill has the feel of your quietly fancy friend’s living room (read as: candles, books, tasteful foliage, and plush grey seating). The food will essentially be a tour of excellent but familiar British produce, combined with the occasional unusual ingredient that will make you say ‘why have I never eaten a potato topped with herring and trout roe before?’. A three-course lunch here starts at around the hundred quid mark, but when you’re looking to go big, it’s perfect.
Tasting menu: from £155
Social Eating House is all about fine dining done Soho-style. If you’re currently picturing Jeffrey Bernard meticulously tweezing edible flowers onto a pint, then same. But that’s not what Social Eating House is about. It’s a low-lit room that’s equal parts impressive and relaxed, with just a hint of that Soho buzz. No matter what you order you’re guaranteed to receive something that looks more like a Rothko than dinner, but trust us, just pop it in your mouth and you’ll be happy. If you’re looking to go all out, then book a coveted seat at the chef’s counter to watch your hazelnut scallops and lamb with ricotta cream be prepped directly in front of you. Please note that any meal here should absolutely be rounded off with an expert cocktail at their bar, The Blind Pig.
Tasting menu: from £95
Unlike most of the restaurants on this list, Casa Fofó is a neighbourhood restaurant. It’s a lowkey tasting menu restaurant in Hackney making an always changing menu of delicious and indefinable food. £45 will get you seven courses of things like almond ravioli in chuggable mystery broth #1, or a bowl of plain looking pasta that turns out to taste like the very essence of oyster (and chilli). The only decision to make is who to come with, and we’d recommend a date, as this is one of E8’s most intimate and unique restaurants.
Tasting menu: £45
For any other sad and avid watchers of Masterchef (N.B. we include ourselves in this category) you might like to know that Akoko was originally headed up by ex-contestant William Chilila. It isn’t now, but there’s a fact. Anyway, this fancy West African restaurant in Fitzrovia is serious about flavour. Their takes on boli and epa (plantain and groundnut) and miyan taushe (pumpkin soup) will make you wistful for a more lobster-in-soup-filled life you’ve never led. Atmosphere-wise it’s cool and comfortable, while still being serious about food (and explanations).
Tasting menu: £70
Chances are you’ll have a good idea of who Mere’s head chef is if you’ve ever watched that famed cooking show that rhymes with, erm, pastor breath. Wink wink, nudge nudge. But outside of its high-flying founder, there are a whole host of reasons you should visit this sophisticated restaurant on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. A fine dining spot that runs like clockwork, the tasting menus are packed full of French classics with a touch of South Pacific flavours. Think duck smoked in manuka honey with sweet pickled cherries and a pistachio crumb. The space itself is very tranquil, so we’d say this place is best reserved for special occasion dinners with the family and impressive meals with people who are into organised fun.
Tasting menu: £86
There are two superlative-laden whitewalled British restaurants in the middle of Shoreditch. One is St. John Bread and Wine - which is simultaneously a little fancy but utterly unfussy - and the other is Lyles, which is both fancy and fussy when it comes to food. And that’s what makes it so good. The tasting menu reads simply - razor clams and tomatoes, fore rib and onions - but that isn’t to say it tastes simple. In fact every ingredient at Lyle’s is turned up to the max, and with nothing else to focus on in the industrial space, it’s the food that’s the centre of attention.
Tasting menu: £79
Oh lovely, lovely Launceston Place. We challenge anyone to come here and not consider hiding under your white cloth table in the hopes that they won’t notice you and you can just live in this charming and quiet corner of Kensington forever. Our favourite thing about this place is that despite serving things like pigeon with blackberry jus and duck liver parfait, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Case in point: the miniature Henry hoovers the suited servers use to clear the crumbs from your table between courses, and the confit potatoes that arrive in mini shopping trolleys. Basically, there’s a whole lot that will make you smile here, least of all the truly spectacular food that comes as part of both their excellent value lunch and dinner set menus, and their eight-course tasting menus.
Tasting menu: £85