London has always been an amazing city, but as it stands right now, London restaurants have never been better, more diverse, or more exciting. As a matter of fact, putting together this list was damn near impossible, because there is just so much good food to talk about in this town.
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There are loads of curry styles in London, and Sri Lanka is responsible for some of the meanest. Hoppers - named for the country’s bowl-shaped, sauce mopping pancake - is not just one of the best Sri Lankan places in London, but one of the best places to get a curry, period. The food is a joy to eat - miss the bone marrow curry or devilled shrimp at your peril - and the cocktails aren’t bad either. It’s another busy restaurant, but you can put your name down and get a text when your table is ready, all while you have a drink nearby. You can also hit it for lunch, when tables are easier to come by.
Let’s face it - the first thing you thought about when you booked that flight to London was fish and chips. Or Indian food. Or maybe meeting Kate Middleton in a restaurant. We can’t make any promises on that last one, but in terms of Indian food, Dishoom is one of our favourites, serving street food classics like pau bhaji (a spicy veg mishmash served with buttered white bread) and spiced lamb chops. It’s a popular spot, meaning you’ll probably confront a wait. But it’s nothing one of Dishoom’s excellent drinks can’t solve, and it will be worth it. In addition to Carnaby, there are locations in Kings Cross, Shoreditch, and Covent Garden. Brunch here is also popular, thanks to the masala eggs and the bacon naan roll. We hear princesses love bacon naan rolls.
There are plenty of great Turkish restaurants in North London, but some of the best that have opened recently have been less mom-and-pop and more slick and stylish. Yosma is our favourite of this type - loud, fun, and messy, with excellent drinks and some killer dishes cooked on a coal grill. The Kűnefe - a pastry with pistachio, white cheese, and lemon syrup - is a must-order. Yosma is excellent for large groups, too - the dining room is big without feeling cold, and sound levels are perfect for an impromptu meal after a few drinks with friends.
Arguably London’s most influential restaurant, St John’s claim to fame is its proprietor, one Fergus Henderson, who has been instrumental in getting people to embrace the idea of eating an animal’s less desirable parts , or what they call "nose to tail" cooking. At heart though, St John is just a damn good restaurant, with simple and perfect dishes of meat, game and fish served on a menu that changes twice daily. Make like the regulars and snag a table at the fun and more informal bar, where everything from the bone marrow with toast to a simple soup has had an inordinate amount of care poured into it.
The format is familiar - take a beloved world cuisine, adapt it to local tastes, add heavy metal. Ok, maybe not all of the format is familiar, but the metal does seem necessary. Beyond the music, Black Axe Mangal loves to play with Turkish flavours and take them to eleven, like flatbreads topped with things like lamb offal, snails, and pork back fat and the ‘deep throat’ shawarma, which you are free to interpret however you wish. As you might expect, drinking copious amounts with your meal will not be frowned upon - it actually might even be required when KISS comes on over the playlist.
It took a while for London to get Thai ‘right’ - meaning worthy of a trip across town for. But Som Saa definitely is, and it was worth the wait. Their versions of Northern Thai dishes like som tam and grilled pork with fiery dressing will make your mouth happy, as will a bowl of sticky rice mixed with the juices from their eminently Instagrammable deep-fried seabass dish. Throw in a great bar and excellent service, and you’ve got not only a place worth making moves for, but a new London classic.
If there’s one restaurant that Londoners universally adore, it’s Barrafina. For that reason, the restaurant is ALWAYS busy, but there are worse ways to spend your time than waiting with a glass of cava and a plate of olives. As for the menu, Spanish classics like tortilla and pan con tomate are excellent, and taste way better when served on a fancy marble counter. This will be some of the best Spanish food you’ve ever eaten, anywhere. Try the Adelaide Street location for slightly shorter queues.
Portland represents the best of a new style of informal restaurant that does fine dining that’s perfect for anyone with a rabid Chef’s Table habit, without the pole up the arse. The menu of small plates is brilliant, and done in a way that won’t make you fall asleep or want to head for a hamburger after dinner. Compared to a lot of other similar places in town, it also feels a lot more relaxed. The easy tasting menu at £45 is outstanding value for money.
Yauatcha was one of the first restaurants to introduce true Cantonese food to Londoners who had otherwise previously subsisted on a diet of takeout chow mein. This is an excellent restaurant from top to bottom, but dim sum is the reason you come here. It’s great for a group or a date, assuming everyone is ready to punish themselves with dumplings. Not ready to commit to a full meal? Their street-level patisserie is one of the best in town.
Sometimes you just want to settle down in a fancy dining room with people you like, and eat steak frites with a bottle of something really expensive. There are few places better to do this in London than the Delaunay, which is perfect storm of everything you love about eating out - from the decor and service to the food and atmosphere, it’s a class act. If you’re really fancy, it’s also great for drop-ins, a drink, or even breakfast, and it has a take-out counter for coffee and very good pastries.
Sometimes you just want something ridiculously delicious without any of the ceremony. If so, hit up Quality Chop House, a modern British restaurant in Clerkenwell that has an awesome no-bullsh*t menu of things that you’ll really want to eat - a properly made pie or some slow cooked pork perhaps, and of pudding or tart for dessert BECAUSE THIS IS ENGLAND. The wine list is brilliant and the dining room - a retro throwback to a 19th century working men's eating house - is part of the unpretentious vibe.
You’re in England, so you’ll want to stop off at a pub for a pint (or eight). You may have heard that we have some good pubs, perhaps even ones not located in strip malls. You may also know that some of these pubs serve edible food. The Eagle upended the traditional meat and two veg equation with some delicious cooking that changed the game as far as eating out was concerned (literally every town has a decent ‘gastropub’ now) and it’s still one of our favourites. The menu changes often and there’s a real rotation of local ales on tap, but the steak sandwich remains one of our most beloved dishes in town.
We’ve been going here for years, not only for the amazing food - think French and Italian-inspired cooking with top-drawer ingredients - but also the atmosphere, which is pure neighbourhood but in a convenient Soho location. You’ll want to eat everything on the menu and maybe have a few glasses of wine from their very affordable and high value list. And while it’s crowded and doesn’t take bookings, it’s absolutely a must visit.
Palomar serves Israeli-style cuisine, and also some serious bar action. The restaurant is super informal but glamorous at the same time, and between the excellent food and drinks and buzzing atmosphere, you’re almost guaranteed a good time. The bartenders have some great banter, and while you can book tables away from the bar, that would be to miss the point entirely. Put your name down and grab a drink at the White Horse down the road while you wait.
It’s hard to beat a classic fish and chips, and for our money, Poppies makes one of the best fish suppers in town. The decor’s kitsch as hell, but the food’s all business. The fish is fried to order and the chips are crispy on the outside, just as they should be. As a meal, it’s perfect.
There are a lot of great places to eat around the London Fields and Haggerston area, and quite a few good ones are beneath the railways arches that criss-cross the neighbourhood. One of our favourites is Berber & Q, a North African and Middle Eastern inspired restaurant with a great crowd and fantastic food. The whole roasted cauliflower is a cult dish, and both the meat and veg dishes from the grill will make you happy. Expect to line up, and the location’s a little off the beaten path unless you’re staying out East, but it’s worth it. The location makes it feel like you’ve stumbled onto a hidden, locals-only spot. Because you have.
While we get that the Victorian, post-industrial London thing is interesting to visitors, we’d recommend veering from the usual spots and making like a local by finding somewhere cosy and getting stuck into a Sunday roast. The Bull and Last, on the doorstep of pretty Hampstead Heath, does a very good one, and while the standard of cooking is very high, the atmosphere is pure boozer with a great selection of cask ales and local North Londoners ramping up the charm factor.
The original Lantana in Fitzrovia has the intimate feel of a local cafe, just a few minutes away from the chaos of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. The sleepy backstreet it’s on makes it feel like you’ve stumbled onto something awesome, and the ambience is as laid-back as it gets order a sandwich and some pastries and hang with the newspaper. Those still exist, right?
An import from New Zealand, Caravan roasts their own coffee beans, but also serves a full-blown restaurant menu of dishes that take cues from different world cuisines - everything from miso-glazed pork to eggplant bhaji and duck confit. The original Exmouth Market location is a convenient spot with neighbourhood vibes, while the Kings Cross restaurant’s industrial feel makes it better for lively brunches with friends.
You can get a flat white coffee - basically a smaller, stronger latte - from a London grocery store vending machine now, but this is where it all began. Flat White still serves some of the best coffee in town, is also really good at naming things. It should be your go-to if you’re strolling (or more realistically, getting hopelessly lost) in the maze of streets in Soho.
Do you do need somewhere in Soho that has strong coffee, good food, and a reliable wifi connection, Timberyard is your spot. Popular with London’s freelancers and nomadic business types tired of chancing it at Starbucks, it has a solid selection of meals and snacks - from healthy green things to cronut knock-offs - as well as a good choice of coffees, fancy teas (we literally didn’t know this many teas existed) and filter options make it a great spot on its own. Paired to the pro-lingering policy and comfy chairs though, it becomes a class act.
If you're the type who obsesses over negronis, coffee and fancy cocktails, you're going to love Bar Termini. Even if you don't, it’s hard not to love a place with a dedicated negroni menu that serves espresso by day, and strong, classic cocktails at night. The ultra-central Soho location is the cherry on top. Bar Termini is a small space, but it’s perfect for adding a little class to your evening.
There are plenty of places to enjoy interesting craft beers in London - most off-licenses (bodegas) and pubs serve them now - but the most reliably good remains Brewdog. They’re a Scottish brewery that just happens to own a load of bars in London that serve really good beer, whether it’s their own brews or guest casks from the UK or abroad. The music’s loud, the bar food is tasty and the atmosphere’s great. Go for a tasting flight so you can try a few different house brews in a session.
London gets a lot of love in these ‘Best Bar in the World’ type lists that may have popped up on your Facebook feed lately, half of which most Londoners don’t actually visit. There’s always an exception, and Happiness Forgets is that exception - always busy, always loud, but if you plan your night right, you’ll be able to enjoy some fantastic cocktails in an unpretentious but laid back atmosphere, ably backed up by some of the best bartenders in town. Book ahead.
Gordon’s is perpetually rammed - the outdoor area in summer, and the candlelit, subterranean wine vaults in winter - and chances are you’ll see this on the odd mainstream ‘where to drink in London’ guide. But it’s with good reason - there aren’t many places like it, hence its popularity with Londoners. The wine list is really impressive even for a bar so central, and there’s something about a candlelit evening with friends that adds to a memorable night out - romance, atmosphere, it’s anything you want it to be.
As far as old-school pubs go - in the classical Victorian sense, not the drinking and fighting sense - it’s hard to get much more old-school than the Princess Louise. Besides being a very reliable place to grab a cold pint in central London, the atmosphere is pure boozer - no wide screen televisions, fruit machines or pretentious craft beers. Just the sound of lively banter and good times. The maze of drinking booths will equally delight and confuse the hell out of you, but the open back area is a better spot if you just want to grab a proper seat.
It’s true that London’s pubs are excellent, but in case you get bored of necking pints with Prince Harry, head to the Zetter Bar & Lounge, one of our favourite hotel bars in Clerkenwell. It’s a great place for a nightcap or to unwind with a few strong drinks, and the antithesis of a bawdy night at the local pub.