Kensington has a lot of things going for it - great museums, great parks, beautiful white mansion houses, and a good chance of seeing random members of the royal family getting twatted on a Saturday night.
What we have never been convinced of is whether there are any great places to eat in Kensington. As it turns out, there are only a few excellent restaurants in Kensington and a whole lot of ‘not bad’ ones. It may never rival the lively restaurant scene happening everywhere east of Kensington, but there’s plenty that’s perfectly solid and will suit you well. Here’s our guide to knowing where to go.
Da Mario is not the absolute best restaurant in Kensington - but it is our favourite. This is a proper old-school Italian joint in a Venetian-Gothic building that fans of interesting old buildings would get fizzy knickers over. The first thing you notice is that Da Mario’s interior is authentically and charmingly a bit rubbish and there are a lot of pictures of the late, great Princess Diana on the wall. The food here is homestyle Italian, with big portions of pasta and great pizzas at semi-reasonable prices. This is a place for everybody and worth the short walk to avoid the chain bait restaurants around Gloucester Road station.
You may be surprised to hear that one of the best sushi restaurants in London is hiding just off High Street Kensington. Yashin Sushi has a ‘no soy’ policy for sushi, but the soy is substituted with ingredients like truffle flakes, ponzu jelly, and caviar. They have quite a nice lunch deal where you can get five nigiri, a spicy roll, miso soup, and salad for under £18, but overall, this place is not cheap.
Yashin Ocean House is the sister restaurant of Yashin Sushi. Expect a bigger space, a bigger menu, and for the whole thing to come with a lot more theatre. Like the original Yashin, sushi here comes with truffle or caviar on top, but you’ll find some new things too - like lobster sitting over dry ice, or candy floss over wagyu beef. This is a great spot for a group meal or a fun date.
Rocca is technically a chain, but the other one is far away enough (in Dulwich) that no one else has to know that. They do a fantastic carbonara, and their red Sarda pizza topped with sardines and olives kicks in all the right places. This is a relaxed place, but is busy all week, so it’s definitely wise to book ahead. And you should, because Rocca is the place for a consistently solid no-nonsense Italian meal that’ll just as easily accommodate early romance as it will a casual meal after work.
If the weight of organic fruit and bircher muesli inevitably has your pilates arm aching and tote bag bursting, the welcoming arms of Bone Daddies are just a short ascent away. They have a setup in the food hall above Whole Foods on Kensington High Street and are serving their signature ramens as well as some location-specific dishes. Our favourite of the ramens is the tonkotsu – 20 hours worth of bone-brothed richness, and we recommend getting the Korean wings as well. So put those wholemeal chia seed snack bars down, put on a bib, and go eat some Japanese soul food.
We’re letting you in on a secret that every student in Kensington seems to know - Dozo serves half decent sushi at a half decent price. This spot gets very busy during lunch so if you fancy getting a seat, we suggest either getting there dead on 12 or after the lunchtime rush. It’s also open late (until 10:30pm most nights and later at the weekends), so it also works if you need a quick dinner before heading to some toff-filled nightclub. Just try not to sit downstairs - it’s a bit of a cave and you need to be an amateur contortionist to get into the sunken seats.
PJ’s is an old-school, polo-themed restaurant in South Ken that feels like you’re dining in a luxurious wood-trimmed yacht filled with wannabe Ralf Lauren models. The food here is brasserie style and pretty average overall, but the real time to come here is for their all-day fry-up after accidentally ending up at a club filled with all of Prince Harry’s third cousins.
Brindisa’s original location in London Bridge will always hold a special place in our hearts as one of the original decent tapas restaurants in London. But we’re not in London Bridge - we’re in South Kensington. This Brindisa location comes into its own when the sun is out, the windows are open, and the outside seating is laid out - you almost feel like you’re in a foreign country. Mainly because it’s filled with tourists. The usual standard tapas classics appear on the menu, and if you’re in need of a half decent meal near the museums, then this isn’t a bad shout.
There will come a time in your life when, through no fault of your own, you will have to organise dinner in Kensington for your friends who live in East London. It may seem like an impossible feat to find somewhere that’s nice, but also not too pricey, not too stuffy, not too polished, and not too well, er, ‘West London’. Thanks to Locanda Ottomezzo, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant with Italian movie memorabilia on the walls and actual Italians in the seats, planning this dinner is not impossible. This isn’t the finest of Italian restaurants, but it gets the job done. Plus, there’s some theatre in the form of the risotto, which comes to your table in a cheese wheel and then gets mixed and served on your plate. Locanda is great for any occasion, but it’s best for a small group dinner where you can also share a few bottles from their excellent wine list.
Somehow you got the short straw in taking your cousin/god-child/Sloane ranger to get some museum culture and now they’re screaming that they’re hungry. And need to eat. Right now. Only a burger will fix this situation, and in this case you’re better than a fast food chain, but not better than a mini-chain. Honest Burger is the happy compromise where you get to shut them up with a great burger, and you get to posh it up with some rosemary fries and wash it all down with some much-needed alcohol too.
Margaux is a relatively casual but still elegant neighbourhood restaurant serving Euro bistro-style food, and they do it well - dishes like the roasted duck breast or venison fillet are very good. It’s one of those restaurants that is good for literally for everyone, so you can be safe in the knowledge that if you were to bring your nan, a random internet date, or your boss here, they would all have a great time. They might find it weird to be sat at dinner with each other though.
There are a few Wright Brothers restaurants dotted all over town, but the South Kensington location is the one that your mum would probably like the best. It is, for lack of a better adjective, ‘cute’, and is perfect for a late-afternoon session of knocking back some £1 oysters or a cosy evening meal with some friends.