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London restaurants

In London, love and scandal are considered the best sweeteners of tea.
- John Osborne

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Photo courtesy of Palomar

Barrafina

  • Soho, Spanish, $$$$ $$
  • 54 Frith St.
  • London, W1D 4SL
  • +44-20-7813-8016
  • Website

Cool tapas in a skeek Soho setting. Carefully sourced but not fussy ingredients, with an especially nice selection of Spanish cold meats. No reservations, but the reliably lively crowd makes the inevitable wait for a perch at the bar counter more tolerable. 

Bellanger

  • Islington, Bistro/Brasserie, French, $$$$ $$$
  • 9 Islington Green
  • London, N1 2XH
  • +44-20-7226-2555
  • Website

An Alsatian brasserie joins its sister restaurants The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel (all named for defunct car brands under the Corbin & King restaurant group). Pop into the all-day cafe for a croissant and cafe au lait and stay for a lavish lunch of boudin blanc and crepes suzette — enjoyed from a big booth surrounded with polished brass and plenty of buzz.

Brawn

  • Hackney, Bistro/Brasserie, $$$$ $$
  • 49 Columbia Rd.
  • London, E2 7RG
  • +44-20-7729-5692
  • Website

An airy and free-spirited restaurant on Columbia Road from the owners of the also excellent Terroirs in Covent Garden. It's getting a lot of attention for its excellent big-flavored food (lots of charcuterie and pig) and wines. Read the FATHOM Postcard.

Caravan

  • King's Cross, Cafe, $$$$ $$
  • 1 Granary Sq.
  • London, N1C 4AA
  • +44-20-7101-7661
  • Website

A beloved brunch spot housed in an old grain store. The avocado on toast is a must, followed by the smoked haddock and leek rabbit.

Cecconi's

  • Mayfair, Italian, $$$$ $$$
  • 5a Burlington Gardens
  • London, W1S 3EP
  • +44-20-7434-1500
  • Website | Email

It's over the top, glamorous, and potentially ludicrous. Which is what makes it so fantastic. The well-heeled crowd comes for the people-watching and for Italian classics like veal Milanese and pappardelle with lamb ragu.  

Chiltern Firehouse

  • Marylebone, British, New American, French, $$$$ $$$
  • 1 Chiltern St.
  • London, W1U 7PA
  • +44-20-7073-7676
  • Website

Lauded chef Nuno Mendes draws from his time working in the U.S. and London to deliver a menu of streamlined Brit classics with an American twist. The result is at once fresh and familiar — and the dining room is warm and inviting with globe lanterns, upholstered furnishings, checkerboard flooring, and clandestine booths.

Clove Club

  • Shoreditch, British, $$$$ $$$
  • 380 Old St.
  • London, EC1V 9LT
  • +44-20-7729-6496
  • Website

A striking setting (in the former Shoreditch Town Hall) and an Instagram-friendly aesthetic (look-at-me-now plating) equals a nine-course hoopla and fun, foodie scene.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

  • Kensington, English, $$$$ $$$$
  • 66 Knightsbridge
  • London, SW1X 7LA
  • +44-20-7201-3833
  • Website

Heston Blumenthal is one of the world's most influential and experimental chefs, and his flagship in Bray, The Fat Duck, is a singularly transformative meal. His new outpost at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is not, probably because he has to cater to a more touristy and business-y clientele. But the food is prepared with his signature skill and panache, with historical references throughout the menu.

Fernandez y Wells

  • Soho, Spanish, $$$$ $$
  • 43 Lexington St.
  • London, W1F 9AL
  • +44-20-7734-1546
  • Website

A small but airy wine and food bar with excellent Spanish fare, mostly in sandwich-y form. Around the corner at 73 Beak Street is their cafe, which serves pastries and coffee.

Gymkhana

  • Mayfair, Indian, $$$$ $$
  • 42 Albemarle St.
  • London, W1S 4JH
  • +44-203-011-5900
  • Website

London's reputation for good Indian restaurants gains a new notch and holds steady with Mayfair's Raj-era restaurant. Get ready for an education in high-end Hindi home cooking — from Tandoor oven roasts to seasonal curries to creative kebabs, the tastes and flavors are powerfully spiced and indulgent.

Hix Oyster and Chop House

  • Clerkenwell, English, $$$$ $$
  • 36-37 Greenhill Rents
  • London, EC1M 6BN
  • +44-020-7017-1930
  • Website

What began as a solo restaurant on the outskirts of London's meat market, has become a 10 venue enterprise for chef Mark Hix's signature modern Bristish style, and people are clamoring for more. Items of note: beef and oyster pie, house-smoked salmon, rabbit terrine, a medley of steaks, and feasts reserved for large groups of diners.

J Sheekey

  • Covent Garden, Seafood, $$$$ $$$
  • 28-32 St Martin's Court
  • London, WC2N 4AL
  • +44-20-7240-2565
  • Website

Everybody loves J Sheekey, the theater district seafood restaurant that never goes out of style. There's a high likelihood that someone famous will be across the low-ceiling dining room having classic Dover sole. That's par for the course in Richard Caring's buzzy Caprice restaurant empire, which also includes The Ivy in West End, Le Caprice in Picadilly, and Scott's in Mayfair. If you can't get into J Sheeky, try the Oyster Bar next door.

Kitty Fisher's

  • Mayfair, British, $$$$ $$$
  • 10 Shepherd Market
  • London, W1J 7QF
  • +44-20-3302-1661
  • Website

A handsome bar and dining room with a gentlemanly quality. (The name refers to a famous courtesan of the 18th century.) Much of the cooking is done on a wood fire, meaning everything from bread to duck breast to spring onions come with, at the very least, a hint of smoke. Expect the of-the-moment dining crowd. Once those bold faced names move onto the next big thing, you can focus more heartily on the incredible steak for two.

The Ledbury

  • Notting Hill, French, $$$$ $$$$
  • 127 Ledbury Rd.
  • London, W11 2AQ
  • +44-20-7792-9090
  • Website

Medals, awards, recognitions, and an unrelenting reservation system have kept this Michelin-starred establishment humming without distraction. The formal dining room is lavish and crisp, and the food — contemporary French — could be described in the same way. Australian chef Brett Graham is precise and fastidiousness. His passion for hunting and gardening shine on his plates.

Maltby Street Market

  • Bermondsey, Market, $$$$ $$
  • 41 Maltby St., Ropewalk
  • London, SE1 3PA
  • +44-79-7370-5674
  • Website

Join the Saturday morning regulars in a long and leisurely stroll through through the nondescript railroad archways of Bermondsey to sample from the freshest food stalls and talk to their stalwart keepers — craft coffee baristas, local brewers, cheesemongers, urban beekeepers, doughnut bakers.

Read more on Fathom: How Locals Spend a Sunday: Eating on Maltby Street

Moro

  • Farringdon, Spanish, $$$$ $$
  • 34-36 Exmouth Market
  • London, EC1R 4QE
  • +44-20-7833-8336
  • Website

London is crazy for Spanish food, and it's at its best at Moro, where farm-fresh food is prepared with Ibero-Arabic flair by the married chefs, Samuel and Samantha Clark. If you can't get into Moro, try Morito, their tapas bar next door at 32 Exmouth Market. And by the way, their cookbooks makes for a great souvenir.

Nopi

  • Picadilly, Middle Eastern, $$$$ $$$
  • 21-22 Warwick St.
  • Westminster, W1B 5NE
  • +44-020-7494-9584
  • Website | Reservations | Menu

Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, of Ottolenghi deli fame, now has a proper restaurant in Soho, or, more precisely, "Nopi" for "north of Piccadilly." The menu is, of course, Middle Eastern, with an emphasis on shared plates. Reservations are a must.

Ottolenghi

  • Notting Hill, Mediterranean, $$$$ $
  • 63 Ledbury Rd.
  • London, W11 2AD
  • +44-020-7727-1121
  • Website

If there was a heaven for salads and prepared foods, it would look like the spread at this airy, casual Notting Hill restaurant, the perfect spot for lunch or a tea-time snack.

By popular demand, there are three other outposts:
Islington: 287 Upper St., N1 2TZ, +44-020-7288-1454
Kensington: 1 Holland St., W8 4NA, +44-020-7937-0003
Belgravia: 3 Motcomb St., SW1X 8LB, +44-020-7823-2707

Palomar

  • Soho, Middle Eastern, $$$$ $$$
  • 34 Rupert St.
  • London, W1D 6DN
  • +44-20-7439-8777
  • Website

It's lively and jubilant, with roots in Jerusalem, but a kosher restaurant this is not. The menu plays hits of the Fertile Crescent, a mouth-watering mix of Arab and Mediterranean ingredients (oxtail, fried eggplant, Yemeni bread, kubenia) delivered to the table one glorious mezze plate at a time. Clouds of labneh may be spoon-fed to you at the hostess stand; ask for desert, and perhaps a dollop of everything will appear in a wonderful mess at your seat at the bar. There's no telling what will happen here, but you can be sure to have an incredible, un-forgetful meal.

Polpo

  • Soho, Italian, $$$$ $$$
  • 41 Beak St.
  • London, W1F 9SB
  • +44-20-7734-4479
  • Website

A small, charming, and very delicious Venetian-style restaurant ("bacaro") serving small plates ("cichetti") like crostini, meatballs, and fritto misto in Canaletto's former home. Reservations are only accepted at lunch; dinner is first-come, first-served. If you have to wait (and you will), the Campari Bar downstairs isn't a bad place to do so. Or try their other locations in Covent Garden (6 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA, +44-20-7836-8448) or Smithfield (3 Cowcross St., EC1M 6DR, +44-20-7250-0034).

River Café

  • Hammersmith, Italian, $$$$ $$$
  • Thames Warf, Rainville Road
  • London, W6 9HA
  • +44-020-7386-4200
  • Website

The one, the only, the legendary. The light and airy riverfront restaurant created by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray is where the English fell in love with casual Italian cuisine and where many now-famous chefs (like Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and April Bloomfield) learned to cook it.

Rochelle's Canteen

  • Shoreditch, English, $$$$ $
  • Arnold Circus
  • London, E2 7ES
  • +44-020-7729-5677
  • Website

The tucked-away Shoreditch restaurant is a favorite of in-the-know foodies. Housed in a former bike shed and overlooking a playground, the focus is on fresh ingredients cooked simply and purely for breakfast, lunch, and tea. When it's warm, sit outside. 

Roka

  • Soho, Japanese, $$$$ $$$
  • 37 Charlotte St.
  • London, W1T 1RR
  • +44-20-7580-6464
  • Website

The sceney sushi and robata restaurant in Soho, an offshoot of perennial favorite Zuma, is one of London's best Japanese restaurants. It's a little clubby and a little noisy, but the food is great. If you're in a real party mood, take your action to Shochu Lounge in the basement.

St. John

  • Clerkenwell, English, $$$$ $$$
  • 26 St. John St.
  • London, EC1M 4AY
  • +44-20-7251-0848
  • Website

Chef Fergus Henderson spawned the modern nose-to-tail dining craze from here, making this and the new Spitalfields Market outpost, St. John Bread and Wine, a must-stop on any foodie tour of London. Not for the faint-hearted who don't want to see duck hearts on a menu. 

Wolseley

  • Mayfair, Bistro/Brasserie, $$$$ $$$
  • 160 Picadilly
  • London, W1J 9EB
  • +44-20-7499-6996
  • Website

The room is a beautifully ostentatious showpiece, and everyone here acts like they're on display, too. The vibe is clubby and buzzy and very aren't-we-doing-well-for-ourselves, which is meant as high praise. The menu covers brasserie classics like steak frites, duck confit, a towers of oysters. If you forgot to make a reservation, you can snag a table in the cozy front room cafe.    

Zuma

  • Knightsbridge, Japanese, $$$$ $$$
  • 5 Raphael St.
  • London, SW7 1DL
  • +44-20-7548-1010
  • Website

It's a scene at the see-and-be-seen perennial in Knightsbridge, but don't let that distract you from the divine Japanese/Asian menu. Reservations may be impossible, but a party of one can easily get a seat at the sushi bar. Courage, grasshopper.

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