A fact, as incomprehensible as the rising sun: no one from London deliberately goes to Leicester Square, the London Eye or Madame Tussauds. And if someone does, be that Londoner an intern tasked with organizing the company social, or someone who just wants a “friend” to visit from home. Or they have lost a bet.
And while there’s plenty in London that draws new and old hands alike – the theatres, the galleries – when that unfortunate friend or relative arrives armed with a TripAdvisor list of “10 must-sees” and the will to queue in the rain for hours. finally but to tick them all, it’s one of those feelings that soothes the soul. What the host can do is arrange drinks and dinner worth suffering.
Happily, such a meal is never far away, even in the most touristy areas. You may have to do a bit of work – especially in Waterloo, where every tired chain and coconut stand goes to kill (“And so to Waterloo, London’s gray-walled nadir, where the culinary highlights include All Bar One next to Snail and Lettuce,” as one Standard writer put it) — but those who make the extra three-minute journey will be richly rewarded. With half term and Easter fast approaching , these are the places that show the best of London to those at home and away.
Authentic handmade Italian pasta may not seem like the biggest culinary experience in London, but the proof of Officina 00’s claim to include it here is in the dining room. Located 10 minutes from the grandfather of the city’s tourist attractions, the British Museum, Officina 00 combines the laidback cool of a London restaurant with serious Neapolitan cuisine. There are creative twists too, like the viscerally comforting crispy panko lasagne snack and the caserecce with pistachio pesto, yuzukoshu and mint. Even Italian visitors will find some novelty within its low-lit industrial walls. And for anyone still questioning whether Officina is really “London”: the daily handmade pasta trend has been one of the city’s most enduring and surprising food trends of the past decade.
67 Whitfield Street, W1T 4DE, office00.co.uk
The Colony Grill Room
London, both old and new, collide in a restaurant that sits just seconds from Hyde Park Corner pandemonium – although you wouldn’t know it once inside. Nestled within the grandeur of the Beaumont Hotel, the Colony Grill looks like London via The Forsythe Saga: there are plush red carpets, crisp white tablecloths, reading lamps and gleaming mahogany paneling. The staff are somehow sympathetic to their surroundings but even better than them, serving the diners in a way that cheerfully dances the line between friendly and formal. The food charts a similar course. Drawing on the thriving network of small farms and producers that chef Ben Boeynaems has created over the years, the menu is quintessentially London in execution, but with delightful American and American-Italian accents: think Dover sole meunieÌ €re with miso butter, smoked celery gnocchi and monk wellington and hen of the woods. The martinis are a delight – a must after any encounter with Oxford Street.
8 Balderton Street, W1K 6TF, colonygrillroom.com
Meson don Felipe
While views from the London Eye may be exciting, the food is just that – at least in the immediate vicinity. Those looking for something more exciting than processed meat in a processed bun should make their way to Waterloo Wards, towards the Short. In addition to two theaters, this peculiar street in London offers, in essence, a variety of noteworthy restaurants, including Meson don Felipe, one of the longest tapas bars in London. Founded in 1987 by some hard-working Hispanophiles, it is now in the hands of the second generation; his manager, Santiago, has been there since the beginning. Tapas are everything you’d expect and more: sardines, gambas and tortilla as well as rich Catalan custardy crème and higaditos al jerez (cherry-doused chicken liver). Meson don Felipe is the best of Madrid and the best of London rolled into one.
53 Short, SE1 8LF, mesondonfelipe.co.uk
Royal Club of China
The word “institution” is usually overused, but the decadent, classically designed Royal China Club calls for an exception. There is one clue about this in the name itself – to know and love this restaurant is to be part of a club where the most important criteria is understanding the many small options of interest. Every part of the menu is huge, from crispy, fluffy or smooth, clear dumplings to signature dishes such as their whole king scallops and pan fried foie gras. Don’t miss the classic cheung fun, which is about a thousand times more fun than the nearby Madame Tussauds and Sherlock Holmes Museum will ever be.
40-42 Vicar Street, W1U 7AJ, royalchinagroup.co.uk
Mount St. Restaurant
Mount St. is a restaurant. which makes one feel grateful for not being rich enough to go the normal way. If this sounds like criticism, it’s nothing: instead, imagine how listless life would feel if, say, beef tartare and fresh lobster pie were made under the watch of Matisse, Lucien Freud or Picasso du jour. To dine here is to feel in a cat’s pajamas – if only those pajamas were silky, woven by Dempsey and Dempsey accompanied by a cigar and a little dram. From climbing the narrow staircase behind the discreet Mayfair door to the bustling, joyful pub downstairs, everything about it is wonderful and comfortable. With a menu inspired by the capital’s culinary history, it lends itself to showcasing London’s food scene to visitors, whether through its gooey Arnold Bennett omelette, the hearty pigeons in Pimlico (actually duck liver, bacon and red cabbage) or a rich tart Egg custard for dessert. Don’t miss the Ork scallops with smoked eel sauce – and you can’t miss the vibrant terrazzo floor, which is a literal work of art in itself.
First floor, 41-43 Mount Street, W1K 2RX, mountstrestaurant.com
According to Lonely Planet et al, no trip to London would be complete without the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. According to Londoners, no trip is complete with a great Indian meal. Kill three birds – not the ravens, please – with one stone by taking on the Tower, across the bridge, and heading to the aptly named Gunpowder for such banging dishes as venison and vermicelli donuts (their signature dish non-perishable) and Bengal beet croquettes . There are some classic options here too – saag with tandoori paneer, goan-style grilled prawns, ghee-roasted Kashmiri lamb – but there’s a real joy in the creative ones, which embody this city’s enduring relationship with Indian cuisine. It’s worth noting that there are three outlets, spread across Soho, Spitalfields and Tower Bridge, so Gunpowder works for multiple tourist locations. The former are bustling and full of fun and noise; the Tower Bridge outlet is a bit more grown up and polished.
different places, gunpowderrestaurants.com
House of France
As much as any restaurant can be Soho, it is French House. This may sound like an oxymoron, given the name, but French London is as old-fashioned as it gets. Perched precariously above a pub of the same name, the restaurant teems with action: from the kitchen serving hearty but skilful fare with a subtle French flair, to the diners who – between swapping whips and sometimes bottles of wine – are sipping in fine. A menu that changes daily is scrawled on their blackboard, and on a piece of paper, for those looking online – although it’s reliably excellent that hardly any research is needed beforehand. Meanwhile, because of the no music, machines, TV or mobile phones rule, the downstairs pub is the perfect place for conversation, celebrities — a long-standing French favorite among London celebrities — and of course, to listen in.
49 Dean Street, W1D 5BG, frenchhousesoho.com
Wild with Thirst
With a cathedral, a monastery, and Mrs. Dalloway’s walking tour all in the vicinity, Wild By Tart wins before diners even enter the building: a glassy building, rather soulless from the outside, it’s true, but warm and flowery. -sanctuary within. Then, bazaar cushions and seasonal margaritas – just £7 between 5 and 7pm – give way to a vibrant seasonal menu rooted in ingredients sourced locally or from tart farms in Somerset and Northumberland. It’s impossible to choose between plates like beef onglet with green sauce and smoked butter, pork belly and heirloom carrot with ponzu, and Cheltenham beetroot hummus with cashew tarka. The best solution is not to. Take a lot of diners – commandeer a passing tour group, if you must – and order as many as you can, including their toasted flatbreads to soak up the heady array of juices and sauces. One is caramelized onion, gorgonzola, roasted squash and hazelnuts, and it’s worth the price of the ticket alone.
3-4 Eccleston Yard, SW1W 9AZ, wildbytart.com
Pope of Rome
For as long as I’ve known South Kensington – and I was born around the corner – the area is a culinary desert, home to museums and their coffee shops, and precious little else. A lot has changed in the last thirty years, especially my awareness of the pizzeria Pappa Roma – which has been going for 27 years, but is in all fairness easy to miss. It packs a punch, though: wood-fired pizzas boast all the classic combinations for around £15. Starters like bruschetta and calamari are just as old. It’s not fancy or modern – for that, you’ll have to spend more or walk further – but for a glimpse of a traditional family-run London Italian set within a stone’s throw of the natural history museum, it’s hard to beat. hit .
6 Glen Dower Place, SW7 3DP, papparoma.com
Many restaurants operating in the vicinity of Borough Market claim to be from the stalls; very few actually do. Elliots, however, is happy in its location on the cobbled edge of the food market, which blesses it with ready access to produce from across Wales and beyond. Start with their signature cheese puffs made from Isle of Mull cheddar bought from their neighbors (Neal’s Yard Dairy), and their Cantabrian anchovy toast, a trending starter. Flirt – but don’t fill up on – some of their wood-fired sourdough pizzas, especially the taleggio with brown butter and sage, and save room for lamb T-bones and dry-aged trout and halibut that sizzling and fragrant from the wood. grill Elliot is a cosy, cool and skilfully operated space, with high stools as well as long group tables, which fills the street outside in the summer. It’s Borough Market at its best – and when Borough Market is at its best, it offers the best of London eating.
12 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD, elliots.london