You might think hotel dining is mainly for tourists. Not in London. Properties such as the Berkeley are home to some of the city’s finest chefs.
When Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck opens his first London restaurant on Jan. 31, it will be at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Marcus Wareing’s second establishment in the U.K. capital will be at the new St. Pancras Renaissance.
There’s no need to wait for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal or for the Gilbert Scott, which is scheduled for March. Here are 12 of the city’s best restaurants inside hotels:
Apsleys: This Mediterranean venue boasts some of the scariest prices in London. Chef Heinz Beck’s Fish Crudo starter comes with a 30 pound ($46.55) price tag and the formality of the service isn’t designed to relax. Yet the food is superb and the Fish Crudo alone consists of about eight delicious plates, including oyster, tomato granite in a martini glass; langoustine, Espelette chili; and sea-bream carpaccio, pina colada. The rabbit ravioli and pistachio is formidable. The place is hushed: below 70 decibels even with annoying music.
Lunch: 35 pounds for three courses, including water, coffee and a glass of wine http://bit.ly/f4F8UN
The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA. Tel. +44-20-7333-7254 or click on http://www.lanesborough.com/.
Bar Boulud: Daniel Boulud hit the ground running with this French-inspired bistro, which is crowded day and night. You can opt for classics such as coq au vin, or for my favorite, the foie gras-and-truffle burger, which isn’t on the menu and is available if you ask on Sunday nights. Desserts include Coupe Peppermint: flourless chocolate sponge, hot chocolate sauce, mint ice cream, chocolate sorbet. Low ceilings and lots of diners push sound levels above 75 decibels.
Lunch: 20 pounds for three courses.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA. Tel. +44-20-7201-3899 or click on http://bit.ly/f8pgGW.
Bistrot Bruno Loubet: Loubet is a classically trained French chef who combines passion with an admirable openness to new influences and flavors. You might like to try his ginger glazed, stuffed pig’s trotter and grilled belly with peanut chutney. The dining room is always crowded and noise levels may reach 75 decibels. No set lunch.
The Zetter, St. John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ. Tel. +44-20-7324-4455 or click http://bit.ly/e0BSVb.
Brasserie Joel: Joel Antunes was one of the stars of London dining in the 1990s, when he cooked at Les Saveurs. He’s back and cooking in a hotel just south of the Thames, away from the glamorous dining locations of the West End. His food is as good as ever, with dishes such as Rum Baba, Roast Banana. The restaurant is quiet, below 70 decibels.
Lunch: 23 pounds for three courses: http://bit.ly/fMHUdq.
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, 200 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7UT. Tel. +44-20-7620-7272 or click http://bit.ly/gKzaKB.
Flemings Grill: Most Londoners don’t know this dining room, or even the hotel that houses it, just off Piccadilly. Flemings opened in 1851 and is about as discreet as you can get until you descend a staircase at the back of the lobby and find yourself in a camp and fabulous cocktail bar. The Grill is tucked away around a corner, and the food is surprisingly good for a restaurant that few people will have on their speed dial. It’s quiet and just the place for a secret assignation.
Lunch: 19.95 pounds for three courses.
Flemings Hotel, Half Moon Street, Mayfair, W1J 7BH. Tel. +44-20-7499-0000 or click http://bit.ly/6laH7.
Galvin at Windows: It’s hard to love the London Hilton on Park Lane and I haven’t managed it, yet I’m always happy to go there for the first-class views and food at this restaurant on the 28th floor. Chris Galvin is one of the city’s top chefs, known for the quality of his cooking and his personal charm and integrity. At Windows, he serves modern French cuisine of the highest quality, while the views across London are unmatched. Noise levels are acceptable, around 70-75 decibels.
Lunch: 28 pounds for three courses, or 45 pounds with wine, water and coffee http://bit.ly/hNQF0T.
London Hilton on Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, W1K 1BE. Tel. +44-207208-4021 or click on http://www.galvinatwindows.com/.
Helene Darroze: The formality of this restaurant -- hardly surprising at a grand establishment such as the Connaught -- jarred when the French chef opened it in 2008. Since then, diners have come to appreciate her individual style of cooking, which reflects both her training under Alain Ducasse and her love of Asia. The meal that’s most talked about is the fabulous weekend brunch. Quiet: about 65 decibels.
The Connaught, Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL. Tel. +44-20-3147-7200 or click http://bit.ly/84Dley.
Koffmann’s: Pierre Koffmann, who once held three Michelin stars at La Tante Claire, came out of retirement last year to open this brasserie. I’ve written about the place so much -- along with Bar Boulud and Bistrot Bruno Loubet -- I won’t labor the point: Koffmann is one of the giants of U.K. gastronomy. (The Berkeley is also home to Marcus Wareing, one of London’s top two or three gastronomic restaurants.)
Lunch: 25.50 pounds for three courses http://bit.ly/gI35Cs.
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL. Tel. +44-20-7235-1010 or click http://bit.ly/b1IKII.
Savoy Grill: Gordon Ramsay got most things right at the new Savoy Grill. The menu is tempting and democratic -- my favorite dish of steak-and-onion pudding costs just 18 pounds -- and there are welcome nods toward nostalgia, with a daily lunch special served from a trolley and retro dishes such as mandarin Baked Alaska flambe. The service is friendly. Jacket and tie not required. No set lunch. Quiet: 65 decibels.
Savoy Grill, Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EU. Tel. +44-20-7592-1600 or click http://bit.ly/eX92YY.
Quilon: This low-profile Indian restaurant serves southwest coastal cuisine created by chef Sriram Vishwanathan Aylur, a veteran of the Taj group, and won a Michelin star in 2008. There are plenty of fish and vegetarian dishes, such as spiced stir-fried oysters, Kovallam fish curry (halibut in coconut, chili and raw mango) and Ridge and bottle gourd, with raw banana tossed with tomato, chili and toasted sesame. Quiet: 60 decibels.
Lunch: 24 pounds for three courses, including tea or coffee http://bit.ly/fdUnFo.
Hotel Crowne Plaza St. James, 41 Buckingham Gate, SW1E 6AF. Tel. +44-207821-1899 or click http://www.quilon.co.uk/.
The Ritz: The restaurant at the Ritz leads a separate existence from the rest of the London dining scene, even though chef John Williams is highly respected. It might be the prices: Most starters cost more than 20 pounds and mains start at 37 pounds. The dress code doesn’t help either: jacket and tie, no jeans or sportswear. This is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in London and the seasonal cooking is exceptional. It’s worth considering for a special occasion. Hushed: 60 decibels.
Lunch: 39 pounds for three courses http://bit.ly/hPh16b.
The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR. Tel. +44-20-7493-8181 or click http://bit.ly/hBJ498.
Theo Randall: Some chefs have thrived in London hotels while others have failed to garner the attention they deserve. Theo Randall, who used to head the kitchen at the River Cafe, has quietly been turning out first-class, seasonal Italian food in a windowless room at the InterContinental Park Lane. Most pasta dishes are 12-14 pounds and mains around 30 pounds.
Lunch: 29 pounds for three courses http://bit.ly/eOJClN
The InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7QY. Tel. +44-20-7318-8747 or click http://www.theorandall.com/.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)