The 30 Best Restaurants in London Right Now, as Chosen by Top Chefs
Chefs dine out more than most of us, and they all have favorite restaurants (beyond their own). But where are they eating now? Which establishments have they enjoyed recently and which dishes did they like most?
I asked the cream of London's culinary talent, and discovered that Clove Club, Lyle's, and Portland were among the most popular current restaurants. Here's what the chefs had to say:
Recommended by Nieves Barragan (Barrafina).
This Soho restaurant serves the food of modern-day Jerusalem. It has won numerous awards since opening last year. "The dishes are small and really tasty," Barragan says. "There's love in their food. My favorite was salmon tartare, which was really good. I like the ambience, too." (The Palomar)
Recommended by Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social).
Chef Ollie Dabbous serves up original and inventive dishes in this European restaurant in Fitzrovia. "I only went to see what it was like but I was blown away," Atherton says. "The duck-fat noodles was one of the best dishes I've had for years in London." (Dabbous)
This modern British restaurant in Shoreditch is a favorite among chefs and the food crowd. Chef James Lowe is known for his spare, inventive dishes. "I had one of my favorite meals there last year," Bloomfield says. "It's simple, it's clean, it's thoughtful, it's precise. I'm all about Lyle's now." Chef Bosi agrees. "It is very good, simple, delicious cooking," he says. "The environment is quite minimalist, but that just makes you concentrate even more on the food. The cod tongue with wild garlic mash and ramson is a very good dish." Chef Koffmann is another regular diner, as is Westcott of the Typing Room. "I love it," Westcott says. "It’s an honest, unfussy homage to traditional British cuisine. The Dexter topside (cured meat) is delicious. The fact it is made in-house makes it even better. The smoked eel broth and turnips dish is also very good." (Lyle's)
Recommended by Tom Aikens (Tom's Kitchen).
This East London restaurant, from chef Lee Westcott, serves modern European cuisine. It's also part-owned by Jason Atherton, the British chef who has just opened the Clocktower in New York. "It's very clean food and Lee is a great talent," Aikens says. "He has a good understanding of ingredients and flavors. I recently had the halibut, with white asparagus, curry, and pine. It's really clean and fresh." (Typing Room)
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Blumenthal's luxurious brasserie at the Mandarin Oriental hotel serves historical British dishes, rather than the chef's unusual concoctions at the Fat Duck. "It's amazing," Chaignot says. "I especially loved the meat fruit." Woodward of Savoy Grill is another fan: "I was really impressed with the food and service, the whole experience. The octopus starter was amazing." (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal)
Recommended by Cary Docherty (Social Eating House):
This flagship of the television chef holds three Michelin stars and is run by chef Clare Smyth, who is widely admired for her seasonal cooking. "Clare's cooking is immensely enjoyable, and supremely confident," Docherty says. "It's a very inspiring place for me. My favorite dish is the sautéed foie gras with roasted veal sweetbreads, carrots, almonds, and cabernet sauvignon vinegar." (Gordon Ramsay)
Recommended by Helene Darroze (Helene Darroze).
Chef Isaac McHale's modern European restaurant in East London is one of the most feted establishments in the City. It quickly won a Michelin star and might be in line for a second. "In one year I went there three times," Darroze says. "What's on the plate is simple but in a very creative way. I like the black pudding best." (Clove Club)
Social Eating House
Recommended by Marcus Wareing (Marcus).
Chef Jason Atherton's Soho restaurant is loud and lively, with creative dishes and a bar upstairs. "It captures Soho perfectly," Wareing says. "It's got the right energy and buzz, spot-on music, and delicious food. It suits its location perfectly." (Social Eating House)
This unassuming restaurant in London's Fitzrovia has quickly become a hit, especially with chefs. The décor is simple, and the seasonal dishes are simple and reasonably priced. "It's an extension of the bistronomy movement in London, which Arbutus helped to start," Demetre says. "It is food that people want to eat. This is the emerging talent, a new generation." Veteran French chef Koffmann is another fan. "I go there often," he says. "I love the snacks like the pig's head croquettes." Chef Puolakka of Company of Cooks concurs: "The food is simple but there is a lot of technical ability behind it. The boys are doing something different. I like the pig's head croquette." Tish of Salt Yard says, "My favorite dish of late was the charred brassicas with egg yolk, soy, and truffle. So simple but all the flavors marrying very well indeed and a really light touch." (Portland)
Recommended by Dan Doherty (Duck & Waffle).
This basement venue in Soho looks like a dive, but that's all part of the plan. The menu is centered on (meat) chops cooked over a pan. "I love the simplicity," Doherty says. "The style is clear and the food is well-executed. They use quality ingredients. You can't go wrong with great chops." (Blacklock)
Duck & Waffle
Recommended by Tony Fleming (Angler).
Chef Dan Doherty's restaurant on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower is open 24 hours, serving British and European dishes. "I went for breakfast and thought it would be all about the view," says Fleming, whose restaurant is nearby. "But I was surprised by the quality of the food." Monica Galetti of the TV show MasterChef agrees: "The restaurant has an amazing view over the city, but the food is great, too. I really enjoyed the roasted octopus." (Duck & Waffle)
Recommended by Andre Garrett (Andre Garrett at Cliveden).
Chef Claude Bosi serves uncompromisingly modern French food at this Mayfair restaurant, which holds two Michelin stars. "Claude is a cutting-edge chef and I love his food," Garrett says. "The last time I ate there, my favorite was foie gras cooked in fig leaves, young turnip, and fresh figs." (Hibiscus)
Recommended by Skye Gyngell (Spring).
This tapas bar, with a new, second outlet in Covent Garden, serves modern Spanish dishes you'd be happy to get in Barcelona. "I simply adore it and it's a stone's throw from Spring," Gyngell says. "Nieves (Barragan) is a shining star, and her crab cakes are just divine." (Barrafina)
Taberna do Mercado
Recommended by Angela Hartnett (Murano).
This Portuguese tavern in Spitalfields market is the new creation of Nuno Mendes, executive chef at Chiltern Firehouse. "I love the peas, broad beans, and egg yolk; and the tinned fish," Hartnett says. "This is Nuno and it's round the corner from my home." James Lowe of Lyle's is also a fan: "I loved it, especially the turbot in a tin with dulse and seaweed oil. The seaweed lends the oil a beautiful flavor, and the texture of the turbot was amazing." (Taberna do Mercado)
Recommended by Anna Haugh (London House).
This neighborhood restaurant in Chiswick serves seasonal British and European dishes to match those of fancier establishments in the West End. "Oh my god: I was absolutely blown away," Haugh says. "The flavors were phenomenal, and the textures. The carpaccio of scallops was stunning." (La Trompette)
Recommended by Pierre Koffmann (Koffmann's).
This basement restaurant in the Bulgari hotel serves Mediterranean dishes. It's overseen (from France) by chef Alain Ducasse and yet has attracted only limited acclaim. Koffmann considers it undervalued. "I had my best meal of the past year there, especially the lamb and the socca salad," he says. (Rivea)
Recommended by Tom Kerridge (Hand & Flowers).
Swedish chef Mikael Jonsson's restaurant in Chiswick is a destination for the food crowd, drawn by the inventive dishes. "I've been three times," Kerridge says. "I love everything Mikael stands for. The food is all ingredient-led. It's wonderful. I like the watercress and black-truffle omelette." (Hedone)
Recommended by Marianne Lumb (Marianne).
Chef Eric Chavot, a protégé of Pierre Koffmann's, has created his own quirky version of a French brasserie in Mayfair. "I love Eric's cooking," Lumb says. "He's a whirlwind of passion. His food is full of soul: The chicken-liver parfait is perfection." (Brasserie Chavot)
Recommended by Allegra McEvedy (Blackfoot).
This Taiwan street-food café in Soho, backed by Gymkhana chef Karam Sethi, opened recently. There are usually queues to get in. "Totally yummy," McEvedy says. "It's the kind of food I like to eat: lots of bits rather than a regimented starter/main scenario." (Bao)
Recommended by Nuno Mendes (Chiltern Firehouse).
This neighborhood bar and restaurant in Hackney, East London, focuses mainly on fish. There's a raw bar with options such as red prawns, new season olive oil, and lemon. "The crudos are super-tasty, the oysters are really nice, and they do an amazing steak for two," Mendes says. "It's very simple with lovely food." (The Richmond)
Chick 'n' Sours
Recommended by Sophie Michell (Pont St.).
This is another fashionable East London venue. The menu is led by herb-fed fried chicken and sour cocktails. "I had great Sichuan chicken wings and a pickled-watermelon salad that was beautiful," Michell says. (Chick 'n' Sours)
Recommended by Thomasina Miers (Wahaca).
This small Mayfair establishment is currently the hottest restaurant in London. It doesn't feel that way. The service is very friendly and relaxed, and chef Tomos Parry lets the ingredients speak for themselves. The bread with whipped burnt-onion butter is particularly good. "The produce was amazing and I loved the bread and butter," Miers says. (Kitty Fisher's)
Recommended by Tomos Parry (Kitty Fisher's).
This tiny Thai barbecue joint is packed with Soho diners at night. "I love the atmosphere and short menu with very good wine list," Parry says. "I always order the fish wings. Barrafina is up there, too: Barrafina in the day and Smoking Goat at night." (Smoking Goat)
Recommended by Simon Rogan (Fera).
Roka is a modern Japanese restaurant serving fine dishes, particularly from the robata grill. "I love that fusion style of cooking with lots of lighter dishes," Rogan says. "I especially enjoy the robata grill dishes, the black cod, the tataki, and tempura." (Roka)
Recommended by Ruth Rogers (River Café).
Few Indian establishments enjoy the prestige of Gymkhana, which holds a Michelin star and holds the title of U.K. National Restaurant of the Year. "I particularly like the lamb chop," Rogers says. "I like the clarity and simplicity of the cooking." (Gymkhana)
Recommended by Michel Roux Jr. (Le Gavroche).
This new restaurant in Clapham is winning plaudits for its stripped-down style, reasonable prices, and inventive cooking. "It's got good food, a buzzy atmosphere, and great cocktails," according to Roux. "I really enjoyed it. I loved the cauliflower with very bitter cacao." (The Manor)
Duck & Rice
Recommended by Karam Sethi (Gymkhana).
Alan Yau, who created the Hakkasan and Busaba Eathai restaurant chains, is behind this new Chinese restaurant in Soho. "The whole roast duck is really good," Sethi says. "It's perfectly spiced and cooked, and it is crisp and juicy." (Duck & Rice)
Marcus at the Berkeley
Recommended by Andrew Turner (Café Royal):
Chef Marcus Wareing's flagship restaurant has recently undergone a makeover to become less formal, while retaining the high gastronomic standards. "I had lunch with (chef) Paco Roncero from Madrid," Turner says. "The food, wine, and service were stunning, and it's not often one gets all three perfect." (Marcus at the Berkeley)
Recommended by Paul Walsh (City Social):
If you are happy to pay 300 pounds ($461) for your sushi, this is the place for you. There's one menu, and there are two sittings a night for nine lucky (and presumably wealthy) diners. "I love Japanese food and this was some of the best I've had so far," Walsh says. (The Araki)
Wright Brothers Spitalfields
Recommended by Maria Tampakis (Heddon Street Kitchen).
Oysters and seafood are the big draw in this restaurant at Spitalfields market, where you can dine at the bar. "There is something about a Champagne brunch with oysters," Tampakis says. "I enjoy the Dorset crab and the shellfish platters." (Wright Brothers Spitalfields)
Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines.