London restaurants - Our Expert's
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Hakkasan

Price guide: Expensive
#1/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Best for Romance -
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Probably my favourite London restaurant, this glamorous spot serves inventive Chinese cuisine.

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Hawksmoor

Price guide: Expensive
#6/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.9 (out of 5)

New York meets North Yorkshire in this sophisticated British steakhouse and cocktail bar.

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Barrafina

Price guide: Mid-range
#11/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.8 (out of 5)

Londoners happily queue for a seat at this slimline Soho tapas bar (but I’d just arrive early).

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Roka

Price guide: Expensive
#17/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

An international team of chefs serving some of the most exciting Japanese food in London.

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Albion

Price guide: Mid-range
#18/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

A sunny hangout for the better-heeled peeps of Shoreditch.

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Terroirs

Price guide: Mid-range
#31/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.5 (out of 5)

This wine bar-cum-restaurant has as much personality as the ‘natural' wines it sells.

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Masala Zone

Price guide: Budget
#33/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.4 (out of 5)

This clever chain is a fun place to sample great Indian food at bargain prices.

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Imli

Price guide: Budget
#48/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.2 (out of 5)

Good cheap Indian food served in sleek surrounds in the heart of Soho.

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Jamie's Italian

Price guide: Mid-range
#65/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.9 (out of 5)

You can’t come to London without trying a Jamie Oliver restaurant – or can you?

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Bocca di Lupo

Price guide: Mid-range
#74/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.8 (out of 5)

London took an immediate liking to this informal Italian eaterie.

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Dishoom

Price guide: Mid-range
#75/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.7 (out of 5)

Inspired by the old Irani cafés of Mumbai, this is a great place to meet up with friends.

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Bashan

Price guide: Mid-range
#76/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.7 (out of 5)

Authentic Hunanese cooking at the edge of London’s Chinatown.

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Parlour at Sketch

Price guide: Mid-range
#78/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.7 (out of 5)

Once the London headquarters of Christian Dior, this place is still a fashion mecca.

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Polpo

Price guide: Mid-range
#81/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.6 (out of 5)

It’s all about the buzz at this casual London take on the Venetian bacaro.

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Pizza East

Price guide: Mid-range
#92/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.5 (out of 5)

A meal here is guaranteed to raise your street cred with teens and students.

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The Luxe

Price guide: Mid-range
#96/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.4 (out of 5)

I love the atmosphere in this beautifully refurbished and modernised Grade-II building.

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Momo

Price guide: Mid-range
#99/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.4 (out of 5)

London’s best North African restaurant is as much a visual feast as a culinary one.

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Noura

Price guide: Mid-range
#101/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.3 (out of 5)

My favourite spot for Lebanese mezze hits the right balance between ritzy and relaxed.

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Tayyabs

Price guide: Budget
#108/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.2 (out of 5)

This 36-year-old family-run Pakistani restaurant has become a London icon.

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Mestizo

Price guide: Mid-range
#109/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:3.1 (out of 5)

Every time I drive past this place it’s full of people having a good time.

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Set focus

It’s been exciting to watch London’s food scene blossom over the past 15 years. Most welcome, however, has been the renaissance of British cuisine and it’s this I urge you to seek out during your visit. It could involve a simple plate of sausage and mash and a pint of real ale in a gastropub, local oysters and a glass of English sparkling wine at one of the historic fish restaurants, or feasting at a world-renowned establishment such as St John, famous for dishes like roast bone marrow with parsley salad.

Locals are sometimes a bit sniffy about the gastropub trend, preferring at the moment to get excited about could-be-anywhere French brasseries and tapas bars, but my guests always say that visits to gastropubs are their most memorable London meals. Those, and the Indian restaurants. As you will see, pretty much every area has at least one rather anglicised curry house, but London has many excellent restaurants and cafés specialising in everything from Keralan and Gujarati vegetarian cooking to smoky Punjabi kebabs and the courtly cuisine of Lucknow. It is also renowned for its own style of Indian fine dining.

I’m a great supporter of independent restaurants, cafés and pubs, but do think it’s a good idea for London visitors to have a few reliable chains under their belt, particularly when staying outside the city centre. I’ve included some of the best in the top 100.

London (indeed, Britain) is not awash with great cheap and mid-market eateries in the way of New York or Sydney: you can’t wander in somewhere that looks nice and expect to have a good, inexpensive meal. Budget-conscious food lovers need to beware of three pitfalls: mediocre and rather poor places that cost far more than they should; seemingly cheap places that serve low-quality fare; and high-quality cafés and bakeries that are very nice but charge posh-restaurant prices.

The standard of street food in London is highly variable, too. In general the best is found at local farmers’ markets (www.lfm.org.uk lists several, though not all), Borough Market and, on weekday lunchtimes, at Exmouth Market (which is a street, rather than a market!). If you are hungry and really do have just a few pounds in your pocket, the best value filler-uppers in town are Rasa’s Indian takeaway lunchboxes (a complete meal for £2.95 if you order vegetarian) and traditional pasties from the West Cornwall Pasty Company (on the King’s Road, in Covent Garden, and the major railway termini).

You'll have a better experience if you bear the following points in mind

  • Always check your bill before paying to see whether service has been included in the total. It is as normal for the bill to state ‘optional 12.5% service charge included’ as it is to say ‘service not included’, in which case you will be expected to add something to cover it. Around 10% is common if you are paying in cash, though many staff would hope for 12.5% or more, especially if you are paying by card. When paying by card, make sure you don’t pay service twice if electronically prompted to add a gratuity by the card reader.
  • Some waiting staff still tend to ask if you would like ‘still or sparkling water’ for the table. If you don’t want to purchase bottled water, for whatever reason, simply say ‘tap water will be fine, thank you’. However there are some restaurants that do not serve ‘tap’ and make a flat charge (around £1.50, say) for filtered water.
  • You can often dine more cheaply in premium-priced restaurants by eating early (usually before 7pm) and choosing from their ‘pre-theatre’ menu. These are sometimes not as lavishly garnished as the same dishes on the main menu, but suit many people very well. Die-hard foodies, however, often find the limited choice of dishes frustrating. Visiting at lunch and choosing the set menu has similar advantages and disadvantages.
  • Children and babies are widely welcomed in London restaurants but if you plan to visit an upmarket place in the evening it is worth checking with them first to gauge exactly how welcome the little ones are. You may feel more comfortable and have a better time booking a table for lunch instead.
Set focus

Duke Ellington said, "There are two kinds of music: good music, and the other kind," and that’s very much the way I feel about food. As you’ll see from the list of restaurants and cafés here, I’m completely egalitarian about cuisine and am as excited by a great new place for burgers, noodles or ice cream as I am by the latest haute cuisine restaurant or celebrity chef hotspot.

When putting together the Time Out London Eating & Drinking Guide, we cover over 1000 good restaurants, cafés and pubs within the bounds of the M25 motorway, so whittling them down to 100 for Simonseeks has been a challenge. It was essential to feature London’s finest restaurants and the best or most useful of the latest openings, of course, but I’m also revealing the places most loved by the friends and family I’ve been welcoming to the city for the past 20 years.

There are plenty of other places I’d be happy to recommend, so do keep an eye on my Twitter posts for them and any great special deals I come across.