London restaurants

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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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La Fromagerie

Price guide: Mid-range
#5/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:5.0 (out of 5)

Much more than a cheese store, this foodie temple opens from breakfast to early evening.

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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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Hix

Price guide: Mid-range
#7/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Best for Trendiness -
Expert overall rating:4.9 (out of 5)

Hip restaurant and basement bar from popular chef with passion for British ingredients.

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Busaba Eathai

Price guide: Budget
#10/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Best for Value for money -
Expert overall rating:4.8 (out of 5)

My friends and I visit this luxurious yet informal Thai canteen more than any other restaurant.

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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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St John

Price guide: Mid-range
#13/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.8 (out of 5)

A celebration of all things meaty, and foods that taste good on toast.

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Locanda Locatelli

Price guide: Expensive
#15/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.7 (out of 5)

Italian haute cuisine from one of London’s most charismatic chefs.

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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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Kopapa

Price guide: Mid-range
#19/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

The big kahuna of fusion cuisine has found a larger stage in Covent Garden.

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Vinoteca

Price guide: Mid-range
#20/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

Rejoice: a handy new branch of London’s coolest wine bar to take the heat off the original.

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#21/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

Two terrific eateries in one means this Marylebone spot suits many occasions.

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Koya

Price guide: Budget
#23/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

A big bowl of Japanese udon is just the thing to fortify you on a foggy day in London town.

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Amaya

Price guide: Expensive
#24/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.6 (out of 5)

Here’s a rare thing in London: an Indian restaurant just right for a night of romance.

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Hereford Road

Price guide: Mid-range
#30/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.5 (out of 5)

Uncompromisingly seasonal British cooking in a casually de luxe setting.

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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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La Petite Maison

Price guide: Expensive
#34/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.4 (out of 5)

Few places in London manage to combine such wonderful cooking with a carefree ambience.

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Ottolenghi

Price guide: Expensive
#36/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.4 (out of 5)

A cool café and takeaway by day, and a bold exponent of Mediterranean fusion cuisine by night.

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Moro

Price guide: Mid-range
#37/115
expert-rated restaurants in London
Expert overall rating:4.4 (out of 5)

This relaxed bar and restaurant has done much to popularize the food of Spain in the UK.

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Showing 1-20 of 49 results
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.