Got plans to eat out but have no idea where to go? Same. Tired of endlessly searching for last-minute restaurants? Same. So we did our own London food-tour to bring you the best dining-destinations all in one place.
Whether you’re vegan, a meat-lover, a fan of adventurous food or you just love the simpler things in life, this guide has it all. Dining at each of these restaurants and listed alphabetically , these are the 8 places you’ve got to visit before 2020.
What: Barrafina is a modern Spanish tapas restaurant that specialises in fish dishes with a varied menu depending on their day’s catch. With authentic dishes, Barrafina combines the traditional with the modern with up-market decor that’s as eye-catching as it is enticing.
Where: Dean Street (Soho), Adeliade Street (Charing Cross), Coal Drops Yard (Kings Cross) and Drury Lane (Covent Garden).
Why: Because tapas is great for a quick lunch, an indecisive dinner, a date night (sharing is fun) and larger groups of people.
At Barrafina, the very Spanish menu might seem a little daunting. Don’t let this frighten you – the staff are impeccably trained so they can give you a rundown of everything you need to know (including dish recommendations, how many to order and what kind of variety will work best). We were won over by their specials menu, though. Each day, Barrafina have a select number of fresh fish on display that they cook up in adventurous ways. They’ll run you through the menu – showing you the fish as they do so – and telling you exactly how each is cooked. When you dine out, it’s comforting to know that the staff are clued up on everything there is to offer. At Barrafina, you’ll have full confidence that this will be the case.
Menu Highlights: For two people, we got 7 dishes; a mixture of meat, fish and veggies. As the specials menu is constantly changing, it’s hard to pinpoint what to get exactly. Our advice? Go for the fish you don’t cook at home (monkfish, razor clams, sea bream). This way, you’ll get to try some exciting new dishes cooked in a diverse way. We’d say it’s best to pick 60% specials menu for the meat and 40% a la cart menu for the vegetables. Everyone’s happy.
Book Here: Barrafina
What To Wear: Barrafina is walk-in only, so no need to dress up to the nines. Keep it cool and casual in a pair of jeans, a twill shirt and a clean pair of trainers.
What: Bob Bob Cité is a luxury French restaurant, prized for their astounding attention to detail. Expect classic French dishes with a modern twist.
Where: The sister restaurant of Bob Bob Ricard, Bob Bob Cité is the second of its kind. Situated in the landmark Leadenhall Building (Bank tube station), this restaurant is a spectacle you won’t forget any time soon.
Why: Coming to Bob Bob Cité is not merely a dinner, it’s a whole experience. From the outside street of the Leadenhall Building, the restaurant looks like a moving train. Go up the glass lift outside the building and you’ll arrive in the restaurant, as if you’ve just stepped onto a Wes Anderson set (symmetrical, polished, vibrant…). Each of their (booth) tables has their famous ‘press for champagne’ button. Press it, and your table number will light up around the room. It’s pure genius.
On the more expensive side, Bob Bob Cité calls for special occasions rather than everyday dining. Treat yourself to three courses in order to truly understand what they have to offer. With an adoration for classic French food, Chef Eric Chavot – described as “one of the greatest chefs of his generation” – modernises classic dishes that’ll leave you dreaming about them for days.
Menu Highlights: Both of the Bob Bob restaurants are best-known for one dish: the Beef Wellington. Simple it may sound, rumour has it that it’s the best you’ll find anywhere. Our personal favourites were the Steak Tartare Impérial served with Siberian sturgeon caviar (if you’re going to have caviar, what better place to do it?) for starters, and the Lobster Macaroni & cheese, complete with four (four!) different kinds of cheese for mains.
Naturally, enjoy your food with a glass of champagne (only if ordered through the button) or a cocktail of choice. Fair warning: the cocktails will knock your socks off.
To finish, their dessert menu includes boozy (rum Baba) and comforting (Lemon Tart) options, however, if you’re going big and feeling brave, end your night with a -18° vodka shot.
Book Here: Bob Bob Cité
What To Wear: Bob Bob Cité is an occasion to dress up for. Although casualwear is still ok, we think you should make a special effort with this one. Opt for a smart pair of trousers matched with a well-ironed shirt. Finish with your favourite loafers and a belt to jazz it up.
What: Recreating Bombay’s most loved dishes, Bombay Bustle is an idyllic reflection of Indian culture meets modern style. Expect family recipes amongst innovative dishes.
Where: The heart of Mayfair, just off Regent’s Street. A prime location for a top dining destination.
Why: Because Indian cuisine doesn’t get better than this. From the moment you step into the restaurant, you’re hit by two things; the smell – naturally mouth-watering – and the interior. Designed to reflect Bombay’s train systems and the organised chaos of Mumbai, Bombay Bustle sets an away-from-home feel that you only find once in a while.
Having recently launched their Sunday brunch menu (Samosas, Dosas & Mimosas, they call it), we ventured up to see what it was all about. 15 dishes later, we couldn’t move, but we realised we’d just witnessed a menu that is second to none. This brunch menu, running from 11am to 3pm, is a wonderfully slow-paced introduction into what Bombay Bustle has to offer. Do this, and you’ll be back in a couple of weeks, guaranteed. The kind of restaurant you go away telling your friends/family/colleagues about, pop to Bombay Bustle any day of the week to enjoy their equally great à la carte offerings.
It comes as absolutely no surprise to us that Bombay Bustle was the Diner’s Choice award winners in 2018.
Menu Highlights: On arrival, start with a mimosa. Have a chat with one of the waiters for the low-down of the menu. They’ll let you know how much to order. If you’re unsure, give them an idea of what you like and they’ll do the hard work for you (the best way to experience this menu, in our opinion). Some of the musts include the Rarah Keema Pao (spice lamb) which comes with a lime and chilli on the side. If you like your food spicy, add the chilli; if you like it sweeter, add the lime. Another essential dish is the kebab platter. Constructed of lamb, chicken, prawn and fish, this plate simply boasts the power of Indian spice.
Their cocktail menu is adventurous and fun – a charcoal-infused whisky based drink? We’ll take 4.
Book Here: Bombay Bustle
What To Wear: Bombay Bustle gives your Sunday best a whole new meaning. No need to go super smart, but a nice pair of jeans matched with a shirt and smart shoes will go a long way here. There’s nothing worse than the decor looking better than you do. Avoid tight clothing, if you can. You’ll be eating plenty.
What: A refined French restaurant. They call it a modern French brasserie, but we think that’s understated – it’s so much more.
Where: Henrietta Street in the centre of Covent Garden.
Why: Because French dining has a sophistication that everyone should get a taste of – and because Frenchie does it so well. Definitely one best saved for special occasions, this restaurant – tucked away in the bustle of Covent Garden – is a hot spot that needs to be on your radar. With a clean, minimal aesthetic, Frenchie offers seasonal dishes (with an ever-changing menu) created by Chef Greg Marchand. Take your pick of the a la carte menu or go for the tasting menu option (they have a vegetarian one too) for courses that perfectly flow from one to the next. Feeling fancy? Opt for the wine pairing alongside the tasting menu where Frenchie’s exceptionally knowledgable staff will take you through each wine from origin to climate and everything in-between.
Menu Highlights: We would certainly recommend eating from the tasting menu. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’ll have (as the chef frequently updates it to comply with the seasonal ingredients), but what we can tell you is that it will be well balanced – you’ll get sweet, savoury and plenty of surprises along the way.
Book Here: Frenchie
What To Wear: Dress well for the occasion. A smart polo shirt and trousers give off a Parisian twist suitable for fine dining in London. Smart shoes are better than trainers here.
What: A modern kebab house that delivers huge flavours in tasteful, attractive dishes. All food is made inhouse with seasonal, ethical ingredients.
Where: Maison Bab is found in Covent Garden – a fun little hotspot not to miss.
Why: Forget everything you think you know about Turkish food, Maison Bab isn’t even comparable to your local kebab shop. Founded by two friends, their love for kebabs led them on a journey of re-creation to make the perfect wholesome kebabs (so we say, anyway).
Fun interiors and at a mid-range price, eat your heart out with food you’ll want over and over again. This is one for friends, family, dates, groups or even solo. It’s speedy without being rushed; it’s hearty food that’s stylish and 100% satisfying.
Menu Highlights: The Chicken Shish and the Raclette Shwarma – no questions. Get the fondue cheese sauce on the side because, you know, what’s better than dipping your kebab into cheese? Grab yourself a few side dishes (the babaganoush and doner beignets are winners) and some cocktails to wash it all down. The next time you go back (because trust us, there will be), opt for different sides but re-live the main dishes and savour every bite.
Book Here: Maison Bab
What To Wear: Go casual. This is the kind of place you wander in (attracted by the neon sign) and end up staying for the next hour as you indulge. Jeans, tee – you’re good to go.
What: An elegant French restaurant with interiors as good as the food. They have an award-winning wine list and a rooftop terrace for the warmer months.
Where: You’ll find Orrery off the main roads in Marylebone, London. It’s a central location that’s extremely easy to get to.
Why: If you’re a fan of fine service and beautiful decor, this is the restaurant for you. From the moment you walk in, you’ll be certain of your pick. When booking, be sure to ask for one of the round window seats with views overlooking the gardens of St Marylebone church – it makes for a picture-perfect experience.
Prized for their close attention to detail, ask the staff for their menu recommendations and, once chosen, they’ll happily pair your wine for you. If there are more of you, they have large round tables that sit up to 12 – nobody misses out here.
When it comes to food presentation, Orrery is a contender that’s hard to beat. Their vast selection of dishes almost – just almost – look too good to eat.
Menu Highlights: For starters, we loved the cured lamb fillets. It’s a way of eating lamb that we can bet on you never having tried before (and that’s what dining out is all about, right?). For mains, the fish dishes are winners (but they have plenty of meat and veggie options as well). Prepare for perfectly cooked food that you’ll want to eat over and over again. Vegans – there are options for you, too.
For desserts, if you like the finer things in life, opt for their standout cheese board (and when we say board, we mean trolly). Pick your preferred cheeses and you’re all set.
Book Here: Orrery
What To Wear: In a restaurant like this, a suit wouldn’t be out of place. Hold back on the tie, though, and if it’s a nice day, leave the blazer at home. You can always substitute your shirt for a t-shirt, if you fancy.
What: The Fancy Fork at Farmer J is a fun little hideout where you can count on great service and even better food.
Where: King William Street, right next to Monument tube stations and 5 minutes away from London Bridge.
Why: Inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours, chef Shuli Wimer partners with Farmer J to bring a fresh-produce menu to our tables. In a casual setting, The Fancy Fork is an ideal destination for families, dates or even dinner alone (the staff are so chatty you won’t feel alone at all). Made for sharing (you can totally share with yourself), The Fancy Fork specialises in smaller dishes, both meat and veggie. Get a few smaller plates and a bigger one – depending on how hungry you are – and grab a taste for everything Fancy Fork. Stuck on what to pick? The staff will be more than happy to direct you.
Menu Highlights: Of all the plates we tried, it was impossible to find a favourite. Between the two of us, we had seven dishes (including two desserts). Heroes included the tuna tartare, the pardon peppers and the stuffed zucchini (we’ll be thinking about that zucchini for weeks), but most importantly, the sea bass. Cooked and served whole, it’s the experience of de-boning the fish that makes it so memorable. Did you know what the best part of a fish is supposed to be? The cheek, apparently.
Book Here: The Fancy Fork
What To Wear: Anything goes, so long as you’re comfortable. Jeans and t-shirt? Shirt and chinos? Whatever you fancy, here, the food comes first.
What: Their selling line reads ‘Japan meets the Mediterranean in London’. If you’re a fan of sushi, fish and dumplings, put ZELA on your to-visit-next list.
Where: You’ll find ZELA in the heart of the West End as part of the ME Hotel.
Why: Japanese dining is always just as much of an experience as it is a pleasure. Nothing beats eating well-prepared, fresh dishes that are a substantial level up than any other half-hearted attempts you may find across the capital.
With a nod to traditional Japanese techniques, ZELA aims to bring something a little different by taking into consideration Mediterranean influences. The interiors are a pretty good reflection of this; expect Japanese cultural references amongst flowers and foliage, making for a jungle-type feel. Expect your food to arrive with edible flowers and eat them with chopsticks on what is promised to be a meal to remember.
Menu Highlights: Start with edamame beans, naturally (with a great bean-salt ratio). Sushi, sashimi and dumplings are all a must, but most importantly, you’d be insane not to try the wagyu teriyaki. It takes two whole days to cook and is so tender that you can eat it with just chopsticks. No kidding. It’s simply divine.
Try out a few cocktails on the menu as you go – they’re nice and strong, so you don’t need too many!
Book Here: ZELA
What To Wear: Smart/casual does the trick. Jeans and a nice top – as women say – will be fine. By nice top, we mean a polo or a thin knit… anything along those lines.