15 Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street
Tel: 44 207 823 1166
Innovative, high-end Indian restaurants abound in London, but not all cook food worth trying. Amaya, however, does, serving contemporary versions of Indian street food and smarter dishes in chic surroundings. From the owners of Chutney Mary (535 Kings Rd., Chelsea, SW10; 44-207-351-3113; www.chutneymary.com) and Veeraswamy; (Victory House, Mezzanine, 99 Regent St., Piccadilly, W1; 44-207-734-1401; www.veeraswamy.com), Amaya is already a glamorous fixture, with a candlelit bar, rosewood furniture, and a rear dining room with an atrium roof. The customers are glamorous, too: The roll call is headed by Gwyneth Paltrow, Hugh Grant, Madonna, and Mick Jagger. Through a gap in one wall, you can also spot the brigade toiling at the sigri charcoal grill, tandoori ovens, and various skillets. Dishes to go for are king scallops served in the shell with an herb sauce, spiced grilled aubergine, anything tandoori, and crisp, light naan.
36 The Cut
Tube: Waterloo or Southwark
Tel: 44 207 928 9898
Don't walk, run to this throbbing, no-reservations gastropub by the Old Vic theater on the South Bank. Late arrivals—e.g., later than 9:30 p.m.—have found that most of the food has been wolfed down, except for, say, spaghetti with dandelion or deep-fried pig's head. This fine example of an updated pub serves untampered-with, back-to-basics food from a team that cut its teeth at St. John restaurant. Expect uncompromising dishes like duck hearts on toast and "rabbit, bacon, and mustard" (chunks of bacon with rabbit leg and mustard sauce) on the short and continually evolving menu. The list offers a dozen reasonably priced wines by the glass.
4 Bathurst Street
England W2 2SD
Tel: 44 20 7402 0083
Although Lancaster Gate is an exclusive part of central London, just a stone's throw from Hyde Park, it has always been rather weak in the culinary department—until now. Owner Thierry Tomasin (formerly head sommelier at Le Gavroche) has created a gem in terms of ambience, service, and food at this classic French restaurant, housed in a 200-year-old former pub. The main dining room, which retains the original wood paneling, holds 15 tables laid with crisp white linens and tasteful floral arrangements, while the old bar has been extended to create an elegant lounge that's perfect for predinner cocktails. This place attracts a lot of French customers (a good sign). Expect simple French dishes perfectly executed rather than complicated flavors and sauces; of particular note is the braised lamb belly and the red mullet, both accompanied by mouth-watering crushed mint potatoes. At around $30 to $35, main courses won't break the bank, and as you'd expect from Tomasin, the wine list is extensive but also reasonably priced.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 12 pm.
74 Blackfriars Road
Tel: 44 207 928 1111
Upon entering, nothing about Baltic's vodka bar, cozy with recessed seating, prepares you for the soaring white-walled dining room. It's latticed with beams, lit by a fiber-optic chandelier of Polish amber lamps, and crackles with energy. The Eastern European cuisine served here is hearty and often exceptional: blinis, Siberian pelmeni (little veal and pork dumplings), and unpronounceable szczawiowa (sorrel soup). Pretty Polish women dressed in black take orders efficiently and unobtrusively, even during the Sunday evening jazz gigs and among the customary loud crowds. This is the best place for post Tate Modern unwinding.
20 New Change Passage
England EC4M 9AG
Tel: 44 20 3005 8555
Pit master Adam Perry Lang has teamed up with Jamie Oliver to bring to England a range of barbecue techniquesfrom Japanese robata to Texas smokers. Admirer Harold Dieterle says of the duo, "Both are great chefs, and with Barbecoa, they are diving into a wide range of international grilling styles." Look for American imports like beer-can chicken and pulled pork shoulder, as well as riffs on British bar snacks, including fried pork scratchings served with mole dipping sauce (entrées, $25-$56).
Must eat: Charred hot wings.
Chef Oliver's favorite new restaurant: Tim Siadatan's Trullo, London
8 Southwark Street
Tube: London Bridge
England SE1 1TL
Tel: 44 207 7407 1002
A favorite of many a celebrity chef, the award-winning Borough Market is the ultimate foodie destination. Specialist traders come from throughout the United Kingdom and further afield to set up shop in buildings that date back to 1851 (the Art Deco entrance was added in 1932). You're invited to move from stall to stall and sample what's on offer, but for the best experience, visit on Thursdays, when the market's less crowded and you can chat with booth owners (the market is closed Sunday through Wednesday). Highlights include the traditional savory pies from Bristol bakery Pieminister, the luscious seafood curry at Furness Fish, the Ogleshield cheese sandwich at Bill Oglethorpe's cart (Gourmet's Ruth Reichl called it the "Platonic ideal" of cheese sandwiches—definitely no argument here after tasting one), sausages and meats from Sillfield Farm in Cumbria, and local artisanal cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy. Sampling can quickly add up to a meal here, but if it merely whets your appetite, there are plenty of restaurants and bars in and around the market, including Roast, an upscale option housed in the former Floral Market (Stoney St.; 44-207-940-1300), and Fish!, a glass-and-steel pavilion that perfectly complements the surrounding market's wrought-iron work (Cathedral St.; 44-207-407-3803).
Open Thursdays 11 am to 5 pm, Fridays noon to 6 pm, and Saturdays 8 am to 5 pm.
22 Store Street
Tube: Goode Street
Tel: 44 207 299 7900
Alan Yau—savior of Chinese food in London thanks to his no-frills Wagamama (now sold), his all-thrills Hakkasan, and lately Yauatcha (15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1; 44-207-494-8888) has opened his second Busaba. Like the original branch at 106 Wardour Street, this has a sleek Christian Liaigre look, casual atmosphere, and no-reservations policy. Arrive early to avoid lines and tuck into Thai fast food: salads, soups, curries, stir-fries, and noodles galore eaten off communal tables. By some miracle, Yau keeps prices low and quality high.
5a Burlington Gardens
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Tel: 44 207 434 1500
A makeover in 2005 while under new management, the Soho House Group, has upped the sex appeal of this long-time favorite of art dealers. One of the big improvements is the gleaming central bar, with its exceptional cocktails and Prosecco on tap. Dark wood and pea-green leather chairs, black-and-white tiled floors, and Art Deco lighting are pure 1920s Venice. The food is classic Italian—rustic Tuscan bean soup, veal Milanese, wild mushroom risotto. Also here is London's only cichetti bar, offering Italian tapas such as salt cod mantecato on crostini and Umbrian sausages with red pepper (served all day).
The Clerkenwell Workshops
27—31 Clerkenwell Close
England EC1R 0AT
Tel: 44 20 7101 9959
Airy and open-plan with smiling staff and an ever-changing seasonal menu, Clerkenwell Kitchen has a lot going for it. Chef-owners Emma Miles and Laura Hearn pride themselves on creating long-lasting relationships with local suppliers and sourcing fair-trade, free-range, and organic produce. Many items—jams, chutneys, pastries, puddings, and breads—are made on the premises. The decor is warm and clean, with an open kitchen, brushed concrete and wood floors, and exposed brick walls (in warmer weather, they also open a large courtyard terrace). Reasonably priced dishes such as fresh linguine with purple sprouting broccoli and Lodigiano cheese (similar to Parmesan) and tasty fish pie made with organic Glenarm salmon and smoked pollock are simple but well executed. A great lunchtime stopover if you're exploring Clerkenwell.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Wednesdays 8 am to 5 pm, Thursdays 8 am to 5 pm and 6:30 to 11 pm, and Fridays 8 am to 5 pm.
14 Blenheim Crescent
Notting Hill, W11
Tube: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove
Tel: 44 207 229 5454
This very popular (and deservedly so) pan-Asian-via-Sydney restaurant and bar in Notting Hill pulls in local Trustafarians and media types, as well as hip gastro-tourists come to see what all the fuss is about. The bar in front is open all day for non-diners. The restaurant serves dim sum, sashimi rolls, maki rolls, tempura, curries, and the signature chilli-salt squid, soft-shell crab, and black cod in a sweet miso sauce. Must book.
9 Denmark Street
England WC2H 8LS
Tel: 44 20 7240 3334
Giaconda Dining Room is a tiny, good-value restaurant in an unpromising but über-central location off Charing Cross Road. The food, by Australian chef Paul Merrony, is a simple selection of French- and Italian-influenced dishes that go by that rather catchall name of "modern European." Daily specials such as hake cooked with a caper and olive sauce will satisfy most tastes, while the more adventurous should opt for customer favorite crisped pig's trotters. Meat eaters will revel in the reasonably priced sautéed veal kidneys, poached ox tongue, and braised tripe served with a delectable mélange of chorizo, butter beans, and paprika. The on-the-ball and unflappable waitresses are a big plus here, as is the fair pricing on the food and the wine. But we suggest you avoid the two tables near the coat rack in this tightly packed place, or else resign yourself to spending the evening bending sideways to allow your fellow diners access.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm.
Claridge's Hotel, Brook Street
Tube: Bond Street
Tel: 44 207 499 0099
The lavish Art Deco interior by Thierry Despont may be formal, but the service is exceptionally friendly at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridge's. Ramsay and head chef Mark Sargeant create rich, saucy modern European dishes: a starter of pressed foie gras marinated in Beaumes de Venise with pickled mushrooms, leek salad, and toasted brioche; a main course of Oxfordshire lamb with confit shoulder, spiced eggplant, green and white asparagus, and tarragon jus. There's no background music, just low-level "mmmm"s and the clink of silverware on fine china. Diners can order à la carte or try the six-course Prestige Menu; there's also a very reasonably priced set lunch at only £30 (about $60) per head. If you can stand the heat, you can watch Ramsay himself at work at the chef's table in the kitchen. That is, if he's not off cooking at one of his many other establishments, such as his eponymous, three-Michelin starred restaurant on Hospital Road…but good luck getting a table there (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, 68 Royal Hospital Rd., SW3; 44-207-352-4441; www.gordonramsay.com/royalhospitalroad).
32 Great Queen Street
England WC2B 5AA
Tel: 44 20 7242 0622
Great Queen Street is the name of a restaurant located on Great Queen Street. From that fact, you know it's a place where stolid common sense wins out over cleverness and wit. The terse menu descriptions—asparagus; beetroot, goat's curd, and mint; beef rib for two; crab on toast—reinforce the sense that this is a place for Serious Cooking, not frivolity. But Great Queen Street, the younger sister of popular gastropub Anchor & Hope, is anything but pretentious: It's just a long room with a bar to one side; seating arranged in a grid; walls painted dark red; and floors, tables, and chairs fashioned from nondescript wood. But it's all energetic, friendly, and light. The beet salad is chunky and substantial, a sprinkling of bread crumbs underscoring its earthiness. The beef rib and its accompanying chips are exemplary (the chef, Tom Norrington-Davies, buys a whole side of Hereford beef each week and works his way through it). Braised dishes are a specialty—if you see oxtail, order it. The produce is all seasonal and fresh; the wine list brief, reasonable, and ever evolving (the wine is served in tumblers, naturally); the apron-wearing servers knowledgeable and welcoming. In short, Great Queen Street is a terrific choice for a moderately priced lunch or dinner in Covent Garden. And unlike at the Anchor & Hope, reservations are accepted.Peter J. Frank
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 12 to 2:30 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm, Sundays one 2 pm sitting, and Mondays 6 to 10:30 pm.
8 Hanway Place, W1
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Tel: 44 207 927 7000
A backstreet off Tottenham Court Road is the unlikely location for Alan Yau's highly lacquered, low-lit Michelin-starred restaurant. The dining room is divided by antique latticed wood screens from Beijing, which are surrounded by glass wall panels subtly lit in deep blue and purple. The waitresses, dressed in flowing frocks by Hussein Chalayan, are more than a match for the interiors. Succulent platters of dim sum are favorites in both the restaurant and the laid-back Ling Ling bar. Also of note is the roasted silver cod with Champagne and Chinese honey and the Chilean sea bass with Chinese celery and lotus rootflavors that linger (in a good way) long after you emerge from the temple-style doors back into the slightly down-at-heel alleyway.
66–70 Brewer Street
England W1F 9UP
Tel: 44 207 2923518
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Top London chef Mark Hix (The Ivy and Le Caprice) serves up über-British dishes alongside cutting-edge art in his flagship restaurant in Soho. Above your head, a mobile by Damien Hirst featuring mini sharks in clear acrylic boxes and another by Sarah Lucas with Fray Bentos pie tins add a whimsical note to the brasserie-style decor. Expect dishes such as Falmouth prawns, Cornish brill, hanger steak (with baked bone marrow), oyster pies, and Blackface mutton; the provenance of everything, down to the shaved cheese on your dish, is provided on the menu. Lunchtimes, Soho's media and art crowd fill the place, but come evening, you'll be surrounded by theatergoers. And if you're looking for a cocktail and a snack, the basement bar, a glamorous, clubby den with deep leather sofas, is one of the hottest drinking spots in town.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 11:30 pm, Sundays noon to 10:30 pm.
8 Porchester Gardens
England W2 4DB
Tel: 44 207 2211415
Tube: Bayswater, Queensway
Don't let this restaurant's name or its location on the top floor of an unassuming West London shopping center fool you. Le Café Anglais's menu is thoroughly French, and its buzzy dining room and oyster bar are glammed up with pale green leather and maple banquettes, tall lattice Art Deco windows, red drapes, and geometric lightbox chandeliers. The on-show rotisserie—where chicken, pork, and game sizzle seductively—is the first hint that U.K. chef Rowley Leigh has a thing for meat. Start with several tasty hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, such as the popular Parmesan custard with anchovy toast before tucking into the meaty offerings, such as duck with spring greens and orange or chicken with herbes de Provence.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays noon to 11:30 pm, and Sundays noon to 10:15 pm.
While Scott's, The Ivy, and Le Caprice favor diners with perseverance or a famous name, J. Sheekey, the fourth in the best-known quartet of restaurants in Caprice Holdings' stable of eight, remains surprisingly accessible. From its theatrical David Collins decor and ostentatious crustacean platter stacked to the ceiling to its equally showy clientele, many of whom have just stepped offstage in nearby theaterland, J. Sheekey is a show-off. With some of the most delicious fish to be had in London, impeccable service, and an electric atmosphere, it's far more deserving of your reservation skills than its snootier siblings. Scott's, which has been hard to get into since it reopened in 2006, has an oak-paneled, understated decor in keeping with its classy Mayfair location. Its upscale menu includes fried cod's tongue, stargazy pie, and pan-fried slip sole, as well as posh fish-and-chips with mushy peas. Le Caprice, opened by Jeremy King and Christopher Corbin (the duo now in charge of the marvelous Wolseley and St. Albans), looks dated in its black-walled 1980's Eva Jiricna design, with tables too close together, yet it remains a glitterati favorite. Both Le Caprice and The Ivy have similar, multiculti comfort menus: seared tuna, fish cakes with sorrel sauce, roasted lamb, and the ever-popular Scandinavian iced berries for dessert. The rich and famous keep coming back, so they must be doing something righteven if it's only controlling the paparazzi.
127 Ledbury Road
Tube: Westbourne Park
Tel: 44 207 792 9090
Recipient of a Michelin star in 2006, the Ledbury brings unprecedented polish, panache, and amuse-bouches to Notting Hill, taking this postal code to new levels of gentrification. Ledbury's large windows, chandeliers, and linen-swathed tables, breathes understated wealth and good taste. The star of the show is Australian-born Brett Graham, former sous-chef at the Square, the Ledbury's sister restaurant in Mayfair. He wows diners with scallops roasted in licorice; lasagna of rabbit, and terrine of Iberian ham with Iberian pork cheeks and foie gras.
152 Tooley Street
England SE1 2TU
Tel: 44 20 7403 1342
You'll find Magdalen in the rather ugly municipal office buildings that once housed the Mayor of London and his team before they were moved up the street to a sexy glass building designed by Sir Norman Foster. Inside, however, you'll find rich claret walls, crisp linen tablecloths, and twinkling chandeliers—the perfect backdrop to the traditional British dishes. Nearby Borough Market provides plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish for former Anchor & Hope chef James Faulk's seasonal menu. Typical winter dishes include partridge terrine, clams, and rump of beef from the countryside of Herefordshire (as you'd expect, the summer menu includes more fish dishes and lighter preparations). The English puddings are delicious—it would be foolish to leave without trying the custard tart. Prices are affordable (starters from $11 and entrées from $19), and unlike at Anchor & Hope, you can book.
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 10:30 pm.
34–36 Exmouth Market
England EC1R 4QE
Tel: 44 207 8338336
The much-lauded Moro has been the place to go for its passionate exploration of Moorish cuisine ever since husband-and-wife team Sam and Sam Clark opened for business in 1997. Its pared-down interior (simple dark-wood tables, bare green and cream walls, banquettes with bolster cushions) is the backdrop for Moro's interestingly combined Spanish and North African delicacies, such as steamed artichoke hearts with fresh cheese, sweet herbs, and pistachio, or a main of wood-roasted sea bass served with cabbage, crispy capers, and grilled meat in a basil, parsley, cilantro, and garlic sauce. If the restaurant is busy, grab tapas at the long zinc bar, or pop into Moro's sister (and cheaper) tapas bar, Morito, next door.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 2:30 pm and 7 to 10:30 pm; tapas served all day.
1 Paul's Walk
England EC4V 3QQ
Tel: 44 20 7329 9299
After getting your fill of art at Tate Modern, cross the Millennium Bridge and fill up on Falmouth crab, Duchy of Cornwall oysters, and grilled Dartmoor hog's pudding in the buzzy atmosphere of Northbank. Created by Christian Butler, formerly of Baltic, this place aims to make the most of the cracking view over the Thamesthere's raised banquette seating indoors and soft wool blankets (this is England, after all) for those who choose to sit on the outdoor terrace. Butler and head chef Peter Woods have their roots in the West Country (around Cornwall and Devon), which is reflected in both the food and the alcoholthere's mead from Somerset, cider from Devon, and even a white wine from Cornwall. For those who want more tried and tested vintages, there's also a huge selection of international wines from Lebanon via Austria to Oregon.
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 11 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.
287 Upper Street
England N1 2TZ
Tel: 44 207 2881454
Tube: Highbury & Islington
Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi has a knack for making vegetables sexy—he might pair roasted red and yellow beets with quince, basil, and macadamia nuts, or drizzle truffle oil over char-grilled zucchini with pistachio, pecorino, and basil. There are also fish and meat dishes with bold flavors, such as seared scallops with tempura anchovies, chickpeas, potato chowder, and herbs, or roasted pork filet with butter bean purée and quince tart. Of course, Ottolenghi's sophisticated desserts and cakes (rum and chocolate fondant cake or blackberry financier with mascarpone) on appetizing display in the window are reason enough to slide into a Panton chair at the dining room's candelabra-lit communal table. Smaller tables are available as well, if you're not feeling sociable.—Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 11 pm, Sundays 9 am to 7 pm.
239 Brompton Road
Tube: South Kensington
Tel: 44 207 584 4477
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road
Tel: 44 207 386 4200
What could be more blissful than a meal on the terrace of this perpetually booked, much-imitated Italian-style gastro-temple opened in 1987 by the late Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers? If the climate proves too chilly, the floor-to-ceiling windows in this former warehouse in the Hammersmith hinterland (designed by the firm of Ruth's husband, Richard Rogers) provide lovely views over gardens to the Thames. A crowd of heavy hitters and famous faces inconspicuously feast on the Tuscan bread salad or pasta or grilled meat or grilled fish or any other simple, perfect dish from the perpetually evolving menu. Of course, for not much more than the price of lunch here, you could fly to Tuscany and eat the real thing in situ. The best time to go is at lunch on a fine day.
23 St. James's Street
England SW1A 1HA
Tel: 44 20 7925 8988
Once you've found Sake No Hana—no mean feat, since there's no sign outside—the lighting, or lack of it, will further impede your progress upstairs. Stick with it, though, because the dimly lit escalator opens up into an airy bamboo den, with large windows. Owner Alan Yau's first foray into Japanese fine dining—following big success with Wagamama, Hakkasan, and Yauatcha—doesn't disappoint. Wagyu beef and king crab are excellent but will set you back a pretty penny. If you're here for lunch, try the Bento boxes: They include a good selection of braised dishes (pork ribs with sugar snap peas are great) and exemplary tempura, and are a little easier on the wallet. The sushi and sashimi are not your usual conveyor belt-selection; in addition to classics like fatty tuna and prawn, expect sea bass, turbot, and blue swimmer crab (most sushi rolls are priced around $10). The service is efficient and the Austrian sommelier is happy to show you around the exclusively old-world wine list as well as the enormous selection of sakes. And if you prefer your Japanese food at a low-level table sans shoes, be sure to mention it when you book. The restaurant is co-owned by Evgeny Lebedev, son of the new owner of London's Evening Standard newspaper, Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev. Needless to say, with these kind of credentials the restaurant attracts the capital's rich set (Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal is a regular).
Open daily noon to 3 pm and 6 pm to midnight.
9 Conduit Street
Tube: Oxford Circus
Tel: 44 870 777 4488
This multimillion-pound collaboration between triple-Michelin laureate Pierre Gagnaire and Mourad Mazouz (owner of Momo, the groovy North African restaurant off Regent Street; 25 Heddon St., Piccadilly, W1; 44-207-434-4040; www.momoresto.com) has completely transformed a grand period building. The reinvented space—done up with a slightly weird modern interior and pitched to a rich, arty crowd—houses a bistro (The Gallery), a restaurant (The Library & Lecture Room), assorted bars, a nightclub, and a pâtisserie. Brace yourself: In the Library & Lecture Room—luxuriously upholstered with honey-colored quilted walls and bull's-eye mirrors—you'll run across probably the highest prices in London (expect to pay £500 for dinner for two if eating à la carte). Surrender to finely wrought dish-ettes: a charcuterie starter with silky goose foie gras; pigeon breast perfumed with juniper; langoustine four ways; veal sweetbreads; breast of Chalosse chicken poached in Mersault; partridge and wild boar; lobster tail with apple sauce. There are five different menus: from à la carte down to the plat du jour.
Tube: Waterloo or Embankment
England SE1 8XX
Tel: 44 207 654 7800
When Skylon opened in 2007 in Southbank Centre, the notoriously snippy London food press groused that its food didn't measure up to the view. More recent visits have revealed that the view over the Thames is as lovely as ever, and even better, Skylon's kitchen has learned from, or perhaps simply outlasted, its detractors. Finnish-born executive chef Helena Puolakka offers an elegant restaurant menu as well as a slightly less formal "grill" menu, both dominated by seafood. The best dishes are creative fish and vegetable preparations with bright, tangy sauces, like salmon with kohlrabi and tomato "petals," and pan-fried halibut with baby squid and chorizo. Some of Skylon's signature dishes bear a Scandinavian stamp, such as the gravlax and mackerel tartare. The atmosphere has a Nordic flavor as well, expressed in the Danish furniture and midcentury modern air of the wood, glass, and steel surroundings (themselves an homage to the original Skylon, a 1951 art installation that once stood on the site). Reserve ahead, but arrive early enough for a drink from the classic cocktail menu at the bar, to sip while watching the sun light up the river.—Siobhan Adcock
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 11 pm, Sundays noon to 10:30 pm.
26 St. John Street
Tel: 44 207 251 0848
They call it "Nose-to-Tail Eating," and you'll be amazed at the number of obscure cuts that can crop up between those too extremes and end up on your plate. Luckily, the straight-talking menu and knowledgeable staff will explain all, including the all-French wine list. Head chef Chris Gillard's British dishes are inventive but not overcomplicated, such as a crispy pig's cheek with dandelion and a roast forerib of beef with horseradish. End with one of the house specialties, Eccles cake (puff pastry filled with currants), with Lancashire cheese. In keeping with the menu, the interiors are of a utilitarian bent; apart from a few extra skylights and a lick of white paint, this former bacon smokehouse remains pretty much in its original state. A second restaurant, St. John Bread and Wine Spitalfield, opened in a former bank just opposite Spitalfield's Market in 2003, and houses the restaurants' bakery (94–96 Commercial St.).
18–20 Southwark Street
England SE1 1TJ
Tel: 44 20 7357 8880
It is unfortunate that the best place to eat in Borough Market is also the busiest, and it doesn't take reservations. Still, Brindisa does a swift trade, and it's fun to stand at the bar people-watching and eating olives and jamón as you wait for a table. Chef José Manuel Pizarro is influenced by his homeland on the central plains of Extremadura, but he also brings a modern twist and vision to traditional Spanish cooking. Expect all the tapas classics (ranging from $7 to $13), but highlights include deep-fried Monte Enebro goat cheese with orange blossom honey, and grilled León chorizo on toast with piquillo pepper. On Fridays and Saturdays, come early for a Spanish breakfast.The service here is unfailingly friendly and efficient and the atmosphere buzzy. In the summer, the giant windows, which replaced the old roller shutters in this former potato factory, are flung open onto this bustling corner of the market.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 11 am to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 9 am to 11 pm.
43 Elystan Street
Tube: South Kensington
Tel: 44 207 584 2003
This sleek Anouska Hempel–designed restaurant in Chelsea is the stage for the talents of Tom Aikens, who after difficult times (his restaurant company succumbed to the credit crunch in 2008) has nevertheless managed to uphold this restaurant's reputation as one of the United Kingdom's most serious gastronomic destinations. The posh but relaxed 60-seat interior has round tables dramatically draped in black and overlaid with raw white Irish linen; matching napkins and beautiful glass and chinaware complete the look. The effect is grown-up—not sedate—chic. On the menu, expect innovative French-informed cooking that stops short of being wacky and experimental. Standout examples include cured venison with pickled beets, quince, and venison carpaccio, and red mullet with pistachio risotto. If you can't decide, order the tasting menu, which runs to eight courses. A bonus: the excellent sommelier.—Updated by Giovanna Dunmall
Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2:30 pm and 6:45 to 11:00 pm, Saturdays 6:45 to 11:00pm.
300–302 St. Paul's Road
England N1 2LH
Tel: 44 20 7226 2733
Britain's hometown hero, Jamie Oliver has been spending a lot of time across the pond changing the way Americans eat. He's left the crown in good hands, though. As he reports, "One of my students from the first year [of Fifteen], Tim Siadatan, has set up a restaurant that's had amazing reviews." The 28-year-old chef's Trullo has acquired cultlike status due to its ingredient-driven, Italian-leaning food. The 40-seat utilitarian space buzzes with British tastemakers, starched financial types, and writers, actors, and artists, while James Dean look-alikes cheerily serve chili-spiked tagliarini and perfectly charred lamb (entrées, $25-$32).
Must eat: Slow-cooked lamb with grilled eggplant and salsa verde.
12 St. George Street
Tel: 44 20 7758 9160
Wild Honey is an unexpected haven tucked away on a quiet side street in the bustling West End. Occupying an attractive wood-paneled room formerly used by Marco Pierre White, the restaurant is the younger sibling of London favorite Arbutus. But while Arbutus has been criticized for its antiseptic decor and frosty service, Wild Honey is a warm and welcoming spot to settle in for an hour or two (grab one of the cozy banquettes). Chef Anthony Demetre creates unpretentious, seasonal dishes such as beet and smoked-eel tart or pork with apple puree. The wine list will suit all budgets—every bottle is also available by the carafe—as will the modestly priced set menu at lunch ($24 for three courses).
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 2:30 pm and 6 to 11 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm.
Tube: Green Park
Tel: 44 207 499 6996
Jeremy King and Christopher Corbin, erstwhile owners of Le Caprice, The Ivy, and J. Sheekey, have rebounded with this stunning brasserie. Set in a former Wolseley car showroom on Piccadilly, the place fairly reverberates with movers and shakers. Designer David Collins has teased from the faintly monastic interior a romantic and dramatic evocation of a Viennese brasserie, complete with soaring domed ceiling, chinoiserie lacquering, gilded bar, sheer linen tablecloths, and brass reading lamps. The kitchen caters to all appetites, occasions, and emergencies, serving everything from breakfast—which has become particularly popular recently—to patisseries to bar snacks. At lunch and dinner, tuck into soups, grilled fish, spit roasts, hamburgers, Wiener Schnitzel, and kaiserschmarren (sweet omelet pancake). Tables are kept aside for walk-ins, but expect lines during peak hours. Just as hot a reservation—if not hotter—is a table at their December 2006 opening, St. Alban, with its businesslike decor and Mediterranean menus (Rex House, 4–12 Regent St., Piccadilly, SW1; 44-207-499-8558; 44-207-499-8558; www.stalban.net).