British cuisine traditionally isn’t held in the same regard as, say, French or Italian, but English chefs are setting out to change that. London is at the centre of a dining revolution, where chefs are incorporating ingredients and tastes from around the world—along with inspiration from their own backyard—and visitors will find a range of outstanding restaurants from which to choose.
Of course, the one meal that is absolutely English is traditional afternoon tea, and London restaurants and shops put on a tea unlike anything else you’ll experience. Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair offers what’s arguably the best tea in the city. It’s won numerous awards for its more than 30 types of teas from around the world, freshly baked scones and sweets, delicate finger sandwiches, and little extras such as tea-infused jam. Make reservations two months in advance for the highly fashionable tea at the Ritz Palm Court in St. James. The food is spectacular, and the setting—complete with marble columns and a baroque fountain—is equally impressive.
Another uniquely British tradition is that of pub food. Nothing to write home about for years, many pubs are now putting delicious gourmet offerings on their “gastro-pub” menus. One of the best examples is The House in Islington, where diners enjoy specialties like seabass served with Jerusalem artichoke puree and pan-fried gnocchi. Other no-fail destinations are the Havelock Tavern in West Kensington and the Admiral Codrington in Chelsea.
Below are some of the exceptional upscale dining choices in and around London:
Chelsea - 68 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HP
Mayfair - The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL
Certainly one of the country’s most celebrated chefs, he has two eponymous restaurants: one in Chelsea and one at Claridge’s in Mayfair. The Chelsea location is a French restaurant, offering upscale renderings of classic French cuisine that are both subtle and addictive. The Mayfair restaurant showcases simple British, Irish, and Scottish fare that has been given an innovative twist. Pumpkin soup with truffles and braised Cornish turbot with Oscietra caviar and coriander sauce have made recent appearances on the menu.
Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons
Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD
With a modern French menu and two Michelin stars, it’s worth the drive to the quaint Oxfordshire village of Great Milton to experience Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. “Genius” has been used to describe Raymond Blanc’s food, which sets itself apart from competitors with its exquisitely fresh ingredients—many of which come from the two-acre kitchen garden that produces 90 varieties of vegetables and over 70 varieties of herbs.
34 - 36 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE
Clerkenwell is a becoming a hot hub for exotic cuisines, and Moro is a prime example. Its North Africa-meets-Spanish fare is deliciously different, but you’ll feel right at home among the comforting, slightly sensual entrees such as wood-roasted bream with a Seville orange sauce, lentils, and fresh spinach or decadent desserts like Málaga raisin ice cream with sherry. Moro also features some of the city’s best tapas.
16 St Barnabas Street, Pimlico, London, SW1W 8PE
In hip Chelsea, the food buzz centres on Roussillon, a unique restaurant that serves “vegecentric” cuisine. Not just some steamed carrots and broccoli on your plate—this gourmet eatery features seven-course tasting menus filled with delectable veggie-filled dishes that only chef Alexis Gauthier could imagine. The seasonal menus include items such as filet of beef with purple artichokes and sensational desserts.
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Mayfair’s stylish atmosphere is an ideal location for Sketch, a funky yet upscale restaurant serving modern British and Continental fare. Housed in a converted 18th century building, Sketch is actually multiple spaces in one—and sometimes the venue changes depending on the time of day. For example, one section is an art gallery by day and brasserie by night. The five spaces feature menus that range from snacks to dinner menus to cocktails—all innovative, delicious, and delightfully bold.
43 Elystan Street, London, SW3 3NT
Trained under celebrated chef Joël Robuchon, Tom Aikens brought his sophisticated and elaborate Continental cuisine to South Kensington with his eponymous restaurant. He emphasizes harmonious—though sometimes seemingly incompatible—ingredients to create surprisingly cohesive dishes such as poached sea bass with saffron risotto and a bouillabaisse sauce. His brilliance really shines with not-so-light entrees like suckling pig and pork lasagna.
15 Lowndes Street, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 9EY
Its simple décor complements Zafferano’s unfussy Italian dishes, specially designed so the incredible flavours of the food can do the talking. Honoured with one Michelin star, this Knightsbridge favourite consists of two rustic rooms where guests can relax whilst digging into unique pastas and risottos and main courses such as kidney of veal with lentils, artichokes, and pancetta and beef fillet with celeriac, leeks, and red wine sauce.