Top ten London restaurants

I know I am just a little bit late with this list.  Usually I publish my top ten London restaurants for the year in August but since I knew I was leaving London I thought it could wait until I had sampled and written about my very last London restaurant and then I got distracted by moving continents and all that comes with it.

Wine by the carafe and good things to eat at Polpo.  Russell Norman takes out two spots on my top ten list. 

Anyway, finally I have pulled together my top ten London restaurants.
It is always hard to narrow down a list of favourites and there have been so many great openings in the past year that I have included lots of new restaurants on here.  While it is hard to resist the thrill of the new I have also included some stalwarts that have been going strong for years and have been on this list since I first compiled it.    I’ve also tried to include a mix of budget eats alongside high end and Michelin star dining options however if money is tight my list of the best cheap eats in London might be a better bet.

The famous meat fruit at Dinner

1. Dinner
Heston Blumenthal arrived in London with a bang with the opening of Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental this year.  Each dish at Dinner is sourced from historical recipe books and references but displays Blumenthal’s unique take.  The food is intriguing but also damn delicious and much more easily approachable than Blumenthal’s fare at The Fat Duck.  The must orders are the meat fruit as a starter which subverts all expectations of what a mandarin should look and taste like and the utterly delicious slow roasted Tipsy Cake for dessert.
Details: Dinner by Heston, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge SW1X 7LA (Ph 020 7201 3833) Tube: Knightsbridge

2.  Koya
If only other restaurants could learn from Koya.  It just does one thing but does it so well.  The thick, meaty Japanese udon noodles here are perfect for slurping and the restaurant itself is an austere shrine to all that is noodle.  Be prepared to queue as the low prices here attract big crowds.
Details: 49 Frith Street, Soho W1D 4SG (Ph 020 7434 4463) Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Slurping up noodles at Koya

3.  The Ledbury
Fine dining in London does not get better than at Australian chef Brett Graham’s The Ledbury.  The sheer effort and care that goes into each dish is immediately apparent and Graham constantly surprises diners with his inventive cooking and fastidious sourcing which includes shooting trips to the Scottish moors.  Beware of the bread basket, it is addictively good.
Details: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill W11 Tube: Westbourne Park

4.  City Caphe
I jumped on board the banh mi bandwagon in London with the tiny City Caphe and have not looked back since.  The banh mi features baguettes made to City Caphe’s specifications with a hard, crispy exterior then soft, fluffy lightness inside. Chargrilled pork filling tender made with good quality meat and there was plenty of thinly sliced cucumber, carriot, daikon and fresh coriander to add some crunch and clean, fresh flavours to the roll.  The steaming bowls of pho are also a treat.
Details: City Caphe, 17 Ironmonger Lane, London City EC2V 8EY (Tube: Bank)

Banh mi at City Caphe

5.  Pollen Street Social
Another new opening this year, a stool at the dessert bar at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social has to be one of the hottest seats in town.  The food is playful and inventive ranging from starter designed as a full English breakfast with a base of sweet tomato puree and a slow poached egg adorned with crispy pieces of bacon and mushrooms to the legendary desserts created before diners eyes.
Details: Pollen Street Social, 8/10 Pollen Street, Mayfair W1S 1NQ (Ph 020 7290 7600) Tube: Oxford Circus

6.  Polpo (-5)
My number one pick last year, Russell Norman’s Polpo still impresses despite its numerous sibling restaurants.  I love the small plates of simple Italian food, the buzzing, intimate atmosphere and the wine by the beaker or carafe.
Details: 41 Beak Street, Soho W1F9SB (Ph 020 77344479) Tube: Oxford Circus

7.  Tayyabs (+1)
It’s impossible to leave Tayyabs off any list of best London restaurants because the food it delivers is just so good and at such a brilliant price.  Toasty fresh naan bread, smoky seek kebabs which arrive sizzling on a iron hot plate and the slightly fiery, tender lamb chops are all flavoursome and incredibly moreish.
Details:  83-89 Fieldgate Strret, E1 (Ph: 020 772479543)

Burrata with blood orange at Nopi

8.  Nopi
I’m a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cafes and cookbooks so I welcomed the chance to experience his food in a glamorous Soho setting.  The restaurant is elegant and chic and the toilets have to be seen to be believed but it is Ottolenghi’s food which leaves the lasting memory. The picks of the menu on my visit were the fat, juicy scallops adorned with slivers of pickled daikon and apple and baby chicken twice cooked to a moreish smokey charr and served with a wedge of lime, kaffir lime salt and a hot chilli sauce.
Details: Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, Soho W1B 5NE (Ph 020 7494 9584) Tube: Oxford Circus.

9. Vinoteca (-7)
Vinoteca has become something of an institution in London and never fails to deliver, comfortably straddling the divide of wine bar and restaurant. I actually dream about the bavette steak there.
Details: 7 St John Street, Farringdon EC1M 4AA Tube: Farringdon

Scotch egg and soldiers at Spuntino

10.  Spuntino
Russell Norman’s eateries get two guernseys in this list as a sign of the man’s genius for knowing what the people of Soho want.  The classic mac and cheese and decadent truffled egg toast at Spuntino are both deserving of the excessive amount of praise they have received in newspapers and the blogosphere.
Details: Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street, Soho, W1D 7PW (There is no telephone and Spuntino does not take reservations).

Posted by: on February 21st, 2012     17 Comments »

Category: London tips
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17 Comments on “Top ten London restaurants”

  1. Anna @ Judging Your Breakfast said at 10:49 pm on February 21st, 2012:

    Ohh, what I wouldn’t give for a Scotch egg right about now. Delish!

  2. luckyannette said at 3:06 am on February 22nd, 2012:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I am heading to London in April and will keep this list in my pocket :)

  3. Jo Romero said at 6:38 am on February 22nd, 2012:

    Great round up – if I had to choose one of these to visit I think it would have to be The Ledbury – heard so much about it!

  4. tori said at 7:26 am on February 22nd, 2012:

    Love the fact that there are a few on here that we haven’t been to yet. The to do list for the next couple of weeks is set!

  5. catty said at 8:52 am on February 22nd, 2012:

    AWESOME post and I agree to about 7 of them ;) I never got to go to Pollen St Social or Vinoteco (booo!) and Tayyabs I didn’t love like everyone else, but I agree with the rest. Am book marking this for when people ask me about London!

  6. Niall said at 5:18 pm on February 22nd, 2012:

    The problem with Vinoteca is the no booking policy. Fine, they want a permanently full restaurant without the gaps that you get holding tables for later bookings, but the place is tiny and very popular. I called and asked about 3 people on a tuesday night, and was told 7pm would be no problem to turn up at. Turned up at 6:45pm, was told only “you’re the second table in the queue”, then waited almost an hour and a half while the staff avoided eye contact.

    If they told you it would be that long, took your name and number and let you go off to a local pub, that would be a half decent way to handle it. Instead, every time I asked whether it was a 5 minute wait or a long wait, I was just told that I was the second table. A restaurant that has an explicit no booking policy should handle this better, especially one that’s so popular and has been running for quite a while.

    I don’t think I’d bother planning a dinner there again. If I was in the area I’d drop in to see if there was a free table.

    The bavette was great, though.

  7. Mzungu said at 8:10 pm on February 22nd, 2012:

    Popped into Tayyabs a while ago and the standard (that night) had defiantly dropped a lot since my last visit (6 – 8 months prior). I’m hoping it is a blip.

    Glad Vinoteca is there, had many a romantic meal with the wife in there, even with the queues as long as I have drink in hand I’m happy.

  8. kyleen said at 2:41 am on February 23rd, 2012:

    Everything looks so mouthwatering! It’s my dream to travel in Europe one day, maybe in university. I’m definitely going to check London out first so I can go to all these amazing restaurants.

  9. Andi said at 4:04 am on February 23rd, 2012:

    Heading there on Sunday, list is timely!

  10. Cornflower Kitchen said at 11:21 am on February 23rd, 2012:

    Love the round up – have only ticked off one of these so far (Pollen St Social)… I need to get cracking on the rest (Nopi in a couple of weeks!)

  11. Sarah, Maison Cupcake said at 12:23 pm on February 23rd, 2012:

    Feeling really guilty I’ve not been to any of these places now. With Teyyabs certainly I don’t even have the excuse of not being able to afford it! I think Nopi would be top of my list to try out.

  12. mondomulia.com said at 12:30 pm on February 23rd, 2012:

    Such a great top 10! Sadly I have only tried Vinoteca, so I am really missing out here! :(

  13. Chengy Cheng said at 8:49 pm on February 23rd, 2012:

    great blog….
    city caphe – nice place & good service, been going there for awhile, until i found http://chaokitchen.com/ their baguettes are one of the nicest i had, worth checking out plus its on whitecross st, so theres the food stalls as well….
    Tayyabs…been there since the days it was a small shack (see the photos on the walls), over the years they have expanded.. however food quality is very inconsistent nowadays..Lahores is good too..

  14. Gourmet Chick said at 9:06 pm on February 23rd, 2012:

    Anna – I developed a serious addiction to Scotch Eggs living in the UK

    Lucky Annette – Have a great trip

    Jo Romero – the Ledbury is AMAZING – if the cost is putting you off then look into the lunch specials they do – a very affordable way to experience such a great restaurant

    Tori – I thought you had the whole of London covered by now. Happy eating!

    Catty – Good work that we went to seven of the same. Maybe some more for a return visit?

    Niall – No booking is annoying I agree and there are a few places on here that are no bookings. I can see why restaurants do it but you make a good point about leaving your name and being able to go off somewhere in the meantime.

    Mzungu – Interesting you say that, I thought it was still excellent the last time I was there but was a few months ago. I agree, a drink in hand makes most waits bearable.

    Kyleen – Hope you make it there – am sure you will.

    Andi – Lucky you – I am jealous!

    Cornflower Kitchen – How fun is Pollen street social? Love the special seats for your handbag and of course the dessert bar.

    Sarah – I loved Nopi but then I love Ottolenghi’s food. Interested to hear what you think.

    Mondomulia – Yes lots more to explore there

    Chengy Cheng – Good tip about Chao Kitchen and interested to hear about Tayyabs – last time I was there a few months ago it was still excellent (although a lot more rammed than it used to be!)

  15. Ben said at 1:09 pm on February 24th, 2012:

    Glad to see Tayyabs still making these kind of list – went there a couple of months ago and it’s still as it always was, bustling, noisy and delicious!

  16. bebo kobo said at 6:24 am on April 25th, 2012:

    Feeling very hungry to see this yummy, tasty and delicious food here with very colorful pictures. And will b so glad to eat his food as well.

  17. cara waters said at 9:27 pm on December 8th, 2012:

    Ben – It never fails to impress does it?

    Bebo – Hope you are!


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