The Roaring Twenties have rolled around once again which means it’s finally time to dust off your finest flapper dress, find a jazz playlist that’s the bee’s knees to blast out on your commute to work, and plan a trip to your most happening speakeasy at the weekend – you’ve only had to wait for a century. After a gloomy teens and with the threat of yet another Great Depression looming around the corner, if you want to guarantee a successful decade, it’s best to kick it off in the best way possible – and what’s better than discovering some of the best pubs and restaurants London has to offer?
Whether you’re craving incredible Italian cuisine in a stylish and upbeat environment, a truly unique dining-in-the-dark experience you’ll never forget, or a chance to sample some of the most incredible Caribbean dishes this city has to offer, this list has it all.
For a more comprehensive guide to eating out in London, pick up your FREE copy of last year’s London Food & Drink Guide 2019 here or read a digital copy of the guide here. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the exciting 10th annual edition of our London guide releasing later this year.
Pubs and Bars with Restaurants
The Albion in Kingston upon Thames is a thriving establishment with a relaxed and jovial atmosphere that ensures everyone is made to feel at home. The friendly staff at this traditional British pub are passionate about great food and drink and eagerly welcome guests who share their enthusiasm. Stop by and enjoy a couple of drinks – order a few bar bites to snack on too – or indulge in a full three-course meal that’s been homemade with the finest locally sourced ingredients.
When perusing the food menu, you’ll find yourself feeling spoilt for choice by the mouth-watering range of fare on offer. The vegan nachos with guacamole, salsa and jalapeños are packed with flavour and the Big Smoke meat board is an irresistible combination of barbecue ribs, chicken wings, paprika sausages, lamb kebab and homemade pickles. Although the seasonal menu changes regularly, visitors to The Albion are always guaranteed a tasty and varied selection of mains.
The owner of this beloved independent Italian eatery loved sailing on the Amerigo Vespucci ship so much he named his restaurant after it. Characterised by its delicious Italian cuisine, classic list of cocktails, and jovial service, Amerigo Vespucci is a wonderful restaurant that leaves a lasting impression. Since opening over 24 years ago, it has had many facelifts to keep things fresh and offer loyal followers something new; today you’ll find soft lighting and neat black tables and grey chairs, lending a tranquil atmosphere. Meanwhile, the stylish al fresco bar terrazzo, complete with its own bar and heating, has a more upbeat vibe, and is available to hire privately for special occasions and events.
Start with lobster Monte Carlo or seared scallops served with mint purée, topped with bacon and parsnip crisps. Mains of creamy saffron risotto served with Parmesan and poached pear, and linguine served with a selection of seafood merit sampling.
The Antelope is a welcoming and homely pub set a few minutes’ drive from Kingston upon Thames. Renowned for its great atmosphere and sumptuous home-cooked food, this lively pub is a great place to bring friends and family at the weekend and a fantastic spot for a few drinks after work.
The chefs are passionate about using local ingredients and the meat is smoked in-house – this helps to maximise the flavour and freshness of every dish. Begin your meal by ordering an appetising starter: there are crispy fried courgettes, barbecue chicken wings, squid and kimchi tacos, or opt for one of the sharing platters. Moving on, the list of mains is just as tempting. As well as classic British plates like juicy sausages with mash and greens, you’ll be offered creamy chicken tikka masala, a light butternut squash salad and an American-inspired chilli hotdog served with caramelised onions. There’s also an impressive array of burgers.
Delicious, traditional Caribbean dishes with a modern twist and a warm welcome can be enjoyed at Ayanna’s London. Ayanna’s is a hidden gem in the East End, offering a high-end dining experience with exciting, heartening flavours and a wonderful choice of drinks. The restaurant is very close to Canary Wharf and is only a short walk from the DLR station at Blackwall. You may want to peruse the wine list or just dive straight into the Caribbean delights with a mouth-watering and eye-opening cocktail.
To start, Ayanna’s offers a range of signature dishes to tempt and thrill diners. When we visited the restaurant, we opted for the delicious soup of red kidney beans puréed with coconut cream, coconut milk and dumplings and the phenomenally tasty cheesy lobster, which combined succulent lobster with coconut milk, cheese, salad and onions to start, followed by mains of signature jerk chicken served with a tomato and sweet pepper garnish, rich rice and peas, and a side dish of sweet fried plantain.
The first Benihana opened in 1964. At the time, the concept of having the chef prepare your meal at your table was completely unique. Today, there are numerous Benihana restaurants around the world, and it’s the world’s best-known teppanyaki restaurant. One such branch can be found in Piccadilly, where it has stood for 21 years. The decor is sleek and elegant with a Japanese influence evident throughout.
The offering includes traditional options that have graced the menu since Benihana first began in the 1960s, in addition to a selection of specials, which have been carefully crafted by the experienced chefs. There’s also a dedicated section of the menu for lunchtime diners. When we visited Benihana, we started with the warming onion soup that was perfect on a cold December evening. We followed this by sushi – beautifully presented sea bass, salmon and tuna sashimi paired with fiery wasabi, and peppery ginger crafted into flowers. From the tempura selection we opted for lightly battered prawn, courgette and mushroom, all of which we devoured in haste.
Set in the heart of the prestigious borough of Chelsea, 11 Cadogan Gardens is a luxury five-star hotel in a truly unbeatable location. Set just a few minutes’ walk from Sloane Square and a stone’s throw from the lavish department stores of Knightsbridge, 11 Cadogan Gardens dates back to the 19th century and was originally four separate Victorian townhouses.
The hotel is home to a fantastic cosmopolitan restaurant that serves both day visitors and residents. At Hans’ Bar & Grill, the day begins with breakfast where there’s a tempting array of freshly made smoothies, cocktails and cold-pressed fruit juices to quench your thirst, as well as delicious dishes like coconut granola, egg white omelette and a full English to satisfy your hunger. Later on, allow yourself to be drawn in by the all-day menu. Begin with some indulgent oysters – served with Bloody Mary shots – or try the salt beef ravioli with creamy lobster bisque. The selection of mains encompasses fish, meat and vegetarian dishes as well as lunchtime light bites.
This outstanding restaurant offers a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere to friends, family and colleagues alike. Its stylish, modern decor is smart and refined. The bar is stocked with fine wine and beer, and the easy-going bar area is perfect for everything from quiet drinks to more sociable gatherings before you sit down to dine. The carefully considered lunch and dinner menus change monthly to take advantage of the finest seasonal goods. Dishes are cooked and presented with imagination and immense flair. Chef Kunal Ramtohul is inspired by, and passionate about, only the very best food, and he promotes and adheres to the ethos of ethical sourcing.
As an appetiser, the hearty beef brisket with home-cooked skillet Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce is unsurpassed. When we visited the restaurant, our main course was a beautifully marbled and wonderfully succulent rib-eye steak. One bite of the exquisitely tender, generously sized serving combined everything we had anticipated: it was vibrant, absolutely delicious and full of flavour.
Offering delicious food and drink, excellent service, and an experience unlike any other, this Farringdon restaurant should be on everybody’s bucket list. Inviting diners to eat and drink in pitch darkness, Dans le Noir? goes above and beyond normal dining. Helping to facilitate the unique sensory experience on offer is the intriguing menu, which provides only basic information about the food, with three colour-coded options to choose from: green (vegetarian), red (meat), and blue (fish).
Food is served in sittings so after choosing, we were introduced to our blind waiter, Trevor, who confidently led us through the darkness to our table, and delivered with precision three delicious courses and a wine flight to match. Part of the fun of this place is not knowing what to expect, so it wouldn’t be right to list all of the dishes we enjoyed, but what is worth saying is that we had a fantastic time exploring familiar and exotic flavours and textures, and thoroughly enjoyed guessing the components of each dish.
The Elysée resides in the heart of fashionable Fitzrovia, near London’s West End. Occupying a Georgian townhouse that spans three floors, this venue has been a buzzing hotspot for artists, writers and screen stars since it opened in 1936. Its stream of loyal customers and regular visitors are proof that this family-run venue is still going strong; it isn’t hard to see why.
On the ground floor you’ll find London’s original Greek restaurant. Let the five-piece in-house band, belly dancers and the infamous tradition of smashing plates transport you to faraway shores as you soak up the atmosphere and dine on delicious Greek fare. Sporting 1930s decor with earthy hues of maroon, cream and ochre, the restaurant is charged with energy and class. As night falls, the cocktail bar and lounge is a chic hub where guests can delight in aperitifs, post-dinner drinks and dancing. Menus are creatively put together by experienced chefs, with authenticity and simplicity at the forefront.
Enter Flat Three in Holland Park to be greeted by the warmth of the flames from a wood fire oven in the open kitchen, and the inviting aroma of bubbling stocks and intriguing ferments. Expect personable service that is both formal and honest, in a cosy yet roomy space filled with period Scandinavian furniture. Flat Three boasts a convivial atmosphere in surroundings of discreet elegance, with an emphasis on attention to detail. The generous tasting menu is inspired by the culinary traditions and flavours of Korea and Japan, but don’t expect traditional cuisine. The focus on using British-sourced and -foraged goods allows the chefs to work with ingredients in all their glory, finding flavour and use for every part, from dehydrating beetroots to fermenting and smoking daikon to create a rich sauce.
Led by head chef Joe Timarchi, the team appreciates the importance of time as the key to discovering flavours through fermentation and exploring the culinary practices of the cultures that inspire Flat Three.
Bar – Restaurant
Humble Grape, an independent London wine merchant, wine bar and restaurant, occupies five venues across the city. Each site boasts a similar rustic interior and warm atmosphere, and over 400 wines to choose from. First and foremost, Humble Grape is an endlessly welcoming space where guests can enjoy the finest wine at reasonable prices. Those less familiar with the world of wine can be sure of an inclusive, easy-going atmosphere, and knowledgeable, charming and down-to-earth staff.
Each site’s food offering differs to reflect the head chefs’ individual flair, yet all are united by the theme of social eating. You’ll find a tempting mix of small plates and sharing platters, which pair perfectly with the wine list. Some dishes change weekly, yet the firm favourites remain to be enjoyed time and time again – such as the baked Camembert, which you can choose to garnish with honey and hazelnut, garlic and rosemary, or cranberry, Port and thyme. All are equally delectable and served with homemade bread.
Il Pagliacco is that rare breed of restaurant that boasts a big reputation, yet retains the ambience of a hidden gem. It’s easy to see why it’s beloved. The staggering quality of Neapolitan food and the charisma of the staff keeps people coming back for more. Plenty of famous names have made a visit throughout the venue’s history, including Princess Diana.
Il Pagliacco has a joyful atmosphere, which swept us up immediately. Accomplished bartender Ramush expertly prepared us cocktails before we were seated. We started with the fittura di calamari, which was raised to greatness by delicious homemade tartare sauce, and the flavourful bruschetta, before moving onto steak Florentine cooked to medium-rare perfection and seasoned with cracked pepper, garlic and rosemary and sumptuous lamb shank served on a bed of polenta and steak.
Inamo showcases stunning pan Asian cuisine using the world’s first interactive restaurant ordering and entertainment systems. Order your meal via interactive table surface projections and tablets, watch the chef-cam and play engaging games – you can even colour and draw on the table surface with the inadoodle app. The table experience at Inamo is unlike anywhere else in London or beyond.
Feast on a stunning menu with a focus on sharing, from sushi dishes including the signature dragon roll to sumptuous Asian tapas such as sweet chilli prawn tempura with heritage tomato and wakame salad, and dim sum. Larger sharing dishes include red miso lamb tenderloin, sizzling mushroom toban yaki, and black pepper fillet of beef. With over 20 vegetarian and vegan dishes, Inamo offers something for all tastes, and the menu is as much a talking point as the technology surrounding it. With an impressive collection of recent awards including OpenTable’s Diner’s Choice Award for 2019, Inamo is a must-visit. As Jay Rayner wrote in The Observer, ‘from the interactive menu to delicious sushi, this is Asian fun at your fingertips’.
Ma Petite Jamaica sits in the heart of Camden Town, a stone’s throw from the famous Camden Locks and market, and surrounded by live music venues. From its happy hour to its hearty and authentic Jamaican cuisine, it’s the perfect place to start a night out or wind down an evening.
When we visited Ma Petite Jamaica, we were greeted by a colourful and charismatic Caribbean atmosphere. Sitting beneath bamboo and straw umbrellas, once the cocktails started flowing we felt as though we had been whisked away from the hustle and bustle of London. The Port Royal Rum Punch and Killer Doppi are two cocktails that came highly recommended, and definitely had us feeling relaxed and ready to soak up the laid-back atmosphere. For starters, we opted for a couple of seafood dishes. The chilli-battered squid was light and crisp, and came with delicious jerk mayonnaise, while the ackee and saltfish was a flavoursome and hearty dish that paired very well with our cocktails and was served with fluffy dumplings.
The longevity of a restaurant is surely proof of its level of quality. North China, situated on the Acton-Ealing border, has been in business for 43 years, and its focus on excellent cuisine and fantastic service means that it is as popular today as it was in 1976.
You’ll immediately notice the sound of lively chatter, and the staff couldn’t be friendlier. Of course, the food is consistently great and a whole host of well-prepared and flavourful dishes are on offer. Spicy, sticky ribs or crispy aromatic duck would be a fine way to start. You might like to dig into sizzling lamb paired with spring onion next, or flash-fried king prawns accompanied by monkfish and scallops. North China garners praise from all who visit, and was also a winner at the Time Out Love London Awards in 2015 and 2016.
Cooking quality meat is an art form at family-run Omnino. The chefs are committed to grilling and settle for nothing less than perfection. The high-end independent Omnino restaurants are synonymous with world-class meat, and each boasts a buzzing atmosphere that draws customers back time and again. The original Leadenhall Street location is a chic Argentine steakhouse, while the St Paul’s sister site has recently taken a step in an exciting new direction as a Brazilian-inspired barbecue restaurant.
Stop by Leadenhall Street and you’ll note that only the highest quality Argentine beef, wagyu, prime US and British beef make the cut and they’re bound to please. If you fancy sampling a range of cuts, push the boat out and choose the Argentine sampler, which comprises 300g or 500g of rump, sirloin, rib-eye and fillet.
Sale e Pepe is situated along a discreet street, just two minutes’ walk from the hustle and bustle of Harvey Nichols and Harrods in Knightsbridge. This elegant Italian trattoria has been a firm fixture on Pavilion Road for over 40 years, and has gained a loyal following. In fact, when we visited Sale e Pepe, the devoted regulars were called by their first names as they arrived. It’s not difficult to see the appeal of this intimate, cosy restaurant.
The kitchen team either sources ingredients as locally as possible or imports them directly from Italy. From the antipasti selection, we opted for the beautifully soft octopus Carpaccio with avocado and the mozzarella salad. This was followed by mains of stone bass complemented by piquant capers and veal escalopes cooked in cream, brandy and mushrooms. For dessert there was creamy panna cotta with berry coulis, and Mario’s recommendation of sublime chocolate and coconut cheesecake, followed by a classic cappuccino.
A true north London landmark, The Seashell of Lisson Grove can be found seven minutes’ walk from Baker Street station and is the seafood restaurant of choice for locals, professionals, tourists and even visiting celebrities. Its outstanding reputation has earned this eatery a loyal customer base: for many guests, The Seashell was a fixture of their childhood and they continue to bring their own families today. Founded after the First World War as a set of dining rooms, this unique privately owned institution has seen the Swinging 60s, the 70s, the 80s and the turn of the millennium. Now, it is a quality takeaway and dine-in destination that offers outstanding service and the very finest traditional British fish and chips.
The Seashell prides itself on the quality, affordability and sustainability of its food. Chips are lovingly cut from locally sourced potatoes and the signature dish of fried fish is cooked to order and lightly coated in batter before being fried in pure groundnut oil.
Don your lederhosen and get down to Tiroler Hut for an Alpine extravaganza. Step inside and you’ll discover a little piece of Austria in the heart of London. This really is one of the capital’s hidden treasures. Located at the Queensway end of bustling Westbourne Grove, this family-run Austrian restaurant has been going strong for over 50 years and the reasons for its success are clear. The appeal of the lively atmosphere and hearty cuisine has proven to be a recipe for success, and the restaurant remains busy all year round. Owner Josef plays the cowbells during his evening show, as well as entertaining on the accordion, saxophone, keyboard and, of course, with the occasional yodel thrown in for good measure. Whether you’re drinking or dining, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a large dose of Austrian hospitality at Tiroler Hut.
Food ranges from traditional dishes of Wiener schnitzel and Bauernschmaus to vegetarian-friendly fusilli and cheese fondue, all of which are delicious and brought to you by staff decked out in Tirolean costume.
Bar – Restaurant
Most restaurants don’t serve fresh beer that comes directly from the brewing tanks, but then most restaurants aren’t Zerodegrees. A combination of a microbrewery, multiple award-winning pizza place and seafood restaurant, with a healthy dose of the bold and imaginative on the menu, Zerodegrees has been ploughing its own distinctive furrow since 2000. Set back from the road on the southern edge of lovely, leafy Blackheath, it doesn’t appear grand from the outside, but step inside and you’ll find that it opens up like the proverbial Aladdin’s cave to offer more than enough space for any sized group to enjoy themselves, while retaining a sense of intimacy missing from many larger venues.
Whether you choose a Pilsner, pale ale, wheat ale or other speciality brews, the beer is flavoursome and pure. Make sure you try the mango beer – there’s nothing like it anywhere else. These beers match perfectly with everything on the menu, from the kilo pots of mussels to the PAPA award-winning pizza and pasta dishes, making Zerodegrees a beer- and food-lover’s paradise.