Hearty food, cosy fires and seriously good winter cocktails, these are the best London restaurants to pitch up in right now
We’ve rounded up the best London restaurants to be seen in this winter, because not everyone is down with dry January and restrictive diets. From top-notch food and experimental cocktails to interiors goals and unique backdrops, these are the new London haunts to add to your tick list for 2018. Let the Insta-brag check-ins commence.
Best London restaurants for French food
There is a very good reason why L’Escargot in the heart of Soho has been at the epicentre of London life for almost a century. Housed in a stunning Georgian townhouse dating back to 1741, it was the first restaurant in the UK to serve the French delicacy snails, which were originally farmed in the restaurant basement and remain the most popular dish on the menu. We can vouch for this, having tried the selection of six (£15) soaked in delicious garlic and parsley sauce. Also not to be missed is the grilled lobster in garlic butter (£19 for half, £38 for a whole one). The food is rich but unfussy and the wine list is exceptional. With cosy nooks and a roaring fire, it’s no wonder the great and good of the the glitterati have frequented L’Escargot over the years, including Coco Chanel, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Princess Diana. It is quite simply impossible not to fall for L’Escargot’s many charms.
Best London restaurants for something unique
Forget about heading to the Alps this Christmas, a high-altitude winter terrace pop-up has arrived in one of London’s best restaurants, Aviary. Promising to elevate any festive celebrations, the ‘igloos with a view’ mix Scandi-style decor with city cool skylines, so treat yourself to the ultimate private dining experience inside a twinkling rooftop igloo. From creative cocktails to the ultimate feasting platters, you’ll be spoilt for choice – we promise.
Best London restaurants for a hot date
It could be the red leather banquets, the low lighting and the hidden corners but this place screams seduction and romance. Downstairs, the cocktail bar comes to life with DJ sets and a seriously hip crowd, while upstairs is a buzzy restaurant with a vast Pan-Asian menu. You are literally spoilt for choice but the tempura starters (from £8.95) and rock shrimp popcorn with garlic mayonnaise (£11.95) are perfect for sharing, as is the wide-ranging Dim Sum menu. We went for the stir friend scallops, tiger prawns, mussels and squid in a spring onion, garlic and black pepper sauce (£20.95) but there are also classic Thai dishes such as green curries and pad Thai. This is dining with a difference in the heart of Fitzrovia, and once you start making your way through the cocktail list you could easily lose an entire evening in this hub of a hideaway.
Best London restaurants for traditionalists
Demure, understated, under the radar, unpretentious, with no urge or desire to try and be trendy or remotely hip, the Dukes Hotel bar has for years served my favourite martini and Vesper. Its the benchmark as far as Im concerned, and all the better that the regulars who go there couldn’t give a fig about the London scene. It is a classic amongst gimmicks which is why this hotel bar is still up there with the best.
Best London restaurants for cocktails
Leave everything you know about cocktails outside and just go with the flow at this rare spirits speakeasy that has trounced all comers in its native Paris. Set in a Georgian townhouse over two floors, its as well to reserve a table ahead if you can, or face the ignominy of trying to look fresh and fashionable while standing.
Best London restaurants for understated chic
No fanfair, faff or silly cocktail umbrellas here. As you’d expect from my favourite London hotel, The Connaught gets it right first time, every time. The Coburg Bar is always a treat at any time of day, though particularly at that delicious, gloaming hour betwixt afternoon tea and cocktail hour, when the chink of china gives way to the clink of crystal.
Best London Restaurants for pub-lovers
You can be hard-pushed in recent times to find a traditional east end boozer that has retained its charm in the midst of a swathe of chain bars and gastro pubs serving artisan pies. So, we give you the historic Simpson’s Tavern. Down a quaint cobbled street, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into Dickensian times as you enter one of the oldest best London restaurants, Dating back to 1757, much of the original internal details have been lovingly restored and this bolthole in the middle of the city’s financial district is a welcome slice of authenticity. The pub menu is simple but tasty and at Christmas, their set menu with starters including roast parsnip soup or smoked salmon and beetroot salad, followed by a traditional turkey roast or belly or pork (£40 for three courses), will leave you warmed from the inside out. We should also take a moment to rave about the dessert menu. The chocolate and raspberry mousse is quite unforgettable. Perfect for good hearty grub and a slice of old-school London life.
Best London restaurants for pre-theatre dinner
Sister to the famous Wolseley, and equally popular morning, noon and night, the Viennese café menu features not only schnitzels and wieners, but a whole raft of comfort classics and day-long treats. Perfect for pre- or post theatre, but do book ahead and even then, be aware you may still have to wait a while at the bar. Its worth it though, as The Delaunay remains one of London’s best restaurants for elegance and sophistication by the bucketload.
Best London restaurants for cool-hunters
Sassy, industrial chic Spuntino serves up great little plates of Italian American tapas, with a side of raucous attitude. Think truffled egg toast, macaroni cheese and of course their famed peanut butter and jelly sandwich - its the perfect hangover cure. No bookings, no exceptions, just turn up, queue, eat and go. Fast food never felt so fun.
Best London restaurants for light bites
Low-lit and ambient this cellar bar under the deeply loved Hix restaurant in Soho is a den of Chesterfield sofas, moody mirrors and inventive drinks using artisanally sourced ingredients. Friendly and relaxed, it makes a very pleasant bolt-hole from the fierce see and be scene vibe of Soho. And dont forget the delicious Hix bar snax too!
Best London restaurants for fine dining
Fight for your seat whether it be lunch or dinner for this is still one of London’s best restaurants. Chef Brett Grahams magic wand has entranced the palettes of almost everyone who manages to score one of the prized 55 covers in this temple of simple sophistication. Featured at #14 on the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant list this 2 star Michelin eatelier is the perfect fine dining blend of urbane and sophisticated, but deliciously relaxed and welcoming. It really is a treat, and you really will need to book far ahead.
Best London restaurants for old-school glamour
Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell
Whimsy and delight abound at this characterful and eccentric sitting room bar designed by Russell Sage, complete with a taxidermy cat, log fires, squidgy sofas and acres of oil paintings. The signature house cocktails offer up some bold and unusual combinations, and the small, but elegant crowd are always friendly. This is the perfect place to while away a few hours sampling the many fabulous cocktails and nibbles on offer.
Best London restaurants for seafood
Do one thing and do it really well. You come to the Wright Brothers for the freshest fish and seafood, with blackboard specials, warm and swift service and zero pretension. You cant miss the raw bar at the front, but the relaxed vibe of the main brasserie area is where I like to sit.
Wright Brothers Soho
In a world of ever larger and more overwhelming menus, it is a joy to find a spot that makes choosing seafood easy and enjoyable. Plus, the service is always spot on and the food faultless. If oysters are you thing, then there’s really no need to ever go anywhere else.