Dine at some of London’s best restaurants, from long-established favorites to exciting newcomers doing exciting things in the kitchen.
Our experts and critics hand-picked the eateries on our list of London’s greatest restaurants. However, this is much more than just delicious meals. All of the restaurants here provide excellent service, cool environments, and, if you’re lucky, a leafy terrace. And all for a reasonable price. This doesn’t always imply cheap (if you’re on a budget, check out our dedicated cheap meals list), but it does imply good value.
We think everything on this list is amazing, from special-occasion destinations to cult shipping-container hotspots. We believe you will as well.
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When to go: If you’re on a budget but still want to try new foods, go in a group to sample as much as possible.
What to have: The incredibly delicious, Myanmar-spiced short-rib curry, or any of the nightly specials, are sure to impress.
Ben Chapman, a self-taught chef, had a hit with his previous solo endeavor, Smoking Goat; this second venture continues the Thai BBQ theme. Kiln isn’t quite as divey as its sister. Instead, its basic, uncluttered appearance complements the Soho environment and cooking technique. Sit up at the counter to witness the chefs and furnaces in work as they chargrill quality British meat and fish over embers, Thai-style, and serve with hot, flavor-packed sauces typical of rural Thailand.
2. The Barbary
When to go: Dinner is the most enjoyable, but you must arrive early to secure a place. Even better, go after 5 p.m., when you can get a reservation.
What to have: Anything cooked in the tandoor (like naan bread) or on the grill (such as the charred octopus, which is the best in London).
At The Barbary, it’s impossible to have a bad time. Sure, you’ll have to wait in line, but that’s tolerable because you’ll get to eat delicious deep-fried treats (like Moroccan cigars) that aren’t on the main menu. If the line is long enough to flow out the door, you’ll be able to relax in Neal’s Yard, one of London’s most charming secret courtyards. The dish is described as “contemporary Israeli,” but it is anything but. They’ve reinvented old dishes from North Africa (from the former Barbary Coast) and the Middle East that have influenced food in today’s Israeli kitchen. The smokey room is packed with music, laughter, and individuals that are stunning on the inside and out.
When to go: ‘You SHALL go to the ball!’ you can say to your mouth.
What to have: Plain hoppers, bone marrow varuval (a dry bone marrow curry to spread over a buttered roti), and any of the cuisines (tip: order an extra curry instead of several chutneys).
Hoppers is unlike anything else in London. Sure, there are some good Sri Lankan restaurants in the capital. However, just a few restaurants specialize in Sri Lankan cuisine (most are South Indian and don’t serve hoppers, the egg-topped pancakes after which this Soho eatery is called); the few exceptions are adequate rather than exceptional. So it’s even more impressive because Hoppers is ridiculously good. The little room, which is a sultry Soho take on all things Sri Lankan, is constantly packed and bustling (and you’ll almost likely have to line), but it’s well worth the wait. Hoppers will have your pulse – and palate – racing if you like small meals, bold flavors, and shameless spicing.
4. Smoke and Salt
When to go: When only a few brilliant modern tiny plates will suffice
What to have: The parsnip and flatbread mix with burnt yeast cream, pickled garlic, and apple is very impressive.
Smoke & Salt, a restaurant in a’magic box’ (really, a shipping container), has acquired Kricket’s pop-up area – and see what happened to that Indian firecracker. These guys can really cook, and their dishes are a triumph of thoughtful composition and texture. How about buttery octopus and salsify nuggets in a huge clam shell with blood orange accents on the side? It’s everything ridiculously cheap, and the service is friendly, knowledgeable, and well-paced.
When to go: when you’re bored of all other food.
What to have: The menu changes daily, but plates that emphasize carbs are particularly popular: seek for home-made goujeres, herby pizzette, or pasta plates. Not to mention the white-bread sarnie filled with katsu chicken.
Eating at Bright is a little like eating in a high-ceilinged, metal-framed glass box, which is a good thing because it means you’ll be less distracted from the food. The small menu changes daily, but it’s usually an eclectic mix of modernish small plates: look for the signature chicken katsu sarnie (a crustless white-bread number served in dainty quarters), slices of artisanal charcuterie, tiny plates of off-the-clock pasta, plus inventive plates of fish, meat, or vegetables (grilled radicchio with preserved cherries, say; or mussels with curry leaves in a smoked mackerel broth). Best of all, you can make a reservation.
When to go: You can absolutely rationalize two or three dishes of pasta to yourself after a morning workout.
Pasta, pasta, and more pasta is what you should eat. Big shapes, little shapes, fat and thin shapes all exist. Starters and desserts are nice, but not why you’re here, and the pappardelle with eight-hour beef shin ragù is a must-try.
Pasta is a strange old creature. So straightforward on the surface. Even tedious. But this elegant little Borough Market pasta bar, from the same people who brought you Islington’s popular Trullo, will change your mind. There’s a daily-changing menu of dishes that are modest enough to try a few (about two each if you skip the appetizers and desserts), yet large enough to leave you feeling truly satiated. Everything is produced and cooked to order right in front of you — everyone gets to sit at the L-shaped counter for maximum viewing pleasure – and the environment is effortlessly stylish, with glass, marble, and steel.
7. Social Eating House
When to go: If you’re looking for polished service and a high-end meal without the formality.
What to order: Shareable jars and excellent cocktails get the party started right.
Unstoppable wunderkind and Gordon Ramsay protégé Jason Atherton appears to be hellbent on developing an international restaurant empire as prestigious as his mentor’s. This was his first Soho venture and one of three London openings he managed in 2013, but he hasn’t taken a breath since. Chef Paul Hood’s menu delivers dishes that are at once highly sophisticated, accessible, and above all delicious – often throwing in a welcome touch of theatricality when you least expect it – while the dark, low-slung dining room, with its mirrored ceiling and modern artworks, feels cool and informal. This star-studded show is kept on the road by efficient and dedicated crew.
8. Tandoor Chop House
When to go: When you want Indian food without the Indian-restaurant clichés – all of the dishes here are inspired by British chop houses.
What to order: Malted kulfi ice cream with caramelized banana and salted peanuts. Please pass the smelling salts…
Small plates of sexed-up Indian food are served in a lively, convivial café-style ambience in this smartly constructed concept, which borrows strongly from Dishoom (but, for now at least, minus the mile-long queues). From the herb-strewn seekh kebab and amazing meat dripping keema naan to the finger-licking, blistered, spicy lamb chops, we ate practically everything we tried here, and you will too. The staff could not be friendlier, treating their customers like family.
9. The Counter at Sabor
When to go: When you’re in need of some tapas fun.
What to have: Everything wows, but the just-runny salt-cod tortilla is sheer eggy bliss.
If you like Sabor, you may like…
Barrafina, Boqueria, Donostia
Nieves Barragán Mohacho, the Spanish queen bee, has opened her first solo gaff – a highly unusual set-up sprawled across two levels – after years as executive chef at Barrafina (this small-plate tapas counter downstairs, bookable tables for communal wood-fired feasting upstairs). Some of Barrafina’s favorite ingredients are still on the menu, but the manner is more rustic, with dishes like a black tomato, chorizo, and confit artichoke salad and a two-part meal with stuffed chipirón (baby squid) in a puddle of black ink and breaded hake with aoli. Also, hope they’re offering their drool-worthy tartaleta, which is packed with aromatic poached rhubarb and booze-laced mascarpone. The meal is excellent in every way, and eating here is a lot of fun.
10. Smoking Goat Shoreditch
When to go: When you need some ‘drinking food’ with a proper kick.
What to have: Red-hot smokin’ Thai barbecue, a bowl of lardo fried rice and as much booze as you can manage.
If you like Smoking Goat, you may like…
Kiln, Som Saa, Begging Bowl
This rockin’ Thai BBQ eatery now looks and feels like a real restaurant, albeit one with a lot of smoke, noise, and music, after moving from its old Soho dive to larger premises in Shoreditch. The famous fish-sauce chicken wings, the crunchy deep-fried shell-on prawns (eat ’em whole), and anything involving unctuous bulked-out noodles are all recommended as ‘drinking food’. Do you have a friend who doesn’t enjoy spicy food? Yes, please do not bring them.