London’s Best Restaurants

An eating tour of London—from Soho to Shoreditch, Bermondsey to Brixton—reveals the best restaurants among the city’s diverse new culinary scene

London's best restaurants
Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness

There’s never been a better or, frankly, wackier, time to eat in London. Like so many of us these days, Londoners are positively obsessed with food, in all its guises: high to low, food trucks to four stars.

Whether it’s burger joints or old-school British lunchrooms; elegant Italian restaurants or trendy Peruvian ceviche bars; weekend markets or semi-secret chef’s tables, wherever your taste runs, London has you covered. Few cities on earth offer food this good across the board. (C’mon, bring it, New York! Step up, Paris and Tokyo!)

The only question for you, oh hungry pilgrim, is which London you’re after: the one with the amazing breakfasts? Or the one with 70-odd variations of Indian food? The one obsessed with tapas and pintxos? Or the one giving Copenhagen a run for its foraged nettles and sea purslane?

Here’s a better idea: how about trying them all? Read on for the best new restaurants in London.

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Colbert

Colbert, London
(David Loftus)

On Sloane Square, next to the Royal Court Theatre, Colbert is the latest hit from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the gifted duo behind the indefatigable Wolseley. They’ve taken over the corner spot long occupied by Oriel, whose food was so lousy that the building’s landlord, the Earl of Cadogan, purportedly refused to renew the lease. Instead he turned the space over to Corbin and King, who upgraded it in the manner of an all-day Parisian café. With stage-set lighting, Buñuel posters, and distressed mirrors, Colbert could coast by on looks alone. Yet as at the Wolseley, the food is way better than it has to be. Come for breakfast, order the piquant blackberry-and-pear compote atop thick, tangy Greek yogurt with a side of nutty house-made granola, and your day will be the better for it.

colbertchelsea.com

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Bubbledogs

Bubbledogs, London
(Paul Winch-Furness)

Of all the far-flung cuisines making their way to British shores, the least likely is now the most pervasive: London has gone mad for American junk food. You can’t swing a Welsh corgi around here without hitting a jam-packed burger, hot dog, fried-chicken, or barbecue joint. In Fitzrovia, the line runs down the block each evening for red-hot wine bar Bubbledogs, where chef James Knappett and sommelier Sandia Chang pair grower champagnes with gussied-up hot dogs. Try the Small Eye dog, a bánh mì variation topped with pickled carrots, fennel, cucumber, cauliflower, and Sriracha-spiced mayo.

bubbledogs.co.uk

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Cay Tre Soho

Cay Tre Soho
(Jason Lowe)

A key ingredient in Dean Street’s culinary renaissance, this Vietnamese bistro is the Sohofied sequel to the original Cay Tre in Hoxton, a favorite late-night haunt for London chefs. This branch, opened in 2011, has a chic mod-Deco theme—all black-and-white with splashes of turquoise—and a cool retro soundtrack heavy on Bix Beiderbecke. The menu is a fusion of traditional Vietnamese dishes and well-sourced British ingredients: a knockout pho made with ox cheeks; organic lamb in spicy red curry; grilled aubergines with Devon crab; Chinese mustard greens wok-fried with English chanterelles. Don’t miss the bánh cuón—as faithful a version of the famed Vietnamese ravioli as you’ll find west of the Mekong.

caytresoho.com

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Ceviche

Ceviche, London
(Paul Winch-Furness)

London is in the throes of a serious Peruvian craze, as the giddy crowds at Arjun Waney’s Coya (a private club–cum–Peruvian restaurant on Piccadilly) can attest. But the rage for anticuchosand pisco sours really took off here, at this long, narrow, and eternally festive Soho hot spot. The cocktails may be what most are here for—and they are terrific—but chef Gregor Funcke does a bang-up job with the titular ceviche (try the leche de tigre–marinated sea bass with yellow chile) and with skewers of grilled chorizo and octopus.

cevicheuk.com

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Cinnamon Soho

Cinnamon Soho, London
(Courtesy of Cinnamon Soho)

Vivek Singh made a big splash in 2001 with the opening of Cinnamon Club, a leather-paneled room in Westminster that upended Londoners’ notions of what an Indian restaurant could be. In 2012 the Bengali chef opened a decidedly more casual (and affordable) café on Kingly Street in Soho. The black-leg-chicken biryani arrives in a heavy iron Staub pot; leave the rice to cook for a spell until it gets paella-crunchy. A crisp-skinned, turmeric-dusted tandoori salmon is sauced with a delicious horseradish-spiked green pea relish. If you’re game for lamb’s brains, the kitchen does a fine variation on Mumbai’s iconic Bheja fry (mutton brains in mince curry). And props to Singh’s ingenious Bangla Scotch egg: a soft-cooked quail egg that’s pickled in beet juice till dyed bright pink, then breaded in a spicy garam-flour batter and deep-fried.

cinnamonsoho.com

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Banca

Banca, London
(Courtesy of Banca Ristorante Italiano)

On a leafy corner of Mayfair, this gorgeous northern Italian newcomer is a collaboration between Arjun and Peter Waney (owners of the eternally popular Zuma) and restaurateur Giuliano Lotto (The Arts Club). The room glows with flattering light, part of it from the flame of a state-of-the-art Wood Stone pizza oven, which dominates an open kitchen manned by chefs in stovepipe hats. Crisp white linens and vases of red roses adorn each table. Elegant as a bespoke Brioni suit, Banca is a welcome throwback in an era when so many trendy restaurants dress down. Thankfully the food measures up to the setting, from the melt-on-the-tongue vitello tonnato to a sumptuously creamy wild mushroom risotto.

bancarestaurant.com

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Dabbous

Dabbous, London
(Jason Lowe)

Believe the hype about this 12-table restaurant in Fitzrovia run by 32-year-old chef Ollie Dabbous—the food really is that good, even if the space comes off like an assembly-line floor (all concrete, steel, and exposed ductwork). What the room lacks in color is made up for on the plates. A startlingly vivid pea-and-mint starter celebrates the miracle of England’s greatest ingredient: a bright-green pea purée, drizzled with tart pea oil and topped with minty pea granita and whole peas in the shell. Dabbous’ signature dish, a coddled egg with smoked butter and wild mushrooms, recalls a Japanese chawanmushi custard, but tastes definitively of the English soil. It is unspeakably delicious, and I urge you to try it yourself, if you can score a table—I hear there are a few left for 2014.

dabbous.co.uk

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