The Curious London Top 21 Restaurant Hit List

As a food blogger, I eat out a lot. Probably too much. Definitely too much, if you ask a medical professional. However, not all eateries are created equal, so here are my 21 favourite London restaurants. I reckon it’s a good starting point if you’re new in town or here on holiday (though, fellow London foodies, I’d love to know what makes your top 21!)

Ormer
Location: Mayfair
Price range: $$$$$
Reservations: Yes

Hands down the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in London. Perfection doesn’t come cheap – expect to spend around £60 a head, plus drinks and service. But the food is impeccable and you get all the bells and whistles that come with old-school fine dining. Get the iberico secreto pork. Read review >>>

New Season Lamb, Goats Curd Agnolotti, Black Garlic, Spring VegetablesNative
Location: Covent Garden
Price range: $$
Reservations: Yes

I’ve been to Native four times since it opened. It’s bloody good. Even Captain Miseryguts Jay Rayner thinks so. The venison is always a thing of beauty and the cauliflower pakoras, if they’re on the menu, are a must-order. If you’re dining à deux, ask to sit at the teeny tiny ‘Chef’s Table’. Read review >>>

Native restaurant Covent Garden Neals YardGunpowder
Location: Spitalfields
Price range: $$
Reservations: No

I’m pretty pleased that I got in to Gunpowder a few times before it won a Bib Gourmand, because the queues were absolutely mental from the day it opened. The waiter will recommend the broccoli, and you will be reluctant to allocate it precious stomach space. Ignore your gut – it’ll be the best veg you eat all year. (Even if, like me, you hate broccoli.) Also, do not miss the venison doughnut, pulled duck ‘tacos’ and the show-stopping, jaw-dropping molten spiced chocolate cake. Read review >>>

Gunpowder Spitalfields restaurant reviewKricket
Location: Brixton (and Soho from January 2017)
Price range: $$
Reservations: No

The whole menu costs about £60, so take a couple of friends – or just one, and wear your big boy pants – and get the lot. Except maybe the Bhel Puri (raw mango with tamarind and yoghurt), which is the only thing I’m not mad about. The Keralan Fried Chicken is something truly special, and the Lasooni Scallops, £3.50 each, are big, bouncy mouthfuls of garlicky nirvana. Order one per person. Hell, order two. Read review >>>

kricket Yauatcha
Location: Soho (and Broadgate Circle)
Price range: $$$$
Reservations: Yes

The Soho restaurant is the better of the two, but the City outpost sometimes does some great deals via Bookatable. Ignore the main courses – your money will go much further on the extensive dim sum options. If you’re a fan of sesame prawn toast – and you are, of course you are – the stuff they do here is the best I’ve ever had. If you’re a pudding person, leave room for a little masterpiece from the dedicated patisserie counter. Read review >>>

Yauatcha Sesame Prawn Toast Soho Hakkasan
Location: Tottenham Court Road and Mayfair
Price range: $$$$
Reservations: Yes

Probably one of my favourite special occasion restaurants in London. The first time I went, Maxine and I wracked up a bill of £300 (we were celebrating), but book smart and you can experience Hakkasan’s unique vibe and Michelin-starred Chinese food for significantly less. Dim Sum Sundays, in particular, are amazing value, especially considering both London Hakkasan restaurants hold Michelin stars. Read review >>>

Hakkasan Dim Sum SundayPicture
Location: Marylebone and Fitzrovia
Price range: $$$
Reservations: Yes

I was impressed the first time I went to Picture, but when I came back a few months later with a vegetarian and a gluten-free pescaterian, I was blown away. They did a separate tasting menu for each of us, and even printed them out specially for us on posh paper. The food is playful and creative, and six courses cost just £40/head. (Currently on Bookatable they are doing six courses and a cocktail for £35pp, which is an absolute bargain!) Pro tip: order a couple of the beef bites to nibble on before you get properly stuck in. Read review >>>

Picture Marylebone tasting menu restaurant reviewHomeslice
Location: Covent Garden, Old Street & Fitzrovia
Price range: $
Reservations: No

London has so many amazing pizza restaurants – Pizza Pilgrims, Francomanca, Zia Lucia – but Homeslice gets the gold star for having a) such massive, MASSIVE pizzas and b) such weird and wonderful toppings. They change seasonally, but my favourites include chorizo, corn and coriander, and goat shoulder, savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt. A 20″ pizza serves two to four people and costs £20, though the more conventional flavours are available by the slice. If you’re going for dinner, the Neal’s Yard branch is packed out every evening, but the Old Street and Fitzrovia restaurants are much bigger (and less busy). Read review >>>

Homeslice pizza Neal's Yard Covent Garden restaurant reviewHonest Burgers
Location: Various
Price range: $
Reservations: No, but operates a digital queuing system.

I’ve tried pretty much all of London’s fabled burgers, and Honest’s are my favourite. Partly because every order comes with a portion of rosemary-salted fries. Also: brioche buns. (NB: they also do gluten-free options.)

Image credit: Ewan Munro

Image credit: Ewan Munro

Hawksmoor
Location: Various
Price range: $$$$$
Reservations: Yes

For steaklovers, Hawksmoor manages to hit all the right notes for everything from high-end business lunches to romantic nights out. One of my old workmates even got married in the Guildhall branch, which turned out to be bloody lovely. The wine list is extensive and may end up being a bit of a budget-basher, but BYOB on Mondays and corkage is just £5. Read review >>>

Image credit: Suitcase magazine.

Image credit: Suitcase magazine.

Pachamama
Location: Marylebone
Price range: $$$$
Reservations: Yes

Lovely little Peruvian small plates are the order of the day at Pachamama, an underground restaurant known for its zingy ceviche and zippy Pisco Sours (best in town, IMO). They also do a most excellent weekend brunch, where one can sample the famed ‘pan con chicharrón’ burger, winner of the 2015 Slider Decider.

pachamamaCopita
Location: Soho
Price range: $$$
Reservations: No

I first stumbled into Copita when I had a craving for Spanish but couldn’t be arsed to wait the 2+ hours for Barrafina (see below!) It’s crowded and noisy, but the atmosphere is hopping and you usually won’t have to wait more than 20 minutes for a table. I love the meatballs and, if you’re got a sweet tooth, don’t miss the churros and chocolate for pudding. Read review >>>

Copita Soho restaurant Spanish tapasThe Gate
Location: Hammersmith, Clerkenwell & Fitzrovia
Price range: $$$
Reservations: Yes

If I could have a chef cook me Gate-style dishes every day for the rest of my life, I probably wouldn’t eat meat ever again. This butternut and blue cheese rotolo was one of my favourite dishes of 2015; I didn’t know whether to eat it or wear it as a hat. Read review >>>

The Gate Islington restaurant reviewJones Family Project
Location: Shoreditch
Price range: $$$
Reservations: Yes

Ooh, how I love JFP! It’s the kind of place you can pop into for a coffee and a bit of laptop time, but it’s also a formidable figure on the steakhouse scene, with meat from The Ginger Pig cooked on a charcoal josper oven. It also does a great-value Sunday roast menu and regular special events and burger deals (keep an eye on its What’s On page!) Read review >>>

hogget-for-blogThe Colonel Fawcett
Location: Camden
Price range: $$
Reservations: Yes

Pub roasts can so often be disappointing, but The Colonel Fawcett has been consistently smashing the Sunday lunch game for a few years now. There’s a pub garden, a bunch of board games and over 100 different gins on offer, so go early and make a proper afternoon of it.

fawcettHoppers
Location: Soho
Price range: $$
Reservations: No, but operates a digital queuing system.

Hoppers opened not long after I visited Sri Lanka, so I can vouch for its authenticity. Perhaps it isn’t quite as spicy as the real thing, but that’s fine by me. (In one restaurant we were asked if we wanted ‘white people spicy’ or ‘Sri Lanka spicy’ – turned out the Sri Lankans find the delicate palates of we foreign devils most amusing.) The queue can be pretty long, but its digital queuing system means you can go and wait it out in a nearby pub. Read review >>> 

Hoppers Soho Sri Lanka restaurantFoleys
Location: Fitzrovia
Price range: $$$$
Reservations: Yes

Foleys opened in the summer and we went to its soft launch as part of my (numerous) birthday celebrations. It’s one of those small plate restaurants that just produces hit after hit as the dishes come rolling out. Sort of like ABBA. But edible, and, obviously, not only enjoyed when totally pissed, at 2am. And not likely to spawn any musicals. Oh, okay, fine, not like ABBA. But bloody good all the same.

Take a few people because you’re going to want to try everything (especially these Korean thigh ends…)

foleysSunday
Location: Barnsbury
Price range: $
Reservations: No

I’ve lived in Islington for five years now and the best part is being so close to Sunday, the little restaurant that could. Every weekend a queue starts to form at about 9:45am for its 10am opening – and with good reason. It does the best brunches in town. Read review >>>

Sunday Islington Hemingford Road reviewFlat Iron
Location: Various (West End)
Price range: $$
Reservations: No, but operates a digital queuing system.

Famous for only selling one thing, Flat Iron’s £10 steaks are the stuff of legend on London’s meat scene. The Henrietta Street branch, which offers free salted caramel ice cream to anyone who doesn’t nick its adorable little meat cleaver steak knives, is our go-to restaurant post-theatre when the queue is all but gone. Read review >>>

Flat Iron
Barrafina
Location: Soho/Covent Garden
Price range: $$$$
Reservations: No

Arrive at five, is the golden rule to this wildly popular, Michelin-starred tapas restaurant. Otherwise, prepare to queue for a good two hours, perhaps with a bottle of good cava and, if you’ve got any sense, some jamon croquettes. Don’t miss the stuffed courgette flower. Read review >>>

Barrafina Frith Street restaurant reviewMr Bao
Location: Peckham
Price range: $
Reservations: Yes

Taiwanese steamed buns have been mega since the eponymous Bao landed on the scene in Soho, but the queues make it impractical for almost anyone except the most steely willed gastronomes and students, who can eat when they like. If you’re based in South London though, Peckham’s Mr Bao serves the most magnificent steamed buns (and takes reservations). Read review >>>

Mr Bao Peckham restaurant reviewHonourable Mentions

The Ginger Pig
Location: Marylebone

Posh butchers The Ginger Pig supplies not only every steakhouse worth a damn, but will also sell you the best sausage roll you’ll ever eat. Grab a few on a sunny day and head to Regent’s Park for an impromptu picnic.

img_20160605_135239Paul A. Young
Location: Soho, Islington & St Paul’s

Paul A. Young’s chocolates are strictly for special occasions (a box of 9 costs £15.95!), but as a special treat you can pick up a brownie on the go from £3.95. In winter, they serve their ‘Aztec’ hot chocolate in little takeaway cups – think molten chocolate laced with festive spices.

PaulAYoungRococo
Location: Various

A new discovery – Rococo has been making its luxury chocolates in London for over 30 years. Check out their Roald Dahl-themed bars, including Frobscottle & Snozzcumber White Chocolate and Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Fudge Cake Dark Chocolate flavours.

A Little Lusciousness
Location: Roving

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of supper clubs (Grub Club is the best place to find them – and you can save £5 with the code CURIOUSLONDON11). My favourite of these is A Little Lusciousness, run by pop-up chef Rosie Llewellyn. Tickets usually cost ~£35 and include a welcome cocktail and more food than you’ll know what to do with.

Venison tartare at A LIttle Lusciousness

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.