Where To Eat When You Want To Go *Fancy*

Because sometimes hearing the life and times of the garden pea on your fork makes it taste better.
Where To Eat When You Want To Go *Fancy* image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Fancy restaurants can be very silly. Everyone knows that. From the tweezer obsession, to the staff’s silent and die-hard commitment to your hydration, to the last words of a single leaf of radicchio you hear before eating it. It’s all OTT. But sometimes, OTT is what you want. Maybe it’s your birthday, or an anniversary, or you’re just in the mood for someone to lift the lid off an extravagant bowl to reveal one single holy water-boiled chickpea. Whatever the reason, if you just want to eat in a fancy restaurant in London, these are the places for you.


photo credit: Michael Sinclair


Kings Cross

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This brasserie inside the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in King’s Cross is as regal as a National Trust home and has the food to match. There are parmesan fritters complete with a coppa fascinator fit for Ascot; crab toast that has as much flavour as the room has gold; and, like any French restaurant worth its salt, soufflé du jour. The opulent surroundings and the size of diamond rings being flashed from the booth opposite are also a giveaway that The Midland Grand Dining Room isn’t a casual restaurant. If you’re serious about flavour-first cooking and a room that makes everybody feel like they’re next in line to the throne, no place will do it better.

Elystan Street is a fine dining restaurant in Chelsea that has the feel of a living room where you’re worried about breaking anything for fear of bankrupting yourself. Despite the wannabe chill but quite unchill atmosphere, the food at this modern British restaurant is tasty. This isn’t fiddly, fancy stuff. It’s bolshy flavours—scallop and crab-stuffed courgette flower, gorgeous lamb with a garlic purée you want to exfoliate with—that you can gobble up like a trust fund. The a la carte menu is similarly bolshy in price, as is the tasting menu. But for a blowout meal, this is a restaurant you can easily settle into.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

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Planque is a grand industrial lair in Haggerston that also acts as a wine club for trainee Bond villains. The vibe is cool to the point of chilly, though the staff are brilliant and highly knowledgeable—you suspect that there is a Master of Wine or two among them—and the French food has the ability to be outstanding. Serious grape appreciators and small plates lovers will be in heaven here—look out for any offal on the menu—but if you’re a little less confident, it’s still worth dropping in for a couple of plates and a glass at the central sharing table if they have space.

If you’re partial to a theatrical sauce pour, we have a feeling you’re going to like Trivet. A charming space in Bermondsey, complete with pampas grass and a covered terrace, this sophisticated modern European restaurant toes the line between fine dining and friendly with attentive service, homemade onion ketchup, and creative dishes like the ‘drunk lobster’ noodles that comes in its own little sake bath. Mains here will set you back upwards of £40 but if you want to make use of the terrace on a sunny day, you can’t go wrong with the fancy cheese selection with melon jam and a crisp glass of Turkish white wine. 

Between remembering to lay out seven forks per person and starching white tablecloths within an inch of their life, fancy hotel restaurants often forget to factor in the fun. But Dovetale, a British hotel restaurant in Mayfair, has a bit of frills (cloakroom, pristine service, a bathroom that looks like a spa) while keeping things light (normal amount of forks, diners who aren’t in business suits, make-your-own-sundae trolley). Dovetale is expensive but in return you get satisfying plates like a whole turbot that’s big enough for three to share if you get the excellent roast potatoes on the side. Seats by the fireplace in the courtyard are highly sought-after. 

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch



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French food has a way of feeling fancy. At 64 Goodge Street, you’ll take a tear of warm complimentary (yes, complimentary) bread, swipe the remains of scallops with a luscious beurre blanc sauce, and realise that this is some of the finest French food in London. The corridor-sized, dimly lit room in Fitzrovia knows its crowd—those who welcome food so rich it’s debaucherous—and duly delivers. A snail, bacon, and garlic bon bon here, a glass of crémant there. Every bite and sip is like being welcomed into heaven by a block of beurre d'Isigny with wings.

From the doormen in top hats, to the grand silver columns in the art deco-inspired dining room, this extravagant seafood spot in Richmond is so larger than life that we half expect Jay Gatsby to make an appearance on the terrace during one of their Wednesday jazz nights. Your glass of water will be refilled promptly, your seafood tower will be just as OTT as it sounds, and the rest of the food tastes as incredible as the view from the terrace. The best part is this place doesn’t turn its nose up on classics like fish and chips, and we’re glad because it’s one of our favourite versions of the dish in the city.

If you like the sound of being treated like royalty, in a room that looks like the set from The Princess Diaries, then you should book afternoon tea at The Goring. Nothing makes us feel more fancy and proper than a three-hour afternoon tea at this five-star hotel in Belgravia. You’ll get the typical fluffy scones and mini cakes, but you’re not really here for the food. You’re here to have your tea poured for you and your plate changed whenever a crumb gets too close to it. Typically, the idea of someone hovering over us and swooping in to check if everything’s OK every millisecond might be invasive, but at The Goring, we don’t even notice.

Trinity is a Clapham restaurant that serves British fine dining food. It’s split into two levels, with a more casual upstairs. The downstairs, all Farrow & Ball with duck green walls, is where to book for special occasions if you’re into delicate plates that look like they should come with a Do Not Disturb sign. The food ranges from pretty to pretty-bloody-delicious, and we once had a palm-sized, hand-raised short rib pie here that made us shed a single tear of joy.

A meal at Roji, a 10-seater omakase restaurant in Mayfair, is one to save for an important anniversary or a big job promotion. Or if we had nine friends who had serious money to drop on dinner, we’d save it for an epic, blowout dinner party. There’s a refined feel to the space, with its wrap-around wooden counter and delicate, ceramic plates. From the first seasonal course of the evening to the eight rounds of nigiri, it quickly becomes clear just how excellent the fish is. There isn’t a single dud on the menu, with excellent ingredients—like sea urchin and fresh buckwheat noodles—put together with impeccable care and attention to detail.

Red and carpeted or gold with wood panelling, it doesn’t matter where you get seated in Gymkhana, the whole place screams, money honey. The Mayfair restaurant is entirely worth it for Indian classics that will stay with you long after your final bite. Standouts like the soft shell crab with crunchy bhel or the wild muntjac biryani are impressive. This is an expensive, upscale experience, but it’s also some of the best Indian food in the city

Although it adheres to all of the usual fancy restaurant tropes—white tablecloths, concerningly engaged staff, plates of food that likely have their own blueprint—Pollen Street Social manages to feel kind of relaxed. Yes, a series of unexpected snacks will appear but no, you don’t always have to pay three figures. Considering you’re sitting in a Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant and the modern European food (and the song and dance around it) is very good, it’s pretty good-value.

At Hunan you don’t choose the menu, the menu chooses you. While that sounds a little like J.R.R Tolkien might be the restaurateur behind this place, it just means this is a no-menu Chinese restaurant. Straddling Chelsea and Pimlico, this spot has a ‘trust us’ policy (you can call ahead with allergies) and the results are excellent. Deep-fried green beans, crispy pork that comes in a tearable paper bag, duck pancakes, and banana fritters with ice cream. It’s Cantonese food in a Victoria finishing school environment.

photo credit: Endo at the Rotunda

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Endo’s omakase bar in White City serves sushi that will make you regret eating anything else for the rest of your life. Less of a restaurant and more of an interactive eating experience, everything is led by Endo—the headline act and head chef—while members of his backing band expertly prep rice and chat tuna before handing you an eye-twitch-inducing piece of six-day-aged otoro nigiri. Every course you’ll be served—from miso soup, to outstanding raw fish, to wagyu beef—will make you pause, savour, and wonder.

Ikoyi is a fine dining restaurant by the Strand, and one of London’s most consistently exciting restaurants. The food on Ikoyi’s menu mixes European cooking techniques with big Nigerian spices and other West African flavours. You can expect to see things like jollof rice and suya on the menu, but perhaps not presented in the way you’re expecting. Preened diners, all Japanese garments and statement glasses, slide into Ikoyi’s seats like fixtures in an Architectural Digest video while the staff coolly let the crowd live out their most relaxed fine dining fantasy.

This fancy West African restaurant in Fitzrovia is serious about flavour. Akoko’s takes on boli and epa (plantain and groundnut) and miyan taushe (pumpkin soup) will have you wistfully blinking into the middle distance and wondering if tomorrow is too soon to come again. It isn’t. Atmosphere-wise it’s cool and comfortable, while still being serious about food (and explanations).

Casa Fofò is a low-key tasting menu restaurant in Hackney making an always-changing menu of delicious and indefinable food. Expect eight courses of things like potato in chuggable fermented tom yum, or a bowl of plain-looking pasta that turns out to taste like the very essence of oyster and chilli. The only decision to make is who to come with. We’d recommend a date, as this is one of E8’s most intimate restaurants.

There are two superlative-laden white-walled British restaurants around Shoreditch. One is St. John Bread and Wine—which is simultaneously a little fancy but utterly unfussy—and the other is Lyle’s, which is both fancy and fussy when it comes to food. And that’s what makes it so good. The tasting menu reads simply—razor clams and tomatoes, fore rib and onions—but that isn’t to say it tastes simple. Every ingredient at Lyle’s is turned up to the max and, with nothing else to focus on in the industrial space, the food is the centre of attention.

Core By Clare Smyth is exactly the place to get involved in fine dining if you’re someone who, shockingly, actually wants a proper meal. Headed up by a chef whose CV reads like The Michelin Guide To Planet Earth, this converted townhouse in Notting Hill feels like your quietly fancy friend’s living room (read: candles, books, tasteful foliage, and plush grey seating). The food is a tour of excellent but familiar British produce, tweaked in interesting ways, and combined with the occasional unusual ingredient. 

Social Eating House is a low-lit room that’s equal parts impressive and relaxed, with just a hint of that Soho buzz. No matter what you order from their modern European menu, you’re guaranteed to receive something that looks more like a Rothko than dinner. But trust us, just pop it in your mouth and you’ll be happy. If you’re looking to go all out, book a coveted seat at the chef’s counter to watch your hazelnut scallops and lamb with ricotta cream prepped directly in front of you. Any meal here should absolutely be rounded off with an expert cocktail at their basement bar, The Blind Pig.

Oh lovely, lovely Launceston Place. We challenge anyone to come here and not consider hiding under your white cloth-covered table in the hopes that they won’t notice you and you can just live in this charming townhouse forever. It’s on a quiet corner in Kensington, and despite serving fancy-sounding modern European-esque things like pigeon with blackberry jus and duck liver parfait, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Case in point: the miniature Henry hoovers that the suited servers use to clear crumbs from your table.

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