Go on Google Maps, type in Mayfair, hit enter, and you’re presented with a sort of square with feet. The outline of London’s most expensive area looks a bit like it could waddle off from the rest of us if it wanted to, and you wouldn’t be surprised if it did would you? If one morning the news announces that Mayfair has risen on giant, gold, bionic, diamond encrusted legs, and trotted off to somewhere with better weather and a port. Just you watch.
Until that happens you should make the most of it, because Mayfair is an area full of excellent places to eat and drink (that won’t all lead to a mortgage). Here are some of our favourites.
Some restaurants are simply superb at being restaurants. They’re excellent at serving delicious food that you wouldn’t usually eat, and that also makes you think ‘blimey I’ve eaten’. Plus they have an atmosphere to match. Kitty Fisher’s is one these. This is a classic establishment in all senses, aside from the fact it’s only been around a few years. This is a place to unashamedly splurge in. On food, drink, and loud conversation.
Gymkhana is one of London’s best Indian restaurants. The food and atmosphere manages to be both refined and unprecious simultaneously. Wild Muntjac Biriyani and and soft shell crab are must orders. They’re the kind of things you’ll think about wistfully when taking your grandchildren out for a McDonalds in the future, because you spent all your money on this meal.
If you haven’t eaten in the Wolseley then frankly you’re doing London wrong. This is a truly classic establishment. Its setting is about as grand as you can get, and the food is decent as well. Come for a classy breakfast or brunch, and pretend this lifestyle is complete normality for you.
A casual tapas restaurant that serves suckling pig with five different types of fried potato you say? Where do you book? Well you can’t at the counter in Sabor, which is an all action bar area serving up some excellent tapas. But if it’s the pig you’re after you can head upstairs to the Asador, which is a little more formal but still very fun. This place is loud, proud, and not what people think of when they think of Mayfair. They should though.
If you or someone in your circle hasn’t taken a picture in the Sketch toilets, then something is amiss. These eggs are the most famous toilets in London, and the rest of this bizarre (but kind of classic) establishment is similarly photo-worthy. Eat in the drawing room for the full Sketch experience, complete with slightly barmy food combinations at slightly barmy prices. It’s certainly an experience.
Mayfair has a fair few fine dining restaurants, but Pollen Street Social is perhaps the best of the lot. This isn’t stuffy like a lot of fine dining places, and you don’t feel like you’re chained to the chair for a four hour meal, which is always a plus. The set lunch is priced at under £40, and for what you get this is quite a deal. It’s an excellent choice for special occasions, or as a treat for your parents.
Another Indian fine dining spot, Jamavar isn’t as knock your socks off good as Gymkhana is, but it’s still lovely. The atmosphere is sort of ‘rich person’s dining room’ with lots of mirrors and gold detailing, but it’s not stuck up. Again, you’re going to be forking out £20 for a bit of butter chicken as it’s a pricey place. But, you know what, it tastes really, really good.
Mayfair is really quite a destination for upmarket Indian food. Bombay Bustle is probably on the more casual end of this spectrum, but that doesn’t make it any less good. The achari lamb chops here are mighty tasty, and a must order. Whether it’s at the bar or sitting down, this a very tasty and comfortable restaurant for everyone.
Across the road from Green Park is Hide, a £20 million mega-restaurant-thing that feels like it’s intent on taking over the world. The interior of this place, based on the park opposite, is the vision of a Bond villain who was tormented by bark as a child. There’s just so much wood. It’s really quite something. The ground floor, aptly named Ground, serves from breakfast to dinner. Some dishes are quite lovely - agnolotti, crab tart, and a bit of grilled octopus, but it should also be on your hit list for its downstairs bar, cleverly named Below.
When you first walk into Ruya’s dining area you realise that, bizarrely, you can’t see the other end of the room. It’s like the world’s longest swanky corridor, complete with bar area, and three separate kitchen areas. Once seated you’ll get some some fairly tasty, if a little overly refined, Anatolian dishes. The aubergine crisps are particularly nice, and the kebabs are cooked excellently.
Mayfair may be one of the few places on the planet where it’s easier to buy a tiara owned by a tsarina, than an affordable lunch. Luckily, Ergon Deli has £4.90 homemade pies, salads and cold and hot meze dishes starting at £5. This Greek deli also has a good collection of peinirili, which are basically boats of dough filled with egg, feta and meat. Open from 8am to 7pm, they’ve also got you covered for breakfast and dinner dishes, from honey yogurt bowls to octopus on hummus.
The Colony Grill Room is a brasserie inside The Beaumont Hotel, serving everything from a dressed up hot dog for £11.50 to a whole lobster and fries for £47.50. Yes, there’s enough gold detailing and black and white portraits of 30s screen sirens to remind you you’re in Mayfair, but the food is actually both very tasty and home-cooked comforting. Grab one of the leather booths for a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes or come in the evening and make your way through their vast whisky collection, Don Draper style.
When it comes to flashy and glitz, Park Chinois is as “#Mayfair” as you can get. It pays homage to old-school dinner and dance clubs for the rich set in Hong Kong, and it delivers on that promise. You’ll find sexy red velvet and gold all over the shop, and a live brass band playing swing remixes of Beyonce and Bruno Mars (which is legitimately awesome). It mainly caters for those who fly to Paris by private jet just to grab some croissants for breakfast. Because they are ‘#blessed’ with ‘#wealth’. But if you manage to ignore the reality TV stars, the bloke who is watching a live feed of the footie on his phone whilst having dinner with his blinged-up wife, and the perfectly fine Chinese cuisine at nosebleed prices, you can actually have a pretty decent night here.
Sexy Fish is the restaurant equivalent of a hotel mini-bar. At first it’s fun and novelty. Then you realise you’re paying a tenner for a normal lager. And then you start thinking about who would use this regularly. No, you’re not one of them, are you? Before you know it you’re in a world of dirty regret, and vow never again. But. There’s always a chance when you’re drunk.
We tend to get very excited when we find a great utility restaurant in our fair city, and Taka nicely fits the bill. It’s a small, elegant Japanese restaurant on Shepherd Market, serving great quality sushi, and small plates, at surprisingly affordable prices. It’s great for a casual date night or dinner with mates, and is an option you should keep in your back pocket for when you need a low-key dinner option.
Little Social is Pollen Street Social’s little sister. It’s at its best in the winter or dark rainy days, and is a perfect, classic-feeling spot for getting wine drunk during a low key birthday dinner, a date night that is casual (but definitely not cheap), or for catching up with a few mates while eating slightly upmarket French bistro food.
There are many flash restaurants in Mayfair, but Murano sits firmly in the classy bucket. The Italian food is refined, the wine list is refined, everything is refined. So refined it verges on boring. It’s definitely worth taking your significant elders to though. They will have a lovely time.
When it comes to old-school restaurants, you always have to ask the question: has this place still got ‘it’. In the case of Scott’s, one of London’s oldest seafood restaurants, the answer is: sometimes. Scott’s is at its best on a summer’s day, out on the terrace, downing wine and oysters at someone else’s expense. At it’s worst, it’s an expensive way to eat overcooked fish.
If you’ve accidentally left your bowler hat on the bus, there are a couple of places in Mayfair that will welcome you as your scruffy self. Delfino’s Pizzeria is one of these places. It’s casual, inexpensive, and the food is all very solid. A really top pizza or pasta here won’t cost you much more than a tenner. Just don’t go expecting Mayfair-style decor or service, everything here is far too rough-and-ready for that.
Titu is one of the area’s best value for money spots. This tiny gyoza specialist on Shepherds Market will feed you extremely well for around £40 including drinks. Obviously there are cheaper gyoza out there, but remember that this is Mayfair, and so the gyoza in question are filled with wagyu beef and foie gras. Just don’t go here for a quiet or intimate conversation, unless you want everyone in the restaurant (including the servers) to get involved.
Babel House is a little haven away from the hustle and bustle of Mayfair, for a quality, classy, and understated taste of the Black Sea. What does the Black Sea taste like? Like a plush armchair, that’s what. This is wintery comfort food at its finest. Bread, dumplings, filthy potatoes, and lots and lots of meat. You’d be best served avoiding the smoked fish here. Just dive straight into the beef stroganoff with a side of cabbage rolls. This is a left-field choice for a special dinner or a low-key business lunch.