The Best Restaurants In Kensington guide image


The Best Restaurants In Kensington

From an old-school Italian, to slick sushi, homely pies, and more.

Kensington has a lot of things going for it. Historic museums. Beautiful parks. A load of homeowners with bank accounts healthier than Britain’s GDP. It also has some very good restaurants. And, surprisingly, not all of them lean mega fancy. Yes, there’s a lot of caviar and sushi, and more classic Italian restaurants than you can shake a breadstick at, but there are plenty of solid options. Here’s where to eat in Kensington, whether you want crisp pierogi, a meal at one of the city’s best British restaurants, or a £10 pizza.


photo credit: Pattie Tobin

Al Dente review image

Al Dente


65 Old Brompton Road, London
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With fresh pasta for under £15 and moody interiors that make an equally perfect backdrop for a casual first date as it would a last-minute catch-up with your favourite people, Al Dente in South Kensington is an all-rounder. The servers are friendly, the menu is filled with handmade pastas that make classics like cacio e pepe that extra bit more exciting, and the prices mean you could pop in for a bowl of gnocchi for a speedy, good-value lunch if you’re in the area.  

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

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Il Portico



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This High Street Kensington spot has been around since the ‘60s, and it continues to serve top-notch Italian food to this day. But what is it exactly that makes it so great? Is it the calamari? The heavy curtain at the entrance that keeps the cold air out? The intimate booths at the back? Actually, it’s all of the above, plus the friendly staff and a menu filled with comforting plates of food like nutmeg and walnut gnocchi, veal milanese, and wild mushroom risotto. You could easily spend a lot of time in this old-school restaurant, and you absolutely should.

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Dishoom is the kind of restaurant that works for a lot of occasions including group hangs, date nights, and yes, sorting out a serious lamb chop craving after a trip to the Design Museum. The huge all-day Indian spot looks a lot like a grand train station, with big red booths and old-school Bombay portraits on the walls. Expect dishes like prawn koliwada, paneer pineapple tikka, and slow-cooked biryanis. You can also expect queues, but there is a prohibition-style cocktail bar where you can wait with a martini.

When you first walk into Maggie Jones’s, you’re not sure if you’ve stumbled on to the set of Poldark or into the stash house of The Great Rocking Horse Robbery of 1922. As much as we love the knick-knacks, it’s the menu of British classics—dishes like apple sauce-smeared roast belly of pork, guinea fowl in white wine sauce, and a grilled rack of English lamb—that keeps us coming back. This is a great date spot because Maggie Jones, whoever she may be, is a romantic. There are enough candles, hidden booths, and Bordeaux wines on offer that by the end of the night you won’t care where the rocking horses came from. You’ll just feel like you’ve met an old friend, in restaurant form, and be entirely ready to book a table to do it all again.

We challenge anyone to come to Launceston Place and not consider hiding under the table in the hopes that you can just live in this charming and quiet corner of Kensington forever. Our favourite thing about this European restaurant is that, despite serving things like pigeon with blackberry jus and duck liver parfait, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Case in point: the miniature Henry hoovers used by the suited servers to clear the crumbs from your table between courses, and the confit potatoes that arrive in mini shopping trolleys. Basically, there’s a whole lot that will make you smile here, not least of all the truly spectacular food.

Da Mario is not the absolute best restaurant in Kensington but it is our favourite. This is a proper old-school Italian joint in a Venetian-Gothic building that fans of interesting old buildings would love. The first thing you notice is that Da Mario’s interior is authentically and charmingly a bit rubbish. And there are a lot of pictures of the late, great Princess Diana on the wall. The food here is home-style Italian, with big portions of pasta and great pizzas at semi-reasonable prices. This is a place for everybody and worth the short walk to avoid the chain-bait restaurants around Gloucester Road station.

A flute of champagne and a plate of pierogi is a shamelessly decadent way to start a meal, but it feels just right for South Ken. Ognisko is an old-school Polish restaurant—the kind that’s full of white tablecloths, people wearing Chelsea boots, blinis and caviar all over the shop. It’s a classic affair that sings when you play the hits: pork schnitzel, steak tartare, pierogi crisped to a perfect level of brownness and the pastry lovingly crimped. There’s a sense of old-fashioned opulence about the whole thing, perfect for dates young and old.

Happily, there’s no need for a reservation at this airy Persian spot off Kensington High Street, which is ideal for groups or an impromptu catch-up. Start by getting some freshly baked naan—that you’ll smell as soon as you walk in—and a mixed mezze starter. The chicken biryani is really great, as are the charred lamb chops, but the koobideh is some of the juiciest around, and the star dish. The hefty portions mean you almost always end up getting some to take away, which is always a plus. 

Pappa Roma is the place you guide friends to after parting all the tourists like the Red Sea. A five-minute walk from South Ken station, it serves solid Italian food. If you get the pizza, you’ll wish you got the pasta. If you get the pasta, you’ll wish you got the pizza. It all just smells so damn good. And, it’s so damn cheap. You can share one of the giant wood-fired prosciutto pizzas and a bottle of red and leave only £20 lighter. In Kensington. Madness. And sure, should you decide to make it an even £25 by getting the pistachio-topped cannoli for dessert, we really wouldn’t judge you.

Near Kensington Olympia, Kampai is a cosy Japanese spot with sleek interiors, and knows a thing or two about fish. The understated dining room is usually filled with local families who have popped in after leaving Holland Park, solo diners taking advantage of a free spot at the sushi bar, and groups that span Gen Z to those who still use a landline. It's compact but comfortable with wooden bamboo walls, black ceilings, and enough space between each table that you don’t have to worry about elbowing your neighbour’s rock shrimp and baby spinach salad on your way to the bathroom. Load up on nigiri—the scallop is top-tier—and get some of the chef’s special rolls to share.

The Queen’s Gate could be under five feet of snow and it would still feel like summer at Ceru. It could be the Aztec upholstery or it could be the jolly smiles of the chefs in the open kitchen. But our money’s on it being the modern Levantine dishes that give Ceru that vacay feel. It’s the kind of place where you bring a whole gaggle of friends to share as many plates as possible. Hell, bring a bunch of strangers, they’ll love it. The all-day menu is full of seafood, fritters, halloumi, and spiced meats. If it goes with mint yoghurt, it’s on the menu. 

Yashin Ocean House is the sister restaurant of nearby Yashin Sushi. But here expect your meal to come with a lot more theatre. Like the original Yashin, sushi comes with truffle or caviar on top, but you’ll find some new things too—like lobster sitting over dry ice, or candy floss over wagyu beef. This is a great spot for a group meal or a fun date.

Most of the general public would argue that the Natural History Museum should take the top spot for South Kensington’s most iconic landmark. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that it’s actually Kova’s matcha whole mille crêpes. Both are stunning feats of architecture, but this Japanese cafe’s signature mille crêpe has layers the dinosaurs simply can’t compete with. If matcha isn’t your thing, rest assured that everything from the sea salt cheese lava cake to the soufflé cheesecake is also a winner.

On the tick list of things that make a great pub, The Builders Arms rates pretty high. An exciting menu of updated British classics for under 20 quid. Check. Five roast options on its Sunday lunch menu. Yep. Outdoor seating for those summer days and drunken evenings. You bet. And that’s without even starting on the hefty wine list, open fireplace, and local craft beer tap takeovers. If it’s your local, we’re jealous. If it’s not, well, the ridiculously tasty scotch egg alone is a good enough reason to risk the Circle line.

Zuaya is an upscale South American restaurant on High Street Kensington. Sure, it's a bit Made In Chelsea (here’s looking at you nude velvet seating and inexplicable bamboo in the toilets), but the food is pretty good. The menu is full of South American favourites, from Peruvian rib-eye to stone bass ceviche, squid tacos to a very tasty crispy duck salad. Granted, it’s not the place for cheap eats but there is a £14.50 steak lunch option, or a £65 set tasting menu. Be warned, Thursday to Saturday there’s a DJ blasting house tunes.

Rocca is a straightforward Italian spot with a fantastic carbonara and red Sarda pizza (topped with sardines and olives) that kicks in all the right places. This is a relaxed place but is busy all week, so it’s definitely wise to book ahead. And you should, because Rocca is a restaurant that consistently delivers no-nonsense Italian food that’ll just as easily accommodate early romance as it will a casual meal after work. One for the back pocket.

There will come a time in your life when, through no fault of your own, you will have to organise dinner in Kensington for your friends who live in east London. It may seem like an impossible feat to find somewhere that’s nice, but also not too pricey, not too stuffy, not too polished, and not too well, er, W8. Thanks to Locanda Ottomezzo, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant with Italian movie memorabilia on the walls and actual Italians in the seats, planning this dinner is not impossible. This isn’t the finest of Italian restaurants but it gets the job done. Plus, there’s some theatre in the form of the risotto which comes to your table in a cheese wheel, is mixed, and served on your plate.

Margaux is a relatively casual but still elegant neighbourhood restaurant serving Euro bistro-style food, and they do it well. Dishes like the roasted duck breast or venison fillet are very good. It’s one of those restaurants that is good for literally everyone, so you can be safe in the knowledge that if you were to bring your nan, a random internet date, or your boss, they would all have a great time. They might find it weird to be sat at dinner with each other though.

Jia is an old-school spot near South Kensington. And by old-school, we mean it doesn’t have a website. The Chinese restaurant is modern yet simple, and despite there being crispy duck, sweet and sour sea bass, and wasabi king prawns on the menu, the steamed dumplings are where it’s at. The curried king prawns, scallops, and black cod shu mai dumplings are among the best we’ve had in London, and even though things can get pretty expensive, pretty quick, the £35 set dinner comes with sweet and sour chicken, green curry king prawns, rice, vegetables, and, crucially, a dim sum platter.

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