The 17 Best Restaurants In Kensington guide image


The 17 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.

If you're in the area, check out our guide to neighbouring Chelsea.


Samad Al Iraqi

Kensington High Street is excellent for people-watching and a window seat at Iraqi spot Samad Al Iraqi is the perfect place to take it all in. Complimentary lentil soup is set in front of you as you sit down, setting the tone that this is a place for warm hospitality and great Iraqi food. It’s a popular spot for those reasons—on weekdays you’ll find families having a masgouf lunch (traditional Iraqi grilled fish) in the dark, wood-filled dining room. The curtains are heavy, the chairs are heavy, and so will your stomach once you leave. Lamb-topped hummus and minced meat-stuffed kubbah are highlights of the menu.

The only time we’re not craving dim sum is when we’re eating dim sum. That includes 8pm on a Tuesday when it’s kind of hard to find, and that’s when we like to come to Sichuan Popo. This sleek Chinese restaurant on Earls Court Road is a place where servers stare impatiently if you have the audacity to not know what you want, dim sum is served until closing, and pillowy prawn and scallop dumplings are inhaled as soon as the steamer hits the table. The all-day dim sum isn’t all that’s great about this straightforward spot. It’s a haven for in-and-out, last-minute group dinners that involve passing peanutty smacked cucumbers and swirling chewy biang biang noodles.

At Romulo, a Filipino cafe and restaurant in Kensington, a single rose is placed on each table and a big window leaks in the busy atmosphere from outside. But your attention should be split between the countless framed posters of Colonel Carlos Romulo and the exciting plates that are more fun to share. Things like calamari with calamansi aioli are peppery and addictive, while sizzling chicken sisig inasal goes perfectly with the garlic rice. It’s a ‘take your time’ kind of place where picking and nibbling is a given, and the good-value Friday all-you-can-eat menu makes it a great date night spot when you’re trying to seem like you’re spending more than you are.

They don’t make them like they used to, and certainly not in the case of Daquise. This old-school Polish spot around the corner from South Ken station feels like it hasn’t changed in half a century or so—and that’s very much a good thing. Fading pictures hang on the wood-panelled walls and its homely tiled dining room is full of faces who hug the staff like old friends. The menu has everything you would expect: vibrant borscht expertly ladeled to the peril of every white tablecloth, piquant herring, and crispy schnitzel that you simply can’t go wrong with.

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 Italian 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.

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.

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.

Near Kensington Olympia, Kampai is a cosy Japanese spot with sleek interiors, and it 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 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.

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 off 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.

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. Basically, there’s a whole lot that will make you smile here, not least of all the truly spectacular food.

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.

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.

Da Mario 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 charmingly a bit rubbish. And there are a lot of pictures of the late, great Princess Diana on the wall. The food 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.

Yashin Ocean House is the sister sushi 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.

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.

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. You can share one of the giant wood-fired prosciutto pizzas and a bottle of red and leave £25 lighter. In Kensington. Madness. And sure, should you decide to make it an even £30 by getting the pistachio-topped cannoli for dessert, We really wouldn’t judge you.

Jia is an old-school Chinese spot near South Kensington. And by old-school, we mean it doesn’t have a website. The restaurant itself 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, but FYI things can get pretty expensive, pretty quick.

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 different 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.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The 17 Best Restaurants In Kensington guide image