We’re probably a bit biased but London is the best city in the world. Depending on the number of unmissable Indian restaurants there are knocking around on Pluto, we’d even say it’s the best city in the universe. After all, we have pies, pints, and a big fancy clock called Ben. What more could you possibly want?
Well, the issue with London is that there is potentially too much to do. Too much to eat. Too many pubs. That’s where this guide comes in. Bookmark it, save it to your favourites, go ahead and print it for when that international wifi plan inevitably fails. Consider it your definitive guide to the hottest new places and the restaurants that are just as great now as they were in 1900. Have a great trip.
Buzzy And New Restaurants
Sessions Arts Club
The order of your trip should go: think about coming to London, immediately book a table at Sessions, book your flight, and be charmed by this spot on Clerkenwell Green. A home to candle flames and charming staff who serve nonchalantly elegant food made for swilling glasses of wine and seducing over. There’s improbably long panisse, luscious squid and calamarata, a wine list that wills you to stay forever, and the wondrous feeling of hours flying by in a perfect restaurant.
“When I was in London I went to a guest chef experience in Fitzrovia,” you say as the crowd goes wild and your school bully sheds a single solemn tear, amazed at just how cultured and inherently fabulous you are. OK, we might be being a smidge dramatic but it does sound very sophisticated, doesn’t it? Carousel is part cool and casual wine bar and part guest chef experience—like musical chairs with a list of international culinary darlings from Europe and beyond. There’s only one sitting a night for this so be sure to book ahead. Planning not your thing? Simply rock up and eat the anchovy-loaded crisps alongside a bottle of orange in the wine bar.
The Infatuation London Guide To Summer 2022
Soho residency turned buzzing crab cacio e pepe-wielding permanent Shoreditch restaurant. Our favourite thing here is the pig skin ragu and the rest of the menu follows suit with British-powered Italian food, handmade pasta, and ‘whole animal butchery’. We promise it’s not as Animal Farm as it sounds. The interiors are best described as oat milk ad meets ceramic plate simplicity and thanks to both the location and the crowd, it’s somewhere you can definitely give the high accolade of ‘being hot’.
It’s a fact that London’s rivers are gross. Don’t look at them and definitely don’t think about what’s lurking beneath the green surface. It’s much better to float on them, as nature and the people behind Caravel intended. This charming converted barge should be at the top of your London restaurant agenda if you’re coming here for a romantic respite with a loved one, or just intend to have your own romantic interlude with some chicken liver pâté. Both the menu and the space are compact, so—you know what’s coming—make a booking now.
Like finding a tenner in some long-lost jeans, coming to Bibi feels like making the ultimate discovery. Tucked into a corner just seconds away from the chaos of Oxford Street, this Indian spot is small but significant, with a menu of incredibly designed dishes, from melt-in-the-mouth orkney scallop in a tangy lemonade dressing to tender grilled chicken in a cashew and yoghurt whey sauce that you’ll want to lick off the plate. We could tell you about the counter seating or the fun gola cocktails, but the reason you should come here, and the reason you’ll return, is for the sensational food.
Quintessential London Spots
This Clerkenwell institution is London’s most famous British restaurant. Its ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking approach first defined by head chef and workwear icon Fergus Henderson is known the world over. Its pies are, quite simply, an experience that every person should have at least once in their life. From the signal-less bar and bakery area filled with the noise of glasses clinking and the smell of madeleines baking, to the all-white dining room where lunch will turn into dinner and dinner into the next day, everything about St. John is simply and straightforwardly iconic.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
There are family-run restaurants and then there’s witnessing E. Pellicci’s manager Nevio Jnr. hollering to his mum Maria in the kitchen that the man at table six is from Scotland and also, they’d like the full English with extra black pudding. A daytime Italian café in Bethnal Green, open since 1900, this place runs on strong cuppas, various formats of fried bread, and importantly, banter. Indulge in The Best Fry Up Of Your Life circa 8am or a truly epic portion of lasagne come afternoon. Inspect the pictures of celebrity patrons that line the ‘40s panelled wooden walls and for the love of god, never leave the bread pudding unfinished.
If you haven’t been to Noble Rot and you’re reading this, stop, leave where you are and get in a taxi. Or a plane. Or a boat. The point is, Noble Rot is a wine bar, first and foremost, much like David Bowie was a singer, first and foremost. This place is undeniably special. Its bar looks out onto Lamb’s Conduit Street and is somewhere you can get very comfortable with a glass of burgundy. Don’t get too comfortable though because you’ll want to have dinner in the restaurant. It’s all dim lighting and the buzz of conversation—i.e. the bistro of your dreams. The menu changes daily but is always a classic, beautiful, French-British thing that includes the best bread in London. Anyway, why are you still reading? We’ll see you there.
Fun fact: Maggie Jones’s in Kensington is named after a code name used by Princess Margaret. But what you really need to know is that this is quite possibly the most charming restaurant in London. Set over two floors and packed out with rustic tables and wooden church booths, everything from the assortment of countryside paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling to the menu of British classics never fails to provide ultimate comfort. The signature fish pie is one of London’s must-try dishes but be sure to allow room for Maggie’s fantastic apple crumble.
The French House
Of London’s many classic old-school eating and drinking institutions, The French House is perhaps the most famous. Fondly referred to as ‘The French’ by its regular patrons and those who’ve watched one too many Guy Ritchie films, the Soho boozer-cum-upstairs dining room isn’t just historic. Of course, the no mobile phones rule and famous patrons, both literary and the literally wankered, add a little glitz, but it’s everything about The French that’s fantastic. Whether you’re sinking cidres downstairs or settling in upstairs on a Thursday—when it’s imperious steak et frites day FYI—you always feel part of something a little secret and potentially sordid.
No one does dim sum quite like Royal China Club. The roasted pork buns have endless comfort factor, the pork and shrimp dumplings will make you a certified har kau enthusiast, and the prawn cheung fun is an edible revelation that will have you contemplating whether two visits in one trip is feasible. This sprawling sophisticated spot has been known as the place for excellent Cantonese cuisine since 2005. Although the whole peking duck is one of London’s best dinnertime sharing dishes, we recommend you come here during the day so you can get involved in that winning dim sum.
If you want to ‘eat like a Londoner’ then we must sadly inform you that most of this city’s occupants tend to panic-eat sandwiches while running for the tube and avoiding eye contact with strangers at all costs. We’re not going to recommend you do that, but we are going to encourage you to try Koya, a Japanese restaurant that Londoners keep in their back pocket for when a serious noodle craving strikes. A proper Japanese-style dining experience, come here for fresh hand-pulled udon at the bar while enjoying the buzz of the kitchen. The tempura, katsu, and those thick noodles make this place permanently popular, so prepare to queue. Londoners love that.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Look up, high above Wong Kei’s sign, and you’ll learn that before it was the Cantonese canteen and Chinatown institution it is today, it was home to a renowned Victorian wigmaker. This was a noteworthy building then, and it continues to be a noteworthy building now. Without Wong Kei and its slapped-on-your-table wonton noodle soups and roasted meats bathing in sweet shining umami gravy, London would be a much poorer place. Not least for those that know the value of a steaming hot meal for under £10.
Much like lie-ins and singing Thong Song when gloriously smashed, Gökyüzü is pretty much universally liked. This all-day Turkish spot in Harringay has been open for more than 20 years and serves the kind of silence-inducing manti that will keep you coming back. Booking a big table here is easy, making it perfect for big group dinners. Plus you can get involved in its legendary sharing platters.
Kind Of Fancy Places
The River Café is a restaurant that so beloved and famous that it even has its own designer merch. This Italian institution has been serving everything from rosemary pizzettas to whole pancetta-covered pigeons since a time when London thought antipasti was a movement against pastries. It has earned its reputation through the glorious medium of exquisite food that goes far beyond spaghetti and the signature chocolate nemesis tart that is oh-so rich. On that note, it’s worth knowing that a meal here will undoubtedly cost you a small fortune, but on the right summer’s day, sitting beside the Thames with a seafood risotto is one of the most life-affirming special occasion meals you can ever experience.
Remember in The Sims when, after typing ‘rosebud’ several thousand times and hammering the enter key, you were rich beyond your wildest dreams? Just like that, your virtual life got a whole lot more fun. A pool table? Why not. Ooh this pool and the whisky vending machine looks fun. Brigadiers is this in restaurant form. It has all of these things, minus the pool, but plus the best tandoori lamb chops in London. The food is spectacularly delicious, from the beef shin and bone marrow biryani to the BBQ butter chicken wings. Once you’re here, it’s your whole day or night. There’s no point making any other plans because you won’t stick to them.
What says you’re living life (in a Kourtney Kardashian voice), like champagne, oysters, and magnificent views of London? Not much, that’s what. Located on the 14th floor of The Hoxton hotel on the South Bank, this seafood specialist spot has an outdoor space that feels distinctly New York rooftop meets Cote d’Azur vacation. There’s a skyline view of London, palm trees, and exquisite oysters to eat. And if you’re really trying to show your 87 followers how great your life is, order the whole lobster as well.
Sumi is a place that’s sure of itself. Not in a “we have royal oscietra caviar on the menu” type of way, even though they absolutely do, but in a “we make some of the best sushi in London and we know it” type of way. The high-quality food is unsurprising seeing as it’s the second restaurant from the eponymous sushi chef from Endo at the Rotunda, but one of the best things about this Notting Hill spot, after the excellent temaki, is the laid-back atmosphere. The Muji-esque interior, casual high tables, and charming terrace, paired with the exceptional things they’re doing with fish, all make this a destination for sushi.
Kol is a fever dream. Actually, technically, it’s a restaurant in Marylebone serving Mexican tasting menus. But what you really need to know is that Kol is crafting the kind of genius—yes, genius—dishes that will confuse, delight, and make you want to pick the brain of the chef who somehow made British gooseberries into a sexy salsa. The warm terracotta dining room is the perfect holiday-postcard setting for a meal that is memorable for all the right reasons: smoky mezcal broths, deeply satisfying carnitas, and a fine dining experience that is never fussy, only fantastic.
Neighbourhood Restaurants Where You Can Feel Like A Local
Chances are you want to make some nice memories whilst you’re in London. That’s why you got soaked as you walked across Tower Bridge in the rain, right? The good news is that Chishuru is a West African restaurant where you can have a meal that you’ll remember for all the right reasons. The peanut sauce is a certified texture party. The tender goat shoulder sits in a glorious bath of fiery green peppers. The upbeat chatter of head chef Joké Bakare cooking a round of fluffy waina spills out of the tiny open kitchen inside Brixton Village market. It’s all fantastic.
photo credit: Stan Lee
You’ve probably heard of Arsenal. It’s a football team of minimal importance in comparison to this tiny little Chinese restaurant which is located opposite the Emirates Stadium. Your order should go as follows: the cold liangpi noodles, the hot beef biang biang noodles in chilli sauce, the boneless chicken in ginger sauce, a pork burger, and another pork burger for whichever poor soul is about to watch you get all ‘this is living’ over the sensational spice factor of those cold noodles. We know that sounds like a lot of food but trust us, you need to try all of the above—it’ll set you back around £40.
Bright is smack bang in the middle of London Fields, a perennially busy and scene-y part of Hackney. If that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing then let us tell you that Bright will be. The small plates menu is constantly changing, the biodynamic wines are always flowing, and the odds of eating something that gets you excitedly talking—from ceviche mixto to a spring lasagne—is guaranteed. Every area of the restaurant, inside or out, is buzzing and it continues to be one of the places to be on a Friday or Saturday night.
La Mia Mamma
Let’s just kick this off by saying that La Mia Mamma is a bloody great laugh. It serves proper Italian food handmade by real Italian ‘mammas’, who will force-feed you additional pasta like you haven’t eaten since birth. If you’re not already sold, we’re not sure we can be friends anymore. Even on weekdays you’ll find this Chelsea spot packed with Italian families, waltzing in shouting ‘buonasera’ with three generations in tow. It’s fun, loud, and just the right amount of cheesy. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate the food here. It’s some of the best handmade pasta in London and if you’re here on a birthday trip, know that the mammas will get out their tambourines to celebrate.
What’s your initial association with chalkboards? School? Horror film screech soundtracks? Well, after a trip to Singburi your number one association will be this Thai spot’s daily-changing chalkboard menu of things like southern prawn curries, gang know wan nua, and a beef green curry that should be slurped up with wild abandon. Trust the blackboard, trust the fact that you’re about to have one of the best meals of your life. Located in Leytonstone, it’s a little bit of a schlep from central or west London but you’ve already come this far and the moo krob alone is worth the journey.
This Nigerian barbecue spot in Peckham isn’t somewhere you’re going to spend a particularly long time—save for a few counters to lean on, it’s predominantly takeaway-only. But once you find a bench, bus stop, or whatever else to dine from, you’ll soon realise that this suya is going to live long in the memory. Alhaji’s yaji (a homemade spice mix of chilli, peanut, ginger, and garlic) will do the tango with your taste buds and the tenderly grilled meat, in particular the tozo, is second to none.
Spots For A Casual Bite Or Drink
The now-legendary first restaurant of the essential Taiwanese mini-chain is famous for its long queues. But the food is definitely worth waiting in line for. The best way to go about it is to pop in for a snack around 4pm, when you should be able to get in quickly and be eating pillow-y bao in no time—it’s an in and out kind of place, so this works well. The bao are what a lot of people come for, but you definitely want to try some of the small plates like tender beef cheek nuggets or crunchy Taiwanese fried chicken. Then there's the umeshu negroni made with plum sake. Easily one of the most reliably refreshing cocktails this city has to offer.
Towpath is one of London’s most undisputed top spots during the summer. The seasonal cafe is only open during our sporadic warmer months and a glorious canal-side seat alongside a plate of confit garlic and goats' curd on toast is very hot property when the sun does decide to shine. Although the brunch and lunch menu is what we find ourselves eating most often—crispy fried eggs alongside a pool of mojo verde is a forever food—there’s also the occasional evening set-up, which is extremely dreamy as well.
Coming to London without eating as many sandwiches as you physically can is pretty much illegal in our books. And this kiosk inside Shepherd’s Bush Market serves Algerian street food in the form of sandwiches filled with your choice of lambs' liver, merguez, marinated chicken, fish fillet, or minced meat. All the meats are cooked to order and as well as the meaty filling, each sandwich is stuffed with chips, a fried egg, the perfect amount of salad, and harissa. The chicken is our favourite but they’re all excellent, so order with confidence.
40 Maltby St
There’s no lack of superb wine-focused bars and small plates restaurants in London but 40 Maltby Street continues to do it better than the majority. The converted railway arch in Bermondsey serves small plates and truly sensational sandwiches with such consistency that it means if you are heading towards Maltby Street Market, this should be your first (or possibly only) stop. Open Wednesday to Saturday with a changing menu that jumps from terrine and fritters to rhubarb jelly with Jersey cream, this is an any mood, any situation kind of establishment. Just be warned, it’s walk-in only and you’ll need to hit up its Instagram for intel on the current dishes.
La Chingada Mexican Food
We could go on for hours about La Chingada’s crispy el pastor or soft suadero tacos. Or one of its hot salsas, a deep brown habanero number. Same with the fried chicken, a juicy golden pile waiting to be smothered in the tingly, vinegar-ish red of chile de arbol and butter sauce. But it’s not just the food. It’s the day-glo chicken shop aesthetic. It’s the standing, the leaning, and the eating. It’s the day we spent ordering, eating, drinking, ordering, smoking, digesting, ordering, and eating some more. A meal on the pavement may not be everybody’s thing, but it is ours and, even if it isn’t, you can sit indoors. The mango margaritas are also excellent.