Gosh, is it time already to write the next annual edition of this Foodie’s Guide to Visiting London?
When I first started this series (back in 2016!), I did so for all my friends and family abroad, who’d look to me as on-demand source of recommendations when flocking to London over the summer.
Nothing’s really changed since then, with the 2022 edit continuing to compile the city’s exploding mix of epicurean essentials – supplementing timeless favourites with the revelatory discovery of hidden gems and the thrill of dining at the haute new restaurants across town.
As always, I hope that this bucket list holds as much appeal for all those visiting in the coming months, as it does for Londoners alike! Bon Apetit.
A Foodie’s Guide To Kitchen Counter Dining in London
If you really want to eat as Londoners do, you’ll find that the best seats are often by the pass, lending a theatrical lens for watching London’s most lauded chefs in agile action.
The Barbary: Cossetted amidst the colourful patchwork of Neal’s Yard, this diminutive restaurant is suffused with big and bold flavours that journey along the Barbary Coast of North Africa towards Jerusalem. With just 24 stools snugly dotted along the open plan kitchen counter, the clattering high-octane setting plunges diners right into the heat of things as vivacious dishes are brought to life in a flurry of activity from live-baking to grilling and frying. The Barbary, 16 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
Scully: Defying any singular label, Scully’s globe-trotting menu draws inspiration from the eponymous chef’s mixed heritage (traced from Bali to Ireland) and background (Ramael Scully was born in Malaysia and raised in Sydney). There are more formal tables if that’s what you fancy, but the kitchen counter seating is covetable if only to watch first hand as Scully transforms seasonal British produce with Asian cooking techniques and a bewitching bevy of house-made spices, extracts, pickles and preserves. Scully, 4 St James’s Market, St James’s, SW1Y 4QA
Sabor: Split across a ground-floor tapas base and an asador (grill) upstairs, this Michelin-star establishment by legendary chef Nieves Barragan is faithful to regional recipes traversing the rich diversity of Spain. Buttressed by vibrant Andalusian tiles, the gleaming kitchen counter arguably commands the hottest seats in the house, dissolving any vestige of a barrier between the warm kitchen team and diners. 35-37 Heddon St, W1B 4BR
Where To See (And Be Seen)
Sometimes a knockabout atmosphere is just as compelling as competent cookery.
Gold: This beguiling bolthole in Notting Hill manages to be moody yet vibrant and is set across a seductive bar and garden room sheathed by greenery and plants. Yes, it’s sensationally sceney but delivers on the epicurean front too with an eclectic modern European menu. 95-97 Portobello Rd, W11 2QB
Chiltern Firehouse: Housed in a former fire-station, this haute hotel from André Balaz (the hotelier behind the legendary Chateau Marmont in LA) remains as terrifically trendy today as it did when it first opened back in 2014. Those in the know can be found languidly sipping rosé in the chic courtyard terrace on a summer’s evening. For the record, weekend brunch in the courtyard is just as inviting too! 1 Chiltern St, W1U 7PA
North Audley Cantine Mayfair: There is a certain see-and-be-seen quality gracing the Parisian-inspired terrace of NAC (as it is more fondly known). Loosely channeling contemporary French bistro cuisine, the menu is speckled with the likes of miso-flamed aubergine and a truffle burger. It would be criminal not to order the crushed milk chocolate cookies for afters, a dessert that is as Instagrammable as it is craveable, not least for the swoop of Frosties-studded soft serve served on top. 41 N Audley St, W1K 6ZP
A Foodie’s Guide to Hidden gems In London
Venture off the beaten path and stumble upon the revelatory thrill of these delicious finds.
Fine Cheese Company: This understatedly-elegant establishment slots right into the genteel surrounds of Belgravia’s Motcomb Street. The Fine Cheese Co. is one of Britain’s premier retailer and exporter of artisanal British cheeses, an unsurpassable selection of which is proudly on display to purchase here. The homage to fromage reaches a crescendo with an impossibly light cheese soufflé, served in the discreet café tucked away at the back of the shop. 17 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8LB
Hunan: Expect the unexpected at this Pimlico-based restaurant that has its roots in the Hunan region of China. There is no menu to choose from here. Simply flag any dietary restrictions up-front and sit back as Chef Peng’s team pushes out a parade of perfectly-apportioned plates, uniting mind and palate in delighted surprise. 51 Pimlico Rd, SW1W 8NE
Titu: Billing itself as a gyoza bar, Titu feels like a pocket of secret Mayfair in the heart of storied Shepherd Market. With seating for just fifteen, this cosy space is enlivened by a pastel palette and vibrant dishes that encapsulate the concept of Asian fusion cuisine. 1A Shepherd St, Mayfair, W1J 7HJ
When Date Night Beckons
Whether you’re braving a blind date or reigniting a romance, here’s are our pick of restaurants ideal for an intimate evening.
Saachi: This debonair den is part of the Pantechnicon – a new retail emporium marrying Nordic and Japanese cultures and craftsmanship. The overarching philosophy extends to Saachi’s exquisite delivery of regional Japanese dishes subtly propped up by Nordic elements and artisanal British produce. The sushi is sumptuous, as are delicate seafood assemblies which push you to try local fish you might never have encountered before. 19 Motcomb St, SW1X 8LB
The Palomar: The good folks at The Palomar indsputably know a thing or two about dishing out delicious small plates bursting with Middle-Eastern flavours. The cocktails here are potent, the atmosphere electric and the kubaneh (a hopelessly-pillowy Yemeni bread) impossible to resist, even for those who have long since sworn of carbs, especially when presented alongside a smattering of moreish dips. 34 Rupert St, W1D 6DN
Hakkasan Mayfair: With restaurants around the world, Hakkasan is a name which needs no introduction. Its Mayfair-based outpost sets itself apart with a sultry allure that ebbs from day to night with effortless flair. The modern Cantonese menu caters remarkably well for vegetarians and vegans, with certain dishes (including a succulent take on mock chicken) the closest some might come to eating meat. Don’t be shy to ditch your usual glass of wine for the signature lychee and sake-infused Hakka. 17 Bruton St, W1J 6QB
There’s no trade-off at these family-friendly restaurants, which are as fun for the little ones as they are lively enough for you to return to with your grown-up gang.
Christopher’s: Counted amongst London’s best American restaurants, weekend brunch at Christopher’s is something of an institutional affair, replete with all the classics from eggs any which way you like them to a Lobster Mac N’ Cheese. Of course, you’re really here for the Chocolate Brioche French Toast. You’ve never had anything quite like it before! 18 Wellington St, WC2E 7DD
Homeslice: The laidback charm of this rustic fuss-free pizzeria is elevated by superlative thin-dough 20” pizzas. The ginormous shape lends itself to a “half and half” option if your party is having a difficult time choosing between all the enticing toppings on offer. You could also opt for pizza by the slice if you’re more keen on a small yet substantive bite on the go. Various locations
Delfino: In the midst of Mayfair’s more formal dining destinations, Delfino stands out as an informal family-run establishment. The wood-fired pizzas are exemplary, the embrace of pasta as comforting as you’d hope for and the tiramisu, one of the creamiest I’ve had in London. 121A Mount St, W1K 3NW
Filed under miscellaneous, but unmissable:
A Wong: Savour every mouthful at this two Michelin starred restaurant renowned for immaculate dim sum and its contemporary take on cathartic Chinese cooking. 70 Wilton Rd, Pimlico SW1V 1DE
KOL: Marrying Mexican heritage with British ingredients, this terracotta and ceramic-clad bistro injects much-needed warmth and character to London’s fine dining scene. 9 Seymour Street, W1H 7BA
TAKA: This minimalist-chic setting in Marylebone delivers maximal flavours across a versatile repertoire of Japanese dishes, doing exceedingly well by vegetarians too. 109 Marylebone High St, W1U 4RX
Gloria: Entering this jaunty trattoria in Shoreditch is not unlike being transported to 1970’s Capri. More-is-more and nothing is too over-the-top in this maximalist setting where your pasta is cooked in a giant wheel of cheese and the Incomparable Lemon Pie arrives with a towering 5’9-inch layer of meringue. 54-56 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3QR
Padella: There is no dearth of the perfect pasta spot in London the days, but if its infamous queues are anything to go by, Borough Market’s Padella will always command a special place in our heart for its love letter to Cacio e Pepe, tossed together with pici (chewy heffalumpish strands of hand-rolled pasta). 6 Southwark St SE1 1TQ
If you enjoyed this Foodie’s Guide to London, you might also enjoy browsing more travel guides, here.