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Peas, unmushed, at Lyle’s
Ola Smit/Eater London

The 15 Best Restaurants in London to Experience British Cuisine

Yes, it exists. Here’s where to eat it

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Peas, unmushed, at Lyle’s
| Ola Smit/Eater London

“Is there even such a thing as British food? All you guys have is fish and chips, over-cooked meat and fried breakfasts. Your food sucks.”

This is a question-answer-insult that most Britons have been presented with at least a dozen times — with, actually, some justification. However, while British food can not be succinctly defined as a mono-cuisine, there are certain characteristics that unify the restaurants in London that could be described ‘British,’ even if those traits aren’t unique in isolation.

A focus on seasonal ingredients; a desire to utilise all of the animal; a strong sense of place yet an openness to global techniques and flavours; and a relatively minimalist approach are all things that typify contemporary British restaurants. And it remains possible, with relative ease, to join the dots of “modern British,” from the oft-derided but centuries’-old East London caffs, pie and mash, chippies and chop shops, via the mothership of ‘British’ cooking, and through the development of gastropubs. It’s food that’s unfussy and flavourful, it’s meat and two seasonal veg, and it doesn’t all suck.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA, UK

Heston Blumenthal’s shrine to historically-inspired British cuisine continues to impress, holding two Michelin stars and a dizzying spot on the World’s 50 Best list because it serves precise and innovative food with élan. Exquisite chicken liver parfait Meat Fruit is an essential order for the table. From there, each dish is dated and rooted to food from centuries ago. In that context it may come as some surprise that the flavours involved seem to take a global outlook, but then — yeah, actually — Britain did once too.

‘Meat fruit’ — a chicken liver parfait coated in mandarin jelly — at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge
The iconic meat fruit
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal [Official Photo]

2. Quo Vadis

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26-29 Dean St, Soho
London W1D 3LL, UK

Though the menus are ornate, tablecloths starched, seats padded and service proper, there’s no stiff upper lip at Quo Vadis, whether in downstairs restaurant or private club on the floors above (indeed, a notable cocktail menu means things can get quite loose.) Chef Jeremy Lee’s food is always seasonal in both ingredient and mood, and mixes treat with comfort in equal measure. It’s essential to leave room for pudding — few places cover the classics better, and Lee’s fondness for combining the triple threat of cream, ice cream and custard on the same plate is to be applauded. And the chef’s eel sandwich is one of London’s unmissable creations.

Quo Vadis’ iconic smoked eel sandwich, by chef Jeremy Lee
Ola Smit/Eater London

3. Canton Arms

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177 S Lambeth Rd
London SW8 1XP, UK

This sibling of the Anchor and Hope and dearly departed Great Queen Street, is set in an unremarkable grey building on a seemingly permanently grey artery road in Stockwell. Inside, however, are bar snacks and toasties from the Gods, and a menu that’s totally “British gastropub” in that it confidently embraces other cuisines, matching diverse and eclectic flavours with first class local ingredients. Spiced lamb pie, for example, sits next to rib of beef, chips and bearnaise for two; while Cornish brill with wild garlic vies for attention with grilled gurnard and (Italian-ish) blood orange, fennel and agretti.

Curried mussels
Ed Smith

4. Holborn Dining Room

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252 High Holborn
London WC1V 7EN, UK

The Rosewood Hotel’s buffed and slick salon-style restaurant has always had a British edge — charcuterie from each corner of this Isle (and not beyond), local meat and fish, a textbook main-course-and-sides offering, and even London’s largest collection of gin. But then executive chef Calum Franklin started experimenting with pastry, and a refreshingly unmodish niche was found. On Wednesdays there’s a superlative beef Wellington, whilst other meat-filled suet puddings and extraordinarily detailed hand-raised pies are rolled out each day. Classy stuff.

Holborn Dining Room [Official Pastry]

5. The Fryer's Delight

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19 Theobalds Rd
London WC1X 8SL, UK
020 7405 4114

Battered haddock, mushy peas and a pun of a name — what’s more British than that? The chips are the real draw here as they’re fried in beef dripping, assuring both crunch and deep savouriness. Take-away is an option, but it’s better to stay and enjoy an iconic formica and vinyl decor that has been untouched for years. Debatable whether their claim to ‘the tastiest fish and chips in town’ stacks up, but a strong package nonetheless.   

The Fryer’s Delight is still serving some of London’s best fish and chips
Fish, chips and mushy peas — a British classic
George Reynolds

6. The Quality Chop House

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88-94 Farringdon Rd, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 3EA, UK

Top of many people’s list (whether headed “British” or “London in general”) and for good reason. There’s been a chop house on this Farringdon Road site since 1869, and there’s a nod to that heritage in that it’s still possible to choose a simple but outstanding chop or steak to go with *those* confit potatoes. Yet it’s much more, too, with the evening menu and snacks in particular an enticing and innovative representation of British produce, occasionally glittered with other world class ingredients. Some grumble about the upright benches (like church pews) in one half of the restaurant, but really the only legitimate complaint is that it’s practically impossible to choose just three dishes.

Quality Chop House’s confit potatoes
Quality Chop House [Official Photo]

7. St. John Restaurant and Bar

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St John Restaurant, 26 St John St
London EC1M 4AY, UK

Much of what is considered ‘British food’ is derivative of this restaurant. In part that’s because the long list of chefs and front of house staff who’ve worked here, at the Spitalfields outpost Bread & Wine, or in the bakery. But the nose-to-tail ethos, noun-laden blackboards and love of unglamourous items like faggots, Welsh rarebit and dandelion now spreads far beyond Fergus Henderson’s direct protégés. It follows that everyone should pay their respect to the original at least once. Settle-in to the austere white-walled restaurant for a plate of langoustines and mayonnaise, then hare and trotter pie, and perhaps a classic British pud; or take lunch in the cathedral-like bar and bakery area — bone marrow and parsley salad; devilled kidney’s on toast; Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese to finish.

Bone marrow at St John, one of London’s restaurants with a butchery attached
St John’s famous bone marrow and parsley salad
Nick Solares/Eater

8. Sweetings

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39 Queen Victoria St
London EC4N 4SF, UK

An historic City institution with a unique service model, Sweeting’s primarily seafood-based menu is plainer than price point suggests: think oysters, cod’s roe on toast, catch of the day served with minimal fuss (though lobster mash is a side option) and spotted dick for dessert. Regulars tend to wash that down with 1er cru Chablis, or a solid silver tankard filled in equal parts Guinness and champagne (a ‘Black Velvet’). NB. This is among St. John co-founder Fergus Henderson’s favourite London restaurants, in case another class of recommendation were required.

Welsh rarebit, Lea & Perrins and a silver tankard of black velvet
Ed Smith

9. Blacklock City

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13 Philpot Ln
London EC3M 8AA, UK

An unpretentious celebration of quality British meat. Though premium cuts are an option, the £20 per person ‘all in’ piles of perfectly grilled beef, lamb and pork chops are hard to beat for either value or taste. Diners can satisfy meat-and-two-veg urges with a selection of superb sides — chips, grilled baby gem with anchovies and fiercely baked sweet potatoes are stellar. Blacklock currently has two basement sites in the City and Soho, both are always buzzing. A third site, in Shoreditch, is also on the horizon.

London’s best Sunday roasts: Blacklock steakhouse’s spread of steaks, lamb chops and pork chops
Meat feasts are Blacklock’s thing
Blacklock [Official Photo]

10. Lyle's

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Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St
London E1 6JJ, UK

The open kitchen and bare walls, floors and tables of this Shoreditch restaurant hint at chef James Lowe’s past life at St. John Bread and Wine. There’s reverence to common sense cooking too. Yet it’s anything but backward-looking. Rather, Lyle’s is refined, focused, creative and contemporary. Lunch a la carte and evening set menus are uncompromisingly seasonal, and the dishes deceptive in their simplicity: “eel, beetroot and dulse,” or “rabbit livers, yoghurt and ramson” will initially appear little more than those named ingredients, but each is at its peak, prepared and cooked with skill, and the end result far greater than the sum of its parts.

Chef James Lowe regularly creates some of London’s most inventive seasonal British cookery
Ola Smit/Eater London

11. 40 Maltby Street

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40 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK

Set in a rustic railway arch in Bermondsey, this humble-looking kitchen and bar presents some of London’s most flavourful food. There’s a certain French-ness, from baguettes through terrines and the provenance of natural wines on offer. But then techniques and traditions from across the channel pervade British cuisine, and the essence of the food here is that of so many restaurants on this list: seasonal vegetables, rich heritage-breed meats, local farmhouse cheeses. Save for its extraordinary cooked ham, the menu (scrawled on one blackboard, of course) is never the same. Recent highlights include carrot, crab and monk’s beard broth, oyster fritters with laverbread mayonnaise, and a celeriac and Ardrahan pie.

Broad beans and toast, little gem lettuce and asparagus at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey, the modern British restaurant that forms part of the best 24 hour restaurant travel itinerary for London — where to eat with one day in the city Ola Smit/Eater London

12. Rochelle Canteen

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Rochelle School, Arnold Circus
London E2 7ES, UK

Originally only accessible to those who could get to this literal old school dining room in Shoreditch for a weekday lunch, Rochelle now opens for breakfast and lunch every day, and on Thursday to Saturday evenings too. Dishes like braised lamb, mint and peas, mushroom quiche, and strawberry ice cream sound plain, yet they compel loyal diners to return again and again. Simple, classic and joyful — a light touch nose-to-tail.

Simple, classic, joyful — grilled skate wing
Rochelle Canteen [Official Photo]

13. Marksman Public House

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254 Hackney Rd
London E2 7SJ, UK

There’s an air of no-nonsense boozer about this pub restaurant, situated within a hydrangea’s throw of Columbia Road (Sunday) flower market. Yet the food served at the bar and in a light-upstairs dining room is right up there with the very best of modern British. Chefs Tom Harris and Jon Rotherham have put a stylish slant on the potted shrimps, devilled mussels, pies and pork chops they cooked when at St. John. Everything is quality, though it’s difficult to avoid beef and barley buns with horseradish cream, and the brown butter and honey custard tart. Excellent Sunday roast — one of the city’s best — too.

A brown sugar custard tart at the Marksman
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

14. Billingsgate Market Cafe

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Trafalgar Way
London E14 5ST, UK

No experience is more authentically East London than an pre-dawn visit to the café at the city’s wholesale fish market. Order fried scallops and bacon between cheap white bread, and wash it down with milky builder’s tea served in a polystyrene cup (not just because the coffee is undrinkable.) Arrive early, mind, as by 7am things are winding down and some of the atmosphere is lost.

15. Café Deco

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43 Store St
London WC1E 7DB, UK

Anna Tobias is an alum of Rochelle Canteen and worked with Quo Vadis’ Jeremy Lee; this Bloomsbury restaurant is in partnership with 40 Maltby Street, so it’s in one way clear where lineage lies. But Cafe Deco is as much a forward-looking evolution of modern British as a glance back at its hallowed names. So it’s not a Niçoise, it’s a tuna, borlotti bean, onion, and egg salad; it’s not borscht, it’s chilled beetroot soup; it very definitely is roly poly and custard.

Pork rillettes, behind the counter, at Cafe Deco Michaël Protin/Eater London

1. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, UK
‘Meat fruit’ — a chicken liver parfait coated in mandarin jelly — at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge
The iconic meat fruit
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal [Official Photo]

Heston Blumenthal’s shrine to historically-inspired British cuisine continues to impress, holding two Michelin stars and a dizzying spot on the World’s 50 Best list because it serves precise and innovative food with élan. Exquisite chicken liver parfait Meat Fruit is an essential order for the table. From there, each dish is dated and rooted to food from centuries ago. In that context it may come as some surprise that the flavours involved seem to take a global outlook, but then — yeah, actually — Britain did once too.

66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA, UK

2. Quo Vadis

26-29 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 3LL, UK
Quo Vadis’ iconic smoked eel sandwich, by chef Jeremy Lee
Ola Smit/Eater London

Though the menus are ornate, tablecloths starched, seats padded and service proper, there’s no stiff upper lip at Quo Vadis, whether in downstairs restaurant or private club on the floors above (indeed, a notable cocktail menu means things can get quite loose.) Chef Jeremy Lee’s food is always seasonal in both ingredient and mood, and mixes treat with comfort in equal measure. It’s essential to leave room for pudding — few places cover the classics better, and Lee’s fondness for combining the triple threat of cream, ice cream and custard on the same plate is to be applauded. And the chef’s eel sandwich is one of London’s unmissable creations.

26-29 Dean St, Soho
London W1D 3LL, UK

3. Canton Arms

177 S Lambeth Rd, London SW8 1XP, UK
Curried mussels
Ed Smith

This sibling of the Anchor and Hope and dearly departed Great Queen Street, is set in an unremarkable grey building on a seemingly permanently grey artery road in Stockwell. Inside, however, are bar snacks and toasties from the Gods, and a menu that’s totally “British gastropub” in that it confidently embraces other cuisines, matching diverse and eclectic flavours with first class local ingredients. Spiced lamb pie, for example, sits next to rib of beef, chips and bearnaise for two; while Cornish brill with wild garlic vies for attention with grilled gurnard and (Italian-ish) blood orange, fennel and agretti.

177 S Lambeth Rd
London SW8 1XP, UK

4. Holborn Dining Room

252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN, UK
Holborn Dining Room [Official Pastry]

The Rosewood Hotel’s buffed and slick salon-style restaurant has always had a British edge — charcuterie from each corner of this Isle (and not beyond), local meat and fish, a textbook main-course-and-sides offering, and even London’s largest collection of gin. But then executive chef Calum Franklin started experimenting with pastry, and a refreshingly unmodish niche was found. On Wednesdays there’s a superlative beef Wellington, whilst other meat-filled suet puddings and extraordinarily detailed hand-raised pies are rolled out each day. Classy stuff.

252 High Holborn
London WC1V 7EN, UK

5. The Fryer's Delight

19 Theobalds Rd, London WC1X 8SL, UK
The Fryer’s Delight is still serving some of London’s best fish and chips
Fish, chips and mushy peas — a British classic
George Reynolds

Battered haddock, mushy peas and a pun of a name — what’s more British than that? The chips are the real draw here as they’re fried in beef dripping, assuring both crunch and deep savouriness. Take-away is an option, but it’s better to stay and enjoy an iconic formica and vinyl decor that has been untouched for years. Debatable whether their claim to ‘the tastiest fish and chips in town’ stacks up, but a strong package nonetheless.   

19 Theobalds Rd
London WC1X 8SL, UK

6. The Quality Chop House

88-94 Farringdon Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 3EA, UK
Quality Chop House’s confit potatoes
Quality Chop House [Official Photo]

Top of many people’s list (whether headed “British” or “London in general”) and for good reason. There’s been a chop house on this Farringdon Road site since 1869, and there’s a nod to that heritage in that it’s still possible to choose a simple but outstanding chop or steak to go with *those* confit potatoes. Yet it’s much more, too, with the evening menu and snacks in particular an enticing and innovative representation of British produce, occasionally glittered with other world class ingredients. Some grumble about the upright benches (like church pews) in one half of the restaurant, but really the only legitimate complaint is that it’s practically impossible to choose just three dishes.

88-94 Farringdon Rd, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 3EA, UK

7. St. John Restaurant and Bar

St John Restaurant, 26 St John St, London EC1M 4AY, UK
Bone marrow at St John, one of London’s restaurants with a butchery attached
St John’s famous bone marrow and parsley salad
Nick Solares/Eater

Much of what is considered ‘British food’ is derivative of this restaurant. In part that’s because the long list of chefs and front of house staff who’ve worked here, at the Spitalfields outpost Bread & Wine, or in the bakery. But the nose-to-tail ethos, noun-laden blackboards and love of unglamourous items like faggots, Welsh rarebit and dandelion now spreads far beyond Fergus Henderson’s direct protégés. It follows that everyone should pay their respect to the original at least once. Settle-in to the austere white-walled restaurant for a plate of langoustines and mayonnaise, then hare and trotter pie, and perhaps a classic British pud; or take lunch in the cathedral-like bar and bakery area — bone marrow and parsley salad; devilled kidney’s on toast; Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese to finish.

St John Restaurant, 26 St John St
London EC1M 4AY, UK

8. Sweetings

39 Queen Victoria St, London EC4N 4SF, UK
Welsh rarebit, Lea & Perrins and a silver tankard of black velvet
Ed Smith

An historic City institution with a unique service model, Sweeting’s primarily seafood-based menu is plainer than price point suggests: think oysters, cod’s roe on toast, catch of the day served with minimal fuss (though lobster mash is a side option) and spotted dick for dessert. Regulars tend to wash that down with 1er cru Chablis, or a solid silver tankard filled in equal parts Guinness and champagne (a ‘Black Velvet’). NB. This is among St. John co-founder Fergus Henderson’s favourite London restaurants, in case another class of recommendation were required.

39 Queen Victoria St
London EC4N 4SF, UK

9. Blacklock City

13 Philpot Ln, London EC3M 8AA, UK
London’s best Sunday roasts: Blacklock steakhouse’s spread of steaks, lamb chops and pork chops
Meat feasts are Blacklock’s thing
Blacklock [Official Photo]

An unpretentious celebration of quality British meat. Though premium cuts are an option, the £20 per person ‘all in’ piles of perfectly grilled beef, lamb and pork chops are hard to beat for either value or taste. Diners can satisfy meat-and-two-veg urges with a selection of superb sides — chips, grilled baby gem with anchovies and fiercely baked sweet potatoes are stellar. Blacklock currently has two basement sites in the City and Soho, both are always buzzing. A third site, in Shoreditch, is also on the horizon.

13 Philpot Ln
London EC3M 8AA, UK

10. Lyle's

Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JJ, UK
Chef James Lowe regularly creates some of London’s most inventive seasonal British cookery
Ola Smit/Eater London

The open kitchen and bare walls, floors and tables of this Shoreditch restaurant hint at chef James Lowe’s past life at St. John Bread and Wine. There’s reverence to common sense cooking too. Yet it’s anything but backward-looking. Rather, Lyle’s is refined, focused, creative and contemporary. Lunch a la carte and evening set menus are uncompromisingly seasonal, and the dishes deceptive in their simplicity: “eel, beetroot and dulse,” or “rabbit livers, yoghurt and ramson” will initially appear little more than those named ingredients, but each is at its peak, prepared and cooked with skill, and the end result far greater than the sum of its parts.

Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High St
London E1 6JJ, UK

11. 40 Maltby Street

40 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, UK
Broad beans and toast, little gem lettuce and asparagus at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey, the modern British restaurant that forms part of the best 24 hour restaurant travel itinerary for London — where to eat with one day in the city Ola Smit/Eater London

Set in a rustic railway arch in Bermondsey, this humble-looking kitchen and bar presents some of London’s most flavourful food. There’s a certain French-ness, from baguettes through terrines and the provenance of natural wines on offer. But then techniques and traditions from across the channel pervade British cuisine, and the essence of the food here is that of so many restaurants on this list: seasonal vegetables, rich heritage-breed meats, local farmhouse cheeses. Save for its extraordinary cooked ham, the menu (scrawled on one blackboard, of course) is never the same. Recent highlights include carrot, crab and monk’s beard broth, oyster fritters with laverbread mayonnaise, and a celeriac and Ardrahan pie.

40 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK

12. Rochelle Canteen

Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES, UK
Simple, classic, joyful — grilled skate wing
Rochelle Canteen [Official Photo]

Originally only accessible to those who could get to this literal old school dining room in Shoreditch for a weekday lunch, Rochelle now opens for breakfast and lunch every day, and on Thursday to Saturday evenings too. Dishes like braised lamb, mint and peas, mushroom quiche, and strawberry ice cream sound plain, yet they compel loyal diners to return again and again. Simple, classic and joyful — a light touch nose-to-tail.

Rochelle School, Arnold Circus
London E2 7ES, UK

13. Marksman Public House

254 Hackney Rd, London E2 7SJ, UK
A brown sugar custard tart at the Marksman
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

There’s an air of no-nonsense boozer about this pub restaurant, situated within a hydrangea’s throw of Columbia Road (Sunday) flower market. Yet the food served at the bar and in a light-upstairs dining room is right up there with the very best of modern British. Chefs Tom Harris and Jon Rotherham have put a stylish slant on the potted shrimps, devilled mussels, pies and pork chops they cooked when at St. John. Everything is quality, though it’s difficult to avoid beef and barley buns with horseradish cream, and the brown butter and honey custard tart. Excellent Sunday roast — one of the city’s best — too.

254 Hackney Rd
London E2 7SJ, UK

14. Billingsgate Market Cafe

Trafalgar Way, London E14 5ST, UK

No experience is more authentically East London than an pre-dawn visit to the café at the city’s wholesale fish market. Order fried scallops and bacon between cheap white bread, and wash it down with milky builder’s tea served in a polystyrene cup (not just because the coffee is undrinkable.) Arrive early, mind, as by 7am things are winding down and some of the atmosphere is lost.

Trafalgar Way
London E14 5ST, UK

15. Café Deco

43 Store St, London WC1E 7DB, UK
Pork rillettes, behind the counter, at Cafe Deco Michaël Protin/Eater London

Anna Tobias is an alum of Rochelle Canteen and worked with Quo Vadis’ Jeremy Lee; this Bloomsbury restaurant is in partnership with 40 Maltby Street, so it’s in one way clear where lineage lies. But Cafe Deco is as much a forward-looking evolution of modern British as a glance back at its hallowed names. So it’s not a Niçoise, it’s a tuna, borlotti bean, onion, and egg salad; it’s not borscht, it’s chilled beetroot soup; it very definitely is roly poly and custard.

43 Store St
London WC1E 7DB, UK

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