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19 Restaurants Every Londoner Should (Re)Discover

From French and Italian institutions to regal dim sum, a wrap chain, new-wave wine bar and textbook gastropub

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Some of London’s restaurants are essential; some are quintessentially of the moment. This is a list of places which for whatever reason — a secluded location; similar offerings taking all the buzz; the vicissitudes of fashion; simple bad luck — have slipped under the radar. Consider them hidden gems, consider them locals’ favourites; consider them the venues to hit up once the big names are ticked off. Ultimately, simply consider them: they’re worth the attention.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Zia Lucia

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157 Holloway Rd
London N7 8LX, UK

Along with superlative cheese / wine shop Provisions, this is one of a number of encouraging green shoots breaking through the culinary asphalt of Holloway Road. The clientele is robustly, demonstrably, demonstratively Italian; the dough is superb; if the toppings are inferior-grade, this clueless Inglese lacks the wherewithal to tell. Plus they serve up a half-pint rocket-fuel Negroni for six pounds, or a bucketful of Spritz for five-fifty, and the service is delightful, and the bill is hearteningly reasonable. Abbondanza!

Spicy salami and red pepper pizza
Twitter

2. The Drapers Arms

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44 Barnsbury St
London N1 1ER, UK

Like the thick slabs of bread with good salty old-school butter plunked on your table here without ceremony, a meal at The Drapers Arms is not always the most finessed. But — particularly in winter — its gutsiness is sometimes the ideal tonic to food that has been ponced into anonymity elsewhere: soup, that most unfashionable of dishes, is a panacea on a cold day; pies are huge ribsticking affairs that leave even the staunchest trenchermen utterly contented. There is also more than the occasional flirtation with Hendersonian nose-to-tail cookery, not least the annual offal-fest Glandstonbury. Come hungry.

3. Towpath Café

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42 De Beauvoir Cres
London N1 5SB, UK

For a certain class of Regents Canal-bothering Hackney resident, this is not so much “hidden gem” as site of regular weekend pilgrimage (to try running or cycling past the growing brunchtime crowd is to risk an impromptu and truly unpleasant bath). But the food — not least the legendary cheese toastie — is worth the hassle; a range of homemade cakes and pastries make for an ideal afternoon pick-me-up once the crowd has subsided.

Jason Lowe, Towpath Official

4. Oldroyd

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344 Upper St
London N1 0PD, UK

In a tiny site split across two floors, Tom Oldroyd continues to knock out a sort-of-Italian, sort-of-Modern-British menu that — whatever the time of year — is always slightly more interesting than it needs to be to thrive in chain-infested Islington. Not that any of the regulars are complaining: the frequently changing croquettes are unfailingly superb; pasta is a particular strong suit. Service is winning and there’s even a table plonked outside in high summer — a perfect vantage point from which to watch the queues outside Five Guys and Franco Manca.

Vitello tonnato
Oldroyd Official

5. Pavilion Victoria Park

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After a long run around glorious Victoria Park, there’s really nowhere better to undo all of that good work. Good coffee and Nordic-style buns in an arresting array of flavours (cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric) are just the prelude to one of London’s most delicious, incongruous Sri Lankan breakfasts, complete with string hoppers, daal and all manner of chutneys and sambols.

Pavilion’s daal
Twitter

6. The Laughing Heart

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277 Hackney Rd, London, E2 8NA, London
Hackney E2 8NA, UK

Another Hackney hipster-magnet doing vaguely modern things with food and vaguely natural things with wine, right? Not quite, actually: for one thing – especially when compared to cosy / cramped confines of P. Franco and Legs — The Laughing Heart is absolutely vast, cascading across two extensive floors. Both the wine list and the menu show similarly large-scale ambition: a bottle of sublime Radikon Slatnik is the perfect pairing to food boasting Asian, Italian, Modern British and classic French influences: olives stuffed with kaffir lime and charcuterie offcuts; wild cep agnolotti with Wiltshire truffle and hazelnut; an astonishing Sichuan crème brulée. Don’t let the name put you off: despite charming, informal service, this place is about as serious as it gets.

A selection of skewers, flatbreads, and roast meats at London tasting menu restaurant The Laughing Heart Courtesy The Laughing Heart

7. Berber & Q - Shawarma Bar

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46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 4QE, UK

This smaller, more focused offshoot of the Haggerston Middle Eastern grilled-meats-and-big-beats game-changer comes on much less strong, which is undeniably a good thing. Mezze are tasteful, vegetable-led, and often quite beautiful to behold; an array of meatier shawarmas are unsurprisingly excellent. The cauliflower rice bowl might well be the best single-dish lunch in the whole of Exmouth Market.

Berber & Q Shawarma Bar Official

8. The Fryer's Delight

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

The practice of frying in tallow — or beef fat — is still fairly common in the north of England, but it’s much scarcer in saturated fatphobic London. More’s the pity, because it definitely imparts a distinctive savour and sweetness to everything here, as well as allowing for a batter that is notably thinner than that on show in the majority of chippies. But it’s not really about the fish and chips, actually — there are probably better, even in London — so much as it is about everything that the decades-old Fryer’s Delight represents: tradition and simplicity in a city often all too happy to leave both behind.

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

9. Royal China Club

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40-42 Baker St, Marylebone
London W1U 7AJ, UK

This isn’t the first attempt to get more people to visit this Baker Street institution, and it won’t be the last: truly — and whatever some spurious list of 38 other restaurants might tell you — this is one of London’s must-visits. The exactitude required to knock out dozens of different, flawless dim sum carries over into how the kitchen approaches other fare like roast duck and steamed seafood; the service is no less full of care. It’s great whenever, but for Sunday lunch it’s an unimprovable upgrade on the usual roast.

Dim sum
Facebook

10. Locanda Locatelli

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8 Seymour St, Marylebone
London W1H 7JZ, UK

Is this the sexiest restaurant in London? Not the usual Mayfair couture-frock-no-knickers sexy, but sexy like Giorgio Locatelli is sexy: brooding, elegant, masterful. Snowdrifts of truffle and parmesan form atop impeccable pastas and mains as tastefully opulent as the penumbrous room; Barolos and Barbarescos are decanted tableside by the light of a flickering candle. It’s very grown up, but there’s enough of a twinkle in its eye to draw any reluctant hedonist in; to make them complicit in its specific, intoxicating, adult pleasures.

Dolci
Adam Coghlan

11. Good Friend Chicken

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14 Little Newport St
London WC2H 7JJ, UK

One of the (many) infuriating quirks about London’s Chinatown is the relatively narrow spectrum of quick, grab-and-go options available. There are some OK bakeries; there are a couple of storefronts slinging OK dumplings. But really there is only the mighty Good Friend Chicken, where legs, breast, and even — baller order, this — slabs of skin emerge fresh from the fryer encased in a shattering, impossibly crisp batter, only to be dusted in a range of eye-popping seasonings. In true Taiwanese style, there’s boba tea, too — a necessary accompaniment when £5.50 buys you a breast fillet the size of your head.

12. Spring

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Somerset House, Lancaster Pl
London WC2R 1LA, UK

The dishes that come out of Skye Gyngell’s kitchen at Spring are variously delicate, beautiful and immaculate. The décor and staff outfits are Jean-Paul Gaultier conceptual (and therefore, uh, “divisive”), but there’s no debating the quality that suffuses everything on the plate, from riffs on Italianate classics like malfatti and vitello tonnato, to the impeccable produce shipped in from Fern Verrow, to the properly glorious desserts. It’s expensive, but given it somehow does justice to its pocket of real estate in the magnificent Somerset House, it still ends up feeling like a bargain.

Rose and geranium pudding
Twitter

13. Wrap It Up!

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15-16 Crown Passage, St. James's
London SW1Y 6PP, UK

It cannot make any sort of rational business sense for the owners of Wrap It Up! to stock an entirely different type of flatbread alongside the bog-standard tortillas that surround the so-so fillings ordered by the majority of their customers. But praise be that they do, because in their “Caribbean” (Trinidadian) lamb or chickpea, pumpkin and tamarind roti they offer what is surely the best option to be found in the lunchtime food desert along The Strand. Not one for eating on the move — or without a knife, fork, and plenty of napkins. Various locations.

Chickpea and pumpkin roti with tamarind
Twitter

14. Quilon

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41 Buckingham Gate, Westminster
London SW1E 6AF, UK

Two albatrosses — its location within a hotel, and a shiny Michelin star — hang round Quilon’s neck, and probably deter a great many potential customers. It’s their loss, as this is some of the best high-end Southern Indian food in the city — none better than the assortment of chutneys and pickles presented at the start of the meal. Prices at dinner can be bracing, but the set lunch represents one of the best haute bargains in town.

Curry, roti, rice and dosa
Twitter

15. The Good Earth

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233 Brompton Rd, Chelsea
London SW3 2EP, UK

Before it was stuffed in a bao bun and sold for a couple of quid, good Chinese food in London looked a lot like this: the familiar Anglo-Cantonese classics, but cooked with a skill and attention to detail — and just a tweak of originality — that elevated them above 1970s cliché. Even as the market has evolved, The Good Earth hasn’t lost a step: really, what is there better than prawn toast, aromatic duck, a whole steamed seabass, and some egg-fried rice?

Prawns
Good Earth Official

16. Cambio De Tercio

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163 Old Brompton Rd, Kensington
London SW5 0LJ, UK

Equal parts quirky and classy, Cambio de Tercio has been a South Ken gem since it opened in 1995; its menu reads like a distillation of the best things to happen to Spanish food from the time of Cervantes to the present day. Go traditional with jamón ibérico followed by stickily caramelised oxtail; if that doesn’t appeal, go full Ferran Adrià bonkers with a tasting menu for the table. The wine list is as thick as Don Quixote (and, come to think of it, as thick as Don Quixote); the gin-tonics come in the vast balloon copas so beloved in the king of drinks’ spiritual home. ¡Salud!

Paella
Twitter

17. Hunan

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51 Pimlico Rd, Belgravia
London SW1W 8NE, UK

Hunan is in Belgravia, which is another way of saying it’s not cheap. But surrender to the cost and the concept — there is no menu at dinner; flag dietary restrictions upfront — and be sumptuously rewarded for your courage with dozens of gorgeous small bites rooted in the Hunan region but content, too, to range wider across China. A grown-up wine list makes this one for special occasions — even among the Belgravia set.

18. Medlar

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438 King's Rd, Chelsea
London SW10 0LJ, UK

It’s in a slightly subprime location at the wrong end of the King’s Road, but inside Medlar is prime Zone One, baby — all French-inflected food and honking red-trousered first growth claret. But look a little closer, and it soon becomes apparent there’s a little more wit and finesse on display: in dishes like the iconic duck egg / duck heart tart and a tarte tatin for the ages, there’s a lightness of touch to go with all that butter and demi-glace. It’s quiet without being hushed; the service is charming without being pompous. And the set-price menu isn’t even that expensive. Value for money in Chelsea? Maaaaaayte.  

Medlar
Twitter

19. Chez Bruce

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2 Bellevue Rd
London SW17 7EG, UK

In the site formerly occupied by Marco Pierre White’s legendary Harvey’s, Chez Bruce represents another major step in London’s evolving, convoluted relationship with French food. Like the best Parisian brasseries, it makes everything feel utterly effortless; like the (other) best London restaurants, it remains open to influences from both close to home and further abroad (a recent menu boasts foie gras but also a Thai-spiced soup and taramasalata, though thankfully not at the same time). For a supplement of a mere six pounds, the groaning, exquisite cheese board is an absolute steal.

Grilled green onion and aubergine
Twitter

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1. Zia Lucia

157 Holloway Rd, London N7 8LX, UK
Spicy salami and red pepper pizza
Twitter

Along with superlative cheese / wine shop Provisions, this is one of a number of encouraging green shoots breaking through the culinary asphalt of Holloway Road. The clientele is robustly, demonstrably, demonstratively Italian; the dough is superb; if the toppings are inferior-grade, this clueless Inglese lacks the wherewithal to tell. Plus they serve up a half-pint rocket-fuel Negroni for six pounds, or a bucketful of Spritz for five-fifty, and the service is delightful, and the bill is hearteningly reasonable. Abbondanza!

157 Holloway Rd
London N7 8LX, UK

2. The Drapers Arms

44 Barnsbury St, London N1 1ER, UK

Like the thick slabs of bread with good salty old-school butter plunked on your table here without ceremony, a meal at The Drapers Arms is not always the most finessed. But — particularly in winter — its gutsiness is sometimes the ideal tonic to food that has been ponced into anonymity elsewhere: soup, that most unfashionable of dishes, is a panacea on a cold day; pies are huge ribsticking affairs that leave even the staunchest trenchermen utterly contented. There is also more than the occasional flirtation with Hendersonian nose-to-tail cookery, not least the annual offal-fest Glandstonbury. Come hungry.

44 Barnsbury St
London N1 1ER, UK

3. Towpath Café

42 De Beauvoir Cres, London N1 5SB, UK
Jason Lowe, Towpath Official

For a certain class of Regents Canal-bothering Hackney resident, this is not so much “hidden gem” as site of regular weekend pilgrimage (to try running or cycling past the growing brunchtime crowd is to risk an impromptu and truly unpleasant bath). But the food — not least the legendary cheese toastie — is worth the hassle; a range of homemade cakes and pastries make for an ideal afternoon pick-me-up once the crowd has subsided.

42 De Beauvoir Cres
London N1 5SB, UK

4. Oldroyd

344 Upper St, London N1 0PD, UK
Vitello tonnato
Oldroyd Official

In a tiny site split across two floors, Tom Oldroyd continues to knock out a sort-of-Italian, sort-of-Modern-British menu that — whatever the time of year — is always slightly more interesting than it needs to be to thrive in chain-infested Islington. Not that any of the regulars are complaining: the frequently changing croquettes are unfailingly superb; pasta is a particular strong suit. Service is winning and there’s even a table plonked outside in high summer — a perfect vantage point from which to watch the queues outside Five Guys and Franco Manca.

344 Upper St
London N1 0PD, UK

5. Pavilion Victoria Park

London E9 7DE, UK
Pavilion’s daal
Twitter

After a long run around glorious Victoria Park, there’s really nowhere better to undo all of that good work. Good coffee and Nordic-style buns in an arresting array of flavours (cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric) are just the prelude to one of London’s most delicious, incongruous Sri Lankan breakfasts, complete with string hoppers, daal and all manner of chutneys and sambols.

6. The Laughing Heart

277 Hackney Rd, London, E2 8NA, London, Hackney E2 8NA, UK
A selection of skewers, flatbreads, and roast meats at London tasting menu restaurant The Laughing Heart Courtesy The Laughing Heart

Another Hackney hipster-magnet doing vaguely modern things with food and vaguely natural things with wine, right? Not quite, actually: for one thing – especially when compared to cosy / cramped confines of P. Franco and Legs — The Laughing Heart is absolutely vast, cascading across two extensive floors. Both the wine list and the menu show similarly large-scale ambition: a bottle of sublime Radikon Slatnik is the perfect pairing to food boasting Asian, Italian, Modern British and classic French influences: olives stuffed with kaffir lime and charcuterie offcuts; wild cep agnolotti with Wiltshire truffle and hazelnut; an astonishing Sichuan crème brulée. Don’t let the name put you off: despite charming, informal service, this place is about as serious as it gets.

277 Hackney Rd, London, E2 8NA, London
Hackney E2 8NA, UK

7. Berber & Q - Shawarma Bar

46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QE, UK
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar Official

This smaller, more focused offshoot of the Haggerston Middle Eastern grilled-meats-and-big-beats game-changer comes on much less strong, which is undeniably a good thing. Mezze are tasteful, vegetable-led, and often quite beautiful to behold; an array of meatier shawarmas are unsurprisingly excellent. The cauliflower rice bowl might well be the best single-dish lunch in the whole of Exmouth Market.

46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 4QE, UK

8. 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
George Reynolds

The practice of frying in tallow — or beef fat — is still fairly common in the north of England, but it’s much scarcer in saturated fatphobic London. More’s the pity, because it definitely imparts a distinctive savour and sweetness to everything here, as well as allowing for a batter that is notably thinner than that on show in the majority of chippies. But it’s not really about the fish and chips, actually — there are probably better, even in London — so much as it is about everything that the decades-old Fryer’s Delight represents: tradition and simplicity in a city often all too happy to leave both behind.

19 Theobalds Rd
London WC1X 8SL, UK

9. Royal China Club

40-42 Baker St, Marylebone, London W1U 7AJ, UK
Dim sum
Facebook

This isn’t the first attempt to get more people to visit this Baker Street institution, and it won’t be the last: truly — and whatever some spurious list of 38 other restaurants might tell you — this is one of London’s must-visits. The exactitude required to knock out dozens of different, flawless dim sum carries over into how the kitchen approaches other fare like roast duck and steamed seafood; the service is no less full of care. It’s great whenever, but for Sunday lunch it’s an unimprovable upgrade on the usual roast.

40-42 Baker St, Marylebone
London W1U 7AJ, UK

10. Locanda Locatelli

8 Seymour St, Marylebone, London W1H 7JZ, UK
Dolci
Adam Coghlan

Is this the sexiest restaurant in London? Not the usual Mayfair couture-frock-no-knickers sexy, but sexy like Giorgio Locatelli is sexy: brooding, elegant, masterful. Snowdrifts of truffle and parmesan form atop impeccable pastas and mains as tastefully opulent as the penumbrous room; Barolos and Barbarescos are decanted tableside by the light of a flickering candle. It’s very grown up, but there’s enough of a twinkle in its eye to draw any reluctant hedonist in; to make them complicit in its specific, intoxicating, adult pleasures.

8 Seymour St, Marylebone
London W1H 7JZ, UK

11. Good Friend Chicken

14 Little Newport St, London WC2H 7JJ, UK

One of the (many) infuriating quirks about London’s Chinatown is the relatively narrow spectrum of quick, grab-and-go options available. There are some OK bakeries; there are a couple of storefronts slinging OK dumplings. But really there is only the mighty Good Friend Chicken, where legs, breast, and even — baller order, this — slabs of skin emerge fresh from the fryer encased in a shattering, impossibly crisp batter, only to be dusted in a range of eye-popping seasonings. In true Taiwanese style, there’s boba tea, too — a necessary accompaniment when £5.50 buys you a breast fillet the size of your head.

14 Little Newport St
London WC2H 7JJ, UK

12. Spring

Somerset House, Lancaster Pl, London WC2R 1LA, UK
Rose and geranium pudding
Twitter

The dishes that come out of Skye Gyngell’s kitchen at Spring are variously delicate, beautiful and immaculate. The décor and staff outfits are Jean-Paul Gaultier conceptual (and therefore, uh, “divisive”), but there’s no debating the quality that suffuses everything on the plate, from riffs on Italianate classics like malfatti and vitello tonnato, to the impeccable produce shipped in from Fern Verrow, to the properly glorious desserts. It’s expensive, but given it somehow does justice to its pocket of real estate in the magnificent Somerset House, it still ends up feeling like a bargain.

Somerset House, Lancaster Pl
London WC2R 1LA, UK

13. Wrap It Up!

15-16 Crown Passage, St. James's, London SW1Y 6PP, UK
Chickpea and pumpkin roti with tamarind
Twitter

It cannot make any sort of rational business sense for the owners of Wrap It Up! to stock an entirely different type of flatbread alongside the bog-standard tortillas that surround the so-so fillings ordered by the majority of their customers. But praise be that they do, because in their “Caribbean” (Trinidadian) lamb or chickpea, pumpkin and tamarind roti they offer what is surely the best option to be found in the lunchtime food desert along The Strand. Not one for eating on the move — or without a knife, fork, and plenty of napkins. Various locations.

15-16 Crown Passage, St. James's
London SW1Y 6PP, UK

14. Quilon

41 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London SW1E 6AF, UK
Curry, roti, rice and dosa
Twitter

Two albatrosses — its location within a hotel, and a shiny Michelin star — hang round Quilon’s neck, and probably deter a great many potential customers. It’s their loss, as this is some of the best high-end Southern Indian food in the city — none better than the assortment of chutneys and pickles presented at the start of the meal. Prices at dinner can be bracing, but the set lunch represents one of the best haute bargains in town.

41 Buckingham Gate, Westminster
London SW1E 6AF, UK

15. The Good Earth

233 Brompton Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 2EP, UK
Prawns
Good Earth Official

Before it was stuffed in a bao bun and sold for a couple of quid, good Chinese food in London looked a lot like this: the familiar Anglo-Cantonese classics, but cooked with a skill and attention to detail — and just a tweak of originality — that elevated them above 1970s cliché. Even as the market has evolved, The Good Earth hasn’t lost a step: really, what is there better than prawn toast, aromatic duck, a whole steamed seabass, and some egg-fried rice?

233 Brompton Rd, Chelsea
London SW3 2EP, UK

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16. Cambio De Tercio

163 Old Brompton Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0LJ, UK
Paella
Twitter

Equal parts quirky and classy, Cambio de Tercio has been a South Ken gem since it opened in 1995; its menu reads like a distillation of the best things to happen to Spanish food from the time of Cervantes to the present day. Go traditional with jamón ibérico followed by stickily caramelised oxtail; if that doesn’t appeal, go full Ferran Adrià bonkers with a tasting menu for the table. The wine list is as thick as Don Quixote (and, come to think of it, as thick as Don Quixote); the gin-tonics come in the vast balloon copas so beloved in the king of drinks’ spiritual home. ¡Salud!

163 Old Brompton Rd, Kensington
London SW5 0LJ, UK

17. Hunan

51 Pimlico Rd, Belgravia, London SW1W 8NE, UK

Hunan is in Belgravia, which is another way of saying it’s not cheap. But surrender to the cost and the concept — there is no menu at dinner; flag dietary restrictions upfront — and be sumptuously rewarded for your courage with dozens of gorgeous small bites rooted in the Hunan region but content, too, to range wider across China. A grown-up wine list makes this one for special occasions — even among the Belgravia set.

51 Pimlico Rd, Belgravia
London SW1W 8NE, UK

18. Medlar

438 King's Rd, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ, UK
Medlar
Twitter

It’s in a slightly subprime location at the wrong end of the King’s Road, but inside Medlar is prime Zone One, baby — all French-inflected food and honking red-trousered first growth claret. But look a little closer, and it soon becomes apparent there’s a little more wit and finesse on display: in dishes like the iconic duck egg / duck heart tart and a tarte tatin for the ages, there’s a lightness of touch to go with all that butter and demi-glace. It’s quiet without being hushed; the service is charming without being pompous. And the set-price menu isn’t even that expensive. Value for money in Chelsea? Maaaaaayte.  

438 King's Rd, Chelsea
London SW10 0LJ, UK

19. Chez Bruce

2 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EG, UK
Grilled green onion and aubergine
Twitter

In the site formerly occupied by Marco Pierre White’s legendary Harvey’s, Chez Bruce represents another major step in London’s evolving, convoluted relationship with French food. Like the best Parisian brasseries, it makes everything feel utterly effortless; like the (other) best London restaurants, it remains open to influences from both close to home and further abroad (a recent menu boasts foie gras but also a Thai-spiced soup and taramasalata, though thankfully not at the same time). For a supplement of a mere six pounds, the groaning, exquisite cheese board is an absolute steal.

2 Bellevue Rd
London SW17 7EG, UK

Related Maps