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A plate being carried from the kitchen of St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields last autumn
St. John Bread and Wine, a fixture of the Eater London 38.
Michaël Protin/Eater London

The 38 Essential Restaurants in London

Eater’s recommended restaurants in London

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St. John Bread and Wine, a fixture of the Eater London 38.
| Michaël Protin/Eater London

The Eater 38 hopes to answer any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” It’s a curated list that covers the entire city, spanning numerous cuisines, neighbourhoods, and price points. It’s a list that tells the story of the London food scene: It documents the dumplings, Sunday roasts, tacos, pizza, sinasir, rarebits, udon noodles, pepper pot, and more: All that which makes London one of the best and most diverse places to eat in the world.

The Eater London 38 is slowly beginning to reflect the state of “new normal” under which the city has been operating since the new year — with new restaurants making their mark and old restaurants having found their pre-pandemic groove once more. The list will continue to showcase a mix of over three dozen restaurants, which have all done outstanding things in extraordinary times, restaurants which have emerged, survived, thrived, and continued to enrich the city and its food culture as it gets back on its feet and emerges from two years of turmoil.

A monthly updated primer to the best new restaurants in London complements this guide. Please share all tips, ideas, and suggestions with Eater editors by contacting us here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Normah's

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Normah's 23-25 inside Queensway, Market, Bayswater
London W2 4QJ, UK

Chef Normah Abd Hamid and her family team offer a Malaysian comfort menu that makes the restaurant one of the best in the city from a nook of a unit in Queensway Market. Sour, hot assam pedas; roti to rival London’s King in Euston; and beef rendang or nasi lemak to go alongside. One of central London’s best restaurants to visit with a small group of friends; one to take out-of-towners visiting the city.

Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s in Bayswater, one of the best-value restaurants in London
Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s
Michaël Protin/Eater London
9 Seymour St
London W1H 7BA, UK

The eagerly anticipated London debut from Noma Mexico’s Santiago Lastra in Marylebone is a modern London restaurant with a very strong Mexican accent. And the pandemic appears to have not diminished the scope of its ambition. Kol — which means “cabbage” — seeks to recreate Mexican flavours using mainly British ingredients. Corn, chocolate, and chillies are imported, but elsewhere a highly conceptual menu sees the likes of lime replaced by fermented gooseberry; avocado leaf, which applies a sweet note to cooked beans, by the wild plant woodruff; and cactus subbed out for seaweed. Elegant, house-prepared heirloom corn tacos are unlike anything else one can taste in the city.

London’s biggest and best new restaurant openings of 2020 include Kol by Santiago Lastra, which serves Mexican dishes like this cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli
Cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli.
Laura L.P./HdG Photography

3. Gymkhana

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42 Albemarle St, Mayfair
London W1S 4JH, UK

Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana is one of few London restaurants that claim to straddle the line between celebrity restaurant hype and quality cooking, in a city where the two so rarely meet. Tandoori masala lamb chops, chicken butter masala, and its trademark wild muntjac biryani remain stand-outs. The prices match the level of cooking (and the Mayfair surrounds) making the restaurant one for special occasions.

Muntjac biryani at Michelin-starred Gymkhana, a favourite of the fashion crowd. Gymkhana [Official Photo]

4. Ikoyi Restaurant St. James's

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1 St James's Market, St. James's
London SW1Y 4AH, UK

Ikoyi, a fine-dining restaurant is a destination of genuine interest and quality in its own right. Head chef Jeremy Chan — together with business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale — looks to West Africa for inspiration but uses cooking sensibilities and techniques acquired at Noma, Hibiscus, and Dinner by Heston. Dishes such as wild Nigerian tiger prawn, with banga bisque; Jollof rice with smoked crab; and chicken efo with iru — a sauce of fermented locust beans, cassava, kale salt and preserved lemon, are unlike anything London has experienced before. Now, also deemed a two-star restaurant by the Michelin guide.

Nigerian dish mushroom suya is plated at Michelin-starred west African restaurant Ikoyi, in London
Nigerian dish mushroom suya.
Tomas Jivanda

5. Roti King

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40 Doric Way
London, Greater London
+44 79 6609 3467

The area around Euston station is replete with no-frills, delicious places to eat. This little Malaysian basement setup from chef Sugen Gopal on Doric Way may be the best. Two pieces of freshly made, high-moisture roti canai — whether to eat in or take-away — are best served with curry dhal. That speciality costs only £4.50, though round two is likely, and a newly introduced online queueing system has added a new seamlessness to the experience.

roti canai and daal at Roti King, a classic London restaurant

6. Koya Soho

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50 Frith St
Soho, Greater London
+44 20 7434 4463
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Chef-owner Shuko Oda’s little bar in Soho is among London’s most acclaimed Japanese restaurants. Over a long, blond wooden counter, chefs calmly and politely pass hot bowls of steaming broth containing the noodles made on site, topped with the likes of tempura prawn. The specials board of comparatively modern small plates changes every day and exhibits some of the city’s best undiscovered treasures; the traditional Japanese breakfast is the most steadying in London.

7. Roti Joupa

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12 Clapham High St
London SW4 7UT, UK
020 7627 8637

Trinidadian culinary culture is as much, if not more, a derivative and evolution of Indian as African cuisine, with curries, dhals, bhajis, and rotis staples in the diet. Doubles — curried chickpeas inside two fried baras, one of the most delicious and fortifying customs at breakfast — can be found here, a takeaway on the edge of Clapham Common, and a specialist in Trinidadian roti breads. Elsewhere there’s curry goat, stew chicken, buss-up shot (broken paratha-like roti), and pholourie (fried dough balls) served with tamarind chutney. To drink? Mauby Fizz and Solo sodas, or sorrel (a sweet-spiced hibiscus flower cordial.)

The best Trinidadian roti and Caribbean food in London: Fried baras filled with chickpea curry from Roti Joupa on Clapham Common, London
Doubles at Roti Joupa in Clapham North
Adam Coghlan/Eater London

8. Food House

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48-36 Gerrard St
London W1D 5QQ, UK

One of the comparatively recent new-wave of Sichuan and Xi’an restaurants in Chinatown, Food House (風味食堂) is run by a younger generation of chefs and restaurateurs. Indeed, it might be the trendiest restaurant in central London. Hordes of immaculately dressed shoppers and students gather for hot pots, whole fish in chilli oil, numbing-spiced chongqing noodles, cumin-studded grilled skewers, and Chinese hamburgers while competing with the staff for the coolest look. But while this extremely trendy restaurant is definitely a scene all of its own, it is not at all unwelcoming; in fact, it’s perfect for either a date or a group booking.

Inside Food House in London’s Chinatown
Inside Food House in London’s Chinatown
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

9. Bravi Ragazzi

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2A Sunnyhill Rd
London SW16 2UH, UK
020 8769 4966

Italian and English are not so much spoken as bellowed at Bravi Ragazzi. This boisterous slice of Naples serves some of the city’s finest, rustic, leopard-spotted and chewy crusted pizza. Pizza which is often so light and carefully baked it’s sometimes a wonder it doesn’t cave beneath the weight of its moist and molten toppings. Order well-done, or, “ben cotto.”

The margherita at Bravi Ragazzi.
The margherita at Bravi Ragazzi.
Daniel Young

10. Otto's French Restaurant London

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182 Grays Inn Rd
London WC1X 8EW, UK

Here is a restaurant that unashamedly and decadently revisits the past, where cooking theatrically is done tableside and where one can marvel at the (traditional silverware required for the) preparation of canard à la presse (pressed duck)This is Otto’s trademark, which is dressed with a rich, brandy heavy gravy made from the pressed carcass of the duck and served alongside the world’s most otherworldly carbohydrate: pommes soufflées. When a restaurateur opens an eponymous restaurant, especially in the possessive, it can be narcissistic or lazy — or both. In the case of Otto’s, it could not be more appropriate. For this is Otto’s restaurant; it is nobody else’s.

Otto and his duck outside Otto’s.
ALL the duck, as they say.
Ola Smit

11. Chishuru

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Unit 9 Market Row, Coldharbour Ln
London SW9 8LB, UK

Adejoké – Joké – Bakare opened her debut restaurant in Brixton a mere six weeks before lockdown forced her to close. That was in September 2020 at a time when restrictions had eased and Londoners had spent their summer “eating out to help out”. It would prove to be a short-lived reprieve and with hindsight an inopportune moment to open a restaurant. And yet, having reopened the dining room in May of 2021, Bakare has registered Chishuru — which serves dishes such as pork belly asun with charcoal-grilled peppers and onions, jollof rice, kale salad; cassava fritters; and degue with pear — as one of London’s best, most creative new restaurants. This is a venue which exhibits the chef’s talent for executing dishes which are rooted in the flavour profiles and ingredients of West African culinary traditions, but which belong to London in 2021.

chishuru, brixton. Michaël Protin

12. Xi'an Impression London

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117 Benwell Rd
London N7 7BW, UK

Chef Wei Guirong’s original joint venture, Xi’an Impression by the Emirates Stadium in Highbury is a tiny caff-like restaurant which has rightly earned cult status among lovers of regional Chinese food in the capital. Like at Guirong’s solo restaurant, Master Wei, the focus is on the region’s flour-foods, mianshi: peerless biang biang noodle dishes, with vegetables or beef and hot chilli oil; fine liang pi, cold skin noodles with a cool, refreshing, umami rich dressing, and the chef’s inimitable “burgers” with a cumin-spiced beef or pork filling.

hand-pulled noodles at xi’an impression, a classic London restaurant
Xi’an Impression’s biang biang noodles.
Xi’an Impression/Instagram

13. Quality Wines

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88 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon
London EC1R 3EA, UK

After a refurbishment of both kitchen and premises, this Mediterranean haven on the Farringdon Road is back to the kind of form that has made it one of the most essential of the city’s essential kitchens in recent years. Chef Nick Bramham’s cooking is now leaning more towards the Aegean, with the likes of giouvarlakia bringing herbed meatballs bobbing in avgolemono. The menu will change weekly and will travel across southern Europe, but look out for Bramham’s clever riffs on BLTs, lobster rolls, and perfectly seasoned pasta dishes after peerless gildas, before perfect sour cherry cannoli.

Pig fat cannoli at Quality Wines in Farringdon, the Eater London dish of the year in the Eater London Awards 2019 Mason Noteboom/Quality Wines

14. Westerns Laundry

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34 Drayton Park, Highbury East
London N5 1PB, UK

A comparatively recent emphasis — in no small part because of a growing relationship between London restaurants and Cornish suppliers — is being placed on English waters. Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell’s Western Laundry (the pair also oversees Primeur, Jolene, and Big Jo), is one of London’s best seafood restaurants, in the past year featuring a covered terrace for outdoor eating alongside the main dining room. It’s still serving glorious plates like fideo pasta rich with cuttlefish, squid ink, and aioli; monkfish friggitelli and mojo verde; and John Dory, peas, braised gem lettuce, and pancetta. A stellar winelist, with low-intervention and classic options adds to the reasons to visit this outstanding, warmly lit and carefully designed Holloway restaurant.

Best seafood restaurants in London: Prawns, cuttlefish, and natural wine at Westerns Laundry, one of the best restaurants in Islington
Prawns, cuttlefish, and natural wine at Westerns Laundry.
Patricia Niven

15. Sessions Arts Club

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Old Sessions House, 24 Clerkenwell Grn
London EC1R 0NA, UK

Chef Florence Knight’s Sessions Arts Club pairs one of the city’s most stunning dining rooms with one of its low-key best and cleverest kitchens. No dish on the menu better demonstrates Knight’s skill and ingenuity than the fried potato, smoked eel, and cod’s roe, which sees the eel embedded inside the carbohydrate like some sort of perfect smoky fish-and-chip millefeuille. Must-tries also include the squid with calamarata pasta; crab croquettes; and rabbit, cotechino, cabbage, and mustard. If a Diptique candle became a room, then this would be it.

Dishes being carried into the dining room from the kitchen at Sessions Arts Club, chef Florence Knight’s spectacular Clerkenwell restaurant
Dishes being carried into the dining room from the kitchen at Sessions Arts Club
Michaël Protin

16. Sushi Tetsu

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12 Jerusalem Passage
London, Greater London
+44 20 3217 0090
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Clerkenwell’s Sushi Tetsu might be the hardest reservation to secure in London. That’s in part because there are only seven seats. It’s also because pound-for-pound, it serves the best (value) sushi in the city. To observe chef Toru Takahashi’s knife skills and to eat his omakase menu while receiving Harumi Takahashi’s gently flawless hospitality (the two are married) is to experience one of London’s most complete and completely brilliant restaurants. Send an email to receive information on how to book.

17. F.K.A.B.A.M. (Formerly Known as Black Axe Mangal)

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156 Canonbury Rd
London N1 2UP, UK

A decade ago the existence of a restaurant like B.A.M. would have been unimaginable in London. But chef Lee Tiernan has pedigree (St. John) and London has changed. Here, Turk-ish (sourdough) flatbreads and kebabs by a British chef in Islington are prepared in a wood oven decorated with graffiti tributes to KISS et al. Tiernan closed the restaurant for the majority of the pandemic but has returned, a la Prince, with a new name and many of the old classics, including squid ink flatbread with smoked trout roe; lamb offal flatbread; and various well-travelled hunks of grilled protein imaginatively and judiciously seasoned.

A lamb offal flatbread and pork crackling at Black Axe Mangal, featuring flowery tablecloths
A lamb offal flatbread and pork crackling at F.K.A Black Axe Mangal
Ola Smit

18. Trullo

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300-302 St Paul's Rd, Highbury
London N1 2LH, UK

Trullo’s elegant dining room and simple, seasonal food, marks it out both as one London’s best Italian restaurants and one of the city’s finest neighbourhood restaurants. Dark wood, low lighting, white table cloths, and just-put-it-on-the-plate plating characterise it as decidedly anti-Instagram. Trullo’s spiritual parents are the two most important restaurants of a generation: the River Cafe and St. John, so dishes marry Italian traditions with British (and Italian) ingredients — fashioned into delicious antipasti, fresh pastas and secondi, dishes which often do a little time on the charcoal grill. Where sister site, Padella, is cheaper, faster, and increasingly difficult to get into, Trullo, which offers the same signature beef shin pappardelle and other Padella hits, is more of a grown-up place to eat and relax. A largely Italian (and natural-leaning) wine list is just as considered as everything else.

Trullo, in Highbury & Islington, is one of London’s best Italian restaurants
Lemon tart at Trullo
Trullo [Official Photo]

19. Kaieteur Kitchen

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Castle Square, Elephant and Castle
London SE1, UK
07466 616137

Chef Faye Gomes’ peerless Guyanese market stall has relocated to Castle Square following the controversial demolition of Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre next to which Gomes had traded for 17 years. For the chef’s trademark, long-prepared and slow-cooked traditional dishes like pepper pot, garlic pork, and cow foot souse, check in advance on Gomes’ Instagram. Or turn up for a surprise, to try dishes which draw on the many culinary influences and colonial legacies of Guyana: dal puri roti;pholourie; fried fish with tomato; potato, green mango, okra, and coconut curry; stewed brown chicken which, like the pepper pot, is coloured and enriched with cassareep, a liquid extraction from cassava root, as well as clove and cinnamon; and stew pumpkin.

Guyanese meat and rice at Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle, one of the best value restaurants in central London Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

20. Nandine - Camberwell Church St

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45 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell
London SE5 8TR, UK

The second branch for this south London institution: Nandine — “kitchen” in Kurdish — is run by Pary Baban, her husband Pola, and sons Rang and Raman. During the day it serves a menu of brunch dishes, mezze, and intricate pastries. Technicoloured and abundant mezze platters served in the evening include kubba (minced beef and rice patties), onion dolma, and qawarma. Pastries like borek — made with a Kurdish pastry called galgali — and baklava are not to be missed.

A Kurdish mezze platter at Nandine Nandine [Official Photo]

21. Tasty Jerk

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88 Whitehorse Ln, South Norwood
London SE25 6RQ, UK

Possibly London’s best Jamaican jerk shop. On the edge of Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park and with a smoky aroma detectable from many hundred metres, this stark room is dedicated to one thing: immaculately, judiciously seasoned protein grilled without remorse. The age of these oil drums and the time-honoured expertise of chef Murphy Lawrence and his team turn out jerked pork belly, chicken, goat, and even lobster, that is penetrated with smoke, and lifted by allspice, Scotch bonnet, and salt. Tasty Jerk is a heady, intoxicating, and remarkably good value eating experience.

22. Esters

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55 Kynaston Rd, Stoke Newington
London N16 0EB, UK

Esters is a cafe and a brunch location that, out of principle, does not serve avocado. In other words, it’s a cafe with a little more ambition, one that verges into restaurant territory. So chef Jack Lloyd-Jones might scatter some herbs and nutritional yeast over poached eggs, whipped cod’s roe, broad beans, and buckwheat; or serve a sweet corn soup with nectarine, curry leaf, and crème fraiche. Saturdays bring a meat-for-breakfast policy that eschews bacon for confit duck, lamb shoulder, or pork belly. A signature miso and white chocolate cookie, the creation of co-owner Nia Burr, is almost reason enough to visit. So too are coffees made with the same care and precision as the food, and house drinking vinegars and sodas in technicolour hues.

23. Brat

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4 Redchurch St
London E1 6JL, UK

Michelin-starred Brat, which lives above Smoking Goat in Shoreditch, is named after the old English colloquialism for turbot. Grilled seafood (including whole turbot) sourced from Cornwall is the focus. Lamb from Wales, beef from the English south west, and mostly grilled seasonal fruit and vegetables from all over is given plenty of attention, too. Chef Tomos Parry differentiates himself slightly from other grill chefs, aiming to emulate methods used in the north of Spain — namly the use of wood fire to cook his range of ingredients slowly. A comparatively classical 100-bin wine list has been organised by the team from Noble Rot, which is another way of saying it is very good.

24. Lyle's

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

This handsome, minimalist blonde wood-and-concrete Shoreditch restaurant is a marriage of its co-owner James Lowe’s British heritage (St. John Bread & Wine) and his many stints across the globe, including one at Noma. Lowe is a gifted chef and one of London’s foremost proponents of the quality of British produce. His relaxed brand of fine dining regularly celebrates mutton, game and goat, as well as wood fire-cooked seafood and seasonal English vegetables.

The dining room at Lyle’s, in Shoreditch Ola Smit

25. 40 Maltby St

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40 Maltby St
Camberwell, Greater London
+44 20 7237 9247
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A treasure. Unmoved by the comings and goings of trends, Bermondsey’s 40 Maltby St is a 40-cover answer to the question, pejorative as it may often be: What is British food? Steve Williams is a chef’s chef — cited by James Lowe, Brett Graham, and Florence Knight in their top five in the city. Raef Hodgson of distributor Gergovie Wines — which features largely low-intervention styles — runs the front-of-house without hubris. Check Instagram for the menu, which is always going to feature in-jokes and delicious dishes such as pork schnitzel with raw celeriac, mustard, and braised potatoes, onion, and thyme; and a chestnut and brown sugar meringue.

26. Mangal 2

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4 Stoke Newington Rd
London, Greater London
+44 20 7254 7888
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Mangal 2 is probably Dalston’s most famous restaurant, preparing excellent Turkish food from a historic ocakbaşı — grilled chicken, lamb, and quail kebabs, pickled chillies, and a classic grilled onion, sumac and pomegranate molasses salad. The charismatic young general manager and son of the restaurants’s founder — Ferhat Dirik — has run the room with expert ease and humour for over a decade. Now, he’s been joined in the kitchen by his brother Sertac; together they have reinvented and modernised one of east London’s most iconic, reliable, and fun restaurants.

Sertaç Dirik, right, at Mangal 2, east London
Sertaç Dirik, right, at Mangal 2, in Dalston.
Michaël Protin

27. St. John Bread and Wine

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94-96 Commercial St
Spitalfields, Greater London
+44 20 3301 8069
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While the original St. John is rightly regarded as the most important British restaurant in a generation, Bread & Wine, the sister site in Spitalfields, is a better and more interesting restaurant today. If food were a religion, then this would be its church. Welsh rarebit, bone marrow and parsley salad, foie gras on toast, mussels with cider, devilled kidneys; half a dozen madeleines; and a whole roast suckling pig are classics: lunch here is one of the purest, most heavenly restaurant experiences in London.

Welsh rarebit, liver toast, and madeleines at St. John Bread and Wine

28. Brawn

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49 Columbia Rd
Shoreditch, Greater London
+44 20 7729 5692
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Chef Ed Wilson’s hearty Franco-Italian menu is a showcase for his own personal love of food. To eat here is to share that passion, especially now with an increased emphasis on fresh pasta, and spectacular comfort food. Wines are predominantly natural and biodynamic. Illustrated wine posters, art, and curios on whitewashed brick walls also make the two relaxed dining rooms on Columbia Road among London’s most handsome and cool. Here also lie the city’s smallest and most beautiful bathrooms — among the very first to use Aesop, to boot.

Brawn, on Columbia Road in Hackney, one of the best restaurants in London

29. Marksman

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254 Hackney Rd
London, Greater London
+44 20 7739 7393
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The Sunday roast is a pillar in British food culture, but surprisingly few restaurants better the home-cooked version of this national institution. The Marksman’s roast, one of the finest in the city, is worth travelling to Hackney for. But this is also a pub-restaurant to visit any day of the week — for delicious, seasonal, imaginative cooking — like cocoa beans, girolles and hen’s egg or brown crab and fennel pollen on toast — brilliantly British and refined, this should be the template for the gastropub 2.0 in London.

Peas, wild garlic and lardo at The Marksman on Hackney Road, the pub and dining roomthat forms part of the best 24 hour restaurant travel itinerary for London — where to eat with one day in the city

30. Bake Street

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58 Evering Rd, Lower Clapton
London N16 7SR, UK

This small Stoke Newington cafe seriously overdelivers, preparing some of London’s best American diner-style smashburgers, Nashville hots, playful samosas, and the inimitable chicken makhani sandwich come the weekend, with a solid core menu for weekday visitors. Its sweet offering isn’t half bad either; do not miss the ingenious crème brûlée cookie developed by pastry chef Chloe-Rose Crabtree from a recipe by Los Angeles’s Dough and Arrow, or the seasonal ice cream from Crabtree and co-founder Feroz Gajia in warmer months.

NB: One of Bake Street’s patrons, Feroz Gajia who is also a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and “chicken hypebeast” has contributed to Eater London’s 5 to Try and Best Dishes columns.

Bake Street’s chicken makhani bun
Bake Street’s fried chicken with makhani sauce, American cheese, and coriander chutney on brioche.
Adam Coghlan

31. Alhaji SUYA (Peckham)

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15 Peckham Park Rd
London SE15 6TR, UK

Alhaji Suya serves some of the best Nigerian barbecue in London: superb chicken, lamb, beef and tozo — a meltingly fatty beef cut — suya, electric with Aliyu Dantsoho’s own yaji; a fierce, invigorating blend of chilli, peanut, ginger, and other secret seasonings. The beautiful smoky meat is wrapped in brown paper and served simply with chopped fresh white onions, and chunks of tomatoes. Truly, a West African-London speciality. He’s serving kilishi here too: a type of jerky originating in Hausaland made with strips of flattened meat spread with more yaji, ground onions and peanuts. A highly savoury, sweet invigoratingly spicy snack.

Nigerian suya and grill restaurant, Alhaji Suya, on Old Kent Road
Nigerian suya and grill restaurant, Alhaji Suya,
Michaël Protin/Eater London

32. Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop

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60 Broadway Market, Hackney
London E8 4QJ, UK

Master butcher-turned lockdown provisioner par excellence, Broadway Market’s Hill & Szrok doubles as a restaurant and wine bar, which features just one stool-high sharing table (it doubles as the butcher’s counter during the day.) When open in the evenings by candlelight, the kitchen is preparing simple, seasonal mains from prime ingredients and large joints of meat to share — 1kg of cote de boeuf for £100, for example — alongside clever sides such as confit potatoes and onions cooked in stock.

Hill and Szrok butcher and cookshop, Brodway Market, east London
Hill and Szrok butcher and cookshop, Broadway Market, east London
Michaël Protin

33. Cafe Cecilia

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32 Andrews Rd
London E8 4RL, UK

If Sessions was the most glamorous restaurant opening of 2021, then Cafe Cecilia was the hottest. And the trendiest. Since it opened in the autumn, it has maintained a steady flow of plaudits from all the coolest places — in part because of chef-owner Max Rocha’s connection to the world of fashion (he is the son of designer John and sister Simone Rocha.) However, there’s a surfeit of substance as well as style in this stark, minimalist cafe-bistro. M. Rocha and his staff belong to a new-school which is a direct descendent of the ingredients-obsessed old-school: those like the River Cafe, Rochelle Canteen, and Quo Vadis. And like peer Anna Tobias’s cooking at Cafe Deco, it is can be a bit beige, but is so often bright, clever, and deserving of the attention it has received this year. Do not miss great steak and chips with peppercorn sauce, nor fruit tart at dessert.

A chef plates a dish at Cafe Cecilia. Michaël Protin

34. Ombra

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1 Vyner St
London E2 9DG, UK

Chef Mitshel Ibrahim’s Vyner Street trattoria cannily slants mainstays of Italian cuisine to create a restaurant that feels like the London Italian that it is, rather than the Venetian bacaró that inspires it but to which it isn’t really to be compared. The canalside dining room and ample terrace awaits faithfully with Roman artichokes; pillowy gnocchi fritti anointed with mortadella; carne salada paired with shimeji mushrooms alongside Parmesan; and quality rotating pastas. The tiramisù is deservedly legendary.

Drinks al fresco on the terrace at Ombra in Hackney, late October 2020 before the second national coronavirus lockdown in England in November Michaël Protin/Eater London

35. P. Franco

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107 Lower Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton
London E5 0NP, UK

The carousel of rotating chefs at this Hackney wine bar and shop are currently responsible for some of the capital’s most arresting gourmet artistry. This is the pared-back playground for some of the world’s most innovative and movable chefs. Amazingly — given use of only three inductions hobs — over the past four years, chefs William Gleave, Tim Spedding, George Tomlin, Giuseppes Lacorazza and Belvedere, Túbo Logier, Anna Tobias, Chase Lovecky, Seb Myers, Meedu Saad, and now Jamie Smart have positioned P. Franco as one of the most exciting showcases in town. Current hob commander Smart comes from St. John and Flor, and is lending his touch to dishes like slip sole with saffron beurre blanc and ox tongue with marinda tomatoes.

The interior of Lower Clapton wine bar and restaurant P. Franco, 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

36. Singburi

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593 High Rd Leytonstone, Leytonstone
London E11 4PA, UK

Chef Sirichai Kularbwong is one of the capital’s best and most underrated cooks: inventive, such as phad thai, wok-fried morning glory with garlic and fish sauce, and fiery, acidic tom yums will are available, but look to the blackboard menu for the restaurant’s hits — and never miss the moo krob, twice-fried pork with garlic, basil, and chilli, one of the city’s most accomplished and delicious dishes. Singburi’s small and welcoming dining room has now reopened, but its takeaway, when ordered in quantity, has all the gravitas and reverence of any London splurge.

Restaurants in London are preparing to close (for dine-in customers) from tonight for at least four weeks as England goes into lockdown Signburi/Instagram

37. Kate's Cafe and Restaurant

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174 Balaam St
London E13 8RD, UK

Chef Kate Armah’s outstanding Ghanaian restaurant’s sharing platter that includes tsofi, chicken wings, kebabs, plantain, and more is a manifestation of its bountiful hospitality — at this famous east London neighbourhood institution. Other highlights include akonfem (guinea fowl), red red (fried plantain with black eye bean stew and gari foto), and any of the soups — which come served with either fufu, omo tuo, banku, kenkey, kokonte, or rice.

Takeaway boxes on top of the counter at Kate’s Cafe, one of London’s outstanding Ghanaian restaurants
Kate’s Cafe serves some of the city’s outstanding Ghanaian cuisine
Michaël Protin/Eater London

38. Thattukada

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229 High St N, East Ham
London E6 1JG, UK

East Ham is home to London’s largest Kerala community, and its greatest concentration of south Indian restaurants. The pick of them might be Thattukada, run by chef-owners Biju and Preeti Gopinath. Curries and roasts have a depth of flavour and spicing that belie their simple descriptions, and should be mopped up with crisp parottas or snow white appams. But it’s the legendary fries that are unmissable — half a chicken cut into segments then aggressively and skilfully fried with chilli and crispy onions; little netholi (anchovies) cooked and eaten whole, or battered mussels that pop thrillingly in the mouth.

Chicken fry at Thattukada in East Ham, an outstanding Kerala neighbourhood restaurant Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

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1. Normah's

Normah's 23-25 inside Queensway, Market, Bayswater, London W2 4QJ, UK
Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s in Bayswater, one of the best-value restaurants in London
Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Chef Normah Abd Hamid and her family team offer a Malaysian comfort menu that makes the restaurant one of the best in the city from a nook of a unit in Queensway Market. Sour, hot assam pedas; roti to rival London’s King in Euston; and beef rendang or nasi lemak to go alongside. One of central London’s best restaurants to visit with a small group of friends; one to take out-of-towners visiting the city.

Normah's 23-25 inside Queensway, Market, Bayswater
London W2 4QJ, UK

2. KOL

9 Seymour St, London W1H 7BA, UK
London’s biggest and best new restaurant openings of 2020 include Kol by Santiago Lastra, which serves Mexican dishes like this cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli
Cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli.
Laura L.P./HdG Photography

The eagerly anticipated London debut from Noma Mexico’s Santiago Lastra in Marylebone is a modern London restaurant with a very strong Mexican accent. And the pandemic appears to have not diminished the scope of its ambition. Kol — which means “cabbage” — seeks to recreate Mexican flavours using mainly British ingredients. Corn, chocolate, and chillies are imported, but elsewhere a highly conceptual menu sees the likes of lime replaced by fermented gooseberry; avocado leaf, which applies a sweet note to cooked beans, by the wild plant woodruff; and cactus subbed out for seaweed. Elegant, house-prepared heirloom corn tacos are unlike anything else one can taste in the city.

9 Seymour St
London W1H 7BA, UK

3. Gymkhana

42 Albemarle St, Mayfair, London W1S 4JH, UK
Muntjac biryani at Michelin-starred Gymkhana, a favourite of the fashion crowd. Gymkhana [Official Photo]

Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana is one of few London restaurants that claim to straddle the line between celebrity restaurant hype and quality cooking, in a city where the two so rarely meet. Tandoori masala lamb chops, chicken butter masala, and its trademark wild muntjac biryani remain stand-outs. The prices match the level of cooking (and the Mayfair surrounds) making the restaurant one for special occasions.

42 Albemarle St, Mayfair
London W1S 4JH, UK

4. Ikoyi Restaurant St. James's

1 St James's Market, St. James's, London SW1Y 4AH, UK
Nigerian dish mushroom suya is plated at Michelin-starred west African restaurant Ikoyi, in London
Nigerian dish mushroom suya.
Tomas Jivanda

Ikoyi, a fine-dining restaurant is a destination of genuine interest and quality in its own right. Head chef Jeremy Chan — together with business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale — looks to West Africa for inspiration but uses cooking sensibilities and techniques acquired at Noma, Hibiscus, and Dinner by Heston. Dishes such as wild Nigerian tiger prawn, with banga bisque; Jollof rice with smoked crab; and chicken efo with iru — a sauce of fermented locust beans, cassava, kale salt and preserved lemon, are unlike anything London has experienced before. Now, also deemed a two-star restaurant by the Michelin guide.

1 St James's Market, St. James's
London SW1Y 4AH, UK

5. Roti King

40 Doric Way, London, Greater London