Another week, another spectacular new London restaurant. Restaurant design gets more extravagant, ambitious, and expensive by the year. But how many of the city’s latest squeezes will look the same in 10 years, 20 years, even 100 years? Which, if any, will have the historical or architectural interest to make it on the National Heritage List? The roster of listed eating places in London includes everything from the grand hotels to ornate department stores, local boozers ,and greasy spoons. How lucky London is to be able to not just gawp at them but explore them, enjoy them, and actually use them. Below are 10 that have stood the test of time.Read More
Eat History at These Listed London Restaurants
They’re not just for architecture buffs
1. L. Manze
London E17 7LD, UK
This Walthamstow pie shop, opened by Luigi Manze in 1929, was Grade II-listed in 2013 for its “exceptionally complete interior.” It is indeed a “typical and attractive example” with its tiled counter, pressed tin ceiling, and terrazzo floor. Open seven days a week, it sells traditional pies, mash and liquor, just as since the 1920s.
2. The Royal Oak, Bethnal Green
There are many listed boozers in London to choose from but the wood-panelled, Vitrolite-bedecked Royal Oak, as seen in The Krays, stands out as both a fine example of an inter-war public house and of an early 21st century gastropub. Head upstairs to see its swankier side (think bavette steak or whole plaice with caper butter) or enjoy the hurly-burly of the horseshoe bar with a pint and a fish finger sandwich. Est. 1923.
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3. E Pellicci
It’s not just the Vitrolite panels, the Art Deco-style marquetry and Formica counter that should be listed at this classic east end caff (founded in 1900, done up in 1946) but the entire cast of characters that frequents it, from Pellicci siblings Anna and Nev to cousin Tony, matriarch Maria and a host of regulars and local soapstars. Solid picks include the full English, lasagne and anything involving chips.
4. The Quality Chop House
The Quality Chop House’s Historic England listing has this timber-panelled treasure as a ‘probably unique example of early C20 working class restaurant, surviving complete with all fittings of high quality’. Now under the careful custodianship of Will Lander and Daniel Morgenthau (Portland), this place still has the original Victorian oak benches, as punishing to sit on as they ever were. Given enough of chef Shaun Searley’s confit potatoes, however, the body will over time form its own natural padding.
5. Pizza Express
For a slice of history, head to this handsome Victorian former dairy in Bloomsbury, where Peter Boizot opened his second restaurant in 1967. It may not have the blue plaque of his 1965 Wardour Street debut but, as keen students of the ailing chain will know, it was the first to feature the now distinctive Pizza Express “look” by Italian designer Enzo Apicella. Note the chequerwork marble floor, stained glass and exterior brick cartouches. Order classically here: Fiorentina, Veneziana, La Reine.
6. Mercato Mayfair
This early 19th century Grade I-listed church, after a painstaking restoration and refit, now hosts nine traders, a grocery store, wine cellar and cocktail bar underneath its Romanesque roof. Pop in for gelato at Badiani, pide at Lala or bao buns at Steamy & Co. Cocktails are served at the altar, where the deconsecration process appears to be ongoing.
London’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1798, quickly established a name for itself as a safe place for “rakes, dandies and superior intelligences.” It’s little changed to this day, only now there are food critics and tourists in the mix too. Take the scenic route to the table (i.e via the bar, where legendary bartender Brian Silva mixes the Martinis) then settle in for jugged hare or suet pudding in the cosseting surrounds of this swirly-carpeted time warp.
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8. Serpentine Bar & Kitchen
Superfans of design-led property portal The Modern House will be rubbing their Comme-clad thighs at the sight of modernist architect Patrick Gwynne’s 1964 building The Dell, now Benugo’s Serpentine Bar & Kitchen. Perched by the lake, far enough from Winter Wonderland not to be able to hear ‘Santa Baby’ on repeat, the curvy concrete pavilion boasts a Brescia Violetta marble floor, chunky terrazzo seating, windows for days. The best seats are at the “trapezoid-shaped tables angled to the zig-zag form of the building.”
There’s a trove of period details inside this late 19th century grocer’s shop, once a link in the David Greig grocery chain founded in 1870, a year after its great rival Sainsbury’s. The thistle motif on the glazed ceramic tiles and frieze inspired Le Chardon (“the thistle”) French bistro that stood here for nearly two decades before Tart’s Jason Smith and Adam Harrison took over the site in 2017. It now does Volcano Coffee and a nice line in soups, salads and, obviously, tarts.