The silent and crumbling Palace of Westminster — home to the Houses of Parliament — looms large over SW1. In this pocket of London, the restaurant scene is reflective of the discourse it carries: there are no small plates and few small prices in Westminster. Rather, majestic buildings with menus to savour — honed and intelligent — or to absolutely avoid. There are charming curries in stunning surroundings, a famous greasy spoon with the crispiest of hash browns, and a timeless institution serving up some of the capital’s best pies, puddings and fine wines.Read More
The Best Places to Eat in Westminster
From a table inside the House of Lords to arguably the city’s most iconic greasy spoon
1. Roux at Parliament Square
Much like its Westminster neighbour, Roux at Parliament Square curries favour with society’s well-heeled decision-makers. In the restaurant, there’s little to surprise those accustomed to fine dining. Starters of celeriac with goats’ cheese and truffle might precede halibut with cauliflower or venison and savoy cabbage; this, of course, after a snack of mushroom crisps on upon sitting down and ordering Chablis. The likes of dashi and consomme are poured tableside, naturally. It’s classic, and fairly grand formula certainly catering to its environs. Despite the name, no Roux chef has shouted at the pass here for years. Instead, it is Steve Groves, who in 2009 won MasterChef: The Professionals, who is tasked with maintaining the three AA Rosette-standards.
2. Peer’s Dining Room
London SW1A 0PW, UK
Unless chummy with Lord Puttnam, or Baroness Young of Old Scone, The Peers’ Dining Room at the House of Lords is off limits for much of the year. During quiet times and for limited periods, however, its old doors are opened to the public. The dining room is red and gold, with white linen tablecloths perfectly ironed, where attentive waiters know who everyone is before anyone has said a word. The food is classic, with an earnest the nod to regionality. In 2017, such dishes as Lincolnshire parsnip velouté preceded Cornish John Dory with black garlic puree, celeriac, and seaweed gel; scallops with smoked avocado scallop ceviche, oyster jelly, sea vegetables, and pickled melon, was a complex pretext to Herefordshire beef with dripping potatoes and salt baked turnip. Three courses usually costs about £45 and the wine list is formidable and less expensive than supposed. These lords know what’s what (although they normally eat at Shepherd’s.)
Quilon has consistently held its Michelin star since 2008, its food a characterful synthesis of Goan and Keralan cuisines. Billed for a time as London’s best Indian restaurant — a title some would argue it has since lost to the likes of Gymkhana or newcomer Indian Accent — Quilon remains a wonderful restaurant, and its sub-£30 set lunch menu is still one of the best in the city.
4. The Rubens at the Palace
With a history to rival the ‘modern’ Palace of Westminster, The Rubens dates back to 1700. Since 1997, a number of flash restaurants and bars have been an integral part of the four-star hotel. In the English Grill, a room of opulence and Ruinart Rose, a lobster Arnold Bennett is an £18 undertaking; a Kobe beef fillet is £60. The Cavalry Bar is an altogether more relaxed affair, with a focus on drinking, though stone-baked pizzas, variously topped with chicken and chorizo, prawn and chilli, or goats’ cheese and red onion may help combat any potentially sedative brandy drinking. The Curry Room, meanwhile, has one of the simplest and shortest displays in London: a £35 set menu begins with a starter of poppadoms, samosas and chutneys, mains include butter chicken and beef vindaloo, and dessert might be kulfi or trifle — a true colonial relic.
5. The Cinnamon Club
London SW1P 3BU, UK
The Cinnamon Club is surely for a particular set of suited Parliamentary visitors, where sitting down to a £95 set menu of contemporary, lavish Indian cuisine garlanded in saffron and gold leaf is simply part of daily life. The restaurant is an institution and the setting — a Grade II-listed library, somewhere near Westminster Abbey in dark streets where wobbly deals are done — is impressive. The food offers enough invention so as to be interesting (think galouti kebab mille feuille), while ticking necessary boxes. While dishes such as curried lobster bisque and lamb rogan josh are strenuous on the bank balance, the £6.50 filled naans — cheesy tandoori chicken or devilled lamb mince — are less so, though do necessitate sitting in the bar.
6. Strutton Ground Market
London SW1P 2HY, UK
Strutton Ground, one of London’s more unassuming lunchtime markets, connects Victoria Street with Horseferry Road on weekdays. It provides cheaper lunch alternatives to the droves of office workers in the area, with stalls serving everything from falafel wraps (from just £3.50) to Pakistani kebabs between 10am and 4pm. As well as tasty paellas and hangover-curing burgers, one of the more popular these days is Savage Salads; a nourishing box of salad leaves, pulses and grains amongst which charred halloumi, grilled steak, or lemon and herb marinated chicken might find a home. A healthy scoop of hummus and warm pitta will keep even the most rambling of tourists going until dinner.
7. Ma La Sichuan
Ma La is one of London’s lesser talked about Chinese restaurants, and focuses its resources on one region: Sichuan province, home to the spicy, fragrant dishes of the country’s south west. The menu, long and ranging, includes cold starters of pig’s ear in Sichuan oil and whelks in chilli sauce, a sea bass main served ‘drifting and fragrant’, and dumplings — folded crescent moons doused in heat — that are perhaps a little more like the momos of Nepal than the delicate dim sum of Hong Kong. The accessible £9.50 set lunch menu, which includes a soup of the day, ‘silken’ spring rolls, and an impressive main course such as dan dan mian (wheat noodles with minced pork and vegetables in broth) is the ideal introduction.
8. Regency Cafe
London SW1P 4BY, UK
Arguably Westminster’s most famous restaurant is an Art Deco greasy spoon known for its £5.50 set breakfast, its inclusion in films such as Layer Cake and Brighton Rock. Regency Cafe, opened by Antonio Perotti and Gino Schiavetta in 1946, is iconic; queues formed long before they became synonymous with London’s dining scene. Today, the clientele might be often bougie — how many other pools of baked beans get so many flat-lay shots on Instagram? — but the food remains true to form: black pudding and golden hash browns, bacon rolls made with soft white baps, messy omelettes to anger the French. The formica tables are lined with classic pepper pots, the walls adorned with history.