London’s best tasting menus aren’t just the preserve of Michelin-starred restaurants majoring in dinky French ingredients, polished silverware, and service as starched as the tablecloths. That time, gratefully, has passed. Many of London’s most exciting fine dining restaurants use the tasting menu as a canvas, rather than a restrictive set of rules, integrating global influences, new ideas about what “courses” are, and using the menu as a flagship experience alongside the more familiar a la carte. From Shoreditch to Notting Hill, and Stoke Newington to St. James’s, here are London’s 10 best tasting menus.Read More
London’s Greatest Tasting Menus
Michelin-starred fine dining, impeccable sushi, and a menu that changes every week
Core by Clare Smyth
Clare Smyth, the only woman to hold three Michelin stars in Britain opened her first solo restaurant, Core, three years ago. Dishes will be familiar to Michelin-star-gazers: crab, scallop, lamb, beef short rib and a chocolate and hazelnut creméux. But there are modern touches, too, and a welcome effort to minimise waste through a “whole animal and fish” approach. The restaurant also makes attempts — familiar service and loud-ish music — to break down some of the more tedious barriers to fine dining. It earned two Michelin stars at the first time of asking, and soon snagged its third.
A restaurant named for the Michelin man was always going to double down on the tasting menu. Claude Bosi’s Bibendum earned two Michelin stars just a few months after opening, and its two tasting menus show two sides of the restaurant. There’s the signature, which covers the geometrically mesmerising duck jelly, sturgeon, and caviar; and Bosi’s signature “nosotto” dish of chopped vegetables and prawns. Or there’s the tastes of the season, which is just that. Choose your fighter.
JKS Restaurants first opening — an Indian fine-dining restaurant that applies a modern touch to India’s the coastal cuisines of western India, from Maharashtra and Goa down to Karnataka and Kerala. The Marylebone restaurant serves a six-course “Taste of Trishna” seafood menu, which includes grilled scallop with coconut and chilli; Telicherry squid and shrimp with curry leaves, Indian onion, and raw mango; tandoori prawn; and soft shell crab with green chilli, white crab, and tomato chutney. Peerless in that department.
The area around Victoria station has long been considered a culinary desert. At the vanguard of a relatively recent effort to up its game, Andrew Wong has reimagined modern Chinese cooking, and was awarded a richly deserved Michelin star in 2017. His ‘Taste of China’ tasting menu is inspired by the country’s 14 borders, with 14 servings in 13 courses covering ‘Memories of Peking Duck’; a trifecta of pork spanning char siu, jerky, and foie gras; and a Shaanxi pulled lamb burger based on rou jia mo.
Ikoyi in St James’s Market is a fine-dining restaurant and destination out on its own. 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 Blumenthal. Recently returning to serving only a blind tasting menu, dishes such as steamed marrow with lobster head miso; Jollof rice with smoked crab custard and a cull yaw kebab; and plantain caramelised in ginger and kombu, are unlike anything London has experienced before. The standout central London opening of the past few years.
Clerkenwell’s Sushi Tetsu might be the hardest reservation to secure in London. Pound-for-pound, it serves the best sushi in the city. Diners get 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), altogether experiencing one of London’s completely brilliant restaurants.
Perilla is one of London’s gems. Ben Marks and Matt Emerson’s Newington Green restaurant delivers some of London’s most confident, witty cooking, with little cues — yesterday’s bread, chip shop curry sauce, herb sorbets — speaking to a balance of comfort and invention. It’s possible to go a la carte or submit to the tasting, which might include an elegant mushroom tart, a white onion soup inside an onion, the outstanding seaweed sourdough, and more seaweed in a captivating doughnut come dessert.
The Clove Club
It’s Shoreditch, so it’s high-end but not fusty; service is low-key but impeccable. One of Britain’s most talented chefs, Isaac McHale has put in time at high-profile spots Noma and The Ledbury. Stunning, meandering tasting menus — chiefly British — with flashes of flavour from such cuisines as India and Japan are the draw in the dining room. Only one (cult) snack — pine salt fried chicken — and great cocktails are served in the bar for walk-ins, too.
Michelin-starred Lyle’s changes from lunch to dinner, but still delivers the kind of low-key excellence that confounds and then delights diners who come with preconceived expectations about tasting menus and Michelin stars. The five course tasting menu, usually bookended by snack and petits fours, changes daily, and offers genuinely exciting renditions for vegetarian and vegan diners. Even after pastry chef Anna Higham’s departure, desserts, like blackcurrant leaf ice cream with vinegar meringue, remain impeccable. A London essential.
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Lots of tasting menus change regularly. Very few tasting menus have never repeated a dish at over 1000 and counting. James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy’s Pidgin supplements four Official courses with two snacks, a pre-main that riffs on the course that follows, a pre-dessert, and petits fours, with a typically global menu hopping from sea bass with umeshu, and bottarga; to beef with kalibos and currant; to a dessert of blueberry, walnut, and coffee. Alcohol pairings are equally thoughtful.
Many great menus have a supplement: a special dish that can be added on, for a price. Sometimes it’s caviar, truffle, lobster, wagyu: the usual luxury suspects. At Joké Bakare’s Chishuru, it’s beef — bavette — dredged with aromatic, ecstatic yaji. A nod to suya, and part of one of the city’s most formidably creative set menus, coming in at £30 for lunch and £48 for dinner.
Nestled in the leafy surrounds of ultra-moneyed Belgravia is one of London’s most unusual hidden gems. “Hunan isn’t your typical Chinese restaurant,” the website reads, and ordering dinner is pretty atypical, too: simply describe dietary preferences and openness to spice and the legendary Chef Peng will take care of the rest. Also by its own admission, Hunan is something of a misnomer, given the range of regional cuisines that a typical dinner can cover in a dizzying succession of small plates — from Shanghainese xiaolong bao to Cantonese steamed sea bass via Sichuan-style dry-fried frogs legs and a signature bamboo cup soup. Given the location, the prices — for both tasting menu and wine — are a genuine bargain.
Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki’s restaurant serves a nine-course tasting menu, inflecting what is a fairly classical European progression with Korean traditions to entrancing effect. There are some more direct lines, like between tartare and yukhoe, but the most compelling are subtler additions: a daikon tarte tatin, served like a piece of art; sourdough with scorched, toasty nurungji added for texture and flavour.
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