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Squid with chilli and lemon at The River Cafe, one of London’s best waterside Italian restaurants
Grilled squid with chilli at the River Cafe — a true classic
Ola Smit/Eater London

20 Classic London Restaurants

Restaurants that represent a diverse, eclectic, storied city

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Grilled squid with chilli at the River Cafe — a true classic
| Ola Smit/Eater London

Much like ‘essential’ and ‘hottest’, ‘classic’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘best.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean oldest, either: while some of these are ancient institutions and others have opened within the last decade, they share a certain permanence, whether that permanence is mostly keenly felt in the cuisine, the room, or the community that the restaurant serves. Classic restaurants endure London’s neophyte tendencies and many trends, just as much as they might define and guide them, but they offer something much more. The ‘best’ they represent is what makes London classic: the city in all its diverse, hospitable, eclectic glory.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Rita's Chilli Chaat Corner

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112-114 The Broadway
Southall UB1 1QF, UK
020 8571 2100

A community largely made up of British Asians identifying as Sikhs of Punjabi descent, new communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia have added to the vibrancy of Southall and its restaurants. One of the oldest is Rita’s, open since 1968: dahi puri, chole bhatura, saag and makki ki roti, and Amritsari kulcha unite diverse communities in their excellence.

Harkaran Gill

2. Jin Go Gae Restaurant

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272 Burlington Rd
New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

New Malden’s sleepy suburban high street is home to a huge Korean community, and it is the neighbourhood in the capital to enjoy the country’s cuisine. There are many excellent restaurants in the area, but Jin Go Gae is always packed, and with good reason. It’s rightly famed for its charcoal barbecue, but its or gejang — a dish of crab marinated in the Korean chilli sauce gochugang is almost supernaturally delicious, the raw crab itself redolent of sea urchin. Jin Go Gae also offers the biggest portions of banchan, which seems apt as the proverb on the blackboard outside the restaurant says “The belly rules the mind.” 11 years strong.

3. The River Café

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Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, Hammersmith
London W6 9HA, UK

St John writ Italiano. This riverside perch’s alumni roster reads like the Harlem Globetrotters of food: Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, April Bloomfield, Sam Clark, and Anna Tobias all passed through a kitchen with an unshakable — at times, unsustainable — commitment to the best ingredients available at a given time. Not easy on the wallet, it’s a special occasion restaurant at most for many, but its consistent excellence deserves serious praise.

4. Chez Bruce

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2 Bellevue Rd
London SW17 7EG, UK

Bruce Poole and Nigel Platts-Martin’s restaurant on Wandsworth Common opened in 1995, and head chef Matt Christmas has been there from the beginning cooking elegant, unashamedly French-Mediterranean plates with little concession to modern techniques or gadgetry. A long à la carte menu promises sweetbreads and scallops, turbot and barbary duck, accessorised with all manner of pitch-perfect sauces and reductions without going overboard.

5. Spice Village Tooting

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32 Upper Tooting Rd
London SW17 7PD, UK

A huge place, beloved of locals (including London Mayor and former MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan), and popular with families, with a North Indian and Pakistani menu reflective of the Tooting community that it has served for over 10 years. No alcohol at all here.

Spice Village [Official Photo]

6. Royal China Club

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

London’s dim sum has gone through a few iterations: Chinatown stalwarts, A. Wong’s gentle shift, some goldfish largely forgotten. Royal China Club takes the best of all three and produces dim sum of impeccable quality in a place of generous sophistication. One of the most graceful lunches in the city.

Dim sum at Royal China Club, a classic London restaurant Royal China Club [Official Photo]

7. The Ritz London

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150 Piccadilly, St. James's
London W1J 9BR, UK

Executive chef John Williams has reinvigorated one of London’s most storied hotels in the past 15 years, culminating in a Michelin star in 2017. It’s splurgy and extravagant and always will be, but in a city with a great many fine dining let downs, this is a more reliable pice of luxury.

8. The Wolseley

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160 Piccadilly, St. James's
London W1J 9EB, UK

In 2003, restaurateur royales Corbin and King were steering The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey when they opened this homage to Europe’s “grand cafés”. 15 years on, the former trio are in the care of Caring while The Wolseley stands steadfast. Its breakfast is its most formidable offering, with a peerless omelette Arnold Bennett. It feels like it’s been in London forever.

The Wolseley, on Piccadilly

9. Veeraswamy

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Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair
London W1B 4RS, UK

A couple of years over 90 and holding a Michelin star since 2016, Veeraswamy is steadfast against a the new vanguard of high-end Indian cooking. This is its third incarnation — only since the Panjabi sisters (Camellia and Namita) took over in 1997 has it focussed on India’s regional culinary diversity, as well as renewing the hallowed interiors.

10. Brasserie Zédel

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20 Sherwood St, Soho
London W1F 7ED, UK

Marbles and velvets and Covent Garden, a prix fixe menu at under a tenner and a truly cavernous dining room: an unlikely mix. What ties everything together are French classics, treated respectfully and executed to a tee: steak is three steps beyond reliable and the ile flottante could be buoyed by its reputation, nevermind an indecent, praline-flecked crème anglaise.

11. Roti King

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40 Doric Way
London NW1 1LH, UK

Less a destination than a necessary quarterly, monthly or — for a Euston local — weekly check in, this unassuming restaurant on Doric Way offers two unsurpassable roti canai, best served with curry dahl, for under a fiver. Its citywide reputation has not dampened its community essentialism, serving residents and workers day-in, day-out.

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

12. Ciao Bella

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86-90 Lamb's Conduit St, Bloomsbury
London WC1N 3LZ, UK

Open since 1983, it was in 1999 that Felice Pollano took over this Bloomsbury doyenne, and nineteen intervening years have failed to dull the implacable buzz that takes over night after night. It might lack the studiousness of Brawn and the sexiness of Locatelli, but Ciao Bella is a real deal, gargantuan pepper mill of a restaurant. It’s worth noting that it is on both Fay Maschler and Marina O’Loughlin’s favourite 50 restaurant lists.

13. The Eagle

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159 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon
London EC1R 3AL, UK

The gastropub that launched a thousand gastropubs. The Eagle has been open for 28 years, and its stewardship under Trish Hilferty — who later went on to establish fellow gastropubs par excellence the Anchor and Hope and Canton Arms — still comes through in fat sausages with lentils, an unimpeachable steak sandwich, and chalked up blackboard menus that speak to its history.

Classic London restaurants: The Eagle in Farringdon The Eagle [Official Photo]

14. Moro

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34-36 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 4QE, UK

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Moro on Exmouth market — the restaurant by River Cafe alumni Sam and Samantha Clark. Their focus has always been on ingredients, presented through menus that travel, not just through Italy, but more broadly across southern Europe, North Africa and often leaning toward the Middle East. The Malaga raisin ice cream with Pedro Ximenez is still one of the city’s best desserts.

green soup at Moro, a classic London restaurant

15. St. John

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St John Restaurant, 26 St John St
London EC1M 4AY, UK

Much has been written about how Fergus Henderson and his protégés have transformed British food, with a sphere of influence that extends around the globe. Less explored, perhaps, is how diversely disciples of this white-walled church have taken its DNA and made their own modifications: Lyle’s’ deferent minimalism plays Black Axe Mangal’s swashbuckling maximalism. This is perhaps what makes St John truly classic: the pursuit of sheer pleasure allied with the humility of restraint like nowhere else in London, if not the world. Also: red wine, snails, trotters, bone marrow, and terrine. It’s pretty French.

Pate and cornichons at St. John, a classic London restaurant Eater London

16. Silk Road

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49 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell
London SE5 8TR, UK
020 7703 4832

Xinjiang cuisine is on offer in this Camberwell restaurant run by two Han Chinese. Not fully-fledged Uyghur cuisine but a reflection of the intersection of Han and Xinjiang traditions and the region’s sheer size: Xinjiang occupies about a sixth of China’s territory and borders eight countries (including Mongolia, Tajikistan, and India). Big or middle plate chicken and shish kebabs with Xinjiang inflections are fine orders.

17. 40 Maltby St

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40 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK

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 one of the city’s most underrated cooks — cited by chefs James Lowe, Brett Graham and Florence Knight in their top five in the city. Raef Hodgson, of Gergovie Wines — largely natural styles — runs what is essentially a wine bar without hubris.

Broad beans and toast, little gem lettuce and asparagus at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey, the modern British restaurant 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

18. Mangal 2 Restaurant

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4 Stoke Newington Rd
London N16 8BH, UK

Mangal 2 is famous. For one, it prepares excellent, no-nonsense Turkish food from an historic ocakbaşı — grilled chicken, lamb, and quail kebabs, pickled chillies and a classic grilled onion, sumac and pomegranate molasses salad. Two — there’s the general manager and former author of London’s most unorthodox restaurant twitter handle. And three, Gilbert and George reportedly eat here every night. Perhaps because it’s classic, delicious, reliable, and fun.

Ocakbasi and mezze at Mangal 2, the Turkish restaurant in Dalston that 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

19. Tayyabs

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83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel
London E1 1JU, UK

A pillar of Punjabi cuisine and community in the city since 1972, Tayyabs is permanently heaving, permanently raucous, and permanently demanding of two essential orders: the charry, muscular lamb chops and what is possibly London’s best mango lassi.

Lamb chops at Tayyabs, a classic London restaurant Tayyabs/Facebook

20. E Pellicci

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332 Bethnal Green Rd
London E2 0AG, UK

E Pellicci is an East End icon; established in 1900, it remains in the same family today, and feels largely unchanged, too. Now Grade-II listed, with ornate timber panelling and Art Deco features Pellicci’s is the caff resplendent. Maria Pellicci has been matriarch since 1966, and still runs the kitchen today, while her younger generations run the front of house. A full English is still £5.50 — quite a feat these days — and the more devoted can level up with classic additions like liver, black pudding, bubble ‘n’ squeak or hand cut chips. With a devoted regular clientele, Pellicci’s is a real community institution, and well worth a visit

E Pelicci is one of London’s classic restaurants Instagram — nicksolares

1. Rita's Chilli Chaat Corner

112-114 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1QF, UK
Harkaran Gill

A community largely made up of British Asians identifying as Sikhs of Punjabi descent, new communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia have added to the vibrancy of Southall and its restaurants. One of the oldest is Rita’s, open since 1968: dahi puri, chole bhatura, saag and makki ki roti, and Amritsari kulcha unite diverse communities in their excellence.

112-114 The Broadway
Southall UB1 1QF, UK

2. Jin Go Gae Restaurant

272 Burlington Rd, New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

New Malden’s sleepy suburban high street is home to a huge Korean community, and it is the neighbourhood in the capital to enjoy the country’s cuisine. There are many excellent restaurants in the area, but Jin Go Gae is always packed, and with good reason. It’s rightly famed for its charcoal barbecue, but its or gejang — a dish of crab marinated in the Korean chilli sauce gochugang is almost supernaturally delicious, the raw crab itself redolent of sea urchin. Jin Go Gae also offers the biggest portions of banchan, which seems apt as the proverb on the blackboard outside the restaurant says “The belly rules the mind.” 11 years strong.

272 Burlington Rd
New Malden KT3 4NL, UK

3. The River Café

Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA, UK

St John writ Italiano. This riverside perch’s alumni roster reads like the Harlem Globetrotters of food: Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, April Bloomfield, Sam Clark, and Anna Tobias all passed through a kitchen with an unshakable — at times, unsustainable — commitment to the best ingredients available at a given time. Not easy on the wallet, it’s a special occasion restaurant at most for many, but its consistent excellence deserves serious praise.

Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, Hammersmith
London W6 9HA, UK

4. Chez Bruce

2 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EG, UK

Bruce Poole and Nigel Platts-Martin’s restaurant on Wandsworth Common opened in 1995, and head chef Matt Christmas has been there from the beginning cooking elegant, unashamedly French-Mediterranean plates with little concession to modern techniques or gadgetry. A long à la carte menu promises sweetbreads and scallops, turbot and barbary duck, accessorised with all manner of pitch-perfect sauces and reductions without going overboard.

2 Bellevue Rd
London SW17 7EG, UK

5. Spice Village Tooting

32 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 7PD, UK
Spice Village [Official Photo]

A huge place, beloved of locals (including London Mayor and former MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan), and popular with families, with a North Indian and Pakistani menu reflective of the Tooting community that it has served for over 10 years. No alcohol at all here.

32 Upper Tooting Rd
London SW17 7PD, UK

6. Royal China Club

40-42 Baker St, Marylebone, London W1U 7AJ, UK
Dim sum at Royal China Club, a classic London restaurant Royal China Club [Official Photo]

London’s dim sum has gone through a few iterations: Chinatown stalwarts, A. Wong’s gentle shift, some goldfish largely forgotten. Royal China Club takes the best of all three and produces dim sum of impeccable quality in a place of generous sophistication. One of the most graceful lunches in the city.

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

7. The Ritz London

150 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9BR, UK

Executive chef John Williams has reinvigorated one of London’s most storied hotels in the past 15 years, culminating in a Michelin star in 2017. It’s splurgy and extravagant and always will be, but in a city with a great many fine dining let downs, this is a more reliable pice of luxury.

150 Piccadilly, St. James's
London W1J 9BR, UK

8. The Wolseley

160 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9EB, UK
The Wolseley, on Piccadilly

In 2003, restaurateur royales Corbin and King were steering The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey when they opened this homage to Europe’s “grand cafés”. 15 years on, the former trio are in the care of Caring while The Wolseley stands steadfast. Its breakfast is its most formidable offering, with a peerless omelette Arnold Bennett. It feels like it’s been in London forever.

160 Piccadilly, St. James's
London W1J 9EB, UK

9. Veeraswamy

Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair, London W1B 4RS, UK

A couple of years over 90 and holding a Michelin star since 2016, Veeraswamy is steadfast against a the new vanguard of high-end Indian cooking. This is its third incarnation — only since the Panjabi sisters (Camellia and Namita) took over in 1997 has it focussed on India’s regional culinary diversity, as well as renewing the hallowed interiors.

Victory House, 99-101 Regent St, Mayfair
London W1B 4RS, UK

10. Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood St, Soho, London W1F 7ED, UK

Marbles and velvets and Covent Garden, a prix fixe menu at under a tenner and a truly cavernous dining room: an unlikely mix. What ties everything together are French classics, treated respectfully and executed to a tee: steak is three steps beyond reliable and the ile flottante could be buoyed by its reputation, nevermind an indecent, praline-flecked crème anglaise.

20 Sherwood St, Soho
London W1F 7ED, UK

11. Roti King

40 Doric Way, London NW1 1LH, UK
roti canai and daal at Roti King, a classic London restaurant Ola Smit

Less a destination than a necessary quarterly, monthly or — for a Euston local — weekly check in, this unassuming restaurant on Doric Way offers two unsurpassable roti canai, best served with curry dahl, for under a fiver. Its citywide reputation has not dampened its community essentialism, serving residents and workers day-in, day-out.

40 Doric Way
London NW1 1LH, UK

12. Ciao Bella

86-90 Lamb's Conduit St, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ, UK

Open since 1983, it was in 1999 that Felice Pollano took over this Bloomsbury doyenne, and nineteen intervening years have failed to dull the implacable buzz that takes over night after night. It might lack the studiousness of Brawn and the sexiness of Locatelli, but Ciao Bella is a real deal, gargantuan pepper mill of a restaurant. It’s worth noting that it is on both Fay Maschler and Marina O’Loughlin’s favourite 50 restaurant lists.

86-90 Lamb's Conduit St, Bloomsbury
London WC1N 3LZ, UK

13. The Eagle

159 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 3AL, UK
Classic London restaurants: The Eagle in Farringdon The Eagle [Official Photo]

The gastropub that launched a thousand gastropubs. The Eagle has been open for 28 years, and its stewardship under Trish Hilferty — who later went on to establish fellow gastropubs par excellence the Anchor and Hope and Canton Arms — still comes through in fat sausages with lentils, an unimpeachable steak sandwich, and chalked up blackboard menus that speak to its history.

159 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon
London EC1R 3AL, UK

14. Moro

34-36 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QE, UK
green soup at Moro, a classic London restaurant

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Moro on Exmouth market — the restaurant by River Cafe alumni Sam and Samantha Clark. Their focus has always been on ingredients, presented through menus that travel, not just through Italy, but more broadly across southern Europe, North Africa and often leaning toward the Middle East. The Malaga raisin ice cream with Pedro Ximenez is still one of the city’s best desserts.

34-36 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell
London EC1R 4QE, UK

15. St. John

St John Restaurant, 26 St John St, London EC1M 4AY, UK
Pate and cornichons at St. John, a classic London restaurant Eater London

Much has been written about how Fergus Henderson and his protégés have transformed British food, with a sphere of influence that extends around the globe. Less explored, perhaps, is how diversely disciples of this white-walled church have taken its DNA and made their own modifications: Lyle’s’ deferent minimalism plays Black Axe Mangal’s swashbuckling maximalism. This is perhaps what makes St John truly classic: the pursuit of sheer pleasure allied with the humility of restraint like nowhere else in London, if not the world. Also: red wine, snails, trotters, bone marrow, and terrine. It’s pretty French.

St John Restaurant, 26 St John St
London EC1M 4AY, UK

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16. Silk Road

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

Xinjiang cuisine is on offer in this Camberwell restaurant run by two Han Chinese. Not fully-fledged Uyghur cuisine but a reflection of the intersection of Han and Xinjiang traditions and the region’s sheer size: Xinjiang occupies about a sixth of China’s territory and borders eight countries (including Mongolia, Tajikistan, and India). Big or middle plate chicken and shish kebabs with Xinjiang inflections are fine orders.

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

17. 40 Maltby St

40 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, UK
Broad beans and toast, little gem lettuce and asparagus at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey, the modern British restaurant 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

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 one of the city’s most underrated cooks — cited by chefs James Lowe, Brett Graham and Florence Knight in their top five in the city. Raef Hodgson, of Gergovie Wines — largely natural styles — runs what is essentially a wine bar without hubris.

40 Maltby St
London SE1 3PA, UK

18. Mangal 2 Restaurant

4 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 8BH, UK
Ocakbasi and mezze at Mangal 2, the Turkish restaurant in Dalston that 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

Mangal 2 is famous. For one, it prepares excellent, no-nonsense Turkish food from an historic ocakbaşı — grilled chicken, lamb, and quail kebabs, pickled chillies and a classic grilled onion, sumac and pomegranate molasses salad. Two — there’s the general manager and former author of London’s most unorthodox restaurant twitter handle. And three, Gilbert and George reportedly eat here every night. Perhaps because it’s classic, delicious, reliable, and fun.

4 Stoke Newington Rd
London N16 8BH, UK

19. Tayyabs

83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU, UK
Lamb chops at Tayyabs, a classic London restaurant Tayyabs/Facebook

A pillar of Punjabi cuisine and community in the city since 1972, Tayyabs is permanently heaving, permanently raucous, and permanently demanding of two essential orders: the charry, muscular lamb chops and what is possibly London’s best mango lassi.

83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel
London E1 1JU, UK

20. E Pellicci

332 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 0AG, UK
E Pelicci is one of London’s classic restaurants Instagram — nicksolares

E Pellicci is an East End icon; established in 1900, it remains in the same family today, and feels largely unchanged, too. Now Grade-II listed, with ornate timber panelling and Art Deco features Pellicci’s is the caff resplendent. Maria Pellicci has been matriarch since 1966, and still runs the kitchen today, while her younger generations run the front of house. A full English is still £5.50 — quite a feat these days — and the more devoted can level up with classic additions like liver, black pudding, bubble ‘n’ squeak or hand cut chips. With a devoted regular clientele, Pellicci’s is a real community institution, and well worth a visit

332 Bethnal Green Rd
London E2 0AG, UK

Related Maps