British food: bland, boring, beige? It’s an unfortunate and unflattering stereotype that conjures up images of school-dinner stodge – soggy puddings, over-boiled veg and endless mashed potato. It’s also a stereotype that’s outdated, proved by the quickest of glances at London’s world-leading restaurant scene. Instead, think fresh produce, with seasonal (and even daily) menu changes. Think revitalised traditional fare alongside cutting-edge culinary expertise from world-renowned chefs.
Itching to experience the best British fare for yourself? Here are our local insiders’ best British restaurant picks, complete with some of the reasons why they’re so special. All that’s left for you to do is make that booking.
Restaurant, British, $$$
Founded in 1798 and still based in its original Covent Garden premises, Rules is the oldest restaurant in London. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more traditional British menu of pies, puddings and roast game – embracing the nation’s cuisine at its finest. Expect time-tested classics like steak and kidney pie, roast haunch of venison and sticky toffee pudding to feature, served in hazily lit surroundings of regal reds and homely browns. It’s traditional without being dated, old-school without being stuffy and simply glorious on a cold winter’s day when you’re craving nothing more than warmth and comfort.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Restaurant, British, Australian, Fusion
Heston Blumenthal, of course, needs no introduction. His two-Michelin-star Knightsbridge restaurant offers enticing dining to those in the capital, with a fascinating historical twist. Expect a menu packed with innovative takes on historical British dishes, some of which date back to the 13th century – the approximate dates of the dishes are included on the menu, which is a pleasant touch. The Meatfruit – a chicken liver mousse disguised as a mandarin – is iconic on the London food scene and well worth trying while you’re there. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee
Restaurant, British, $$
Acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell heads up the produce-driven, zero-waste Spring, based in Somerset House’s elegant conservatory and drawing room. You’ll find the slow food philosophy that first earned her a Michelin star weaved through seasonal dishes, elevating the fresh, British produce at its heart. The £25 pre-theatre scratch menu is a great way to experience this restaurant on a budget. Each day, the kitchen team creates an original set menu to use up food that would otherwise go to waste, so you can experience top-quality British fare while doing your bit for the environment. Recommended by local insiders Josh Lee and Alyson Parkes
Restaurant, British, $$$
Feeling glamorous? Fitzrovia’s Berners Tavern, overseen by Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton, can certainly provide in this department. Grand chandeliers, walls adorned with paintings and perhaps a famous face or two to greet you as you walk into the atmospherically lit dining room. You’re there to eat, but also to see and be seen. Menu-wise, Berners Tavern offers British classics done beautifully – favourites such as roasted lemon sole, slow-cooked Herdwick lamb and even fish and chips all feature, alongside a selection of intensely flavoursome, grass-fed Scottish steaks.
Restaurant, European, Contemporary, $$
Escape the hordes of London tourists at Fitzrovia’s Clipstone which offers very exciting food in very under-the-radar surroundings. Think basic white tiling and those slightly uncomfortable chairs you had to sit on at school assemblies. It’s this no-frills approach, plus a rotating menu of fresh, modern British fare, that makes Clipstone so appealing. It’s all about the food here – if you’re looking for innovative cooking without the gimmicks, this is the place for you. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee
Hotel Restaurant, Seafood
It’s hard not to fall in love with Neptune at Bloomsbury’s Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel – both for the menu and its stunning interiors. The architect, Charles Fitzroy Doll, also designed the dining room on the Titanic, and the two are said to be near copies of each other. Add a touch of class to your evening out with oysters and cocktails – a firm favourite here – and be sure not to miss Neptune’s half-price oyster happy hour between 6pm and 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Alternatively, why not dive further into the tantalising seafood-oriented menu in surroundings like no other. Recommended by local insider Olivia Dicker
Restaurant, British, $$
Imagine the hardback-book-thick steak of your dreams, sourced from the finest British grass-fed cattle and cooked to perfection. Hawksmoor makes that dream a reality. Originally based in Spitalfields, it’s expanded into a small chain and it’s easy to see where this success comes from when you read one rapturous review after the other declaring its offering to be “the best steak I’ve ever eaten”. Alongside its regular steaks, Hawksmoor offers sharing menus and beautifully prepared surf-and-turf options. If there was a heaven for steak lovers, this would be it.
St John Bread and Wine
Restaurant, British, $
St John Bread and Wine has been a favourite for British foodies since it opened in Spitalfields in 2003. The restaurant offers fresh menus every day and has a strong nose-to-tail dining ethic. A word to the wise: you really have to try the bone marrow and parsley salad, if possible. The decor is refreshingly simple. You’ll see office workers, tourists, couples, solo diners and trendy London foodies enjoying the atmosphere together here, creating a relaxed and inclusive environment that’s all about celebrating the best of British produce. Recommended by local insiders Josh Lee and Olivia Dicker
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