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Amaya
Motocomb Street
If Benares is Indian fusion, then this is Indian at its finest.  After more than a dozen trips to Amaya, I can find nothing wrong. The food is excellent, though still not your local curry’s type of fare, and the chic/casual ambience created by the open kitchen, split level dining room and dark wood floors makes you feel more at home than you might in other Michelin starred restaurants. The service is friendly and flawless – I have literally been the very last table there on two different occasions and they just kept offering to serve us rather than rushing us to finish – and the prices not too hefty for what you get in return. Meg Via

Bellamy's of Bruton Place
I’ve read some unkind reviews of this restaurant, just off Berkeley Square down a pretty mews in Mayfair, but they are never about the food. They are always about “not seeing what the fuss is about,” or “being treated with indifference, “ but they miss the point: the kind of people who come here want to be at least somewhat ignored, but in a very exclusionary sort of way. This place is the now the home of three former Annabelle’s stalwarts and as such some of their devotees have followed, along with the same sort of people that private club draws.

No one is going to interfere in your evening; no one at the next table is going to try to strike up a chat; the wait staff will be professional and courteous, but will not strike up presumptuously friendly conversation. You are there to enjoy a meal, presumably, at a table shared by the people with whom you’ve chosen to dine. Not with the restaurant at large. The interior, to me, is perfect and if Hush is my comfort food then Bellamy’s is my Friday night special. I start with a house salad, which is devine, but only to make up for my over-indulgence in foie gras, of which they have plenty. I have tried most everything on offer and I have never had a complaint. The food is reliable, upper middle British fare and it does not fail to satisfy. Meg Via

Benares
Berkeley Square
I was not the least bit surprised when Bernares received its Michelin star rating, having been a devotee from early on, to the point that even on one night trips through London I would order take-away (a somewhat different menu) and walk over from my hotel to collect it. The food, you need to be aware, is Indian FUSION and thus not anything akin to your local curry house. At my local I order palak paneer, whereas at Benares I might end up with a stack of rectangular, square cut ghee, wilted spinach, peppers and spices. The service and ambience are phenomenal and the menu seems to always contain a surprise. The main dining room can be a bit overwhelming if you are in the mood for a quiet meal to just enjoy the food, hence we often ask for one of the darker booths adjacent to the bar. Meg Via

Bluebird
King's Road
The Bluebird has evolved through many incarnations over the years, and I seem to have been there for them all.  The last time I went, we chose to eat in the Café and Forecourt, foregoing the upstairs dining room in favor of something more casual, and it did not disappoint. We decided to share a large Rocket salad, which they made for us obligingly, and then to similarly request a hybrid of the Bluebird Platter and Charcuterie Platter so that we could enjoy the best of meat and hummus, olives and peppers.  I would recommend this for anyone at the end of a long day’s shop on the King’s Road, or perhaps even as the EXCUSE for a long walk down the King’s Road! Meg Via

China Tang
The Dorchester
Having stayed at the Dorchester regularly for a couple of years, I had spent a lot of time sitting at the bar watching fashion types come and go out of China Tang. On a recent trip, my business partner decided that we should see what all the fuss is about. Less than 40 minutes after we descended the steps into the restaurant, we were leaving. Getting a drink at the bar was impossible; once we did, it was so packed we could not enjoy it. Once at our table, we sat for almost 20 minutes without anyone noticing us. It’s definitely for people who wish to see and be seen rather than people who actually enjoy a substantively well-prepared meal. Never again. Meg Via

Ciprianai
Mayfair
The boys at Claridges booked it for me, even though they know me well enough to know that I loathe pretense. And as soon as I sat down, I wondered if they had, perhaps, been having a laugh. The food is good – don’t get me wrong – but the prices are exorbitant, the atmosphere too bright, the crowd too flash. If you want to walk past photographers on the way in and out, and have a hope of seeing someone famous, whilst very possibly being ignored, then have at it. But there are far better Italian restaurants that are vaunted for their actual food than for the crowd they draw. Meg Via

Gordon Ramsey at Claridges
Try to forget the fact that this restaurant can sometimes be more of a tourist destination (or aspiration) than a gourmet one and just go for it. The osso bucco I had my first time there was sublime, as was everything right up until this bizarre frozen pineapple concoction, about which my friend complained, drawing the eponymous chef himself from the kitchen. He was red-faced and looked plenty annoyed, until he realised she was pretty and that just perhaps, she had a point. It was taken away, replaced with custom-made cocktails and thus ensured that the only memories we had were positive. The only negative, we all agreed, is that the service can perhaps be overly-attentive to the point of heavy-handed. And again,  it is pretty pricey. Meg Via

Hush, Lancashire Court
I was standing in the lobby of Claridges one night speaking to some of the concierge staff when a call came through from the PA of some star of one kind or another who said her boss wanted a foie gras cheeseburger. After a little kerfuffle one of the quick thinking German guys said, “Hush will do it. They have the best burgers and they always have foie gras.” Hush was back then, for me, this mythical place next door where many of the hotel staff had their after-work drinks, and where the staff was forever trying to get me to go. Once I finally did, I understood what all the fuss was about. Owned by the son of Roger Moore (yes, THAT one), there is something intangible about it that makes you want to make it your local, albeit a posh one. Located in the cobblestone Lancashire Court just off of Brook Street in Mayfair. The décor is tastefully sleek modern bistro; unfussy and unpretentious, though it still manages to let you know it’s special. The menu is similar; there is nothing pretentious there. Good, solid, modern bistro food in a jovial place with a wine list and bar to die for. I always start with the onion tart and en homage to the star on the phone that day, ask them to pan fry the foie gras and plop it on top of my medium rare burger. Meg Via

La Genova
North Audley Street
This unassuming restaurant was first suggested to me by the concierge at the Dorchester, who knows my young son is obsessed with penne arrabbiata. We had passed by it 100 times en route to Selfridges, but had paid it little notice. Do yourself a favor and pay it some notice! You will go back time and again. The owner Rinaldo still roams the room chatting up guests and ensuring their comfort, and often suggesting dishes that perhaps do not even exist on the menu. They make my son’s pasta exactly as he likes it and for me, they pan sauté a huge pile of spinach with garlic and lemon.  The place is always lively, but you never once feel crowded or ignored. The prices are reasonable – especially for Mayfair - and the food is good, fresh, down-home Italian. Meg Via

L’Art du Fromage
1a Langton Street, SW10 0JL
As soon as I walk in to L’Art du Fromage I am enveloped in the waft of whiffy cheese. It is so strong that it follows us as we are ushered upstairs to a room reminiscent of a Swiss log cabin, with a slanted roof, wooden beams and a quirky stained glass window. The décor is ideally suited to the wintry menu of fondues, raclettes and tartiflettes, a potato, cheese and lardons dish which has its origins in the Savoie region of the French Alps.

The smoked salmon and goats cheese roulade appears on a dish decorated with minuscule cubes of cucumber and beetroot. After a few mouthfuls it becomes impossibly rich. The thick roll of creamy cheese wrapped in a thin layer of salmon is just too much, and the beetroot carpaccio and herbs are not enough to counteract its density. A shame, as a more frugal amount would have made this almost perfect. A similarly mammoth-sized starter is the Munster pane, a dish of the deliciously pungent Munster cheese coated in bread crumbs and served with slices of Bayonne ham, on a walnut and baby leaf salad.

The tarte flambées or French pizzas come in four variations, we opt for La Forestiere which has sliced ham and cep mushrooms placed on very thin dough covered in crème fraiche; slices of practically raw onion lend the tarte crunch and sweetness. A delicious tartiflette called ‘La Jurassiene’ consists of thin layers of potato placed on top of one another and blanketed with melted Comte cheese; tender pieces of guinea fowl chicken with crispy skin sit amongst a herby mushroom ragout.

The crème brulee comes with a very tangy scoop of goat’s cheese ice cream; its stringy texture is certainly not for everyone. A meal for two with wine is approximately £60. Leila Hawkins

Laduree at Harrods
If you can go to Paris, do not go here.  Having been a patron of the original La Duree for more than a decade, I was initially overjoyed with its arrival in London, only to be later disappointed with the reality. The inside is too cramped to enjoy your meal, and it is possible if not likely that you will have to squeeze past someone – or someone past you – to get to your table. The service is very hit or miss, and unlike the staff in the rest of Harrods, they seem completely unbothered by your opinion of them. Personally we take our macaron and run, preferring to queue at the patisserie counter, select our own and take them home in a beautiful green box. Meg Via

Locanda Locatelli
Hearing that it’s the favorite haunt of Madonna and Gweneth Paltrow, I did not expect the under-stated, low-lit elegance, attentive service and attention to detail. And the food. The food is stunning and much of it is now firmly on my “last meal” list, with pasta that seems to both float and melt, and veal dishes that could bend the will of a vegetarian. It is expensive, yes, but unlike at some places, you feel like what you received in return was a more than even exchange. I go back time and again and have only been surprised by the elevation in quality and variety and never once disappointed.  Try whatever desert the server suggests – likely to be whatever the “special” is for that evening – and even if you are not one for sweets, you are surely to at least momentarily be converted. Meg Via

Marco Pierre White - Wheeler's of St. James's
72 - 73 St James's Street
A short walk from Buckingham Palace where I had been attending an investiture ceremony in the presence of the Queen. A wonderful experience and a good celebration lunch was needed! And this restaurant did it well. No fuss, great service and coped well with our group with an age range from 10 to 85. A fairly formal setting but with striking images on the wall. Being one of the finest fish restaurants in the world one expects it to be good and yes it was good. A shock coming from Australia was how reasonable prices were but the strong Australian dollar has made eating out for us Aussie's an experience we can enjoy with the continual thoughts of "just how expensive it is".. now we say " prices are similar to Sydney". David Hearle

Mustik
Triton Court, Worship Street, Moorgate, EC2A 1BR
Located in the heart of the City, Mustik is, on first appearance, a sleek restaurant/bar/club set out to cater to the local suits. The cuisine is Caribbean and the chef is Hasan DeFour, known for travelling across the Caribbean with Gary Rhodes for his TV show ‘Rhodes Across the Caribbean’.

The ackee and saltfish salad, Jamaica’s national dish, is a concoction of salt cod, chopped sweet peppers, onions and the soft yellow ackee fruit. The fried fish goujons have just a hint of spice under the batter. Both dishes are very tasty, with strong flavours. The fried dumplings are still hot, crispy on the outside and with very doughy bread in the middle. Two large chicken breasts covered in jerk sauce are accompanied by a mound of rice with kidney beans and fried plantain on the side. A separate bowl of mango and pepper salsa marries the spicy, tender meat perfectly.

I’m expecting the Jamaican escoveitch to be a take on ceviche - raw fish that has been marinated in citrus juice till ‘cooked’ - however the red snapper has been fried with some subtle spices. It’s also served with rice, and pickled scotch bonnet peppers and onion.

For dessert we try the Coco de Caribe Slice, a dessert – the chef’s own creation, so we are told - consisting of a rich layer of chocolate cake topped with coconut ice cream, pieces of macaroon and sliced coconut.

The food and the value for money are impressive, which is seemingly at odds with the area – our meal, not including cocktails, came to £30 for the two of us. Unmissable. Leila Hawkins

OXO Tower
I still, to this day, send visitors and tourists for dinner here simply because of the incomparable view and the knowledge that they will be looked after and that the food from the modern European menu will be consistently good, but it is not a place that I would choose to return myself. Each time I am there, I find myself consumed with thoughts of the first time I went and struggled to get a car to collect me and my party. I also find it a bit noisy and large for the prices it commands, and the portions a bit small. Still, if it is your first visit to London there is nothing wrong with having a drink and something light, if only to enjoy the view. Meg Via

Paul
Marylebone High Street
I do not know why this one is my favourite, but just as the Le Pain Quotidien at Place du Marche Saint-Honore is the only one that will do for me, at this particular Paul everything just tastes better. The aged wooden interior gives an authentic feel and I have always found the service to be positive and helpful. Perhaps for me it is just a habit, but when I am seriously hungover, nothing but bread, quiche and espresso from Paul will make me feel better. Meg Via

River Cafe
One of the best meals of my entire life. I do not know if it was the food – at least not the food alone – the company or the fact that the night was perfect and we were able to sit outside, but I will remember it as one of the best nights of my life. I ate more than I should have, drank more than I usually do, and felt not one single ounce of guilt. The mood there is always merry, tending to attract people who are serious foodies rather than those who are simply following a name. Perhaps that is because of the out of the way location. If you do not drive, you would be well-advised to arrange a car as getting a taxi when last call is finished is not the easiest of tasks. Meg Via

Tamarind
Queen Street
If Benares is fusion and Amaya is finest, then Tamarind is seriously good, upmarket, familiar Indian fare. Located in a basement in Mayfair, the décor is a casual, lighter take on Amaya’s, it seems, but still completely unique. The food here will be familiar to those who are looking for some semblance of what they would find at their local curry house, but it will, quite simply, be better; far better and difficult to put down. There is naan and kababs and plenty of rice, but there are also more than enough dishes that are uniquely tamarind, albeit twists on staple Indian dishes, and this mix of familiar and experimental is, in my view, what makes this place so special. Not as expensive as Benares or Amaya and larger portions, too! Meg Via

The Grill at the Dorchester
I had stayed at the Dorchester for quite a long time before I ever actually bothered to eat in the Grill. I walked past it every morning and every evening, en route to have breakfast or later to have a drink, but it somehow never appealed to me. Then one day a friend of mine who is himself very familiar with the hotel, pointed to it as we walked past and said “what do you think about the Grill?” To which I replied “I think it needs de-decorating.”

He reminded me that, at that time, it had only just been redecorated. The interior is best described as an ode to tartan, and all things red, green, navy and, well, tartan. Later that week the same friend forced me to dine there with him, determined was he to convert me to a believer. And did it ever work, The Grill is so replete with tartan and all things British to remind us that we are, after all, in London, and that the restaurant itself is a flag carrier for British fare. The food is amazing, sublime, heaven beyond heaven. Three things from there are on my last meal ever list, and the wine list is what I would request as my only possession on a desert island. Now when I’m there, I skip eating Breakfast in the Promenade and head directly for the warm welcome of the Grill. Meg Via

The Hackney Pearl
11 Prince Edward Road, London E9 5LX
The unlikely neighbourhood of Hackney Wick is where this cosy little pub/café is located. There’s a homely feel thanks to bookshelves lining one side of the room and solitary customers often pop in for a read and a cup of coffee. Food is freshly prepared and seasonal, the creamy cauliflower and fennel soup and the slow cooked shoulder of lamb being perfect winter grub. As well as a good selection of wines which can be taken out there is a good variety of herbal teas such as sage and jasmine. Cake-lovers will be delighted with their home made upside down pear and ginger cake drizzled in caramel.
Leila Hawkins

The Albannach
66 Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DS
There’s an air of peace and calm within the Albannach despite its busy Trafalgar Square location.
From the brunch menu the three egg omelette with smoked salmon is rich and just salty enough thanks to the smoky fish, complemented by a mound of dressed leaves sitting atop.

It’s flavoursome, as are the eggs Benedict served over two muffins with crispy bacon and a very buttery hollandaise sauce. The dessert menu features ice creams, banoffee pie and ‘cranachan’, a traditional Scottish dessert with berries, oats and cream. The Scotch crème brulee is thick and satisfying, surrounded by a pool of strawberry soup. The red wine and whiskey poached pear is juicy and has hints of cinnamon, while the accompanying pot of ginger ice cream is refreshing yet creamy.

Unsurprisingly, there is an impressive array of Scotch whiskeys, alongside many varieties from Japan and Europe and North America. A whiskey flight menu is available, offering the chance to sample different selections from as little as £10, rising to £199 for the ‘luxury flight’, which includes various whiskeys that are over 30 years old. Good food, elegant drinking and a smart environment away from the hustle and bustle, and you won’t even have to break the bank. Leila Hawkins

 

 

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