As one of the most diverse cities in the world, we thought it made sense to put together a list of the best restaurants in London. Here, the culinary benefits of immigration can be seen, tasted and savoured.
With everything from Michelin-star classics to curry, red mullet to robatayaki, this is our alternative guide to the best restaurants in London.
Owned by a world-beating mixologist with a string of bars, Gazelle has the feel of a private room in a members-only club insofar as it feels as exclusive as it does luxurious. There is also elBulli heritage in the kitchen (the now-closed Catalonian restaurant was widely regarded as the world’s best) and this shows in the gastronomical artistry which appears at your table.
The succession of small plates feature refined flavours and high quality ingredients. The ribboned squid is al dente without being too rubbery. The pigeon leg - complete with foot - offers a rich, gamey flavour and a visceral reminder of the avian origins of the dish. The scallop, served with yeast and imperial caviar, is so soft it has a barely-there texture.
Meanwhile, the mushrooms with pine nuts and wild garlic provided the perfect mix of creamy and earthen flavours. However, the unlikely hero was the suitably cryptic “cucumber, coconut and Oscietra caviar”. Due in part to the sweetness of the grated coconut, the small balls of cucumber could almost pass as grapes. The coconut soon melts into the sauce but as a solid, it is a restrained and complementary flavour. This dish makes for a great example of how the food at Gazelle plays with the senses and with the idea of expectation.
From the private lift to the entirely gold bathroom, Gazelle has a truly opulent feel. Both the food and the cocktails are delicious however, the portions are small. So while a visit to Gazelle is monetarily indulgent, it is likely nutritionally virtuous.
Pied à Terre
Opening in 1991, Pied à Terre has retained a Michelin star for longer than any other restaurant in London. Tucked into a quiet street in Fitzrovia, the atmosphere is elegant, the music is calming yet modern and the decor is understated. Meanwhile, the food is anything but understated.
Both opting for tasting menus, my guest went “vegetarian” while I decided on “discovery” - and therefore went in completely blind. Highlights included the salad of Autumn leaves with Turkish figs, crispy walnuts and the oh-so-luxury caviar with edible gold.
The 53° poached turbot and Scottish langoustine was a definite favourite. Delicate and flavoursome, you can taste how carefully cooked this piece of fish is. Meanwhile, a delicious bisque floods the plate with richer, warming flavours. Furthermore, the presentation of the quail - appearing, quite literally, in a cloud of smoke - added the touch of theatre that high end dining is now expected to provide.
The food is unmistakably French though there is a focus on local, British ingredients. Meanwhile, the head chef brings some Greek flare - including olive oil made from olives in his home village. Overall, it was an unforgettable meal, not least due to the presentation. This includes, for instance, a grouse’s foot served poking from a croquette. Make of that what you will.
Located in Kensington, Chakra is an upmarket Indian restaurant and celebrity haunt. The restaurant has nine tables and a certain stuffiness about it. However, it’s beautifully decorated and boasts ornate plastering on the ceiling.
To start with, we opted for the wild mushroom and black truffle kulcha - a Punjabi take on naan bread - with spiced lamb chops from the tandoor. The richness of the black truffle was able to cut through the bread, bringing bold, deep flavours. Meanwhile, the lamb chops had been carefully spiced and seasoned - leaving the succulence and the flavours of the lamb itself to do the talking.
For the main event, we plumped for the braised chicken khubani murgh and the jalandhar chicken. The khubani murgh featured apricot and mace, nutmeg’s sister spice, and was brilliantly balanced - teetering on the divide between sweet and spicy. Simmered in a fine tomato and cream masala, the jalandhar chicken was light, aromatic and moreish.
Finishing with desserts of homemade lemon cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake, I realised that Chakra seems somewhat stuck between two worlds. The decor is ornate yet the service is relaxed. The portion sizes are petite yet the music is played on a laptop. However, for many people, I imagine this is a perfect balance between an authentic, family-run curry house and a top-notch Indian restaurant.
The Gun in Docklands is both a pub and a historic landmark dating from the 1800s. Now famed for its food, it features riverside private dining rooms and a sheltered terrace with views across the water to North Greenwich.
We started with an off-the-menu fillet of red mullet. As any aspiring chef will know, the line between crispy fish skin and burnt fish skin is fine. But this was something which had clearly been mastered and the mullet was beyond brilliant. We then opted for starters of agnolotti with chicken mousse and truffle and scallops with roasted chorizo, curried corn and spring pea onion puree. Scallops with pea puree is a marriage of land and sea which, while classic, was executed perfectly. Much like a broth, the agnolotti was comforting and flavoursome. The pasta itself was unmistakably fresh, perfectly al dente and didn’t have any of the heavy, starchiness with which it is often associated.
For the main, I opted for sea trout with jersey royal potatoes and samphire girolles mushrooms. It was beautifully cooked but wasn’t as flavoursome as my starter. My guest, I feared, had made the better choice. The pork was beautifully tender and while the main flavour is apple, the smoked paprika mash adds a tempered kick.
Finishing with a deliciously sweet cold chocolate fondant, we discussed the pros and cons of a gastropub. Certainly, there is much debate about pubs shifting their focus to food and - in effect - changing their identity. However, one thing which can be agreed upon is that, as a restaurant, The Gun has triumphed.
CLAW is a seafood restaurant near London’s bustling Carnaby Street. A shopping Mecca, this pedestrianised area is busy at all times of year yet retains its brick-built charm. CLAW sits on a slightly quieter street and offers a range of creative dishes.
Starting with the “bang bang” cucumber and watermelon, this is a sweet, light dish which - with its West Indian dressing - seamlessly brings together flavours which would otherwise be at odds. The crispy squid, with twice-fried aubergine, mojo verde and Szechuan pepper, kept up the flavoursome, adventurous theme.
The crab mac and cheese made for an apt take on the classic. The contrast of cream and crunch provides a great texture while the combination of cheese and crabmeat creates a wonderful umami flavour. However, the tempura fish tacos, with honey and jalapeño coleslaw and a suitably small sprig of coriander, boasted incredible flavours and took the prize of best dish overall.
The blueberry cheesecake ice cream sandwich proved an experiment too far for my guest. However, this is the nature of the game. The food here is inventive. As for the savoury dishes, seafood is merely a starting point - from which the experts at CLAW have created a diverse and exciting menu.
Located in Angel, Plaquemine Lock’s namesake is a city on the Mississippi River. Bringing the flavours of Louisiana to London, it proudly holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand - awarded to outstanding restaurants which also offer great value for money. Here, Cajun and Creole food is served with passion in a colourful and deeply unpretentious setting.
The Oysters Rockefeller, grilled with butter, parsley and breadcrumbs, were perfectly executed and worthy of a high end restaurant. My guest’s unorthodox starter choice - of the prawn “Po Boy” sandwich - proved a great idea. A carefully constructed six-inch baguette, a fresh and flavoursome seafood sandwich is clearly well within their reach. Arriving from the deep fryer, the soft shell crab had some added crunch and was similarly tasty.
My main of blackened chicken was moist and flavoursome. The red beans add some contrast in flavour while not swamping the chicken itself which, while undeniably black on the outside, is undeniably delicious. Across the table, my guest was tucking into the fried chicken which sadly is slightly too salty for the pineapple jalapeno salad to tame.
We finished with twin desserts of chocolate brownie and muscovado iced cream, washed down with a delicious dry Riesling. Bold and playful, Plaquemine Lock doesn’t seem to fit into the “Michelin” canon. However, a taste of the Deep South in North London, it was a definite hit.
Robatayaki is a Japanese style of cooking involving an open charcoal grill and, where ROKA is concerned, some of the best ingredients one could hope to source. Here in Aldwych, ancient techniques meet modern minimalism in an effortlessly sleek wooden-walled restaurant.
We started with the beautifully presented kampachi sashimi no salada - yellowtail sashimi with yuzu-truffle dressing and pickled vegetables. Fresh but with an acidic kick, the flavours were on point. This was followed by the equally photogenic wagyu no tartar - pure breed Japanese wagyu beef cooked in citrus and served with “ponzu pearls” atop a nori cracker. An intricate lace of flavours and textures, these small morsels packed a punch.
The tempura of soft shell crab added some marine machismo to an otherwise delicate meal. Then came the black cod gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku - beef fillet with chilli and spring onion. With a buttery texture and a tempered kick, the skilful cooks had done it justice. Presented in a leaf, the black cod is fall-apart soft without being too oily. Furthermore, its yuzu miso marinade is light - allowing the flavours of the fish itself to take centre stage.
Come dessert, a selection of exotic fruit provided the perfect metaphor for the menu overall - adventurous and exciting but not necessarily unhealthy. Providing a luxurious experience and a convincing slice of Asia in the centre of London, ROKA has found a perfect balance between form and function.
A unique dining scene, London draws influence from all over the world and has seen some of the most talented chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs make the UK’s capital their home. With such a diverse range of cuisine, it’s a go-to destination for any food lover.