This is a city whose diners are adventurous to a fault, spawning all kinds of niche pop-ups and fleeting, Insta-fueled trends. Beyond the gimmicks, though, there’s a growing appreciation for ingredients and craft, whether it’s hand-rolled pasta at Padella or fiery clay-pot cooking at Kiln. Our list runs from Michelin-starred dining rooms to tiny neighborhood joints, serving exquisite tasting menus (see Pidgin) or terrific, offal-laced flatbreads with a side of Metallica (Lee Tiernan’s Black Axe Mangal, a cult address among chefs). Be prepared to book ahead—and where you can’t, to queue—but rest assured, it’s going to be worth it. Read on for our picks for where to eat when you’re in London.
Darkly atmospheric, thanks to the row of flickering votive candles and eccentric decorative touches, 108 Garage is the perfect spot to impress a date. Chef Chis Denney’s five-course tasting menu is furiously inventive, and the wine list offers a dozen options by the glass to pair with it. (Plus giant, inventively garnished gin and tonics.) The vibe is upscale but relaxed, and the dining experience is like no other—from the house sourdough all the way to dessert: a classic chocolate crémaux, audaciously twinned with artichoke ice-cream.
40 Maltby Street
It’s all about the natural wines and the serious talent in the kitchen at 40 Maltby Street, where trains rumble overhead and the decor’s strictly DIY (a tiny kitchen, home-made tables, and wine festival posters on the walls). You’ll find a scribbled blackboard by the bar, listing the menu—it changes daily. The wines are all sourced from small-scale producers, and there are half-a-dozen options by the glass and eight pages of bottles. Come here for a wine-fueled weekend lunch, with the Maltby market in full swing outside.
The constantly changing menu at Aulis—expect around 15 courses—is a chance for the chefs to let loose, experimenting with the best ingredients money can buy. It’s as much immersive theater as fine dining, with chefs cooking just across the counter. Come for a seamless succession of wildly inventive dishes that both look and taste exquisite, with a pairing of unusual but reliably delicious wine with each course.
At Bao Fitzrovia you’ll walk into an airy, stripped-back space, with stools around a U-shaped bar, where waiters will hand you a tick-box menu and a pencil. Our advice? Don’t panic and try to order all at once: you can—and should—add more dishes later. Naturally, you should start with a plump, pillowy bao or two, but don’t neglect the small plates or the larger main dishes (one should be enough for two people). Drop by for a quick dinner with friends, or a solo lunch at the bar.
Every dish has earned its place on the menu at Barrafina, a cult tapas bar with an ever-present queue, from the crisp-skinned chicken in Romesco sauce to the molten, magnificent tortilla. The best way to order it is to watch the chefs at work, and get whatever’s looking good. The convivial vibe makes solo dining an extra attractive prospect, but it’s also a great place to take a date (so you can share more plates).
Black Axe Mangal
Black Axe is a tiny, low-lit joint with a serious heavy metal habit. The vibe is “dive bar meets Chinese takeaway,” with black and gold walls, waving lucky cats, and floral plastic tablecloths, and there’s serious talent in the (small) kitchen. Come for a dinner big on flavors, spices, and offal, with every component slow-cooked, crafted, or smoked in house, or a more kid-friendly brunch of cinnamon-banana flatbreads. Service is fast, friendly, and suitably rock ‘n’ roll.
Claude Bosi at Bibendum
This is is just the place for a blow-out meal: one that starts with champagne and witty amuse-bouches, and ends with a show-stopping cheese trolley. Tables get booked up weeks ahead, and there’s a tangible air of expectation for the seven-course tasting menu that blends beautifully elaborate dishes with rustic French cooking. Service is smooth and formal, the sommelier is very helpful, and the meal is unforgettable. Even the set lunch menu feels gratifyingly grand.