When it comes to eating out in style, you’re spoilt for choice in London. In the list of cities with the most Michelin stars, it’s currently number six (Paris, FYI, scoops second place, pipped to the top by Tokyo). While stars can still mean swish dining rooms and exquisitely formal service, a new generation of chefs and restaurateurs are redefining fine dining. It could mean ravioli at the River Café, or nose-to-tail eating at St John’s; tapas at Barrafina’s counter, or a culinary adventure at Ikoyi. Whatever you opt for, be sure to book ahead – Londoners are a hungry bunch, and tables soon snapped up.
Over the 30 years since it opened, this Italianate, Thames-side eatery has lost none of its lustre. Lunching on its terrace, peach Bellini in hand, is one of London’s greatest pleasures – and things get even better once the food starts rolling up. It’s undeniably pricey, but the quality’s off the scale, from nettle-flecked fresh tagliatelle to wood-roasted Scottish langoustines.
Puzzling, bold and brilliant, this one-starred newcomer plays on West African flavours in its own inimitable fashion. Its precision-plated dishes resemble modern art, like the fried plantain dipped in vivid raspberry salt, served with smoked scotch-bonnet mayo. There’s no à la carte, just tasting menus; order a plantain old-fashioned, and throw caution to the wind.
Chef Clare Smyth went solo with Core in 2017, scooping two Michelin stars just over a year later. The space – in a Notting Hill townhouse – is as coolly collected as the chef, with its calm, glass-fronted kitchen and pale pistachio walls. Smyth’s tasting menus and three-course à la carte turn the simple into the sublime; don’t miss her dreamy signature dish, potato and roe.
Before becoming known as a shouty TV chef, Gordon Ramsay made his name with this polished, French-inflected address. It’s held three stars since 2001 – no mean feat on the city’s fickle dining scene. Head chef Matt Abé maintains the impossibly high standards, from the £70 lunchtime prix fixe to the sumptuous seasonal tasting menu (save room for the exquisite petit-fours).
Chef James Lowe is behind this Shoreditch eatery, whose pared-back, white-tiled dining room is set in an old tea factory. His tasting menus showcase the best seasonal produce, from spring’s first wild garlic to autumnal venison and grouse. Vegetarian menus are equally creative, while ‘guest series’ dinners see exciting global talents jetting in to join Lowe in the kitchen.
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Image credits: © Richard Bryant; © Richard Bryant; © The River Cafe; © Sam Gillespie; © Core by Clare Smyth; © Restaurant Gordon Ramsay; © Per Anders Jorgensen; © Kerb; © courtesy of kricket; © Gymkhana