London is one of the top foodie capitals of the world
The pace of exciting new London restaurant openings is faster than I can follow. Especially since I started blogging, it’s as if I’ve grown a finely-tuned radar that detects them. It’s basically my superpower. My friends turn to me for restaurant recommendations now, carefully tailored to their specific needs. Dinner with the parents. Very conservative people. Ok, coming from where? Mmhmm. Yes, definitely try this place. A romantic dinner date, with drinks. Oh, she’s from Tinder? Just go here.
So it’s no surprise that my London Restaurant Top 10 is constantly changing. I love so many places. I could write a top 10 for Mayfair, for Asian food, for cheap bites, etc, which I hope to do another time. But for this post, as a reflection of the fluidity in London’s restaurant scene, I wanted to share my top 10 of places I’ve been as well as those that I haven’t.
Miss Portmanteau’s London Foodie Top 10
To kick things off, here is my personal London Top 10 favourite restaurants right now. I’ve picked out those places that stand out the most for their incredible food and powerful flavours. While I also tried to select a range of cuisines, the focus really is on what has impressed me most.
It’s interesting that I didn’t include a sushi restaurant, as sushi is one of my favourite foods, but after having the best sushi and dinner of my life in Honolulu, the bar is set pretty high. Value for money was also an important factor, and in my view, these restaurants are all fairly priced for what they are. In terms of location, my selection also reflects the area I dine in most frequently, in and around central London.
This place is number 1 according to Time Out London’s Top 100 Restaurants, need I say more? The Barbary is the perfect blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Because of the counter seating, it’s best for dinners for two, sharing small plates of dips, grilled meats and vegetables along with the best buttered naan you’ll ever try. Read more.
Ottolenghi pastries and salads are a serious London obsession. After serving as a pastry chef in three top London restaurants, the Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi teamed up with Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi to open the finest delicatessen around. Their unlikely friendship and innovative food are what London is all about! They now have several delis, cookbooks, and the gorgeous NOPI brasserie that became an instant favourite of mine. Their cooking style is very unique, with a focus on vegetables and unusual, yet explosive, flavour combinations.
Possibly one of the most exciting developments in London’s food scene has been the Anglo-Indian restaurant revolution, looking to bring more traditional Indian flavours to British palates. We’ve come a long way since the days of Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken I have to say. Dishoom is also fantastic, but it was the creativity and flavours of Kricket that did it for me. Best described as food with an Indian twist, and at incredible value, this is a place where the staff will soon know me by name.
Taiwanese tapas sounds so catchy! This is the third restaurant by the super successful Bao family, which opened in April last year. Continuing on from the small plates food trend, examples of their top dishes include chilli egg drop crab, char sui Iberico pork and Taiwanese streetfood-inspired dumplings and pancakes. This place really nails it on the atmosphere, food and drink. Read More.
It’s hard to choose a dim sum favourite in London, although for me Yauatcha stands out as the best contemporary Chinese of them all. Yauatcha was created by top restauranteur Alan Yau of the famous Wagamama and Busaba chains. Although he sold his majority stake in his two Michelin-starred restaurants Yauatcha and Hakkasan in 2008, it’s retained its Michelin star since 2005. Its modern interiors completely mask the fact that this place has been around for so long. I love everything on the menu but you won’t find a better venison puff.
My top Mayfair pick, and one of my all-time favourite restaurants, is from celebrity chef Richard Corrigan. Generally speaking, food around Mayfair is expensive, clientele mostly in suits or Louboutins, thus not everyone’s cup of tea. But what I love about Corrigan’s is that it serves British and Irish cuisine, with a focus on game and seasonal ingredients, cooked to perfection. It’s a multi-award winning restaurant and one of the best examples of British food. Corrigan also owns Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Piccadilly, another of my favourites.
This no-frills Korean BBQ restaurant at the end of Kingly Street is hands down the best. I’ve tried other fancier versions but none compares to this family-run original, open since 1990! There’s always a queue and yet they’ll always manage to find you a table. Here’s what I order: kimchi, rice cakes with fishcakes, glass noodles with chicken, mixed Korean BBQ, pork or chicken bibimbap. You won’t regret it.
London has no shortage of good pizzas but this isn’t the top good restaurants of London, good doesn’t make it into my top 10! Homeslice in Neal’s Yard specialise in giant 20-inch thin-crust pizzas served whole or by the slice. The toppings are original and delicious, such as BBQ beef brisket, chorizo corn and coriander, and spiced lamb with cabbage. It’s absolutely amazing.
These are the guys responsible for the bao fever and bao explosion in London over the past few years. Bao started off as a street stall, landing its first permanent venue in Soho in April 2015. Nearly three years on, there is still a huge queue outside Bao on an almost daily basis, where the average wait time is 1-2 hours! The trio behind Bao are fast becoming one of the most successful restauranteurs in London. 100% worth the wait, or book a table at their Fitzrovia branch. Read more.
Where else can you find Thai-inspired goat shoulder? Smoking Goat opened on Denmark Street in Soho around the same time as Som Saa, during a wave of interest in Thai-inspired restaurants that the cool kids are calling Nu-Thai. I’m extremely disappointed to discover that it’s recently closed, as the lease expired?! That’s ridiculous. The good news is that they opened a second goat in Shoreditch, and hope to return to Soho in the near future. Ben Chapman, the chef behind Smoking Goat, is also the man behind the super popular Kiln (see below).
Top 10 Wish List
As I mentioned before, my Top 10 is always changing along with trying new places and keeping up with all the new openings! Although I’ve not eaten at these yet, these are the restaurants I’ve heard the most about and would like to try soon. I can’t review the food, but I can tell you why I’m interested.
- Padella, Borough Market: Apparently, Padella make the best – and cheapest – pasta in London. Jumping on the pasta resurgence, there’s another new place called Pastaio that’s joined the competition. I haven’t tried either yet, but it’s on my to do!
- Malibu Kitchen at the Ned, Bank: I’ve heard this place is amazing. I think it’s pretty awesome that health food is now a massive trend. There’s been a huge shift towards vegetarian and generally healthy dishes for both you and the environment! My current favourite is Farmacy in Notting Hill.
- Barrafina, Drury Lane, Covent Garden: Some rate this place as the best for Spanish tapas in London. I’ll have to try it first to give my opinion! I really love Donostia at Seymour Place, or Tendido Cero on Old Brompton Road.
- Dinings, Marylebone: I’ve heard such good things about this sushi place in Marylebone and can’t believe I still haven’t been. Probably because Kyubi in the Arts Club is my go-to restaurant for sushi. I also love Roka, Zuma, and Yashin Ocean House and order YouMeSushi delivery about once a week.
- The Palomar, Soho: This is the big sister to the Barbary. The food is supposed to be similar, although I can’t seem to get a table! I usually make reservations with only 1 weeks notice, which is why I keep missing out on this place.
- Hoppers, Soho: I’ve read that this place is in the same league as Kricket, except the food is more Sri Lankan-inspired than Indian. Having been to Sri Lanka last year where the food was incredible, I’m really keen to try this place.
- Kiln, Soho: It’s the same owner as Smoking Goat, and I’ve heard it’s even better. I’ve checked out their menu and literally want to try every dish!
- Som Saa, Spitalfields, Liverpool Street: Som Saa opened at the same time as Smoking Goat, and is rated by many as the best place for Thai food. While I still love traditional Thai, this “new-Thai” concept is more like the food you’ll find in trendy places around Phuket or Bangkok.
- Londrino, London Bridge: I recently went on a mission to find the best Portuguese restaurants in London. At the time of posting, Londrino hadn’t opened yet. It’s brand new and I’ve heard good things about chef Leandro Carreira.
- Temper, Soho and City: London was lacking proper American-style grill houses until places like Smokestack and Temper came along. Their Soho concept is a bit different, as it’s grilled meat in tacos! Sounds interesting.
What are your favourite London restaurants?