The UK and England in particular had a poor reputation for food, but the times when you could only find mushy peas, shepherd’s pie and custard are long gone, especially in the areas around my neighborhood. From casual cafés to haute Indian cuisine and Michelin-starred hot spots, here are some of my favorite haunts…
Le Boudin Blanc
Chic, charming and intimate—this gem is perfect for a tete-a-tete or a group of friends. Serious but not fussy French fare is served here in a delightfully relaxed and non-pretentious setting. The decor is rustic and the impression is buzzing and fun, fairly rare for a French restaurant in Mayfair. This is the Paris bistro in London that you have been searching for. If you are a fan of steak tartare, “it is probably the best I have ever tasted” says my Insider Catherine Schreier. Don’t miss the tarte tatin…
http://www.boudinblanc.co.uk | Phone: +44 (0) 207 499 3292
5 Trebeck Street, London W1J
Tuck into all things organicly fresh and tasty at Daylesford Organic’s outpost in this chic stretch of Pimlico. Get here before 12:30 to secure your table in the sun, before browsing the goodies in the shop. Fab healthy fare, these guys are committed to style and quality—not just as a trendy fad, but as a complete lifestyle choice. They offer a massive range of organic produce, from meats, cheeses and vegetables to bath and body products, which can all be purchased to bring a bit home with you! Love it—style is Los Angeles sleek meets country English.
http://www.daylesfordorganic.com| Phone: +44 (0)20 7881 8060
44B Pimlico Road | London SW1W 8LP England
This is haute-cuisine, Bollywood style. From the massive stainless steel structures to the glittery chandeliers to the exotic wood fixtures, the decor is lavish, but that’s not to say this place is formal. Opened by the team behind Veeraswamy, the only Indian restaurant in London to have been awarded a Michelin star, there aren’t any main courses or starters. Instead everything is prepared in small portions, like subcontinental tapas. Food is grilled with spectator sport intensity in the open kitchen and served in small portions. Sharing is encouraged and eating with your hands seems to be invited. Try the rock oysters on the half shell, flash-grilled without oil on a tawa (a hot iron skillet) and served in a yellow coconut sauce. The non-alcoholic cocktails are great, too, especially the mango lassi with mint.
http://www.amaya.biz | Phone: +44 (0)20 7823 1166
Motcomb Street, Halkin Arcade | London SW1X 8JT England
Hearty traditional northern Indian fare meets subdued glamour at this understated South London stalwart. Tuxedo-ed waiters breeze in and out of the dining room, delivering Noor Jahan’s specialties, which never fail to impress even the most jaded palates. Their naan bread is easily a standard bearer outside of the subcontinent. In a city with no shortage of curry houses, this a real stand-out. It’s popular with celebrities and locals alike.
http://www.noorjahanrestaurants.co.uk | Phone: +44 (0)20 7373 6522
2a Bina Gardens | London SW5 0LA England
Cecconi’s is hands-down one of the best Italian restaurants in London. I go here regularly and love to sit at the bar and order some of the fantastic antipastos, which come in fun casserole dishes. Maybe it’s just Italian tradition, but this light-flooded restaurant seems designed for group dining. There are two large banquettes in the dining room that can seat up to eight. Almost every time I go there’s a mega-watt celeb having supper, and people-watching is always more fun when it’s a group sport. There’s also a table in a semi-private room that seats twelve. The service is always flawless, so I would feel comfortable bringing lots of friends here at once.
http://www.cecconis.co.uk | Phone: +44 020 7434 1500
5-5A Burlington Gardens | London W1S 3AZ England
If you’re craving Japanese, make Chisou your Mayfair pick. While it looks like your average sushi restaurant, with simple decor, a sushi bar and some tables, the quality of the food sets it apart—especially in London where there isn’t anywhere near as many sushi options as most other big, cosmopolitan cities. At Chisou, Japanese staples like sushi and sashimi, tempura, salads, grilled dishes, rice, and noodles are all presented with simple, fresh elegance. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, try one of the chef’s specialties, like the monkfish liver dish called Ankimo Ponzu. Interestingly, Chisou is renowned for its drinks menu, so whether you prefer sake or champagne, be sure to check out the selection.
http://www.chisou.co.uk | Phone: +44 (0)20 7629 3931
4 Princes Street | London W1B 2LE England
Cambio de Tercio
Spanish cuisine has undergone a serious renaiassance in the past few years. London’s contribution to the resurgence takes classic rustic wholesomeness, adds an elaborate twist and serves it in a mucho sexy setting. There’s little in this neighborhood—or anywhere in London, for that matter—that compares to nibbling on king-sized prawns swimming in garlic and chili as you sit amid the black and red decor. The food offers stunning surprises. Gazpacho, for instance, is thickened with meaty chunks of lobster. Check out the delicious wines from Navarra and Ribera del Duero. Book the table in front of the fireplace and bask in the sultry atmosphere. This place tends to be packed with an over-35 hip crowd.
http://www.cambiodetercio.co.uk | Phone: +44 (0)20 7244 8970
161 Old Brompton Road | London SW5 0LJ England
La Petit Maison
Opened in summer 2008, this elegant, trendy newcomer is charmingly tucked away behind some of Mayfair’s chicest streets. I enjoyed the Mediterranean, fairly basic cuisine, much of which is served in tapas-style portions, but I must admit, what we at my table enjoyed more was the fun people watching and buzz that New York seems to excel at many times over London. Feels like a Manhattan, Upper East side, chic eatery. Our collective view was that the best dish served was the stuffed Mediterranean vegetables—delish.
http://www.lpmlondon.co.uk | Phone: +44 (0)20 7495 4774
54 Brooks Mews | London W1K 4EG England
Suzanne Aaronson, Co-founder of Suzanne’s Files, is our Travel Curator. Stay in-the-know on her latest finds and insider tips by signing up to receive Notes from Suzanne’s Files, a free e-newsletter.