Upon arrival in London, you will find a wealth of restaurants vying for your custom. Every type of cuisine can be found in London and, fortunately, it’s much easier to count the better restaurants.
While some of the best nosh can be found in every price range, here are some of the mid to high end places that I recommend. All of these places have something in common: they are central, they favour fresh ingredients, they are not pretentious nor are they staffed by indifferent layabouts.
Fifth Floor, Harvey Nichols – It’s hardly a new or original venue to write about but how can you improve on Fifth Floor? This is my happy place, everything is beautiful in this Knightsbridge paradise. The restaurant has a gazebo design with the frosted glass roof, potted plants and an abundance of fresh flower arrangements – it’s just like sitting in a pretty flower garden.
Fifth Floor serves everything, but I advise against coming here for the club sandwich or the cheese burger – the food hall downstairs has a cafe for such things. If you are going to spend £70 on lunch, go for the veal or the exquisite poached turbot.
After dinner, slip into the Champagne bar next to the restaurant for a drink or two.
San Carlo Cicchetti – Cool Italian bistro in Piccadilly Circus with a menu that features fresh seafood and homemade bread. Photogenic waiters draw in the ladies: you will notice several groups of girls starting their night out at Cicchetti. The name comes from a Venetian style of dining which serves small cicchetti plates (similar to tapas, slightly larger servings) which perfect for those of us who wish to sample different dishes without being overstuffed with stodge.
A seat at the elegant marble bar is good for the lone diner, it’s a busy atmosphere and the staff will keep you company. A substantial main course for one consists of just 2 plates, such as fresh green beans and lobster ravioli with squid ink. Meals are served with homemade parma ham rolls and meat-free salted bread. These smaller portions mean plenty of room for desserts.
You will be happily sated for about £35 – not bad for a dinner in the West End. The brilliant thing about San Carlo Cicchetti is that it is open for breakfast lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Restaurant 1701 – This fine kosher restaurant is a relative newcomer to the city. 1701 specialises in modern Jewish cuisine from the Middle East and Europe as well as traditional British comfort food. The best gefilte fish I’ve ever had and notable borsch and beef dishes are served for lunch and dinner. The course menus are of ample size and, in my experience, are nothing short of excellent.
Exquisitely plated, generally wholesome (with the odd naughty dessert) and in beautiful surroundings, this restaurant is something unique and different.
The venue is just as stunning as the food: 1701 is a modern terrace built onto the side of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest in London. The glass roof means it traps the sunlight and is beautiful in the afternoons and summer evenings.
Whether you keep kosher or not, 1701 is a jewel and not to be missed. Lunch courses start at £25, dinner is around £60 for 3 courses and wine. Portions are generous, the kosher wine list is impressive. There is a tasting menu available for two or more people.
OXO Tower Restaurant – Yet another Harvey Nichols restaurant equally as elegant as Fifth Floor. It’s British fine dining all the way at Oxo Tower Restaurant with a menu than leans heavily on meat. The enormous portions come with a stunning view over the River Thames of St. Paul’s.
One annoying thing about Oxo is the evening summer sun. There is no shade, so I like to make a reservation as late as possible as the sun streams in till 9pm, or ask for a table away from the window if this bothers you. Or bring sunglasses
Although specialising in meat, a beautiful vegetarian menu is always available and don’t overlook the top-notch seafood. The sommelier can help you choose from over 800 wines, although I am happy with the Harvey Nichols own house Champagne – the Rosé Premier Cru being my favourite.