They say variety is the spice of life. Of course another, more accurate way of putting it would be to say that spices are the spice of life. And variety can be a little overwhelming, especially when you're hungry for said spices, which is why we've narrowed down the city's restaurants to the best example from each category...
Best Japanese: Zuma
What you’re getting: Black cod
In an era when “contemporary” can often mean "pretentious and over priced," Zuma keeps it very, very real. With locations all over the world, not to mention sister joint ROKA here London, it's figured out how to walk that line between swish yet completely reasonable. Focusing on bolder flavours, it's also kept an eye on the classics, plus a seriously impressive wine & sake list.
Best American: The Breakfast Club
What you’re getting: Breakfast Club Club Sandwich
Starting 10 years ago with a tiny cafe in Soho specialising in breakfast, it quickly branched out with a broader menu and secret cocktail dens around the city. While still reigning with some of the best American-style breakfast, its dinner menu is nothing to frown at, with top-notch burgers, wings, and even a couple of salads to get your American dreams flowing.
Best Italian: Bocca Di Lupo
What you’re getting: Gnocchi with ragu
If you want scarily authentic italian, BDL can sort you out. Half of its ingredients are flown over several times weekly, so its regional dishes are as fresh and bright as if Mamma had made it herself. Pro-tip: sit at the counter in front of the kitchen. West End shows are no competition.
Best Mexican: Cafe Pacifico
What you’re getting: Enchiladas
Mexican in London is always a bit of a stretch, but if you’re looking for something akin to what you’ve had in warmer lands (not counting grab-&-go burritos), this deceptively large restaurant tucked down a small side street should be your obvious destination. Get seriously stuck in with lots of agave (hello margarita!) and all the salsa you can dream of.
Best Indian: Tayyabs
What you’re getting: Lamb Chops
Having been doing its thing off the beaten path since 1972, it doesn’t really care about service quality. Lucky for you, it really does care about its food, which is outstanding. While its curries are next level above anything you’ll find on Brick Lane, it’s the grilled meat that leaves tables sitting in silence, mouths full. Its BYO policy also comes in handy, making the whole affair very bank account friendly.
Best Thai: Busaba Eathai
What you’re getting: Scallop and Prawn Stir-fry
Yes, it’s a chain. But you know what? Each location is just as damn good as the original location and each routinely has massive queues. The menus are comprehensive, consistent, and full of authentic flavour with dishes to please not only entry-level diners, but Thai virtuosos.
Best French: Chez Elles Bistroquet
What you’re getting: Coq au vin et tagliatelles
On a street that's known more for dodgy curry is a secret portal to the French countryside. Full of easy French charm, the food is simple and perfect, and loaded with flavour while keeping a reasonable price point as well.
Best British: The Chancery
What you’re getting: Tasting menu (trust us, you’ll want to try everything)
Hidden deep in the side streets between Holborn and Chancery Ln, this gem has been flying under the radar for quite some time. The plates that Chef Graham Long is putting out are nothing short of extraordinary and you will want to try them all. Think ash crusted venison with beetroot, dates, walnuts, and goat cheese; Halibut with nasturtium, spiced cockles, and roasted cauliflower; and suckling pig with figs, ham, mead, and sprout tops... the list goes on.
Best food truck: BBQ Lab
What you’re getting: Pork Cheek Sub
Get ready for next-level meat out of an old-school ambulance. The menu constantly changes, from 77-hour ribs to smoked hanger steak to pork loin pops (which is exactly what it sounds like), and more. Matt Harris (aka "Dr BBQ") has a sous-vide station and liquid nitrogen kit set up, and every Tuesday he unleashes #ExperimentalTuesday when you get to be a very happy guinea pig on his latest efforts.
Best steakhouse: Hawksmoor
What you’re getting: Bone-in Prime Rib
At one time, steakhouses were reserved for suits splashing cash and guzzling red wine. Not to say this doesn’t still happen, but Hawksmoor pretty much single-handedly opened up the land of properly cooked, ethically raised, tasty meat, showcased in effortlessly cool venues, with alternative waitstaff and outstanding cocktails.
Best Chinese: Royal China
What you’re getting: Prawn Dumplings
It’s like some unwritten rule: when you want good dim sum, be prepared to forego good service. Such is the case at here, but that doesn’t get in the way of people flocking on a Sunday morning to get their fix. It’s a disorganized affair, but once you start stuffing your face with all those parcels of goodness, you will cease to care.
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In an era when “contemporary” can often mean pretentious and overpriced, Zuma locks in a pretty solid number. With locations all over the world, not to mention sister joint ROKA here London, it's figured out how to walk that line between upscale yet completely reasonable. Focusing on bolder flavours, it's also kept an eye on the classics plus a seriously impressive wine & sake list.
Its name translates to "the wolf's mouth", which could be somewhat frightening considering what you'd normally find in a wolf's mouth (teeth, rodents, etc.). But fortunately, you'll only find a limited number of tables, an amazing wine list and superior regional Italian food fit for man, not beast.
Mexican in London is always a bit of a stretch, but if you’re looking for something a akin to what you’ve had in warmer lands (not counting grab-and-go burritos), this deceptively large restaurant tucked down a small side street should be your obvious destination.
This popular Indian joint is BYOB and has great, manly lamb chops.
On a street that's known more for dodgy curry is a secret portal to the French countryside. Full of easy French charm, Chez Elles' food is simple and perfect; its also loaded with flavor while keeping maintaining an affordable price point.
Hidden deep in the side streets between Holborn and Chancery Ln, this gem has been serving up some of London's best authentic British food for quite some time. Think ash crusted loin of venison, crapaudine beetroot, dates, walnuts, and dried goats cheese. And this is just the tip of the tasty iceberg.