British, Traditional Restaurants in Covent Garden
1. Rules British, Traditional restaurant in Covent Garden 35 Maiden Ln - WC2
For a “quintessentially British” meal, it’s hard to beat this Dickensian icon in Covent Garden (London’s oldest restaurant to operate continuously on the same site – since 1798), which has a “beautiful” Victorian interior; and which delivers an archetypal mix of grills, game and stodgy puds. To an impressive extent, it has avoided pure Tourist Trap status; and many regulars have “so many happy memories here, going back decades” thanks to its “comforting” formula. No denying, however, that it has become “very overpriced” in recent years and increasingly risks “living on its old reputation”. But, for the time being, the overall verdict remains that “it’s one of a kind and the world would be poorer without it”.
2. Simpson's in the Strand British, Traditional restaurant in Strand 100 Strand - WC2
“Buzzing with tradition and gravitas”, London’s most famous dining room is fast approaching its bicentenary. Prized nowadays by locals only for business breakfasts, it is sometimes noted as “an excellent place to take an overseas guest for succulent roast beef” carved from domed trolleys, but the real surprise is how very little feedback it generates nowadays. By September 2021, Simpson’s remains ‘temporarily closed’ – presumably awaiting a revival of the tourist trade? Could Corbin & King please take it over in the interim?
3. The Savoy Hotel, Savoy Grill British, Traditional restaurant in Strand Strand - WC2
“You never go to The Savoy Grill just for the food” and that’s been true since this panelled chamber first opened over a century ago. In its heyday, it was THE venue for power dining and – even if it’s no longer packed with captains of industry – its “well spaced tables and great atmosphere” still earn numerous tips as a place to impress a client, aided by a “comprehensive wine list”. Run by Gordon Ramsay since 2003, the “traditional” food has had its ups and downs and has stuck in recent times in a perhaps overpriced, “not exceptional” but tolerable mould.
4. Cork & Bottle British, Traditional restaurant in Covent Garden 44-46 Cranbourn St - WC2
This extremely cosy and characterful, 50-year-old wine cellar off Leicester Square provides “an unbeatable variety of wine at all price points” – “and you can usually get a seat despite the central location”. “The food’s not bad, either” – including the famous cheese & ham pie that has been on the menu since 1978, selling almost a million portions. Will Clayton has carried on where legendary founder Don Hewitson left off, and has expanded into branches in Hampstead (now closed) and Bayswater.
5. Café in the Crypt, St Martin in the Fields British, Traditional restaurant in Covent Garden Duncannon St - WC2
For a “relaxed” bite in the West End, remember the charming “self-service” crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields. It’s basic scoff (soups, salads, daily hot dishes), but quick, well-priced, of decent quality and the setting is very characterful.
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