British, Modern Restaurants in Greater London
1. The Five Fields British, Modern restaurant in Chelsea 8-9 Blacklands Ter - SW3
“More like the Elysian fields!”: Taylor Bonnyman’s “congenial” but “unpretentious” Chelsea HQ (founded in 2013) doesn’t court publicity, but emerged with the survey’s highest food rating this year. With its “sophisticated” interior, “spectacular wine list” and “wonderful” service – “impeccably timed, professional, yet warm” – it’s long been hailed as an “outstanding all-rounder”. But it has hit a particularly impressive and consistent culinary stride in recent times, with not a single negative report received this year (and we received many reports). Head chef, Marguerite Keogh “strives for perfection, and the care and attention to detail of ingredients processed and plated is second to none”, delivering “divinely flavoured dishes” in a mould that’s “classic in style, but very modern in execution” – “witty and inventive, without being up itself or over-fussy”. Much of the produce is sourced from the restaurant’s own garden in East Sussex. Choose at lunch or dinner from a prix fixe three-course menu or alternative tasting option.
2. Chez Bruce British, Modern restaurant in Balham 2 Bellevue Rd - SW17
“Still peerless as a neighbourhood restaurant delivering exquisite, modern French cuisine” – Bruce Poole’s immaculate “mainstay of South West London”, by distant Wandsworth Common, was – for the 15th year in succession – the survey’s No. 1 favourite restaurant, and “well worth the trip south of the river”. “Whether you are going for a celebratory meal, or just a casual lunch or supper”, “its consistency is astonishing, and comes at fabulously reasonable prices” (especially given the “little extra touches like Parmesan biscuits at the beginning of a meal, and chocolate truffles and palmiers at the end”). “What’s brilliant about the seasonal cooking is its perfect, pure – not gastronomic – tastes and palate: classics are flawlessly cooked, and there is innovation without it being bound in any way to the latest fads and fashions”. And “although there must be heaps going on behind the scenes, the set-up manages to be effortlessly elegant in an unpretentious style that feels like it comes easy to them”, with “engaging” staff who are “professional without being obsequious”. IF there’s a gripe, it’s that the “bright and compact” room that most reporters feel is “delightful” and “fitting for pretty much any occasion” (especially a romantic one) is, for a small minority, too “cramped” and un-fancy.
3. Clarke’s British, Modern restaurant in Kensington 124 Kensington Church Street - W8
“Never failing to excel, even after years and years…” – Sally Clarke’s Kensington HQ (opened in 1984) is nowadays a “classic”; and even those who say “it’s a bit of a time warp nowadays”, concede that her California-inspired cuisine is nigh-on as “modern and fresh” as ever. “The moment you step in, often to be welcomed by Sally herself, you know you are in for a wonderful evening, with imaginative but unpretentious dishes that are impeccably prepared – with great ingredients that are allowed to stand out – while service is always professional and present-without-hovering”. The atmosphere here has always been slightly divisive: for a few “dull” or “formal”, but to most diners – “with its artwork, soothing colors, and low noise level to allow plenty of engaging conversation” – romantic and “always a delight”.
4. Frog by Adam Handling British, Modern restaurant in Covent Garden 35 Southampton Street - WC2E
“Eating at The Frog is like allowing your palate to go to a firework display” – Adam Handling and his teams create a series of dishes of “always-surprising ingenuity, with quirky presentation and mixture of ingredients” both at his Hoxton Square original and his even-more-successful Covent Garden flagship. Both locations offer a mixture of à la carte and tasting menus – the latter incorporating vegan and vegetarian alternatives as well as beer-matching and wine-matching options. The results inspire massive support,not just for being “a well-devised journey expertly executed”, but for food that’s “wow, wow, wow beyond delicious!”. In keeping with the main man’s free-thinking philosophy (and, at E1, a big emphasis on sustainability), his locations have a youthful energy at odds with the fayne dining ethos: an approach that also seems to inspire “impeccable service” from his staff (with a special shout-out to his sommelier – “I’ve never been disappointed when asking Kelvin for a recommendation!”). Where his taste is a tad more divisive is the ambience – to fans admirably un-stuffy and energetic, but to critics slightly “odd” or “nondescript”, and with “loud and dreadful music” in N1. Top Menu Tip – “those cheese doughnuts are the stuff of legend”. See also Adam Handling Chelsea.
5. 7 Saints British, Modern restaurant in Kensington and Chelsea 7 All Saints Road - W11
On the site that was Ripe Tomato (RIP), James Gummer’s (former maître d’ at The Wolseley) popular yearling is praised as “a neighbourhood spot that has it all”: a “monthly changing”, “short-but-impossible-to-choose-from menu” and an ambience “like going to a friend’s house and being left to do what you want in the privacy of your own table”.
6. Seven Park Place French restaurant in St James's 7-8 Park Pl - SW1
“Consistently lovely food” over the past 10 years has earned an ecstatic, if limited, foodie following for low-key chef William Drabble, who “remains a hit in the kitchen rather than on the TV screen”. The “cosy” and “romantic” dining room of this hideaway luxury hotel in St James’s also benefits from “cute, quirky decor and friendly, helpful staff”.
7. Bellamy’s British, Modern restaurant in Mayfair 18-18a Bruton Pl - W1
“Everybody is smartly attired which makes a nice change” at Gavin Rankin’s (ex-MD of Annabel’s) “old-fashioned-in-a-good-way” bastion: “a picture-lined dining room”, tucked away in a quiet mews, which – to those of a blueblooded disposition – makes “a much more attractive choice than some of its flashier Mayfair rivals”. “Well-drilled”, traditionally-attired staff deliver “classic” – if “fairly simple” – Anglo/French cuisine and, in particular, the package makes “an excellent choice for a business lunch” (of the kind where “a couple of dry Martinis before you get started will not raise an eyebrow”).
8. Noble Rot British, Modern restaurant in Bloomsbury 51 Lamb's Conduit St - WC1
“Allied to the magazine of the same name”, Mark Andrew and Daniel Keeling’s Bloomsbury four-year-old took over the “lovely”, if “slightly cramped” premises that were previously the marvellously old-school wine bar Vats (RIP). It has a “brilliantly curated” wine list “featuring something for everyone: from small, natural and biodynamic producers using grapes you’ve never heard of (from areas you didn’t even know produced wine), to the grand marques of the first growth Bordeaux. There is something for everyone and the staff are ridiculously knowledgeable and keen to help guide you through as much or as little as you want”. The “simple” fare that accompanies it is better-than-incidental too (“sometimes outstanding”), and prepared with “an assured touch”. “It’s not a place for loony foodies of the Instagram persuasion, thank God. Just really good fun!” And “all without it being daylight robbery” too.
9. Ormer Mayfair by Sofian, Flemings Mayfair Hotel British, Modern restaurant in Mayfair 7-12 Half Moon Street - W1
“A delight!” – Shaun Rankin’s “exceptional” and “beautifully presented” cuisine at this posh, Mayfair hotel dining room wins acclaim from all reporters this year: “not sure why it doesn’t have a stronger following – highly under-rated”. He made his name on Jersey – an ‘ormer’ is a Channel Islands gastropod – before shifting to the capital in 2016. “It’s a beautiful interior, but the basement setting can make it a bit gloomy for lunch”.
10. The Guildford Arms British, Modern restaurant in Greenwich 55 Guildford Grove - SE10
“One of the best in the Greenwich area” – this three-storey Georgian tavern has a “beautiful garden” and “sits away from the main drag, so it’s not overly packed and touristy”. Chef Guy Awford is a well-known name in these parts having cooked at Inside (RIP) for many years, and is credited with some “brilliant cooking” here too. In mid 2019 it closed, to be totally transformed, with re-opening set for September 2019: if they get it half right, this will become Greenwich’s No. 1 destination. (Ratings are based on past performance: not yet post-revamp).
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