Italian Restaurants in London
1. 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”.
2. Franco’s Italian restaurant in St James's 61 Jermyn St - SW1
Classic St James’s Italian, whose convivial and civilised quarters amd “totally reliable food” make it “one of the best all-rounders in the area” and, in particular, “a good choice for a business lunch” (or breakfast, which is very good here). It was opened in 1946 by the Wiltons group, and emerged from a major refurb in autumn 2019 with a new bar, refreshed decor and a menu shake-up. “Despite its popularity (and vintage), it retains a freshness both in the food and the service”, and while by no means cheap, regulars say “it always delivers”.
3. Theo Randall at the InterContinental London Park Lane Italian restaurant in Mayfair InterContinental London, Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place - W1
“Exemplary Italian ingredients cooked to perfection” and “served impeccably by delightful people” has earned a glowing reputation for the English-born former River Café chef, whose dining room off the foyer of the 1970s-built Intercontinental Hotel tower near Hyde Park Corner provides some of London’s best Italian cuisine. The “soulless setting” always attracts adverse comment, although it is “much improved” since its renovation a few years back.
4. Signor Sassi Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge 14 Knightsbridge Green - SW1
“Always a treat”, this old-school trattoria near Harrods is “just the place for traditional Italian hospitality”. Launched 35 years ago, it is now part of the upmarket San Carlo group and has branched out in recent years into the Middle East.
5. Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion Italian restaurant in Soho 15 Poland St - W1
“Pleasingly old-fashioned in style and cooking”, this long-serving traditional Soho Italian keeps its many regulars happy with “a simple Umbrian menu, done well”, including “excellent home-made pasta”. There’s a “comfortable and friendly ambience, and the occasional luvvie dining before his/her show”. Top Tip – “the chef will do zabaglione at the end if the kitchen isn’t too busy – a treat!”.
6. Caractère Mediterranean restaurant in Kensington and Chelsea 209 Westbourne Park Road - W11
“Absolutely the best new restaurant in the past year or so” – the Roux dynasty have come up trumps with this “great newbie in the Notting Hill ’hood”, on the site of Bumpkin (RIP). It’s the brainchild of Michel Roux’s daughter Emily Roux and her husband Diego Ferrari (former head chef at Le Gavroche). “Just around the corner from The Ledbury, but half the price and less formal” – it provides a “fabulous all-round experience”, founded on “outstanding” and “creative” cooking “born out of two great cuisines: French and Italian”. (However, “the unusual menu layout does take a moment to puzzle out”, with headings like Curious, Subtle and Greedy). “Impeccable service” and the “very comfortable” space, decorated with “quirky touches” complete the experience. Top Tip – “don’t miss the celeriac ‘cacio e pepe’”.
7. E Pellicci Italian restaurant in Bethnal Green 332 Bethnal Green Rd - E2
“You don’t come here for the food: the welcome and the banter are the main attraction!”, say fans of the Nevio family’s “buzzy” (but hipster-free) Bethnal Green greasy spoon, which is a top choice for a “simple breakfast”. Architecture anoraks will also want to examine its (listed) Art Deco interior (often used as a location for TV).
8. Bancone Italian restaurant in Covent Garden 39 William IV Street - WC2N
“Superbly-flavourful” pasta dishes at “extremely good-value” prices – especially for the West End – make Louis Korovilas’s “handy” yearling “one of the better options in the tourist centre” of town, just off Trafalgar Square. Some reporters feel it’s “let down by the long, narrow shape of the restaurant”, but more commonly it’s judged an “elegant, buzzing, if packed space”.
9. Murano Italian restaurant in Mayfair 20-22 Queen St - W1
With its “understated” style, Angela Hartnett’s “elegant-but-relaxed” HQ manages to be one of the most personal of the “luxury” central London restaurants run by a big name, particularly one in Mayfair. Under head chef, Oscar Holgado, the accomplished modern cuisine “with an Italian twist” is “first class”, as is the wine list: incredibly consistent and, “if not cheap, not wildly expensive”. But it’s the “professional service with a smile” that sets the seal on the experience: “warm, welcoming, and less pushy than at some other top destinations”. “I’d just returned from Rome and was worried I’d be disappointed, but in fact it topped things off with a level of refined luxury I enjoyed very much”.
10. Bocca di Lupo Italian restaurant in Soho 12 Archer St - W1
“Italian peasant-food fit for a king” – Jacob Kenedy’s “exceptional and distinctive” fixture, a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus, has carved a massive foodie following with its “wonderfully eclectic and ever-changing range of traditional dishes from across the country” (categorised by region, and available in ‘small’ or ‘large sizes’), with the “exciting” results “so simple and delicious you cannot believe it”. “And they’re complemented by a staggering wine list” which “is itself a trip through Italy” (“it’s worth having a detailed conversation with the wine waiter to discover outstanding vintages at sensible prices” with “lots of interesting options by the glass”). “Unsurprisingly, the place is always jammed”, and the “busy, café-style” interior with “closely packed tables” is such that “while mostly delightful, it’s bloody noisy” (“if not slightly manic”). But the “efficient and friendly staff” help keep the mood upbeat. Some guests “prefer the counter” – “there’s great kitchen theatre perched on the bar stools”.
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