London offers such a wealth of dining that you probably wouldn’t be able to visit every single restaurant in your lifetime. The attempt would certainly be a noble pursuit, but also a bankruptcy-inducing one (unless you have Mariana Trench-deep pockets). So we’ve rounded-up a more manageable goal – the top 25 dishes to try at a variety of the capital’s restaurants, from soufflé at Le Gavroche to beef brisket at Smokestak, as voted for by our reporters in the 2016 Harden’s London Restaurant guide…
“Breathtakingly skilful” dim sum – “a very exciting and intriguing mix of the traditional and innovative” – win huge esteem for Andrew Wong’s “jammed-to-the-rafters” Pimlico canteen, but if we had to recommend one dish it would be…
Top Menu Tip – the “duck egg custard buns are TO DIE FOR!”
Steamed duck yolk custard bun: £2.50
“The gastropub against which all others are judged!” – the survey’s No. 1 boozer, a short walk from Waterloo, continues to wow with its “confident, robust, mostly meaty cooking”. But which of their fine roasts to choose? That’s the question. Do yourself and your friends a favour and try…
Top Menu Tip – “the shared lamb for three is divine!”
Slow cooked Swaledale lamb shoulder, tomatoes, olives, new potatoes and mint for three: £51.00.
“It’s a theatrical experience to watch your food being prepared with such artistic delicacy and loving care” at the Hart Bros’ “rightly celebrated” bars, whose “utterly brilliant” tapas is “better even than in Barcelona”. Despite “a queue visible from the space station” (at W1 especially), the food is “totally worth the wait every time”.
Top Menu Tip – “everything is bloomin’ marvellous and fresh, but anything out of the sea most especially so”.
Don’t overthink it, just try the Ortiguillas (that’s sea anemones): £7
“I get frustrated if people want to eat anywhere else!” – its small fanclub adores this little, “cheap ’n’ cheerful” Malaysian café in Chinatown (its glossier Bayswater offshoot never inspires much feedback).
Top Menu Tip – “fabulous Laksa”.
Penam Asam Laksa (spicy and sour rice noodles, chef’s special lemongrass broth, sardine fish flakes and cucumber): £8.50
“Interesting regional French dishes (if in slightly modest portions for the price)” inspire lots of affection for this “cute little French bistro” in Smithfield (near its parent, Club Gascon).
Top Menu Tip – “the foie gras duck burger is worth the coronary!”
Brioches, duck patty, salad, confit onions & Basque sauce, topped with a slice of pan-fried foie gras: £14.75
“Buzzy, bordering on frenetic” – these “wonderful replicas of Mumbai’s Parsi cafés” have exceptional energy levels for a fast-expanding chain, and offer “deeply satisfying, colonially-inspired, street-food style dishes” (including “terrifically interesting breakfasts”). Oh everyone bangs on about the bacon naan rolls (which are delicious) but we say…
Top Menu Tip – “the black daal is a must”.
Dark, rich and deeply flavoured, this signature dish is prepared over 24 hours: £5.90
Corbin & King’s “meticulous interpretation of a classic Austrian/German restaurant” in Marylebone “captures the essence of Mitteleuropa perfectly” – “the food is a slightly stodgy, warm embrace”, and the “beautiful, deeply coloured, panelled interior” creates a very “gemutlich” ambience.
Top Menu Tip – “delicious schnitzel”.
Holstein schnitzel with anchovy, capers and egg: £27.25
London’s oldest temple of Gallic gastronomy narrowly missed the No. 1 slot in this year’s survey, but for its legions of fans remains “the absolute pinnacle of fine dining”. Established by Albert Roux nearly 50 years ago (and run by his son, Michel Roux Jr for the last 25), its hallmark style combines “richly indulgent” cuisine (overseen by head chef Rachel Humphrey) and an “astonishing, predominantly French wine list”. And what better way to ease yourself into the classics than with this indulgently creamy number…
Top Menu Tip – soufflé Suissesse.
Part of the Menu Exceptionnel, which is priced at £165 pp.
“Crazy queues are a letdown”, but that’s the worst gripe about Aussie star chef, Bill Granger’s “chilled”, “light and airy” hotspots, rammed particularly for his epic brunches – “interesting, but non-fussy combos” that are superbly “fresh and tasty”.
Top Menu Tip – “the legendary Granger scrambled eggs on sourdough toast”.
Scrambled eggs and sourdough toast: £8.20
“Taking pub food to a new level entirely” – this “gastropub on steroids” in a quiet Fulham backwater has won fame with its “superb”, “hearty” cooking, and most particularly its “interesting game” (“especially the deer”).
Top Menu Tip – “slow-roasted venison is a must-try when in season!” And thankfully at the moment, it is.
Try the venison Scotch egg: £3.50
“Some of the best Chinese food in the UK” is to be had at this “expensive but brilliant” member of the Hakkasan clan, north of Liverpool Street. However, reporters are “not so keen on the room” – “akin to a 4-star hotel in Bangkok”.
Top Menu Tip – “the unbelievably tender, cherry-wood smoked Peking duck is nigh-on a religious experience”.
HKK signature cherry wood roasted Peking duck. Whole duck: £88. Half duck: £46
“Unique, modern Israeli cooking” (“incredible food that you could eat over and over again”), together with “the most fantastic welcome” leaves you “surprised and smiling” at this cute café, near Warren Street. Be prepared to “cosy up” – it’s really “tiny”.
Top Menu Tip – leave space for the “outstanding” cakes (the cheesecake is a “must-try”).
Cold cheesecake, Kadaif pastry, raw Essex honey: £6.50
One of the biggest hits of late 2015, the Sethi family’s Sri Lankan, street food shack stormed into Soho with the “incredible” and “punchy flavours” of its “curries, plus crisp dosas and hoppers (rice pancakes) for dipping”.
Top Menu Tip – “the bone marrow Varuval is meaty and deep, mopped up perfectly with a roti”.
Bonemarrow Varuval, Roti: £7
“Nothing’s ‘in yer face’, at this discreet and subtle venue”, “tucked away” in Fitzrovia, where new head chef Stefano Motta’s seems to be maintaining its “clean and precise” cooking, “full of strong flavours and interesting combinations”.
Top Menu Tip – “the ravioli can be exceptional”.
Tomato ravioli filled with burrata, basil and Taggiasca black olives on a purple aubergine cream, parmesan and butter pistachio emulsion: £9.50/£14.50
“Hands-down the best breakfast in SW London” (“you need to get there early because this is no secret”) is to be found at this kickass Antipodean joint in Balham, which now has “an alcohol license and plans for evening openings”.
Top Menu Tip – the Convict and Young Betty.
The Convict (English muffin, drycure bacon, sausage, egg, poacher hash & “hangover” sauce): £8.50
Young Betty (poached Arlington White eggs, sourdough, brown butter hollandaise, choose bacon, salmon or spinach): £8-9.50
“Sensational views” set the scene at this “very plush” 8th-floor dining room, bordering Kensington Gardens, which – with its “fantastically fragrant and subtle” Chinese cuisine – offers one of the capital’s best all-round experiences.
Top Menu Tip – “the absolutely delicious, wood-fired Beijing duck is a must!”
Legendary wood-fired Beijing Duck: Whole £65, half £35
Some of “the capital’s smartest modern tapas” are served at this “very pleasant” (if sometimes cacophonous) Dehesa sibling – a two-floor Covent Garden pub-conversion, where “results can be hit and miss, but are mostly hit”.
Top Menu Tip – “sinful mini Iberico pork and foie gras burgers”.