25 dishes at London restaurants to try before you die

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…

 

A Wong SW1

“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 Anchor & Hope SE1

“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.

 

Barrafina (Drury Lane, Adelaide Street, Dean Street)

“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

 

C&R Café (W1 & W2)

“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

 

Comptoir Gascon EC1

“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

 

Dishoom (WC2, E2, N1C, W1, W8 coming soon)

“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

 

Fischer’s W1

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

 

Le Gavroche W1

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.

 

Granger & Co (W11, EC1, N1C, SW1)

“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

 

Harwood Arms SW6

“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

 

HKK EC2

“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

 

Honey & Co W1

“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

 

Hoppers W1

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

 

Latium W1

“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

 

Milk SW12

“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

 

Min Jiang W1

“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

 

Opera Tavern WC2

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”.

Mini Ibérico Pork and Foie Gras Burger: £8

 

Otto’s WC1

How did this “oasis of traditional and consistently superb Gallic cooking” end up in a nondescript corner of Bloomsbury? Its overall approach is “pleasantly old-fashioned” but “not stuffy and always with a humorous twist”.

Top Menu Tip – “the Canard à la Presse helped me find god!”

Challans Duck Liver on Brioche; Challans Duck Breast, Pommes Soufflées, Haricots Verts, Otto’s Duck Sauce; Challans Duck Leg, Salade Frisée

One Duck, Two Guests, Three Courses: £140

Available at lunch and dinner for up to six guests, pre-booking essential, limited booking times.

 

Parlour Kensal NW10

“No ordinary gastropub” – Jesse Dunford Wood’s “quirky” Kensal Rise pub conversion features a “fabulous chef’s table” amongst its dining options.

Top Menu Tip – the “enormous cow pie”.

Cow Pie, with or without bone marrow: £18.50

 

The Quality Chop House EC1

“Evocative”, restored Victorian ‘Working Class Caterer’, near Exmouth Market, whose “authentic wooden booths” have infamously “uncomfortable benches”.

Top Menu Tip – “confit potato to die for”.

Confit potato, Exmoor caviar: £10

 

Le Querce SE23

“It looks just like a café outside”, but this “very friendly” family run restaurant in Brockley is known for its “superb value” Italian cooking, with the best choices from the specials board – “an impressive array” that’s “particularly interesting”.

Top Menu Tip – “Three scoops of a vast assortment of esoteric ice cream flavours”

And we do mean esoteric – there’s garlic, onion, chilli pepper and aubergine flavours on offer. We love Zucca e Amaretto (Pumpkin and Amaretto). Three scoops: £5.40

 

J Sheekey WC2

“The kind of place that makes London special!” – Richard Caring’s “so-classy” institution (est 1896) is tucked away down a Dickensian alley “in the heart of Theatreland” and remains not only the survey’s most talked-about destination, but also its No. 1 for fish and seafood.

Top Menu Tip – fish pie.

Sheekey’s Fish Pie: £17.50

 

Shepherd’s SW1

This traditional Westminster stalwart – a well-known politico haunt – re-opened in 2015, and “retains its excellent ambience with booths and well-spaced tables, plus very good food and service.

Top Menu Tip – The shepherd’s pie (of course!)

The Shepherd’s Pie: £19.50

 


Smokestak E1

“Once tasted no other BBQ will do!” So say fans of the results from David Carter’s 4.5 tonne, custom-built smoker from Texas, now with a permanent restaurant just off Brick Lane.

Top Menu Tip – “the beef brisket is the thing of dreams!”

Brisket bun, pickled red chilli: £5

Beef brisket, mustard barbecue: £10.50

 

Taberna do Mercado E1

“You can feel Nuno Mendes’s passion for the food”at his “casual taberna-style” restaurant in Spitalfields Market, which is “equally suited to a drop in for a pastel de nata and a coffee, as for a full meal”.

Top Menu Tip – “fish in a tin is the highlight”

Dorset Char fennel and lemon £6, Cod chickpeas £6.80, Octopus pepper salad £9

 

Trangallan N16

“Brilliant Galician food and a very intriguing list of Spanish wines” ensure this Stoke Newington Hispanic is a hit. “Service is attentive and staff well informed”, but “some tables for two are too small”.

Top Menu Tip – “The chocolate ganache with sea salt and olive oil is a dish everyone should try before they die”.

Sweet tapas selection: £9.90

 

Yalla Yalla (Winsley Street W1, Green’s Court W1, SE10)

“Cheap, cheerful, plentiful and so very tasty” – the “zingy” mezze at these “down-to-earth” (“tiny and cramped”) Lebanese cafés, where “it’s easy to get carried away and order too much”.

Top Menu Tip – “never go without having the chicken livers”

Sautéed chicken liver with garlic and pomegranate molasses: £4.25

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