Recommended Restaurants in London
HOT HAUTE CUISINE (alphabetical)
BENTLEY’S OYSTER BAR & GRILL
Bentley’s is very old, and used to look it; the food was tired, too. Now made over with stylish simplicity, it’s a winner. The ground floor is the oyster bar, with marble-topped tables and dark oak floors. Ice bowls are filled with oysters, and there’s whole cold crab or lobster cocktail and smoked salmon and eel, as well as fish and chips, Dover sole, sumptuous but a bit bland fish pie, and Guinness rarebit. Upstairs is the restaurant; extras include dishes like crab brulee with sesame prawn toast, baby squid stuffed with chorizo and feta cheese, and irresistible butter-poached smoked haddock with white beans. Flavours are impressive, ingredients superb. It’s all old-fashioned, comforting, and friendly. There are 250 wines, three dozen by the glass--eclectic, with Sancerre, Muscadet, and Albarino and some offbeat choices; also, Bordeaux, red Burgundy, or Barolo for carnivores who prefer the few robust meat dishes.
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, 11-15 Swallow St., London W1B 4DE. Tel: +44 (0)207 734-4756.
Oyster bar open from noon to 1 a.m., restaurant for lunch and dinner, both seven days a week
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly
Nearby Attractions: Theaters, Regent Street shopping
Gordon Ramsay (the restaurant, that is) is modern, slightly formal. Ramsay hasn’t cooked here in person for quite a while, but his distinctive style, elegant and inventive, has been continued by brilliant young chef Clare Smyth. Fillet of turbot poached in red wine, with creamed leeks, pureed potatoes, baby spinach and a red-wine sauce, or braised brill with zucchini flower stuffed with crabmeat on a bed of tagliatelle laced with chervil, surrounded by a sweet mix of baby beans, or scallops with a sweet-and-sour vinaigrette based on capers and white raisins, all strike superb and imaginative balances of flavor--precise, complex, and surprising: brilliant chamber music, not bombastic symphonies. The wine list is also classical, almost entirely French, with the expected depth in Bordeaux and Burgundy, but also canny choices from the Loire and Rhone.
Gordon Ramsay , 68 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HP. Tel: +44 0207 352-4441.
Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. Reservations essential.
Nearest Bus Stop: Chelsea Town Hall
Nearby Attractions: King’s Road, Chelsea Physic Garden
The Greenhouse was always noted for fine cooking and a fairly constipated ambience. Now, with a new owner and chef, it1s been elegantly refurbished (though still a bit staid), with an ambitious menu, even by London’s new high standards. The cooking aims at the luxury end of Provence and the Italian Riviera, robust yet refined--three courses are £60 ($106); values are set lunches at £28-32 ($50-56), such as grilled octopus on frisee-olive salad, or roast lamb with couscous and piperade, or a deconstructed pig’s foot with foie gras and apple, followed by Dover sole crusted with hazelnuts and lemon. The wine list features 2,500 choices, bristling with first growths, grand crus, cult favorites, none cheap, multi-vintage selections of Bordeaux and Burgundies, and lots of fine wines by the glass.
The Greenhouse, 27A Hay’s Mews, London W1J 5NY. Tel: +44 (0)207 499-3331.
Open for lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday.
Nearest Tube: Green Park
Nearby Attractions: Piccadilly, Royal Academy
Brett Graham took charge of the kitchen at the elegantly sedate Ledbury, in Notting Hill, at 26, and won a Michelin star at 27;Â here’s some of London’s most exciting cooking, posh but unpretentious, well-defined flavours, satisfying combinations. A salad of Spring vegetables, quail eggs, pea shoots and truffle dressing was as fresh and light as a baby’s smile; roast scallops with cauliflower and wild mushrooms in a potato emulsion was unctuous. An array of veal included sweetbreads and different cuts cooked various ways, with a pasta/mushroom gratin, white asparagus and toasted almonds; roast pigeon was tender and rare, with a voluptuous Madeira sauce. The wine list has 500 bins. Bordeaux is solid, Burgundy made me whimper with pleasure (only vicarious, at grand cru prices), California and European cult wines abound. Good choices in the medium-price bracket, excellent ones by the glass.
The Ledbury, 127 Ledbury Road, London W11. Tel: +44 (0)207 792-9090.
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Best Tube Stop: Notting Hill Gate
Nearby Attractions: Notting Hill, Portobello Road
MARCUS WAREING AT THE BERKELEY
Right now, the very posh nosh around here is at the restaurant formerly known as Petrus, in a cosy corner of the Berkeley Hotel, done up in thoroughly and appropriately royal purple plush. Star chef Marcus Wareing’s food is deft and assured, flavours complex and refined. Omelet Arnold Bennett includes lobster and a hollandaise glaze; a slab of braised turbot, glazed with welsh rarebit, rests on smoked cod roe and eggplant caviar; roast lamb is accompanied by braised (and succulent) lamb-shank faggots (meat-and-mushroom dumplings). The wine list is an all-star, mostly French tome, and not for the faint-hearted. There is a great deal of top white and red burgundy, all priced in triple figures, some at heights requiring oxygen. Bordeaux weighs in at championship level, too, with first growths leading the charge on the 900-bin list. Italian wines are well-selected and a bargain, and there are other good values, too. Basically, two people can have dinner and a nice bottle of wine for about £160 ($300). On this level, in London, with two Michelin stars, that’s not bad.
Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1X 7RL. Tel: +44 (0)207 235-1200.
Open for lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday.
Nearest Tube: Hyde Park Corner
Nearby Attractions: Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace
PIED A TERRE
In November 2004, Pied A Terre, one of London’s best restaurants, was also its hottest: it burned, to a shell. After a year of completely rebuilding, it re-opened, stylish, immediately triumphant, better than ever, with a redesigned and refitted kitchen, a considerable blessing. The menu features old favourites like seared and poached foie gras with fresh pasta and Sauternes consomme, or poached lobster with parmesan gnocchi and green olives in vanilla sauce, but there are outstanding new dishes like roast breast of teal on caramelized choucroute with wild mushroom puree, baby onions and mushroom-truffle sauce. Also splendid: curry-poached oysters with potato blinis, followed by pan-fried sea bass with creamed shallot, roasted salsify and wild mushrooms. The dining rooms are elegantly understated, the front room in shades of cream, the rear almost somber, with suede walls and dark leather banquettes. The wine list is about 850 bins. There is, unsurprisingly, lots of top-flight Bordeaux, and a splendid collection of rare Burgundies. Other choices are also outstanding, especially from Alsace and the Rhone, California and Australia.
Pied Ã Terre, 34 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2NH. Tel: +44 (0)207 636-1178.
Open for dinner Monday through Saturday and lunch Monday-Friday.
Nearest Tube: Goodge Street
Nearby Attractions: British Museum, Bloomsbury
There’s no better description of chaos than shopping, and no better antidote for its turbocharged peak in Bond Street than the stylish, quiet refuge of Sotheby’s Cafe. It’s in a recess that spills onto the main hallway, like an indoor sidewalk cafe. The menu is brief and sophisticated (lobster club sandwich, caesar salad with char-grilled chicken, salmon with potato-dill pancakes, simple things), and the wine list, assembled by Serena Sutcliffe, though short, is full of carefully chosen good values, most available by the glass. Afterward, stroll through the galleries for further civilized pleasures.
Sotheby’s Cafe 34-35 New Bond StreetLondon W1A 2AA Tel: +44 (0)207 293-5077.
Open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea Monday through Friday. Reservations advised.
Nearest Tube: Green Park
Nearby Attractions: Bond Street; Liberty
The Square is sleek, chic, assuredly understated, and as expensive as it feels. The cooking is also quietly stylish: prime ingredients confidently cooked with flairâ€“subtle chicken veloute and assertive tortellini of wild mushrooms; sauce mousseline on a shapely fillet of cod, with an array of finely diced vegetables and briny baby shrimp; roast salmon is meltingly rare at the centre. Dinner is elaborate: roast foie gras with caramelized endive, saute of langoustines and scallops with morels, canneloni of sweetbreads with cabbage and celery leaves, wild salmon with leeks and caviar. The wine list is extraordinary, with multiple vintages of Armand Rousseau, Jaboulet, Guigal, Leflaive, Dujac, Romanee-Conti, Latour, Haut Brion, Pichon-Lalande, and other international stars. Prices take off at warp speed from mid-£30, up into three and even four figures. There are a few dry wines by the glass.
The Square, 6-10 Bruton Street, London W1X 7AG. Tel: +44 (0)207 495-7100.
Open Monday-Friday lunch, dinner seven days a week.
Nearest Tube: Green Park
Nearby Attractions: Berkeley Square; Bond Street
TATE BRITAIN RESTAURANT
The Tate Britain Restaurant has had a superb wine list for more than twenty years, and it’s even improved lately, more eclectic, well-chosen, and fairly priced (£2 to £6 a bottle lower than the London averages). Burgundies include quite a few from Leflaive, Drouhin and Neillon, Bordeaux has a myriad of choices, with vintages back to the 1970s; Italy and California are also well represented. Fourteen wines by the glass include fine older "prestige selections." The food is straightforward, relatively simple Mediterranean and country French, basically serviceable and unexciting, service is cheerful and efficient. The Rex Whistler wrap-around mural of a fanciful countryside looks better than most London views.
Tate Britain Restaurant, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG. Tel: +44 (0)207 887-8825.
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. Reservations essential
Nearest Tube: Pimlico
Nearby Attractions: The museum, upstairs; Westminster Abbey
WEBSITES: Reservations always advisable, and these are also good previews: Gordon Ramsay is at www.gordonramsay.com; Pied a Terre at www.pied-a-terre.co.uk; Bentley’s at www.bentleysoysterbarandgrill.co.uk; The Square and The Ledbury at www.squarerestaurant.com; The Greenhouse at www.greenhouserestaurant.co.uk; Tate at www.tate.org.uk/britain/information/eating/htm