London Dining

The Wolseley is an all-day restaurant in a former bank just near The Ritz on Piccadilly, which is abuzz from morning to night.

The Wolseley is an all-day restaurant in a former bank just near The Ritz on Piccadilly, which is abuzz from morning to night.

Long gone are the days when you couldn’t find a decent meal in London. The food scene is now exploding here, and so, keeping the most popular areas for travelers in mind, here are our favorite new places by neighborhood, plus a few “mini-chains” not to miss.

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Covent Garden: Winning Pre- or Post-Theater Eating

If theater is on the agenda, then you’ll need sustenance around Covent Garden. Luckily, this area is moving beyond old, mediocre restaurant chains and welcoming stellar newcomers.

Frenchie Covent Garden by Chef Gregory Marchand is known for its imaginative and well-presented food.Opened in May, Frenchie is the chic Covent Garden outpost of a popular Paris restaurant by the same name (booked solid for six months). The name Frenchie comes from the moniker Jamie Oliver used for Nantes-born Chef Gregory Marchand, when they worked together at Fifteen, Oliver’s first restaurant in London and just one of the several high-profile kitchens for Marchand; the list also includes The Savoy and NYC’s Gramercy Tavern. Given his pedigree, the food is of the quality you would expect: imaginative, well presented and delicious. For lunch, there are two- or three-course set menus, a bargain at £24.50 and £28 respectively (perfect before a matinee). Dinner is à la carte, with small and larger plates which can be shared, or a five-course tasting menu for £55, with wines for £100. We had a fantastic lunch comprising dreamy white asparagus with Parmesan and a remarkable main of lamb with artichoke, medjool date puree and goat curd. Get in while you can, because, no doubt, this Frenchie will soon be as busy as the one in Paris.

Pictured: Frenchie Covent Garden by Chef Gregory Marchand is known for its imaginative and well-presented food.

When there’s no time for a full meal before or after the theater, tucked in the quiet Maiden Lane, is a sexy new spot, Duende. The cozy, 22-seat restaurant and bar serves modern, inventive tapas with Japanese flair. Good for a quick bite while sipping a Spanish wine or one of the dozen variations of Gin & Tonic on offer, Duende is the first solo venture of chef-patron Victor Garvey, a partner in two other London restaurants, Bravas Tapas and Amaru (Japanese/Peruvian), both in St. Katharine Docks. Chef Garvey is the center of the action in the open kitchen at the end of the copper-topped bar as he serves up food — especially tapas — and drinks influenced by his youth in Barcelona and extensive travels to Asia. Most unforgettable dishes: “Pacharan Marinated Salmon Roulade,” cured salmon wrapped sushi style around delicate, crispy sweet potato slivers with a wasabi aioli; “Galician Beef Filet,” cured rare, thinly sliced and topped with mushrooms, hazelnut and truffle vinaigrette; and little “Foie Gras stuffed Quail legs,” wrapped in pancetta, served with a demi-glace placed in an egg-shell for dipping.

Duende the first solo venture of chef-patron Victor Garvey, serves modern, inventive tapas with Japanese flair.

Duende the first solo venture of chef-patron Victor Garvey, serves modern, inventive tapas with Japanese flair.

Fitzrovia: Foodie Hotspot

A tad east of Marylebone, north of Oxford Street and Soho, Fitzrovia, a formerly sleepy area tucked beside the British Museum and the University of London, has suddenly become fashionable and very food-centric. Restaurateurs are drawn to the neighborhood for the connectivity (five tube stations), and streets filled with prime offices and gorgeous Edwardian-era apartments and Neoclassical mansions.

Now, you can’t walk a block without hitting some buzzed about place to dine. For hot dogs and champagne, head to Bubbledogs, while those looking for a gastro-pub can visit Newman Arms. A few other popular places include Lima, for fans of Peruvian cuisine; Honey & Co., known to serve middle-eastern fare; and Dabbous, where London’s best chef of 2012 dishes out haute cuisine. There are obviously too many to list, but two newbies stand out.

The Ninth offers simple yet refined French-Mediterranean-style dishes, all made for sharing.

The Ninth offers simple yet refined French-Mediterranean-style dishes, all made for sharing.

The Ninth, opened at the end of 2015 by Jun Tanaka, is restaurant number nine for this seasoned chef, who’s worked his way through London’s Michelin-starred kitchens (Le Gavroche, The Square, etc.), written a cookbook, done BBC cooking shows and the U.S. Food Network’s “Chopped,” where he won the title of “Chopped Grand Champion” in 2013. Here, Tanaka offers simple yet refined French-Mediterranean-style dishes, all made for sharing, in a modern, cozy setting. The focus of the menu is on seasonal veggies, house-cured meat and fish, and robust French classics with a twist. A case in point is a tarte tatin made of beets, with an incredible combination of flaky texture, earthy and sweet flavors (one of the best dishes we’ve eaten in London this year!). The sharing of plates makes The Ninth fun and offers loads of tastes to explore and enjoy. Definitely catch up with Tanaka in The Ninth. 

Wondrous meals are found at the intimate, 45-seat Portland, opened early last year by a management team that has worked in London’s top spots like Quality Chop House and 10 Greek Street, and the chef, Merlin Labron-Johnson, from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Belgium. With a chef named Merlin, nearly every London restaurant reviewer has claimed the surprising, bold flavors must be the work of a wizard. We agree, the food is delicious, and there is also something magical about the bare, Scandi-style space with the performance of an open kitchen. For such fine cooking, the menu is casual with inventive snacks (we loved the gruyere macaroon), and only three choices for firsts and mains: a fish, a meat and a vegetarian for each course. Local and seasonal foods shine, with deer, elk and goat featuring as meat choices depending on the time of year. If you’re game, this is the place to try it all.

Notting Hill: New Crop of Green Eats

Given the local population of bankers, trust funders, media moguls and their glam girlfriends and “yummy-mummy” wives, it’s not surprising that Notting Hill has become London’s epicenter for green eating. But what is surprising is how delicious this food — vegan and vegetarian, without refined sugar and flour — can be.

Farmacy opened in May by Camilla Fayed, daughter of former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, lays emphasis on green eating.Our pick of the crop is Farmacy, which was opened in May by Camilla Fayed, the 31-year-old daughter of former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed. It caters all day to post-Barre class beauties and slim, long-limbed Mummies. During evenings, fit men, who want to date, or are already married to, these beauties, are drawn in to enjoy tasty cocktails (especially the one with gin, lime and cucumber) and organic wines, around a sleek bar in this bright, clean-lined space. The food menu is all gloriously green (though they do serve eggs), and super foodie, yet our Argentine, carnivorous husband loved the veggie burger. The dairy and refined sugar-free “nice cream” brownie sundae is unreal.

Pictured: Farmacy opened in May by Camilla Fayed, daughter of former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, lays emphasis on green eating.

Redemption, whose tag line is “spoil yourself without spoiling yourself,” claims to be London’s first alcohol-free bar and has an entirely meat-, wheat- and sugar-free menu much more creative than salads and veggie burgers. Here you’ll find zucchini pasta con pesto, Asian-inspired maki rolls and a range of healthy desserts such as raw cheesecake, chia pudding, cacao energy balls and the like. Apparently, green is the new black, as the booze-free bar draws a fashion crowd and the guilt-free food keeps us all coming back.

Mini-Chains Worth a Meal (or two)

A few classic, delicious, high-end London restaurants have recently expanded into mini-chains without losing the quality of the originals and making the place worth checking out no matter which location.

Corbin & King, owners of The Wolseley, the sparkling all-day restaurant in a former bank just near The Ritz on Piccadilly, which is abuzz from morning to night (on our last visit, we spotted actor Eddie Redmayne), have opened brasseries in Chelsea, Covent Garden, Islington, Marylebone, and an American-style restaurant inside their Mayfair hotel, The Beaumont.

For steak, our favorite is Hawksmoor, which now has five locations in London (and one in Manchester), spreading across from the City and Covent Garden to Knightsbridge. The place is known to serve locally sourced, grass-fed British beef, seafood and winning salads. Do not miss the bone marrow appetizer or the sticky toffee pudding for dessert!

Farmacy (here), opened in May by Camilla Fayed, daughter of former Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed, lays emphasis on green eating.The Ivy, the Art Deco gem in the theater district is run by the glamorous Caprice Holdings (whose other notable spots include the recently opened Sexy Fish, Scott’s and Le Caprice). Caprice Holdings have expanded The Ivy brand with new cafés in Chelsea, Kensington and Marylebone. The restaurant is open all day and offers a mix of English classics like Shepherd’s Pie, Fish Cakes and roasts, and excellent basics, pretty settings and attentive service.

Pictured: The Ivy Brand has expanded with new cafés. Seen above is an offering from Ivy ensington, known for its modern British menu. 

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