Eating. Tourist Board
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This section covers cafes, coffee bars, ice-cream parlours and tearooms, all of which you’ll find open during the day for light snacks or just a drink. Some of them also provide full evening meals, and, as they make no pretence to being full-on restaurants, you can use them for an inexpensive or quick bite before going out to a theatre...
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CafA©s and snacks
This section covers cafes , coffee bars , ice-cream parlours and tearooms , all of which you'll find open during the day for light snacks or just a drink. Some of them also provide full evening meals, and, as they make no pretence to being full-on restaurants, you can use them for an inexpensive or quick bite before going out to a theatre, cinema or club.
The listings here cover the full range, from unreconstructed workers cafes, where you can get traditional English breakfasts, fish and chips, pies and other calorific treats, to the refined salons of London's top hotels, where you can enjoy an Afternoon Tea blowout
Snacks, sandwiches, cakes and coffee
As well as the places we've listed, there are several London-wide chains that are well worth checking out. EAT ( www.eatcafe.co.uk) is a promising newcomer, and makes up excellent sandwiches on their own-baked bread; Pret a Manger also does ready-made sandwiches (though it helps if you like mayo), as well as hot stuffed croissants and sushi selections. Caffe Nero serves terrific coffee, a range of Italian cakes, and pasta, calzone and pizza. As far as other coffee chains go; there's Costa Coffee , the train station favourite, which serves some of the best coffee in town, as does Starbucks ( www.starbucks.com), the infamous clean-cut Seattle coffee company - Coffee Republic is a slightly less memorable replica; the only drawback to Aroma , with its bright Aztec colours, designer sandwiches and Portuguese pastries, is that the whole chain is now owned by McDonalds. Also worth bearing in mind are the Haagen-Dazs outlets scattered around the capital, which offer cakes, sundaes, shakes and coffee alongside ice creams in a huge range of flavours.
Mayfair and Marylebone
5 Vigo St, W1 tel 020/7734 8353. Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 11am-7pm.
An authentic French patisserie and cafe, with mountains of tempting pastries from which to indulge yourself while seated at the tables towards the front of the cafe; those at the back are for punters who want more substantial bistro fare.
Patisserie Valerie at Sagne
105 Marylebone High St, W1 tel 020/7935 6240; www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk. Tube: Bond Street or Baker Street. Mon-Fri 7.30am-7pm, Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
Founded as Maison Sagne in the 1920s, and preserving its wonderful decor from those days, the cafe is now run by Soho's fab patisserie makers, and is Marylebone's finest without doubt.
22 Frith St, W1 tel 020/7437 4520. Tube: Leicester Square. Closed Mon-Thurs 5-7am.
A tiny cafe that's a Soho institution, serving coffee, croissants and sandwiches more or less around the clock - as it has been since 1949. Popular with late-night clubbers and those here to watch the Italian-league soccer on the giant screen.
The Living Room
3 Bateman St, W1 tel 020/7437 4827. Tube: Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Sat 8am- 10pm, Sun noon-10pm.
Hidden away in a Soho backstreet, this welcoming, laid-back cafe serves good sandwiches and cakes, and has groovy music as well as great armchairs breakfasts, lunches and quick meals and tatty sofas to chill out on.
28 Greek St, W1 tel 020/7437 6007. Tube: Leicester Square. Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 9am-1pm & 3-8pm.
Long-standing, old-fashioned and downbeat Soho patisserie, with tables on two floors (and one or two outside) and a loyal clientele that keeps things busy. You'll be tempted in by the window full of elaborate cakes, but be warned: the service can be brusque and when it comes to coffee, they only do cafe au lait.
44 Old Compton St, W1 tel 020/7437 3466; www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk. Tube: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. Mon-Fri 7.30am-10pm, Sat & Sun 9.30am-7pm.
Popular coffee, croissant and cake emporium dating from the 1920s and attracting a loud-talking, arty Soho crowd. The same outfit now have a branch at 8 Russell St, WC2, and also run Patisserie Valerie at Sagne in Marylebone and the cafe inside the RIBA building on Portland Place.
Covent Garden and Bloomsbury
23 Museum St, WC1 tel 020/7436 0455. Tube: Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Fri 8.30am-5.30pm, Sat 10.30am-5.30pm, Sun 12.30-6pm.
Excellent, if small, cafe close by the British Museum, serving mouthwatering Italian sandwiches and more substantial dishes at lunchtime. Get there early to grab a seat.
57 Endell St, WC2 tel 020/7240 8085. Tube: Covent Garden. Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 9am-9pm.
The best things about this stylish Covent Garden cafe are the Italian sandwiches, the cheeses from nearby Neal's Yard Dairy, and the laid-back, funky atmosphere.
Monmouth Coffee Company
27 Monmouth St, WC2 tel 020/7836 5272. Tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm.
The marvellous aroma is the first thing you notice here, while the cramped wooden booths and daily newspapers on hand evoke an eighteenth-century coffee house atmosphere - pick and mix your coffee from a fine selection (or buy the beans to take home). No smoking
Clerkenwell, the City and the East End
Brick Lane Beigel Bake
159 Brick Lane, E1 tel 020/7729 0616. Tube: Shoreditch or Aldgate East. Daily 24hr.
The bagels at this no-frills takeaway in the heart of the East End are freshly made and unbelievably cheap, even when stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese.
86 St John St, EC1 tel 020/7253 7007. Tube: Farringdon or Barbican. Mon-Fri 7.30am-4.30pm.
Delicious tortilla-wrapped sandwiches made to order; takeaway or eat in this small, trendy, designer Clerkenwell cafe
Lambeth and Southwark
Konditor & Cook
Young Vic Theatre, 66 The Cut, E1 tel 020/7729 0616. Tube: Waterloo. Mon-Fri 8.30am-11pm, Sat 10.30am-11pm.
Cut above your average theatre cafe, this place gets its cakes and so forth made by the fabulous Konditor & Cook bakery, round the corner in Cornwall Road. You can also get snacks, organic ice creams and sorbets, and, of course, drinks at the bar.
Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill
Books for Cooks
4 Blenheim Crescent, W11 tel 020/7221 1992; www.booksforcooks.com. Tube: Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill Gate. Mon-Sat 9.30am-6pm.
Tiny cafe/restaurant within London's top cookery bookshop. Conditions are cramped, but this is an experience not to be missed. Just wander in and have a coffee while browsing, or ring ahead to book a table for lunch. No smoking.
57 Golborne Rd, W10 tel 020/8968 5242. Tube: Ladbroke Grove. Daily 8am-8pm.
Authentic and friendly Portuguese pastelaria, with coffee and cakes including the best custard tarts this side of Lisbon. The Oporto, at 62a Golborne Rd is a good fallback if this place is full.
102 Holland Park Ave, W11 tel 020/7221 2494. Tube: Holland Park. Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 8.30am-6pm.
French patisserie (with other branches in St John's Wood, Hampstead, Chelsea and Richmond) where you can guarantee you'll get the real thing when it comes to croissants and the like.
18 Bute St, SW7 tel 020/7584 5008. Tube: South Kensington. Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 8am-4pm.
Smack in the middle of South Kensington's French quarter, this is a top-notch patisserie/boulangerie, serving excellent coffee
3 Delancy St, NW1 tel 020/7387 1985. Tube: Camden Town or Mornington Crescent. Daily 9am-midnight.
Still probably the best French-style cafe in Camden, tucked away down a side road off Camden High Street; coffee, croissants, snacks and full meals.
17 Swains Lane, N6 tel 020/8348 1384. Gospel Oak train station, or bus #C2. Daily 9am-10pm.
Viennese cafe that's usefully close to the southeast side of Hampstead Heath, and also serves a few hearty Austrian dishes.
32 Heath St, NW3 tel 020/7435 9908. Tube: Hampstead. Daily 9am-6pm.
Popular central-European tearoom in Hampstead village serving sticky cakes to a mix of Heath-bound hordes and elderly locals.
8 Haverstock Hill, NW3 tel 020/7482 9003. Tube: Chalk Farm. Mon-Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 10am-10pm.
Situated halfway between Camden and Hampstead, this is a splendid and justly famous old-fashioned Italian ice-cream parlour; pizza and pasta are served in the adjacent restaurant
15 Nelson Rd, SE10 tel 020/8853 0602. Cutty Sark DLR, or Greenwich DLR and train station. Daily 10am-6pm.
Just about the only good sandwich cafe in the centre of Greenwich, serving excellent coffee, and with a small garden out back
The classic English afternoon tea - assorted sandwiches, scones and cream, cakes and tarts and, of course, lashings of tea - is available all over London. Best venues are the capital's top hotels and most fashionable department stores; a selection of the best is picked out below. To avoid disappointment it's best to book ahead. Expect to spend ?15-20 a head, and leave your jeans and trainers at home - most hotels will expect men to wear a jacket of some sort, though only the Ritz insists on jacket and tie.
33-34 Albemarle St, W1 tel 020/7493 6020; www.brownshotel.com. Tube: Green Park. Daily 3-6pm.
Brook St, W1 tel 020/7629 8860; www.savoy-group.co.uk. Tube: Bond Street. Daily 3-5.30pm.
54 Park Lane, W1 tel 020/7629 8888; www.dorchesterhotel.com. Tube: Hyde Park Corner. Daily 3-6pm.
Hyde Park Corner, SW1 tel 020/7259 5599; www.lanesborough.com. Tube: Green Park. Daily 3.30-6pm.
Piccadilly, W1 tel 020/7493 8181; www.theritzhotel.co.uk. Tube: Green Park. Daily 2-6pm.
Strand, WC2 tel 020/7836 4343; www.savoy-group.co.uk. Charing Cross tube. Daily 3-5.30pm.
Aldwych, WC2 tel 020/7836 2400; www.forte-hotels.com. Tube: Holborn or Temple tube. Mon-Fri 3-5.30pm; tea dances Sat 2.30-5pm, Sun 4-6.30pm.
If you just need to send a quick email to someone, or go online, head for a branch of easyEverything ( www.easyeverything.com), the no-frills Internet cafe chain - there's a 24hr branch just up the Strand, off Trafalgar Square. Alternatively, the Internet cafes listed below are worth a visit in their own right.
15 Golden Square, W1 tel 020/7287 2242; http://gold.globalcafe.co.uk. Mon-Fri 9am-11pm, Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 11am-11pm. Tube: Piccadilly Circus.
Pleasant, roomy Soho cafe, with helpful staff and a choice of bagels, double-decker sandwiches, coffee, tea and beer. Access to the terminals costs around ?3 per half-hour; Saturday nights are women-only.
The Vibe Bar
Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1 tel 020/7247 3479; www.vibe-bar.co.uk. Tube: Aldgate East. Mon-Sat 11am- 11pm.
Head for "Room Service", a row of terminals in the corner of this trendy bar in a former East End brewery; Internet access is free of charge
Breakfasts, lunches and quick meals
There are cafes and small, basic restaurants all over London that can rustle up an inexpensive meal. You should be able to fill up at all of the places listed in this section for under ?10, including tea or coffee.
Many of these cafes also feature big English breakfasts - fried egg, bacon, sausage and chips, usually available till 11am, but sometimes served all day and very filling. A huge number of London's cafes are run by Anglo-Italians, which means you're guaranteed good coffee and ciabatta sandwiches. Several of the places listed are also open in the evening, but the turnover is fast, so don't expect to linger; they're best seen as fuel stops before - or in a few cases, after - a night out.
A few London-wide chains are worth checking out: the white-and-blue, Art Decoish Cafe Flo does decent French brasserie fare, as does the red-clad Cafe Rouge ; Crank's , the original veggie cafe, is making a bid for world domination, losing its character and flavour en route; Ed's Easy Diner is a 1950s-theme fast-food joint dishing up some of the city's best burgers and fries; and Stockpot , which serve big portions at rock-bottom prices.
Piccadilly, Soho and Fitzrovia
Bar du Marche
19 Berwick St, W1 tel 020/7734 4606. Tube: Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. Mon-Sat noon-11pm.
A weird find in the middle of raucous Berwick Street market: a licensed French cafe serving quick snacks, brasserie staples, fried breakfasts and set meals for under ?10.
16 Moor St, W1 tel 020/7437 5513. Tube: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Sat noon-9.45pm.
Tiny, friendly Italian cafe that serves up huge plates of steaming, garlicky pasta, as well as omelettes, chicken and chops for around ?5. You'll almost certainly have to wait for - or share - a formica-topped table. Bring your own booze; there's a 50p-?1 corkage charge.
41 Fitzroy Square, W1 tel 020/7387 0411. Tube: Warren Street. Mon-Fri 8-9.15am, 12.30-1.45pm & 8-9.15pm, Sat & Sun 8.30-9.30am, 12.30-1.45pm & 8-9.15pm.
Don't take any notice of the signs saying the canteen is only for students - this place is open to the public, just press the bell and pile in. The entire menu is portioned up into pretty little bowls; go and collect what you want and pay at the till. The food is great and the prices unbelievably low.
Lee Ho Fook
4 Macclesfield St, W1 tel 020/7734 0782. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily 11.30am-11pm.
A genuine Chinese barbecue house - small, spartan and cheap - that is very difficult to find. Firstly, it is not the larger, grander, more tourist-friendly Lee Ho Fook around the corner in Gerrard Street. Macclesfield Street runs from Shaftesbury Avenue to Gerrard Street; on the west side is Dansey Place, and on the corner with a red-and-gold sign in Chinese and a host of ducks hanging on a rack is this place.
20 Old Compton St, W1 tel 020/7734 5917. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-midnight.
You won't find much haute cuisine at Pollo, but you do get value for money. As at neighbouring Centrale, we're talking comfort food, Latin style. Devotees return time and again for the cheap platefuls of filling pasta dishes, and friendly prompt service. Alcohol is served.
2 Newport Place, WC2 tel 020/7287 8777. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-midnight.
Providing conclusive proof that you don't need to take out a second mortgage to enjoy Japanese food in London, this friendly eatery on the edge of Chinatown shuns elaboration for fast food, Tokyo style. Minimalist decor lets the sushi and sumo do the talking, which - if the number of Japanese who frequent the place is anything to go by - it does fluently
Covent Garden and the Strand
Cafe in the Crypt
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Duncannon St, WC2 tel 020/7839 4342. Tube: Charing Cross. Mon-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun noon-8pm.
The self-service buffet food is nothing special, but there are regular veggie dishes, and the handy location - below the church in the crypt - makes this an ideal spot to fill up before hitting the West End.
Food for Thought
31 Neal St, WC2 tel 020/7836 0239. Tube: Covent Garden. Mon-Sat 9.30am-8.30pm.
Long-established but minuscule bargain veggie restaurant and takeaway counter - the food is good, with the menu changing twice daily, plus regular vegan and wheat-free options. Expect to queue and don't expect to linger at peak times.
52 Neal St, WC2 tel 020/7836 6345. Tube: Covent Garden tube. Mon-Sat 7.30am-8pm.
Classic Anglo-Italian cafe/sandwich bar with easy-going service. All-day breakfasts, plus plates of pasta and omelettes; come either side of lunch to make sure of a table.
30 Charing Cross Rd, WC2 tel 020/7836 4233. Tube: Leicester Square. Mon-Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 11am-9pm.
Busy cafe and takeaway joint serving a wide range of home-cooked veggie and Middle Eastern specialities. Hard to beat for value, choice, location or long hours - it's licensed, too, and the takeaway falafel are a central London bargain.
143 Strand, WC2 tel 020/7836 0650. Tube: Covent Garden or Temple. Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6-10pm.
There's a faded period charm to this long-established, inexpensive Anglo-Indian eatery, sandwiched between floors of the cheap Strand Continental Hotel. The "chillie bhajais" are to be taken very seriously.
4 Streatham St, WC1 tel 020/7323 9223. Tube: Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Sat noon-11pm, Sun 12.30-10pm.
Austere, minimalist canteen-style place where the waiters take your orders on hand-held computers. Diners share long benches and slurp huge bowls of noodle soup or stir-fried plates. You may have to queue, however, and the rapid turnover means it's not a place to consider for a long, romantic dinner
Clerkenwell, the City and East End
Unit 12, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 tel 020/7377 6999. Tube: Liverpool Street. Daily except Sat noon-3pm.
American barbecue fuel stop, using only the very best ingredients. Try chef Bubb's own smoked beef brisket and ribs, and be sure to taste his home-made barbie sauce (made to a secret formula).
Clark & Sons
46 Exmouth Market, EC1 tel 020/7837 1974. Tube: Angel or Farringdon. Mon-Thurs 10.30am-4pm, Fri 10.30am-5.30pm, Sat 10.30am-5pm.
As Exmouth Market is currently undergoing something of a trendy transformation, it's all the more surprising to find a genuine eel and pie shop still going strong - this is the most central one in the capital.
60 Exmouth Market, EC1 tel 020/7278 2420. Tube: Angel or Farringdon. Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm, Sat 10am-4pm.
In style and ambience, the minimalist Lunch is typical of nouveau Clerkenwell. However, the food is good, salads fresh, the specials worth looking out for, and, in fine weather, there's often a barbie out the back.
The Place Below
St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, EC2 tel 020/7329 0789. Tube: St Paul's or Bank. Mon-Fri 7.30am-2.30pm.
Something of a find in the midst of the City - a cafe serving imaginative (albeit slightly pricey) vegetarian dishes. Added to that, the wonderful Norman crypt makes for a very pleasant place in which to dine.
Ponti's Polo Bar
176 Bishopsgate, EC2 tel 020/7283 4889. Tube: Liverpool Street. Daily 24hr.
There's nothing in any way special about the Ponti's chain of cafes, but they're cheap, filling, vaguely Italian, and this particular branch is open round the clock.
Kensington and Chelsea
Jenny Lo's Teahouse
14 Ecclestone St, SW1 tel 020/7259 0399. Tube: Victoria. Mon-Fri 11.30am- 3pm & 6-10pm, Sat opens noon.
Bright, bare and utilitarian yet somehow stylish and fashionable, too, Jenny Lo's serves good Chinese food at low prices. Be sure to check out the therapeutic teas.
New Culture Revolution
305 King's Rd, SW3 tel 020/7352 9281. Tube: Sloane Square. Daily noon-11pm.
Great name, great concept - big bowls of freshly cooked noodles in sauce or soup or dumplings and rice dishes, all offering a one-stop meal at bargain prices in simple, minimalist surroundings. Not a place to linger
Tai Won Mein
49 Greenwich Church St, SE10 tel 020/8858 1668. Cutty Sark DLR or Greenwich DLR and train station. Daily 11.30am-11.30pm.
Good quality fast-food noodle bar that gets very busy at weekends. Decor is functional and minimalist; choose between rice, fried or soup noodles and ho fun (a flatter, softer, ribbon-like noodle).
London is a great place in which to eat out . You can sample more or less any kind of cuisine here, and, wherever you come from, you should find something new and quite possibly unique. Home to some of the best Cantonese restaurants in the whole of Europe, London is also a noted centre for Indian and Bangladeshi food, and has numerous French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Thai restaurants; and within all these cuisines, you can choose anything from simple meals to gourmet spreads. Traditional and modern British food is available all over town, and we've reviewed some of the best venues.
Another bonus is that there are plenty of places to eat around the main tourist drags of the West End: Soho has long been renowned for its eclectic and fashionable restaurants - and new eateries appear here every month - while Chinatown , on the other side of Shaftesbury Avenue, offers value-for-money eating right in the centre of town.
Many of the restaurants we've listed will be busy on most nights of the week, particularly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and you're best advised to reserve a table wherever you're headed. The majority of places take major credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard and Amex; in the listings, we've simply noted those that don't.
As for prices , you can pay an awful lot for a meal in London, and if you're used to North American portions, you're not going to be particularly impressed by the volume in most places. In the listings, we've quoted the minimum you can get away with spending (assuming you don't tip and don't drink) and the amount you can expect to pay for a full blowout.
Service is discretionary at most restaurants, but many tend to take no chances, emblazoning their bills with reminders that "Service is NOT included", or even including a ten to fifteen percent service charge on the bill (which they have to announce on the menu, by law). Normally you should, of course, pay service - it's how most of the staff make up their wages - but make sure you check you're not paying twice.
St James's, Mayfair and Marylebone
136-138 George St, W1 tel 020/7724 6338. Tube: Marble Arch. Daily 9am-midnight. Cash/ cheques only. ?7-25.
Spartan place that's the Lebanese equivalent to a northern working men's club, serving honest Lebanese fare that's terrific value for money, from the tabbouleh to the kebabs - wash it all down with fresh mint tea, and then have a go at a bubble pipe.
224 Piccadilly, W1 tel 020/7930 0488. Tube: Piccadilly Circus. Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6-11.30pm, Sun 6-10.30pm. ?25-45.
One of the city's most beautiful restaurants, behind Eros on Piccadilly Circus. The high-vaulted gold mosaic ceiling sparkles, and the menu is courtesy of scourge of the faint-hearted, Marco Pierre White. The set menu lunch for under ?20 a head is the best value and allows you to keep your table all afternoon.
43 Blandford St, W1 tel 020/7486 7340. Tube: Bond Street. Mon-Fri noon-2.15pm & 6.30-10.30pm, Sat closes 11pm, Sun 6.30-10.30pm. ?10-25.
Not a spaghetti house - spighetta actually means wheat - but a large basement buzzing with activity and serving pizza, pasta and standard Italian main courses. The pizzas and pasta dishes are very good, as are the classic puddings.
444 Edgware Rd, W2 tel 020/7258 3696. Tube: Edgware Road. Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6-10.30pm. ?6-16.
Small non-smoking restaurant that serves pure, freshly cooked and unexpurgated Burmese cuisine - a melange of Thai, Malaysian, a lot of Indian and a few things that are unique. The portions are huge, flavours hit the mark, the service friendly and the prices low.
16 Bury St, SW1 tel 020/7930 6767; www.conran.com. Tube: Green Park. Mon-Thurs noon-3pm & 5.30pm-midnight, Fri & Sat until 1am, Sun closes 11pm. ?22-35.
Huge 1930s ballroom revived by Terence Conran as one of the capital's busiest and most glamorous eating spots, so you'll need to book well in advance. There's an unmistakeable buzz about the place, the surroundings are splendid, and the fish and seafood dishes are excellent - it's also open late.
49-51 Lisson Grove, NW1 tel 020/7224 9000. Tube: Marylebone. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 5-10.30pm, Sat noon-10.30pm, Sun noon-2.45pm. ?12-20.
Top quality, no nonsense British fish and chips in the heart of Marylebone. The chips are done to a turn in quality groundnut oil, and the batter is just right. Takeaway or eat in
118 Shaftesbury Ave, W1 tel 020/7437 0370. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-11.30pm. ?6-15.
Bright, modernist Chinese restaurant with an exhausting and exhaustive menu ranging from traditional hand-pulled noodles to braised sea slug or shark fin. This is one of the more serious but accessible gastronomic Chinatown places, so if you're stuck for what to choose, ask for advice.
15 Lisle St, W1 tel 020/7437 1539. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-11.30pm. ?15-40.
Bigger and brassier than ever, this is a Chinatown restaurant that takes its cooking and its service seriously. Prices are above average, but the portions are large, and the food has an earthy, robust quality redolent of a chef who is absolutely confident of his flavours and textures.
29 Romilly St, W1 tel 020/7734 6112. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-midnight. ?12-30.
Despite the very handsome belle epoque Baroque decor and the pianist, this place is by no means exclusive. In fact, it's modelled on the reliable Pizza Express restaurants, serving thin-base pizzas and the like. You can't book and might be forced to hang out a while in the noisy Champagne Bar - no great hardship.
76 Brewer St, W1 tel 020/7734 7316. Tube: Piccadilly Circus. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 5-10pm, Sat noon-3.45pm & 5-10pm. ?10-30.
Small, friendly kaiten (or conveyor belt) sushi restaurant which pulls off the unlikely trick of serving really good sushi without being impersonal or intimidating. Open your box containing a pair of disposable chopsticks, pickled ginger and soy sauce, grab one or two plates (they're priced/coded by design not colour here) and tuck in.
100 Wardour St, W1 tel 020/7314 4000; www.conran.com. Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Thurs noon- 3pm & 6pm-midnight, Fri until 3am, Sat until 1am, Sun 12.30- 3pm & 6-11pm. ?15-50.
Mezzo has remained popular ever since Terence Conran opened this 600-seater in 1995. There's a bar, an informal Mezzonine restaurant upstairs, and, down the sweeping staircase, the full-on Mezzo with a space for performers. This is not a place for a quiet night out. The tables are packed close, and there's a fashionable mayhem of noise, but considering the numbers served here, the French/Med food is pretty good. There's a ?5 "music cover charge" after 8pm.
21 Lisle St, WC2 tel 020/7437 7923. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily noon-3am. ?7-20.
One of Chinatown's finest, with a chef/owner who pioneered many of the modern Cantonese dishes now on menus all over town. To sample the restaurant's more unusual dishes - order from the "Today's" and "Chef's Specials" menu, and don't miss the mussels in black-bean sauce or the fresh razor clam with garlic.
1 Gerrard Place, W1 tel 020/7734 0396. Tube: Leicester Square. Daily 11am-midnight. ?6-18.
Very probably the largest single restaurant in London, with over 500 seats. The menu is twelve pages long, but luckily you don't need it in order to enjoy the authentic dim sum, which is served from circulating "themed" trolleys, daily from 11am to 6pm.
Randall & Aubin
16 Brewer St, W1 tel 020/7287 4447. Tube: Piccadilly Circus. Mon-Sat noon-11pm, Sun 4-10.30pm. ?8-35.
Ex-butcher's shop that's now converted into a champagne and oyster bar, rotisserie, sandwich shop and charcuterie; in summer, it's a wonderfully airy place to eat, especially if you grab a seat by the window. Fish and seafood dominate the menu, but there are also hot-filled baguettes at lunchtime, and some adventurous puddings. Eat in or take away.
11-13 Frith St, W1 tel 020/7437 3091. Tube: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 5-11pm, Sat 6-11pm. ?15-40.
Provencal restaurant with a lunchtime rotisserie on the ground floor, a more serious restaurant upstairs, and a cheaper brasserie in the basement. You won't be disappointed by whichever one you choose, but it's on the first floor that Soho Soho shows its full potential: good cooking with judicious use of spices and seasoning, and friendly service.
50 Earlham St, WC2 tel 020/7813 2233; www.belgo-restaurants.com. Tube: Covent Garden. Mon-Thurs noon-11.30pm, Fri & Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-10.30pm. ?5-30.
Massive metal-minimalist cavern off Neal Street, serving excellent kilo buckets of moules mariniere, with frites and mayonnaise, a bewildering array of Belgian beers to choose from, and waffles for dessert. The ?5 lunchtime specials are a bargain for central London.
1 West St, WC2 tel 020/7836 4751. Tube: Leicester Square or Covent Garden. Daily noon-3pm & 5.30pm-midnight. ?20-50.
Regency-style restaurant built in 1928 that's been a theatreland and society favourite throughout the last century - and never more so than today. The only problem is getting a table; either book months ahead or try at very short notice, make do with a table in the bar area, or go for the bargain ?15 three-course weekend lunch.
28-32 St Martin's Court, WC2 tel 020/7240 2565. Tube: Leicester Square. Mon-Sat noon-3pm & 5.30pm-midnight, Sun noon-3.30pm & 5.30pm-midnight. ?15-50.
J. Sheekey 's pedigree goes back to World War I, but the place has recently been totally redesigned and refurbished. The menu is still focused on fish, but in addition to traditional fare such as grilled Dover sole, you're just as likely to find modernist dishes like grilled cuttlefish with creamed brandade. The weekend lunches at ?10-15 are great value.
21 Wellington St, WC2 tel 020/7836 7161. Tube: Covent Garden. Mon-Sat noon-3pm & 5.30-11.30pm. ?20-50.
Innovative, irrepressible restaurant with a large, bustling, black-and-white-tiled dining room. The emphasis is on fish so fresh you expect to see it flapping on the slab, and superb crustacea. The breads are still a feature and service is friendly.
12 Upper St Martin's Lane, WC2 tel 020/7379 7811. Tube: Leicester Square. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 5.45-11.30pm, Sat 5.45-11.30pm. ?15-60.
The Bauhaus decor and "Modern British" food are a bold statement, but this restaurant has plenty of admirers - the dishes are genuinely innovative and desserts are equally experimental. A simple fixed-price system operates: lunch is ?15 for two courses, or ?19 for three, while the three-course dinner is around ?30
Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury
48 Eversholt St, NW1 tel 020/7387 2789. Tube: Euston or Mornington Crescent. Mon-Sat noon-2.45pm & 6-11.30pm, Sun noon-2.30pm & 6-11.15pm. ?8-22.
Tucked round the back of Euston Station in a distinctly seedy area is this friendly, homely Nepalese restaurant. Don't bother with curry-house favourites like chicken tikka masala, but delve into the authentic Nepalese dishes, whose names you won't be familiar with, and only try the Coronation rum from Kathmandu if you know what you're doing.
67a Tottenham Court Rd, W1 tel 020/7636 9280. Tube: Goodge Street. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 6-10.30pm, Sun 6-10.30pm. ?10-40.
Busy, basic basement Japanese restaurant, good enough for a quick lunch or a more elaborate dinner. Either way, prices are infinitely more reasonable than elsewhere in the capital, and the food is tasty and authentic. Be warned, however: it's hard to find and, when you do, shockingly popular.
107a Great Russell St, WC1 tel 020/7580 5230. Tube: Tottenham Court Road. Daily noon-3pm & 6-11.30pm. ?12-25.
Inexpensive yet fully licensed, top-quality Keralan restaurant with two entirely (and religiously) separate kitchens: one serving mouthwatering, spicy and nutty veggie dishes, the other dishing out equally tasty meat and fish fare.
5 Charlotte St, W1 tel 020/7637 0222. Tube: Goodge Street. Mon-Sat noon-3pm & 6-11pm. ?18-40.
Above average prices for exceptional South Indian fish dishes, which are freshly prepared using top-quality ingredients, and come complete with accompaniments. The cooking is well-judged and the spices well-balanced, but if you're still nervous of the bill, go for the fixed-price three-course lunch at ?10 (vegetarian) or ?15 (seafood).
6 Little Portland St, W1 tel 020/7462 0099. Tube: Oxford Circus. Mon-Sat noon-11.30pm. ?10-25.
A highly successful celebration of British culinary strengths - sausages, whose inspiration is taken from all over the globe, and beer (ale, lager, stout or porter) - served in modern surroundings. Service is swift and friendly, and good-value pricing belies its location
Clerkenwell and the City
132 St John St, EC1 tel 020/7608 1550. Tube: Farringdon. Mon-Fri noon-11pm, Sat 6-11pm. ?15-35.
Part bar, part restaurant, Cicada is set back from the street and, when the weather's fine, it's a great place for eating alfresco. The unusual Thai-based menu allows you to mix and match from small, large and side dishes ranging from hot, lemony, fishy tom yum soup, to sweet ginger noodles, fresh clams, white miso or kinome leaves.
26 St John St, EC1 tel 020/7251 0848. Tube: Farringdon. Mon-Fri noon-3pm & 6-11pm, Sat 6-11pm. ?20-35.
A genuinely English restaurant, only a stone's throw from Smithfield meat market and specializing in offal. All those strange and unfashionable cuts of meat that were once commonplace in rural England - brains, bone marrow, meat from a cow's sternum - are on offer at this white-painted former smokehouse.
1-2 Limeburner Lane, EC4 tel 020/7329 1133. Tube: Blackfriars or St Paul's. Mon-Fri 11.30am-3.30pm & 5.30-10pm, ?20-40.
Beautiful, large, modern restaurant off Ludgate Hill that is one of the few places outside Singapore where you can sample Nonya cuisine - a fusion of Malayan and Chinese traditions and ingredients. The food is generally (but not always) spicy, and is characterized by a good deal of garlic, galangal, sweetness and lime leaves.
46-48 Brick Lane, E1 tel 020/7247 0234. Tube: Aldgate East. Mon-Fri noon-midnight, Sat 6pm-midnight, Sun noon-3pm & 6pm-midnight. ?8-20.
Self-proclaimed contemporary Bangladeshi restaurant that cuts an imposing modern figure on Brick Lane. The menu has all the standard Indian dishes plus a load of "baltis", the kitchen is open-plan, and the prices keen - as you'd expect in a street replete with rival curry houses.
Cafe Spice Namaste
16 Prescot St, E1 tel 020/7488 9242. Tube: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway DLR. Mon-Fri noon-3pm & 6.15-10.30pm, Sat 6.30-10.30pm. ?12-30.
Very popular Indian on the fringe of the City that is definitely not your average curry house. Parsee delicacies rub shoulders with dishes from Goa, Hyderabad and Kashmir, and the tandoori specialities are awesome. Be sure to check out the speciality menu, which changes weekly.
Viet Hoa Cafe
72 Kingsland Rd, E2 tel 020/7729 8293. Tube: Old Street. Tues-Sun noon-3.30pm & 5.30-11.30pm. ?8-18.
Large, light and airy Vietnamese cafe with a golden parquet floor, situated not far from the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton/ Shoreditch, and serving splendid "meals in a bowl" - soups and noodle dishes with everything from spring rolls to tofu. Be sure to try the pho soup, a Vietnamese staple that's eaten at any and every meal.
Lambeth and Southwark
Butlers Wharf Chop House
36e Shad Thames, SE1tel 020/7403 3403; www.conran.com. Tube: Tower Hill, London Bridge or Bermondsey. Mon-Fri & Sun noon-3pm & 6-11pm, Sat 6-11pm. ?15-30.
Another Conran-owned restaurant, showcasing the best of British meat, fish and cheeses. Prices are high, but the Chop House tries to cater for all: you could enjoy a simple dish at the bar, a well-priced set lunch, or an extravagant dinner. You can't reserve the terrace tables, but try to book ahead for a window seat.
Cathedral St, SE1 tel 020/7836 3236; www.fishdiner.co.uk. Tube: London Bridge. Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm & 5.30-11pm. ?20-50.
Busy, buzzy, tank-like restaurant, with huge windows and a glass ceiling, right in the middle of Borough Market. Choose your fish, decide how you want it cooked, and with what sauce, and then sit back and wait. Portions are huge, and the fish is as good and fresh as you'd expect.
13a Coin St, SE1 tel 020/7928 4554. Tube: Waterloo. Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 5.30-11pm, Sat 5.30-11pm. ?18-45.
Those who know what an RSJ is won't be disappointed (there's one holding up the first floor) nor will those in search of high-standard Anglo-French cooking. Its position near the South Bank, makes it an excellent spot for a meal after or before a show or concert. The set meals for around ?15 are particularly popular
Kensington and Chelsea
Bibendum Oyster House
Michelin House, 81 Fulham Rd, SW3 tel 020/7589 1480; www.conran.com. Tube: South Kensington. Mon-Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm ?12-30.
A glorious tiled affair built in 1911, this former garage is the best place to eat shellfish in London. There are three types of rock oysters, but if you're really hungry, try the "Plateau de Fruits De Mer", which also has crab, clams, langoustine, prawns, shrimps, whelks and winkles.
15 Ecclestone St, SW1 tel 020/7730 6922. Tube: Victoria. Mon-Sat noon-1am, Sun noon-11pm. ?15-50.
Owned by Ranald MacDonald, son of the Chief of Clanranald, this is a very Scottish place, strong on hospitality, and with a befuddlingly large range of rare malt whiskies. Fresh Scottish produce rules wherever possible, including MacSween's haggis (sheep's innards and oatmeal), venison and salmon.
51 Pimlico Rd, SW1 tel 020/7730 5712. Tube: Sloane Square. Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6-11.30pm. ?21.
Probably England's only restaurant serving Hunan food, a relative of Sichuan cuisine, with the same spicy kick to most dishes and a fair wallop of pepper in those that aren't actively riddled with chillis. Most people opt for the ?23 "Hunan's special leave-it-to-us feast", a multi-course extravaganza which lets the maitre d', Mr Peng, show what he can do.
12 St Alban's Grove, W8 tel 020/7937 6513. Tube: High Street Kensington or Gloucester Road. Mon-Fri 12.30-2.45pm & 7-11pm, Sat & Sun 7-11pm. ?14-35.
The food here is cooked with imagination, which makes the smart Wodka the place to go if you want to experience the best that Polish cuisine has to offer. It's not an expensive place to eat (especially if you go for the daily set-menu lunch), unless you start working your way through the large selection of flavoured vodkas.
44 Westbourne Grove, W2 020/7229 0416. Tube: Queensway or Bayswater. Daily noon-midnight. ?8-20.
Don't be put off by the dated sign outside - this place turns out really good, really cheap Iranian grub. The mixed starter is a fine sampler of all the usual dips, served with freshly-baked flat bread; lamb dishes feature heavily, but look out for the daily specials, and wash it all down with a pot of Iranian black tea.
139 Westbourne Grove, W11 tel 020/7229 4734. Tube: Notting Hill Gate. Mon-Sat noon-10.30pm, sittings 7.30 & 9.30pm. Cash/cheque only. ?12-22.
Small, seriously informal, unlicensed neighbourhood restaurant serving strikingly delicious "urban Sudanese" food at sensible prices. The place is so popular they've had to institute two sittings a night, yet the staff remain supremely laid-back. Be sure to check out the Sudanese spiced coffee at the end.
111 Westbourne Grove, W11 tel 020/7792 4035. Tube: Notting Hill Gate or Bayswater. Mon-Fri 6.30pm- midnight, Sat 12.30-4.30pm & 6.30pm-midnight. ?18-25.
No menu, no prices, but no problem either, as this Brazilian churrascarias specializes in smoky, grilled meat. " Rodizio " means "rotating", and refers to the carvers who wander about and lop off chunks of freshly grilled meats, while you help yourself from the salad bar and hot buffet to prime your plate.
133a Notting Hill Gate, W11 tel 020/7221 3331. Tube: Notting Hill Gate. Daily noon-11.30pm. ?8-18.
One of three consistently sound restaurants - the other two are at 6 Bute St, SW7, and 338 King's Rd, SW3 - which excels in freshly roasted chicken hot off the spit at very reasonable prices. You can have a leg and thigh, a breast and wing, the whole chicken or even an entire leg of lamb, which will feed three or four people
45a South End Rd, NW3 tel 020/7483 3765. Tube: Belsize Park. Mon-Thurs noon-2.30pm & 7-10.30pm, Fri & Sat noon-2.30pm & 7-11pm. ?16-35.
Brightly-painted, wooden-floored, roof-lit first-floor restaurant that's very contemporary, very fashionable and very Hampstead. The Modern British menu changes every two weeks or so and darts about a bit from cuisine to cuisine, but wherever you alight, each dish is well-presented, and the set lunch is a bargain at under ?15.
245 Eversholt St, NW1 tel 020/7722 1869. Tube: St John's Wood. Daily 11am-1pm. ?7-20.
The salt beef on rye with horseradish is as good as it was when Harry Morgan first opened a restaurant on this site in 1962. Other Jewish medicines available at this newly revamped and airy eatery include chicken noodle soup, chopped liver and a whole range of pickled cucumbers.
214 Camden High St, NW1 tel 020/7482 0777. Tube: Camden Town. Mon-Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-4.30pm. ?15-30.
Sauce offers food free of chemicals, pesticides and preservatives in a bright, colourful diner, with a juice and cocktail bar attached. Burgers, sandwiches and wraps are on the menu, and it's also fine to go just for a coffee or a beer.
257 Royal College St, NW1 tel 020/7284 1059. Tube: Camden Town. Mon-Sat 4.30pm-midnight, Sun 4.30-10.30pm. ?8-15.
This small, bright Nigerian restaurant runs on West African time, with service that is both unaffected and charming. The food is worth the wait, particularly the goat pepper soup, the prawn "doughnuts", and the wide range of rich stews
The North Pole
131 Greenwich High Rd, SE10 tel 020/8853 3020. Greenwich train station. Tues-Sun noon-2.30pm & 7-10.30pm. ?15-30.
Downstairs is a vibrant bar full of the local hip young things; upstairs is a restaurant offering "East meets West" cuisine, combining Pacific Rim-style cooking with European ingredients. Eastern main courses such as pan-fired monkfish with a spicy galangal sauce share menu space with more European dishes like saffron tagliolini. Be sure to check out the goldfish-bowl lamps.
Chiswick to Richmond
11 Hill Rise, Richmond, Surrey tel 020/8948 7473. Tube: Richmond. Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun noon-10pm. ?8-25.
Small, bright, authentic Breton creperie, with a loyal local following, and fixed-price lunchtime menus for under ?10. Choose between galettes, crepes or more formal French main courses, including lots of fresh fish and shellfish, and wash it all down with Breton cider in traditional earthenware bolees.
14 Station Parade, Kew, Surrey tel 020/8940 6777. Tube: Kew Gardens. Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 7-10.30pm, Sun noon-3pm. ?20-50.
Clean-cut, modern restaurant on the very doorstep of Kew Gardens tube, with blissfully comfortable chairs. The menu changes on a daily basis, with five or six choices for each course, and set-menu prices hovering around the ?20 mark. The cooking is imaginative and straightforward, and owes much to genuine French food.
42 Devonshire Rd, W4 tel 020/8742 3149. Tube: Turnham Green. Mon-Sat 6.30-11pm. ?20-30.
Small, informal and ambitious South African restaurant, with an open-plan barbie-oriented kitchen. Many of the ingredients are imported, so there's plenty of biltong, game and fish from SA, plus smoked English ostrich to please expats
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