In a city as big as London, there is no shortage of breathtaking experiences. From the museums to the architecture to the variety of people happy to call the city home, there are stunning experiences and interactions at every turn. So, too, an equal amount of duds, disappointments, and miserably underwhelming experiences — it is, after all, real life, and not "Notting Hill."
No matter where you like, when it comes to choosing where to eat, it's safe to say no one wants to fork out their hard-earned money only to be disappointed by the service, the food, or the atmosphere. The magical combination of all three aspects, alongside the costs, keeps us returning to an establishment.
For those looking for a venue to celebrate a milestone event— be it a birthday, anniversary, or finally scheduling that long overdue meet-up with a good friend — these establishments are known to make for a truly memorable meal, thanks partly to their atmosphere. They all feature something slightly different. For some, it's the views; for others, the decor. From buzzy and eclectic to elegant and romantic, each establishment on this list has something unique to offer its guests. As a longtime Londoner, these recommendations come primarily from my experience or others in the city. They are just a sliver of the city's exceptional dining experiences.
Since its opening in 2004, Roka has been the place to see and be seen, known for clientele as beautiful as the food from its kitchen. Roka has five locations in London alone, and many worldwide, including Spain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Each location is associated with luxury, a stylish and lively atmosphere, and stunning Japanese cuisine.
Roka's signature immersive dining experience centers around a robata grill, a wide, flat cooktop in Japanese cuisine, similar to a barbecue. The group's flagship restaurant is on London's Charlotte Street and is still worth visiting. Other locations now include Canary Wharf, Mayfair, and Aldwych.
While you can order a la carte at Roka, the tasting menu is a show-stopping and memorable experience worth saving up for. Those who like to savor their food might ask the team for short breaks during the endless stream of beautiful dishes, including a show-stopping dessert arrangement with plenty of fresh tropical fruits for a lighter finish. While it's not the place to go for a quiet, romantic dinner, the buzzing atmosphere, attentive service, and spectacular food will remind you that you're in the nucleus of an exciting, cosmopolitan city that is London. After dinner, you'll want to check out the stunning basement bar, Shochu.
+44 (0)20 7580 6464
37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR
Whether dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or afternoon tea, Sketch is known to bring a generous helping of drama, art, and theatrics to any customer experience. And that is precisely what a meal at Sketch is — an experience.
It has earned its reputation as one of the city's most iconic and prettiest places to have a meal. Like an interactive game of Clue, you can have breakfast in the parlor, lunch in the Gallery (once candy pink, now redecorated to a golden yellow), dinner in the Lecture room, cocktails in the Glade, and still have rooms and experiences yet to take in. Each room is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. Even the bathrooms are known for being one of the city's most Instagram-worthy. It's Sketch London's world, and we're all just living in it. Sketch is also exceptionally well known for its afternoon tea experience, which must be booked several months in advance.
+44 (0)02 7659 4500
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Somewhat new to London's dining scene, Kol, which opened fatefully in 2020, celebrates the flavors of Mexico using local, British ingredients. Led by Santiago Lastra, who comes with a pedigree of training, including a Master's Degree in Culinary Innovation, and work with Rene Redzepi during Roma's residency in Mexico, the menu reflects a mix of playfulness alongside tradition. Kol's ambiance reflects its dedication to representing the breadth of Mexican cuisine well while respecting available British resources. There is no cosplay or pretension here, making its ambiance refreshingly grounded, which can be hard to come by, especially while racking up awards and serving the city's top food critics; as such, reservations can be hard to come by.
The menu, mostly a la carte, also includes an understated six-course tasting menu, available only by request on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Private dining and chef tables can also be arranged. Mezcal lovers should also pay a visit to the separate Mezcaleria, either for before-dinner drinks or a nightcap.
Open solely in the evenings from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., bookings are suggested and go very quickly. Newsletter subscribers are given booking priority, with reservations for January released shortly. However, the restaurant also reserves space for walk-ins for those more spontaneous souls.
+44 (0)20 3829 6888
9 Seymour Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7BA
This recently refurbished restaurant is known for its flavorful food from modern-day Jerusalem, including dishes and ingredients from Southern Spain, Northern Africa, and the Levant. Palomar also earned a reputation as the place to interact and connect with the friendly staff and impressive chefs behind the bar, where most of the cooking takes place. In its earlier days, this would go as far as taking shots or drinks together, though the practice seems to have moved on slightly.
Now, with a larger dining room than previously, the place to really experience The Palomar in its essence is to book a place at the bar top and soak up the playful-meets-precise energy. It also grants you access to viewing the cooking process, taking in the aromatics, and seeing each dish to check out precisely what makes your mouth water before placing an order yourself.
The way to best experience The Palomar is to order several dishes to share with your dining mates. You do not want to miss ordering the kubaneh, a fluffy, stretchy bread, the fattoush salad, or the 'Spicy Experience' featuring a variety of dips, perfect for the kubaneh. Cocktails are also superb. Though the restaurant leaves room for walk-ins, reservations are a must for parties of more than two people, as the place seems perpetually packed. Open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday and dinner only Monday and Tuesday.
+44 (0) 207 439 8777
34 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DN
There is something gloriously sophisticated that has endeared Hide to customers. Perhaps the architecture, situated over three stories, prioritizes light, natural textures, and clean lines. Michelin-starred Hide is centered smack in the middle of London's Piccadilly, an area that can feel anything but spacious. Or maybe it's the food, all made in-house, using as many seasonal, local ingredients and suppliers as possible, thus exuding a sense of thoughtfulness and care. Hide seems to walk a line that many cannot, conveying expertise without pretension.
This is an experience in the big and the bold, and the wine list is no exception. Wine aficionados will be happy to learn that Hedonism Wines has partnered with the team to create an exceptional wine list to accompany the food, developed and executed by renowned chef Ollie Dabbous.
Pick and choose from the a la carte menu, delight in a set lunch, or immerse yourself in the complete tasting menu, complete with wine pairings. There are no bad choices here; the food and experience feel like an exercise in self-care of the finest order. Finish the meal with a pot of Mariage Frères tea to complete the experience.
+44 (0)20 3146 8666
85 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NB
Bob Bob Ricard
Any establishment that features a "press for Champagne" button at every table or booth practically advertises a good time just by the atmosphere and interior alone. Bob Bob Ricard lives up to such assumptions, with drinks flowing and fantastic British-meets-French food coming out the kitchen doors. Located just off bustling Regent Street, the royal blue and gold interior, complete with velvet curtains offering each table extra privacy, is an exercise in luxury with sophisticated, house party vibes. As the dress code states, "Fashionwear is welcome, activewear is not."
The minds behind Bob Bob Richard have set some hard boundaries to keep the restaurant's specific atmosphere. Menu ranges from individual vodka shots, oysters, and caviar to chicken and Champagne pie — a tribute to grownup pleasures and tastes. That's exactly who this restaurant is designed for, as children 15 and under aren't permitted. Currently open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday with dinner served daily from 5:30 p.m. through midnight.
+44 203 145 1000
1 Upper James Street Soho, London, W1F 9DF
Duck And Waffle
The experience at Duck and Waffle starts with the glass elevator ride up the 40 stories into the clouds to reach the restaurant's lobby. On a clear day, take in the vista as you tower above much of London, or, on one of the city's many overcast days, simply be one of the few to experience the weather first. Duck and Waffle is one of the city's only 24-hour restaurants; making a list of where to go for a decadent bite with spectacular views at 3 a.m. As you might imagine, the people watching at this hour of the morning can be equally stunning.
The dish that inspired the restaurant's name, a take on chicken and waffles, is served at any time of day and well worth ordering. Have the dish all to yourself or order one for the table alongside other spectacular dishes like whole roasted sea bass. While walk-ins are welcome, you wouldn't want to be caught with a duck craving and no seat, so booking is recommended. Unlike showing up at the diner at 3 a.m., a smart casual dress code is strongly suggested.
+44 (0) 203 640 7310
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate I London, EC2N 4AY
Having taken inspiration from their original venue in the leafy neighborhood of Petersham, Petersham restaurant in London's Covent Garden celebrates nature, juxtaposed with its urban setting. With a focus on seasonal ingredients and fine Italian cooking, the atmosphere is warm, comforting, and friendly — exactly the kind of thing that might stun urbanites, reminding them of how good it feels not to rush.
Petersham Restaurant is matched by the company of its more casual sister restaurant, La Goccia, alongside a florist and farmhouse-type shop. Stepping off the touristy streets of Covent Garden and into the Floral Court is like taking a breath, almost as if the business's Richmond-based garden shop had been picked up and airlifted into the city's center.
Serving lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and tasting menus, The Petersham also considers it's circa West End setting by offering guests a pre-theater two-course or three-course menu, Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. For those looking for understated, ingredient-forward Italian cooking and a garden-like respite in the middle of the city, this one is for you.
+44 (0)20 7305 7676
2 Floral Court, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9FB
The Dysart epitomizes quiet, understated elegance, thoughtful detail, and warm service. It doesn't have to shout to be heard, which is why it is so stunning and has earned a Michelin star. This family-owned business is set back from a busy, narrow road in the southwest borough of Petersham. From the outside, it feels more like a stately home than it does a commercial business.
The oak bar, made from repurposed church pews, is an extraordinary feature of the interior, which is set in cream tones and white tablecloths with fresh flowers on tables, often picked from the wildflowers growing outside. Dining is an event. Choose between a two or three-course seasonal menu at lunchtime or a three, or four-course menu at dinner. Nine-course tasting menus are also available. Homemade bread and butter is always provided alongside exceptional petit fours. Booking is essential.
+44 (0)20 8940 8005
135 Petersham Road, Surrey TW10 7AA
The sheer energy of Darjeeling Express proprietor Asma Khan is known to stun anyone in her presence, from local Londoners to the likes of Paul Rudd, Dan Levy, and Antoni Porowski. These foodie celebs have been known to pop by the restaurant for a visit whenever they're in town. It's not hard to see why. Khan exudes a mixture of confidence, conviction, and warmth, infusing these attributes into her female-led kitchens and directly into the food itself. Having now been featured in an episode of Netflix Chef's Table, Khan began her journey into the restaurant industry with her well-known supper clubs, hosted in her family home before requiring more space.
The restaurant is now in its third home on the historical fashion haven of Carnaby Street. Here, she continues to host her now famous biryani supper clubs, a favorite of Rudd's. Though currently sold out, a new date for February 2024 should appear on the website soon, so keep your eyes peeled for the drop. Needless to say, reservations here, whether simply for lunch or to experience the supper club, are essential.
+44 (0) 203 375 3772
2.1, 2.4 Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
Inspired by the elite clubs and India's high society, Gymkhana lives up to its muse, having retained a Michelin star for nearly a decade — not an easy feat. Situated over two rooms, each with a different tone and decor, furnishings feature dark woods, booths, art deco style lamps with black and white cricket team photos, equestrian portraits and trophies on one floor, and a cozy peach and deep red color palate with an intricate textile border on the floor below. Personal touches include hunting trophies from chef proprietor Karam Sethi's grandmother. There are also private vaults available to book for exclusive dinners.
The menu features suburb kebabs and tikka, chops, and game from lamb to quail, as well as various curries from Goan prawn to chicken butter masala. You'll want to save room and budget for dessert and drinks; both menus are extensive and highly recommended. Open daily for lunch and dinner from 12 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.
+44 (0)20 3011 5900
42 Albermarle Street, London, W1S 4JH
Harrods Food Hall
While this isn't exactly just one restaurant, there is something over-the-top and stunning about visiting the food halls of one of the city's most famous designer department stores. Truly, you can find whatever it is your heart desires here, from tropical fruits and fancy French patisserie to a Champagne and oyster bar, all under one roof with signature Harrods touches of marble and brass finishing.
Wander through the fresh market hall, get lost or overwhelmed with decision fatigue in the dedicated chocolate hall, or pick up a gift from the fine wine and spirits section. The food hall covers the entire ground floor of the department store — we dare you not to get lost.
Once you've wandered, sit and soak in the experience at one of the many cafes, bars, or restaurants. There are several dedicated pan-Asian counters from ramen to sushi, including a dim sum terrace, a Tiffany-themed cafe, and recently-opened Harrod's Dining Hall, featuring dishes from a range of chefs including Neha Mishra and Tom Kerridge, to name just a few. Once you've had your fill of food, head for a mind-boggling shopping experience.
+44 (0)20 3626 7911
87–135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL
Hutong is all about good food with an exceptional view, which is why it's on this list. Even the bathrooms provide floor-to-ceiling views over London — a detail restaurant critic Jay Rayner refers to as a "loo with a view." Hutong's menu is dedicated to the food of Northern China. The setting is all about theatrics, from its location on the 33rd floor of the Shard building down to the presentation of crispy duck and pancakes prepared for you table-side.
Hutong is owned by the Aqua group, known for its cosmopolitan bars and restaurants in various cities from Dubai to New York, Miami to Hong Kong, where it was first opened in a city known for its extravagant, above-the-skyline dining experiences. Huton is open for lunch and dinner service daily, but reservations are strongly suggested. Hutong is a venue that feels purpose-built for a special occasion or celebration.
+44 (0)20 3011 1257
31 St Thomas Street Level 33 The Shard, London SE1 9RY
This garden oasis in Covent Garden might make you briefly forget that you are, in fact, in the middle of London and not somewhere in the rolling hills of Tuscany. With walls and ceilings covered in foliage and cherry blossoms, the stunning setting oozes romance. It draws inspiration from Provence and Tuscany's countryside hospitality, two areas known for their dedication to mixing seasonality with luxury. And so, too, does the menu, featuring modern European cuisine focusing on provenience.
To start, tuck into Dorset crab, Orkney scallops, or heritage beetroot, among other dishes that celebrate the ingredients' origin and flavor. Mains to follow include Merryfield duck breast, roasted Cornish stone bass, and plenty more, best when paired with a glass or bottle of Clos Maggiore's exceptionally curated wine collection. Now dressed with fairy lights and ornaments for the festive season, the atmosphere feels more magical than ever. Booking is essential; you'll want to wear something equally stylish that matches the atmosphere.
+44 (0)20 4580 1174
33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD
Read the original article on Tasting Table.