Forget Umu, Zuma et al; nary a Japanese customer waiter or chef in sight, for good reason. Real Japanese food in London is in the 'burbs where the Japanese live. If you insist on staying central go to Cocoro. You won't be able to people-watch but you will get a very reasonable, authentic and heartfelt meal surrounded by appreciative Japanese customers and polite, knowledgeable service by Japanese waitstaff.
31 Marylebone Lane London W1 U2NH;
tel: 020 7935 2931
Still the best Indian restaurant in London, specialist in grilled meats - chicken tikka, lamb chops. Been going since it was still a cafe without a menu, and nobody seemed to speak English. Now the waiters have microphones to co-ordinate with the kitchen! Amazingly though, quality is as high as ever. Look at the reviews - almost unanimously called 'The best Indian in England'.
83 Fieldgate Street, London, E1 1JU;
tel: 020 7247 6400
nearest tube: Aldgate East, Whitechapel;
For the most authentic French food in the capital with quirky surroundings and no gimmicks.
Great snails, steak and wines. You have to go.
21 Monmouth St, London, WC2H 9DD - opposite Covent Garden Hotel;
tel: 020 7836 7243;
This warm and luxuriously designed Indian restaurant has a soothingly romantic environment with good lighting. There is a warm glow that suffuses the ambience. The food is extremely flavoursome, authentic and almost unforgettable (though a bit on the pricey side), with a good variety of starters, main courses and desserts that are imaginatively decorated.
The waiters are all very cordial, efficient, friendly and warm. It is definitely an enriching and illuminating dining experience.
Victory House, 99-101, Regent Street, London W1B 4RS (entrance is just around the corner in Swallow Street); tel: 020 7734 1401;
Underground: Piccadilly Circus
I'd like to recommend a fantastic restaurant that serves up alligator, ostrich and all sorts of other goodies. It is a beautifully decorated place where all the items on show are for sale. You are given a password when you turn up which makes it even more interesting. The pricing isn’t too bad either, £80 for two with starter and wine. If I could, I would go there everyday - it is really something special!
110 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 5ED
This restaurant serves a wide selection of vegetarian Indian food. The food is Gujarati with African influences due to the time the family spent in Uganda. Absolutely beautiful food, try the kofta or the green banana curry, and the pani puri is amazing.
188 Upper Tooting Road, London, SW17 7EJ; tel: 020 8767 7027
Nearest tube: Tooting Broadway
South Indian food of the highest quality. Be prepared to queue as this place is very busy with locals.
They do 6ft dosas! Try their Chilli fried idli with lemon rice - my favourite. The food is spicy but really tasty - and it is cheap cheap cheap. All dishes are fabulous. It’s a veggie restaurant and 100 yards down they have a non-veggie one. The veggie one is better - and this from a confirmed carnivore. Service is average but the food more than makes up for it. Feels like you are actually eating in India. Enjoy!
Various locations in London - East Ham, West Croydon, two in Manor Park and two in Wembley. For more information see www.chennaidosa.com/contactus.htm
Cheap and cheerful pizza and pasta restaurant on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. Friendly people, massive pizzas and noisy as hell on weekend nights. Pizzas cost about seven quid. Avoid the horrible pub next door though.
131 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3PX; tel: 020 7263 2114;
Nearest tube: Finsbury park
Kinda like an Indian fast food restaurant, only minus the garish interior. It's not the sort of place to have a long protracted meal, but it is great for grabbing a bite to eat. The food is good, and relatively inexpensive for London, although the service can be a little sloppy. Still, this place is always busy, and makes for a nice stop after a hard day's shopping in the West End.
9 Marshall Street, Soho W1F 7EJ; tel: 020 7287 9966;
Also at Earls Court (147 Earls Court Rd, tel: 020 7373 0220 ) and Islington (80 Upper St, tel: 020 7359 3399)
Caffé Caldesi is a great Italian restaurant (and cookery school) just off Marylebone High Street. They specialise in regional Italian food, so it isn't the sort of place to go for pizza and pasta (especially not pizza as they don't have any on the menu). The food I had when I went there was fantastic: Sardine alla Siciliana followed by Tagliata di Manzo.
The restaurant is relatively expensive with main courses costing about £15. A meal for two with wine would probably come to £70. Really fantastic
118 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QF;
tel: 020 7935 1144; fax: 020 7935 8832;
nearest station: Baker Street or Regents Park;
Great family-run tapas restaurant with consistently good, well-priced food. Service can be a little slow but don't let that put you off. Recommended.
3 Wightman Road, London, N4 1RQ; tel: 020 8340 5400;
Closest railway station: Harringay;
A fabulous Spanish/tapas restaurant with a great ambience suitable for intimate, romantic one-on-ones through to large parties. Fantastic value for money
16 Royal Parade, Blackheath Village, London SE3 0TL (overlooking the heath);
tel: 020 8297 1880;
Nearest train station: Blackheath, or Lewisham/Greenwich DLR
Very authentic food with a wide range of dishes. The best tapas I've personally had in Spain or outside. It's quite expensive but perfect for a special occasion. The service is kind of moody, which I find quite entertaining. Nice atmosphere and interior too.
32 Putney High Street, SW15 1SQ;
tel: 020 8780 1022;
Nearest station: Putney Bridge tube/Putney railway station;
This restuarant offers wonderful Spanish/North African cooking. The tapas menu is delicious, with simple, flavoursome dishes that allow each ingredient to speak for itself.
34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
tel: 020 7833 8336;
Classic all-day service, burgers served on a slab of wood with potted fries and a selection of toppings ranging from blue cheese to chilli. The best, most consistent burger in town - it's rammed from Thursday to Saturday.
191 Portobello Road, London W11, 020-7908 9696
The best burger I've had outside the US. The elegantly simple interior makes me feel I'm in a steakhouse, rather than a fast-food nightmare. Burgers are Aberdeen Angus and taste like steak, as a good burger should. Service is friendly and efficient. The usual toppings (bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato) and great fries - who wants anything fancier? Every time I pass by, I'm grateful for its presence.
105 Gloucester Road, London SW7, 020-7244 7666
The sign reads 'naturally reared', 'grass-fed', 'free range', and the interior is gastro Ikea-land, but the cheeseburger (£4.50) is a thing of beauty that conspires with milkshakes (£2.95) and malts (£3.25) to erase the memory of a certain clown-endorsed emporium. Charming staff, too.
341 Upper Street, London N1, 020-7359 4436
The plate arrives with a burger pinned into place with a thin stick: Aberdeen Angus beef grilled to juicy perfection, slipped between a sourdough bun and piled high with melted cheese and crunchy onions ... Within just a few minutes, the stick was on the table like a dead match, I was licking chutney off my fingers and my first date was ready to leave.
44 Northcote Road, London SW11, 020-7228 3309
Other bits of meat feature, as do erratic service and odd menu decisions (no chips?), but it's the charcoal-grilled burgers you come for. The whole experience makes the place memorable: from the rickety tables to the list of unusual beers. If you don't mind a crowd and you want a glorious burger, Bubba's your man.
Unit 12, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1, 020-7377 6999
This south London bar puts wagyu beef between its buns, making the tastiest, melt-in-the-mouth patties you'll find, and for under £10. The back-up Asian/ western fusion menu, the range of beers and wines, and the coffee are all top quality, too. In a city of golden arches and southern colonels, it's a revelation.
12 Streatham High Road, London SW16, 07747 607803
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