It feels like we’re living in Narnia, living in fear and enduring constant winter, there wasn’t even really a Christmas, while Mr Tumnus is darting from tree to tree. Okay, maybe not the Mr Tumnus bit. But, to stretch the tenuous analogy a little further, Aslan is coming! The lockdown is going to end, sooner rather than later by all accounts, and there will a day when we’re all back in our favourite restaurants.
It’s amazing how quickly we snap back into old habits. We’ll be eating out every week, that squiggle-on-your-palm sign for ‘please bring the bill’, that’s muscle memory. The faux sniff and swig charade to ‘taste’ the wine charade? You’ll be like Brannagh reviving a great Shakesperian role. The return to normality will be swift. The only question is: where will you go?
During lockdown 1.0 we asked our readers which restaurant they are desperate to visit. Over 700 responded and their responses seem equally perfect for now. Here’s where you’re desperate to visit, in order of popularity…
1 – Amazonico
Top in our survey is a restaurant we, and everyone else in the industry, has been raving about for a year now, Amazonico.
‘Has to be seen to be believed’ is an epithet too generously distributed, when it should really be reserved for places like Amazonico. The Berkeley Square restaurant is hot stuff, not because it’s in the Brazilian jungle but because in non-COVID times you can’t move for A-listers Instagramming.
And it’s easy to understand why, the restaurant is simply beautiful. Split in to several zones, the foliage and stunning decor transport you to the depths of the Amazon, but clearly to a bit where they serve something significantly better than bananas and Um Bongo because the food is delicious.
As soon as these doors were flung open on July 4th, I was lunching there, and we’ll be back equally fast this time around!
2 – sketch
No surprises that the second most popular choice among our readers is Sketch (sorry, ‘sketch’, the upper-case S seems to have gotten lost between the trip from outer space and the PR department). It’s also got three Michelin stars, that’s like half The Plough.
And yet, despite having amassed enough culinary accolades to fill a trophy cabinet the size of the Glade bar, the loos are still the main attraction!
Littered with bizarreness, the restaurants (for it is three; the super expensive Library (the one with the stars) and then the still super expensive Gallery (no stars left lying around here, sadly) and Parlour) are generally great, though I’ve had hit-and-miss experiences at The Gallery.
But then we’re all there for the experience as much as the grub, and who cares after our lockdown banana bread experiences?
3 – Sexy Fish
Aquatic life was never sexier than a post-lockdown visit to Berkeley Square’s Sexy Fish.
As the name hints, the menu is seafoody, taking inspiration from the Japanese and Asian cuisine. And, if whisky’s your tipple, you can enjoy what’s apparently the world’s largest Japanese whisky collection – there’s ‘at least’ 400 bottles of the stuff.
Aquatic life was never sexier!
In terms of fishes on dishes, the menu brims with the finest maki, golden gyozas and miso.
4 – Bob Bob Ricard
The restaurant that’s so good they (sort of) named it twice! Surely ‘Press for Champagne’ was designed precisely for the end of the COVID-19 crisis?
Every oligarch worth his salt probably has their own Champagne button close to hand at all times, whether it’s on their 300ft yacht or their $20m jet, or at Bob Bob Ricard. The Russian restaurant is seriously smart, and not just by Russian resto standards, it’s one of Soho’s gems and in normal times it’s more buzzing than its all of its Champagne buttons pressed together.
Eccentric and creative, the restaurant fuses rich famous with Russian suave, a world where everything is gold, marble or velvet. The food is a mixture of British and Russian ‘best hits’ and comes from the kitchen of mastermind chef Eric Chavot.
6 – Le Gavroche
Our surveyors (that’s you) clearly enjoy their Michelin stars. Le Gavroche was the first restaurant in the country to earn three of them (still an incredibly small club) thanks to the wizardry of Michel Roux Jr.
The superstar chef, sometime telly person and all-round genius is synonymous with the iconic restaurant which is old-school and yet contemporary, the restaurant is scattered with photos of famous patrons while the traditional French cuisine, paired with excellent wines, is the ideal post-lockdown unwind and dine.
5 – Dinner by Heston
Our voters know him for inventing the weird and whacky dishes shown on TV, and now they fancy trying his bizarre combinations for themselves, but obviously without the interminable waiting list at the Fat Duck.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental gives diners the chance to soak up the energy and activity of the great man from the comfort of your table as you peep through the chef’s table window, or simply enjoy the Hyde Park views and curious historical menu.
British Historical is, unsurprisingly, a widely overlooked genre of cuisine. If anyone was going to dig it out then there would be no prizes for guessing that Heston Blumenthal would run with it. What is perhaps a little more surprising is not that he did, but that it was such a huge success.
Opening to huge acclaim in 2011 and located in Knightsbridge’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel the restaurant took the world by storm. It’s easy to understand why, the food, developed alongside Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, is meticulously researched and beautifully presented, from dishes familiar to the court of Henry XIII to those inspired by Victorian novelist Lewis Carroll.
7 – Core by Claire Smyth
Hailed as “the Margaret Thatcher of cooking” by Gordon Ramsay (it was meant as a compliment), Smyth just goes from strength to strength.
After quickly acquiring a pair of Michelin Stars for Core, Ramsay’s former head chef was also the caterer for Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception.
The Notting Hill restaurant serves seasonal British food, across two tasting menus (one five courses, the other seven), and has won plaudits from all and sundry. And now is one of only a handful of three star restaurants in the world.
8 – Davies & Brook
I always find Americanisms foisted on me out of nowhere a little grating, ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘this lockdown’s going to last December ‘thru’ April’, but when Davies & Brook announced their US intersection themed restaurant name I loved it. Not least because now I know exactly where to find it! Not that I needed directions: it’s in Claridge’s!
One of London’s most stylish openings is also one of its hottest tickets and our survey suggests that readers are desperate to get inside. And rightly so because it’s beautiful with that American smoothness which comes with money and class.
Having collected three Michelin-stars for New York’s Eleven Madison Park, chef Daniel Humm has brought his expertise and style to Claridge’s and it paid off with a Michelin Star this month and it’s the only place to be seen once lockdown’s lifted.
9 – The Ledbury
This was ninth on our list and, tragically, we’re never going to return. Because it’s shut its doors permanently. One of many restaurants to bite the dust, unable to keep afloat in an impossible business environment.
The Notting Hill restaurant was a quiet sanctum of fine dining, the creation of Australian chef Brett Graham and, along with a team headed by head chef Jake Leach, the food really was something special.
Leach, who came from Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s, maintained an incredibly high standard making this a destination with few peers.
10 – Hide
When you come out of hiding, where will you head? Hide! Hide marked the return of the prodigal Ollie Dabbous, after the a Raymond Blanc protégé closed his eponymous restaurant.
The restaurant, opened in conjunction with Hedonism Wines, multi-storeys over three levels, Below is a basement bar, with an exhaustive list of wines and spirits thanks to Hedonism Wines. Ground is a daytime ‘normal’ restaurant.
But the real action is upstairs at ‘Above, where Dabbous genuis is let roam free for beautifully prepared set lunches or his evening tasting menus with matching wine flights.
11 – Nobu Old Park Lane
Robert De Niro has been outspoken during the recent pandemic, criticising politicians responses, particularly former president Donald Trump. And this same good judgement paid off in his backing of Nobu.
The most successful example of celebrity restaurant owners has to be the Taxi actor, who encouraged Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (ie Nobu) to open the first Nobu in New York in 1994. Having put up the cash to get the restaurant off the ground it was only a matter of time until Nobu became a global empire of restaurants and hotels.
Londoners can enjoy Nobu Old Park Lane’s simple but devastatingly effective “new style” Japanese cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients, set in the minimalistic dining room overlooking Hyde Park.
12 – SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden
If only we knew how many it’ll be, I’d be counting down every single day until I can return to SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden. To be fair and explain our methodology a little our survey results tended not to differentiate between SUSHISAMBA, the original location on Bishopsgate overlooking The City, and the new addition, SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden, so we’ve gone with the latter.
Strikingly beautiful and perfectly located, the restaurant is flamboyantly fabulous. Topped with a huge glass canopy, the greenhouse feel inside is distinctly jungle-y.
The bar boasts a ‘living ceiling’, with plants hanging down and giving the distinct impression that you’re thousands of miles from the nearest Apple Store (in fact you’re a matter of yards away).
The Peruvian, Brazilian, Japanese restaurant serves an eclectic and exotic menu that’s a real dining experience in itself, but it’s hard to decide whether it outshines the surroundings…
13 – Annabel’s
We aren’t sure if we have a surprisingly high number of Annabel’s members among our readers, or if the strictly exclusive Annabel’s is simply an escapist ideal, but in any case it proved incredibly popular in our survey.
The club is legendary on the London club scene. It may not be the oldest, the grandest or even the most exclusive, but it’s one of the best known and the prettiest.
The new Italian, Matteo’s, is worth checking out but really as the sun comes out and we celebrate the end of quarantine, everyone’s going to want to be in the gorgeous Garden restaurant, and with the retractable roof like at Wimbledon (remember Wimbledon?)
14 – Circolo Popolare
What we’ll need in abundance after this pandemic subsides is fun. And there’s oodles of it to be had at Circolo Popolare. This is a restaurant that certainly does nothing in half measures. Quite literally, there’s 20,000 bottles of spirits adorning the walls.
Fun vibes are a’plenty at this, with vibrant colours, over-the-top interiors and a huge rainforest growing out of the wall that’s enough to make even Tarzan jealous.
15 – Duck & Waffle
Ever wondered what they cook at Duck & Waffle? Stand back, Miss Marple (syrup), we’ve solved this one…
After seemingly months of my own two-ingredient dish, beans on toast, Duck & Waffle is incredibly enticing.
Forty floors above The City, this skyline restaurant combines our favourite batter-based treat and our second favourite waterborne wildfowl (after swans: swans rock).
The duck’s eye view restaurant soars 600ft above ground level, and serves both their eponymous ingredients from breakfast (start the day with a Duck Benedict) to dinner (a signature dish of duck and waffle) back to breakfast again with a 24 hour menu of ducks and waffles and ducks and waffles.
16 – Gloria
It’s possible that right now the Italian coast isn’t top of your travel plans. More like Tesco, or however far you can walk in half an hour before you have to return.
But when restaurants open again you’re likely to be calling in at this Capri-style all-day Trattoria. Set in the middle of Shoreditch the place channels the coast of Naples and it’s an insta-lover’s dream, with great interiors and Gloria’s glorious Italian cuisine.
Enjoy carbonara swirled into a whole pecorino romano wheel, finished off with crispy Italian cured meat and a sprinkle of black pepper, carby sin that can be washed down with their signature ‘Colada me Later.’
17 – The Ivy
Nowadays we’re as used to seeing The Ivy on the high street as Greg’s, but there’s something special about the original, the ‘real’ Ivy.
Imagine being the place that The Queen goes for dinner! When she can’t be bothered to cook it’s one of the only restaurants she seems to go to. And it’s not just our monarch, the restaurant is famous for attracting huge names and anyone who’s anyone has eaten there.
The food is British traditional, with a much loved shepherd’s pie, sausage and mash or fish and chips sitting alongside more complicated dishes. We’ll sure Her Maj will be back just as soon as lockdown’s over!
18 – The Ritz
It’s a word synonymous with quality and luxury, even the mention of The Ritz sets the hairs on the back of our necks a-tingle. Which is the same feeling you get when walking into the restaurant at the most famous hotel in the world, with it’s sky high ceilings held aloft by marble columns and dripping with chandeliers.
It’s only natural that spending months in lockdown will make you yearn for the opulent. And what could be more opulent than The Ritz? What’s more, you may well find that you’ve saved some pennies, what with being indoors 23/7, so perhaps you can indulge?
The grandeur may be jaw dropping, but Executive Chef John Williams MBE sees to it that so is the food. With a French style that is only fitting for such a Sun King setting the food is classic but fabulous.
19 – Padella
Queuing has lost its allure during lockdown. Standing six feet apart with your trolley at Asda simply isn’t the same thing.
But when we’ve got license to queue again for a restaurant, then the only one worth the effort is Borough star Padella.
Serving some of the best pasta in London, if not the world, forget everything you think you know about pasta, that it comes encased in plastic from Sainsburys and you pour some orange looking sauce over it and knock it back in front of Corrie; no, this is proper pasta, and even in a city abounding with splendid homemade pasta, Padella are the pasta-masters of the art.
20 – Bibendum
My father-in-law still thinks that Bibendum is the place he should go to get his car serviced. Thankfully he’s not filled in our survey and someone should tell him that it’s not been a garage for about 30 years.
Instead converted (like so much else) into an upmarket restaurant, the restaurant was bought by Sir Terrance Conran in the ’80s and Bibendum (named after the Michelin man) was born.
The oyster and seafood restaurant has been there since, in several guises, and lately and most successfully, under Claude Bosi who (finally) won the site two Michelin stars, bringing things nicely full Michelin circle. Worth a visit for the famed stained glass windows, the extraordinary building and the history, let alone Bosi’s exquisite cuisine.
21 – Aqua Shard
Dining at altitude normally involves an international air fare and an inedible meal. Not that anyone can fly right now, and in the absence of globe trotting this summer you’re going to want to book a table at Aqua Shard, and it’ll come at a fraction of the price of a flight and with an infinitely better menu.
The dark and elegant interior contrasts with the wide open skyline and the British menu, curated by Head Chef Dale Osborne, means there’s more than the view to write home about.
Before or after, or both, make sure you enjoy the cocktail bar attached, the selection of drinks is great and we assure you you’ll need to spend some time taking in the vistas from half way up The Shard.
22 – Galvin at Windows
If lockdown admiring the view from your basement flat hasn’t been the most inspiring, then you’re going to go mad for Galvin at Windows.
The French menu, courtesy of Chef Patron Chris Galvin, has earned the chef a Michelin star, and the view from the twenty eight floor deserves an award of its own! Stop yourself from peering down into the queen’s Buckingham Palace garden for long enough and you can enjoy a gastronomic assault on the senses.
23 – Hélène Darroze at The Connaught
Hélène Darroze is one of the world’s legendary chefs and her now three Michelin Star restaurant at The Connaught deserves every accolade that’s been thrown its way. And that’s a lot. I think it’s possibly one of my favourites of all time and I found myself lockdown daydreaming about her chicken recipes just the other day.
Set in the stunning Connaught Hotel alongside Jean Georges who occupies the other side of the building, the food is inspired by Darroze’s native South West France and combines the very best of the region.
24 – Park Chinois
During lockdown we all need some escapism, and running away to the opulence of 1930s Shanghai sounds like our cup of Oolong!
Richly quirky, in every meaning of the term, Park Chinois is flamboyant and wonderfully decadent.
The restaurant serves exquisite regional Chinese food and accompanies it with live entertainment all in the heart of Mayfair.
Behind the intriguing red doors lurks a beguiling interior inspired by the aesthetics of Chinoiserie but with a French twist.
Also, any excuse to use the word ‘Chinoiserie’!
25 – Clos Maggiore
What you’re going to want after spending a couple months in lockdown with your other half is a date night… No, actually, you really will. Especially if it’s at Clos Maggiore.
Famously promoted as the most romantic restaurant in London, the ceiling has been weaved into an intricate floral web from a series of cherry blossom and if you’re lucky enough to be seated in the so-called ‘fairy room’ (though most of us aren’t) then you’ll enjoy the canopy above you and, in the summer months, the air too given the retractable roof.
We received 720 responses to our recent survey, thank you to everyone who took part.
Other notable restaurants who didn’t make the top 25 but were popular include: Brat (they were robbed, it’s great!), Chiltern Firehouse, Hutong (the view!), Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, River Cafe, Social Eating House, Umu, Noble Rot, Scott’s (a meal in that crazy dining room would make lockdown all worth it!), Berners Tavern, China Tang, Dishoom, Gymkhana, Hoppers, Oxo Tower (how I long to eat here, watching the boats and people), Pidgin, The Clove Club, 108 Garage, Dallloway Terrace, Eggslut, Endo at the Rotunda, Le dame du Pic, Mildred’s, Petrus, Oblix, Nopi, Pollen St Social, St John’s, the Athaneaum, Tom Kerridge (still desperate to go here myself!), Trullo, Bao (all of them!) Laurant at Hotel Café Royal, Wild Food Cafe and many many more!
We can’t wait to eat at ALL of them after lockdown ends!