The Handbook
The Handbook

Lockdown will end. We don’t know when, but it will. And when it does we can’t wait to enjoy our favourite restaurants again. Oh the joy as we shovel into our mouths those delicious flavours, enjoy chit chat with waiters and luxuriate in gorgeous surroundings. Which is why we asked our readers which restaurant they are desperate to visit. Over 700 responded and here’s what they’ve said…

1 – Amazonico

Top in our survey is a restaurant we, and everyone else in the industry, has been raving about for months 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 are flung open we’ll be with you, readers!

Where: 10 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6BR
Website: www.amazonicorestaurant.com

Where: 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S 2XG                                                                   Website: www.sketch.london

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 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.

Where: Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6BR
Website: www.sexyfish.com

Where: 1 Upper James Street, Soho, W1F 9DF
Website: www.bobbobricard.com

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 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 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.

Where: 43 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 7QR                                                          Website: www.le-gavroche.co.uk

WHERE: 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA                                                                               WEBSITE: www.dinnerbyheston.co.uk

5 – Dinner by Heston

Our voters know him for inventing the weird and whacky dishes 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), the sweary man himself may be controversially spending lockdown by hiding in Cornwall but we’re certain that chef Smyth is hard at work coming up with new menus.

A relative newcomer to the restaurant scene, Clare Smyth nevertheless quickly acquired a pair of Michelin Stars and 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.

Where: 92 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, W11 2PN
Website: www.corebyclaresmyth.com

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 March ‘thru’ May’, 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 recent 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’s the only place to be seen once lockdown’s lifted.

WHERE: Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HR                                                  WEBSITE: www.claridges.co.uk

Where: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AQ
Website: www.theledbury.com

9 – The Ledbury

We’re dreaming of a wander round the serenely beautiful stucco mansion lined streets of Notting Hill, maybe after a walk in Hyde Park and a browse of the Portobello market. Oh the things we miss during lockdown.

And clearly the thing we miss most is decent cooking, which is where The Ledbury and its two Michelin stars. Something of a Notting Hill legend, the restaurant is 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 is something special.

Leach, who came from Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s, has maintained an incredibly high standard making this a destination worth visiting minutes after lockdown lifts!

Updated June 2020: Terrible news, folks, The Ledbury will not be reopening after lockdown lifts. Read more here…

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.

Where: 85 Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 7NB
Website: www.hide.co.uk

Where: COMO Metropolitan, 19 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1LB
Website:
www.noburestaurants.com

11 – Nobu Old Park Lane

Robert De Niro has been outspoken during the recent pandemic, criticising politicians responses, particularly 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…

Where: 110 Bishopsgate, The City, EC2N 4AY                                                       Website: www.sushisamba.com

Where: 46 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 5AT                                                            Website: www.annabels.co.uk

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 it’s the closest you’ll get to Wimbledon this year *sob*.

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.

Where: 40-41 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1HX                                                  Website: www.bigmammagroup.com

Where: 110 Bishopsgate, The City, EC2N 4AY                                                                            Website: www.duckandwaffle.com

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.’

Where: 54-56 Great Eastern Street, Hackney, EC2A 3QR                                          Website: www.bigmammagroup.com

Where: 1-5 West Street, West End, WC2H 9NQ
Website: www.the-ivy.co.uk

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.

Where: 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, W1J 9BR
Website: www.theritzlondon.com

Where: 6 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TQ
Website: www.padella.co

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.

Where: Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW3 6RD
Website: www.claudebosi.com

Where: Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
Website: www.aquashard.co.uk

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.

Where:  22 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1BE
Website: www.galvinatwindows.com

Where: Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
Website: www.the-connaught.co.uk

23 – Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

Hélène Darroze is one of the world’s legendary chefs and her two 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’!

Where: 17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, W1J 8EA
Website: www.parkchinois.com

Where: 33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD
Website: www.closmaggiore.com

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!