Whether you like your dinners, casual or cuddly, this moody, unpretentious hideaway is top of my list for many reasons. Service that’s attentive not annoying, an atmos that’s relaxed yet romantic as well as dozens of beautiful memories will keep me coming back for years to come. The stand out dish is the risotto, served at the table in an aged Parmesan rind; it’s scooped onto your plate with plenty of the cheese in tow. The ingredients are seasonal, so you can expect combos such as artichoke and thyme in summer and radicchio and red wine in winter. If stick-to-your-rib rice dishes aren’t your things (do you hate joy too?) then the roasted meat options are also a winner. Ask for a table upstairs by the window and order a Negroni sbagliato to G yourself up for what’s to come.
2-4 Thackery Street, London W8
Located on the top floor of the distinctly un-trendy Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, this is the place to come if you’re a dim-sum devotee. It is, in my opinion, the best Chinese restaurant in London, not least for its outstanding views over London, it also serves the best xiao long boa and Beijing duck in town. The custard tarts are reassuring proof that the view doesn’t outweigh the cooking.
Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington High Street, W8
This family-run Vietnamese is always my first choice for a quick and delish midweek meal. Get the vegetable Pho during cold winter months or the chicken Bun-Sa in the heat. Both are supremely light, fresh and full of flavour and never leave me feeling rank afterwards. Good, clean food and excellent value.
351 Fulham Road, SW10
Urban ambiance, super healthy food and all-day breakfast on the weekends. I have a lot of time for owners Yas and Shirin. They’re tenaciously committed to meticulously sourcing the best ingredients and passionate about making the food look and taste fantastic. I love the Chia seed pudding because it’s the only one that tastes like cream and doesn’t present itself like frog semen. I’m also big on a Sun Salutation Bowl (quinoa, kale, sweet potato puree and a poached egg) as well as the Chuck Norris smoothie – a chocolate milkshake without the cellulite. Read my full review here.
59 Sloane Avenue, SW3
What a setting, what a meal! A seafood platter taller than Kim Kardashians wedding cake enjoyed beneath the watchful eye of Bibendum, the bulbous Michelin man adorning the tiles of this airy, candle-lit room. There’s almost an irony to his corpulence, with the menu consisting of light, simple shellfish and four variations of oysters. The meat dishes are pretty forgettable, but the aforementioned seafood extravaganza is well worth a try. I love the charmingly named winkles, coaxed from their shells with a pin. The crab claws are also a lot of fun if you’re cool with working for your dinner.
81 Fulham Road, SW3
This is one of my favourite lunch places and I’m never afraid to go all out when I come here. It’s not just the enchanting-erring-on-the-flirtatious waiters who make me feel so accepting of gluten, it’s cold, hard fact that the seafood pasta is phenom. Creamy without an ounce of cream (I don’t know how they do it) briny and slightly spicy, this I have as a main to follow the pizza I take down to start. The Capricciosa is the one to go for. Make sure you book a table upstairs because the basement is a little somber. It’s good value too but stick to pizza and pasta.
29 Kensington Park Road, W11
There’s something about a stiff, white tablecloth and a frosty glass of Prosecco that makes me feel both joyful and mature… almost as though I could take out a mortgage and buy a Daschund. I go to Lucio – I feel good, I feel distinguished. Former manager of San Lorenzo, Lucio Altana opened his doors in 2005 and has been a steadfast Chelsea fixture ever since. The menu is Northern Italian with offering such as tagliolini with cuttlefish and veal chop with leek and faro. Although I love the food here, I come for the scropino (vodka, lemon sorbet and egg whites whipped into a foam and served in a champagne glass) and grown-up vibes.
257 Fulham Road, SW3
Famous for making Parisians queue, L’Entrecote now has several sites across the world. Again, I love it here for sentimental reasons, but that’s not to say that I don’t think about the steak sauce at least thrice weekly. The exchange goes as follows:
– ‘How would you like your steak?’
– ‘What would you like to drink’
– ‘House red’
And you’re off. Next come your drinks a simple salad with walnuts and a mustard dressing followed by steak smothered in a buttery, garlicky, tangy sauce and thin, crispy chips. So crispy, so very very crispy. Round two would ideally be avoided to leave space for the very underrated deserts. Get the Gateau de Relais – three generous slices of chocolate cake in varying textures, the winner being the hard, mousse-like one. I recommend ordering an Uber home because odds are you’ll feel like Humpty Dumpty in a leotard.
22 Marylebone Lane, W1
If you’re in the market for a snack on a hot summers day, making a trip up to Chin Chin Labs in Camden Lock is the only way to keep clamminess at bay. Flavours change every week, but there’s always a weekly dairy and non dairy special as well as your not-so-standard Madagascan vanilla and Valrhona chocolate. The really awesome husband and wife proprietors make up the inventive base each day, mixing it with liquid nitrogen to order. Dramatic swathes of dry ice tumble across the floor whilst the mixing bowl churns it into a totally smooth, delicious gelato. I’ve enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwich with candied bacon topping as well as walnut whip and carrot cake. For this reason I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll go in the deepest, darkest days of November/February for a fix. Keep your eye on twitter for flavour updates, but this week its green-grass ice cream or passion fruit, chili and lime sorbet.
58 Camden Lock Place, NW1
From what on the outside (and inside I guess) looks like quite the unappealing dinner venue, Eat Tokyo serves up some of the best sushi and friends in town. Obviously the sushi is great (try the O-toro) but I’m really into some of the other options available. The pork, mackerel and miso aubergine are my dish of choice but you can read my full review here.
18 Hillgate Street, W8
Within spitting distance from home, I come here for a decent glass of rose and polenta chips. Though the crowd is muggier than a London summer, you can sit al fresco and don’t need to bother changing after the gym. The pizza is very, very good and it get’s quite lively after 10pm so it’s great if you want casual Friday vibes with a celebratory Saturday twist.
333 Fulham Road, SW10
I’ve been coming here most Sunday’s with my father since I can remember. I find it comforting that nothing changes and they still serve those lemon sorbet deserts that come inside an actual lemon. I don’t get those anymore, but I do get the Tandoori prawns or lamb chops and Mattar paneer (peas and cheese and love handles). The service is kindly and quick and everything we order comes hot, crisp and exactly the same as the week before. Though the dining room is somewhat dated and subdued, you can bring a group of ten here and be quite raucous without offending anyone. I don’t know why it works, but it does and I never want them to change. Ever.
2 Bina Gardens, SW5
The sister restaurant to the Clove Club, 10 Bells offers seasonal British food in cozy surroundings at very decent value. The exposed brick wall/NYC-esque epidemic was starting to bore me, but here, I barely even noticed the neon signage or mismatched chairs. The buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt is staggeringly good and worth a visit in itself. Everything else is great, but I was rather too taken with the chicken to recall much else. Lovely service, too.
84 Commercial Street Ec4
This teeny tiny little café on Warren Street serves up the kind of food that I’d love to dish up to my boyfriend and then bask in the resulting praise. The Middle-Eastern menu changes daily and you can expect a rainbow of meze, including silky, homemade hummus, flaky borek, pitta, falafel, (Yemeni-style, packed with herbs and a smidge of cardamom). Lamb is cooked overnight at the lowest of heats and served with plums, rose petal and couscous.
The shelves are lined with gorgeous homemade spice mixes, jams and granola. If you’re in the market for something sweet, the cake stands positively heave under the weight of glistening, pistachio and cherry stuffed buns, chocolate loaves and saffron sponges. It’s not going to blow you away with fussy molecular dishes or rare breed mini burgers, but that’s part of the charm. Go for an early lunch (they don’t take bookings) and sit by the window.
25a Warren Street, W1
This chic sushi joint gets a bad rep for being overpriced and over praised. Maybe it’s because I was never the one who paid or perhaps I know too little about sushi to comment, but I always thoroughly enjoyed my meals here. The bold, neon sign behind the sushi bar gently suggests ‘without soy sauce…but if you want to.’ In place of a dunking, each piece is finished with its own flavourings – perhaps a dab of tangy ume plum paste, a spoon of tosa jelly, or a quick blast from a blowtorch (perfect for balancing the richness of fatty tuna). The rest of the menu also displays precision and innovation. I love the Kakuni (slow-cooked pork belly with mustard cream) and the Saikyo lamb.
1A Argyll Road, W8
I go to Gail’s on Saturday mornings for three big reasons. The first is the breakfast. I get toasted corn bread topped with avocado and a crispy fried egg, followed by a flat white. The flat white is the second reason I go. The third and most important reasons for my slightly too frequent visits are the valhrona chocolate chip cookies. They’re the size of my face, flat and chewy with melted pieces of super dark, bitter chocolate inside.
341 Fulham Road, SW10
The entire menu is a British wonder, but tables must be booked well in advance. I stop in for one of their incredible venison scotch eggs and a Bloody Mary from time to time.
Walham Grove, SW6
I’m more than a big fan of bibimpab, a one-bowl wonder of steamed rice, sautéed vegetables and a fried egg, all mixed up together. Koba serves it in a blisteringly hot stone pot with a raw egg on top, which arrives at the table with a head-turning sizzle – all surprisingly attention-seeking for such a humble dish. The way you eat it is very important. Let it sit for a minute or two to let the rice crisp up against the sides of the pot. Then go wild with the chilli then give the whole thing a good stir. The broken egg will cook as it is dispersed through the rice and the chilli paste will turn everything a warm, orangey colour.
11 Rathbone Street, W1