An insider's guide to the best hotel restaurants in London, from Michelin-starred icons to upscale American diners and Japanese eateries, in areas including Mayfair, the City, Park Lane, Covent Garden and Hyde Park Corner.
Nobu at COMO Metropolitan London
The only institution on Park Lane that is just as revered by Londoners as it is by the international super rich. Look around and everyone is ordering the sushi (£4-£10 per piece) – swollen, oversized lobs of fish on springy, tentatively warm oblongs of rice. A plate of it includes sweet, swollen, pellucid prawns, and fatty otoro tuna – slashed from the belly of the fish – which becomes a swirl of creamy richness in the mouth.
The black cod with miso (£39.50) is a signature dish here: it’s got a filthy, sticky sweetness to it; the meat curls at the edges with a tangy char. This is one of the few Japanese restaurants in London where it’s worth ordering dessert – the chocolate bento boxes contain a gooey hot fondant that sighs theatrically before spewing out chocolate sauce when you stick your spoon in – like a volcano fashioned from cocoa beans. It’s stabilised with a single scoop of green tea ice cream, cooling with a herbal kick.
Read the full review: COMO Metropolitan London
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
There’s something gently unhinged about the interiors, from the porcelain cauliflowers on the white-clothed tables to the installation made of what look like oversized garden peas tacked on one wall. The menu – gold stitched and reeking of caramel leather – is also more intimidating than a footnoted copy of Ulysses.
Mr Ducasse has a predilection for smacking together larger than life ingredients in audacious ways, as the tasting menu (£140) conveys. Take the lobster with truffled chicken quenelles, which tastes of both gravied flesh and sea. The flavours don’t compete but rather caress each other. The chef doesn’t believe in 'balancing' textures either – this dish, with its glops of semolina, easeful mushrooms and oozing sauce, is hot, mellifluent, dribbling indulgence that says a polite 'no thank you' to any proposition of crisp or crunch. The signature duck and heritage beetroot dish sounds pedestrian. But it is cloaked in an earthy, bitter soot of cacao – the flavour is akin to sucking on the lightest crackle of electricity, both pleasurable and perverse. Expect the kind of culinary brilliance that'll leave your taste buds in shock and your nerves shot, in other words.
Read the full review: Dorchester, London
TÎNG at Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard
Let’s be honest. People come here not for the food, but rather to engage in the act of eating in front of those views. I don’t have a clue what Ting means in its original language. But in English it’s the sound that happens when you flick glass. All the more appropriate then for a restaurant on the 35th floor of the Shard. You can watch a chiffon-purple sunset bleed onto the Gothic Revival bascules of Tower Bridge while necking down foie gras and slurping on Pinot Gris. By the time you are forking at dessert, the scene beyond the window resembles an LED-lit patchwork quilt in midnight blue.
The food at Ting gets a mixed response. There are allegations of overpricing. But given the location, this seems absurd. Nor is the food merely mediocre – the tasting menu resembles something you would enjoy at a decent AA Rosette restaurant in a country house hotel, although, granted, it’ll cost you more. A shredded mound of dorset crab came in a hazelnut foam, which wrapped it in a ticklishly toasted bind. The seabass was bathed in a zealously smoky lapsang-souchong jus spiked with nettles; a parcel of lamb had an interior as pink and shiny as Barbie packaging, and was peppered with punchy ras el hanout. It was a good day for food.
Read the full review: Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard
HIX Mayfair at Brown's Hotel
A commendable British menu served in a gentleman’s club without the cigar smoke. They serve all the things that Brits love for a special occasion – scallops (check), dorset crab (check). But there are also tarted up versions of dishes designed to be eaten on the sofa with a beer. Note the like monkfish curry (£27), tender in texture and blazing in tone, with pakoras which serve as a samphire-specked sponge to slurp up the extraneous sauce.
All the posh stuff delivers: the Loch Ryan native oysters (£4.75 each) smell of the tide grazing over seaweed, and are plump with a pure, mineral taste; the lobsters (£26) are generous and flavoured with just a hint of lemon and butter to bring out its naturally flavour, which floats somewhere between flesh and air. Pudding here is a suitably big, serious business. Most dishes are an unrelenting festival of whipped cream and sugared fruit. Try the Peruvian Gold chocolate pudding with hot Morello cherries and crème fraîche sorbet (£8).
Read the full review: Brown's Hotel
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction at COMO The Halkin
An authentically camp slice of the Spanish new food movement that started with El Bulli and has spawned as much silliness as it has Michelin stars. Yes, you’re expected to sip on mango puree from a smashed up beer can. Yes, the plates are described with ridiculous terms like 'scallops leaving the home'. But – like with an eccentric, lovable ex, – you’ll still be raking over Facebook photos of your seven-course tasting meal (£110) with greedy, pathetic longing months later, after a mediocre takeaway curry and too much wine.
Take the 'Egg in the Leaf'. It’s baked with mathematician’s precision to maintain its structure but it also threatens to rupture its sunny, aglutinous yolk at any moment. Sprinklings of homemade crisps and chorizo add texture and kick to all the warmth and wobble and cream. I will remember the tuna for the rest of my days: delicately seared and a barky hit of cinnamon licking over the subtle, pallid sweetness of the fish. It's the sort of dish that keeps on giving: globs of apple sauce and a fruit berry added a pleasing hit of acid and fruit.
Read the full review: COMO The Halkin
The Colony Grill Room at The Beaumont
To begin at the end: order the bespoke sundae for dessert (£8.75). The waiter will bring you a bingo-style checklist and the kind of half-sized pencils one only encounters in MUJI colouring sets and when playing minigolf. Don’t feel bashful when you’ve ticked most of the boxes, including the peanut brittle, kid’s candy butterscotch and Bourbon Anglaise –they’re used to diabolical levels of gluttony here. And wastage: if you finish a third of it, you’ve done better than most.
This place is so American it’s almost parodying itself. All of the cuts are served with french fries. One of the signature dishes is meatloaf. There’s chicken and sweetcorn chowder. It’s all done so well though: the steak tartare (£11.50) is mottled with warm spices and slathered in a creamy egg confit. The veal chops (£36) are sweet in flavour and burly in size; they are also lacerated with grill marks and laced with crackling, salt-encrusted strips of fat. And – heavens above – the creamed corn (£4.50). Is there anything else on earth that shares the consistency of baby food but tastes this good? It’s the perfect balance of vegetal and butteriness here. Order two.
Read the full review: The Beaumont
Eneko at One Aldwych
Yes, another new outfit serving Basque cuisine. Perhaps the reason it’s becoming so big here is because Basque country and Britain are basically the same. The drizzly weather, the love for seafood, the tendency to wistful introversy. Eneko is a valued addition because it is both affordable and credible. Entering this basement restaurant is a bit like descending into a bronze-sheathed troglodyte’s lair though.
Don’t miss the Memories of the Bay of Biscay starter (£15) served on a tray of smoking dry ice. To be fair, this devious insta-worthy enhancement is also factually accurate – in spring and early summer the bay is triangulated with fog. The Oysters are creamy and pulsate with citrus flavours, the prawn tartare is soft and fresh with a briny kick of olive emulsion. Go for the roasted Iberico presa (£17) as your main. It is from the shoulder of the animal and considered the 'Wagyu' cut of the pork world. Here, it’s softens in the mouth as readily as a chunk of Cornish fudge, and is pockmarked with delicate, sizzling marblings of fat.
Read the full review: One Aldwych
Céleste at The Lanesborough
This hotel is the kind of place nobody would bat an eyelid if a monocled English aristocrat in tails and spats accosted the waitress for a turtle soup and a whole roast swan. An exaggeration perhaps. But the powder-blue Regency-style here is truly like stepping into a chapter in a Jane Austen novel – with its icing-white pilasters, Roman heads on gold-foiled shelves, and Grecian wall moulds.
In contrast, the £85 five-course tasting menu at this European fine dining restaurant, which gained its first Michelin star in 2016, is modern and takes risks. A courgette flower was obscenely stuffed with a teasingly mild, semi-ripened goat cheese; a sprinkling of olives and pineapple bits went on the offensive as tiny, life-affirming bullets of salt and sour. A slab of turbot was aromatised not only with samphire but with spring onions – this might have been antagonistic in less skilful hands, but in this case it enhanced the oceanic flavours with a pleasant fresh heat.
Read the full review: The Lanesborough
Berners Tavern at The London EDITION
This modern British restaurant resembles what it might look like if someone tried to hang up the whole National gallery collection in one room. Peer closer, though, and the shadowy oil works are jarringly eccentric, depicting angel statues and piles of dates for no apparent reason at all. The heavily-moulded ceiling also seems like a study in wedding cake frosting styles circa 1833. It’s all utterly impressive, and utterly incomprehensible.
If you see a chicken starter on the menu, don’t hesitate: the crispy skin on mine (£14) was a skimpy, salty, translucent veil over succulent flesh that hissed out heat like a smouldering kettle. It paddled in a shallow pool of its own juices. A truffle emulsion also delivered depth and thick driblets of plutocracy. The seafood mains are solid: go for the chef’s pride, which is the dover sole (£38). It's pricey but exemplary, hosed with burnt butter, which smells of toast and hot lemon cream; the taste is a splendid collision of citrus and hazelnuts. Agreeably acidulated pellets of capers and samphire deftly shoot through the rich, dense sauce.
Read the full review: The London EDITION
Oval Restaurant at The Wellesley
Engineered for pull-out-all-the-stops dates: The titchy room has just 26 covers. Vast baby-pink leather chairs and squishy chesterfield banquets give the illusion that you’re one degree away from in-room dining; copper-tinged mirrors and Art Deco gold foiling wink and flash flirtily on the walls.
The room’s circular shape is ironic, because dining here is like Russian roulette: A sea bass in salt crust was a tad dry, a dover sole came overcooked. The less highfalutin dishes are outstanding though: the canard ravioli (£18) is a collection of diaphanous yet al dente pouches that exhale meat-tinged heat when you bite into them. They are overstuffed with succulent, greaseless lozenges of duck.
The prawn risotto (£22) is also scientifically perfect – beads of rice that have been carefully softened yet still retain their bite; as should be the case with risotto, they rub tantalisingly close together but never meet, like passing ships in the night. When the waiter asks if you want to take dessert in the lounge, say yes: jazz acts perform in the duskily-lit room where the curtains are draped with crystal. It goes some way in making up for the £12.50 price tag for a pavlova or plum tart.
Read the full review: The Wellesley
Angler at South Place Hotel
Word on the block is that the new chef here – Gary Foulkes – is gunning for a second Michelin star. This is achievable. Unlike others, he’s unafraid to put fish at the centre of his world. There’s something appetite-whetingly mermadic about the décor too – the patterned mirror ceiling glimmers like a silver fish gills when it catches the sun.
The fish here is treated with intense love and delicate hands. The tuna tartare (£18) is lightly acidulated with a citrus jus, and enhanced with gentle aromaticity by way of shiso leaf. Such economic, effective use of flavours allows the mellow, pallid sweetness of the tuna that can so easily disintegrate into oxidised fishiness to come through. Turbot from Cornwall (£35) is robust and fleshy. It floats in a peppy dashi broth strewn with mushrooms that transports you to the mossy forests of Kyushu. Monkfish (£30) is presented on smoked potato and carbonara onions, all gutsiness and cream and pungency.
Read the full review: South Place Hotel