For decades, London was seen as the city where gastronomy went to die. It was known for oily, greasy, careless fare, served by sullen-faced waiters, and for meals which were considered more of a challenge than a pleasure. Oh, how much has changed since those dark and tasteless days!
Today, London has asserted itself as a global centre of fine food and dining. A vibrantly and proudly cosmopolitan city, it has gathered the best bits from a hundred different culinary cultures and has nurtured talent which has gone on to change the restaurant scene the world over. From the spice-laden Indian eateries of Brick Lane to the gorgeously decadent dining halls of Mayfair, and from the global street food mecca that is Camden Lock to the achingly trendy quarters of Hackney and Dalston, it’s ever-moving, ever-changing, and a city in which it’s difficult to eat badly.
In fact, it would even be fair to say that London has long since overtaken its arch-rival of Paris in the restaurant stakes. While the French capital undoubtedly has plenty of flair when it comes to their national cuisine, London has the flexibility, the forward-thinking mindset and willingness to experiment that leaves its Gallic neighbour in the shade.
For the savvy traveller heading to the UK capital, however, no trip would be complete without a genuine British fine dining experience. We’re talking plush leather banquettes, crisp white tablecloths and attentive service catering to your every whim… perfection! Few places nowadays do this better than in London, so A Man Refined has trawled the ancient streets of this magnificent city, to bring you five restaurants any sophisticated foray through London town should include.
Marcus Wareing is widely regarded as one of the greatest culinary minds the UK has ever produced, and two Michelin stars on his restaurant door are all the proof we need that this is true. This elegant yet understated Knightsbridge restaurant puts flavour front and centre in every dish: it’s all about the delicate, the surprising, and the full realisation of each ingredients’ potential.
If you’re heading for a meal at Marcus and you want the full experience of being cooked for by a world-class chef, there’s no choice better than the tasting menu. Every morsel on this impressive flight of flavours has been constructed to dazzle, amaze and intrigue, and when paired with the impressive wine selection, your palate will be taken to new heights of pleasure.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
If you’ve taken even a passing interest in fine dining over the past ten years or so, you will be more than familiar with the name Heston Blumenthal. The ingenious self-taught chef found fame at The Fat Duck; the world’s first molecular gastronomy restaurant. That establishment brought snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream to the world’s attention, and no less than three Michelin stars followed. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is a considerably less fussy affair… but my goodness, the food is up there with the greats.
Situated in the stunning Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, Dinner is an exploration of food history and gastronomic reinvention. It features recipes dating back to the 15th century, but this is no historical gimmick of an eatery, it’s a place of serious flavour and astonishing culinary skill. It’s famed for its spit-roasted pineapple dish, and the ‘meat fruit’ – a mandarin stuffed with chicken liver, demonstrating that Heston still has his panache for bringing the bizarre to the dining table.
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
It’s easy to forget – what with his colourful TV persona and string of expletive-laden shows – that underneath everything else, Gordon Ramsay is a genuinely brilliant chef. His eponymous restaurant in Chelsea is one of a coveted handful of eateries worldwide to be awarded three Michelin stars, and it’s not without good reason. It’s an exercise in luxury, and often breaks records with its use of the finest ingredients and bordering-on-the-ridiculous creations. Who could forget their signature pizza, which came with three types of caviar and a pile of white lobster meat, garnished with gold leaf?
Fripperies aside, though, any visit to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is sure to take your breath away. This restaurant is all about meticulous attention to detail, and French classics being reimagined for the 21st century – the results are rarely anything short of spectacular.
The Brits are famed for their nonchalance and ability to not take themselves too seriously. It comes as no surprise, then, that many of the capital’s finest restaurants are to be found in the dining rooms of pubs, or at unassuming local eateries, one might not look twice as they walking by. The Ledbury is a fine example of this: despite its flawless reputation and string of awards, it has maintained the charm of someone’s front room – dining here feels a little like being invited to a top-notch dinner party… and that’s kind of the whole point.
The chefs at The Ledbury aren’t ones to shy away from bold and powerful flavours, or the use of seemingly counter-intuitive components in their dishes. Their signature dish? Flame grilled mackerel and smoked eel, wrapped into a cigar and served with lashings of ‘Celtic mustard’. Yum!
Sketch: Lecture Room
This unusually-named restaurant sits in fashionable Mayfair and is widely regarded as the greatest restaurant in London today. Why? Simply because the management at this chic eatery has set themselves the challenge of bringing fine dining into the future, and offering artistically-arranged, deeply fascinating dishes which amaze and delight in equal measures. Indeed, many have claimed to eat at Sketch: Lecture Room is like stepping into a painting… albeit one which you can eat.
Unique and unusual, yet never gimmicky and constantly pushing the envelope of excellence, Sketch: Lecture Room is as extravagant as they come and sure to leave a lasting impression. Try the foie gras soup with Sarawak pepper, and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about!