Terrific restaurants are thriving, even in the touristy theater district, and deceptively simple cafés are using hyperseasonal produce. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the world’s best places to eat.
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In this white-hot, all-white postmodern southern Italian , Francesco Mazzei’s food is robust (burrata with wood-roasted eggplant); the service, intelligent; the crowd, chic. The great wine list has familiar Super-Tuscans, as well as wines from exciting areas like Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
We loved: Leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and rosemary.
In 1896, J. Sheekey was born as a small theater-district oyster bar; today it’s one of the best places to eat before or after a show. The menu has separate sections for crab and caviar, and the wine list has superb whites, like the 2005 Domaine Henri Germain Meursault. Recently, Sheekey returned to its roots by installing a new 32-seat oyster bar.
We loved: Roast plaice served on the bone.
At this café inside a former shopping-mall McDonald’s, chef Rowley Leigh pays homage to the Anglo-French culinary tradition with dishes like sublime roast chicken and roast rib of beef with bone marrow.
We loved: Parmesan custard.
One of London’s most talked-about restaurants is actually in suburban Richmond, in a pretty garden nursery near the River Thames. Skye Gyngell can practically lean out her kitchen window to pick the vegetables and herbs for her seasonal dishes.
We loved: Tea-smoked salmon with asparagus.
This classic Soho restaurant has been resurrected by brothers Sam and Eddie Hart (who also own the well-regarded Spanish places Barrafina and Fino) and chef Jean-Philippe Patruno, who changes his modern British menu daily.
We loved: Shrimp on toast; roasted squab.
Insider tip: The Quo Vadis Aperitivo—made with Champagne, Campari and clementine juice—is London’s best new cocktail.
Hot Food Zone: Marylebone
In addition to amazing artisanal-food stores, Marylebone is now home to excellent restaurants.
At this casual , rising-star chef Marcus Eaves uses the avant-garde cooking techniques he perfected at Pied à Terre; for instance, he smokes the hollandaise accompanying his lovely roast veal.
The café of this organic grocer specializes in superb English breakfasts (eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato) and hearty sandwiches at lunchtime. The ingredients are emphatically local (there’s a ban on anything air-freighted).
Insider Hangout: Hix Oyster & Chop House
British food lovers revere Mark Hix, the former chef-director of the group that owns three of London’s most popular restaurants: The Ivy, Le Caprice and Scott’s. His new chophouse in gritty Smithfield has an attractive utilitarian look with reclaimed wood and cream tiles. Hix cooks with local, seasonal ingredients like fat asparagus from St Enodoc in Cornwall and four kinds of native oysters, creating thoroughly British dishes like his savory beef-and-oyster pie.