London Calling

Top picks in the British capital

15 Jan, 2015 by Vir Sanghvi

If you are going to the British capital on vacation, here are some suggestions for when hunger strikes:

Gymkhana
Currently London’s trendiest Indian restaurant, this two-level space in the heart of Mayfair is supposed to look like the dining room of some Indian club in its Raj heyday. It is always packed out with Brits but despite that, it insists on serving authentic Indian food without any of the pretensions we have come to accept from expat Indian chefs. Try the keema with kaleji or the robust biryani made with venison from a rare English deer.

42 Albemarble Street
Tel: +44 20 3011 5900 

The Wolseley
This is not a particular favourite of Indian tourists (who go to Nobu and Novikov) but it is at the heart of the trendy London establishment. A vast all-day dining experience with great buzz, vaguely European food (Vienna is the inspiration) and outstanding service. You can eat an expensive meal with a great wine or have a sandwich and a Diet Coke; you’ll get the same level of service and attention. Hard to get a great table unless you book in advance but they keep tables in side rooms for walk-ins.

160 Piccadilly
Tel: +44 20 7499 6996

Bar Shu
If you want to avoid the hordes of rich Indians who go to Hakkasan and Kai, then this down-to-earth Soho Chinese restaurant which serves the most authentic Sichuan food in Europe is your best bet. There will be lots of Chinese people at the other tables (always a good sign) but service is friendly and they will help you order. My suggestion is to tell them you like it hot and spicy and let the experience unfold. And it is great value for what you get.

28, Frith Street
Tel: +44 20 7287 8822

Dinner by Heston
Heston Blumenthal is still best known for The Fat Duck and his molecular tricks. But many critics reckon that this, his restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, is the most superior of his establishments. The conceit is to recreate old English dishes but my guess is that canny old Heston has updated the recipes. An old English rice dish is suspiciously like a risotto and his Meat Fruit, with chicken pate modelled to look like fruit is a modern classic.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge
Tel:  +44 20 7201 3833

Barrafina
You can’t book at this tiny restaurant in Soho so either you go early (say noon on a weekday) or you wait in line. But whatever you do, I guarantee you will enjoy yourself. The Hart brothers, two British chefs, have modelled this on a Spanish tapas bar. You sit at the counter and eat lots and lots of little plates of outstanding Spanish food, washed down with robust Rioja red wine or elegant sherry. One experience you will remember. There is a new branch in Covent Garden but I personally prefer the original.

54 Frith Street, Soho

Written By



Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.

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