There was a time, not too long ago, when restaurants in the City of London would pack up shop after Friday dinner service and remain closed until the working breakfast crowd reappeared on Monday morning. The beating heart of London’s all-important financial industry, packed with glass skyscrapers, harried commuters and very little in the way of cultural institutions, was not viewed as somewhere any rational person would want to spend their leisure time.
Well, no longer. With the hip bars, restaurants and galleries of Shoreditch creeping their way west towards Liverpool Street, the reinvigoration of historic sites such as Leadenhall Market and the Royal Exchange and the realisation that, actually, the 40th floor of those skyscrapers is a brilliant spot for restaurants where the views come at a premium, has meant the Square Mile is now the destination du jour for bottomless brunches, leisurely lunches and decadent dinners. Here’s our guide to the best restaurants in the City of London.
Galvin La Chapelle
One of a number of restaurants in the City boasting a Michelin star, this classic French eatery from brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin – also of Galvin at Windows in Mayfair – is housed in a gorgeous historic building on the edge of Spitalfields Market, making it an impressive place to entertain before the food even arrives. Thankfully the menus more than stand up to their surroundings, with classic French techniques pressed into the service of quality British ingredients. Think Cornish lamb with courgette and basil puree and stuffed courgette flower or wild seabass with Jersey royals, fennel, squid ink aioli and lobster bisque. There are also full vegetarian and vegan menus, as well as a stellar Sunday roast.
Having long catered to city slickers with meaty appetites, there’s no shortage of good steak in the Square Mile but the best (in our humble opinion) is to be found at Blacklock. All meat is sourced from the Warren family, who have been rearing and dry-aging native and rare breed high-welfare animals on their farm in Cornwall since 1880. Despite this pedigree, a slap-up meal here won’t break the bank, with the prime Porterhouse coming in at £8/100g and cocktails very keenly priced at £5 each. There are also plenty of options for non-meat eaters and an express menu for those popping in for a quick workday lunch.
The east London outpost of Vivek Singh’s hugely popular Cinnamon restaurant group is, rather fittingly, housed in the former warehouse of the East India Trading Company on Devonshire Square. This vast, brightly lit space (take note of the 5,000 mother-of-pearl tiles) offers a tandoor grill bar, terrace, private dining room and standalone Anise bar, as well as the main restaurant, each serving up Singh’s signature take on modern Indian cuisine. The menu changes seasonally but core must-tries include the lamb seekh kebab, house black lentils and kadhai spiced paneer. For the full experience, opt for the nine-dish sharing feast, which features all of the restaurant’s greatest hits, including its Lucknow-style chicken biryani, samosa chaat and lemon posset with strawberry chaat.
As you may have guessed from the name, Angler is the place to go for some of the best seafood in the City of London – a tall order bearing in mind Billingsgate Market is just down the road. The proud owner of a Michelin star since 2013, you’ll find this sophisticated restaurant on the seventh floor of the South Place Hotel, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer brilliant views across some of the oldest parts of the capital. Helmed by executive chef Gary Foulkes, the food, however, is decidedly modern, with innovative techniques and unusual flavour combinations creating a meal worth taking time over. A wine list curated by sommelier Francesco Tessa also warrants some serious study thanks to its extensive offering by the glass and bottle.
As the original small plates ‘concept’, authentic tapas joints have been doing big business in the capital over the last decade or so and, with six venues to his name, José Pizarro is your go-to for a true taste of Spain. The third restaurant to bear Pizarro’s name, the Broadgate Circle outpost, with its pretty terrace and vast gin and tonic menu, is as close to true European aperitivo hour as you’re likely to get in the City. Order a selection of tapas from the menu of classics – our favourites are the chorizo al vino, spicy prawn fritters and prawns a la plancha – and lazily graze as you watch the world go by.
Should you happen to find yourself in need of a good meal in an upscale London neighbourhood, you’ll almost certainly be no more than a few minutes from a Jason Atherton restaurant. The Michelin-starred chef has six restaurants and two bars spread across the city, as well as a handful more sprinkled around the globe, each turning out reliably delicious food using fine, seasonal ingredients. Occupying the 24th floor of The Gherkin, City Social is, quite literally, head and shoulders above the rest. The vibe here is casual fine dining, so expect a mix of besuited business types closing deals in the private dining room and groups celebrating special occasions in the luxe leather banquets that look out over the London skyline.
Another instant hit from JKS Restaurants – the family-run group behind Trishna, Bao, Gymkhana, Hoppers, Sabor and many more – Brigadiers takes its inspiration from the army mess bars of India, where soldiers would go to eat, drink and socialise. The experience, therefore, is something like blending dinner at a great Indian with a pint at the pub if, of course, your local happens to sport exquisite Indian art deco interiors by Brady Williams Studio. Live sport, pool and cards are all on offer, alongside a menu of intriguing anglo-Indian small plates, such as cheese and onion bhajias, goat belly vindaloo samosas and guinea fowl kebabs.
Duck and Waffle
When you're 40 floors up in one of the world’s most famous skyscrapers (in this case Heron Tower), it can be easy to coast on your panoramic views. Duck & Waffle, happily, does not do this. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, this is your go-to for sky-high comfort food of the finest order. The bacon-wrapped dates are the thing of legend while the menu also features a range of Mediterranean-inspired small plates (think grilled octopus, ox cheek doughnuts and goat kofte) as well as, of course, that namesake duck and waffle. Just visiting for drinks? Pull up a seat at the bar and sip on a Duck and Stormy while admiring the view.
La Dame de Pic
The City of London’s most lauded restaurant is the two Michelin-starred La Dame De Pic. Hidden away behind the grand facade of the Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square, this classic French restaurant is overseen by Anne-Sophie Pic, the world’s most decorated female chef. There’s no a la carte menu here, instead diners are given the choice of a four-, six- or eight-course tasting menu, each featuring a sophisticated parade of dishes, such as John Dory with courgette, chartreuse, Granny Smith apple, shiso and marigold or artichoke with curry, genmaicza, mezcal and peanut praline. Be warned, however, the entry-level offering comes in at £190 per person with paired wines – maybe a bill best picked up by those expense accounts.