Scroll on for your guide to this month's top dining tables
1 August 2019
Lina Stores, Soho
Best restaurant in London for: the kind of pasta you hope to find in Italy - handmade, al dente, effortless.
Dress code: none, but light-coloured clothes might not survive tomato-sauce-induced enthusiasm.
Table to book: the window seats that spill onto Greek Street, or the countertop inside.
Drink: start with an Amaro Sour or Pomelo martini; accompany mains with the Verdicchio.
Tip: don’t bother with the prosciutto antipasti - go to Lina’s deli on Brewer Street and take it home, instead.
The best seats in the house at Lina Stores drop you in the centre of the action. Where countertop meets kitchen, you’re so involved you practically want to lean over and dip your finger in the sauce simmering on the stove. Meeting a notoriously late friend, I brought a book with me to read while I waited: it never made it out of my bag, distracted as I was by the convivial production line in front of me. ‘I’m not happy with the gnocchi,’ the chef told the host half-way through dinner service, ‘Take it off.’ Rather than a primadonna display, it’s an insight into the exacting standards, pride and expertise that Lina Stores cooks into every ravioli parcel and ribbon of parpadelle. Carbs command the uncomplicated menu - every type of pasta you’ve never heard of (squares of pansoti, folds of agnolotti, fat rolls of pici) topped with shavings of fresh parmesan and stuffed with Umbrian sausage, minted courgette, slow-cooked ragu or black truffle. Light it is not - order slowly from the antipasti (our favourites were the aubergine polpette or stracciatella with capers) and pasta choices and circle back if you’ve got space. Anna Prendergast
18 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F; linastores.co.uk
Hot Stone, Islington
Best restaurant in London for: Nobu-worthy sushi, without the pomp and prices.
Dress code: casual.
Drink: sake, naturally, or the zesty wasabi, pear and gin cocktail.
Tip: order the namesake hot stone, and watch wagyu beef, prawns and scallops sizzle to perfection before your eyes.
Chapel Market in Islington is often considered the cheerfully unpretentious, slightly scruffy neighbour to Upper Street. It is also the unassuming home of Hot Stone, a pocket-sized steak and sushi restaurant.
Head chef Padam Raj Rai previously worked at Tsuki within the Westbury Hotel, Nobu, Zuma and Sake no Hana, and Hot Stone easily rivals these with its selection of razor-sharp maki rolls and bountiful sushi and sashimi, alongside black cod, moreish grilled sticky miso aubergine and sirloin wagyu beef. It is one of very few restaurants in London that boasts its own fresh wasabi, which has a much softer taste than the usual nose-tingling hot paste. A decadent menu is tempered by low-key, minimalist decor, while charming, humble service completes the meal. MG
9 Chapel Market, The Angel, London N1 9EZ, hotstonelondon.com
Best restaurant in London for: pasta just like Nonna makes.
Dress code: anything goes.
Table to book: a booth downstairs, through the sultry red velvet curtain, provides a view of the basement kitchen in action.
Drink: order a Colada Me Later for an Instagram delight.
Tip: don't be shy if it's your birthday - the Italian rendition of 'Happy Birthday' is so exuberant it will have the whole restaurant joining in.
Think of the most OTT trattoria and times it by 10 – and you might just be some way to picturing Gloria. The Shoreditch-based Italian by Big Mamma Group is a riot of chintz, kitsch and 1970s Capri glamour and the queues outside – all day, every day – are a testament to its success. Not to be bested by the décor, the menu continues the frivolity, with notes on the wine list pointing to the 'Ryan Gosling of wines' and best bottle of vino to order 'to get your Tinder date drunk'. Cocktails, too, are riddled with whimsy and served in kitsch crockery – try the namesake tipple Big Mamma, a vodka, lime cordial and ginger ale medley.
When it comes to the food, however, there’s no time for jokes. Starters include creamy burrata filled with pesto, smoked stracciatella and plates of cured ham served with chunks of sourdough. Save room for the mains, which include wheels of sourdough pizzas and al dente pasta dishes, in some cases topped with buratta and in others stuffed with polenta and propped atop a bed of rabbit ragu. But the show stopper is the carbonara; made for two to share and served in a giant wheel of parmesan, it is a guaranteed food envy elicitor. Savour every bite. Ellen Millard
54-56 Great Eastern Street, EC2A bigmammagroup.com
Céleste at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park
Best restaurant in London for: fuss-free fine dining.
Cusine: Michelin-starred European dishes.
Who to take: your significant other.
Drink: Champagne, of course, or the inventively presented Upside Down Fizz.
Dress code: ties not required, but you’ll feel most comfortable on the smarter side of smart casual.
The evening I enjoyed at its three Michelin-starred big sister – Épicure at Le Bristol in Paris – remains the best meal I’ve ever had, five years on. So it’s with high expectations that I sashay into Céleste, which the team delights in meeting. Although suitably suited and booted, the waiters are jovial and charming. When he discovers I’m not drinking alcohol, the sommelier, determined to prove his worth, suggests a booze-free Upside Down Fizz, which turned out to be just what I wanted, and restaurant manager Ivan is entirely convincing when he says he’d be delighted to welcome us with toddler and new-born in tow.
Plates are so prettily presented you should take time to admire them, but you won’t want to. We recommend the excellent lobster starter – given texture and sweetness thanks to crunchy paper-thin pastry and mango – and the lamb main course, tender and well-matched to a salty olive, smoked tomato and feta topping. The corn side dish is so delicious I’d eat a bowl of it as a main course. Prices are as celestial as you’d expect from a Michelin-starred establishment but, thanks to perfectly-sized portions and perfectly-judged service, you’ll part ways happily satisfied. Magnifique. Annabel Harrison
Celeste, The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA, oetkercollection.com
Best restaurant in London for: a delectable tour of India's heritage dishes.
Dress code: smart casual.
Tip: visit before the end of August to try a special seafood tasting menu.
So discreet is Kutir that you have to ring the doorbell to get in. Concluding a parade of ivory townhouses just off Sloane Street, the Indian restaurant looks more high-end home than Michelin eatery. Inside is no different – parquet floors, crystal chandeliers and Cole & Son wallpaper give the impression you’ve accidently wandered into somebody’s home. The effect is part fancy dinner party, part private members’ club and it all feels wonderfully exclusive. But it’s not just for smug points that Kutir is well-loved. Head chef and co-founder Rohit Ghai – of Michelin-starred Jamavar fame – is the brain behind the kitchen and his heritage-inspired Indian dishes are exemplary.
To start, small plates of cumin-spiced lamb chops and salmon, swimming in a tandoori tikka sauce, provide a flavour of what’s to come. Mains are best shared, if only to give you chance to sample more than one – try the lamb shank, served in a roganjosh sauce with purple potato, and jackfruit kofta in a puddle of tangy sauce. The chicken tikka masala, too, is not to be missed, but be wary of being too courteous if sharing – it is one of the best London has to offer. Save room for a side of Kutir kaali daal, a black lentil dish second only to the tikka and best soaked up with a wedge of crispy naan. EM
10 Lincoln Street, SW3; kutir.co.uk
108 Brasserie, Marylebone
Best restaurant in London for: set on a charming cobbled lane, the ivy-strewn terrace is ideal for people-watching during warmer months, while the lively main restaurant is perfect for family occasions.
Cuisine: modern British.
Dress code: stylish, smart, distinctly Marylebone.
The buzzy 108 Brasserie is many things to many people. It suits business breakfasts; family lunches; bountiful afternoon tea and date night cocktails. This glamourous all-day affair is nestled in the Marylebone Hotel but also boasts a standalone entrance on Marylebone Lane, thus giving it a surprisingly neighbourhood feel.
On a summer's evening, the cobbled lane feels quintessentially British and bustles with merriment, as punters spill from nearby pubs and the pretty 108 Brasserie terrace twinkles with fairy lights. Inside, punchy dark red leather chairs stand out against white walls and marble tabletops, designed by Alexander Waterworth. The menu is a smart edit of uncomplicated, well-executed British classics, while sizzling steaks, salmon and whole Dover sole are flamed to perfection on the Josper grill. After your meal, beeline for a cosy corner in the velvet-clad cocktail bar and work your way through the 20-strong drinks list, each made with house-infused spirits and liqueurs. MG
108 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, London W1U; 108brasserie.com
Oblix East at The Shard, London Bridge
Best restaurant in London for: whisky with a view.
Dress code: think Suits meets Mad Men.
Why: Oblix East teams up with Johnnie Walker to take guests on a whisky tour around the world.
Oblix, the 200-cover venue on the 32nd floor of the Shard, is split into two restaurants, the more relaxed Oblix East – with views over the east of the city – and, looking the other way, the appropriately posher, given the vista, Oblix West. Both menus are steak heavy and, while American inspired, stretch from Europe – risottos, pastas, lobsters – to Asia – duck, Wagyu beef and black cod.
At the bar in Oblix East you’ll find a large whisky vessel, comprised of eight tanks, filled with premium Johnnie Walker blends. Each tank is encased in wood infused with distinctive flavours from different countries: apple, cinnamon, bergamot and chamomile from Europe; fig and ras el hanout from the Middle East; tobacco, popcorn and walnut from the USA. They constitute the Johnnie Walker Grand Voyage, a whisky-food pairing experience that invites guests to explore a world of flavours. £35 will get you one ‘bar bite’ and one cocktail or single serve; it’s £60 for two bar bites and two Johnnie Walker cocktails or single serves; and £100 for four cocktails or single serves and three bar bites.
Cheap, then, this scotch voyage is not – but it you can justify the spend, Oblix’s lofty location will take your appreciation for fermented wheat to reach new heights. Richard Brown
The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, SE1; oblixrestaurant.com
Bob Bob Cité, Leadenhall Building
Best restaurant in London for: celebrations of the big, bold and brash variety.
Dress code: the website states 'Strictly elegant, ties are not required. Fashionwear, formal or casual is welcome. Everyday comfortwear and sportswear are not'.
Table to book: the booth-only set-up means that all seats are plush and private, no matter how busy the restaurant
Drink: the restaurant boasts one of the largest collections of Armagnac brandy, as well as an impressive selection of Chateau d’Yquem - but it's the champagne, served in magnum, jeroboam and methuselah sizes, that's worth raising a glass to
If Bob Bob Ricard is an ode to the romantic heyday of luxury steam trains, complete with plush pink booths, fringing and gilded décor, its Square Mile counterpart, Bob Bob Cité, is the high-speed 21st-century equivalent, a super-charged celebration of wanton excess dressed in mirror-polished steel. More than five years hard graft and a hefty bill of £25m has been pumped into the Leadenhall building restaurant and the result is a fabulous bullet train-meets-Starship Enterprise extravaganza.
Like its swanky Soho sister, Bob Bob Cité is booth-only and each table comes complete with a 'Press for Champagne' button (old gimmicks die hard) a push of which will deliver you a glass of fizz. And you’ll need one to toast your meal. Michelin-starred Eric Chavot heads up the kitchen, where French comfort food is cooked with exquisite finesse. There are starters of caviar and oysters to appease those with a taste for the finer things in life, but the highlights are the mains – these are the sorts of dishes you will dream about when the January diets roll around. Slow roast chicken swimming in sweet wine velouté and topped with a pastry hat is the pie to end all pies. The lobster mac and cheese is wickedly gluttonous and worth every mouthful, while a side of creamy mashed potato loosens the final notch on the belt. A light lemon meringue pie to finish provides a bittersweet end to a show-stopping meal. EM
Level 3, 122 Leadenhall Street, EC3V, bobbobcite.com
La Mia Mamma, Chelsea
Best restaurant in London for: home-cooked, authentic Italian.
Dress code: relaxed.
Tip: leave room for a handmade cannoli, stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese and Bronte pistachio cream.
Trivia: La Mia Mamma is the first restaurant from Luca Maggiora, the nightclub mogul who helped open Maddox before launching his own party spots Project, Scandal, Toy Room and Charlie.
La Mia Mamma is a cosy, clean-cut Italian restaurant that opened last year to cram 60 covers, elbow-to-elbow, into a narrow kerbside space on the King's Road, all terracotta brickwork and shelves of potted plants, that’s a ten-minute toddle from Sloane Street station. As its name suggests – La Mia Mamma translates as ‘my mum’ – the restaurant is a family-friendly affair devoted to food from the Apennine Peninsula. A hand-painted mural on a wall near the entrance points to the restaurant’s raison d’etre. Showcasing Italy’s 20 administrative regions, it highlights the different districts La Mia Mamma’s menu alternates between every three months. A rotating residency of chefs – or ‘mammas’ – operate under the tutelage of Marylebone’s Michelin-starred Il Baretto-alumnus Marco Giugliano.
We lucked out; our visit coincided with a celebration of Emilia Romagna (the region between Florence and Milan), meaning a menu based around tortellini, tagliatelle, lasagne, Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano. ‘Mamma’s menu’ offered four courses – antipasti, pasta, main and dessert – for £38. Everything was excellent. That price includes an Aperol Spritz on arrival and a coffee on departure, surely making it the steal of Sloanesville. RB
257 King’s Road, SW3; lamiamamma.co.uk
The Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Best restaurant in London for: impeccable afternoon tea with a contemporary twist.
Who to take: your best friend or your (grand)mother.
What to drink: consult the tea master who will lead you through the impressive menu.
Tip: although it's called afternoon tea, it's a meal in itself, so go early and hungry, or have a mid-morning brunch.
‘Taking tea’ is an old-fashioned concept – the kind of thing your grandmother might say – but, thanks to its Instagram-proportioned miniature confections, it’s more popular than ever. The Rosebery is traditional enough to delight Grandma – with polished wooden floor and ornate, icing-sugar-white ceilings – and livened up by colour-popping art and lighting fixtures that wouldn’t look out of place in East London.
The hotel’s Oriental influence is showcased courtesy of beautiful, hand-painted crockery featuring colourful birds. Sandwiches are predictably delicious but the sweeter treats are where The Rosebery excels. Try rose petal jelly and tangy lemon curd with your scones (weighing into the great debate: dare we say cream first…?) then tuck into Borrower-sized pastries and 1920s mignardises (the charming French word for mini desserts). The Tea Master will choose teas for you to complement the food with flair. Our recommendation: do treat as lunch or supper rather than tea, to ensure you can enjoy the generous spread in all its flaky, crumbly, bite-sized, sugar-laced glory. AH
66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA; mandarinoriental.com
Lucknow 49, Mayfair
Best restaurant in London for: bright, homely interiors, generous portions and a slow R’n’B playlist make this the perfect spot for an informal and well-fed catch-up with friends.
Lucknow 49 is the latest hit from Dhruv Mittal, the affable chef and restauranteur behind Dum Biryani in Soho. Unique to London, it specialises in richly seasoned, slow-cooked Awadhi cuisine from Lucknow in northern India, and the surrounding region of Uttar Prades. Think richly flavoured, melt-in-your-mouth beef patties (Galawat kebabs); lentil-stuffed flatbreads and gutsy portions of tender lamb, steeped in more than 30 spices for a minimum of 12 hours. The contemporary restaurant chimes to the beat of chilled R’n’B, Urdu pop and lively chatter, while hanging garlands drape from the ceiling and private enclaves are scattered with brightly coloured cushions, made using traditional sari fabrics. Lucknow 49 is vibrant and unpretentious, belt-loosening gem in Mayfair's white-tablecloth restaurant scene. MG
49 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London W1S; lucknowldn.com