A. Anchor & Hope
Great things at friendly prices come from the open kitchen at this packed, no-reservations, leading gastropub on the Cut in Waterloo: pot-roast duck and chicken pithivier (puff pastry pie) are two standouts. It's cramped, informal, and highly original, and there are great dishes for groups, like slow-roasted leg of lamb. Expect to share a table, too.
Attached to the Berkeley and in the Gordon Ramsay stable, the Boxwood is the best uptown but relaxed place to dine in Knightsbridge, with opulent marble, brown, and greens. The New Yorkstyle restaurant is open late (until midnight Thursday-Saturday) and set lunch is useful at £28. Favorite dishes range from Orkney scallops to yellowfin tuna, and veal burger to treacle tart. Service is top-notch, and you'll find a fashionable buzz.
C. Great Queen Street
Expect crowds and a buzz at Covent Garden's leading gastropub that showcases classic British dishes in a burgundy and bare oak-floor-and-table setting. Old-fashioned dishes like pressed tongue, mackerel and gooseberry, and mussels and chips may be revived from a bygone era, but Londoners adore them. Dishes for the whole table—like venison pie or seven-hour shoulder of lamb—are highly convivial. There's little for nonmeat eaters, and no dinner Sunday.
Located in the Royal Festival Hall, Skylon is the Southbank Centre's destination restaurant/bar/grill. Spacious, attractive, and with huge picture windows with spectacular views of the Thames, Skylon guarantees a classy pre- or post-performance meal in the '50s Festival Hall.
Against a background of dancing and music, concertgoers sip lush cocktails at the central bar and dine on lamb and harissa at the grill, or Anjou pigeon, spelt risotto, and sea bass with bok choy in the restaurant. The food is accomplished, and the setting impressive.
It's a superbly lighted slinky Soho classic. Well designed by Christian Liaigre—with black granite floors, aquarium, candles, and a starry ceiling—the food is a match for the seductive setting.
There's wicked dim sum (try prawns or scallops), crispy duck rolls, silver cod, fancy cocktails, and tea and colorful cakes in the first-floor tearoom. Note the quick table turns, and ask to dine in the more romantic basement at night.
Enjoy all-day buzz at this Italian brasserie opposite the Royal Academy on Burlington Gardens.
Between Savile Row and New Bond Street, clients pitch up for breakfast, brunch, and Italian tapas (cichetti) at the bar, and return for something more substantial later on. Ilse Crawford's green-andbrown interior is a stylish background for classics like veal Milanese, Venetian calves' liver, and tiramisu. Note: it's a nice pit stop during a shopping spree.
Scott's is so hot that it's where the A-list go to celebrate. Founded in 1851, and recently renovated and reborn as a glamorous seafood haven and oyster bar, it draws beautiful people who pick at Cumbrae oysters, Red Sea prawns, and Stargazy pie. Standouts like cod with chorizo and padron peppers are to die for. Prices are high, but you're dining at the hippest joint in town.
City finance boys, Asians, and medics from the Royal London Hospital swamp this high-turnover halal Pakistani curry canteen in Whitechapel. Expect queues after dark, and bear in mind it's BYOB, jam-packed, noisy, and mildly chaotic. Nonetheless, prices are dirt cheap and you can gorge on minced meat shami kebabs, skewed beef seekh kebabs, karahi chicken, or marinated lamb chops.