From harrumphing British establishments, to Cantonese canteens, to a trailblazing ocakbaşı, and lots more. These are London's classic restaurants.Less
Look up, high above Wong Kei’s sign, and you’ll learn that before it was the Cantonese canteen and Chinatown institution it is today, it was home to a renowned Victorian wigmaker. What’s clear is that this was a noteworthy building then, and it continues to be a noteworthy building now. Without Wong Kei and its slapped-on-your-table wonton noodle soups and roasted meats bathing in sweet shining umami gravy, London would be a much poorer place.
If someone were to invite you to lunch at Andrew Edmunds and tell you that it’s in an 18th century townhouse and that the menu is scrawled by hand, you might imagine a snoozefest. But a meal here is anything but. This restaurant is the epitome of an old school British establishment. Bring a date, bring a friend, or just bring yourself. Andrew Edmunds is charming enough that, even though the food is excellent, you could come here for the hazy atmosphere alone and leave completely content.
There are few combinations better than nostalgia and a prawn cocktail. This is a fact of life that is never more apparent than at Sweetings, a classic City seafood spot that’s been serving oysters and sticky toffee puddings for over an oh-so casual 130 years. You definitely want the mighty fine fish pie on your table but just be warned that Sweetings is only open Monday to Friday and exclusively open for lunch service.
Despite only opening in 2008, Bob Bob Ricard quickly became known as ‘that fabulous place in Soho with the press for champagne buttons at every table’ and became an instant classic. Designed exclusively for people who honestly believe they are destined to own a G6, it’s one of the most decadent OTT restaurants that London has to offer and importantly, the French-by-way-of-Russia food is just as rich and special.
To be honest, if you leave Ciao Bella analysing your spaghetti con polpette, then something has gone very wrong. There’s no doubt that this old school Italian restaurant in Bloomsbury is so much more valuable than a bowl of perfect handmade pasta. It will feed you well and make you happy. So much so that when we eventually keel over, this is where we want our wake. Ciao Bella is one of the most perfect celebrations of eating out in London.
We love a specialty. And the specialty at Roti King is soft, flaky roti canai. The Malaysian spot in Euston’s menu has grown over the years, as have their locations, but you’ll still find their signature roti served with a bowl of excellent curry, with your choice of dhal, chicken, mutton, or fish. And while the rest of their menu, which includes things like nasi lemak and beef rendang, is all pretty great, if you only get one thing here, make it the roti canai.
How does one decide whether a restaurant is classic? To some people, it might be related to the amount of maroon velvet and gold detailing there is inside. Others may say a restaurant is definitely classic by virtue of the amount of Prime Ministers that have dined there. Thankfully, Rules has all these classic characteristics covered. The Covent Garden restaurant is London’s oldest, open since 1798. Stick to beef and game and all the things that will give you gout.
No one does dim sum quite like The Royal China Club. The roasted pork buns have endless comfort factor, the pork and shrimp dumplings will make you a certified har kau addict, and the prawn cheung fun is an edible revelation that will have you booking this huge Baker Street restaurant at every single possible opportunity for a big group meal. The flagship restaurant of the Royal China group, this sprawling sophisticated spot has been known as the place for excellent Cantonese cuisine since 2005.
Of London’s many classic eating and drinking institutions, The French House is perhaps the most famous. Fondly referred to as ‘The French’ by its regular patrons and those who’ve watched one too many Guy Ritchie films, the Soho boozer-cum-devious upstairs dining room isn’t just a historical inclusion. Whether you’re sinking cidres downstairs or settling in upstairs on a Thursday—their imperious steak et frites day, FYI—you always feel a part of something a little secret and potentially sordid.
J Sheekey is the place to go when you want to show them that you know a thing or two about the finer things in life. The finer things being grilled lobster, seared scallops, and you attempting to throw back a Jersey oyster in a sexy manner. The point is, this is an old school restaurant that you can somehow still bring anyone to and eat some really good seafood. The menu has a bunch of things mostly revolving around seafood although there is a vegetarian and vegan menu you can request.