From harrumphing British establishments, to Cantonese canteens, to a trailblazing ocakbaşı, and lots more. These are London's classic restaurants.Less
Normah’s is about as homely as a restaurant can get. The tiny Malaysian spot deep inside Queensway Market has been around since 2015 and is made up of one person, and one person only: Normah. She sends out plate after plate of perfectly fried chicken wings, mee goreng chicken, and king prawn laksa, all of which you’ll immediately regret agreeing to share. Her beef rendang is one of our death row meals and, as for that flaky roti? Well, we’d happily be wrapped up in it and eat our way out.
This century-old Marylebone deli will do anything you like when it comes to sliced and quartered sandwiches. Egg mayo with glistening anchovies, luminous coronation chicken, sizzling bacon with a squirt of ketchup—you name it, Paul Rothe will do it. Inside it’s somewhere between a caff, a deli, and a Ye Olde Chutney Emporium. Jars of jams, pickles, and condiments line the wall and there are half a dozen or so formica tables plus a little counter to call dibs on.
Daquise has the air of a dining room that hasn’t changed for half a century or so. Chandeliers hang and borscht is ladled into your bowl tableside at this wonderfully old-school Polish institution in South Kensington. Sitting in its grand, aged dining room—part tiled, part distressed, but wholly elegant—makes us wonder why this traditional ideal of a restaurant is no longer in vogue. Yes, the goulash is overcooked, so have the moreish hunter’s stew or a fail-safe schnitzel instead.
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.
Hunan is one of the ultimate IYKYK restaurants in London, a Chinese fine dining spot located on a pretty street in Pimlico. There’s a ‘trust me’ tasting menu that changes every day, and though you don’t have a choice in what you eat, you should definitely trust the chefs. They know what they’re doing. The food comes out in small, immaculate courses, and the prawn toast and crispy duck are both excellent, as is the seafood.
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.