Eight Great Places for Authentic British Food in London

British food is the hot trend in London right now (see Gourmet, April 2009), but it’s not a sudden discovery. The renaissance began with Fergus Henderson’s St John in 1994, which trained and spurred on other like-minded chefs to create a new wave of true Brit cuisine.


1. Albion

Sir Terence Conran’s latest creation—a design-savvy homage to the British “caff”—is part of the Boundary Project, a new bar-diner-hotel development in the heart of run-down yet deeply fashionable Shoreditch. They don’t accept reservations, so you might have to stand in line for the bacon sandwiches, kedgeree, chicken and ham pies, or rhubarb crumble. You’re likely to be surrounded by YBAs (Young British Artists) also taking advantage of the cheap eats. 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch (44-20-7729-1051; albioncaff.co.uk)

2. Harwood Arms

Chef Mike Robinson runs a renowned country pub in Berkshire called the Pot Kiln. In 2008, he opened this distinctly urban pub in an affluent London suburb, but brought a rural menu with him. There are plenty of rustic dishes, including game, from an appetizer of wood pigeon, smoked bacon, and black pudding to a roast T-bone steak of venison. 27 Walham Grove, Fulham, SW6 1QP (44-20-7386-1847; harwoodarms.com)

3. Bull & Last

This is the perfect pub after a stroll on Hampstead Heath. There’s a decent selection of real ales, and the home-made bar snacks are tempting—even the scotch eggs and sausage rocks. In 2008 new owners transformed the old place into a serious gastropub, the kind that details its suppliers on the menu and makes its own charcuterie. Main courses are generously sized and might include roast pork loin with dauphinoise potatoes, trotter, and cavalo nero, or lemon sole with purple sprouting broccoli, clams, and parsley. 168 Highgate Road, Kentish Town (44-20-7267-3641)

4. Hereford Road

Proprietor Tom Pemberton was chef at St. John Bread & Wine before setting up his own place. It’s clear he’s a St. John alumnus from the Spartan look of the room, the pared-down menu, and the excellence of the simple, seasonal dishes: Jerusalem artichoke with watercress and boiled egg; smoked haddock, lentils, and broccoli; braised rabbit, fennel, and bacon—all followed by sticky date pudding. 3 Hereford Road, Notting Hill (44-20-7727-1144; herefordroad.org)

5. Bumpkin

The pretence is that this is a country farmhouse kitchen—but it’s in the heart of Notting Hill. Play along with the theme as the locals do, and you’ll find a jovial, friendly place for simple home-style dishes, such as fish pie, roasted chicken breast, or lamb grilled on the rotisserie. This isn’t so much new British cooking as the old cooking given a makeover, but it’s a fun way of getting that nostalgia fix. Bumpkin, 209 Westbourne Park Road, Notting Hill (44-20-7243-9818; bumpkinuk.com)

6. National Dining Rooms

The National Gallery overlooks Trafalgar Square and should not to be confused with the National Café in the same art museum. The National Dining Rooms are the place for a more sophisticated experience, as well as for excellent dishes such as braised pigs’ cheeks, salt cod fritters and spinach, or perhaps sea trout with potatoes, mussels, and sorrel. It’s worth calling ahead to reserve a window seat. The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, (44-20-7747-2525; thenationaldiningrooms.co.uk)

7. Rhodes Twenty Four

This restaurant’s name refers to British chef Gary Rhodes and to the 25th floor of a skyscraper in the financial district (the 24th floor in Britain since the ground floor doesn’t count). While the views are impressive, the cooking’s equally good. An appetizer of smoked eel could be followed by skate wing with langoustines, then bread and butter pudding, all done with haute precision. Be warned that the prices are aimed at bankers who still get bonuses. Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, City (44-20-7877-7703; rhodes24.co.uk)

8. St. John

The original, and still the best of the “back to basics” British restaurants. Fergus Henderson’s daily-changing menu is served in an austere-looking former smokehouse, in either a smart dining room or a more casual, no-reservations bar. The menus are similar: ox heart with chips could be followed by poached quince with buttermilk cream; or the signature appetizer of roast bone marrow with parsley salad, followed by pigeon with radishes. There’s also a branch near Brick Lane in the East End, called St. John Bread & Wine. 26 St. John St, Clerkenwell, (44-20-7251-0848; stjohnrestaurant.com)

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