A long-standing Knightsbridge institution, this little bistro has spread its wings and taken its Francophone food east. The new Smithfield branch is a bit more mod than the cosy westside version, which suits the suits passing through for business lunches. But both branches share the same perfectly-executed traditional, French-style cooking. We’re talking escargots, cote de boeuf and confit de canard. High-end comfort food done just right, with set menus that are great value too.
This high-powered Japanese dining empire spans from London to Bangkok to Beirut, but it’s not hard to see why the folks at Zuma have hit on such a winning formula. Of course the place is super stylish – all minimalist warm wood and discreet colours – but the service is also impeccable and the food is as high end as the prices. Swish clientele chilling at the sake bar or sipping on cocktails complete the picture. The open-plan kitchen showcases the chefs’ skill as they turn out dinky plates of sushi and sashimi or succulent cuts of grilled meats off the robata grill. The signature miso marinated baby chicken is not to be missed. The in-crowd packs this place out every night of the week so book early to avoid disappointment. Move off-menu to end the meal with the decadent molten chocolate cake, possibly the London dining scene’s worst kept secret.
The fancy Frenchy in the basement of the Berkeley hotel is the latest offering from legendary chef Pierre Koffman. Pig’s trotter and pistachio soufflé provide Koffman afficionados with a true Tante Claire throwback, and the soufflé is still amongst the best desserts in London.There’s also plenty of classic cross-channel cuisine for the less adventurous. Impeccable service elevates the experience here, though a lack of natural light makes the place feel a little stuffy and the rumblings of the Picadilly line as it thunders from Hyde Park Corner to Knightsbridge can be distracting. Still, the food is faultless and the lunch menu and pre/post-theatre menus very reasonable.
Big shot chef Daniel Boulud’s elegant and sophisticated NY-style bistro in the Mandarin Oriental keeps it casual but classy with Frenchified comfort food. Irrisistable burgers for grown ups come stuffed with pork belly confit or pulled pork, topped off with cheesey, peppery or sesame buns. They’re small though, so top-up by starting with the grand-daddy or grand-mummy of pate plates. This smart, urban space manages to shake off the usual blah ennui associated with dining rooms in hotels. The best views and a lively buzz are at the bar, as is the very tempting cocktail menu, but the plush booths are a great place for a cozy catch up with friends.
Brit-star chef Heston Blumenthal delights with his witty and whimsical molecular wizadry as he reinvents long forgotten olde English dishes. Big ticket items like the mind-bending meat fruit and punchy pineapple tipsy cake live up to all the hype, and the place is still a damn sight easier to get into than its fancier, more famous sister, the Fat Duck – more convenient to get to, too. Nab a table by the giant windows that look onto the park, but make sure you can still see the action happening in the glass-walled kitchen at the centre of the room. Still, this place is not about the décor, which is as weird as the food, but far less welcoming – a bland confection of wood, white paint and strange light fixtures. Bargain hunters can get the Heston experience on a budget with the £32 set lunch menu during the week.