If you're looking to spoil a dinner date or impress a business contact, Sketch is the place to do it. Dining in style here comes with a pretty hefty price tag (à la carte starters average £35, mains £40) but every dish is dressed to impress with chef-patron Pierre Gagnaire's trademark attention to detail and subtlety. There's three main restaurants – including the gallery by night Gastro-Brasserie (7pm – 2am / live DJs from 10.30pm), the Parlour (which turns into a cocktail bar 6pm till 2am) and the Lecture Room & Library (12pm – 2.30pm, 7pm – 11pm - Tues-Sat) where there's a budget-friendly 'gourmet rapide' lunch for £30 for two courses including coffee.
Next-generation gastropub The Hampshire Hog recently opened in autumn 2011 in the Ravenscourt Park neighbourhood of West London. Although situated a bit out of town, if you're in the West London area The Hog is open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. On the grill menu is marinated lamb leg with potatoes al forno and mint yogurt (£16), while hot chocolate and lavender pudding with milk ice cream (£6) is among a selection of tempting puds. Drinks include organic and bio-dynamic wines. There's also a garden for sunny days.
The man who kick started the craze for small share plates at Gordon Ramsey's Maze Jason Atherton's new chic fashionable space in Regents Street has Londoners buzzing. Beware the bill and look straight to the inventive starters menu where small plates prices from 8.50 to 12.50 can be made up into a tasting menu. Look out for the sensational small plates like the light cured Shetland salmon, avocado, frozen almond ad garlic and radishes – a work of art or the cauliflower and squid (tiny pieces of perfectly cooked squid with shavings of cauli). Sweetly interesting finishes include hot chocolate coffee or rice pudding with hay ice cream and lime jelly. Interesting finishes include hot chocolate coffee or rice pudding with hay ice cream and lime jelly
This place does great steaks and fine dining with humour and a twist. Like everything in the Hawksmoor empire, meat is a must here. Of course they do cater for non meat eaters too, but if you like steaks you'll love this place. One of their current favourites is the Short Rib French Dip. A brioche style sweet bun, stuffed with slow braised short rib and melted oglesfield cheese, a kind of British / French take on the Philly steak. On the side is a dish of rich gravy for dipping, their own website describes it as a 'culinary Lindsey Lohan', their explanation because it's rich and messy, and I would add deliciously naughty. They have consistently won the 'Best Steakhouse' in London plaudits, and they travelled the globe to get inspiration before coming back and setting up. Hawksmoor has a British 'gentleman's club' atmopshere, complete with wood panelling, and the prices as befits good steak are fairly steep, but totally worth it.
Head to east London for an achingly trendy eaterie. The Corner Room in Bethnal Green is cool. The 20th century classic fit out features distressed furniture, high ceilings and wood paneling, industrial lamps and a wrought iron staircase. The menu changes weekly. The wait staff are clued up and the food is hip and not surprisingly worthy of praise as offshoot of Nuno Mendes' grander restaurant Viajante. Lamb with macademia miso crust and mackerel with gooseberry granita, pistachio and tiny, roe-like balls of melon are both worth a shout out. Exciting, creative plates in an arty haven.
This is a great place to head with a group for a special occasion. Lunch involves signature tasting size dishes that are delivered 'in a calm but continuous flow enabling guests to finish swiftly'. Still you might like to linger a little when you hear about some of the dishes and then the matching wine flight might be in order too. Each dish is simply to be savoured. Jasmine and miso cured salmon, beetroot, compressed apple, horseradish cream and Szechuan-spiced Suffolk pork belly, braised discovery apple, kale and onion confit or the artistically composed pressed chicken and foie gras with pear and saffron chutney and soothing green tea caramel are both highlights.
All hail Heston Blumenthal and his latest London venture Dinner by Heston at the terribly posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It's all in the details of custom made cutlery and inventive cuisine by the man himself and Chef Ashley Palmer Watts, who cooks up in the glass encased centerpiece kitchen (there are more kitchens but this is the only one on show to diners) to show off the roasting meat on a spit. Stunning dishes inspired by the world famous futuristic style of the gastronomic mastermind. "Of course I want to create food that is delicious, but this depends on so much more than simply what's going on in the mouth. Context, history, nostalgia, emotion, memory and the interplay of sight, smell, sound and taste all play an important part in our appreciation and enjoyment of food", he says. "We remember that vanilla is sweet from our childhood but the sights, sounds and smells we experience give a sensory context." Which is how he challenges our palette with unusual food combinations, like crab ice cream at The Fat Duck. Must trys here include the Meat Fruit, a perfect mandarin stuffed with an incredible chicken liver parfait and The Beef Royal (which has been cooked for 72 hours and has an anchovy and onion sauce on the side).
It's a lunchtime destination of the Knightsbridge power brokers at The Berkeley. Marcus Wareing cooks up for the top brass at his top London restaurant. Plush leather, dark wood and richly painted claret-coloured walls, matching wine-coloured leather chairs as well as old-fashioned trolleys offering cheese selections and mounds of truffles are all rather grand, as is the polished service. The food is worth taking your time over. Worthy of the two Michelin stars, upscale dishes include with buttered lobster with sea kale, to start followed by a light sea bream, watercress, leek and potato dish or pork belly, with Pease pudding, turnips and fennel for a heartier option.
A chic intimate restaurant serving mod Euro dishes is found on the first floor of four floors of two converted mews houses hidden in Lancashire Court off Bond Street in a cobbled Mayfair mews. Vanilla-coloured leather banquettes, white cloths and polished silver create an elegant, cosy atmosphere. Food wise a reasonably priced two or three-course lunch 'prix fixe' menu is highlighted by the comfit of duck all crispy on top and served on a bed of greens and the delicately steamed fish fillet with creamy leeks. Homemade sorbets like blackberry or apple tart and homemade ice cream are a satisfying finish. A post work glass of champagne beckons downstairs in the glamorous late night lounge, with its chandelier and deep leather sofas on the ground floor.
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester has come highly recommended. The book "Foodie Top 100 Restaurants: Worldwide" sings the restaurant's praises very highly saying that the chef 's roast chicken has an "almost frothy texture" and a "fragant" truffle sauce. That, is what the book says elevates simple comfort food to "luxurious heights". The surroundings too are simply stunning, with a huge sparkling centrepiece which comes in the form of the "Table Lumiere" "a six person table shrouded by a ceiling-to-floor veil of 4500 shimmer fiber optics". But of course, it's not just about the stunning lights, cameras and action. Ducasse says he is all about the products, and without great ingredients, he writes, the chef would be nothing. With his international team to look after you, then you shouldn't be disappointed.