30 must-try restaurant dishes in London, from curry laksa at Sambal Shiok to crispy duck salad at Arlington

 (Chris Keeling)
(Chris Keeling)

London is a city full of historic dishes. These are found at famous restaurants, mostly. Is it the place that helped propel specific dishes into stardom, or the dishes themselves that helped fan the flames? Hard to say. Probably a bit of both. The point is, such preparations are known, and known to be good.

Some years ago, we listed 30 of the best and most prolific. Today, we’ve updated the collection to include some new additions. It is not an exhaustive reel — we’ll be adding to this in the coming weeks to capture a fuller picture. For now, here are 30 of the best-known and best-loved dishes in town.

Tête de veau, Bouchon Racine

The chef Henry Harris is one of the capital’s most adored and his tête de veau has played its part in that. It is a rich and wobbly dish, tempered by sauce ravigote, and marks the very best of French bistro cooking, lovingly imported into London by way of Bouchon Racine, the second iteration of his old Brompton Road restaurant now sitting comfortably above a Farringdon pub.

Upstairs, 66 Cowcross Street EC1M 6BP, bouchonracine.com

Fry up, Bar Bruno

 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

There are innumerable good fried breakfasts in London, but none are as emphatic as those dished out at Bar Bruno. It might be the location: Soho is a place for hedonism and so it must also be a place to provide comfort. After the debauchery of the night before, here is an old Anglo-Italian café that brings big plates of affordable pork, soft eggs and ample toast, all of which must be washed down with cups of simple tea. Not the most famous but a hallmark of a dish.

Smoked eel sandwich, Quo Vadis

Jeremy Lee cooks many things to a legendary level at Quo Vadis – his pies could so easily have also made this list – but he gets the nod here for his unrivalled take on the fancy sandwich. Smoked eel, horseradish cream and Dijon mustard, served with red onion pickle – a combination so popular Lee says he “nearly ran out” of eel on post-lockdown reopening.

26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL, quovadissoho.co.uk

Codfish fritters, Fish Wings & Tings

 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

In Brixton, Fish Wings & Tings has been a fixture for more than a decade, a favourite of celebrities and a reassuring point of longevity in one of London’s most changing postcodes. Chef-owner Brian Danclair has since expanded his business to three sites. At his original, the codfish fritters are unwavering: crispy, moreish balls of fried and salted cod, each one to be dipped in a ginger and lime aioli. Every mouthful is a holiday.

Granville Arcade, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PR, fishwingsandtings.com

Laksa, Sambal Shiok

 (Sambal Shiok)
(Sambal Shiok)

Chef Mandy Lin founded Sambal Shiok on the Holloway Road in 2013. The laksa bar helped introduce many to Malaysian dining, and Lin’s signature curry laksa comes with either prawns, chicken, tofu, or combinations thereof. It’s based on a “campur” style dish found in Malacca, fusing the regional flavours of Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and is in Peranakan Nyonya cooking, a blend of Malay and Chinese cuisine.

171 Holloway Road, N7 8LX, sambalshiok.co.uk

Ham, egg and chip sandwich, Max’s Sandwich Shop

 (Howard Shooter)
(Howard Shooter)

Who knows whether Max’s Sandwich Shop will be open. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. If you happen to venture over with service is happening, rejoice, because it’s a chance to enjoy one of the best sandwiches to ever grace the capital. Max Halley’s combination of salty ham, a fried egg, crispy straw potatoes, and piccalilli and mayonnaise is a blinder, and a springboard for so many gourmet renditions today.

19 Crouch Hill, Finsbury Park, N4 4AU, maxssandwichshop.com

Crispy duck salad, Arlington (open soon)

London’s best-known restaurateur, Jeremy King, is opening Arlington where Le Caprice used to be. It is the restaurant before in everything but name, a homage to a historic, glittering place, and everybody wants to be a part of it. Dishes there are timeless, none more, perhaps, than the crispy duck salad. We have chef Mark Hix to thank.

20 Arlington Street, St. James's, SW1A 1RJ, arlington.london

Muntjac biryani, Gymkhana


Gymkhana has been around a while now. It now boasts two Michelin stars, making history alongside Opheem in Birmingham in becoming the first Indian restaurant(s) in the UK to earn a brace. The food at the Mayfair restaurant is the epitome of luxury, where flavours are rich, bold and intense, and the service refined. The most indulgent of all might be the muntjac biryani, a nod to a time bygone.

42 Albemarle Street, W1S 4JH, gymkhanalondon.com

Snails, L’Escargot

L’Escargot is one of Soho’s old aristocrats and in its grand, beret red dining room there is always a mischievous sense of fun – perhaps because it is still such a smart, suited, chandeliered place, and people are often drinking themselves rather silly. The clue to good eating is in the name; the snails come still clinging to their shells, submerged in a butter and parsley sauce. Dive in; you will emerge stinking gloriously of garlic. It won’t matter a jot; roll on the red wine and settle in for a long, comforting night.

48 Greek St, Soho, W1D 4EF, lescargot.co.uk

Bacon naan, Dishoom

Londoners spent decades believing bacon in a bap with some ketchup (or brown sauce, but let’s not have that argument now) couldn’t be beaten – and then Dishoom came along. This breakfast sandwich fills a fresh naan with bacon, a slathering of cream cheese, a luxurious tomato and chilli chutney, coriander and an oozing fried egg if you feel so inclined. Hangover be gone.

E2, W1, N1, W8, dishoom.com

Marinara, 50 Kalo di Ciro Salvo

Superlatives should be used in moderation – but heck it, this might just be London’s best pizza. This under-the-radar London iteration of a Naples pizzeria serves an unrivalled marinara: just tomato sauce, oil, garlic and oregano. No need for any more – with a sauce this good and a base so fine and perfectly charred, you can stop mourning your cancelled Italian holiday at first bite.

7 Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5BY, 50kalo.it

Whole turbot, Brat

Tomos Parry’s talents with a turbot first came to feverish acclaim at Mayfair restaurant Kitty Fisher’s, but they are now the star attraction at his Michelin-starred solo spot. This whole fish – grilled Basque-style, over hot coals and in a specially designed cage – softens as if it has melted, and is basted at the table in an emulsion made with its own juices.

E8, E1, bratrestaurant.com

Lamb chops, Melabes

Perhaps because it’s quietly tucked in among its unassuming neighbours down on the wrong end of High Street Kensington, Melabes is often overlooked by London’s food lovers. An unwarranted shame, as this partly Middle Eastern, partly Mediterranean set-up is really very good. The lamb chops, which come all smokey and burnished from the grill, are perfect; pink as a Vegas sign inside, but the fat all soft and dripping and delicious. A must, whatever the order.

221 Kensington High St, W8 6SG, 020 7937 3003

BBQ Butter chicken wings, Brigadiers

Brigadiers is a bold, boisterous sort of place: a labyrinthine City dining room, packed to the rafters with beer and Indian food that is indisputably gutsy. But arguably its finest moment comes in one of its smallest packages – these chicken wings may be diminutive, but are mightily spiced, deftly charred and dripping with ghee-fuelled succulence.

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR, brigadierslondon.com

Confit potatoes at The Quality Chop House

Yes, there are some high quality chops on offer at this 150-year-old Clerkenwell restaurant but blimey, leave room for the chips. Fine slices of potato are stacked into architecturally sound wedges, and confited until shatteringly crispy on the outside and devastatingly soft in the centre. They have been much imitated in recent years, but never bettered.

88-94 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA, thequalitychophouse.com

Potato and roe, Core by Clare Smyth

Clare Smyth has a knack that must infuriate other chefs; she is able to take the simplest of ingredients – say, a single carrot and a smattering of lamb mince – do something devilish with it and charge rather a lot for it; so good are the results, though, that few mind. Smyth’s sorcery is perhaps best witnessed with her signature, the potato and roe. It is simply a potato on a plate in a little sauce, but then it is also perhaps the best potato dish in the world; it has this wonderful salty richness, a certain seaside intenseness. It is glorious; so too is the smoked chicken that tends to come as an amuse bouche. You’ll be treated here.

92 Kensington Park Rd, W11 2PN, corebyclaresmyth.com

Bone marrow and parsley salad, St John

 (Sam A Harris)
(Sam A Harris)

Not only has this dish kicked off countless wonderful meals over the course of St John’s 25 years, but it also gets credit for putting British cooking back on the global culinary map. Roasted bone marrow, coaxed out onto toast, cut perfectly with salad of parsley, shallots and capers. A nose-to-tail revolution, and utterly divine.

EC1, E1, stjohnrestaurant.com

Classic bao, Bao

London has buns in abundance, but we still bow down to the fluffy superiority of Bao. The Taiwanese restaurant has become a cross-town favourite, thanks to its pleasingly pert rice buns (they are genuinely very pert, no crassness intended) and carefully considered fillings. The classic order comes filled with braised pork, fermented veg, coriander and a dusting of peanut powder.

13 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD, baolondon.com

Clay pot baked crab and pork glass noodles, Kiln

When we say Kiln is one of the hottest spots in town, we mean it – hang over the counter at the Thai barbecue and you’re not far out of range for the odd flame. Baking in the heart of the swirling heat is this must order: shimmering glass noodles, coated with a silky sauce enriched with fatty slicks of Tamworth pork belly and improbably unctuous crab meat.

58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL, kilnsoho.com

Jamon croquetas, Barrafina

A dish like this should be elusive – it is far too easy to eat seven portions of croquetas in a single sitting, which is why we presume Barrafina makes you queue. Very sensible. As the crunchy coating gives way to the oozing centre, enriched with the flavour of Spanish jamon (the best ham in the business), we’re already planning our next visit.

N1, W1, WC2, barrafina.co.uk

Fish pie, J Sheekey

Long an actor’s favourite, J Sheekey’s glamour has never lost its lustre. It’s kept its regulars and charmed newcomers with a menu that plays the greatest hits of fine dining favourites. Seafood is Sheekey’s thing; simply done sole is beautiful here, crab comes three ways, brill brushed in butter is beyond satisfying. The fish pie is famous though, and rightly so; beneath the flaking pastry is a sea of cream, mustard and white wine, in it bobbing cod, haddock and salmon. It is simple but never fails; it does on its own for lunch, but is a failsafe at supper, too.

28-32 St Martin's Ct, WC2N 4AL, j-sheekey.co.uk

Omelette Arnold Bennett, The Wolseley

Don’t worry, no Arnolds were harmed in the making of this dish. Alongside impeccable service and an arguably perfect dining room, you could add another highlight to your breakfast at The Wolseley by ordering this creamy, haddock-filled dish, named for the writer who inspired its creation while staying at the Savoy.

160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB, thewolseley.com

Purée de pommes de terre, Le Comptoir Robuchon

The late Joël Robuchon may have been the most decorated chef of his and perhaps any other era, but his signature stayed humble – mashed potato. Until you’ve had it, it is hard to believe it could be quite so good; mash, after all, is mash. No matter the scepticism, it will always surprise; it is almost silly that so little could taste of so much. A side, it will match almost everything on the menu; of which, the lamb with aubergine on the menu of classics is extraordinarily good.

6 Clarges St, W1J 8AE, robuchonlondon.co.uk

Ragu, Lina Stores

Soho’s Lina Stores – the pasta bar, not the longstanding Italian deli it comes from – is the sort of restaurant one longs for; small, fun, friendly, not too pricey. They do small plates of near perfect pasta; their ragu, whether lamb or veal, is a gem. A good ragu is hard to find – too often there’s too little meat, or meat not cooked for long enough – but here, they spend the time over it, cooking slowly, carefully. No restaurant can compare with a Nonna, but Lina gets gratifyingly close.

51 Greek St, W1D 4EH, linastores.co.uk​

Beef brisket bun, Smokestak

David Carter’s Shoreditch restaurant occupies itself by giving the entirety of Kansas City a run for its money on a daily basis. The star turn at this lauded barbecue restaurant is its beef brisket bun – the meat is soft and juicy, riddled with its fats in the centre, while charred and treacle-like on the outside, paired perfectly with pickled chillies. To remember it is to salivate, we assure you.

35 Sclater Street, E1 6LB, smokestak.co.uk

Xiao long bao, Din Tai Fung

Few dishes in the capital have been known to cause queues of four hours. That’s exactly what the world-famous xiao long bao dumplings did when top Taiwanese restaurant group Din Tai Fung first opened in Covent Garden. An intricately folded out layer (made by chefs trained for at least 18 months) gives way to succulent meat and a broth you could take on by the bowlful.

5 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8PT, dintaifung-uk.com

Biang biang noodles, Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles

There are oodles of noodles in the capital, but Guirong Wei’s triumphant take is one of the finest. First finding followers at her north London restaurant Xi’an Impression (soon to reopen for dine-in, but not yet), the dish of has inspired a whole spin-off restaurant in Spitalfields. Thick, hand-pulled, chewy noodles soak up all the spice and zing of the “special” sauce they swim in – very special indeed.

62 Wentworth Street, E1 7AL, xianbiangbiangnoodles.com

Cauliflower shawarma, Berber & Q

It’s not often that the main event at a barbecue restaurant is the veg, but Berber & Q have achieved just that. The cauliflower shawarma here is cooked on their flaming grill until softened and charred, before being doused liberally in tahini, pomegranate molasses, coriander, pomegranate seeds and a scattering of dried rose petals.

338 Acton Mews, E8 4EA, berberandq.com

Steak tartare imperial, Bob Bob Ricard

There’s “Press For Champagne” buttons, lobster in your mac and cheese and anything that stays still long enough gets gilded – there is no point in going small at Bob Bob Ricard. Steak tartare is a luxurious pick at the best of times, but the Imperial upgrade here comes with a dollop of caviar – even without the finishing touch, the tartare itself is one of the best in the capital.

1 Upper James Street, W1F 9DF, bobbobricard.com

Dover sole with crab butter, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill

There are so many delights at Bentley’s, it’s tricky to pick a single one. This could so easily have been a plate of rigorously sourced oysters, the fish pie, the decadent Royal seafood platter. It is however, the Dover sole that wins. A sublime piece of fish always, expertly cooked without fail – choose it either filleted with beautiful crab butter, or grilled and whole for a simple pleasure. Over in the City, Corrigan does similarly brilliant things with lobster at Daffodil Mulligan.

11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG, bentleys.org