I’m lucky enough to come from a family which has a background in fine dining restaurants, which means I have been privileged enough to eat in some of the best restaurants in the country, and especially in London. These restaurants include Michelin Star winners, AA rosette winners, and the most well regarded restaurants according to Trip Advisor and Time Out, not to mention celebrities! (who says you need a star to be the best?) These restaurants vary in price, but being the cheap student that I am, I will often visit these places on a deal – pre-theatre menus, tasting menus, set lunches and so on. These are some of the best I have encountered so far…
Foxtrot Oscar, Chelsea.
This is one of the many popular Gordon Ramsey eateries in London, but unlike it’s sister restaurants, this Chelsea based restaurant does not have a Michelin star to it’s name. I visited this restaurant, which is just a stones throw away from Ramsey’s self named 3 Star restaurant, with my Dad as a Father’s Day treat a year and a half ago. The restaurant itself was very quiet when we arrived, which was strange considering it was a Saturday afternoon, but this didn’t have too much of an effect of our dining experience. The cheap side of me was out this day, and so we opted for the set lunch menu, where two courses were priced at £18 and three courses were £22. This offer is now even better, and three courses will only set you back £20 per person. I suppose where they make their money is the extra side dishes, for example their delicious beef dripping chips priced at £4.50 per portion. We didn’t treat ourselves to a desert, but our starter, a wonderful dish of potted salt beef with cornichons (a type of gherkin!) and toast was truly stunning, and my main, a plate of Pork Belly with Jasmine Rice and Asian salad was truly stunning, while my dad had a beautiful looking fish pie and a side of greens. For a meal that was so reasonably priced and a restaurant missing a michelin star, this meal was wonderfully surprising, and I would definitely recommend a visit if you feel like having a posh lunch in Chelsea.
Maze by Gordon Ramsey, Berkeley Square
My visit to this Michelin star restaurant was a combined Mother’s Day & Birthday treat for my mum last year. I told her to meet me in Mayfair and I surprised her with a reservation. The restaurant is big, and the tables seemed a little packed in, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. The place was fully booked, but the clientel seemed to be mainly business diners that were treating corporate clients rather than girls in their early twenties treating their mums. Again, not really an issue. One again I chose a day where a special offer was on, so our £25 menu entitled us to a welcome glass of crisp Champagne and a choice of 4 dishes from an extensive menu. If we had wanted, we could have had four desserts, however we opted for a mixture of two starters, a main and a dessert. Avoid the Chicken caesar salad; we expected them to do something fancy and Michelin-starry with it but alas, they did not. Otherwise the terrine’s are worth trying, as well as the braised beef dishes. My dessert was a light rice pudding creation with chocolate and apple, which, while small, was very tasty.
Signor Sassi, Knightsbridge
I suppose it is accurate to call this restaurant the first restaurant I visited as a London resident. Growing up only 50 miles away meant I had always been treated to meals in the city ever since I was young, but this meal was special, because this was my ‘congratulations on moving to London’ meal that I was treated to by my Dad. Situated in Knightsbridge, over the road from Harvey Nichols, you might not notice this restaurant hidden down an ally, unless you find yourself attracted to the palm trees outside, and the bright blue paint. Once you find this restaurant and head inside, the first thing you will notice will be the walls covered floor to ceiling with framed photos of all the celebrities that have visited this restaurant, of which there are hundreds! Turns out this is one of THE places to dine in London! The menu is Italian (as you might guess from it’s name) and offers a selection of traditional italian pasta dishes, seafood plates and meat options, from gnocci to spaghetti and lobster to steak. To begin with we started with an anti-pasti of green olives, stunning freshly baked bread with salted butter and big chunks of the most delicious, crumbly parmasan I have ever had. I could have enjoyed a meal of just this! However, the rest of the menu was too tempting to resist, and so I opted for a gorgeous creamy gnocci dish, and my dad opted for a bowl of gorgeous tagliatelli with fresh shellfish. This restaurant is by no means cheap. Dishes start from about £17 and escalate up – my memory escapes me, but I believe the lobster dishes were in excess of £45! Maybe they’re worth it though, if the quality of my gnocci is anything to go by.
This is a lovely restaurant that can be found on Greek Street in Soho. You won’t realise until you walk in, but this place is huge. The dining room can seat over a hundred people, with tables being turned at least once a night, probably more. Before your meal, you can enjoy an aperitif in the bar* – sample one of their champagnes, they specialise in some wonderful varieties. When your table is ready, head through to dining room. If you’re there at a peak time, you might not be able to hear the tinklings of the piano over the general murmur of your fellow diners, but it is quite lovely. The menu is varied, with starters including a Tart and Soup of the day (£6), Cured Salmon (£8.95), Chicken Liver Parfait (£9.50), and if you’re feeling particularly posh, you might want to choose the caviar priced at a steep £24.50 per portion, or my personal favourite, half a dozen fresh Oysters at £13.50 per portion. For main, I can recommend trying the Old Spot Pork Belly which is accompanied by sweet red cabbage and crushed apple mash (£15.95) or the Duck Confit (£15.50) which are both succulent, juicy and very tasty. The pudding menu is extensive, with Crème Brûlée and Rhubarb Crumble featuring, as well as a selection of homemade ice-creams and sorbets. The great thing about this restaurant isn’t just the good menu and the lovely champagnes and wines… it’s the fact that they are on Tastecard! Valid Sunday – Thursday evenings, owners of a Tastecard will received 50% off the food bill! That discount makes all the food taste that little bit better!
* Don’t forget to collect your bank card from the bar after your meal – they won’t have added those drinks you ordered earlier to your bill.
OXO Tower Brasserie, South Bank
My mother surprised me with a meal in this incredible brasserie for my 22nd birthday. The thing that sticks in my mind with this incredible venue is the stunning view of the Embankment, which stretches from Westminster and the Eye over to the City and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s seriously impressive, and makes the atmosphere in the restaurant feel so magical. The ambiance is lovely, and so are the staff, who were eager to make sure my birthday meal was special. We both started with a lovely cocktail which was very strong but full of flavour and then I started my meal with a lovely dish of hand-dived Scallops which I could have easily had a second portion of, followed by a lovely dish of Chargrilled Venison. We finished by sharing a dish of Ice-creams and sorbets which were refreshing and delicious, however we would have rather enjoyed the sold out chocolate trio dish. The dishes are expensive, and we did choose from a set menu to avoid paying over the odds for dinner, but the quality and the service was worth it.