Of the list of the world's 50 best restaurants, three are to be found in the British capital: The Ledbury, St. John and Hibiscus should be a clear indication to anyone who doubts the culinary calibre in Britain today. But there are a lot of other options to tempt those those whose pockets aren't so deep. From gastropubs to pie shops, from independent family-run businesses to small chains, from traditional British dishes to international cuisine, there's something for everyone.
The Angel and Crown, in St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, is a recent addition to the long list of gourmet pubs; in the heart of London's theatre-land, the signature dishes, including special pre- and post-theatre menus, feature seasonal British produce sourced from regional farmers and the nearby Billingsgate Market. Just off Camden High Street, The Crown and Goose, is a classic English pub with a menu that combines good pub food with inspiration from the chef's international travels. Gordon’s in Villiers Street, alongside Charing Cross, claims the title of the capital's oldest wine bar; the menu includes home-made pies and tasty cheeses with a good range of wines from around the world.
More pies are available from the four Square Pie shops in the capital; home-made classical and original fillings, served up with real mash... even Kate Moss has been tempted. The traditional British chippy has been given a modern twist at the family-run Golden Union in the heart of Soho, though they haven't neglected favourite accompaniments such as mushy peas, curry sauce and pickled eggs. At the four Canteen restaurants, a different roast is served up each day, while their drinks menu includes handcrafted draughts from the Greenwich microbrewery Meantime and a large selection of British bottled beers.
Soho's reputation as a multicultural district well known, and it certainly applies to dining choices. Here you'll find the highest density of small restaurants serving global gastronomy in the whole of London. They tend to be affordable and there's no need for reservations. On Green's Court you'll find Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine at the original Yalla Yalla, while Rosa’s serves up modern Thai food on Dean Street. A listed building on Wardour street with original architectural detailing is the setting for the authentic Vietnamese street foods of Pho, while simplicity is a watchword for the the clean bright space on Frith Street where Mooli's means roti wraps with tasty Indian fillings. Just along the street, Koya combines traditional Japanese noodles with a dash of originality. The duo of restaurants, Polpo (Beak Street) and Polpetto (upstairs at the French House on Dean Street) take their inspiration from traditional Venetian bacaros, while their sister locale, Spuntino is based on a New York bar.
All of the Soho eateries mentioned have sister establishments in other parts of the capital, but they retain their individuality. But even the more extensive chains don't need to be bland and soulless either in food or decor. From breakfast through till dinner in the evening, the dishes on offer at Leon's dozen London restaurants are a healthy – and tasty – choice. With almost a score of outlets around the capital, Byron Burgers are still focused on simple American-style burgers made from Scottish beef; the Gourmet Burger Kitchen also specialises in burgers, though the chain spreads as far north as York and west to Cardiff. Busaba Eathai has ten locations serving Thai food across London, while Ping Pong specialise in 'little steamed parcels of deliciousness' – otherwise known as dim sum – and fruity cocktails, and the Japanese-inspired Wagamama has outlets all around the capital and beyond.
And for those outside the capital, enthusiastic TV chef and food guru Jamie Oliver puts fine Italian food within reach at the award-winning Jamie's Italian restaurants. The chain has locations all across the UK from Brighton to Glasgow and there's even a plan to open in Gatwick airport's North Terminal in summer 2012.