After living in London for 5 years (and holidaying multiple times before that!) I’ve been lucky enough to visit quite a few different bars, cafes and restaurants in the city. As I’ve eaten in a fair few places during these years, I wanted to compile a list of my favourite London restaurants for special occasions (I’ll be writing a cheap eats list soon, too!) for you as it’s something I wish I’d had when I was desperately searching for a place for my boyfriend’s 30th…
Most of the time I’ll happily go for something cheaper, but sometimes it’s nice to splash out a little bit for those special occasions. The restaurants on this list are bit nicer than the ones I would usually go to, but the food they serve is by no means ridiculously expensive or really fancy. I’m not a fan of places that are super posh – I generally don’t feel like I fit in, and I also don’t like those little tiny plates of food, either – they just leave me hungry! I appreciate the skill and effort behind them, of course, but they’re just not for me.
So, without further ado – let’s get started with the list!
This is probably my favourite one out of this list. Me and Jim have been to Dean Street Townhouse in Soho twice: once for his birthday and once for our third anniversary and the food, service & atmosphere has always been fantastic. The restaurant (and the building – see in the photo above) itself is so beautiful, with a vintage feel and a two different dining rooms – one bigger one, and one smaller, cosier, one with a fireplace and lots of comfy seats.
The food here is surprisingly not too expensive either – in fact, one of their dishes was even mentioned in Time Out’s cheap eats list a few years ago. I’ve personally gone for the mac and cheese twice and it is SO. GOOD.
Probably the most expensive restaurant on this list, Hawksmoor is definitely worth the splurge for a special occasion. It’s also one of the last places I ever ate meat in as it’s mainly a steak restaurant, although they have the token veggie and seafood options, too. Although, to be honest, I probably enjoyed their sides even more than I did the meat – the triple cooked fries are phenomenal, as is the peppercorn sauce (perfect with the fries!) and the macaroni cheese.
Even though Hawksmoor is quite an expensive restaurant, it really doesn’t feel that stuffy at all. The decor is really cool and the staff are super friendly and not intimating at all. I’d really love to go back one day to try out their veggie options, too!
I’ve only been to Darwin Brasserie for brunch, but it’s worth it any time of the day for the wow factor alone. Situated on the 36th floor of the “Walkie Talkie” building, it hosts amazing views over London which is guaranteed to make your dining experience extra special. Plus, afterwards you get to explore the actual garden bit of Sky Garden, so there’s that, too.
Our brunch was really nice and tasty. Even though we didn’t venture for something more exciting than the classic egg and avocado on toast, it was definitely worth the slightly higher prices for the beautiful views. And it’s still not nearly as expensive as the Shard (which you can actually admire from the Sky Garden)!
We went to Zaika of Kensington a few years ago to use an Open Table voucher I’d received for my birthday and we’ve actually gone back here since, too, because we really, really loved the food. It probably has the biggest feel of a “fine dining” restaurant in terms of how it looks and how the staff really go the extra mile, but the food is still not super expensive and not at all gimmicky.
I’ve had the paneer tikka masala twice here now, and I can safely say that it’s one of my favourite restaurant dishes I’ve ever had – it’s so tasty! The portion is really big too, so I always get to take some for next days lunch which is amazing. Watch out for the spicey vodka and chilli cocktail as it’s got quite a kick to it!
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