The Best London Restaurants For A Relaxed Lunch
The Caravan group started in east London more than a decade ago. From those beginnings on Exmouth Market, its Kiwi founders were finally lured west in 2019 by the promise of a gleaming three-storey rotunda right next door to the Saatchi Gallery – complete with an impressive roof terrace. Vardo’s name might be different, but it does exactly what all Caravans do best, blurring the lines between coffee shop and restaurant. In a casual, contemporary space, all-day grazing options run from excellent sourdough pizzas to healthier grain-based bowls.
Petersham Nurseries Café – the sophisticated, family-run spot serving modern European fare in a glasshouse in Richmond – has two lovely restaurants in Covent Garden: The Petersham, an elegant restaurant with a classic à la carte Italian menu; and La Goccia, a more relaxed all-day eatery with an open kitchen and wood-fired oven. All housed within the aptly named Floral Court, the standout spot is the rustic, flower-filled courtyard, which combines a traditional country garden with Italian elegance – think Tuscan terracotta pots filled with English fern – which is just the spot for a post-lunch cappuccino. Elsewhere, there’s a bar and a deli where you can eat seasonal quiches, sandwiches and salads at the brass counter or take them home.
Originally founded as an oyster warehouse in 1851 by a young fishmonger, John Scott, Scott’s Oyster Rooms went on to become the British seafood restaurant and oyster bar that Mayfair locals know and love. Over the years, Scott’s has welcomed film stars, politicians and writers; Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was often seen at Scott’s in the 1950s and it was here that he reportedly discovered the dry martini ‘shaken not stirred’. These days, it’s well-loved as a glamorous spot for a long lunch over plates of seafood and a couple of glasses of wine. At this time of year, the terrace is a lovely spot to dine.
Former Petersham Nurseries head chef Skye Gyngell opened this striking restaurant in Somerset House in 2014. Famed for her elegant, simple cooking, the menus at Spring focus on classic and seasonal cuisine. It’s a looker, too – expect to be seated among foliage walls, potted trees and walls imprinted with leaf veins. Tuck into the likes of warm crab with prawn butter and wholegrain polenta; monkfish with clams, saffron, fennel and garlic aioli; and guinea fowl with charred collard greens, steamed kohlrabi and Béarnaise.
Right on Portobello Road, this recently launched drinking den is not just about late nights – there’s also a Greek-influenced casual dining menu which is well suited to a long lunch. Sustainable, seasonal dishes include the likes of fresh carpaccio of seabass with lemon-oil dashi and bottarga; otoro toast with cream and black caviar; and whole smoked aubergine with citrus yogurt and dukkah. Come summer, tables are put out front for al fresco eating.
Launched and loved since 2010, Trullo’s simple, chic interiors are an oasis of good taste, but the food is the real star. In particular, highlights include fresh pasta rolled to order, and the fish and meat dishes, which are cooked over burning coals. The menu changes every day, but dishes on offer could include the likes of chargrilled Cornish sardines with gremolata; tagliarini with chopped St Austell mussels, chilli, garlic and oregano; Dorset lamb rump with poached potatoes, radicchio, anchovy and wild oregano; followed by baked vanilla rice pudding with poached rhubarb and pistachio.
Trattoria Brutto is the brainchild of Russell Norman, who – as well as looking after the bar at the newly reopened Joe Allen – was the man behind acclaimed Italian restaurant group Polpo. This traditional Tuscan trattoria is inspired by the rustic dining rooms of Florence – picture walls covered in family photos and tables adorned with red and white striped tablecloths. The team’s philosophy is based on simple, quality ingredients with big flavours – think panzanella salad, penne con vodka and roasted squash with borlotti beans and salsa verde. Whatever you do, don’t miss what the menu describes as ‘ugly but good’ meringue and hazelnut cookies with ice-cream.
Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton is the man behind Berners Tavern, one of London’s most sought-after restaurant reservations. Located in Fitzrovia’s London Edition hotel, the restaurant blends a romantic, historical look with an all-day dining menu of seasonal, contemporary British cuisine. We recommend tucking into one of head chef Phil Carmichael’s main courses – we like the roasted lemon sole with brown shrimp, parsley and lemon and crushed potato; or the classic Berners Tavern mac and cheese with red wine braised beef blade. The epitome of understated opulence, down the hall The Punch Room is intimate and cosy. Be sure to make a pitstop before or after your meal.
Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson’s Rochelle Canteen sits in the converted bike shed of the old Rochelle School, looking out to the trees of Arnold Circus beyond. The restaurant’s seasonal, daily changing menu is small and pleasing, combining classic and modern European styles – think roasted winter tomatoes from Sicily, or whole shoulders of roasted lamb and whole brill, designed for sharing. On lovely days, guests can take advantage of the outdoor tables. While a selection of cracking St John wines are on its list, BYOB is an option too.
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