|Eat & Drink
Shown are Approximate price for a three-course meal per person, excluding drinks. Opting for the prix fixe menu (or set meal)
at lunch time usually means prices are dramatically reduced - perhaps even halved. Booking is essential for all higher-priced
restaurants. Many of the places featured here are London's busiest restaurants - book as soon as you arrive in the capital,
if not before. Smart casual dress is the norm (and often required) in more expensive places.
Spoiled for choice If you're confused as to where to eat out call Restaurant Services, (Phone: (020) 8888 8080 Mon-Fri 9am-7pm) a free advisory service for the best places to dine depending on your preferred area, type of cuisine and budget. They are not wholly impartial but they are reliable. Other options are the excellent Time Out Eating and Drinking Guide or look on the tourist board website www.eatlondon.net
Afternoon Tea If you want to take afternoon tea in style try one of the following hotels: the Ritz, the Savoy, the Lanesborough, the Meridien Waldorf (where you are serenaded by a harpist), Brown's Hotel, Claridge's or the Dorchester. It's an expensive experience, but one you'll hopefully long treasure. Dress smartly (jacket and tie for men is the nominal code) and skip lunch beforehand! Other options (cheaper but still very classy) include Sotheby's and Fortnum & Mason.
Chain Eating There are a number of restaurant chains in London that provide inexpensive food of a consistently high standard. Probably the best is Pizza Express, with flagship branches at King's Road, Chelsea and at Dean Street, which is famous for its jazz. Other good cheap Italian options are Spaghetti House and Caffé Uno. Tasty brasserie chains include Chez Gérard (renowned for their steak'n'frites), Café Flo and Brown's.
Themes and Gimmicks The Hard Rock Café started it all in 1971, now Planet Hollywood (at the Trocadero) is competing for top billing, while near by on Shaftesbury Avenue is the jungle of the Rainforest Café. Off-the-wall oddities include Garlic & Shots (Frith Street, Soho), a Swedish concept whereby everything (yes, everything) comes with garlic; Sarastro - The Show after the Show, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, which may appeal to operatic luvvies; and best/worst of all, the Elvis Graceland Palace on the Old Kent Road (Phone: (020) 7639 3961), a little way out of the centre, but a real experience!
Pie and Mash The nearest London comes to indigenous restaurants is the famed Pie and Mash shops. The filling in the pie used to be eels, but nowadays these are only served stewed or in aspic as jellied eels. The standard pie filling is now minced beef and the meal comes with a green sauce or gravy known as 'liquor', made from parsley. Sadly, only a few shops remain, but Cockneys Pie and Mash, Portobello Road, by the market, and R Cook, The Cut, behind Waterloo Station, are worth a visit.
Meals with a View If you want to look down on London from your dining table the best place is the eighth-storey Oxo Tower Restaurant. There are more riverside views from Butler's Wharf Chop House, the People's Palace in the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and the Blueprint Café at the Design Museum. For a different perspective, ascend to the Fifth Floor Café at Harvey Nichol's or zoom up 28 floors to The Windows, at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane.
Vegetarian Options Vegetarians in London need not worry as there are interesting meat-free dishes on most good restaurant menus. Vegetarian heaven is to be found in Neal's Yard (Covent Garden), where there is a clutch of excellent wholefood restaurants, cafés and shops. Off here, on Neal Street, Food for Thought is recommended. Another good option is to try one of London's many Indian restaurants, particularly Woodlands, with branches at 77 Marylebone Lane and 37 Panton Street, off Leicester Square.
Cream Tea Try to take an early lunch when making an excursion out of London in order to leave time and space for that most English of institutions, the cream tea. Not so fussy or substantial as formal afternoon tea a traditional cream tea comprises a pot of tea with two scones, cream and strawberry jam. It's often too much for one person so you may want to share the scones.