London food: 45 must-try dishes in the capital's restaurants

If you were to eat just 45 plates of food in London, it should be these that you feast on.

From decade-old classics to hot new arrivals, and from intricate creations to simple preparations, the selection is a microcosm of London’s diversity, taking in cuisines from across the globe and embracing both tradition and fusion along the way.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they’re darn delicious.

Bone marrow on toast with parsley salad at St John

Neither restaurants or dishes get more iconic than this. Fergus Henderson’s best-known creation has been much emulated over the years, but never bettered

Polenta at The Palomar

There’s a high chance that there’s more butter in this than polenta, along with plenty of mushrooms, truffle and parmesan. This is the highlight dish on a menu of highlights. Watch how The Palomar makes its polenta here.

Chorizo roll at Brindisa

Prepare to wait in line for this Borough Market classic: a ciabatta roll stuffed to bursting with smoky chorizo fresh from the grill, roasted red peppers and rocket. It’s a good to start the day as it is to soak up a few pints later on.

Beef brisket at Smokestak

The fat strips of tender, slow-cooked beef are a highlight among many high points at the smoke-filled Shoreditch base of David Carter’s Smokestak. They come either straight-up, with a punchy homemade ketchup, or crammed into a bun.

Al pastor tacos at El Pastor

These soft corn tortillas filled with cured pork that’s been cooked doner kebab-style are the salty, saliva-inducing highlight at this Borough Market taco joint.

Meat Fruit at Dinner

This canny creation from Heston Blumenthal takes inspiration from c1500. It combines mandarin, chicken liver and foie gras in a pâté, and resembles a mandarin.

All In at Blacklock

Chops, glorious chops. That’s what Blacklock does and it does them very well indeed. Don’t choose between them, opt for the All In option and enjoy a mixed grill of varying beef, lamb and pork chops.

Brick Lane bagel at Beigel Bake (or Beigel Shop)

People have been known to fall out arguing which of Brick Lane’s two neighbouring all-night bagel shops is best, but we have no definitive answer. Both offer superbly moist salt beef and sweet, chewy bagel perfection. Have one of each.

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Venison Scotch Egg at The Harwood Arms

The British beauty that is the scotch egg has to be the ultimate pub snack. And this well seasoned, gamey, reliably runny-yolked version served at London’s only Michelin-starred gastropub is the leader of its kind.

Shou pa chicken at Xu

It was said before this opening of this Taiwanese restaurant from the Bao crew, that the shou pa chicken would be served with its head, and diners given gloves to wear to pull it off. This never materialised, and instead it comes ready prepared in a light gingery broth. What really makes it is the ultra-tender flesh and crisp skin, made all the better for a sprinkling of the accompanying white pepper and chicken skin dipping salt.

Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery

When New York master baker Dominique Ansel opened his first European site in Victoria, this hybrid Franken Pastry that merges a croissant and a doughnut led to queues of several hours. Bite into its fluffy, buttery, flaky goodness and you’ll instantly understand the appeal.

Beef fat tacos at Temper

There’s a translucent glisten to these indulgent tacos at Neil Rankin’s Temper, where a zero-waste policy means that its tortillas are made with leftover beef fat from the grill - a move which isn’t just good for the environment, but for flavour too.

Pies at Holborn Dining Room

You can take your pick from Calum Franklin’s pies at Holborn Dining Room, because they are all outstanding. The chef is pastry wizard, who works his magic across a range that includes an anything but humble pork pie, and seasonal specials such as curried mutton pie with mango chutney.

Sloppy Joe at Jikoni

Delicious fatty juices add unctuous backbone to a richly spiced mutton keema which can barely be contained within a toasted brioche bun in this clever take on British-meets-Indian-meets-wherever from Ravinder Bhogal.

Cauliflower shawarma at Berber & Q

Vegetable dishes don’t come much more thrilling than this smoky, richly-spiced whole cauliflower charred on the grill and adorned with tahini, pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. A match for any meat dish.

Pressed duck at Otto’s

The pressed duck at this Clerkenwell institution isn’t for the faint-hearted. The multi-course canard fest involves the duck first being brought to the table for inspection complete with its head, while the bones are later crushed to produce an epic-tasting jus. Breast meat, chopped liver and grilled legs all feature in what is a delicious if deathly dish.

The English at The Wolseley

This grand Piccadilly Brasserie from Chris Corbin and Jeremy King not only does the best breakfast in town, it pretty much invented the notion of breakfasting out. The English features a choice of fried, poached or scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, black pudding and mushroom. It’s the quality of ingredients - plus the atmosphere - which makes it really special.

Cacio e pepe at Padella

Few dishes are as splendidly simple as this one from the London Bridge pasta gurus. It is simply spaghetti with parmesan and black pepper. But oh boy, is it good.

Chicken Kiev at The Game Bird

Playful takes on British classics are a signature of this restaurant set in Mayfair’s The Stafford hotel. Top of the pile is this retro Kiev of tender chicken that oozes with ultra-garlicky, truffle-laced butter. The accompanying mash is dreamily creamy, too.

Dessert platter at Roka Aldwych

Meal endings don’t get much more showstopping than the dessert platter at the Aldwych branch of Roka. The towering treat bowl boasts lychee, raspberry and passion fruit sorbets, tropical fruit, matcha panna cotta, yuzu chocolate truffles, and a plump chocolate Buddha ready to smash into.

Lamb offal flatbread at Black Axe Mangal

Spicy, rich and intense, the lamb offal flatbread created by Lee Tiernan at haute kebab spot Black Axe Mangal in Islington is as fabulously full-on as the heavy metal-playing restaurant itself.

Chargrilled oysters at Decatur

These street food stars tend to move around, but their signature dish remains. Phew. Plump oysters are lightly chargrilled and lavished with a garlic-pecorino butter and a little hot sauce for an explosive spicy seafood burst. Perfect.

Jamon at Bar Tozino

More a ham cave than a bar, Maltby Street’s Bar Tozino is so full of hanging hams that you’ll likely smell the ageing meat even before walking through the door. Settle in and gorge your way through slice after slice of the varying options, washing it all down with sherry ideally.

Shakshuka at Ottolenghi and Nopi

A bright, North African breakfast staple mastered and popularised by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Bacon naan at Dishoom

A bacon sarnie, Indian style. A London breakfast classic, especially well-received when a hangover lurks.

Fried courgette flowers at Salt Yard

These picture-perfect deep-fried courgette flowers stuffed with goat’s cheese and drizzled in honey are full of Mediterranean splendour.

Bhel puri at Kricket

Now settled in Soho, Kricket offers more dishes than ever to please spice fans. This light and bright exemplary version of bhel puri is still top of the pile.

Steak at Hawksmoor

When it comes to steak, Hawksmoor is the daddy. It doesn’t matter what cut you go for or which accompaniments you choose, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. Oh, but do get some bone marrow.

Venison puffs at Yauatcha

Flaky buttery pastry encasing tender venison, a highlight of the dim sum at Alan Yau’s Soho restaurant.

Deep-fried olives at Mele e Pere

These plump green olives stuffed with chilli and deep fried might just be London’s most noshable nibble. They are juicy, spicy, slightly salty and endlessly addictive. Wash them down with some of Mele e Pere’s homemade vermouth.

Beef dripping candle at Restaurant Story

As it melts, the dripping is collected in the candle holder’s base ready to dip your bread in. It’s been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2013 and is still one of London’s cleverest dishes.

Whole fried sea bass (nam dtok pla thort) at Som Saa

This fiery, aromatic dish became a favourite at Som Saa’s early residencies and pop-ups, and is now a highlight of the menu at its Spitalfields restaurant.

The classic bao at Bao

For steamed buns, you can’t beat Bao. Their classic sees a pillowy-soft bun filled with slow-braised pork belly, coarse peanut powder and shredded coriander. Worth queuing for.

Sugar-cured prawn omelette at The Modern Pantry

Anna Hansen’s Asian-influenced signature dish, served at The Modern Pantry restaurant in Clerkenwell.

Zucchini fritti at Sartoria

On the addiction scale, these crispy strands of fried courgette are class A. They come overflowing in a large bowl at both Sartoria and Francesco Mazzei’s second restaurant Radici, and should be ordered on the side of absolutely anything.

The Dead Hippie burger at MeatLiquor

This well-known burger is the signature serve across Yianni Papoutsis’ burger empire. It’s dirty and drippy, featuring two beef patties fried in mustard and slathered in melted American-style cheese adorned with pickles and minced raw onions. The creamy, mustardy secret-recipe Dead Hippie Sauce seals the deal.

Egg hopper at Hoppers

This Soho sensation isn’t just named after the hopper, it does them very well indeed. Pair an egg hopper with the restaurant’s intricately spiced curries.

Galician beef at Lurra

The beef at this Marylebone Basque restaurant is something special. It comes from cows which live until they are at least eight, often 10 and sometimes 14. These cows are fatter, which leads to more marbling in the meat and a lot more flavour.

Kid goat methi keema at Gymkhana

A deep, smoky mince curry served with bread rolls — an example of less is more at this Mayfair Michelin-starred Indian.

Duck and waffle at Duck & Waffle

A warm, chewy waffle topped with crisp-skinned confit duck and a runny egg, drizzled in maple syrup. Convinced yet? Naturally there are some pretty impressive views, too...

Milk-fed lamb brain at Barrafina

These delectably soft, creamy fritters are one of the (many) stand-out dishes at Barrafina restaurants. They may well be the only places you’ll find them in London, too.

Shepherd’s Pie at The Ivy

This Shepherd’s Pie has been a favourite at The Ivy since virtually the beginning, and thanks to the continued roll-out of Ivy brasseries across town, it’s now more accessible than ever.

Buttermilk fried chicken at The Clove Club

This fried chicken dusted with pine salt is a well-deserved classic, and not just because of its interesting, pine-flanked presentation.

Mince and potatoes at Dean Street Townhouse

Iconic in its defiant simplicity, this signature dish is ultimate comfort food. Comfort food made with A-listers in mind, naturally.

Lamb chops at Tayyabs

Not the most photogenic of dishes, but the joy is in the taste — and yes, they are worth the queue.

So, how many have you tried? Let us know in the comments below.