• Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards winners

  • By Time Out editors


  • Leffe Best New Restaurant | Best Gastropub | Best British Restaurant | Best Family Restaurant | Best Local Restaurant | Best Cheap Eats | Best Bar | Best Design | Best Traiteur | Best Coffee Bar

    Best British Restaurant

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    National Dining Rooms

    WINNER
    National Dining Rooms
    The dark colours and low ceilings of the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing make for a subdued first impression, not aided by a slightly institutional feel. But the food here is the other end of the scale: individual, delicate and inspiring. This is an Oliver Peyton restaurant, and in culinary terms, we think it’s his best yet. Like Peyton’s earlier venues, it caters to various feeding whims – particularly appropriate given the mixed needs of the clientele here. There’s a prix fixe menu, an afternoon tea, a bar menu and a café counter of appetising pies, tarts and cakes. The prix fixe takes British food to an advanced level of finesse. Tiny crab cakes came in a clear tomato soup of intense flavour, beautifully garnished; and even the piccalilli that ringed the chicken liver mousse was pretty. Feature continues

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    The flavours in the beetroot and Wensleydale tart were brilliantly realised, and the quality of ingredients in boiled and roast chicken and foraged mushrooms had been encouraged to shine through. Puds were less impressive, but points for the seasonal sundaes – and also for the Trafalgar Tap ale and a good British rosé wine. Service is polite and enthusiastic once you’re seated (less so front of house) and the acoustics are good. Most customers seem to be gallery-goers from out of town, suggesting that Londoners are missing a trick. Dinner is served only once a week, but lunch here can be a revelation. And if you’re not in the mood for a full meal, the café at the entrance to the dining room proper is an excellent place to try the Peyton & Byrne range of British savouries and cakes, from potted Gloucester Old Spot pork served with toast to hot toasted crumpets served with top-quality England Preserves. The Bakewell Tart, Dundee Cake, and selection of soft drinks in the café is also impressive.
    National Dining Rooms, Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN (020 7747 2525/www.thenationaldiningrooms.co.uk) Charing Cross tube/rail.

    RUNNERS-UP
    Empress of India
    The Empress has swiftly become a destination restaurant for east Londoners, but only by virtue of first succeeding as a great local, catering to the day-long sustenance and social needs of a varied clientele. With big windows, a mosaic floor, substantial bar and talking-point shell chandeliers, it refers to pub, restaurant and grand café and works as all three. Food is finessed British gastropub, in pleasing combinations: grilled sardines so fresh they might have swum on to their sourdough toast with tapenade and gremolata; a flavourful Barnsley chop with broad bean bubble cooked with the ability it deserved. Our raspberry cranachan (a traditional Scottish dessert rediscovered by the tartan tourist industry) and plum and frangipane tart were less involving: this is definitely somewhere that does sturdy better than sweet, notably on the rôtisserie, which turns out all manner of meat (including game and rare breeds) for diners to pull apart on wooden boards.
    Empress of India, 130 Lauriston Rd, E9 7LH (020 8533 5123/ www.theempressofindia.com) Mile End tube then 277 bus.

    Geales

    New owners have made this former chippy into a suave and spacious fish restaurant. Its roots haven’t been forgotten, though: the ketchup might come in porcelain jugs rather than squeezy bottles but the core of the menu remains fish in batter and grilled or fried market specials. There are adjustments for gentrification: starters include sea scallops with burnt orange dressing and Thai soft-shell crab (recommended) along with dressed crab and pots of prawns. Cod, hake, haddock and sole arrived beautifully battered and fresh as the new tide; from the specials, our whole Dover sole, which requires an expert hand, was exquisite. Chips and onion rings didn’t let them down, and nor did the classy mushy peas. Service was friendly, with the caveat that we weren’t told the prices of the market fish when we ordered: disingenuous at best since the Dover sole was, at £26, more than twice the £12 stated on the menu (small print warned only that ‘some prices may vary’).
    Geales, 2 Farmer St, W8 7SN (020 7727 7528) Notting Hill Gate tube.

    Great Queen Street
    Sister restaurant to the rated Anchor & Hope gastropub, 32 Great Queen Street shares its unpretentious, buzzy style. The pub-style room, done up in classic gastropub burgundy, positively thrums with conversation and bonhomie – though here the small and tightly spaced tables can make this an irritant. Ranging from snacks and starters to main courses to share, the menu is approachably Modern British: it’s food to tempt and satisfy, rather than educate or impress. Brawn was subtle but enjoyable; Arbroath smokie deliciously savoury; rabbit saddle appropriately rustic; artichokes enormous; shortcrust pastry pies released a rush of aroma when breached. Bottled octopus (really a marinated salad) could have been more interesting and the gooseberries in the otherwise lovely fool were woody, but in general the food was excellent and well-priced. However, it was let down by the service, which was disorganised.
    Great Queen Street, 32 Great Queen St, WC2B 5AA (020 7242 0622 ) Covent Garden tube.

    Magdalen
    Magdalen’s terribly civilised interior, all dark wood, aubergine paintwork and florally accessorised elegance, leads you to believe that its food will be as well-mannered as its staff. A pleasant surprise, then, to be ambushed by some spirited flavours on its daily-changing, largely British menu. Artichoke soup was as glossy in taste as in texture, and salade gourmande a thickly-dressed, enjoyably to-hell-with-it assembly of endive, foie gras, own-made duck ham, walnuts, radish, more duck and French beans. Hereford beef was a fine piece of meat, served with dripping toast too crisp for authenticity but perfect for the dish. It’s a meaty menu – also featuring veal offal, sliced pig’s head and too-bland milk-fed lamb – and the fish we had was not as good (there’s no vegetarian main, either). If anything lets Magdalen down it would be consistency, atmosphere, and maybe the wine list.
    Magdalen, 152 Tooley St, SE1 2TU (020 7403 1342/www.magdalenrestaurant.co.uk) London Bridge tube/rail.

    Leffe Best New Restaurant | Best Gastropub | Best British Restaurant | Best Family Restaurant | Best Local Restaurant | Best Cheap Eats | Best Bar | Best Design | Best Traiteur | Best Coffee Bar

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