Planning a trip to London and haven't the foggiest idea where to start when it comes to working out where to eat? That's where the Hot Dinners Visitor's Guide comes in. Think of us as your foodie friend who's been to the UK recently and come back with a load of great recommendations, saving you all those hours poring over instantly out-of-date restaurant guides.
Right here, right now, these are the most talked-about restaurants in town at the moment - and consequently the hardest to get into. There's a trend for no-reservation restaurants sweeping through London establishments, so for these restaurants we'll tell you whether you can book a table or not.
Hix at the Tramshed
Where is it? 32 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3LX
What do you need to know? This is the latest restaurant from popular UK restaurateur Mark Hix, who is trying something different with his latest venue. Taking over an old tramshed station in Shoreditch, this serves only two main dishes, chicken or steak - the former served with its feet still intact and facing skywards. The minimalist approach has proved to be a big hit with the critics.
Do they take bookings? Indeed they do.
Where is it? The King's Cross Filling Station, Good's Way. N1C 4UR
What do you need to know? The folks behind trendy east London bar/restaurant Bistrotheque have had an instant hit with this casual restaurant at the back of King's Cross, taking over a place where a petrol filling station lived for years. Its approach is a US diner by way of British sensibilities and the signature dish is the soft-shell crab burger.
Do they take bookings? Yes, but book early.
Where is it? 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED
What do you need to know? Also behind the Delaunay (see below) this is the second big hit from Corbin & King this year, with an extremely affordable brasserie menu right beside Piccadilly Circus. While you may be able to get better French food in London, nothing in the area will compete at this price or level of opulence.
Do they take bookings? Yes.
10 Greek Street
Where is it? 10 Greek Street, London W1D 4DH
What do you need to know? This Soho restaurant has been quick to receive a number of plaudits from the press. It's run by the former Head Chef of critics' fave The Wapping Project, Cameron Emirali, who has teamed up with the former manager of trendy Exmouth Market's The Ambassador, Luke Wilson. It has a modern European manu that changes on a daily basis.
Do they take bookings? They do at lunch, so your best bet for a table is to book then, or expect a wait in the evenings when they don't take bookings (although they will take your number so you can have a pint in a nearby pub while waiting for a table,)
Burger and Lobster
Where is it? 36 Dean Street, Soho, W1 (& Clarges St, W1)
What do you need to know? Goodman are behind some of the best steakhouses in London are on a mission to offer Londoners the kind of Lobster experience you get on the east coast of America. They aim to offer the cheapest lobster in the UK, thanks to their tank which can take a tonne of lobster at a time. This is their second restaurant and we rather liked the original too.
Do they take bookings? While the original on Clarges Street still doesn't, this will be taking bookings in a couple of weeks. The restaurant is twice as big as the original, so any waiting time should be reduced.
Where is it? 17 Frith St London W1D 4RG
What do you need to know? One of the biggest trends at the moment is Peruvian food and we've recently seen a host of restaurants offering the national dish - ceviche - and national drink, Pisco Sour. However, restaurateur Martin Morales and chef Alejandro Bello's Ceviche leads the pack. The restaurant, of course, focuses on ceviche - freshly caught sustainable fish cold-cooked in Tiger’s Milk marinade made from lime juice and Peruvian aji chilli. You can sit up at the Ceviche Bar and watch the Cevichero Chef prepare them freshly in front of you, while sipping on numerous Pisco Sours.
Do they take bookings? Yes
Where is it? Whitfield Street, W1
What do you need to know? Ollie Dabbous was the ex Head Chef of Mayfair's Texture (and also formerly of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons) when he opened his eponymous Modern European restaurant in Fitzrovia (north of Oxford Street). It was an immediate hit, getting near-perfect scores from critics (and we loved it too) and soon became a sell-out. If you can't get into the restaurant, then do pop along to the excellent basement bar.
Do they take bookings? Yes, but there's a very long waiting list at the moment. As with all hard-to-book restaurants, aim for a lunchtime visit if you can to improve your chances.
Where is it? 76 Welbeck St, Marylebone W1
What do you need to know? This former street vendor is widely seen as being behind the very best burgers in London (certainly Jamie Oliver thought so when he featured them in his recent TV series). This North of Oxford Street spot is their first permanent restaurant (a Covent Garden branch will be opening in May) and is a massive hit (as seen by the queues outside). The burgers are well deserving their reputation (and very good value for central London) as are the cocktails but don't come here if you're expecting a quiet night.
Do they take bookings? No, so your best bet for grabbing a table is to get there as they open for lunch or away from the main eating hours. Otherwise you can expect a fair wait in the queue outside.
Pitt Cue Co.
Where is it? 1 Newburgh Street, London W1F 7RB
What do you need to know? The Pitt Cue Co. barbecue shack on the South Bank was one of the sensations of Summer 2011, cited by many as the best example of Texas barbecue in London. When it retired late 2011, there was always a promise of more to come, their permanent place in the heart of Soho delivered. You can either take one of the tables on offer for some pulled pork, brisket, ribs or the latest special or grab a take-out bun. Either are highly recommended.
Do they take bookings? No, and the dining area is quite small so you can expect a pretty long queue if you miss out on a table (although there is some room at the bar for a few in line).
Where is it? 194 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TQ
What do you need to know? Jose Pizarro's tapas bar Jose was already a standout success (and is next door to this restaurant) when he opened his more traditional dining affair. As well as offering seasonal Spanish food, Pizarro also features London's first Cava bar. Expect bigger dishes that your usual Spanish tapas bar and there's a greater emphasis on sharing.
Do they take bookings? Yes for lunch and for the larger tables seating six or more. Alternatively if Pizarro is booked up you should certainly try José next door. It doesn't take bookings either, but the focus on smaller plates should mean more chance of cramming in the door.
Russell Norman's joints
Where are they? Throughout Soho and Covent Garden
What do you need to know? In a break from the above, we're recommending all of Russell Norman's places as worth searching out. Everything started with Polpo's Venetian sharing plates restaurant (and both da Polpo and Polpetto offer similar menus). Of the bunch, our favourites are the lower East New York influenced Spuntino and the Jewish Deli inspired Mishkin's.
Do they take bookings? Despite Norman arguably being the person who kicked off London's current trend for no-reservations, Polpetto and Mishkin's do take bookings. Out of all of them the queue at Spuntino will be the longest.
Find out more about Polpo, Spuntino, Polpetto, da Polpo, Mishkin's
Taking tea at one of London's top-flight hotels is one of those key experiences every visitor here should enjoy at least once. No country does tea as well as the British - fact. Add to that the finger sandwiches and featherlight scones and clotted cream which form the basis of our afternoon teas and how could you resist?
Where is it? 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR
What do you need to know? It's the pre-eminent London afternoon tea that everyone has heard about, so if you haven't been before, it's hard not to recommend the Ritz, even if others might offer a better deal. Sometimes, you have to go with the classics and this one is definitely that. Note that you'll have to book up months ahead for a good slot. Price - £42.
Find out more about The Ritz
Pret a Portea at the Berkeley
Where is it? Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London. SW1X 7RL
What do you need to know? The Berkeley reinvented the afternoon tea scene when it launched its Pret a Portea which changes every six months to reflect the fashion world - right now there are Louboutin and Miu Miu biscuits. Price - £39.
Find out more about Pret a Portea
Where is it? 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ
What do you need to know? This Piccadilly hotel has just been voted as serving up the best afternoon tea in London by The Tea Council. The Honey Tea using tea from nearby Regents Park is particularly innovative. Price - £39.
Find out more about the Athenaeum
The first pub to gain the gastro prefix was The Eagle in Farringdon (East London) and the idea that you can eat great seasonal food in a pub is a concept we've exported all over the world. But as you'd expect, London still has some excellent examples of the genre.
The Bull & Last
Where is it? 168 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, London NW5 1QS
What do you need to know? This North London pub won best Sunday lunch in the last Observer Food Monthly awards, but it's also worth making the trip to try out the excellent Scotch eggs and black pudding sausage rolls from the bar.Happily it's close to Primrose Hill so a good place to walk off a blowout lunch.
Find out more about The Bull and Last
The Harwood Arms
Where is it? Walham Grove, Fulham, London, SW6 1QR
What do you need to know? This is the only London gastropub to have a Michelin star and was launched by Brett Graham who made an international name for himself with The Ledbury. A must visit for any gastronome looking for the best London gastropubs have to offer.
Find out more about The Harwood Arms
Where is it? 41 Jews Row, Wandsworth, London. SW18 1T
What do you need to know? The Ship is arguably the favourite pub of London's resident foodies, attracting bloggers from far and wide, as well as hosting a number of events such this year's Scotch Egg Challenge. Presided over by top tweeter Oisin, the menu includes favourites such as Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait and some innovative vegetarian fare.
Find out more about The Ship
The Anchor and Hope
Where is it? 36 The Cut, London SE1 8LP
What do you need to know? It's telling that the chefs here came via the original gastropub The Eagle by way of St John - culminating in a perfect fusion of modern British pub food styles. There's no reservations and waiting times can be long, but it's worth it. Come early before a show on the South Bank and you may get seated without too much of a wait..
Find out more about the Anchor and Hope
The Mall Tavern
Where is it? 71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace, London W8 4RU
What do you need to know? This gastropub in Notting Hill specialises in revisiting and reinventing British retro classics - so if you're after a particularly good chicken kiev or arctic roll, this is the place to come.
Find out more about The Mall Tavern
While Hot Dinners may be, a lot of the time, about the new places in town, we still have a lot of love for old favourites - the places that are always there for you, waiting with a smile (and a glass of Picpoul) for your return. Here are the London restaurants we think stand the test of time...
Bocca di Lupo
Where is it? 12 Archer St, London W1D 7BB
What do you need to know? This Soho Italian, headed up by Jacob Kennedy, has been a London favourite ever since it opened (also spawning a gelato themed café across the road, Gelupo). It has an extensive bar dining area, so ideal if you fancy watching the chefs at work.
Where is it? 43 Upper Brook Street, London W1K 7QR
What do you need to know? Michel Roux Jnr runs this London institution in Mayfair. It's quintessential posh, old school French dining and has been one of London's top-tier restaurants for an age. As much importance is placed around the service as the food, so it's the place to come is you want to be pampered - but make sure you dress up for the occasion. The set lunch is one of London's best set-lunch deals, but needs to be booked well in advance.
Where is it? 28-34 St. Martin's Court, London WC2N 4AL
What do you need to know? This is one of the theatre district's longest standing and most favoured restaurants and it's open late too. As a result, you'll often see a few actors taking a drink in here after the curtains close. The J Sheekey fish pie is a classic dish and their oyster bar - a recent addition - is worth checking out too.
Where is it? Branches in Covent Garden, The City and Shoreditch
What do you need to know? Hawksmoor started off in Shoreditch and has recently turned back to that venue to give it a complete overhaul as well as adding a new (and instantly fabulous) basement bar. They're credited with bringing steakhouses back into vogue in London, but are as well known for their cocktails and decor as their beef. Any of them are well worth checking out, but we particularly love the new bar at Shoreditch.
Where is it? 26-29 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL
What do you need to know? Quo Vadis has been a London institution for years and is currently owned by the Hart Brothers (who also own Barrafina) but it's recently been making headlines because of its new chef, Jeremy Lee. Lee is one of the London restaurant scene's favourite chefs and can often be seen on the floor of the restaurant - and his eel and horseradish sandwich is not to be missed. The all-day theatre menu here is an absolute steal for Soho.
Where is it? Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA
What do you need to know? Many well-known chefs, including a certain Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, started at Ruth Rogers' and the late Rose Gray's riverside restaurant in Hammersmith which specialises in classic Italian cooking. It's not cheap, but that's partly down to the kitchen's commitment to only using the most premium Italian ingredients.
Where is it? 35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7LB
What do you need to know? Officially London's oldest restaurant (it was opened in 1798) Rules could have become a tourist destination preserved in aspic - instead it's still one of the best places to try classic British dishes. Don't forget to pop upstairs for a cocktail from expert mixologist Brian Silva.
Where is it? 20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE
What do you need to know? On any day of the week, Scott's is wall-to-wall A-listers, so if you can get a table, and enjoy rubbing shoulders with the stars this is for you. Oh, and the food's pretty amazing too, revamped by a certain Mark Hix who brought in the stargazy pie.
Where is it? 26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY
What do you need to know? Quite rightly one of London's revered chefs, Fergus Henderson made a name for himself with this Smithfield restaurant and a fondness for nose to tail cooking. With this, alongside, St John Bread and Wine and the new St John Hotel he has been a pioneering force in changing foreign opinion on British cooking.
Find out more about St John
Where is it? 13 Beauchamp Place, SW3
What do you need to know? Terroirs is a laid back French restaurant just off the Strand with a particular focus on wine. Again a London favourite, which has spawned both Soif in Battersea and Brawn in East London - both well worth checking out if you're nearby.
Where is it? 160 Piccadilly London W1J 9EB
What do you need to know? Another Corbin & King restaurant (see Delaunay above), the Wolseley styles itself as a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition. Tables are hard to come by, unless you're famous, and they're harder still at breakfast which is arguably the Wolseley's buzziest time.
You may have read their books, seen them on TV or heard about their exploits in the kitchen - here's where to find the top cadre of chefs currently working in London.
Bistro Bruno Loubet
Where is it? St John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ
What do you need to know? When French chef Bruno Loubet returned to London, after a spell in Australia, all eyes were on him to see if he retained the magic. He didn't disappoint and this bistro serving classic french food (and, if you're lucky Loubet's signature hare Royale) is a personal favourite of Hot Dinners. We've returned again and again and haven't been disappionted. You should also make time to pop into the nearby Zetter Town House ZTH bar (which also serves Loubet bar snacks) for a cocktail created by one of London's best mixologists, Tony Conigliaro.
Where is it? 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1K 7EH
What do you need to know? He's one of Ireland's best known chefs but has always had his main restaurant in the heart of London. This upmarket spot features the best of Corrigan and is where you're most likely to find him in the kitchen when he's not on TV. If you have time you should also try out his fish restaurant Bentley's in Piccadilly.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Where is it? Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
What do you need to know? While the Fat Duck possibly remains the top restaurant to try at least once in the UK, Heston's London operation, run by Ashley Palmer Watts, has justifiably been incredibly popular since it opened early in 2011. It specialises in classic British recipes, but you can't leave without trying the Meat Fruit.
Where is it? Portobello Docks, 342-344 Ladbroke Grove, (entrance on Kensal Rd), Ladbroke Grove, W10 5AH
What do you need to know? Stevie Parle originally started out with a pop-up restaurant that settled beside the Thames in Chelsea. He's also a cookery writer for the Saturday Telegraph. Parle's riverside restaurant has an ever-changing and very seasonal menu, and it's worth keeping an eye out for themed events..
Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road
Where is it? 68 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HP
What do you need to know? He's arguably Britain's best known chef and this Chelsea spot remains his worldwide showcase restaurant and one of only two restaurants in London with three Michelin stars. You'll be lucky to see him in the kitchen (although he does pop by if he's in town) but Head Chef Clare Smyth is justifiably regarded as one of the UK's top chefs, so it'll be a good occasion whoever's behind the stove.
Where is it? 66-70 Brewer Street, London W1F 9TR
What do you need to know? Mark Hix is not shy of a few celebrity friends, so you can often spot the odd star in his restaurants of which Hix in Soho is his flagship. Expect classic English dining with a twist and be sure to pay a visit to Mark's Bar downstairs, which remains one of Hot Dinners' favourite drinking holes in London.
Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley
Where is it? The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL
What do you need to know? Marcus Wareing once ran Petrus under Gordon Ramsay, before a fairly public falling out. Since then, he's made a name for himself in his own restaurant. If you're heading along and it's on the menu, the custard tart is a must. It's also worth checking out his newest restaurant in the St Pancras Hotel, the Gilbert Scott.
Where is it? 8 Seymour Street London W1H 7JZ
What do you need to know? Certainly one of the best, and most flamboyant, Italian chefs in London, Giorgio Locatelli's Mayfair spot has had a Michelin star pretty much since the minute it opened. A favourite hangout of Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, you'll waddle out of here very contented.
Where is it? 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ
What do you need to know? This two Michelin star restaurant in Notting Hill, with Australian Brett Graham in the kitchen, is the one tipped by those in the know to earn a third star and remains one of the London dining scene's must-visits. The highest new entry in last year's World's 50 Best Restaurants, The Ledbury serves up astonishing food but also wins favour for its great front of house staff.
Pollen Street Social
Where is it? 8-10 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NQ
What do you need to know? Another of Gordon Ramsay's protégés, Atherton was the man behind Maze and this is his first solo venture. Particularly worth checking out are the main bar for its great cocktails and the dessert bar, where you can decamp after your main course and watch your choices being constructed in front of you.
Where is it? 43 Elystan Street, Chelsea SW3 3NT
What do you need to know? Tom Aikens has been in the London restaurant scene for a while now, traditionally working with a classic French menu. He's recently upped his game and has completely redone his restaurant in a new look to reflect the greater influence that the Nordic style of cooking plays in his food.
Where is it? Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, London E2 9NF
What do you need to know? Nuno Mendes is a follower of the molecular gastronomy form of cooking, and that's very much on display in his own restaurant. The kitchen is also in plain site, so you can see the trouble they're going to and can expect Mendes to present the odd course himself if he's in the kitchen. The bar is well worth stopping by, as is The Corner Room, another smaller restaurant in the same hotel from the team behind Viajante.
So you're in London in a top-flight restaurant that happens to be in a basement... you know it's good, but well you could be anywhere. Here's where to eat well with a fine view of our beautiful city to boot.
Galvin at Windows
Where is it? Park Lane Hilton, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE
What do you need to know? The Galvin Brothers are behind some of London's best French restaurants, but it's this one at the top of the Hilton on Park Lane that serves up both great food and a stellar vista. You'll see amazing views of Hyde Park while being given some of the best service in London thanks to uber-maitre d', Fred Sirieix. The set lunch here is one of the best deals in London - well worth seeking out.
Find out more about Galvin at Windows
Where is it? 1st Floor, Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD
What do you need to know? They've recently lost Jeremy Lee to Quo Vadis, but they still have one of the best views in London overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.. Best visited at lunch for a great view of the Thames.
They may not fit into any particular category but their inclusion in our visitor's guide shows you these restaurants aren't the kind to be pigeonholed. From innovative modernist cuisine to brilliant Brick Lane food, these restaurants should also feature on your must-dine list.
Upstairs at the Ten Bells
In a nutshell: Young Turk goes it alone
Where is it? 84 Commercial Street, London, E1
Why should you care? Young Turks Isaac McHale and James Lowe had a massive hit on their hands when they took over the residency above one of east London's most famous pubs. Now Isaac and the Clove Club (who cover front-of-house) are carrying on with an a-la-carte menu, but with a style of food that carries on the ideals from the Young Turks.
In a nutshell: Simon Rogan comes to town
Where is it? 19 Blandford Street, W1
Why should you care? Simon Rogan's L'Enclume is held up to be one of the best restaurants in the UK, so if anyone fancies trying his food but hasn't the time to trek up to Cumbria, this is for you. The restaurant will only be open for two years, and you can expect Rogan to be in the kitchens himself a couple of times a week.
Where is it? 301-303 Chiswick High Road, London W4
Why should you care? It burst on to the blogosphere with little fanfare, but this restaurant from ex-blogger Mikael Jonsson has been wowing many a critic with its experimental food. Be warned, it's divided many too - so take a look at the menu to check that it's right for you before heading all the way out to Chiswick.
Where is it? 83-89 Fieldgate Street. London E1 1JU
Why should you care? One of the things many visitors to London (from outside the country) are looking for is a great Indian restaurant. Of all the many in London, Tayyabs is the one that remains the most recommended by far by London's foodie network for its top-notch Punjabi food and tandoori meats. You'll have to queue and if you want alcohol you'll need to bring your own, but it'll be worth it.
Where is it? 23 Catherine Street, London WC2
Why should you care? From the same stable as Salt Yard and Dehesa, reviewers (including Hot Dinners) have raved about the buzz and particularly the Iberico Pork and Foie Gras burger. Great tapas-style dishes and super-friendly staff have made this a Covent Garden hit.
To find out what restaurants are coming soon to London, check out our upcoming restaurants page.
For all the latest critic reviews of the newest London restaurants, check out our reviews page.