"Buy local, eat seasonal" is the mantra in London kitchens, and there is a new emphasis on value for money, with many restaurants offering excellent fixed-price menus. London has literally thousands of restaurants to choose from, but here are five relative newcomers that are definitely worth trying if you're heading over to London soon.
1. The Narrow. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's Thames-side pub in Canary Wharf offers classic British dishes made with seasonal produce. Its three-course Summer Set Menu went for £22.50 -- an amazing deal that also included a glass of wine. For a la carte dining, start with bubble and squeak with a soft poached egg, then try the whole rainbow trout with peas and broadbeans, and finish with steamed treacle pudding with custard. Fabulous river views. (44 Narrow Street, E14; tel. 020/7592-7950; www.gordonramsay.com/thenarrow/; Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm and 6-11pm, Sat-Sun noon-4pm and 5-11pm).
2. Corrigan's Mayfair. Acclaimed Irish chef Richard Corrigan's flagship restaurant opened in November 2008 and immediately nabbed the Restaurant of the Year award from The Evening Standard. Menus are compiled using only the finest naturally grown produce and locally harvested fish and game. The set lunch menu is a bargain at £19.50 (two courses) or £23.50 (three courses) and comes with a carafe of wine. Signature dishes include Cornish crab jelly with Melba toast; octopus carpaccio, baby squid, chorizo and feta; suckling pig sausage with oysters and duck tongue; and butter poached smoked haddock with lobster and creamed parsnips. (28 Upper Grosvenor Street, W1; tel. 020/7499-9943; www.corrigansmayfair.com; Mon-Fri noon-3pm and 6-11pm, Sat 6-11pm, Sun noon-4pm and 6-9:30pm).
3. Benja. This elegant new Thai restaurant in the Carnaby/Soho area offers "royal" Thai cooking from chef M.L. Kwantip, whose family provided chefs for Thai royalty for generations. Don't miss the choo-chee curry with roasted duck and seedless grapes or the grilled lamb wrapped in cha-plu leaves. Complete your meal with a traditional Thai dessert like pumpkin custard or black sticky rice pudding with taro jam. Main courses run £14 to £17. (17 Beak Street, W1; tel. 020/7287-0555; www.benjarestaurant.com).
4. Canteen. A casual, moderately priced eatery in the newly refurbed Spitalfields Market, Canteen serves nationally sourced, additive-free, traditional English food. You can get breakfast all day, soup and small dishes, or something more substantial like an excellent meat pie, fresh fish and chips, or a vegetable or meat stew. This is a good place to go with kids because most of the dishes are available in half portions at half the price. Main courses run £8 to £12.50. (2 Crispin Place, E1 ,inside Spitalfields Market; tel. 0845/686-1122; www.canteen.co.uk; Mon-Fri 8am-11pm, Sat-Sun 9am-11pm) There are also branches at Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, Baker Street, and Canary Wharf.
5. Mess. The name is reminder that this airy new café/restaurant on King's Road in Chelsea was part of the Duke of York's barracks before Charles Saatchi bought the complex and installed his new Saatchi Gallery. Although you can get lunch or supper here -- fresh pastas, organic beefburgers, and more ambitious daily specials are on the menu -- I'd recommend it as a place to enjoy a light bite, afternoon tea with warm scones and clotted cream (£6-£8), or a glass of wine. Have a look at the artwork -- it's all by young, unknown artists chosen by Saatchi; sit outside if the weather's fine. (Duke of York's HQ, King's Road, SW3; tel. 020/7730-8135; www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/gallerymess/; Daily 9am-9pm)
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