Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Ben McCormack

The best restaurants in the City of London, from Fazenda to Sweetings

The Romans founded Londinium in 47AD on the north bank of the Thames around where London Bridge now stands, then the lowest point of the river narrow enough to bridge. Alas, when they hightailed it back to Rome 350 years later, an Italian love of eating out was not part of their lasting legacy (gratias for the roads and baths, though).

Over the following centuries the crowded square mile that corresponded to Roman Londinium established itself as Europe’s financial powerhouse, and as the capital’s social life shifted westwards following the Great Fire of 1666, so the City of London became synonymous with work, not play.

Still, that’s not to say that there is no culinary history here. London’s first coffee houses, the 17th-century dens of intrigue that were the Restoration equivalent of Twitter, opened on St Michael’s Alley off Cornhill in 1652, while Sweetings (est. 1889) is every bit as historic as more famous (and touristy) West End heritage restaurants such as Rules and Wiltons.

And yet the 2023 closure of Simpson’s Tavern — a chophouse founded in 1747, frequented by Charles Dickens and currently fighting redevelopment with a crowdfunding campaign — proves how fragile this ever-changing corner of London is to financial pressures.

On a more positive note, the dining scene of the Square Mile has changed beyond recognition over the past 25 years, from power-lunch venues par excellence to bars and restaurants worth hanging around after work for — though given that the City has the country’s highest-earning employees, bargains are hard to find.

Here we’ve restricted ourselves to restaurants in the Square Mile itself, but if you’d rather eat surrounded by fewer suits, check out our restaurant guides to neighbouring Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. If pinstripes aren’t a problem, then welcome to the City of London: possibly the only area of the capital where you don’t need to worry whether to undo the top button of your shirt when dining out.


(Press handout)

This South American-themed meat specialist operates five restaurants between Birmingham and Edinburgh and has opened its first London outpost in vast premises in the City, where acres of Italian marble and leather somewhat distract attention from the glassy corporate surrounds. From the exhaustive menu, take the cue from the skewer-wielding passadors and order the house speciality of rodizio, an avalanche of 12 grilled meats carved at the table for a flat price (£49.90) that includes cold platters and tapas. Non-meat options include beetroot tortellini and there’s an à la carte menu for smaller appetites — but given that the bottomless “market table” is basically an all-you-can-eat salad buffet, this is not the place for anyone on Ozempic. It sounds horribly naff — and with a South American wine and cocktail list, Fazenda is tailor-made for City boys and girls out on the after-work razz — but the quality and cooking of the meat is top-notch.

100 Bishopsgate Tower, EC2M 1GT,

Origin City

(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

An under-the-radar gem worth knowing about, Origin City is a restaurant proper from the owners of 56 West Smithfield wine bar nearby and a real labour of love. All the meat (butchered in house) comes from the family’s 600-acre organic farm in Argyll in Scotland, with heritage breeds such as Black Aberdeen Angus, Tamworth outdoor-reared pigs and Texel lamb to the fore; all of the seafood comes from their aquafarm, Loch Fyne Oyster, and much of the wine list is sourced from their organic vineyard, Château de la Cômbe, in Provence. The pasture-to-plate, nose-to-tail menu from former Rules chef Graham Noonan-Chatham includes charred slices of fine Morteau sausage on rich brown lentils cut with mustard, pork loin tonnato with properly sour anchovies, and steak cooked over the flames of the grill in an open kitchen. Can’t stand the heat? There is a small terrace for a glass of Provençal rosé or a dram of Scotch whisky.

12 West Smithfield, EC1A 9JR,

Coq d’Argent

(Press handout)

Perhaps the seminal City restaurant, Coq d’Argent kickstarted the contemporary Square Mile dining scene in 1998 under the aegis of Sir Terence Conran. It is most famous for its rooftop setting on the seventh floor of Number One Poultry, a postmodern ship’s prow (now Grade II-listed) pointing towards the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England, and there are fabulous views of the City skyline from the restaurant’s oasis-like garden. What’s inside doesn’t possess quite the same wow factor, though it’s as well-upholstered as the interiors of the luxury motors likely driven by a clientele who can afford £40 for a main course (or who have the corporate expense account to pay for it). The menu of well-executed French classics has nothing to scare les chevaux. Main courses of pan-fried skate wing with Grenobloise sauce or beef Rossini with sauce Périgueux are bookended with half a dozen snails and tarte au citron; seal the deal with 30g of oscietra caviar.

1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ,


(Press handout)

It might lack the celebrity clientele of Gymhkana and the Marylebone sophistication of Trishna but this JKS Square Mile outpost is precision-tuned to City boys with pool tables, a whisky vending machine and 10 big-screen TVs beaming out live sport. City girls are thinner on the ground but even if you don’t have T.M. Lewin saved in your safe senders’ list, there’s plenty to enjoy here, from the infectiously upbeat Monday-is-the-new-Friday afterwork atmosphere to some terrifically enjoyable Indian barbecue cooking, light on subtlety and heavy on saucing and spicing: goat belly vindaloo samosas, chilli paneer lettuce cups, beef shin and bone-marrow biryani. Red-leather booth seating is tailormade for groups but there are glossy lacquered tables for couples, too. No time for dinner? Have a couple of cocktails and some butter chicken wings at the bar before toddling off to Bank tube.

1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR,


(M Clayton)

Angler’s executive head chef Gary Foulkes used to work at Mayfair’s much-missed The Square, where he was clearly an attentive student of how to serve up a Michelin-starred power lunch. Here at his own starred gaff within D&D London’s South Place Hotel he doesn’t miss a beat on a seafood-focused tasting menu (£155) that majors in seasonal fish plucked from British waters: sea bass tartare, hand-picked Devon crab, roast Newlyn cod and “Phil Howard’s langoustine dish”, a homage to Foulkes’ old boss at The Square, involving the sweetest shellfish complemented by parmesan gnocchi, truffle purée and potato and truffle emulsion. One might go à la carte, too, but the pleasure of this dining room is forgetting about corporate pressures and permitting oneself the luxury of time in a calmly decorated seventh-floor space illuminated by huge slanting windows and where there’s a terrace for fine weather. Remember to set your out-of-office when you make the booking.

South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF,

José Pizarro Broadgate

(Press handout)

No one could mistake concrete Broadgate Circle for La Boqueria Market in Barcelona but Spanish chef José Pizarro has managed to inject some sunny buena vida into the grey surrounds with this larger version of his Bermondsey tapas bar José. The classics of pan con tomate, boquerones, chorizo al vino and gambas al ajillo are not only present and correct but faultlessly correct, while it’s a photo finish as to whether Pizarro or Barrafina serves the best jamón croquetas in London. The all-Spanish wine list, meanwhile, is a by-the-glass showcase for Iberian excellence. In the mood to linger? There are goblets of gintonicas to sip on the terrace before a siesta. A dog-friendly policy gives the place weekend meal appeal, with the deserted City streets are a joy to walk around outside office hours, plus there’s three tapas for £20 on Saturdays. ¡Ole!

36 Broadgate Circle, EC2M 2QS,

City Social

(Press handout)

There’s no shortage of skyscraping restaurants in the City, from Sushisamba and Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower (lovely views but with a bit of a bridge and tunnel reputation), to the Searcy’s venue at the summit of the Gherkin, a favourite filming location for The Apprentice. But Lord Sugar himself would be more likely to eat with his fellow CEOs in the horseshoe-shaped booths at this Michelin-starred Square Mile outpost of chef Jason Atherton’s Social empire, halfway up the former NatWest Tower. Human-scale views — as in one can actually see the humans on the pavements below — are a refreshing change to other high-rise diners, so too the clever modern British cooking. Devon crab with nashi pear and a foam of celery and samphire might be followed by saddle, shoulder and truffle pithivier of Highland venison, though it’s not all so intricate: there’s also a quartet of Josper-grilled steaks with triple-cooked chips, salad and sauce. Eating on personal not professional expenses? Try the three-course lunch menu (£49.50): Cheddar and onion tart, pork cutlet, sticky toffee pud.

Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, EC2N 1HQ,


(Jemma Watts Photography)

They don’t make them like this anymore, for which committed modernists may breathe a sigh of relief. Sweetings first opened its doors in 1889 and somehow has managed to escape wartime bombing and post-war redevelopment, displaying the insouciance of the true survivor by spectacularly failing to move with the times. It is only open at lunchtimes, never at the weekend and the seafood-centric menu — or “bill of fare” — is an ode to the days when Britannia ruled the waves and Empire builders were fed a diet of simple English sustenance. Starters here favour shellfish. Crab comes as a cocktail, bisque or dressed, oysters are on the shell and potted shrimps on toast; fish-focused mains might be Dover sole or Cornish brill, fillet of haddock or sea bass, cod steaks with parsley sauce or skate wing with black butter sauce. Arguably, though, Sweetings is at its best for comfort-food classics that offer a glorious respite from a bad day at the office: lobster Thermidor with a good kick of mustard, fish pie under a blanket of mashed potato, plus pints of Black Velvet: Guinness topped with Champagne. Prices, while not exactly Victorian, are surprisingly reasonable for a slice of history this delicious.

39 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4SF, 020 7248 3062

La Dame de Pic

(Press handout)

A formal two-Michelin-starred French import within a luxury hotel might not be everyone’s tasse du thé but if tasting menus, wine pairings and an army of obliging staff at one’s elbow float your boat, you’re in for a treat at La Dame de Pic. The dame in question is Anne-Sophie Pic, a third-generation chef who restored the third Michelin star to her family’s Valence restaurant Maison Pic and has been named World’s Best Female Chef at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. This, however, is a sister to La Dame de Pic in Paris and here in London, Pic has translated her culinary heritage into a trio of tasting menus (£145/£165/£195) featuring prime British ingredients — Scottish lobster, line-caught turbot, salt-marsh lamb — treated to sensitive spicing and no end of scientific cheffy technique. Throw in a setting within the former Port of London authority, a grandly colonnaded monument to imperial London, and one has a rarefied dining experience that is architecturally impressive on all fronts, if a little austere.

Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ,

Koya City

(Ola O Smit)

The original Koya in Soho introduced Londoners to udon noodles how they should be — dredged out of boiling water in a net in the open kitchen and poured as slithery as a fish into bowls of broth to act as textural contrast to meat and veggie protein. However, this offshoot in the Bloomberg Arcade, packed shoulder pad-to-shoulder pad with City suits, seems more in the spirit of somewhere one might stumble across in downtown Tokyo. There are 36 types of udon to choose between; star billing goes to an English breakfast version of fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushroom, but anything involving prawn or veg tempura is a good shout and, at around £15 a pop, what passes for a cheap eat in these parts. Excellent extras include salads, pickles, cider-doused pork belly and, to encourage evening trade, the nighttime-only Insta-bait of crispy fried prawn heads. Koya City now takes bookings, too: good news if your schedule has no room for manouevre and you don’t fancy joining a queue as snaky as the noodles.

10-12 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR,

St Barts

(Steven Joyce)

Not a glitzy homage to the luxury Caribbean island, this St Barts instead overlooks the cloisters of St Bartholomew the Great church which, as any romcom lover will know, was the setting for the final nuptials in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The idea is that each dish on the 15-course menu is based on a key British ingredient — Cornish cuttlefish, Scottish scallops, Exmoor caviar, Wiltshire truffle — paired with regeneratively farmed veg and pickings foraged by the kitchen team themselves; before all that, there are snacks and cocktails in the bar. A quick-bite St Barts is not, nor a cheap one: the £140 cost of the food must be paid upfront at the time of booking. Time-pressed diners, or those with smaller appetites, should investigate the six-course weekday lunch menu (£70). Furnishings and table settings are just as sustainable and considered as the ingredients on the plate: chairs are made from wood carved from fallen London plane trees, while the tableware is crafted by one of the trio of co-founders.

63 Bartholomew Close, EC1A 7BG,

1 Lombard Street

(Press handout)

A former banking hall opposite the Bank of England on a street synonymous with high finance must qualify as the quintessential location for an all-day City brasserie. And 1 Lombard Street doesn’t disappoint. For a start, it looks terrific, with seating orbiting a circular bar under a glass cupola in a dining room which feels thrillingly glamorous whatever the time of day. Things kick off Monday to Friday with breakfast at 7.30 — money never sleeps, except at the weekend — when there’s a full English to get ahead of the London markets, French toast with cinnamon sugar for anyone on New York time, plus fruit salad or grilled kippers for those who doesn’t want to let the waistband of their suit out. Lunch majors in British comfort food with more than a soupcon of the nursery: leek and potato soup, bangers and mash and rhubarb crumble, but also shellfish cocktail, seared sea bass and Seville marmalade orange pudding, while veggie and vegan choice is surprisingly decent. The à la carte is available in the evening, too, but for the full big-deal-in-the-City fantasy, it has to be Champagne and oysters at the bar.

1 Lombard Street, EC3V 9AA,


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.