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Where to Dine in London

Ranch & Coast’s Travel Editor Elizabeth Hansen discovers that variety is the spice of life in the British capital

Brunch at il Pampero Bar & Restaurant in London
Image Credits Il Pampero: Courtesy of The Hari, Belgravia; The Goring, Rules, Harrods Food Halls: Courtesy of Adams/Hansen Photos

The coronation of King Charles III was writ large on my calendar and I didn’t miss a moment of the coverage. I loved the pomp and ceremony and relished the wide shots of one of my favorite cities. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been to London, but I can still visualize the view from the London Eye and remember how much I enjoyed the tour of Shakespeare’s Globe. I can also recall the taste of some of the great meals I enjoyed.

Kate Middleton, now the Princess of Wales, spent the night before her wedding to Prince William at the Goring Hotel. I wanted to see inside this heritage gem, so prior to my trip, I made a lunch reservation. The hotel, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, is renowned for its bespoke wallpaper and traditional furnishings, and is the only hotel in the world with a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. The Goring Dining Room has a Michelin star, but our party of three opted for a table on the veranda overlooking the garden. The view was great, and our meals were positively wonderful. My gravlax was the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted and our daughter enjoyed her lobster Caesar. The teen at the table gave high marks to her club sandwich and fries.

The Goring has been hosting guests of nearby Buckingham Palace since it opened in 1910
The Goring has been hosting guests of nearby Buckingham Palace since it opened in 1910

The Goring, which dates from 1910, is a newcomer compared to Rules, which opened in 1798 and is the oldest restaurant in London. I made arrangements to meet a friend there for lunch, which I assumed would last one or two hours at the very most, but I was hard pressed to leave after more than four hours. His good company was certainly a factor, but I was also fascinated with the historic décor and bowled over by the food.

A culinary icon in London, Rules is well known for its classic decor and rich history
A culinary icon in London, Rules is well known for its classic decor and rich history

Thomas Rule opened an oyster bar in Covent Garden in the year Napoleon opened his campaign in Egypt, and it’s still flourishing after spanning the reign of ten monarchs. Rules seats more than 120 diners on three floors and serves up to 350 people a day. The restaurant offers traditional English food including classic game, oysters, pies, and puddings. Having said that, I loved my cold poached salmon with courgettes, tomato, capers, and fresh dill, and my dessert — a crumble with cream — was out of this world.

Rules serves classic British cuisine in an iconic setting
Rules serves classic British cuisine in an iconic setting

A table for two on the first floor by the lattice window was once the most celebrated table in London.  This was the favorite spot of Edward VII (who at the time was still Prince of Wales) for wining and dining the beautiful actress Lillie Langtry. A door was built specially for these clandestine amorous encounters.

Casual Fare

In contrast, il Pampero Bar & Restaurant in the Hari Hotel is a chic little hideaway in Belgravia with a black and white tile floor, white tablecloths, tastefully placed fresh red roses, and an interesting collection of artwork from celebrated British artists. The wine list is impressive and the food is “like nothing I’ve ever eaten before,” said our daughter who spent a year abroad in Italy. All of their pasta is homemade, “like a delicious work of art,” she added. 

Another place I truly love are the food halls at Harrods — yes, the department store. In fact, on our most recent trip, I actually got misty when we entered what I consider hallowed ground. Being in this sprawling, upmarket emporium took me back to my budget traveler days when I would economize by filling little white cartons of delicious bites and then savor the repast in a scenic spot. I also remember picking up food at Harrods and enjoying it while watching the procession of carriages make their way up to St. Paul’s Cathedral for Charles and Diana’s wedding. My niece has less happy memories: she shucked oysters at Harrods one summer and ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome.  

One More Thing

The gastropub movement continues to thrive in London. This is where diners enjoy farm fresh foodstuffs and a pint of beer or a glass of wine in casual settings. I like The Anchor & Hope, but there is no shortage of gastropubs in London.  If you go, you’ll experience some interesting flavors: Taramasalata, Melba toast, and Kalamata olives; and three cheese and hazelnut soufflé, Italian greens, cream, and Parmesan. That might sound like a list of disparate ingredients, but in London, variety really is the spice of life.


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