The autumn nights are drawing in and a chill is starting to nip the air. With talk of power cuts in the news and summer heatwaves a distant memory, there’s no better place to be than snuggled up in a cosy restaurant with good company and delicious and comforting food and drink.
As a leading London restaurant property brokers, eating out is more than just a business for the team behind Dean Gambles & Co – it’s a passion. That’s why we asked Dean Gambles & Co co-founder, man about town and restaurant enthusiast Nishan Bhaker for tips on the best cosy restaurants in the capital. Wrap up warm and get ready to hit the street – here are Nish’s top five:
The Pelican, All Saints Road
A new addition to Notting Hill’s pub scene The Pelican has combined tasteful décor with great food, a spot-on selection of beers and amazing hospitality to win over the refined crowd. After becoming a big hit just after opening its doors this summer this restored 19th century inn is also proving to be the perfect autumnal refuge from the nippier weather.
Go at the right time and the fire will be crackling in the corner. It’s a great location to combine with a visit to Portobello market – either catching it at the start or end of your route. The menu combines perfectly rendered British classics, and old favourites like sausage rolls with Sunday roasts. There’s even a dartboard.
“Nothing screams autumn like getting down the boozer for the shorter days,” says Nishan. “Everyone’s going to the Pelican for Saturday drinks or Sunday lunches.”
Maison Francois, St James
St James, is best known for its refined, old-school vibe. But all-day brasserie Maison Francois has brought a fashion-forward Gallic cool to the super-smart location once occupied by Green’s restaurant and bar.
Offering a huge selection of brasserie classics, it’s a great place to enjoy the likes of paté en croute maison, entrecôte de boeuf, poulet rôti and Toulouse sausage, washed down with a great selection of French wines.
And an enviable array of fresh madeleines as well as pastry classics like chocolate eclairs and tarte tatin ensures the body will not go short of calories to fuel those chillier days and nights. A dining room with high ceilings is kept cosy by curved banquettes and tables separated by wood panelling.
“This keeps the integrity of St James,” says Nish. “It’s a suave place but done in a modern way. And the food is classic French — it’s a perfect lunch.”
Noble Rot, Lamb’s Conduit Street
This modern classic relies on a candle-lit feel — but that only enhances its cosy vibe. Noble Rot sprung into life first in the shape of a cult journal about food and wine and only then took shape as a restaurant on, Lamb’s Conduit Street, an often-overlooked Bloomsbury gem of a street. Nish rates the wine list “as out of this world” and the food comes in close behind. Bistro classics like pigeon, oysters and eel – simply prepared to make the most of the freshness of the ingredients — make up a menu that is unfussy but deeply satisfying.
Leave some space for deserts like sticky toffee pudding, ice cream and parfait and above all prepare to spend more on wine than on food. The wine, décor and the overall dining experience is likely to leave you with that perfect warm and fuzzy autumnal feeling.
Gymkhana. Albermarle Street
With its moody ambient lighting and a wood-panelled elegance which harks back to the days of the Raj, Gymkhana is the perfect place to see out a chilly night. Order a cocktail, made with Indian flavours, such as a quinine sour. The menu offers amazing curries as well as more unusual fare like Muntjac biryani, partridge pepper fry and tandoori guinea fowl.
With the décor inspired by the sporting and social clubs found in Colonial India, interiors boast an array of features including hunting trophies from the Maharaja of Jodhpur.
“Gymhkhana is your quintessential curry house — a refined version located within Mayfair,” says Nish. “You’ll find game on the menu and what beats curry on a cold day?”
Wild Tavern, Elystan Street
An Italian-inspired operation tucked away just off the King’s Road in the spot formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Kiru, this is more restaurant than tavern and serves prime quality pasta seafood, meat and vegetables.
The key feature here is a fire pit for grilling the choicest ingredients – many of which are priced according to how much they weigh. A wood ceiling gives a retro Alpine feel – boosting the cosiness quotient.
Nish loves its relaxed informal, vibe. “It’s cosy. It’s intimate. It’s perfect for a lovely lunch or an early dinner.”