Where to Stay in London If You Want to Eat Like Royalty

These 12 hotels have such exceptional food (and drink), you may never step outside.

By Will Hawkes

Published on April 12, 2024

Modern London food was born in the kitchens of the city’s grandest hotels. When Auguste Escoffier, father of modern French cuisine, arrived at The Savoy in 1890 he set in motion a culinary transformation that, small stutters over the years aside (London’s post-war reputation for dismal grub was well-earned), continues to this day. 

Much has changed since. Escoffier brought French culinary technique and hospitality to London, but today’s hotel food scene is far more cosmopolitan. Wagyu beef served shabu-shabu style in the shadow of Marble Arch; arroz de marisco overlooking the redeveloped Battersea Power Station; slow-cooked lamb pie and cask ale in elegant Highgate; some of the world’s best cocktails at a dizzying variety of bars, from the classic to the bracingly contemporary. If you want it, chances are you can get it in one of London’s hotels. 

I was born and have lived most of my life in London. In that time, I’ve  toasted many milestones in hotels—most recently, my mum’s 80th birthday at The Ritz. The dress code, “Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie,” harks back to Escoffier’s era. Elsewhere, though, nearly everything has changed.

For decades, Londoners looked up at the decaying remnants of Battersea Power Station; now they can marvel at its glimmering renewal while staying at Art’otel or, even better, dining at JOIA, the top-floor restaurant. Portuguese Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s pan-Iberian menu focuses on crowd-pleasing classics like acorn-fed ham and bacalhau à Brás, a cozy combination of salt cod, potatoes, parsley, and black olives, as well as the flagship dish, arroz de marisco, fat grains of bomba rice and seafood cooked in a rich, briny bisque. After dinner, descend to the bar, where a heated outdoor infinity pool offers the best view of all. 

Courtesy Bull & Last

168 Highgate Rd.
+44 20 726 73641

Dozens of London pubs offer accommodation, but for my money, none has better food than the Bull & Last. This Highgate institution recently added seven guest rooms named for local notables. The “Somerset,” for instance, has classically English touches (Roberts radio, Tea Drop tea) and is inspired by Lady Henry Somerset, the Victorian temperance campaigner. Would she have appreciated the gesture? Who cares? The food is of the hearty gastropub variety (lamb pie, sirloin steak), alongside lighter touches. There’s a magpie approach to European ingredients: One moment, you could be tucking into a burrata and grilled asparagus salad; the next, you might be spooning up pumpkin risotto with Tunworth fondue (Tunworth, a Camembert-style cheese, is one of England’s best). Beer comes from London breweries, including two of my favorites, Five Points and Redemption, and there’s always at least one traditional cask-conditioned ale at any time.

Alex Dilling restaurant at Cafe Royal (Photo: Justin De Souza)

10 Air St.
+44 20 7406 3333

Where to start at Hotel Cafe Royal? Maybe at London-born, French-trained Alex Dilling’s eponymous restaurant, where two-Michelin-star cooking is long on contrasting, intriguing textures and playful presentation: On a recent visit, a cucumber salad (served alongside pâté) that looked like a blooming flower was presented with polished silver tongs for depetaling. Albert Adrià’s Cakes And Bubbles is a riotous celebration of witty, elegant sweet treats and champagne. The Grill, notable for its lavish protected 19th-century interior, offers afternoon tea; and then there’s the Green Bar, with its absinthe-centric drinks list. The hotel’s strikingly modern, generously sized rooms are perfect if you need a lie-down after all that.

Courtesy The Carlton Tower Jumeirah

1 Cadogan Place
+44 207 235 1234

Breakfast may or may not be the most important meal of the day—don’t ask me, I’m no nutritionist—but it can be the most delicious, particularly in Britain. At The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, enjoy a full English complete with black and white pudding, always a delight particularly if you don’t think about what’s in them. High-class British products are everywhere: yogurt from Hot Jam Lady, butter from Netherend Farm in Gloucestershire. Rooms are simply decorated, comfortable rather than quirky, with a fresh fruit bowl offering what’s seasonal if not quite so local (starfruit and rambutan on a recent visit). The lobby cafe does a great cup of tea, albeit controversially French, produced by Paris’s Mariage Frères.

130 Kingsland High St.
+44 204 529 6160

Kingsland Locke has an on-site brewery run by Kraft, a Franconian-owned operation whose success at their base near Borough Market has seen them pop up all over: a distillery run by Jim & Tonic, founded in East London in 2016, and Nikkei cuisine (a blend of Peruvian and Japanese) from Nativo. While Kraft’s beer can be traditional (I love Heidi, the brewery’s pale lager), this Dalston outpost is more experimental and hop-forward. When the sun shines, there’s a rooftop terrace to enjoy it all on. Kingsland Locke’s pastel-shaded apartments all have kitchens, although the temptation to explore Dalston, home to plenty of excellent Turkish food, may prove too much.

181 Tooley St. 
+44 203 765 0000

If, like me, you can’t get enough of food from the Indian subcontinent, London is a delight. From Southall in the west, a neighborhood run on crunchy, tangy mixed chaat, to East London’s Tayyabs, home to the city’s most talked-about lamb chops, you’ll never go hungry. The LaLit, housed in a former school on the south bank of the Thames, is a strategic basecamp for an assault on these treasures. Its restaurant, Baluchi, is excellent, and its rooms gently reflect an Indian heritage. Baluchi’s pan-Indian food runs the gamut from slow-cooked lamb shank, a Kashmiri speciality cooked with fennel, cashew, and saffron, to Kathal Ka Kofta, jackfruit dumplings in a cashew-saffron sauce. Don’t miss the “High Chai” afternoon tea, the highlight of which, in my view, is birwam mirch ke pakode, battered padrón peppers stuffed with masala potatoes.

20-21 Newman St.
+44 203 146 7770

YOPO, The Mandrake’s restaurant, is for all you aesthetes.  Rainforest-like greenery conjures up the Amazon in a dining room where Kiwi chef George Scott-Toft serves Latin American-inspired fare including crudos (think scallop with leche de tigre, pineapple, and physalis), grilled sirloin with tangy pebre salsa, and chocolate-dipped Argentine alfajores. The 34 guest rooms—dark bed linen, striking art, gilded mirrors—are as quirky and individual as the catering and decoration downstairs.

Cristian Barnett

28 Bow St., WC2E 7AW
+44 203 906 1600

Oscar Wilde held court at the Cafe Royal, but he appeared in court here, at the former Bow Street Magistrates Court. Happily—given Wilde’s tragic downfall—hospitality has replaced justice on Bow Street, in the form of NoMad London. Food and drink are at the heart of this, from the minibar offerings in the rooms (e.g., Mexican-style sour beer made by North London’s Two Tribes) to the restaurant, a soaring, verdant courtyard space. Roasted duck breast with kale and lavender-glazed plums is the standout dish, a masterpiece of balanced richness and acidity. South American flavors dominate at the unusually vibrant hotel bar, aptly named Side Hustle. The rooms, meanwhile, are pleasingly eclectic and busy—which feels true-blue British.  

Courtesy One Hundred Shoreditch

Seed Library, the snug center of a maze of concrete corridors and staircases in the basement of One Hundred Shoreditch, is my favorite London hotel bar —partly because the bartenders are (and you won’t believe this) friendly, and partly because the drinks are creative but not over-complicated. The ambiance is always buoyant (check out the vinyl records along the back wall) but not manic. Pull up a stool and try a fresh, zesty coriander seed gimlet. The same lighthearted mood permeates One Hundred Shoreditch, which—from the slinky-shaped white vases in the bedrooms to the flat whites at the on-site coffee shop—is an object lesson in keeping things simple. It’s the perfect spot from which to explore Shoreditch, home to some of London’s best food, both historical (Beigel Bake on Brick Lane) and modern (Manteca, modern Italian). 

There are three main reasons to stay at The Prince Akatoki. The first is the accommodation: Rooms have a mid-century Scandinavian feel (Wegner-style round chairs, pine decor) complemented by Japanese detail such as tea sets and yukata kimonos. Second, the hotel restaurant, TOKii, delights with tangy, fresh dishes like lobster croquettes served with Devon crab on a bed of mango and yuzu salsa. Then there’s The Malt Lounge and Bar, all dark wood and clean lines, which fulfills its brief with an erstwhile gentleman’s club-style conviviality. I usually spring for scotch, but the Japanese whiskies are always tempting, too.

Courtesy Rosewood London

If any modern hotel can be said to have changed food in London, Escoffier-style, it’s The Rosewood, which opened just over 10 years ago. The Holborn Dining Room, its restaurant, has helped elevate savory pies—which, though they can be delicious, are often a grim blend of gristle and dry pastry. Beautifully crimped here, they’re the work of “Head Pie Maker” Nokx Majozi; try her Dauphinoise potato pie with comté, caramelized onions, and parsley sauce, a buttery, nutty delight. As the focus on ye olde pies suggests, the Rosewood doesn’t take itself too seriously: There are bowls of fun-size candy bars on every floor by the elevator. 

Courtesy Town Hall Hotel – Shoreditch

8 Patriot Square, E2 9NF
+44 207 871 0460

Is Da Terra, Town Hall Hotel’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant, the best place to eat in London? Plenty would say so. From the pass overlooking a simply decorated, herringbone-floored room, Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali oversees a nine-course menu long on invention and wit. “Humble chicken,” perhaps the signature dish, is a deconstructed bird (wing, heart, foot, and all) that comes with chicken liver parfait and a wonderfully meaty sauce. If that’s a little heavy for you, Cagali has another restaurant on-site, Elis, with a simpler approach. Like the carefully plated food, guest rooms are individually designed and mix period detail with striking modern touches (think glass pod-style bathrooms). 

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