More exclusive than Mayfair and with more history packed into its streets than almost any other part of London, St James is one of London’s hidden gems worth exploring. From historic shops, which wouldn’t seem out of place to any time traveller from Regency times, to its mix of modern and classic restaurants and bars, St James has everything to offer in terms of fine dining. Here’s our pick of the best places to check out.
This corner restaurant on St James’s Market is a lovely bright spot to enjoy high-end Scandi cooking. The smorgasbord selection is genuinely inventive - think roasted sweetbreads with lingonberry chutney or a langoustine bao with cabbage slaw - and if you’re here for dinner, you should have a little trawl through their Aquavit spirit selection from Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
For maximalists rather than minimalists this new Italian restaurant has taken over a former bank just off Pall Mall, so expect acres of marble and gilt. In addition to the restaurant and bar, there’s also a walk-in wine cellar, whisky room and private dining room - it’s definitely a dress-up place for a special occasion.
This longstanding restaurant moved from its original Chelsea location to St James in 2015. Here in its new home, it attracts a regular clientele ofVIPs. The menu roams every region of India’s culinary landscape from Tandoori Sea Bass Amritsari to Goa Green Chicken Curry.
A popular St James haunt (and adjacent to Fortnums), this is always busy with a crowd that appreciates its super seasonal menu using the best of British produce. Enjoy the luxury of tableside service including a caviar trolley and the beef Wellington with sauce that’s flambeed right beside you.
Now happily ensconced in its permanent home in St James, Fallow’s commitment to sustainability and seasonality extends to even growing its own mushrooms in-house - how’s that for food miles? The ex-Heston Blumenthal team have built up a loyal fanbase for their modern British cooking.
Mixing ultra-seasonal British produce with a sub-Saharan West African sensibility, this two-Michelin-starred restaurant sees chef Jeremy Chan serving up genuinely groundbreaking dishes. You’ll find smoked jollof rice alongside Ike Jime trout and Gola peppercorn.
The London outpost of one of Asia’s most Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant groups, Imperial Treasure is perhaps best known for its Peking Duck although its dim sum selection is also very refined. Here in London, you’ll find it in a Grade II listed building which suitably matches the high-end food.
Finding well-priced restaurant options in St James can be a bit tricky but this Italian pizzeria is always a good bet. The USP here is that they use Mediterranean seawater in the pizza dough - that may sound gimmicky but the proof is in the eating and the pizzas are really good.
Paying homage to the grand brasseries of Paris and Lyon, Maison Francois quickly made a name for itself in St James when it opened in 2020. Downstairs there’s a huge wine cellar that’s a perfect private dining room and the basement bar, Frank’s, is a handy spot for a glass of wine post work.
There’s been a Richoux on Piccadilly for 100 years, so the prospect of it becoming a casualty of the pandemic was worrying. Thankfully it now has new owners and hot new chefs breathing life into the old institution. The menu of brasserie classics is surprisingly well priced for the location.
One of London’s most elaborate dining rooms, the food here by the well-respected executive chef John Williams more than matches its surroundings. Here is a restaurant where you can expect domes to be lifted off dishes like veal cheek blanquette with white asparagus and Madeira. For sheer theatricality, order the crepes suzettes which are finished off in front of you.
Chef patron Ramael Scully is of Chinese, Indian, Balinese and Irish descent and these influences inspire his cooking. The restaurant is a particular lure for vegetarians who are attracted by dishes like the bbq tender-stem broccoli with salted egg yolk, onion chinkiang vinegar and wasabi pea furikake.
Recently described by top chef Pierre Koffmann as “a restaurant of low-key excellence, serving some of the best food in the city” Wild Honey St James has seen chef Anthony Demetre turn this hotel restaurant into a genuine gastronomic destination. There’s a particularly good value set lunch option but if you can stay for longer, do order the slow-cooked crisp chicken with hand-cut macaroni and black truffles.
The great fact to bandy about Wiltons is that it’s older than the United States of America (the restaurant first opened 280 years ago). Looking good for its age, this is a place to perch up at the counter for oysters or find a booth at the back for luxe but traditional treats like Lobster Thermidor or an epic mixed grill.
Situated in a former car showroom, this Viennese style cafe is now a bona fide celebrity magnet where financiers rub shoulders with stars of the stage and screen. Breakfast is probably the hottest ticket here but they also do a very nice afternoon tea too.
The drink to have here is the martini - the Vesper martini to be correct. This was a favoured drinking haunt of Bond writer Ian Fleming and, legend has it, this is where Bond first ordered the drink ‘shaken not stirred’.
Created to make American tourists feel at home in the 20s and 30s, the American Bar at The Stafford created its iconic look by hanging artefacts donated by visitors - notably baseball caps - from its ceiling. Now you can enjoy classic cocktails along with more modern creations like the Man on the Moon cocktail which arrives at your table billowing smoke.
From the same family that owns Wiltons, this St James wine bar and cafe, found in the former Economist building, couldn’t be more different with its very modern design. There’s an extensive wine list to peruse with loads of options available by the glass and carafe too.
As the name suggests, this rooftop bar offers spectacular views over Trafalgar Square and beyond. The cocktail list changes regularly - most recently it’s been inspired by the Northern Lights. Wrap up warm and enjoy boozy coffee concoctions or equally inventive no-alcohol creations.
Tucked around the corner at this luxury bookstore, Swans Bar has quietly grown a reputation for being a perfect place for an aesthete to enjoy a quiet drink in St James. Come here for a Hemingway Daiquiri along with some Smoked Salmon Filet on rye bread snacks and try to leave without purchasing a whole new library.
For over 300 years this iconic store has been supplying the well-heeled of London (and the royal family) with its hand-blended teas, wines and more. A visit to this part of London should always include a pitstop here, even if you are only window shopping.
There’s been a Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street since the late 1800s, selling cheese to the great and good as well as being a favoured haunt of Winston Churchill. It’s also supplied the royal family since the time of Queen Victoria. Today it’s a big supporter of the British cheesemaking industry, so pop in for a taste before you buy.
For a real step-back-in-time experience, head to Britain’s oldest wine and spirit importers who have had a shop on this very spot since 1698. Berry Bros began life as a grocers but now focuses on all things vinous. Visitors can use the enomatic machines to sample before they buy or chat to knowledgeable staff about what wine to buy whether it’s for dinner tonight or to lay down in a cellar.
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