The classic London restaurants to see if you're new in town
Imagine this: you’ve just touched down in London town and you’re looking for something to help you navigate the city, by way of designer restaurants. We advise that you call of the search and meet the staple spots that have seen us Londoners through tumultuous first Tinder dates, messy bottomless brunches, and mid-afternoon meals with the mothership.Whether it’s Hoi Polloi in east or Sketch in west, this actually useful guide will show you the spots that are must-sees for any London newbie. Oh, and they have our APLO golden stamp of approval. You can thank us later.
Who would have imagined that one day we’d be calmly walking through a magical forest, sitting on chairs that wear ballet shoes, and sipping out of cups containing secret messages like it was the most normal thing ever? Certainly not us! A totally ’gram-worthy’ creation from Mourad Mazouz, Sketch also boasts an impressive collection of David Shrigley artwork in its fuchsia-themed Gallery room, a seven-course menu in its sunset-coloured Lecture Room, and a see-it-to-believe-it pink self-playing piano. Question: if you haven’t taken a selfie in Sketch, did you even go to London? Nope.  
 
Bottle-green leather. Mahogany furniture. Minimal glow. It only takes moments to realise that the designer here has tried to kindle a specific aesthetic. When stepping inside, it’s as though Hawksmoor is encouraging us to forget where we ‘think’ we are and imagine that we’ve been granted VIP access to a different locale. A hotel restaurant in Victorian London, perhaps? Hawksmoor’s designer, Mike Sinclair, explains that his inspiration was, “London’s financial district at the latter part of the 19th Century…[I want] diners to be transported back there.” Thus, diners can expect an all-out design feast: some of its restaurants feature wooden panels that were once cupboards in the Natural History Museum, and the wallpaper covering Hawksmoor’s walls also decorated the luxury cabins of the Titanic. If this is what VIP looks like in 2019 – we’re sold!
 
Hoi Polloi may not have the most inviting moniker – it’s a term used to refer to ‘commoners’ or ‘the masses’ — but this is hands down one of our most loved spots in L-Town. Based on the ground floor of Ace Hotel, it’s corrugated wood-panelled dining room, intimate booths and fuss-free interior give it modern, Nordic vibes. It might just be this crisp and clean-cut design approach that caused it to gain cult status among our fave Instagrammers and food bloggers. And the fact that classical renditions of ‘Hello’ (Adele) are played on Sundays. But if that didn’t get you feeling relaxed, this will: the only outside entrance to the restaurant is through That Flower Shop (a connecting floristry). The designers behind Hoi Polloi, Universal Design Studio, had hoped that the transition from street-to-florist-to-restaurant would evoke a sense of peace before eating. Inhale flowers, exhale negativity.
 
It’s no secret that Mumbai is the world’s unofficial culinary capital, and some restaurants have tried to channel the spirit of the Irani cafés once popular in Bombay. However, none are as devoted as Shamil and Kavi Thakrar's Dishoom. Their restaurants are an ode to 20th-century Bombay, not only through the food on the menu, the traditions that they continue, but also through the interior design features. Almost every item of artwork and textile pays homage in its own unique way: from its distressed and exposed brick walls, stained mirrors, sepia portraits and whirring metal ceiling fans. However, the pops of colour, curved ornamental elements and geometric details are a nod to something we’ve seen before…you’re so Art Deco, baby!
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Words by Adam Fletcher

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