WEST LONDON: KENSINGTON, CHELSEA, BELGRAVIA, NOTTING HILL, HAMMERSMITH AND FULHAM
The Collection (264 Brompton Rd., S. Kensington; +44-20-7225-1212; ?12-31) is riding a crest of popularity, with good food and service, and cute waiters. The space was British Designer Katherine Hammett's showroom, and you enter the restaurant through a 100-foot long hallway designed like a fashion catwalk. Joe's (126 Draycott Ave., S. Kensington; +44-20-7225-2217; ?10-20) is great for lunch, catering to both pretty boys and the ladies-who-lunch crowd.
The Fifth Floor Restaurant (at Harvey Nichols department store, 109-125 Knightsbridge; +44-20-7235-5250; ?20 for two courses, ?25 for three courses) is an amazing space at the top of London's prettiest department store -- "absolutely fabulous", as they say. Daphne's (112 Draycott Ave.; +44-20-7589-4257; ?15-27) is a dress-to-be-seen darling of the gossip columns, and former frequent lunching spot for Princess Diana.
The River Cafe (Thames Wharf, Rainville Road; +44-20-7386-4200; ?27-35) serves the simple but stunning cuisine featured in the acclaimed Rogers Gray Italian Country Cookbook. Whits (21 Abingdon Rd.; +44-20-7938-1122; ?13-20) is fresh and intimate. The owner and waiting staff are laid-back and helpful, and the food (modern European) is delicious. Cheap eats are hard to find in Kensington, but you can fill up for a reasonable sum at Phoenicia (11-13 Abingdon Rd.; +44-20-7937-0120; ?11-14, set menus ?17-31), which features Lebanese-Mediterranean cuisine.
CITY OF LONDON AND CITY SIDE: CLERKENWELL, SHOREDITCH, HOXTON
The financial heart of London is also where the city began, so it's here you'll find the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral and -- as you might expect in a financial district -- restaurants are often formal and expensive. But the City fringes are among the grooviest corners of London, with hip diners to match. For great seafood in an atmospheric and upscale Victorian setting, Chamberlain's (23-25 Leadenhall Market, +44-20-7648-8690; ?28-33) offers fine seafood right at the heart of the financial district and is full of young bankers and brokers at lunchtime. But away from the suits, the interesting focus of dining is at the edge of the City. Clerkenwell, one of the oldest corners of London, is also one of its most fashionable: a London equivalent to New York's SoHo.
Close to the Smithfield meat market, internationally renowned St. John (26 St. John St.; +44-20/7251-0848; ?14-27) is a carnivore's delight, with game and offal as well as steak for adventurous diners. Snack versions of the same famous dishes are available in the affable ground floor bar. Smiths of Smithfield (66-77 Charterhouse St; +44-20-7251-7950; www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk; ?13-28) is also a haven for meat lovers, a vast complex on four floors offering a range of dining experiences from casual to elegant, plus wonderful American-style breakfasts.
Yo! Sushi (95 Farringdon Rd.; +44-20-7841-0700; ?3-8) is one of London's biggest sushi restaurants and has a great bar, Yo! Below, attached. Further east, Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Hoxton are even trendier than Clerkenwell, though unlike Clerkenwell they're also still pretty grungy. Historic Spitalfields has become a center for Indian dining. In Shoreditch Great Eastern Dining Rooms (54-56 Great Eastern St; +44-20-7613-4545; ?7-19) is a hip and elegantly casual pan-Asian, handy for Expectations leather store or the Chariots Sauna.
Close by is the much talked-about Eyre Brothers' Restaurant (70 Leonard St., EC; +44-20-7613-5346; ?14-25) a hard-edged, elegant new flagship for this trendy neighborhood, serving Spanish/Portuguese food in chic surroundings.
Brick Lane's Les Trois Garcons (1 Club Row; +44-20-7613 1924: ?18-32) offers fine French cuisine in the unlikely setting of an old Victorian pub close to Liverpool Street railway station. Here you'll find rich Gallic classics served under the watchful eye of tiara-clad stuffed animals and "new baroque" trappings, while the m?nage-a-trois proprietors add their own twist of spice. Weird but wonderful.
RIVERSIDE LONDON: BANKSIDE, BUTLER'S WHARF, CANARY WHARF
For a dining room with a view, you can't beat the river. The Oxo Tower Restaurant (Barge House St.; +44-20-7803-3888; ? 18-26, bar ?10-17) offers staggering views of London across the river. Advance reservations are essential in this see-and-be-seen restaurant/brasserie/bar. If you can't get a table, put on your Prada and enjoy the view over a drink in the bar. The south side of Tower Bridge is the most elegant quarter of London's docklands, with great views from several riverfront restaurants in historic old warehouses.
Le Pont de la Tour (Butler's Wharf, 36d Shad Thames; +44-20-7403-8403; ?13-36) offers modern European with Asian cuisine. You'll definitely enjoy the riverside terrace in summer.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
London: Where to Stay
London: Where to Play/Meet
London: What to See and Do