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From the owners of the members-only Soho House, this Notting Hill watering hole is a prime spot to drink and eat before heading next door to the Electric Cinema to catch a movie. Come on a Friday or Saturday afternoon after trawling the antiques stalls on Portobello Road. The cooks turn out well-prepared versions of the basics—rib-eye steaks, burgers, oysters, lobsters (cooked live, not frozen) and top-notch chips—and the service is casual and friendly. The low-lit room is romantic, but the tables are too close together and the scene too buzzy for intimate conversation. Enjoy the energy and save the cooing for later.
GALVIN BISTROT DE LUXE
66 Baker St.
All of London fell in love with the chef brothers Galvin when they channeled their collective expertise in French cuisine bourgeoise into this laid-back restaurant. Local, often organic ingredients make classics like escargots Bourguignonne and pot-roasted pheasant with Lyonnais sausage fresh for a new generation of diners while satisfying traditional gourmands. The regularly changing wine list is extremely user-friendly: short and reasonably priced. As you settle into a leather banquette in the wood-paneled room, you may find yourself wishing that more restaurants could work such deceptively simple magic. Dozens of awards haven't made this bistro any more pretentious or less of a value
This sensual boîte tucked behind Piccadilly has been the byword for glamour since it opened in 1981—which says a lot in a city that can be fickle about its dining loyalties. Some of the movers and shakers you'll spot have been coming here from the beginning. Their reverence is inspired by the basics: consistent service and consistently delicious food that's up to date without being fussy. Foie gras, rib steak and roasted lamb are among the non-PC favorites; vegetarians and vegans get a varied menu of their own. Le Caprice's original dark-walled Eva Jiricna design, a pianist and strategically placed spotlights give the restaurant a jump on the 1980s-decor revival.
THE RITZ RESTAURANT
The Ritz Hotel
This outrageously ornate dining room—all gilding, velvet and chandeliers, not to mention views of the Green Park gardens—witnesses more marriage proposals than any other restaurant in England. The formal service befits the seriousness of such occasions, and the food measures up too, especially since executive chef John Williams took the helm. He revitalized and lightened the menu while maintaining tried-and-true classic ingredients; you might find lobster ceviche and caviar or quail with truffles bouillon in the seasonally changing lineup. Be prepared to spend a small fortune (this restaurant is ridiculously expensive), and don't forget the jacket and tie even if you're coming for just afternoon tea.