We’re all familiar with this scenario: your parents want to go out for dinner, and they’ve asked you to choose the restaurant. It should be simple, right? Wrong. There are many pitfalls to be avoided and criteria to be met.
No reservations restaurants are out because you can’t risk the chance of a queue, it’s generally best to steer away from anything too bold or spicy, and the price needs to be reasonable. Yes, we know those are some broad generalisations, but then if your family are exceptions to these rules, you don’t really need this list in the first place.
This list should help you find a restaurant that ticks all the boxes, but we also welcome your suggestions and parental dinner success and/or disaster stories.
There’s nowhere else quite like Brasserie Zedel – a restaurant that manages to combine a sense of occasion with good food at very reasonable prices. The beaux-arts/Art Deco interior is all gold and marble columns, the food is straightforward but good (French brasserie style, e.g eggs mayonnaise, steak tartare) and the prices are sometimes unbelievable. It’s just £12.75 for three courses at the time of writing.
Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, W1F 7ED
Galvin at Windows
For a special occasion, Galvin at Windows is one of those rare London treats – a restaurant with a view that is actually good. So many places trade on their location and nothing else (we’re looking at you, Oxo Tower) but not Galvin. The food is French and always super pretty, and the tarte tatin is one of the best in London. Finally, the maître D is Fred Sirieix from First Dates. What more do you want?
Galvin at Windows, 22 Park Ln, W1K 1BE
Holborn Dining Room
Holborn Dining Room does comfort food very well, and there’s enough here to cater for everyone’s taste. There’s a seafood bar, a meaty grill, brunch, sandwiches, and puddings. They even have a delicatessen. Oh and if you’ve had enough of your family once and for all, it houses the world’s largest gin bar.
Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Every neighbourhood should have a restaurant like Franklins, which is a perfect example of its kind. The food is simple and ingredient-led (they’re careful about sourcing) but always with a fun, playful twist. There’s a lively bar area at the front leading to a bright restaurant with an open kitchen; it’s the kind of place you can lose an afternoon in. Service is spot on too. In short, it’s easy to see why they’ve been going since 1999 - the residents of East Dulwich are very lucky.
Franklins, 157 Lordship Lane, SE22 8HX
Founded by the guys behind the Hawksmoor steak houses, the Foxlow restaurants aim to be local stalwarts, with simple, satisfying, high-quality food. There are steaks, as you’d expect, plus burgers, simple starters, a Sunday roast and serious puddings. The relaxed vibes and reasonable prices mean they’re suitable for just about any occasion.
Foxlow has branches in Stoke Newington, Balham, Chiswick and Clerkenwell, see website for locations.
Bull & Last
One of London’s best gastropubs, the Bull & Last ticks quite a few of the parent boxes. The interior is cosy, with wood panels and taxidermy, and the food is the best of British. It’s possible to stay restrained or blow out on large sharing dishes, and it does a killer Sunday roast – so good that it made it onto our list of the best in London. Bar snacks are available in the (duh) bar downstairs, while the more formal restaurant area is above. See also: The Draper’s Arms, The Harwood Arms.
Bull & Last, 168 Highgate Rd, NW5 1QS
Yeah okay so The Wolseley can get silly expensive (lobster and chips for £46, anyone?) but if you do want to impress with a room, then it can be a winner. We say ‘can be’ because this place is really all about the atmosphere and sense of occasion. There’s better food to be had elsewhere, but people have different priorities when it comes to restaurants, so we’ve included it just in case. For a grand room on a much lower budget see Brasserie Zedel above. Also try: The Ivy Café (the Ivy, but cheaper).
The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB
Daniel Boulud’s restaurant sits underneath the super swanky Mandarin Oriental, and that is precisely what makes it so suitable for this list. A restaurant under a hotel must be many different things, to many different people, which means that Bar Boulud and its staff are very flexible and highly skilled at managing a room full of widely differing expectations. Take note of how they do it as you dine, it’s seriously impressive (the food is also great).
Bar Boulud, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
For those who've been to Quo Vadis in the past, you might be a bit confused if you walk in today. If you find yourself in Barrafina do not fear, Quo Vadis has only moved upstairs and is still a great place for a family meal. The room is great for people watching as it’s often full of theatrical types, and the food is straightforward but skillfully cooked, seasonal and comforting.
Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean St, W1D 3LL
If it’s seafood they’re after then Wright Bros. is always a sure bet. We love the Spitalfields branch the most but it’s purely a sentimental attachment as the others are just as good. The seafood is super fresh and high quality and it’s possible to enjoy a sensible meal or a full-on blowout fruit de mer with champagne and chocolate mousse for afters.
Wright Bros. various locations.