It's happened. It's finally happened. The people who fed you, bathed you and raised you for eighteen years of your life are making their annual trip to London to visit the darling child they love ever so much. But guess what? They need feeding, and your signature carbonara recipe won't cut it for the duo who helped bring you into this world.
And guess what else? Neither will the typical oeuvre of restaurants you go to with your mates. Because your parents want to go to Somewhere Nice (they're always wanting to go Somewhere bloody Nice, aren't they?). Nowhere where you've got to queue. Nowhere where the music is "too loud". Nowhere where the menu font is "far too small it's ridiculous, honestly". Let's face it: eating out with your mum, dad, mums or dads can be an absolute pain.
To help ease the troubles of that awkward decision making process, we've created this guide to the best restaurants in London to please and impress your parents. From fine-dining institutions to the "only-in-the-capital" sort of places your folks won't stop nattering about at their painfully separate book clubs, all these are ripe for the taking.
Either blag that you've thought of all these wonderful options yourself or – I don't know – show them this on an iPad or something. Whatever it is that old people do all their non-Danielle Steel reading on. We hope at least one of the following will be a suitable venue for the inevitable conversation about when you're "actually going to start getting your life together".
1 St James's Market, SW1Y 4AH
Chef Jeremy Chan and business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale's Ikoyi provides high-end fine dining in an atmosphere that won't make you feel like you're the only one eating without a signet ring. Despite taking its name from a neighbourhood of Lagos, the menu is primarily modern European and makes beautiful use of local British produce like fleshy monkfish and happily plump razor clams. West African ingredients such as scotch bonnets and plantain do, nevertheless, still put an absolute shift in and the restaurant's ethos remains inspired by some of the region's unflinching flavours. Don't expect them to go easy on the heat, basically. Ikoyi has more than earned its Michelin star and the full 7-course tasting menu is an excellent way to experience the whole shebang in all it glory. After all, it's probably not going to be on your dime, is it?
51 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB
Something that a lot of people tend to inherit from their parents (along with abhorrent personality traits) is an appreciation of good wine. There's a particular point in one's life where the drink transitions from tasting like under-diluted Ribena to the manna that Bacchus went absolutely nuts for. And since it's your parents that likely passed that penchant onto you, it's only right that you revel in the beverage together at Noble Rot: one of our favourite wine bars in London. Not only is there a diverse enough range of juicy whites and reds to keep both your chardonnay-loving daddy and bordeaux-bonkers mama happy, but the food at Noble Rot is fantastic to boot. If you don't at the very least order the gorgeous bread and butter, we won't be angry at you, but we will be very, very disappointed.
10 Lincoln Street, SW3 2TS
Rohit Ghai's Kutir is an impressive restaurant. A restaurant that epitomises what the Indian fine-dining scene in London is all about. Located in a Chelsea townhouse, it's simply hard not to be taken in by the exquisite premises and sumptuous dishes. "Wow," says your mum as she digs into a quail naan with truffle. "Blimey," says your dad as he works his way into a duck korma. "You're welcome," you'll say, content in the knowledge that you've finally managed to not disappoint your parents for once in your life.
16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH
Frenchie is a Parisian-style bistro that's arrived in Covent Garden straight from the city of love itself. Chef Gregory Marchand's menu is wall-to-wall with crowd-pleasing classics. Seared stone bass 'à la Grenobloise'; pork with boudin noir rosti; duck foie gras. Sit at the bar or sidle up in a booth with your loved ones for a meal with a real je ne sais quoi. Yes, the bacon scones with clotted cream are talked about endlessly. But there's a reason no-one ever shuts up about them. They're just that good – bonafide proof that great things can happen when a savoury Harry meets a sweet, sweet Sally.
88 St. John Street, EC1M 4EH
Going out for a meal at the local Italian is a rite of passage for a lot of families. Once you've worked out all the kinks at Pizza Express and Bella Italia, a bonafide red sauce joint is often the first "adult" restaurant that most parents will drag their children. Why? Because not even a fussy five year old can argue that pizza and pasta isn't delicious. As long as there's enough molten cheese involved, it doesn't matter whether there's a colouring book on the table or not. For a proper grown up Italian, we'd suggest traipsing with your folks into Luca. Go (meat)balls to the wall and order your clan an extensive spread of antipasti, primi, and secondi. Roast orkney scallops with jerusalem artichoke and 'nduja tell a tale of surf and turf you'll struggle to find topped in the city. To-the-tooth rigatoni, ravioli, bucatini, mafaldine, taglierini and a farmyard of perfectly cooked flesh (be it duck or pollock) are compatriot sensations. Hell, you might as well throw in a dolci and two while you're at it, too. All of the food at Luca is made with the kind of affection you desperately craved growing up.
The Thomas Cubitt
44 Elizabeth Street, SW1W 9PA
Keeping family arguments at bay at the dinner table is a difficult thing to do. When are you getting married? When are you going to start paying your own phone bill? When will you stop asking us to take you out for so many expensive meals? None of those uncomfortable questions will even have a chance to rear their horrible little heads at The Thomas Cubitt. You'll all be too busy chewing and chawing in reverent silence. The Thomas Cubitt uses local suppliers, exceptional British produce and European cooking techniques in its farm-to-table ethos. That quality and care shines through on every well-polished plate at the Belgravia residence. British pub hits like black puddings and pineapple upside down cake are given a new lease of life, the Sunday roasts are butchered on-site, and it's got a Man Booker of a wine list. If you're not sold on that, and all the rest that Tommy has to offer, we don't know what else to say. Just go.
19 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR
Andrew Wong knows a thing or two about how to run a restaurant. Having already knocked it out of the park with the Michelin-starred A. Wong, Wong's follow-up Kym's is a stunning example of an eatery. Literally. Like, it's genuinely beautiful. The Bloomberg Arcade restaurant is a great place to indulge in Chinese small plates and classic dishes given a luxurious little twist. Think fried rice with black truffle and Ibérico pork char siu. Think a bloody great time. Kym's serves dishes that will prove to your parents that it's never too late to shake things up from the typical Friday takeaway. If Kym's can't do it, then maybe no-one can. You can call us, you can beep us. But if you really wanna reach us? We'll be at Kym's.
34 Drayton Park, N5 1PB
This Lower Holloway haunt has managed to net some of the most saliva-inducing seafood in the city with its daily changing menu of small plates. All of the food – including schools of paunchy Morecambe Oysters, crab fideuà pasta and sardines teeming with saline affection – is ethically sourced from across the UK. Even the wine list comes from Westerns' own low-intervention cellar. Your parents may not understand exactly what low-intervention means or why it's "a thing", but they'll struggle to turn their noses up at a plummy glass or two of vino rosso. If your parents are the snooty sort, just kindly inform that Westerns Laundry has a Michelin Bib Gourmand. And that there's not a tumble dryer in sight.
34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
Keep your Batmen and your Robins. Lock Ant and Dec away in the downstairs cupboard. Because Sam and Sam Clark are our favourite dynamic duo and their restaurant might just be one of the most pleasant in the whole of London; it's certainly the nicest in Exmouth Market by a country mile. Marked with North African and Iberian inflections, Moro is one of the most consistent places to get a good meal in the city, making it a prime target for somewhere to take out your old dears. Dishes speak for themselves in ASMR-esque fashion: pigeon rice whispers in your ear; wood-roasted pork belly shouts the house down. Moro has been running for over 20 years now, and we can only hope it's still around in 20 years time so we can take our own kids along. The fact that the Sams are joint chef-owners should also make a nice segue into talking about your parents' marriage. Which is always fun.
Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Lyle's is where to go for a real lunch to remember. A meal that your parents will bring up at every family barbecue, bat mitzvah, and funeral for the next decade to come. Elegant without pretensions, James Lowe's food has to be eaten to be fully experienced. With impeccable service and a refreshing attitude to sustainability in the restaurant industry, Lyle's is practically without fault. In fact, we often find ourselves dreaming about the pig's head terrine there. So, c'mon, pay 'em back for all those bed-time stories and send your parents to Dreamsville with a Lyle's lullaby.
182 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8EW
Otto's isn't just a French restaurant. Otto's is the French restaurant. This Clerkenwell favourite delivers the exact old school white tablecloth dining experience that springs to your dad's mind whenever he hears the words "Nouvelle cuisine". If you tell your parents you're taking them out to A Nice Restaurant – nine times out of ten it's Otto's that they're imagining. Although the restaurant's reputation undoubtedly precedes itself, dinner or lunch at the pristine dining hall rarely falters in living up to that hype. Pre-booking and ordering ahead of time is essential if your dads want to go halves on the Canard à la Presse – a three course milieu where an entire duck is deliciously pressed at table side. Watch the blissful carnage that ensues with a glass of champagne in hand. C'est magnifique.
49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG
Food makes you feel. Whether that feeling ends up being love, hate, lust, or even just boring ol' apathy can depend as much on where you eat it as the actual quality of the sustenance itself. Some of our most memorable meals have come as a result of time and place rather than a particular "hero dish". Hoppers has got the time, place, and a whole Avengers assembly of standout dishes down to a T. It's a restaurant to feel wonderful in, serving plate after plate of family-style Sri Lankan food that will make you feel at home no matter where you're from. The eponymous egg hoppers are a must: every morsel delivering a crisp and chewy bite that throws its yolk around like a big name on campus. But, then again, just about everything is a must-try. Prices are reasonable and the familial atmosphere won't fail in bringing you and your folks closer together over a steaming kari. Yes, there'll be a queue, but it's a wait that's well worth it in the end. Leave your phone number at the door, waltz somewhere nearby for an aperitif and arrive at Hoppers with an appetite for excellent cooking.