Chef Anna Hansen’s inventive, globally inflected small plates are irresistible for lunch or dinner at her shabby-chic Clerkenwell spot Modern Pantry (47-48 St. John’s Square; 44-20/7553-9210; themodernpantry.co.uk; breakfast for two $30). And when the morning sun glints over the white wooden tables, good luck choosing between the English breakfast and Hansen’s signature omelette, laced with sugar-cured shrimp and a bracing dash of smoked-chile sambal. From here, it’s a long, leisurely amble across the Millennium Bridge to Borough Market. Arrive before the lunchtime crush at Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House (11 Stoney St.; 44-20/7403-9554; thewrightbrothers.co.uk; oysters for two $40) to sample half a dozen of the freshest bivalves in town. Back across the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral beckons with its dazzling restoration, a new installation by sculptor Antony Gormley, and greenmarket cuisine at its Restaurant at St. Paul’s (St. Paul’s Churchyard; 44-20/7248-2469; restaurantatstpauls.co.uk; lunch for two $68). Tuck into New British knockouts such as Loch Duart salmon with purple broccoli and a lemony leek purée. And isn’t it nice to know that the gingerbread ice cream sandwich is sweetened with honey from Regent’s Park bees?
Dinner + Drinks
After dark, get thee to Soho, the current epicenter of London’s restaurant renaissance. Recession-friendly prices, a low-key vibe, and delicious cicchetti (Venetian snacks) make prime-time seats scarce at the wildly popular Polpo (41 Beak St.; 44-20/7734-4479; polpo.co.uk; dinner for two $45). Downstairs has just been turned into the Polpo Campari Bar, a mostly standing-room-only bar with snacks and wines by the glass—truly in the Venetian bacaro style. Alternatively, or while waiting for a spot at Polpo, head around the corner to Mark’s (66-70 Brewer St.; 44-20/7292-3518; hixsoho.co.uk; cocktails for two $19), the groovy, boozy basement bar of the restaurant Hix, namesake of food idol Mark Hix. Should your evening require a more adventurous script, consider the newly Michelin-starred East End hot spot Viajante (Patriot Square; 44-20/7871-0461; viajante.co.uk; dinner for two $210), located in the handsome former town hall in Bethnal Green. The envelope-pushing tasting menu might include a razor-clam shell filled with smoked yogurt and rosemary dashi. Dessert: a deconstruction of carrots, courtesy of chef Nuno Mendes, who trained at El Bulli.
Tea + Snacks
If you find yourself in Marylebone, fulfill your desire both for cheese and tea with a sampling of obsessively sourced farmhouse beauties, one of Robert Wilson’s single-estate teas, and perhaps a couple of crumbly almond biscotti at the oh-so-chichi La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon St.; 44-20/7935-0341; lafromagerie.co.uk; tea and cheese for two $28). Or do the same over on Pimlico Road at Daylesford Organic (44B Pimlico Rd.; 44-20/7881-8060; daylesfordorganic.com; tea and cheese for two $20), Chelsea’s farm-to-table answer to La Fromagerie.
Whether you crave a perfect pint or a spot of grub beyond bangers and mash, these four favorites deliver the goods.
The Albion: A real neighborhood haunt, the Albion, in Islington, draws in fashion-crowd regulars for the solid food and Georgian interiors, yes, but also for the vast garden— a lovely, verdant escape in the warmer months. 10 Thornhill Rd.; 44-20/7607-7450; the-albion.co.uk; beer for two $12.
Drapers Arms: A redo of an old pub in the same neighborhood as the Albion, cofounded by the son of restaurant critic Fay Machsler. Which means that the food is at gastropub level (and the drinks are just as good). 44 Barnsbury St.; 44-20/7619-0348; thedrapersarms.com; beer for two $12.
Punch Bowl: Believe it or not, even if Guy Ritchie is an owner, this place is the real deal. Great beers on tap—plus a vibrant crowd of wannabe tough guys and faux-Cockney friends of the ex–Mr. Madonna. 41 Farm St.; 44-20/7493-6841; punchbowllondon.com; beer for two $14.
The Rake: This diminutive pub in Borough Market offers mind-bogglingly esoteric and constantly changing on-tap selections, plus more than 150 bottled beers. 14A Winchester Walk; 44-20/7407-0557; beer for two $10.