Our journey of discovery has begun! Sure, “Restaurant Odyssey” may seem a grand title, but we are hopeful it will be a quest filled with treasures of insight that we can share.

The London Restaurant Odyssey is our new project. The core of it is to visit (or revisit, in some cases) 26 top restaurants in London over the course of 52 weeks. A great many delicious meals will be devoured, but more importantly, each of the restaurants will be examined. All of the chosen establishments have achieved a great amount of success in their niche, and the project will study what makes them rise above the rest; from the design of the building interiors, the nature of the food, the style of service right through to the way they conduct their business. Our goal is to identify and reflect upon the similarities between these restaurants, as well as any qualities that make them wholly unique. In the end, the question is, of course, what can we learn from them.

When it comes to making a list of the “top” or “best” restaurants in the area, there is no single metric that can be used to create an objective rating system, but for the sake of the project, several different sources have been combined into one. These include recurring appearances in top lists like the Michelin Guide, The Best Restaurants in the World, several other well-known editorials, and a critical mass of Trip Advisor ratings. Clearly, this kind of amalgamated rating system is not perfect, but importantly it allows both critically acclaimed restaurants and crowd favorites to be included.

Having embarked on this ambitious (and utterly enjoyable) undertaking, it’s my sincere hope that the journey will bring a better understanding of what goes into making a successful London restaurant. You can find the list of restaurants included in the project below:

1. Core by Clare Smyth: an elegant restaurant with original craft dishes led by officially the Best Female Chef in the World.

2. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal: Heston’s headline London restaurant with unique dishes based on quite obscure historic traditions.

3. The Ledbury: Chef Brett Graham’s innovative cooking, paired with fine wines in a smart, modern setting.

4. Pollen Street Social: Sophisticated Modern British menu in Jason Atherton’s buzzy contemporary dining room and lounge bar.

5. Barrafina: priding itself as an authentic Spanish tapas bar, this restaurant offers a range of immaculate dishes from the heart of Spain.

6. Social Eating House: a Soho-inspired restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere, cocktails and smart snacks.

7. Padella: One-off pasta bar with hand-rolled pasta and savory sauces inspired by Italian tradition.

8. Restaurant Story: Chef Tom Sellers’ novel approach to British classics, where there is a story behind every dish.

9. A Wong: a Chinese eatery featuring the finest dishes from the many different regions of China.

10. Honey & Co: authentic middle-eastern dishes presented by a husband-and-wife team.

11. The Clove Club: Cutting-edge restaurant and bar with an innovative British menu using often-overlooked ingredients.

12. Hedone: their dynamic and ever-changing menu gives visitors a chance to enjoy modern European cuisine in a relaxed setting.

13. The Barbary: a small restaurant that strives to provide the best dishes from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean Sea.

14. Kricket: Small plates and cocktails that blend British ingredients and Mumbai-inspired flavours.

15. The Pidgin: a dynamic Asian-inspired restaurant, with a different 4-course menu, offered every week, with no exceptions.

16. Kitchen Table, Bubbledogs: legendary restaurant tucked away at the back of Bubbledogs, offering fine British cooking in a chef’s table setting.

17. The Araki: The pinnacle of sushi. It may only have 9 seats but it also has 3 Michelin stars.

18. 40 Maltby Street: a place known for its exquisite and natural wines, with dishes in the kitchen prepared with the same high level of care.

19. 108 Garage: What was once a simple garage has been transformed into an innovative restaurant with a fusion of British and Asian cooking.

20. Gymkhana: both classic and contemporary Indian cuisine is served here, taking its name and inspiration from Indian clubs where high society dined, relaxed, and otherwise enjoyed themselves.

21. River Café: Still going strong after more than 30 years, this was one of the trailblazers for authentic fine Italian cuisine.

22. St John: The spiritual home of “nose to tail eating” led by Fergus Henderson.

23. Hoppers Soho: Family-style Sri Lankan cooking and inventive cocktails offered in vibrant, relaxed surroundings.

24. Lyle’s: A stripped back restaurant with a complete focus on simple excellence.

25. Kiln: a casual open kitchen known for its Thai inspired dishes. Recently voted the best restaurant in the UK.

26. Bao Fitzrovia: Taiwanese inspired dishes, including the famous steamed bun, are served at this modern eatery and bar.

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