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Where to Go Next: London

Roast On the south side of the Thames, the vast, atmospheric 250-year-old covered Borough Market is the heart of the food lover's London. One story up—reached via a glass elevator—is Roast, with a menu written in the staccato style that's become the vernacular of modern British restaurants. Trout with almonds and sorrel, venison liver with dandelion leaves, ox heart with bone marrow and dittander (a peppery watercress) are all simple but well executed. Much of the produce comes from the market stalls, as you'd expect, but Roast claims to have its own band of foragers who brave all kinds of weather to collect wild edibles. The views are gorgeous—church spires, Victorian facades, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and, at eye level, trains rolling in and out of London Bridge station. DETAILS Floral Hall, Borough Market, Stoney St.; 011-44-20-7940-1300.

The Grill at Brown's When the famous Brown's Hotel reopened late last year following a $33 million-plus renovation, the rooms, not to mention the restaurant, were roundly criticized. Now, things are much better, particularly at the Grill, which has been updated with banquettes in patrician green leather. The traditional menu is done with panache (the silver cloche, derided for many years, has made a comeback). Beef sirloin served from the cart comes with good roasted potatoes, baby peas and mint jelly; desserts, like apple crumble with custard sauce, are straight out of an English nursery. DETAILS Albemarle St.; 011-44-20-7493-6020.

Canteen "Good food should be available to everybody" is the mantra at Canteen, located in a gentrified East London neighborhood. This superslick diner offers communal wooden tables and benches, heavy white-cloth napkins and minimalist menus listing dishes such as "soup, bread and butter." The food, however, is not sparse: Confited duck with piccalilli (a pickled vegetable condiment) is not only delicious, it's a template for contemporary British cooking. DETAILS 2 Crispin Pl., Spitalfields; 011-44-845-686-1122.

China Tang Here's the place to see the Sultan of Brunei, the Duchess of Cornwall and Kate Moss, all in the same room. David Tang has created one of London's most beautiful restaurants, using Chinese marble, antique birdcages filled with Swarovski crystals and Bohemian crystal wineglasses that must be washed by hand. The elevated Cantonese menu includes Peking duck served as three courses: in pancakes as a starter, with vegetables as an entrée and as a bowl of gorgeous broth. DETAILS Dorchester Hotel, Park Ln.; 011-44- 20-7629-9988.

Maze Gordon Ramsay's new place has impressed both hard-bitten Londoners and Ramsay skeptics. For a start there's David Rockwell's stunning design, with wood, fabric and metal screens that evoke a moving garden maze. Jason Atherton's excellent menu features elaborate dishes in tapa-size portions: sea bass with candied eggplant and asparagus in a lemongrass broth; lamb with cinnamon-dusted sweetbreads and ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) inspired by the chef's time in the Middle East. DETAILS 10-13 Grosvenor Sq.; 011-44-20-7107-0000.

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe A year ago, brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin opened Galvin in the culinary no-man's-land of Baker Street. Using Paris's new bistrots modernes as their model, the Galvins created a small, enormously charming restaurant with dishes like a potpie densely packed with wood pigeon and glazed chestnut, and venison stew with celery-root puree. Prices are remarkably reasonable for London's West End. DETAILS 66 Baker St.; 011-44-20-7935-4007.

The Glade at Sketch Superstar French chef Pierre Gagnaire oversees the kitchen at The Glade, the newest of the four restaurants at Sketch, a gloriously renovated 18th-century town house. Open only at lunch, the place serves dishes that cleverly play with classics: poached eggs with ratatouille cream, and pork belly terrine with smoked tomato sorbet. DETAILS 9 Conduit St.; 011-44-870-777-4488.

National Dining Rooms With its view over Trafalgar Square, this spot inside the National Gallery gives you a good idea of how British chefs are restyling traditional dishes. Beets enhance a Wensleydale cheese tart; bone-marrow dumplings float in a silky oxtail soup. Don't overlook the 13 fine English cheeses served with Dorset Knobs, a kind of crispbread. At the Bakery, which shares the space, you can eat more informally—shepherd's pie, say, or high tea. DETAILS Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, Trafalgar Sq.; 011-44-20-7747-2525.

Published August 2006
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