Best New Restaurants

Central London

Amaya This vast, theatrical space seems to float on a sea of candles. In the spotlit open kitchen, the tandoor, iron skillet and kadai (Indian wok) stations are placed up front as starting points for chef Karunesh Khanna's whistle-stop street-food tour of India. The spice-crusted tamarind-glazed duck is currently one of London's top 10 must-have dishes. DETAILS Halkin Arcade, Motcomb St., Knightsbridge; 011-44-20-7823-1166.

Aubergine This restaurant launched chef Gordon Ramsay to fame in the '90s, but under chef William Drabble, the cooking is even better. And the prix-fixe lunch is a bargain. Just $65 buys you three magnificent courses—say, potato gnocchi with lobster and chanterelles, followed by confit of duck with cabbage and bacon in a juniper-berry jus—as well as half a bottle of good wine. DETAILS 11 Park Walk, Chelsea; 011-44-20-7352-3449.

Le Cercle An offshoot of Club Gascon, which made foie gras as common in London as shepherd's pie, Le Cercle dispenses memorable small plates of New Wave haute cuisine. High on the list are chef Thierry Beryis's luscious cauliflower cream and broccoli emulsion and his crispy veal sweetbreads with asparagus. The great wine list is strong in rich reds from southwest France. DETAILS 1 Wilbraham Pl., Chelsea; 011-44-20-7901-9999.

Pengelley's Even if Barnaby Gorton's paintings of muscular, oil-slicked torsos are not your style, there are plenty of other reasons to visit restaurateur Ian Pengelley's new pan-Asian spot. The sushi is sublime—try the savory unagi (grilled eel)—while smoked duck and scallops pair beautifully. In the trendy upstairs bar, martinis are neither stirred nor shaken, but "thrown"—poured from one shaker to another three or four times, which prevents the gin from bruising. DETAILS 164 Sloane St., Knightsbridge; 011-44-20-7750-5000.

1880 at the Bentley The look is Versace on acid, but behind the blue and gold swags and swirls and the grandiose faux furniture lies a very serious kitchen. Chef Andrew Turner's complex cooking is intelligent but never overly involved—think Dover sole with trompette mushrooms, cucumbers and oysters or seared Celtic sea scallops with white sultanas and capers. Turner is one of London's best—and most under-sung—chefs. DETAILS The Bentley Kempinski, Harrington Gardens, S. Kensington; 011-44-20-7244-5555.

Rasoi Vineet Bhatia After a meteoric rise, Indian chef Vineet Bhatia opened his eponymous Chelsea town-house restaurant a year ago, and the man's extreme talent is obvious in every dish. Order the crisp, aromatic Masala crab cake, served with a tangy crab chutney, or the sticky scallion khichdi (similar to risotto). DETAILS 10 Lincoln St., Chelsea; 011-44-20-7225-1881.

Shanghai Blues Located in a former library, Shanghai Blues effortlessly bridges the gap between old and new Chinese, with silk awnings, powder blue chairs and sophisticated lighting. The restaurant does imaginative and spanking fresh dim sum (squash, prawn and minced pork dumplings, for example), and the cocktails are deftly mixed. DETAILS 193-197 High Holborn, High Holborn; 011-44-20-7404-1668.

The West End

Yauatcha Black granite floors, a turquoise glass panel and the signature bar atop an extended, horizontal aquarium—and yet Alan Yau's ultrahip new restaurant offers much more than just cutting-edge style. Yau earned a Michelin star for dim sum at sister restaurant Hakkasan, and Yauatcha's dim sum is equally thrilling: pan-fried turnip cake, crispy duck roll and dumplings so flavorful and light they'll redefine your idea of a dumpling. DETAILS 15 Broadwick St., Soho; 011-44-20-7494-8888.

Bellamy's Owner Gavin Rankin was the right-hand man at Annabel's (London's smartest nightclub), so it's no surprise that Bellamy's feels distinctly upper-crust. Your lunchtime neighbor may be an art dealer or financier, while the evening crowd is more of a mix. But controlled excitement always infuses the atmosphere here, and the food is elegant—thrillingly fresh crab salad, for instance. On top of that, the wines are great, with surprisingly modest markups; a graceful 2003 Jean Rijckaert Pouilly Fuissé is a very fair $60. DETAILS 18 Bruton Pl., Mayfair; 011-44-20-7491-2727.

Umu London's first Kyoto-style restaurant, part of restaurateur Marlon Abela's MARC group, is a mix of slatted wood blinds and leather comfort—very masculine, very sophisticated. Within months of opening, chef Ichiro Kubota earned a Michelin star for dishes like his minced quail and foie-gras potato roll. He's a stickler for detail, shipping in water from the island of Kyushu in Japan because he considers London's water too harsh to cook with. This may be London's priciest restaurant: The Special Kyoto Sushi Kaiseki prix-fixe menu is $380 (though a basic two-course lunch starts at $53). DETAILS 14-16 Bruton Pl., Mayfair; 011-44-20-7499-8881.