Even in the days before social media, the restaurant experience was always about so much more than just food. The atmosphere, the surroundings, the service - all these things contribute to how a restaurant makes you feel and are why eating out will always be that little bit more special than ordering in.
These days, we like sharing the beautiful places we visit with our friends and, often, the world at large. There are bars and cafes that have become notorious for the Instagram snaps of their singular decor or artfully arranged dishes. This attitude tends to divide people. Some are all for it, pausing before eating to allow everyone to crane over the table for the ideal aerial shot. Others see it as an interruption, distracting from the experience and taking you out of the moment.
Whether you are an avid Instagrammer or don’t even have Facebook, eating a meal surrounded by stunning fixtures, gorgeous art and weird and wonderful furnishings is something everyone should try at least once. Luckily, London is simply teeming with them and we’ve picked a few of our favourites to help you find somewhere picture perfect for your next meal out.
Berners Tavern, 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1T
Located in The London EDITION, Berners Tavern feels like it has been a city institution for decades - despite opening with the hotel in 2013. Paintings in gilt frames line the walls meeting the elaborate mouldings that festoon the ceiling. Two large, ornate chandeliers (said to be inspired by New York’s Grand Central Station) dangle over the bank of booths that dominate the centre of the room. The lighting is low and intimate, so make sure to find the perfect spot to snap your shot.
Petersham Nurseries Café, Church Lane, Petersham Road, Richmond TW10
Never has the phrase, ‘Everything in the garden is lovely’ been more appropriate than when talking about the Café at Petersham Nurseries. The traditional glasshouse is full of life, with fragrant bougainvillaea and jasmine climbing the pillars and a fountain tinkling away in the background. Long, trestle-style tables invite community dining while wooden park benches and smaller round tables pepper the space, ideal for capturing an intimate moment. Indian blinds are draped intermittently, accenting the antique furniture, mirrors and painting. We recommend visiting on a sunny summer’s day for the best photo opportunities.
Clos Maggiore, 33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E
Architectural Digest named this particular spot the ‘World’s Most Romantic Restaurant’ in 2016; quite a claim, but the Covent Garden has the interiors to back it up. Clos Maggiore is best known for its conservatory, stuffed to bursting with cherry blossom and featuring a retractable glass ceiling that is opened during sunny summer days. In the evening, you can spy the stars through the flowers and a cheerful fire crackles in the hearth. The perfect place to take your Instagram husband/wife to say thank you for all their work behind the camera.
Dining in wonderland
sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S
Of all the entries on this list, you probably already recognise sketch from your Instagram feed. Design is at the heart of this Mayfair institution and every detail just begs to be photographed. From the pink confection that is The Gallery, a dining hall filled with plush booths and candyfloss-toned artworks by David Shrigley, to The Lecture Room, a sunset-hued, double Michelin-starred restaurant. You can perch sipping a cocktail on one of the chairs in The Parlour, the legs of which are balanced on ballet points, or go back to nature in The Glade, where trees adorn the walls and velvet chaise lounges add a touch of luxury. Even the loos are Instagrammable, with egg-shaped pods taking the place of traditional stalls.
Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square House, Mayfair, W1J
This bizarrely named Asian restaurant and bar off Berkeley Square is no less extraordinary on the inside. Water runs down the windows and the enormous painted seaweed and coral on the ceiling carries on the underwater theme. Giant fish and crocodiles by Frank Gehry and bronze mermaids and an enormous shark by Damien Hirst complete the feeling of unreality. The entire restaurant is one big photo opportunity, so make sure to smile - perhaps not at the crocodile, though.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden, 195 -197 King's Road, Chelsea, SW3
Casual dining has never been so stylish as at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. Greens and oranges give the whole space a tropical feel, as does the garden furniture in a mixture of wrought iron and wicker. The look is tied together with riotous nature prints on some of the chairs and walls and several indoor plants dotted around the restaurant. Whether you visit in deepest winter or mid-July, it always feels like summer. Those wishing to snap something extra special should make sure to drop in during Chelsea Flower Show as The Ivy is known to put on a floral display that makes the perfect backdrop.
Pretty in pink
Élan, 48 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K
If you’ve seen pictures of someone sipping a flat white and nibbling on an elaborate pastry in front of a wall of pink roses, those pictures were taken at Élan. This cafe may take the prize for the most-Instagrammed spot in London. There are currently two branches of Élan, one on Park Lane and the other on Brompton Road but the pastel pink, flower-covered venues are so popular that two more are due to open at Market Place and in Selfridges. Your collection of enviable interior photos is not complete without Élan, so here are some tips for those wanting to snap the perfect pic: the cafe is always busy, so go early to avoid a wait and make sure you ask for the ‘top table’ - that’s the one with the wall of flowers and is the most popular seat in the house.
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