Olympian appetites face a decathlon in London.
It's one of the world's great restaurant cities, with a United Nations of excellent choices -- a challenge for any visitor. That's a claim that for decades would have been considered balmy. W. Somerset Maugham famously observed, "To eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day."
Here's a quintet of restaurants to give you a taste of the city, in case you haven't booked a table with white-hot chefs Heston Blumenthal and Fergus Henderson.
Yauatcha is a sleek, stylish dim-sum destination that revels in Chinese dumplings, rolls and croquettes, as well as larger courses, from baked and grilled to steamed and pan-fried. Combinations include crab and pork; Chinese chive and prawn; sweet corn and taro; lobster and tobiko roe. And sample poached Beijing chicken. The kitchen also prepares more familiar fare, from kung pao chicken to sweet-and-sour pork. All terrific. Cost: $20-$50.
INFO 15-17 Broadwick St., Soho; yauatcha.com
Rules, as old as Yauatcha is new, started in 1798. The establishment has a museum quality, room by room. Toast with a silver tankard of ale and Guinness. And then dive into tradition: steak-and-kidney pie, roast squab, smoked eel, potted shrimp, pork cheeks and belly with black pudding, and, of course, rib of beef on the bone for two. Not four-star fare, but the side dish of color is irresistible. Cost: $30-$60.
INFO 30 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden; rules.co.uk
While eating history: Consider The Court restaurant at the British Museum. It will keep you going after a few hours well-spent with Lord Elgin's Parthenon marbles, the Lewis chessmen, the Rosetta Stone, the Portland Vase and a moai figure from Easter Island. The dining room is in the Great Court, under the glass roof. Some recommendations: grilled sardines with caramelized lemon, boards of Spanish cured meats and English cheeses, Serrano ham croquettes, duck rillettes with house-made piccalilli. Fine for afternoon tea, too. Cost: $15-$40.
INFO Great Russell Street; britishmuseum.org
After viewing art in a museum, see it on a table at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. Wareing's elegant restaurant is among London's best. The menus of meticulous cuisine change regularly. Recent notables: Middle White pork with potato salad and preserved pear; quail with sweet-crunchy hisbi cabbage and girolle mushrooms; Scottish lobster with wild garlic; herb pappardelle with truffles and smoked egg. Cost: $70 (lunch) to $300 and up (dinner)
Brasserie Blanc is a chainlet from star chef Raymond Blanc, best known for his Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire. These more casual spots deliver a respectable French-English hybrid. Winners include smoked haddock flan, grilled mackerel with fennel salad, Cumberland sausage with mustard sauce. Cost: $20-$30.
INFO Covent Garden branch at 35 The Market; brasserieblanc.com