“Dinner? In Leicester Square?! Pffft, you have got to be kidding”
Nope, not kidding. This doesn’t have to be the reaction if you know the best restaurants around town, which of course we do. Not that we like to blow our own trumpet or anything…
Here’s our little guide on where to go when you find yourselves lost in the hellish tourist traps of the city (or perhaps you genuinely fancied a trip to M&M world and hey, no judgement from us).
Covent Garden – Joe Allen
Reviewed by Morgan Cormack
Having recently moved but keeping the same quirky interiors and furnishings from their last venue, Joe Allen really is a restaurant that’ll make you want to kick back and relax. We recommend trying the steak tartare for a dainty starter of epic proportions. The rib eye steak with peppercorn sauce and chicken parmagiana were both highlights for the main meal but opt for a side of mashed potatoes and thank us for the silkiest side you’re likely to have. The desserts really were the star of this show though as a generous slab of apple strudel with custard and a devilishly sweet pecan pie gave us the kind of sugar rushes we want at the end of our meal. The great food, friendly atmosphere and live piano show all tie together to make this a lovely new addition just off The Strand. (See more Covent Garden restaurants.)
2 Burleigh Street, near Charing Cross station, WC2E 7PX
Covent Garden 2.0 – Boulevard Brasserie
It’s not easy to find somewhere that isn’t absolutely extortionate in Covent Garden, but this little gem–recommended by a trusted member of the Secret London team–was an absolute treat. With constant offers to be found online, Boulevard Brasserie is bound to impress you. Put on your best French accent and order yourself a délicieux steak or some magnifique moules. We recommend sticking around for dessert, too – their Crème brûlée is trés trés bon.
40 Wellington Street, WC2E 7BD
Buckingham Palace/Green Park – May Fair Kitchen
Located just moments away from Green Park tube station, May Fair Kitchen is a rather fancy Mediterranean restaurant specialising in small plates (except they’re actually not that small at all). Our waiter, Antonio, started us off with an excellent cocktail inspired by the Amalfi Coast, called, rather aptly, the Amalfi. It was a delicious mix of lemon, limoncello, honey syrup, mint, and Prosecco and it’s been Antonio’s favourite ever since his recent trip to Italy. We agreed. The food menu was full of Spanish and Italian dishes, from pizza to Padrón peppers, and we found it so hard to choose (sorry we took so long to decide, Antonio). We ended up with a range of different plates, but our favourites had to be the Tomato and manchego arancini with spicy mayo and the Marinated and sliced beef with manchego and wild mushrooms. It’s the perfect place to wander to after a quick visit to Queenie’s house across the park…
70a Stratton St, Mayfair, W1J 8LT
Piccadilly Circus – Villandry St James’s
If you’re a big fan of brunching, and especially if you’re a big fan of bubbly, Villandry is the perfect place to go if you happen to be pottering around Piccadilly (or actually, coming to think of it, it’s not a bad reason to head to Piccadilly on purpose). For just £25 per person, you’ll get a tea or a coffee, a freshly made pastry, a main brunch dish and a Villandry Cake Platter. So, er, loads of food. Although the burger wasn’t the best we’ve ever had, the poached eggs on courgette and sweetcorn fritters were a welcome change to our usual English muffin, and the pancakes–though we didn’t actually try them–looked epic. In typical brunching fashion, you can also make your brunch bottomless with unlimited bubbly for just £15 per person. The best part about it is the generosity of the Prosecco pouring so, if you don’t need to be sober after your brunching (and there’s nout better than tipsy sightseeing, let us tell you), Villandry is a great place to bear in mind…
12 Waterloo Pl, St. James’s, SW1Y 4AU
Leicester Square – Leicester Square Kitchen
Showcasing a mix of Mexican and Peruvian small plates and fantastic cocktails, Leicester Square Kitchen is a slice of sophistication and serenity within a crazy, buzzing square. The food is all deliciously fresh and made for sharing, so bring along friends with similar taste (or tactfully don’t). Our standout dishes included the lime and coriander chicken skewers, the lamb cutlets, the grilled corn on the cob (this ain’t no ordinary corn on the cob, trust us), and the rib-eye steak. They also have a banging selection of cocktails, including a Chilli and Lychee Margarita that will knock your socks off… in a good way. You won’t hear us recommending a trip to Leicester Square very often but here we are, strongly recommending LSK.
31-36 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LH
Westminster/Southbank – Locale
If you’re doing the classic Westminster-to-Southbank crawl, Locale is a great place to stop for a refreshment. You’ll find it right next to the London Eye, a bridge away from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and baby steps away from the Sea Life museum. It’s a great place to scoff on fresh, Italian food before a pleasant stroll along the Southbank. There’s a wicked Happy Hour between 5-7pm Monday- Friday, and their menu is bursting with tasty, affordable grub. Expect the usual Italian pasta and pizza, but also fancier dishes like Pork escallops with marsala sauce and Cod wrapped in parma ham served with Romanesco cauliflower. Dead posh.
County Hall, 3B Belvedere Road, SE1 7GP
Trafalgar Square – Gordon’s Wine Bar
Gordon’s is London’s oldest wine bar, and it has all the vino you could wish for and more. (There’s also cheese. Lots and lots of cheese).
47 Villiers St, WC2N 6NE
Tower Bridge – Bravas Tapas
Once you’ve marvelled at the magnificent sight of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, head to St Katharine Docks to escape the hubbub and enjoy a nice, quiet supper amidst an impressive collection of ridiculously expensive boats. A beautiful exception in this otherwise chain-ridden area, Bravas Tapas is a lovely family-run Spanish restaurant serving up excellent, authentic tapas. The food is fantástico and we recommend a whole variety of dishes: starting with the Moorish Spiced Lamb Chops and the classic Brava Potatoes (up there with the best Alioli you’ve ever tasted, don’t @ us).
St Katherine Docks, East Smithfield, E1W 1AT
St Paul’s – The Happenstance
Set in the iconic Paternoster Square, The Happenstance is the perfect central spot for a nice breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or even just a few well-deserved drinks — particularly if you’ve just climbed to the top of St Paul’s, cos you’ll need a stiff drink or five (or is that only the case for people with a horrifying fear of heights? Asking for a friend). On a nice day, their alfresco terrace is a beautiful place to sit and ogle at St Paul’s Cathedral, but the interior is just as lovely. Their menu suits just about everyone, with everything from steak and burgers to mezze boards and bangers and mash. As for the cocktails, their list is extensive; naming all the classics as well as some slightly more original tipples, including the Basil Fawlty with grape juice, lemon, fresh raspberries, basil and chilli bitters (technically non-alcoholic, but there’s always the option to add a shot of gin).
10 Paternoster Square, EC4M 7DX
British Museum – Dalloway Terrace
A blossom-filled terrace with cocktails and Instagram opportunities aplenty, Dalloway Terrace is by far the most beautiful spot to visit after a leisurely peruse at the British Museum. Named after Virginia Woolf’s well-known character, this beautiful space is in London’s literary centre of Bloomsbury. With an onsite Juicery, afternoon tea by GBBO’s very own Candice Brown and a whole host of events in collaboration with various boozy brands, Dalloway Terrace is more than just a great place to go for a post-perusal dinner…
16-22 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3NN
Oxford Street – Tabun Kitchen
Reviewed by Morgan Cormack
Our trip to Tabun Kitchen was one filled with traditional Palestinian food, one of the best red wines we’ve ever tasted and the warmest welcome. This small restaurant has been newly refurbished and looks like something straight out of a classy interiors brochure. The food itself is focused on sharing with family and friends, but you may not want to give up your dish. We opted for the Mini Mezze to start alongside deliciously spicy shrimp and warm pitta, but the mains were the star of the show. We recommend the Fatet Jaj Chicken, which consisted of shredded lemon chicken, hummus sauce, rice and lots of immense flavours. Don’t forget about the dessert in this place either! Definitely indulge in the Knafeh – a molten sticky skillet of cheese, pastry and orange blossom syrup. It may sound random but you can thank us later….
77 Berwick Street, Soho, near Oxford Circus station, W1F 8TH
Tate Modern – OXO Tower
Head west along the riverfront from the Tate Modern, and after a ten minute stroll later you’ll arrive at the foot of the iconic OXO Tower. The bar, restaurant and brasserie at the top are held out to be three separate places, but more realistically, it’s ALL ONE PLACE. Anyway, they serve up – surprise! – some classic British fare: scallops, sea bream, and mussels; pork belly, lamb chops and rib-eye steak. If that sounds a bit heavy, they also have some light ways to celebrate with friends and family, like a dessert-and-champagne only offer. Mmm… dessert and champagne.
Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1 9PH
Also published on Medium.