For a meal with a twist, head to one of these quirky restaurants.
In an ever-growing London food landscape, there’s a desperate need to stand out from the crowd. It’s something these quirky restaurants have done pretty niftily; whether it’s an unusual menu, wacky decor, a kooky theme, or even singing waiters, they’ve all found their own comfortable little niche.
You’ll have heard of this one before. Dans le Noir?, which literally means “in the dark”, is the famed Clerkenwell restaurant where you eat your meal in a pitch-black room, guided by visually impaired waiters. Menus don’t delve into specific dishes, relying on themes instead – the red menu promises meat dishes, whilst blue will get you fish – so you’ll also have no idea what you’re eating until it’s in your mouth. With sight gone, your other senses are sharpened, aiming to enhance your appreciation of the meal. Plus no-one can see if you drop something on your clothes…
Going in quite the opposite direction, you’ll be all too aware of what you’re eating at Archipelago. Menu items here include python carpaccio, kangaroo skewers, and crocodile curry, along with a side salad of mealworms and crickets. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Read all about it here.
This one is a jazz bar in Dalston, if you hadn’t already guessed. Whilst the jazz takes over late in the night, the food draws the early crowd – like Archipelago, there’s a range of ‘I-didn’t-know-you-could-eat-that-animal’ offerings, with shark and zebra the two most out-there mains.
4. Bodega Negra
If you come expecting a peep show, you’re going to leave disappointed. But if you come for tacos, you’ll be pretty well satisfied, since this Soho sex shop is actually a Mexican restaurant in disguise. Titivating tacos, tostadas, and quesadillas are the sexiest things on offer, and we certainly aren’t complaining. Learn more here.
The only quirky restaurant on this list to quite literally start a riot, the Cereal Killer Cafe has gone from strength to strength since then. A Camden location joined their original Brick Lane spot, and they recently launched an all-day menu at the latter, with the likes of cornflake chicken making an appearance.
Nostalgic for the days of school dinners? Nope, neither are we. But irrespective of what we think, people seem to love this school-themed restaurant, which has burgers, curries, and salads on the menu. Definitely an improvement on packed lunches – read all about it.
A restaurant without a menu is always going to be an intriguing choice. Tom Sellers’ Bermondsey joint invites diners to reveal their food preferences, and then enjoy a meal designed specifically for them. Every dish tells a story, and critical acclaim indicates that they’re very good yarns.
8. Rabot 1745
There’s a strong theme to Rabot 1745, and it’s exactly the one you’d expect from the restaurant outpost of Hotel Chocolat. Chocolate finds it’s way into every dish at this Borough Market spot, including a white chocolate mash that defies expectations. Here’s all the details.
A 24-hour restaurant best known for confit duck leg served on a sweet waffle might have made this list anyway. But when that eatery happens to sit on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate, it just had to get the nod. Duck and Waffle is a great all-rounder, perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight feasts.
Utterly gorgeous, this place enters the quirky restaurants pantheon for stylish meals served in ultra-luxe settings. Our favourite spot is The Glade, done up to look like a mythical woodland, complete with forest floor carpets. Don’t forget to check out their futuristic loos, though. Find out more here.
Wine and cheese are just lovely wherever they’re served – including in a former public toilet. Sitting next to Clapham Common station, this little gem is anything but bog-standard, making it a fun and unusual date spot.
12. Chick N Sours
Love fried chicken, but struggle to choose between wings, drums, or breasts? Not a problem at Chick N Sours, where they’ll serve you a whole chicken, brined and then fried for extra crispiness. Add dripping fries and pickled watermelon, and it’s a Sunday
Roast Fry I can get very much on board with.
Hunan may be an excellent Chinese restaurant, but they aren’t big on free will. Here, you tell them what you will and won’t eat, and they’ll decide what you’re having that night. Luckily, they’re rather good at choosing for you, as we found out when we visited.
Flamboyance in restaurant form. Theatreland’s representative amongst London’s quirky restaurants is a whirlwind of colours, opulence, and reclaimed props. Sarastro bills itself as “the show after the show”, with live music performances a regular occurrence. Probably not one for shrinking violets.
15. Bob Bob Ricard
A British-Russian joint in Soho, Bob Bob Ricard has one very important ace up its sleeve. Every table is equipped with a ‘press for champagne’ button, perfect for those with an unquenchable thirst for bubbles. It certainly explains why they pour more champers than any other UK restaurant… Find out more here.
What do you call a restaurant with no meat, no gluten, no sugar, and no booze? Resist the urge to answer “no fun” and give Redemption a try. Pretty much everyone who visits enters a sceptic and leaves a convert, so they’re clearly doing something right.
17. Buona Sera
The Italian food is nice, but it’s the seating that’s landed this Kings Road outpost on our list. You’re seated at pine cubicles climbing the walls of this restaurant, with waiters serving your food via ladder. A little like dining in an upmarket treehouse, we reckon.
Admittedly, the uniqueness of this restaurant is dependent on the egg-laying habits of their ostrichs. When one of the coveted eggs appears, they fry it and stick it in the middle of an epic sharing fry-up. Pretty much guaranteed to fill you up, as sure as eggs is eggs. Here’s what you need to know.
19. Bunga Bunga
Silvio Berlusconi may not have done great things for Italy, but he did pretty good things for Bunga Bunga. The wacky Berlusconi-themed spot is part restaurant, part variety show, and all kinds of goofy fun. Find branches in Battersea and Covent Garden.
20. Barge House
It’s the ultimate must-have in breakfast food: Barge House’s famous breakfast in bread. An artisan sourdough loaf, hollowed out and stuffed with a proverbial parade of goodness – salmon, sausages, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, and the other usual suspects – it truly is a meal to fall in loaf with. Catch the details here.
Dinner and a show is the order of the day at Circus. The menu is Pan-Asian, the entertainment is circus (unsurprisingly) with a hint of cabaret, all of which takes place on a stage in the middle of the restaurant.
More Pan-Asian cuisine, but this time all the entertainment takes place on your tabletop. Inamo’s USP is their interactive menu, which is beamed onto your table, letting you order meals without the pesky human interaction that comes from dealing with a real waiter. You can also browse a map of the restaurant, see a live cam of the kitchen, play retro games, and graffiti your table. Politer than playing with your food, I guess.
23. The Cheese Bar
Their commitment to one addictive ingredient is laudable. Londoners will do pretty much anything for cheese, and they’re spoiled for choice at the bricks and mortar restaurant from cult street food traders The Cheese Truck. Pasta, raclette, cheeseboards, and the classic cheese toastie all feature at this church of cheddar. Get the details here.
24. Rainforest Cafe
The 90s truly were the most glorious of eras, and this spot proves it. A mocked-up Amazon rainforest sitting on Shaftesbury Avenue, Rainforest Cafe is the ultimate in kitschy themed dining, complete with foilage, waterfalls, and animatronic creatures. My enduring memory of a childhood trip to the capital is eating here whilst my sister bawled her eyes out at the sound of the fake thunderstorms. Sorry, sis…
Talk about an arresting meal. This restaurant is housed inside Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton, which means everyone serving you is actually a permanent resident. Far from being an exploitative new dining concept, The Clink is a charitable endeavour, aiming to reduce recidivism by helping inmates gain qualifications in the food industry. Definitely worth your time, although you won’t be served any alcohol since it’s banned on the premises.
26. London Shell Co
This floating fishy feast just had to make the list of London’s quirky restaurants. For starters, it floats on Regent’s Canal, leisurely transporting diners from Paddington to Camden and back during the five-course feast. There’s nothing quite like taking to the waters whilst enjoying the fruits of the sea – check it out here.
27. Bel Canto
Translated from the Italian, Bel Canto means “beautiful song”, which is your first clue to this restaurant’s quirk. Your meal is delivered by singing waiters, all of whom are classically trained opera singers. They’ll belt out beautiful arias whilst you eat, although I’m slightly disappointed that they don’t sing the contents of the menu. Somewhat confusingly, despite the name being Italian, and opera having its roots in Italy, the food here is French. So much for internal consistency…
28. Tiroler Hut
Just as musical is the Tiroler Hut in Westbourne Grove, where every day is Oktoberfest. Staff are dressed in traditional Austrian garb, and the menu leans pretty heavily into the meat and potatoes, but that isn’t the main draw. You’ll be greeted by yodelling and a cow-bell cabaret, a wave of noise which means The Grove is alive with the sound of music.
Looking for more unique nights out? Try our guide to London’s quirkiest bars!
Featured image: @_marsie