LONDON | Being back in London, I was keen to try out as many new places as I could but there were also many old favourites that I wanted to return to. This second City Lane London food guide takes a look at some of the old favourites in this food obsessed city. This guide contains a mixture of places that were hot new openings a few years back that have managed to remain great after the hype as worn off to genuine institutions that have been around for a long time.
Some of the places in this guide may not necessarily be the best restaurants in London as such, however every place is included for a reason, and is there to ensure you don’t have a dud meal when you’re in London.
For a guide to some of London’s best new restaurants, cafes and casual eateries, check out The City Lane’s “Best Places To Eat In London (New Discoveries)” guide.
For a list of some of the best places to eat in the brilliant food-focused Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, keep your eyes out for the City Lane’s upcoming “London: A Gastronomic Tour Of Maltby Street Market” article.
Finally, for lover’s of craft beer, the upcoming “London: Craft Beer On The Bermondsey Beer Mile” is for you.
Pitt Cue Co
I was very excited when I found out Pitt Cue Co was going to be opening up, and it was on my list of places to try for 2012. Circumstances, of course had other ideas and moving back to Australia in December 2011 meant that I just missed out on the opening of Pitt Cue Co. Finally, after being on my list for so long I was able to try it and, I’m glad to say, it absolutely lived up to the hype.
Years after opening this place still has a line. People queue to get a taste of the Hungarian rare breed Mangalitza pig that is smoked and cooked in a variety of wonderful ways. The guys at Pitt Cue Co are serious about their meat, and are in control of the entire supply chain literally from farm to table. This attention to detail and genuine passion for smoked pig is evident when you eat the food.
The pulled pork was brilliant, the bone marrow mash outstanding and, the highlight of the night, the caramel ribs were outstanding. Add to this a great range of bourbon and rye and some innovative cocktails and it’s no wonder that people are still lining up for a spot at this small 30 seat restaurant.
Pitt Cue Co
1 Newburgh Street
London W1F 7RB
Telephone: 020 7287 5578
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 4:00pm
MEATliquor was another hot opening of 2012 which, like Pitt Cue Co, evolved from a food truck into an actual restaurant (in fact several restaurants as of 2015). People decried the no bookings policy when it opened but clearly it’s not been a problem because in 2015 there are still people lining up outside the original MEATliquor located just off Oxford Street.
I visited at 7:30 on a Friday night – peak time and only had to wait for about half an hour before getting to the front of the queue. Two of the people that were in my group hadn’t yet arrived and this was not an issue – we simply had to wait at the bar for them to arrive and, when they did, we notified the staff member who was allocating tables and let us in and about 15 minutes later we had a table.
This place must have been a nightclub before it was a restaurant. It’s dark, there are lots of red lights, the music is loud and the main dining area looks like a dance floor. It’s a really fun atmosphere the suits the food, which is unapologetically “dirty” American fast food. Burgers, chips, onion rings, deep fried pickles alcoholic milkshakes etc are the name of the game here and I was quite impressed with the food. While there are better burgers and sides in London, is still very good and, coupled with the atmosphere my friends and I all really enjoyed our night.
74 Welbeck Street
London W1G 0BA
Telephone: 020 7224 4239
Mon – Thu: 12:00pm to 12:00am
Fri – Sun: 12:00pm to 2:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 10:00pm
Hawksmoor is one of my favourite places to eat at in London. It was one of the first places that I organised a dinner at with my friends, back when there was only the single branch on Commercial Street in Spittalfields. Stories of Hawksmoor having the best steaks in London, cooked by an impressive beast of an oven in a space formerly occupied by a kebab shop were what drew me there. The steaks were as excellent as they had promised to be and, even though many years have passed and I’ve had many steaks since, Hawksmoor remains my benchmark.
In the intervening years, Hawksmoor has expanded to include several branches and, in 2013 was sold to a private equity firm but childhood friends and founders Will Beckett and Huw Gott remain firmly in charge of all of the important stuff and have stated that they are up for the challenge of expanding while maintaining quality.
I have visited all of the London branches of Hawsmoor and, on my most recent visit to London I visited the Air Street branch just off Regent Street. The space was very large and grand – a world away from the original however the things that mattered were exactly the same as ever – excellent service, excellent steak, ridiculously sublime grilled bone marrow and perfect triple cooked chips washed down with a couple of amazing cocktails. The Air Street menu was expanded, the branch in particular having a very good seafood selection but I had to go for my usual.
Yes, Hawksmoor is expensive but I can guarantee you that you will not leave there feeling utterly satisfied that it was worth every pound spent. For me, the original branch holds sentimental value being the location not only of one of my first group meals with a bunch of people who were to become some of my closest friends but also because it’s the first place that I took Lauren out to for a meal. Objectively though, and for the sake of convenience I’d recommend the Seven Dials branch – it’s got a good balance between the smaller and bigger branches and it’s the one I found myself going to most when I lived in London.
11 Langley Street
London WC2H 9JG
Telephone: 020 7420 9390
Lunch: Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 3:00pm
Dinner: Mon – Thu: 5:00pm to 10:30pm
Fri – Sat: 5:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 9:30pm
I’m going to put it out there right now – I haven’t actually eaten at Goodman before however a friend of mine whose opinion I trust is of the opinion that this is the best steakhouse in London. Rubbish I say, nothing can beat Hawksmoor. Truth be told, if you do any kind of serious research into the two it becomes a bit like the Pepsi and Coke argument. Both are slightly different but neither one is truly better than the other. If you want a steak in London and for whatever reason you choose not to visit Hawksmoor, I think it’s right that I let you know that Goodman is another quality option (just don’t tell my friend Paul that I said so).
24-26 Maddox Street
London W1S 1QH
Telephone: 020 7499 3776
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Burger & Lobster
I had to try Burger & Lobster when I got to London. It had been on my list for a while, before it expanded into the chain that it is today (with a recent branch in New York too). The name of the place says it all and that in fact, along with a range of alcoholic beverages is all that is sold here. Your choice is a burger, a lobster, or a lobster roll all served with chips and salad. I went for the famous lobster roll, which is a buttery, toasted brioche bun filled with the meat of an entire lobster. It’s not cheap but damn is that thing filling. I at mine at lunch and by the time dinner rolled around I still wasn’t hungry.
Is this the best lobster roll in London? Probably not. I enjoyed it but was of the opinion that the lobster roll at Melbourne’s Supernormal is better so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suggest that there are probably better options in London. In fact Well & Bucket in Bethnal Green is a name that came up a few times as having one of the best lobster rolls in London and, if you’re willing to head out there and check it out I’d love to know your thoughts.
Burger & Lobster
36-38 Dean Street
London W1D 4PS
Telephone: 020 7432 4800
Mon – Wed: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Thu – Sat: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 10:00pm
Pizza Pilgrims is another place that started life as a food truck before morphing into a restaurant (well more than one restaurant now). I didn’t get the opportunity to eat at Pizza Pilgrims but thought it best to mention here as word on the street is that it’s one of the best places to grab a proper pizza at in central London.
The story goes like this – 2 guys got sick of their day jobs, went to Calabria in Italy’s South, bought a van and drove their way back to London, eating loads of pizza and learning as much as they could about the craft along the way. The end result is proper pizzas that use quality ingredients that should definitely be on your radar if you’re in central London and in the mood for pizza.
11 Dean Street
London W1D 3RP
Telephone: 020 7287 8964
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 9:30pm
It annoys me when people say “you can’t get good coffee in London”. I will admit that it is harder to find a good coffee in London compared to Melbourne, where every other cafe seems to sell great coffee but that doesn’t mean that good coffee doesn’t exist in London – you just need to know where to look. I might do up a guide to good coffee in London someday but for now, let me recommend to you my favourite coffee shop in London, Monmouth Coffee.
There’s not too much to say here. A good variety of ethically sourced coffee beans that they roast themselves and use to make a variety of quality coffees – espresso, filter or cold drip – you want it they do it. There’s also a range of snacks and a small cafe menu too. You want a good coffee – Monmouth will never steer you wrong. In fact, this is where I used to by my coffee beans from when I lived in London – the team were always happy to talk about the latest single origin and knew all there was to know about each bean on sale.
There’s the original branch on Monmouth Street and a second branch at the Borough Market. Both are excellent.
27 Monmouth Street
London WC2H 9EU
Telephone: 020 7232 3010
Mon – Sat: 8:00am to 6:00pm
At first I questioned whether I should include Wahaca on this list as it’s definitely not the “best” Mexican in London. It’s here though because you should know about it. As a tourist you’re in London and you don’t know where to eat. There are loads of great places that have been recommended to you but you just want something now. Around you are a lot of chains, which is something that the UK seems to have quite an affinity for. You decide you’ll take the easy option and hope that the food isn’t bad. You’re not expecting the best meal of your life, you just want something decent.
After seeing an Angus Steakhouse you quickly remember this post and remove from your head any ideas of setting foot inside (you’ve got that steak at Hawksmoor planned anyway remember?). What’s this though, a Mexican joint that looks pretty cool – you’ve seen a few around so you know it’s a chain so the question is, should you eat here? My answer to you would be yes. The food is authentic Mexican food as it was when the Mexican trend first hit London – not 100% authentic but inspired by real Mexican food and a whole lot more authentic than the food that had previously passed as Mexican. I ate here several times when in London and always walked away very happy with my meal, as did anyone who I ever brought here. I don’t care if it’s not the best Mexican around – I still thoroughly enjoy the food and drinks at Wahaca and I’m sure you will too.
The food is basically the same at all of the branches, but the original in Covent Garden is still the best (although the picture I took is actually of the Soho branch).
66 Chandos Place
London WC2N 4HG
Telephone: 020 7240 1883
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
I didn’t eat at the Ledbury on my most recent trip to London but have eaten here 3 times before and have never been disappointed. In fact, the Ledbury was the first Michelin Starred restaurant I ever at it in my life. Aussie chef Brett Graham’s restaurant has gone from strength to strength in the years since I first ate there, gaining a second Michelin star and rising to number 10 in the “World’s Best Restaurants” list. With accolades like this, you might be thinking that it’s a pretentious fine dining restaurant that’s “not for you” but let me allay any fears that you might have, as the Ledbury is exactly the kind of place that epitomises what fine dining should be. The food is outstanding, with amazing technique and attention to detail and the service is impeccable but the whole place is very accessible. In fact one of the best desserts I have ever eaten in my life – a sort of deconstructed apple pie on “toast” was here.
Staff are professional but friendly and the menu is quite accessible, with a real focus on seasonal British produce. If there’s anything you don’t understand just ask the staff and they’ll happily explain it to you. The dining room is full of conversation and people enjoying themselves and, in a nod to Graham’s Australian heritage, there’s even James Boags on the beer list. If you’ve been curious about fine dining before but wary of trying it because of the whole “it’ll be stuffy and expensive and I’ll walk away hungry” then I cannot think of a better place to give it a shot than at the Ledbury.
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ
Telephone: 020 7792 9090
Lunch: Wed – Sun: 12:00pm to 2:00pm
Dinner: Mon – Sun: 6:30pm to 9:45pm
Named after the steak and not the building in New York City, Flat Iron has been around for a few years now and has remained a very popular choice for London diners. I didn’t get the opportunity to dine here but it’s still on my list and, by all accounts, it should be on yours too.
The menu is very simple, with the star of the show being the flat iron steak which comes with a salad and your choice of a few sides for a few pounds extra. The other option, which some might argue is the star is the burger which has a deep fried patty and has many fans around London (I have heard whispers of “best burger in London” muttered behind closed doors). Oh, and there’s also the doughnut bar plus a selection of keenly priced cocktails!
17 Beak Street
London W1F 9RW
Mon – Sat: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm to 10:30pm
Beigel Bake is a London institution since 1977 and I had to include it on the list. There are a variety of Jewish bakery delicacies on offer here – the apple slice is one of the best I’ve ever tried. The star is however, as one would expect, the beigels. Fresh bagels come out of the oven non-stop during this ’round the clock operation and fillings include classics such as salt beef and pickle, smoked salmon, cream cheese and others. There’s a reason people keep coming back here and if you find yourself in the area, it’s a good chance to experience a part of Brick Lane that you might have thought had long gone.
159 Brick Lane
London E1 6SB
Telephone: 020 7729 0616
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Honest Burgers is another place that was on my list that I didn’t get a chance to visit but I had to include it here simply because it’s considered by many to do some of the best burgers in London and, as it’s expanded to become a chain recent years you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one. I’ve included the most accessible location for visitors just behind Oxford Circus. With a focused range of burgers using quality ingredients, including meat from excellent London butcher Ginger Pig (which I frequented a lot when I worked in Shepherds Bush), I don’t doubt that the burgers here are as good as people say they are.
4 Market Place
London W1W 8AD
Telephone: 020 3302 3990
Mon – Sat: 11:30pm to 11:00pm
Sun: 11:30pm to 10:00pm
Maroush is another place that’s become a chain that, while not doing the best Lebanese food in London per se, is always reliable and consistent. Decent opening hours too make it one of the better options in town if you’re looking for an early morning feed – the mixed shawarma is excellent value and tastes great. Keep an eye out for Ranoush and Beirut Express too – different names, but they’re all part of the same group and have basically the same menu. I’ve put down the address of the original, which opened on Edgware Road in 1981.
21 Edgware Road
London W2 2JE
Telephone: 020 7723 0773
Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 2:00am