Covent Garden foodie guide: where to eat and drink
From Neal's Yard to Leicester Square, we've found the best places to eat in and around the West End, from intimate seafood bistros to contemporary wine bars and Laotian banquets
Looking for Covent Garden restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants near Covent Garden for pre-theatre dinners and post-shopping meals. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking from The Strand to theatre land and beyond...
Lahpet West End, Covent Garden — for Burmese food in central London
Lahpet West End is set over two floors, with an outdoor mezzanine overlooking a courtyard. Fragrant from cardamon and turmeric, and fresh with lemongrass and coriander, this is one of the few places in the UK to champion the food of Myanmar. The menu is split into small and large plates, bowls and sides which can all be shared or enjoyed as more conventional courses. Cocktails are twists on the classics and the kumquat spritz uplifted a glass of prosecco with orange bitters, lime leaf and kumquat juice. Different fritters are made out of split peas, shan tofu and sweetcorn, and come with a tamarind dip. The grilled chicken thigh and tiger prawn skewers were plump, smoky and worked well with the must-try tea leaf salad — a masterclass in crisp and fermented ingredient layering. The fish noodle soup was packed with seafood, and aubergines are ingeniously served whole and stuffed with chilli, coriander and crunchy fried shallots. We wanted to be left with the flavours of the savoury food so we didn't order anything sweet but the table next to us raved about the banana parfait with ginger crumble. lahpet.co.uk
NoMad Restaurant, Covent Garden — for New York meets London hot hotel dining
Housed in the infamous Bow Street magistrates court, the room is dramatic with its high ceiling — bright or moody depending on time of day. A long comfortable banquette divides the space that’s alive with greenery and London buzz. NoMad’s menu has NYC touches (a nod to its sister hotel) and spans the sublime — oysters with cucumber ice, a delicate sea bream crudo with radishes and teeny picked strawberries; to sturdy (but refined) suckling pig; 30-day dry-aged rib-eye, and a brioche-stuffed chicken dish to share between two — to the sublime again: cherry ice cream with mascarpone within a crisp chocolate shell. The hefty wine list is best navigated with the help of the young, friendly wine team. Dinner bookings are like gold dust so go early or late, but go! thenomadhotel.com
Bong Bong's Manila Kanteen, Covent Garden — for Filipino sharing food
Head to Bong Bong's Manila Kanteen in the recently re-opened KERB Seven Dials in Covent Garden for some of the freshest, most delicious Filipino cuisine we’ve tried in London. This restaurant is made for enjoying with a bunch of friends, with the restaurants famed sharing dish of crispy pata pancakes taking centre stage. Sip on creamy, fragrant pina coladas before tucking into a generous feast of slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth ham hock with a crispy exterior (not dissimilar to hoisin duck), light paper-thin pancakes, fresh coriander and lime, as well as a lip-smacking Mang Tomas sauce. For veggies there’s a crispy mushroom version and an overflowing bowl of adobo-glazed cauliflower that we loved so much it had us ordering more. Round your meal off with a scoop of Bong Bong's famous Milo ice cream, rich, creamy and malted. Bong Bong's is everything we want from a sharing-vibe restaurant — big, well thought out portions, zingy flavours and moreish textures, and fab cocktails with some of the jolliest staff we’ve come across. I think one of the most joyful restaurant experiences we’ve had, we cant wait to head back. bongbongs.co.uk
Ave Mario, Covent Garden — for lavish, camp interiors and superior Italian ingredients
Anyone who loved the OTT charms of Gloria and Circo Populare will find much to enjoy in Big Mamma’s latest opening. Loosely inspired by Florence, it's a sprawling affair with almost 300 seats spread over three floors of kitschy, Instagrammable interiors, from the ground-floor dining room complete with soaring ceilings, green-and-white striped walls and a towering bar stocked with 3,500 bottles, to a louche, mirrored, 70s-style basement bar complete with an open kitchen where you can watch pizzaiolos work their magic. There’s campy Catholic iconography scattered throughout, pictures of Sopranos characters in the loos, pretty vegetable-shaped crockery and a 60cm marbled stracciatella ice-cream cake on the menu to rival Gloria’s famed supersized lemon meringue pie. It’s boisterously fun and undoubtedly a place you go to soak up the atmosphere, but the food — mostly crowdpleasing spins on classics — also impresses, from luscious carbonara ravioli filed with oozy egg yolk and flakes of guanciale, to the pillowiest of pizzas decadently topped with salty pearls of Venetian caviar. Ingredients, sourced from some 180 artisan suppliers, are top drawer — think 36-month-old prosciutto; dreamily creamy Puglian burrata; silky mortadella; and liberal clouds of umami aged parmesan. coventgarden.london/ave-mario
Blacklock — for a sustainable approach to meat
The latest Blacklock is in a listed building just off Bedford Street in Covent Garden in what was once the location for the King's Coachmakers and it's their biggest yet. The mid-century modern/industrial feel is welcoming and the menu focusses on the affordable and sustainable approach to meat that is central to Blacklock's approach.
A starter of Cull Yaw Crumpet signals what lies ahead. Dry-aged Cornish mutton shoulder and leg is slow-roasted overnight in a range of spices until it's soft and ready to fall apart. This is then placed atop a crumpet with English mustard and pickled onions. A jug of gravy is offered to pour over the meal and soak deep into the crumpet, resulting in an impressive depth of flavour. Blacklock's signature 'All In' option is a sharing platter of beef, pork and lamb skinny chops piled high on charcoal-grilled flatbreads, the juice and flavours of the meat flowing into the bread. There are also meat-free options, barbecued halloumi and coal-roasted celeriac. The drinks menu is extensive with a range of cocktails, wine and their own Blacklock Lager and Pale Ales, brewed with Harbour Brew Co. in Cornwall. theblacklock.com/covent-garden
Joe Allen — for American classics with a British accent in Theatreland
Beloved by the theatre crowd — that's those on stage, behind the scenes and in the audience — the USA-inspired all-day restaurant has moved into new premises off The Strand, with new (ex-The Ivy) chef Gary Lee on board. Playful touches kick off the menu; mini shepherd's 'tarts', a truffled cheese toastie and 'love it or hate it' — a riff on Marmite. Classic dishes include slow-baked smoked ribs, strip steak with fat chips, hotdogs with or without chilli and a decent caesar along with seasonal mains such as hearty braised beef in barolo and roasted squash risotto. Dessert features the very American peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich and the very British eccles cake with cheese. What make Joe's so special, along with live piano and great cocktails (try a New York Wasp with salt and paprika rim) is its brilliantly laidback but ever-efficient staff who make it seem as fun to work as it is to eat there. The set menu available until 7pm offers great value at three courses for £27.50. joeallen.co.uk
Fafa's – for falafel pittas
Finnish street food outlet Fafa's has opened its first London spot, perched at the end of Covent Garden’s Monmouth Street. The low-key spot serves signature crispy falafels stuffed in light, fluffy pittas. Order the halloumi and tzatziki version brimming with cubes of squeaky cheese and a sprinkling of couscous, or go for a classic pitta pocket drizzled with a slick of hummus. If you're still hungry, order golden halloumi sticks on the side, or salted sweet potato fries. Sit at the counter seats, or take away (with a few napkins in tow).
Parsons – for an intimate seafood dinner
With its Victorian-style white tiles and high marble-counter tables, Parsons has the feel of a traditional, old-school fish restaurant that’s been there for decades, not one that only opened in Covent Garden at the end of 2017.
Sibling to The 10 Cases across the road on Endell Street, Parsons is informal enough to drop in for a half-dozen oysters and a glass of fizz, or settle down for a full-on feast of sea trout tartare with bloody mary jelly; octopus with duck-fat potatoes, paprika and parsley oil; or a hearty bowl of clam chowder packed with smoked bacon, shellfish, potatoes and cream.
La Goccia Bar – for botanical cocktails
Petersham Nurseries’ verdant Italian restaurant La Goccia has opened a laidback cocktail bar serving seasonal cocktails and snacks. Hidden behind a velvet curtain, discover a space decked in lush flowers and foliage, abstract floral art, plush velvet sofas, art deco chairs, mirrored antique tables and Middle Eastern rugs.
Cocktails are simple and seasonal. We tried the Bitter Orange Blossom – a zesty, smoky mix of mezcal, Aperol, citrus and amaro – and the White Daisy, a perky, fresh twist on a margarita. The bar also has an impressively long list of non-alcoholic cocktails, including an excellent booze-free negroni with punchy, herbaceous bite.
It’s worth delving into the bar menu, too, with well-executed snacks such as the salty-sweet salad of pecorino and pear, or pillowy burrata with smoky roasted agrodolce squash. petershamnurseries.com/la-goccia-bar
Frog By Adam Handling – for a special occasion
Frog by Adam Handling is the Scottish chef’s second solo restaurant focusing on British seasonal food (with a few Asian twists) paired with unique pre-bottled cocktails and unusual wines. Choose between the five-course (£65) and eight-course (£80) tasting menus, and pair with wines (£70) or matching cocktails (£65). The set menu changes fortnightly, but some of Adam’s signature dishes stick around. You can also choose from an à la carte menu.
Bancone – for pasta
The tagline for Covent Garden’s newest Italian restaurant, just minutes from Trafalgar Square, might be “pasta, prosecco, espresso” – but it’s those first little mouthfuls of arancini from the antipasti that you’ll be raving about, come home time. Created by head chef Louis Korovilas – whose CV lists training under Giorgio Locatelli, at Locanda Locatelli, and Pied à Terre – the arancini arrive as three golden nuggets. Their crisp armour gives way to the lightest rice, still just al dente, no stodge, and bags of flavour – first (on our visit) earthy mushroom, next creamy dolcelatte, and finally saffron with a fiery heart of ’nduja.
It’s hard not to be mesmerised by the rest of the menu, though, particularly if you sit at the marble-topped, brass-trimmed bar, overlooking Louis and his team at work. Fresh pasta, which is made and rolled upstairs, is flash-boiled before being tossed with any of the 10 sauces on offer. Chitarra – guitar-string like spaghetti – is slicked with cacio e pepe and topped with a crisp, peppered cheese wafer.
Oxtail ragu (best ever ragu recipes here), slow cooked for 10 hours until sticky and sweet, clings to bouncy folds of pappardelle. Simple, quality ingredients – the bedrock of good Italian cookery – are shown proper respect. Hispi cabbage is charred and dressed with red chilli, garlic and 2017 Planeta olive oil. Chicory and beans are held up with sweet and sour onions, and a deeply savoury anchovy crumb.
Classic negronis with the right amount of chunky ice and a twist of orange are just as well received as the prosecco, and don’t leave without a palate-cleansing, retro-tastic Amalfi lemon syllabub (recipe below) and granita served in its original host. Holiday vibes for the win.
FishWorks, Catherine Street – for seafood
Classic, maritime-inspired elegance defines the vibe at FishWorks’ third site with soft blue, grey and natural tones, white tiling and playful nautical hints – including knotted robe pendant lights and striking feature walls of copper fish scales.
The restaurant’s central location in the heart of the West End makes it the perfect venue for enjoying a pre- or post-theatre seafood feast, from oysters and champagne at the marble-topped bar to lobster thermidor, whole Devon crab (perfectly sweet and plentiful on our visit) and fruit de mer platters. Dishes from the crowd-pleasing à la carte menu also impress. Brixham fish soup is rich and silky, with a pungently garlicky rouille; portly, hand-dived scallops – generously served four apiece – come in their shells swimming in garlic butter and topped with golden breadcrumbs. Dover sole is served on the bone and either grilled or à la meunière. We opt for the latter and it’s just as it should be, soft and flakingly tender. For drinks make a beeline for their roster of ‘maritime wines’ – all produced within 10 miles of the coast and with subtle saline notes designed to complement the fish and seafood on the menu.
Finally, pick up more piscine treats at the in-house fishmonger before you leave, which, like the rest of the restaurant, offers responsibly sourced fish and seafood selected from Devon and Cornwall’s day boats and fish markets, plus homemade sauces to cook your catch with.
Volta do Mar – for Portuguese food
In an area packed to the gills with restaurants, Volta do Mar still manages to offer something a little different, with a menu that celebrates the global reach of Portuguese cuisine.
Husband-and-wife team Simon Mulls (co-founder of the Salt Yard Group) and Isabel Da Silva (Mirabelle, Delaunay) have cherry-picked culinary gems from the likes of Brazil, Mozambique, Goa and Macau, as well as Portuguese regional dishes, to create an accessible medley of small and larger sharing dishes, all served in mutedly elegant period surroundings (think mid-century chairs, wooden floors and a palette of soft, cloudy tones).
Ovos come tomate is a smooth, creamy, quiche-like disc of baked eggs and tomato topped with fronds of sweet white Dorset crabmeat; while vegan aubergine Goan curry sees the veg cooked to collapsing, fudgy softnesss, with creamy cashew yogurt. Arroz marisco is piscine comfort food, with chunky mussels and prawns, and tender rice, in a rich bisque. Mozambique piri-piri chicken is served with the sauce on the side for good reason – it’ll blow your socks off.
Cool down with the likes of grilled pineapple with chilli and coconut sorbet for dessert, or go rogue with the restaurant’s surprise hit drink of the night, a savoury, punchy pumpkin margarita. Don’t forget to explore the all-Portuguese wine list, too – which ranges from a very gluggable Douro house white to a pinot noir-like bottle from the Azores.
Opera Tavern, Catherine Street – for Mediterranean small plates
This popular Mediterranean small-plates restaurant and wine bar has had a makeover, adding a cosy contemporary touch. Walls are lined with exposed-brick walls, and pops of colour (contemporary prints, retro yellow lamps) brighten the place up. Bag the prime spot by the window on the first floor on date night, or perch at the striking brass bar downstairs for pre-theatre drinks.
Twists on classics include silky croquetas sprinkled with truffle shavings, and black linguine with finely chopped squid ragu in a delicate tomato sauce. Cut into a scotch egg through a layer of punchy ’nduja to find a perfectly runny yolk. Opera Tavern’s popular ibérico pork burger with foie gras is also still standing proud on the menu. Traditionalists are also catered for, with creamy burrata livened up with sun-dried tomatoes, toasty pine nuts and a green herb oil.
Spanish drinks include lively Er Boquerón seawater beer and Fauno wine, a grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre mix with soft plum and spice notes, both from Valencia.
26 Grains, Neal's Yard – for porridge and seasonal dishes
Hidden in Covent Garden’s courtyard haven, Neal’s Yard, 26 Grains has grown up from its porridge pop-up into the cosy site you see today. A crammed open-plan kitchen dominates most of the space. Shelves bend with the weight of pretty crockery; hard-working pots and pans hang, ready and waiting, above the hot gas stove; and any other free space is filled with jars of spices, grains and bags of flour.
You can sit at the bar, facing chef-owner Alex Hely-Hutchinson as she beavers away, high up on smooth wooden bar stools, or at another counter facing the wall. Or there are a couple of communal tables with bench seating, inside and out (weather permitting), modestly decorated with dried flowers and twinkling candles.
Seasonality drives the short-but-sweet menu, whether you visit at breakfast, lunch or dinnertime. Visit in late spring, and you might find the likes of porridge with loquat and sweet cicely, whipped ricotta and toasted walnuts, or asparagus, chopped egg and hollandaise before midday. Lunch sees the likes of yellow dal with roasted cauliflower, aubergine pickle, garlic yogurt, almond dukkah and garlic flatbread, alongside fresh plates of courgette ribbons with herbs, nuts and pecorino.
Dinner is an easy choice of one starter, a main of fresh pasta, and a seasonal Poco Gelato ice cream or sorbet (on our visit a must-order, zingy yuzu sorbet). Ingredients are cooked with little fuss – meaning their bright, fresh flavours shine through – and thanks to Alex’s strong understanding of the importance of balance (whether that be crunch to counter softness, sourness to stand up to sweetness) everything delivers.
The 10 Cases – for wine
The name stems from the fact that this buzzy little Covent Garden bar and bistro only ever buys 10 cases of the wines on the concise list in a quest to offer customers new experiences each time they visit. It was opened in 2011 by Ian Campbell and Will Palmer, who were bored of overpriced wine lists that never changed.
Will says: “I think part of the success of 10 Cases is the constantly changing wine list and having more than 300 wines with very small cash mark-ups and small corkage charges. I think the ability to be able to drink really good and interesting wine in an unpretentious setting strikes a chord with many people.”
Lao Café, Chandos Place – for casual Laotian food
Authentic’ is overused on London’s restaurant scene, but Saiphin Moore has managed to do the word justice with her traditional Laotian cooking in newly opened Covent Garden restaurant Lao Café. After successfully running seven branches of cool and casual Thai restaurant Rosa’s, Saiphin’s mission is to bring traditional home cooking from her original Laotian roots to Londoners. After a tip from friend and Bangkok-based Thai food expert Chris Wotton as “the best Lao and Northern Thai food outside of Thailand”, we headed to this little café just off Leicester Square.
La Gelatiera – for ice cream
London’s La Gelatiera focuses on unique and intriguing flavour combinations, from blue cheese and walnut to basil and chilli. Each scoop is made with natural, seasonal ingredients and Jersey milk and cream, with the dairy ingredients pasteurised on site for optimum freshness. If you want to keep it classic you can order a scoop of creamy vanilla mananara, but the honey, rosemary and orange is recommended if you fancy something fresher with slightly savoury notes.
Chick ‘n’ Sours – for fried chicken
Descend from Seven Dial’s Earlham Street down to this buzzy basement dedicated to fried chicken, sours cocktails and kitsch memorabilia. Carl Clarke runs the shop with his business partner David Wolanski, and his former life as a DJ has rubbed off on the fun soundtrack of seventies bangers and hip hop, as well as pop-art-style prints of cassette tapes on the walls.
As its name suggests, this spot is big on sours cocktails, shaken up in the bar lined with house spirits. Try the Mexinese for a refreshing, Mexican-Asian mash-up of tequila, pandan, ginger and lime.
When it comes to the food, fried chuck is what it’s all about. Chicken burgers see succulent pieces of buttermilk-brined Somerset chicken coated in a crunchy batter and sandwiched in brioche buns. Korean gochujang mayo and sriracha soured cream give a fiery punch to the K-Pop, while American cheese and kewpie mayo add a creaminess to The General.
Sides are a must, served on mismatched retro plates. Chunks of watermelon provide a refreshing burst reminiscent of fried chicken shops across the Deep South, here sprinkled with peanuts, coriander, mint and nahm jim. Szechuan aubergine is meltingly soft, coated in a light batter and bathed in a soy-based sauce with spring onion, pickled chilli and sesame seeds.
Temper, Mercer Walk – for crowd-pleasing barbecue and cocktails
“I’m sure there are traditionalists out there who think I’m the devil himself, but I’d rather be knocked for trying something new than just roll out someone else’s recipes – I never saw the point in that,” says Neil Rankin, explaining his philosophy at Temper Covent Garden.
This is a restaurant that likes to push the boundaries when it comes to Italian-rooted food, from the aged beef-fat tallow and pesto ravioli to the wood-fired ‘Detroit’ pizza with its topping of goat ragu, mozzarella, London-cured Cobble Lane pepperoni and San Marzano tomatoes.
“I love traditional pizzas and pastas, but London is full of great places doing both – so I wanted to explore a different side to both and have a little fun. For me, food shouldn’t have restrictions and rules past deliciousness.”
Other standout dishes at Temper Covent Garden include the crab okonomiyaki pizza with crab, fennel, langoustine mayo, hoisin, sesame and katsuobushi.
Neil says: “Certain flavour profiles are almost set in stone, but there is always room within those borders to create something new. I like to see connections between cuisines because they’re all related and when you get an obvious crossover it’s fun to exploit that. Especially in London, which is a multicultural, mixed bag of cuisines.”
Frenchie, Henrietta Street – for upmarket French food
During his time at Fifteen restaurant, Greg Marchand was nicknamed ‘Frenchie’ by Jamie Oliver, and has so named his bistro in Paris after gaining further experience in New York, London and his hometown of Nantes, France. More recently, Greg has popped back over la Manche to bring his modern French cooking to Covent Garden in his new branch of Frenchie.
This chic, two-floor restaurant is an excellent fit in the buzzy West End, with set designer Emilie Bonaventure’s light, bright interiors, exposed brick walls, contemporary lighting and soft leather bench seating. Bag a soft grey bar stool at the impressive, marble-topped bar and be entertained by Rudi Carraro’s impressive cocktail skills – look up to catch this mixologist, formerly of the Artesian, pouring steady streams of spirits, bitters and syrups from a staggering height.
We try Once Upon a Time No.2 – a refreshing mix of Ketel One vodka, Mirabelle plum and citrus with a foamy top; and lightly-sparkling Ms. Bubbles, an elegant glass of silky-sweet Tagliatella (aromatic cherry brandy), hazelnut and champagne...
J Sheekey – for seafood in an iconic setting
Dating from 1896, J Sheekey is located in the heart of West End theatreland so it comes as no surprise that the walls are adorned with portraits of celebrity clientele in the four interconnecting dining rooms. Both the restaurant and its adjacent oyster bar serve an impressive choice of oysters and crustaceans, but the famous Sheekey’s fish pie, and monkfish and tiger prawn tikka masala remain firm favourites with the regulars.
Fabrique Bakery, Earlham Street – for cinnamon buns
Whether cinnamon or cardamom is your bun of choice, Fabrique Bakery is a great place to enjoy a spot of fika. This Swedish stone-oven bakery has brought the concept to London, plying in-the-know citizens with squidgy buns and sourdough fresh from the oven.
Barbary, Neal's Yard – for counter-dining
Specialising in grilling and baking from the Barbary Coast to Jerusalem, the menu is divided into baking and grinding, land, sea and earth – and you’ve got a prime view over everything as it is cooked (seating is arranged around a horseshoe-breakfast bar facing the open galley kitchen).
Order something from at least every section, and a special if you can manage it. Start with a Jerusalem bagel, a still-warm soft and chewy giant zero-shape, crusted with sesame seeds, and served with a pinch of aromatic za’atar. Roasted aubergine ‘sharabik’ is a smoking melting mouthful of tahini, sweet/sour molasses, toasted almonds and fresh raspberries. Pata negra neck is like no pork we’ve ever tasted – rich, buttery, more like a heavyweight Galician beef in its umami punch.
Knafeh for pud, is crisp, savoury and sweet, with its pistachio crumble hiding angel noodles and melty cheese beneath, but it was the halva ice cream that stole our heart. Elegant, grown-up and yet very, very naughty in the best kind of way.
Cora Pearl, Henrietta Street – for modern British small plates
In a nutshell: Cora Pearl brings modern British plates with Parisian accents to Covent Garden. Dishes are simple but impeccably executed, using beautiful ingredients. The kitchen’s way with vegetables especially impressed; creamy goat’s curd, in a generous pool of grassy olive oil, came with lovage and perfectly seasoned tomatoes (click here for more goat's curd recipes). After this came soft, yielding agnolotti filled with more curd – cow’s this time – on a velvety pea purée, with perfectly pitched earthiness from summer truffle. Best of all was a deeply savoury and surprisingly rich main of courgettes – pickled, puréed and charred –with aubergine, black garlic (roasted whole and as a gel) and Ticklemore cheese. Dessert, as per the rest of the menu, was expertly crafted, our poached peach lusciously rich, paired with an intensely flavoured yet delicate earl grey sorbet.
The Ivy, West Street – for a London institution
The Ivy has been a London institution for over a century but in all that time, it has never welcomed guests for breakfast. Until now, as executive chef Gary Lee and his team have broken with tradition and created a menu that allows you to kick-start your day in style.
Din Tai Fung, Henrietta Street – for dumplings
A restaurant with a legacy for seriously good xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings), Din Tai Fung evolved from half a Taiwanese store in the 70s to a global brand with a cult following and more than 150 restaurants in Asia, Australia and the US today. The latest outpost, its first branch in Europe, is on the edge of Covent Garden, on Henrietta Street.
We’re here for the xiao long bao. The heavy, liquid-filled pouches of umami goodness are very special: the pork and crab version all the better for the rich, iodine tang of the shellfish encased within silky, supple dough.
Sushisamba, The Market Building – for impressive entertaining
A lively rooftop restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden serving inventive Nikkei dishes that fuse Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines. This is Sushisamba’s fifth opening – there’s another on Liverpool Street, plus venues further afield in Amsterdam (read our guide to the best places to eat and drink in Amsterdam here), Miami and Las Vegas.
The Henrietta Hotel, Henrietta Street – for foodie sleepovers
The Henrietta Hotel, from the Experimental Group (Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Experimental Cocktail Club, Joyeux Bordel), makes a great spot to sleep, eat and drink in the heart of Covent Garden.
The Petersham, Floral Street – for seasonal dishes
This is the second restaurant from reputable Petersham Nurseries in leafy Richmond. A peaceful haven in Covent Garden, ideal for a celebratory treat. An expansive flower-covered courtyard is peppered with rustic iron table and chairs, while the impressive restaurant space is decorated with grand chandeliers, antique mirrors and contemporary artworks. Palm trees and ornate vases of flowers brings a colourful sense of the outdoors.
The menu focusses on dishes that combine Italian produce along with locally sourced ingredients. Fish and meat play a large part along with seasonal vegetables. We loved the appetisers of crisp buttery pastry tarts filled with smooth pea purée and quinoa that came alongside bowls of fresh heritage radishes served with a creamy crab dip. A fresh salad of subtle Portland crab and thinly shaved fennel followed, alongside slightly too al dente parcels of pasta filled with creamy ricotta di bufala, nettles and citrusy marjoram and came soaked in a rich butter sauce.
For main, order the juicy roast Haye Farm chicken with creamy Mayan Gold potatoes, salty, earthy chunks of mushrooms and pungent wild garlic for a main, but be sure to leave room for exceptional desserts. We loved the quenelles of smooth Original Beans chocolate ganache and rich, grassy Zisola olive oil ice cream sit side by side, surrounded by chunks of chewy honeycomb and shards of slightly bitter chocolate. Or, for a light dessert, order the baked vanilla cheesecake with sweet chunks of poached rhubarb, or a bowl of refreshing, toasty hazelnut sorbet.
The all-Italian wine list, split into reds, whites and rosés, can be easily decoded by the enthusiastic sommeliers – the suggested Fonterutoli chianti classic with warm plum notes worked well with the meaty main course. Visit the well-stocked on-site cellar after your meal to buy your favourite bottles.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Neal's Yard – for wine
Sommelier Julia Oudill used to work in three-Michelin-star French restaurants where the service made guests squirm. Opening, decanting and pouring wine was a hushed ceremony, during which, she says: ‘nobody breathed.’
The vibe at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a chic Neal’s Yard bolt-hole where Julia is now general manager, couldn’t be more different. ‘Whether the bottle is £30 or £3,000, I want to sit with the guests, open it and talk about the wine. We serve wines alongside great food, with hip hop on the sound system.’ Compagnie des Vins is determined to make wine appreciation fun and affordable. ‘Great wine,’ insists Julia, ‘doesn’t have to cost a month’s rent’...
Shoryu Ramen – for quick ramen
Part the noren (traditional Japanese fabric curtains) at Shoryu’s fifth ramen restaurant in buzzy Covent Garden and the friendly staff will shout “Irasshaimase!” (welcome in Japanese) from the white-tiled, sake-lined bar. Interiors are bold and play with angles – classic herringbone parquet timber flooring contrasts the brick walls and a curved wooden booth in one corner. Authentic Japanese touches filter all the way down to garlic cloves piled into pots on wooden tables so you can crush your own for extra welly.
Shoryu specialises in food from Hakata, a district of Fukuoka city in Western Japan. Think Hakata buns – the local version of the pillowy steamed bao buns that are on everyone’s lips at the moment, and most importantly eight varieties of tonkotsu ramen. Shoryu gives this comforting and rich 12-hour pork bone broth a lighter, cleaner consistency with added miso and serves over thin, springy noodles. Plenty of Japanese lagers and craft beers line the bar, or opt for a sake flight.
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