Here are our favourite Soho restaurants. The best foodie spots include Neil Rankin’s barbecue restaurant Temper, afternoon tea at The Ham Yard Hotel, sticky pork buns at Bao and champagne at the press of a button at Bob Bob Ricard. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in Soho from Brewer Street to St Anne’s Court, from Old Compton Street to Chinatown (here are the best restaurants in Chinatown).
First up, here are our top ten best places to eat and drink in Soho (not in order)…
Fifties-style Italian café-bar Bar Termini is known for its pre-bottled negronis, but pop in during the day to sip an espresso at the marble-topped counter or recline on a green-leather banquette with a bicerin espresso, stirred up with thick chocolate and foamed milk. Read our full review of Bar Termini here…
Breakfasts at Dishoom, the small chain of Bombay-café-inspired restaurants, have won a cult following. Not least for the bacon naan rolls – crisp bacon wrapped in tandoor-charred naan with a dollop of chilli tomato jam and cream cheese. Pair with a breakfast lassi or house chai. Here are our favourite Indian restaurants in London.
Pretty Italian deli Lina Stores has been a destination for local foodies since 1944. The mint-tiled corner store is packed with anything from metre-long pasta frills to pretty bottles of passata – perfect for stocking fillers. There’s also a fresh pasta bar and a counter piled high with ’nduja, finocchiona and gorgonzola. Read our full review of Lina Stores here.
Street Food Union Market
Fuel up on the run at Street Food Union market. We’re particular fans of Slingin Po Boys’ Louisiana-style sub rolls stuffed with blackened shrimp, and the epic roast-dinner-filled Yorkshire pudding wraps from Yorkshire Burrito. streetfoodunion.com
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.
For a post-shopping drink or two, head to wine bar and restaurant Duck Soup. It’s pared-back but cosy, and super friendly. Its range of natural and biodynamic wines, served by the glass, changes weekly, as does the short menu of European dishes chalked up on a board. You can even browse the in-house vinyl collection and choose your own soundtrack. ducksoupsoho.co.uk
Chinatown is full of great dim sum options, but our pick is XU, where stylish interiors hint at 1930s Taipei. We love the punchy starters on the evening menu (XO carabinero prawns, short-rib beef pancakes, crisp chicken wings), but it’s great for afternoon tea too. Enjoy a Taiwanese tea ceremony at a green lacquered tea kiosk with a round of sweet potato taro dumplings. Or try a steamed brown- sugar sponge cake. xulondon.com
Go for the ‘all in’ option at cool and casual restaurant Blacklock and you’ll be faced with pre-chop bites (duck rillettes, kimchi, pickle) followed by huge sharing platters of skinny chops (including short rib beef, lamb cutlets and pork loin) plus chargrilled flatbreads to soak up the juices. The £5 cocktails are fab, too. theblacklock.com
From the team behind Nightjar and Oriole, Swift is a classy spot that covers all your cocktail needs. Stand at the slick upstairs bar for a pre-theatre aperitivo (we love the refreshing lemon sorbet, prosecco and Italicus sgroppino) or sink into a sofa in the basement for your whisky of choice from an extensive list. @barswift
Duck through the curtains at Koya Bar and you’re transported straight to Tokyo. A wooden counter spans the narrow space: punters huddle over bowls of springy udon noodles on one side, while chefs add eggs to breakfast bowls, and slip noodles, prawn tempura, tofu and miso pork into hot broth on the other. koyabar.co.uk
Here are some of our other favourite restaurants in Soho…
Pho & Bun
Hidden bang in Central London between the lanterns of China Town and Shaftesbury Avenue’s chain restaurants teaming with pre-theatre goers, Pho & Bun is taking the bao bun to the next level with Vietnamese bao burgers (we’re betting that this is the next big food trend). Already a staple amongst Berlin’s hipsters, these revolutionary burgers are new to London, and an exciting addition to owner Andy Le’s new outpost of popular street food joint Viet Eat, Holborn.
Indian food gets a stylish makeover in hidden gem tucked away amongst theatreland.
Pre-starters of Corn chaat golgappa were a little marvel. Tiny crisp puri cups filled with a spicy chickpea mix came with a small jug of tamarind chutney. We were instructed to pour in the chutney then immediately snaffle a whole one to avoid any messiness.
From the starters menu the Goat cutlet and yellow peas was like posh comfort food. The cutlet (actually more of a croquette) was meltingly tender goat mixed with onions, spices and potatoes then crumbed and deep-fried. Another winner was the paneer kebab which had been ingeniously stuffed with chickpea masala and sundried tomato before grilling. The Chicken bemisaal was more of a conventional curry, although the fenugreek-scented tomato sauce was more refined than the usual.
At Ikoyi, Iré Hassan-Odukale and Jeremy Chan are on a mission to give the flavours and ingredients of West Africa a slick, fine-dining polish. The Manx Loaghton rib is probably the best lamb I’ve ever eaten, with a rich, deeply savoury flavour that’s perfectly balanced by a fiery chilli and pepper relish. The jollof rice was lick-your-plate-clean delicious, the smoked bone marrow meatily perfuming the air around us.
Chef Stevie Parle’s latest venture brings handmade pasta and affordable wines to Soho. The agnoli was a triumph of pared-back cooking; perfectly cooked and crafted pasta, a generous game filling and a seriously moreish sage-butter sauce.
After the success of their first site in Stoke Newington, The Good Egg crowd-funded to their second site in Soho’s Kingly Court. This café-cum-restaurant, inspired by the Jewish café-culture of Montreal, serves all-day brunch Monday to Sunday. Take a seat on one of the dark-teal wooden chairs and watch chefs at work behind the metal counter. Walls are covered in jars of pickles and bottles of wine and blackboards list names of the meat, fish and veg producers that feature on the menu.
Ben Chapman’s latest outpost has all the ingredients for yet another frustratingly brilliant Soho restaurant – small, no-reservation policy, sterling reviews. But, it’s worth any queue. Grab a spot at the pass, where the flames of the charcoal fires will keep you as warm as the spices from the confidently succinct, regional Thai menu. As well as delivering on atmosphere, Kiln actually offers the lesser-known and ever rarer phenomenon of good value in London. Aged lamb skewers, delicately fragrant with cumin and Szechuan pepper and cranked-up in flavour with the lick of those flames, are £2.90 for two. A delicious main of clay-pot baked glass noodles with Tamworth pork belly and brown crabmeat, which comes with an intense, zingy herb dip on the side, is only £5.75.
We’re warned about the heat of the roasted long pepper and Tamworth pork shoulder curry but its tingle was just the right side of numbing, mellow and spicy sweet. Wild mushroom salad seasoned with soy and lime, inspired by the region of Isaan, in the northeast of Thailand, was precisely the sort of plate that the term umami was coined for. One of the top openings of the year.
Bob Bob Ricard is a Russian-inspired restaurant in Soho that exudes luxury, with ornate interiors loosely based on the Orient Express (train-carriage style booths, brass rails and coat racks), slick service and iconic ‘press for Champagne’ buttons. It’s all about excess, with hearty portions, theatrical presentation and copious amounts of fizz.
The menu focuses on English classics, with Russian influences highlighted in pink (think plenty of truffle, vodka and caviar). If there’s any way to begin a Russian-inspired meal, it’s with a shot of -18 degree vodka. Served in a tiny goblet made from cut glass, this shot has the purpose of cleansing your palate and opening up the taste buds before beginning your meal.
To start, a round of oysters baked with parmesan and black truffle, or traditional truffled potato dumplings served with crispy onions and firm and springy and nutty shimeji mushrooms. Beetroot and goat’s cheese gateau was a stunning little stack of layered golden and deep purple beetroot and thick, creamy goat’s cheese, sprinkled with pea shoots and crunchy pecans.
Popular mains include hearty dishes such as chicken kiev and rich puff-pastry-topped fish pie with chunky pieces of smoked haddock, sole and cod. We ordered the beef wellington, which was presented to us as a latticed pastry sphere before being taken away and carved into thick slices. Perfectly pink 28-day aged Scotch beef fillet was wrapped in a layer of finely chopped porcini mushrooms and a thin pancake to soak up the juices with a golden crisp pastry case. A spoonful of silky truffled mash on the side made this particularly lavish.
‘Chocolate Glory’ was an instagram-worthy dessert. Hot chocolate sauce was poured over a gold sphere that opened up to reveal a soft chocolate Jivara mousse with brownie pieces, zingy berries and passion fruit and orange jelly. If you’re too full for all that chocolate, order the zesty trio of lime, lemon and pink grapefruit sorbets served with Platinum vodka.
Bao began life as a tiny bar in Hackney, selling pillowy soft ‘baos’ (steamed milk buns) stuffed with various fillings. Following its success, the team have now opened a restaurant in Soho. Husband and wife team, Shing Tat Chung and Erchen Chang, alongside Shing’s sister Wai Ting Chung are behind the venture, and it was the trio’s travels across Asia that inspired the menu.Their signature bao take centre stage – try classic braised pork and panko-crumbed daikon radish bao – but there’s also xiao chi (small eats) on offer. As for drinks, expect hot oolong and cold foam tea, plus cider, sake and whisky. It’s a cosy space with shelves lined with homemade pickles – including golden kimchi.
Blink and you’ll miss Neil Rankin’s new barbecue restaurant in London’s Soho. From ground level it looks like just another wine bar, but head underground and it’s a dark den of mezcal, smoke, meat and, er, Pickled Onion Monster Munch.
Temper is cavernous, with booths and tables filling every corner, but if you want a piece of the real action, grab a counter seat around the open kitchen where tacos are hand-pressed, flatbreads are blistered, and whole animals are butchered and roasted over glowing coals. It’s not for the squeamish but this waste-little, love-food attitude did it for us. (As did the surprisingly ergonomic bar stools and Irn Bru spritzes and mezcal negronis).
Named after the lacy, bowl-shaped pancakes that are a staple of Sri Lanka, Hoppers has quickly established itself as one of London’s hippest hangouts. As well as hoppers, the dosas are excellent, as are the starters, cocktails, mutton rolls and chicken lollipop chukkas (ie. everything is great).
Tucked away on a side street in London’s Soho, Bone Daddies is a buzzy new Japanese ramen bar. The name comes from the rich bone stock that forms the base of this classic dish, and unsurprisingly there isn’t anything in the way of veggie main courses. Bone Daddies is the first solo venture from Aussie chef Ross Shonhan, whose impressive CV includes being head chef of Zuma London, and Nobu in Dallas. Décor is simple, but with rock ‘n’ roll touches; tall wooden tables and stools and a classic rock soundtrack. The small menu is made up of eight starters and eight ramen dishes, and a drinks menu offers beer alongside sake cocktails.
Contemporary and cool, Kricket specialises in Indian small plates using local vegetables along with fish and meat sourced within the British Isles. Expect to queue at these no-reservations restaurants but dishes like samphire pakoras and Keralan fried chicken are more than worth the wait.
We have the recipe for Kricket’s kichri. Kedgeree as we know it was an adaptation of the original recipe for kichri, which consists of rice and lentils. You can use poached eggs rather than raw egg yolks, if you like.
Billy and the chicks
There is a new wave of restaurants serving one thing and doing it well. First it was burgers, then ramen, and now fried chicken. Friends Sam and Billy and their ‘chicks’ are all about old-school comfort food served in a simple way, and they do it rather well in their stripped-back restaurant.
The exposed brick walls and industrial lighting look may feel overdone to those that dine out regularly, but Billy and the Chicks manages to make its Soho fried chicken joint all about the food, the music and the culture. Owners and staff are incredibly down to earth – no ‘I’m too cool to serve you’ types – so you can relax for as long as you want on wooden benches and stools while a DJ spins hip hop, funk and soul on the turntables in the corner – our soundtrack for the night included N.E.R.D, Nelly and Tupac.
Our appetite for brunch isn’t waning, so when we got wind that Soho pop-up turned permanent restaurant Shackfuyu was launching its own brunch menu, we couldn’t get there fast enough.
It may look small from the outside, but Shackfuyu is surprisingly large with rows of wooden tables and round, racing-green leather booths through the front and high, communal tables against whitewashed brick towards the back. For us, though, the best seats in the house are at the window overlooking bustling Old Compton Street, or at the back where you can sit side-by-side and watch stylish waiters flit about.
We review afternoon tea at Ham Yard Hotel, Soho. Expect statement artwork and decor from designer and co-owner Kit Kemp and whacky twists on sweet savoury tea treats.
Ham Yard Hotel’s ethos matches its bold name; expect bags of character, typical of all Firmdale Hotels, from co-owner Kit Kemp’s bright and colourful interiors, with patterned textiles, unique finds such as reclaimed African prints and plenty of original artwork.
More Regency townhouse than restaurant, Gauthier’s swish exterior – shiny black door, sash windows and gold signage – doesn’t intend to intimidate; brave the doorbell and you’ll be greeted by a small team of polite, affable waiters who help make this dining experience one of the most relaxed in Soho.
L’escargot was big news in the 80s and is somewhat of a Soho institution but it’s sparkle faded over the years. Now, after a refurb and with a new brunch menu, it’s worth putting on your radar once again. The 280-year-old town house is also a member’s club, and it shows in this room: dark wood and comfortable, red velvet-covered chairs, it hasn’t lost the French bistro charm.
Best known for its homemade vermouth and superb squid ink gnocchi, Mele e Pere on Brewer Street has launched into the unknown with its first breakfast menu. It’s served on the ground floor, quite apart from the dining room downstairs, in a warm and cosy space decorated with gnarled wooden tables and a wall-to-wall display cabinet of beautiful Murano glass apples and pears.
It’s a relaxing place to be, sat on a comfy bar stool with a view of bustling Soho streets outside. Inside it’s quiet and calm – you’ll only hear the espresso machine, and maybe some soft Belle & Sebastian albums playing in the background. Start the day with a freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee from The Terrone Coffee Company – an olive favourite.
It’s time to wake up and smell the cheese, as they might say in the US. Melt Room has brought the ‘grilled’ (read ‘fried in butter’) cheese-stuffed sandwich to London’s Soho. Bustling Noel Street provides the perfect fast-paced setting for this grab-and-go cheese-fiend’s paradise, with a suitably cheesy-dairy feel to the décor – white and yellow tiles, yellow-aproned staff, and 10 chairs with buttery-yellow leather for those with multiple sandwiches to tackle.
There are even cheesy portraits – Scotty from Star Trek, Michael Bolton in full mullet and Jane Fonda lolling energetically in gym garb, her lycra-d legs aiming heavenward, and a soundtrack of 80’s cheese.
Step out of Carnaby Street’s busy shopping district into Jinjuu’s cool, moodily lit restaurant. Blue teel velvet booths hug exposed brick walls, a central wooden communal dining table is suspended from the ceiling with hefty chains, and giant dragon murals are painted onto concrete walls downstairs.
The Korean take on brunch kicks off with a feast of an anju sharing plates: little bowls of steamed edamame beans with a chilli panko mix sit alongside large steamed beef and pork mandoo dumplings, crispy Korean fried chicken wings and crisp prawn lollipops served with creamy gochujang mayo. Choose your main from the menu of meats cooked on an open grill served with kimchi, spicy ssam jang paste and white rice.
The hero dish is the Tong Dak chicken board – generous pieces of super crisp golden brown chicken with a punchy Asian slaw and zingy roasted corn salsa. We love the mini squeezy bottles of homemade soy sauce and ktown kourage.
Billed as a Cantonese pub, Duck & Rice opened last summer by Alan Yau and offers authentic Asian food in a slick, polished room. One of the most recent ventures from Alan Yau (the man behind Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Busaba Eathai, Wagamama and Park Chinois), its downstairs area is a casual space featuring tanks of beer that have been delivered direct from the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic.
The menu is long and features dishes such as roast duck, lobster Cantonese and probably the best prawn toast in London. As well as that tank-fresh pilsner (the perfect balance of hops and effervescence to cut through this style of cooking) and a great selection of craft beers (on draught and by the bottle) Duck & Rice ups the beer-drinking stakes with a list of five beer cocktails including a Beer Negroni and a Tank Old Fashioned. theduckandrice.com
Excellent regional Indian street food – thalis, grills, curries and biryanis – explains the success of Masala Zone, which now has seven restaurants dotted around the capital. Best-sellers include spicy squid bhaji and the ghee roast duck.
For a quick Nordic pitstop in the city centre you can’t go far wrong in either of these pared-back, wood-lined Scandinavian cafes. Their open rye sandwiches are the stuff of lunchtime legend but that doesn’t detract from their cinnamon buns in any way.
Part of the Salt Yard Group, Ember Yard in Soho serves Italian- and Spanish-inspired tapas and small plates using a bespoke, Basque-style grill and sustainable charcoal and wood from Kent, which gives a distinctive taste to dishes such as chargrilled Iberico presa with whipped jamon butter, and grilled octopus with broad beans, preserved lemon, pea and mint purée.
Head chef Brett Barnes says: “The char and the smoke working in unison are a magical combination that appeals to our most basic instincts.”. saltyardgroup.co.uk
In a nutshell: Baozilnn takes it culinary cues from all corners of China, from a roster of hearty northern street-food dishes to dim sum with Sichuanese and Hunanese accents.
What’s the vibe? Set over three floors, kitschy Mao-era propaganda posters adorn black walls, and diners sit on red leather chairs and benches. Service is brisk and efficient.
What’s the food like? Expect plenty of jiaozi (dumplings) on the menu, served plain, slathered with chilli sauce or floating in a broth, as well as lots of dim sum and grilled dishes, from meat and fish skewers to sea bream in XO sauce and red-braised pork.
Head chef Francis Law is a dim sum expert and this part of our meal proved to be the highlight. Watercress prawn dumplings – the pastry tinged bright yellow with turmeric – were delicately made, the peppery watercress matching the subtle astringency of the turmeric. Beetroot and prawn dumplings, prettily pink, were also well balanced, the earthiness of the vegetable a faint back note that didn’t overwhelm the crustacean. Our favourite, though, was a fat, pork-filled bao zi lurking in its own lake of spicy, deeply savoury hot and sour broth.
Chengdu dumplings were impeccable, silky and generously drizzled in chilli oil, while our skewers – cumin lamb and grilled king prawn – could have been a little more tender. Dan dan noodles lacked the requisite fiery heat.
And the drinks? There’s a quirky choice of beers on the menu (from Belgian to Chinese), a globe-trotting selection of wines and a selection of baijius, rice wines and sakes.
olive says…Visit at lunch for the dim sum, when the dishes are slightly cheaper.