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My Favourite London Places to Eat (my Top 10 London Restaurants, if you will)

I have a shortlist of must eat places that I visit every time I am back in town. Places that offer comfort, deliciousness and that make me feel right at home. Bowls of loveliness and pies of joy, spicy fabulous curries and fatty fabulous seekh kebabs. This is not a list of anything specific, like my favourite fine dining or cheap eats, but a list of the places that I think about when I travel and head straight for when I get back.

I always promise that I will share these, but I never do. (I don’t know why, I suspect it is because I find things like this a bit of a Sophie’s Choice). There are restaurants that I love that aren’t on here as they are more occasion type places for me (L’Anima, Racine & The Ledbury, for example). They are centred around Soho, and in South London where I live, but these are places that I travelled to before I lived here from the North and East and are destinations for me. I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise.

So, here you are, enjoy. I know you will love them as much as I do. I have eaten at each one many times. (Photos are random and are a mix of camera phones and random cameras – I will update with proper photos as I go).

Koya – the best udon in London, these are as good as any (and better than some) in Japan. Made fresh daily using the traditional 5 hour under-the-foot method, bonito is shaved fresh for the soup stock (which goes a little way to explaining the flavour and vibrancy). Everything is good here, and don’t ignore the specials. I recently had a divine udon with tempura hake, wild garlic and leek, and I just can’t stop thinking about. When ordering udon, be sure to order tanuki (crispy tempura bits) and onsen tamago (slow poached egg). Served cold may sound odd, but when cold they have terrific texture. I let the weather choose whether I go cold or hot. The drinks list has some lovely sakes, wine, beer and cider. I try to stick to sake when I go. When in Rome (or in London) etc.

Koya, 49 Frith St, London, Greater London W1D 4SG, United Kingdom, no reservations

José & Pizarro – I can’t mention one without the other, José and Pizarro are two restaurants owned by Spanish chef José (yes) Pizarro. José is a relaxed tapas and sherry bar on a street corner in Bermondsey, always full and with a brilliant atmosphere. All of the food is great but especially good are the tortilla, jamon, gazpacho and croquetas. With a glass of sherry, of course (the list is excellent). A 5 minute walk away sits the younger sibling, although it feels a little more mature. A touch more formal, although really not by very much, Pizarro serves a more structured menu and an excellent and great value Menu del Dia during the week.

José, 104 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3UB, United Kingdom, no reservations
Pizarro, 194 Bermondsey St, London Borough of Southwark, London SE1, United Kingdom

Prawns at Pizarro

Prawns at Pizarro

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar – Bone Daddies is fierce. It is the type of ramen that grabs you by the chops and wrestles you into submission. Big flavours, lots of heat, and rich broths, this is the real deal and is really considered. The tantanmen was my favourite until I became too weak or it became too hot. Now I favour the super rich and silky tonkotsu, and the kimchi tonkotsu when it is on special. With punchy kimchi, corn, and some fine grated parmesan, it hits every spot, even some that I didn’t know I had. Soft serve ice cream is a must. The flavours change daily, I have had the green tea and I hear that the black sesame is very good. There is a great sake list and this is where I focus my attention, although the Fever Tree ginger beer is pretty good too.

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, 31 Peter St, London, Greater London W1F 0AR, UK, no reservations

Bone Daddies Tonkotsu & Sake

Bone Daddies Tonkotsu & Sake

Lima – my favourite Peruvian food in London and great cocktails too. The ceviche (sea bream) is the best in town, as is the pisco sour. Braised tender octopus with bubbles of bitter rich olive and suckling pig with lentils are divine, and the chocolate with blue potato crystals – trust me – is a must. I need to go back and familiarise myself with the rest of the cocktail list, I rarely stray from the sours.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Pl, London W1T 1JH, United Kingdom

Octopus with olive and quinoa at Lima

Abbeville Kitchen – local to me, but worth the journey, Abbeville Kitchen is a perfect local restaurant. Modern British, I love to go with friends and order some of the food to share, from Desperate Dan style pies (my favourite was venison and pickled walnut) to rib of beef, chips and bearnaise to share. Starters are lovely too, the charcuterie is particularly good. House cocktails make a perfect aperitif and the wine list is very fairly priced and accessible.

Abbeville Kitchen, 47 Abbeville Rd, London SW4 9JX, United Kingdom

Trinity – great food, great wine, accessible prices. Possibly the best priced tasting menu in town. Chef Adam Byatt and his team make many delicious things, but their taramasalata is the best I have ever tasted and their signature trotter dish is divine. Wine matching is excellent, and the prices aren’t intimidating. I brought a friend last year and he goes back now all the time with anyone that he can find that hasn’t been there yet.

Trinity, 4 The Polygon London SW4 0JG, United Kingdom

Pig trotter on sourdough with sauce gribiche, crackling and quail egg at Trinity

Lahore Karahi –  a small and way too bright Pakistani restaurant tucked away in a corner of Tooting, the Lahore Karahi is one of my favourite curry houses in London. I started obsessing about the lamb chop masala, four tandoor lamb chops in a thick, rich lamb masala sauce. I would always have these with the lamb seekh kebabs, and the chicken and fenugreek ones. But then I discovered the haleem. Which is a divine concoction of 3 types of lentils and lamb, smooth as silk and rich as velvet. It is only available at the weekends which is just as well. The prices are brilliant, with main courses circling £7 or less. BYO & no corkage, treat yourself to a visit.

Lahore Karahi, 1 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SN, United Kingdom

Haleem at Lahore Karahi

Haleem at Lahore Karahi

Jen Café – I go here for the dumplings and the bubble tea in hungry moments in Chinatown. The dumplings are very simple, Beijing dumplings with pork, steamed and sometimes, if I am in the mood, fried. Always with a dipping sauce fashioned from the condiments on the table: black vinegar, (often a little too much) chilli oil, and a little soy sauce for sweetness, salt and balance. Never more than £10 and always satisfying. Althhough the staff can be quite rude, and they are inconsistent. (Update October 2013 – I now prefer to go to Leongs Legend Continues around the corner for the Xiao Long Bao, which are some of the best in London, and a cup of tea).

Jen Cafe, 4-8 Newport Place London WC2H 7JP

Fried Beijing dumplings and watermelon pearl juice at Jen Cafe

Fried Beijing dumplings and watermelon pearl juice at Jen Cafe

Gelupo – gelato and granita, in cups, cones or sourdough donuts, there is very little not to love at Gelupo. Blood orange granita is a must, although the recipes are seasonal so be sure to explore. Look beyond the counter to the fridge for some chocolate covered ice cream, ice cream cakes and bon bons. At one point the even sold (terrific) charcuterie from sister restaurant Bocca di Lupo across the road.

Gelupo, 7 Archer St, London, Greater London W1D 7AU

Chilli Cool – I am adding this at the end and slightly tentatively as I used to love it here but haven’t been in a bit so including it here is slightly risky. I do often think of returning for the firey grouper and tofu hotpot, smothered in chillies and spiky sichuan pepper corns, a piece of fish or tofu rescued from the oils beneath is delicious. I was first brought here by a friend of a friend from Chengdu who loves it and did all of the ordering. I have been hooked to Sichuan food since. I last brought a friend who was so shocked by how hot it was – despite my pleas for him to drink aloe vera juice to soothe his palate – that he insisted we leave half way through. If you like hot food, you will love it. I do.

Chilli Cool, 15 Leigh St, London WC1H 9EW

Chilli Cool - Grouper Hot Pot

Have you any favourites that you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments :)

Coming soon: more favourite London places, incl for fine dining, posh lunch, cheap eats, coffee, wine, brunch etc.

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

43 Comments

  1. So glad to see some of the great places we have in Clapham which had been a little lacking. If you haven’t tried The Rookery opposite The Windmill pub on Clapham Common, do give it a go. It’s excellent.

    Reply

    • Have been a few times and while I think it is usually a great local option, we didn’t have good food last time. Our bread with the coronation chicken was burned (black) on one side and still served, and the chips were cold. The pork belly was nice but served just warm. It is usually really good, but was very disappointing last time, so it doesn’t make this list I am afraid, just yet.

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  2. Interesting mix! Which reminds me… a few people have asked me to make a similar list!

    Have added Lahore Kahari to my “To Do List”. My last visit to Chilli Cool was a little underwhelming in terms of service but the food was good!

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    • Chilli Cool was never one for service but the food was always good :) Enjoy Lahore Karahi!

      (Jen Café service can be quite brusque too but the dumplings are good).

      Reply

  3. Compiling a list like this should be an annual challenge. It’s no mean feat, so fairplay to you for narrowing it down! Also delighted to see so many SW London places shining through. My add on would be Trinity’s sister Bistro Union, but then again, one could just keep adding to the list all day long. Nice one.

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    • I like Bistro Union but I prefer Abbeville Kitchen – hence including it here :)

      A list is all about limiting, unfortunately. I will keep this fresh and updated, as new places open and (sadly) standards slip sometimes.

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  4. Is it just me or are there no addresses on this otherwise excellent article? #mightbeblind

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  5. Hurrah! I wish more people would do this. Relying on the critics is hit and miss. People I trust is a much better idea. Visiting London along with a Holiday in another country can be one of our yearly our highlights. Getting the wrong restaurant/cafe/street food can be a real downer.
    Somewhere to visit in Chinatown at last, how many let downs have I had in Chinatown. Lahore Karahi looks like a must visit.
    I would put BahnMi11 on my list.
    I will read it properly later, rushing to work.
    Are you still coughing? 4 0f our family have it, mine is receding after a month, it’s not good, losing sleep/breath/voice/coughing fits.
    Get Well Soon. Fantastic post.

    Reply

    • Thanks :) I totally agree with that when away and Chinatown is hugely hit and miss. Mostly miss, really.

      Have had BahnMi11 a number of times. Last time it wasn’t as good, and that knocked it off the list. A shame!

      Over the cough now. Took 6 weeks so hopefully you should be better soon.

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  6. Totes agree with Lima – the ceviche blew my mind. I work in the big Experian building opposite Trinity but have somehow yet to eat there – it’s been on my hit list for some time. Lahore Karahi I tried once and was decidedly unimpressed with burnt chops, strange bhajis, too much oil and no lentils in the dansak. Incredible peshwari, but not enough to make me return yet. Perhaps I’ll give it another try. Tonkotsu is where I go for my ramen – must try your suggestions too.

    Reply

    • I have been to the Lahore Karahi many times and love it. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. You should really go back to try the (wonderful) haleem.

      I have been to Tonkotsu 3 times and it is good, but Bone Daddies ramen is superior IMO. I crave it. I love the fried chicken, gyoza and (take home) chilli oil at Tonkotsu though.

      Reply

  7. Chilli Cool is one of mine and my boyfriend’s favourite go-to places but when he went last week he said the service (which was never amazing) was so bad as to become a farce. Almost like the waiters were purposely trying to annoy them! I think they still liked the food though.

    Reply

    • Yes, that doesn’t surprise me. I had some of the worst service I have ever experienced at Red & Hot, another Sichuan restaurant near Chinatown a few years ago. They insisted on serving me mild, when I insisted on hot, they served me something like napalm and then sat at the next table – all of the waiting staff – and watched me eat it. I have been to China and really this was such a bizarre reaction to a request for the food as they would eat it. Politely too! GRRR. I haven’t been back since although I would like to try it properly. Perhaps those *insert expletives* are gone? :)

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      • Ha ha – my boyfriend and I often find ourselves disappointed by what various places claim is ‘spicy’, so maybe I should give this place a try, although being watched while I eat, never mind suffer third degree burns in my mouth isn’t something I’d relish!

  8. Great to get some super London finds..

    Some of my fav Dublin spots:
    Pichet-great food and super value for a more formal spot
    Neon-best Asian grub in Dublin, hands down-spring rolls are amaze!
    Juniors-best sambos and lovely buzz
    Ananda-sublime Indian flavours in a contemporary style

    Reply

  9. For me, I’d have (in no particular order) barrafina, Hereford road, cafe Anglais and polpo in there somewhere too but haven’t been in uk for over a year now. Great list – looking forward to trying some of them out next time I’m back!

    Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback! Cafe Anglais is super but more of an occasion place for me. Really like the others too – although have yet to visit Hereford Rd. However, as good as they are, my top 10 for comfort and deliciousness remains the same :)

      Reply

  10. Forgot to mention another Dublin fav although looking at the posts it all seems to be London based.
    The Sussex-good Irish fare in lovely surrounds.

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  11. What a great roundup, I will try some of your suggestions, Lima is next on my list! I recently went to Donostia and recommend it, a lovely tiny place, worthwhile!

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  12. Totally agree with Trrinity. Fabulous! IMO one of the most under-rated restaurants in London!

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  13. I’ve been to Gelupo and it’s really good but I recently went to Oddono’s in Little France (South Kensington) which confusingly is an Italian gelato shop. It’s really good and surprisingly cheap considering where it is.

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  14. Really enjoyed reading this. Lots of ideas for new places to try. Lahore Karahi is one of the best places I’ve eaten at too. I am salivating thinking about it now! I think you should have included Silk Road in Camberwell (very cheap, delicious, very different, spicy Chinese food from the Xingjiang region. Also Asmara on Coldharbour Lane (the Brixton end, but not in the Village) for fabulous plates of Eritrean specialties to share. It’s amazing, trust me! And the understated but lovely Etta’s Seafood Kitchen in Brixton Village is my favourite food place of all time.

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  15. Another beautiful village in Kent is Charing. The Oak, situated on the high street of this historic village is warm and friendly and full of character. Making guests feel welcome is priority here. Rooms are very stylish and with a fantastic restaurant and pub atmosphere in addition to cosy relaxing rooms, this is another great place to stay in Kent.

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  16. Do you have any great suggestions in north or north west London please?

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    • Many :) Depends on what you want and where. I have lived North & East and am reasonably familiar with West. I will be writing more lists soon, this is just a starting point.

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  17. Had (last night, before an excellent Public Image Gig at Shepherds Bush)lamb chop masala in Lahore Karahi , it was good but not in my top ten. Tooting has some places, I must go back and discover some more of this area. Had nice breakfast in Wahaca this morning, now I am back in Devon.

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    • Hallo! I love Lahore Karahi but haven’t been in about 3 months. Will re investigate. Tooting is a superb area for food. Worth another trip.

      Reply

  18. You article is really making me homesick for the food in London. I’ve moved to Poland with my wife, if we want top food we have to create it ourselves. We now raise our own pigs and sheep, grow our own vegetables, bake our own bread and looking to open a bakery, possibly a bistro in the future. Blogging about our food projects now after being inspired by your blog.

    Matthew

    Reply

  19. Pingback: Foodie’s Guide to London | Venere Travel Blog

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