Hattie Lloyd 14/08/23
Out of all of the guides to the buzzing Soho restaurant scene that you’re reading right now, this is – with only a shadow of a doubt – the very best one.
Reality Check #1 – These are just our opinions.
Reality Check #2 – Elvis is alive dead.
Soho has long held the mantle as one of London’s buzziest restaurant neighbourhoods. Since the area’s seedy side subsided, Soho’s close-knit Georgian streets have come to house kitchens hawking all kinds of cuisines, from the traditional Italian delis and espresso bars that first appeared in the 1950s to Michelin-starred tapas and critically acclaimed Iranian.
Kindly peruse our top picks for Soho restaurants, and if you have any feelings on what should be added or removed to our list, just let us know by tagging @TheNudgeLondon on social.
Mountain | Hot right now
Following on from Brat was always going to be a tough mountain to climb. Imagine, then, on top of that, you’ve got to take over a space on Beak Street that used to be Byron Burger… only Tomos Parry could be up to the task, unveiling his sophomore restaurant in a beautiful two-floor set-up with pale wood furnishings, a broody downstairs bar and a frenetic open kitchen. Strap yourself in for a lesson in high-quality produce cooked over the coals; pink bream scorched on a plancha grills and Anglesey lobster caldereta, a traditional Menorcan stew-like dish that’s carried to you straight from the grill in steaming ceramic pots.
Detail: Hardy House, 16-18 Beak St, W1F 9RD | Book here
Darjeeling Express | Cult Homestyle Indian
Remember Darjeeling Express? Not the Wes Anderson movie (that was The Darjeeling Limited), but the Indian restaurant in Kingly Court that was nigh on impossible to get a seat in due to self-taught chef Asma Khan’s wonderful food, her subsequent TV fame (she was on Netflix’s Chef’s Table) and because, well, it was a bit small… Now after a five year venue search and short stint in Covent Garden, Khan is back in Kingly Court, with much more space to work with (including an open kitchen), her returning cast of female chefs and her legendary family recipes, like Bengali goat curry and beef tamatar gosht.
Detail: Kingly Court, Carnaby, W1B 5PW | Book here
Firebird | Open Fire Mastery
Firebird was one of the hottest new restaurant openings of summer 2022. It’s a 46-seater Mediterranean restaurant and wine bar dedicated to the open-fire cooking synonymous with Southern Europe, where nothing eludes the charcoal and wood grills without being blessed by flames. Tiger prawns; hand-dived scallops; monkfish; and charred peaches with ricotta come alongside a tight list of low-intervention wines and inspired cocktails, both of which are hot property too.
Details: 29 Poland Street, W1F 8QR | Book here
Paradise | Cutting-edge Sri Lankan
Promising to take your date to Paradise: punchy. But this smart, industrially-styled Soho restaurant always hits the mark, with warming, deeply aromatic Sri Lankan dishes served in cool, concrete surroundings.
Details: 61 Rupert Street, W1D 7PW | Book here, but they also keep back places for walk-ins
Kiln | Roadside Thai
Roadside eateries. They’re pretty middle-of-the-road. Not so, however, in Thailand where highway-adjacent restaurants are actually somewhat amazing; and which have inspired Soho’s Kiln, from the talented team behind Thai grill house Smoking Goat. In this dark, close-packed den pull up a seat at the sleek steel counter, behind which the team rustle up dishes like roast suckling pig, and fattened lamb skewers with Szechuan peppers.
Details: 58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL | Book here for downstairs only (non-counter dining)
Ducksoup | Natural Wine & Small Plates
A natural wine bar and small plates restaurant whose menu varies with the seasons – meaning you can visit four times a month and never have the same thing twice. The soundtrack’s provided by an old record player – browse their growing vinyl collection, and set your own mood.
Details: 41 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 4PY | Book here
Rita’s | Margaritas & Comfort Food
Gabe Pryce and Missy Flynn have, some way or another, been keeping Londoners happy since 2012. They did it with their late night Hackney bolthole, and their sandwich bodegas. And now they’re doing it in a grown-up, bricks and mortar spot on Soho’s Lexington Street. The interiors are pared-back – white walls, simple furnishings, some noughties LED backlighting the bar – but the food comes at you full throttle, packing heat, butter and umami into the diner-with-a-twist menu.
Details: 49 Lexington Street, Soho, W1F 9AP | Book here
Lina Stores Soho | Hand-made pasta
After 75 years, Brewer Street’s iconic mint-green Italian deli decided to branch out. Now with five restaurants across the capital (and counting), this Soho restaurant was the first Lina Stores outpost. And it’s as good as it looks: fresh pasta is made on-site daily and whipped into shareable plates alongside antipasti and spritzes. Take a stool up at the counter, or for a more intimate meal head downstairs into the whitewashed, low-lit, brick-walled cellar…
Details: 51 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4EH | Book here
Kricket Soho | Anglo-Indian Small Plates
Seasonal British ingredients get powered up with Indian flavour at this iconic Soho restaurant from Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell. Kricket’s creative mash-up of cuisines has now led to two more restaurants across London, where Bowlby brings his experience from working in high-end Mumbai hotels to create innovative dishes like samphire pakoras, Keralan fried chicken and Coronation smoked mackerel. Slip next door to their new cocktail bar Soma for a nightcap spiked with jaggery or masala spice.
Details: 12 Denman Street, W1D 7HH | Book here
Wun’s Tea Room & Bar | Cinematic Hong Kong Homage
Wun’s has the feel of a place plucked right out of one Wong Kar-wai’s evocative movies, with its neon downstairs bar and antique Canton furnishings that hark back to mid-century Hong Kong. The newspaper menu will have you umm-ing and ahh-ing between everything from crispy duck leg to clay pot rice, however if you have to go for just one thing, let it be the Iberico char sui pork with spiced sugar skin – melt-in-your-mouth pork with a snappable caramelised crust, washed down by a Pandan & Lychee cocktail (shaking up lychee soda with pandan syrup and a shot of coconut infused baijiu).
Details: 23 Greek Street, W1D 4DZ | Book here
Evelyn’s Table | Intimate Chef’s Table
Yes, this list is packed with Soho restaurants that have buzzy, counter seating. But if you’re after a really special experience, head to Evelyn’s Table. Housed in the basement of the stylish Blue Posts pub on Rupert Street in Chinatown, it’s a chef’s table with room for only a dozen diners. Dabbous protégé Luke Selby, with the help of his younger brothers Nat and Theo, has just won the place a Michelin star, serving up an ever-changing five-course menu with French and Japanese influences…
Details: 28 Rupert Street, Soho, W1D 6DJ | Book here (reservations released each Monday at noon)
Sucre | Glamorous Argentinian
From Buenos Aires with love: the original Sucre has been collecting accolades for the past two decades, and now it’s sweetening up the former Royal College of Music building. And if that sounds grand, it is: Sucre Soho has been kitted out with mirrors, parquet flooring, and chandeliers that have each been handcrafted using over a thousand glass decanters, making it one of the most outrageously glamorous restaurants in Soho. The Argentinian menu is rattled off from a wood-fired oven and open fire pit, while downstairs you’ll find Alma, a seductive cocktail bar with live music…
Details: 47 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7JP | Book here
Bubala Soho | First-Class Vegetarian
Welcoming, unpretentious, and thrumming with flavour, Bubala has joined the god tier of Soho restaurants. The kitchen is headed up by chef Helen Graham, who manned the pans at such titans as The Palomar & The Barbary before launching Bubala Spitalfields. Here she puts together an all-vegetarian (or all-vegan if you prefer) menu of Middle Eastern goods. Highlights are tough to narrow down, frankly, because there are just too many. From cloud-like laffa flatbreads, to silky burnt butter hummus, to fried halloumi bathed in black honey, to the extraordinary potato latkes, with their mille-feuilles-like folds… it’s all a highlight.
Details: 15 Poland Street, W1F 8PR | Book here
Koya | Warming Udon Bowls
Koya Soho could have been airlifted right out of Tokyo and plonked down in London. It’s a small, bustling counter dining restaurant specialising in bowls of udon noodles, freshly made the traditional way each morning and lavished with umami-rich broth and a variety of ingredients (including their famous take on the Full English, with bacon and egg floating in a bath of noodles). Try one of the daily specials off the blackboard, order a bottle of sake and enjoy a little time out of London.
Details: 50 Frith Street, London W1D 4SQ | Walk-ins only
Copita | Elbow-to-elbow Tapas
Every night this Spanish restaurant gets a standing ovation. Mainly because people are standing to eat and drink at the bar, but if they could also clap without it being weird, they probably would. Here, dishes stray from the beaten tapas path, with numbers like sherry-braised pig cheeks, and rosemary ice cream with apricot crumble.
Details: 27 D’Arblay Street, W1F 8EP | Book here
Speedboat Bar | Rowdy Thai Dining
Who else but Luke Farrell (also behind Arcade’s Plaza Khao Gaeng) to bless us with one of the best Thai restaurants in London. With Speedboat Bar, he’s given a teaser to what life is like in Bangkok’s Chinatown… in Soho’s Chinatown. Woks rule the kitchen sizzling charred Lo rice noodles tossed with seafood and chillies; crispy pork with long pepper & green ash melon; and minced pork with holy basil – with other menu standouts including the signature tom yum mama soup and the 7-11 convenience store-inspired pineapple pie with taro ice cream. Talking about the drinks would be opening a whole new can of worms, so we’ll leave it at snakeblood negronis (and that Speedboat Bar stays open until 1am on weekends).
Address: 30 Rupert Street, W1D 6DL | Book here
Imad’s Syrian Kitchen | ££
Imad Alarnab was one of the most prominent restaurateurs in Damascus before he was forced to flee the conflict. After he made it to the UK, he opened a pop up restaurant and donated all the proceeds to charity. Now that pop-up’s allowed him to open a bricks and mortar restaurant again, and it’s brilliant. The cult following isn’t just down to the dishes (which are all absolutely delicious), but the warmth and love with which they’re served.
Details: 2.14 Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby St, W1B 5PW | Book here
Zahter | Exquisite Turkish Mezze
After stints at Ottolenghi Spitalfields and in the kitchens of Soho House Istanbul, chef Esra Muslu has brought her ‘Istanbulite’ cooking to Zahter, a three-storey restaurant in Soho’s Carnaby where she plates up the likes of smoked aubergine with fried chilli and mezze dishes with homemade dukkah. It’s all set in a three-storey former warehouse, with huge windows for watching Soho go by, and a sleek dining counter facing a roaring, wood-burning oven.
Details: 30-32 Foubert’s Place, Carnaby, W1F 7PS | Book here
Barrafina Dean Street | Michelin-Starred Tapas
Barrafina on Dean Street is London’s original home for Michelin-starred tapas plates, like shining gambas rojas and Txistorra sausage tortilla – all of which you can watch being prepared before your eyes from your perch at the marble-striped dining counter.
Details: 26-27 Dean Street, W1D 3LL | Walk-in only
Quo Vadis | A Soho Institution
Right next door is Barrafina’s sibling and Soho’s grande dame, a century old institution. Despite its historic credentials, Quo Vadis remains at the forefront of London’s dining scene thanks to inimitable head chef Jeremy Lee, who turns out elegant seasonal dishes, keeps the martinis flowing, and holds the entire restaurant in general good cheer. There are regular collaborative supper clubs with other London big-hitters (including an annual Burns Night party with F.K.A.B.A.M), and some lovely private dining rooms for celebratory shindigs.
Details: 26 – 29 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3LL | Book here
La Bodega Negra | Clandestine Mexican Spot
Of all the subterranean Mexican restaurants in Soho filled with a tequila-slinging bar and slick soundtrack hidden underneath what appears to be a classic Soho sex shop… La Bodega Negra is probably the best. Slink into a low-lit basement hacienda with mouthwatering tacos, unparalleled margaritas and intimate booth seating.
Details: 9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF | Make sure you book for the downstairs restaurant, not their café round the corner.
Café Boheme | Live Music & Parisian Charm
Café Boheme feels like a corner of 19th century Paris transplanted into a Soho restaurant. With al fresco tables, daily live jazz and a free glass of wine at lunchtime, this French eatery is the perfect hideaway for a little slice of la vie en rose, in London.
Details: 13 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JQ | Book here
The Palomar | Cult Counter Dining
The Palomar kick-started London’s hunger for counter-dining back in 2014, and remains not just one of the best restaurants in Soho, but the entire city. Enjoy Levantine dishes like grilled octopus steak with chickpea masabacha in a skylit, wood panelled room, or in the thick of the action at that counter.
Details: 34 Rupert Street, W1D 6DN | Book here
Noble Rot Soho | For Wine Worship
A lovely, low-lit corner of Soho acting as the second outpost of Bloomsbury’s exceptional wine bar and restaurant, Noble Rot. The Soho eatery is overseen by Stephen Harris (The Sportsman) and Alex Jackson (Sardine), and its accompanied by a wine list of epic proportions, hand-picked by Noble Rot’s founders (and wine writers, and wine importers) Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew.
Details: 2 Greek Street, W1D 4NB | Book here
Blacklock Soho | Subterranean Chop House
If you really want a taste of Old Soho, there comes a point where you just have to get yourself to a strip club. Preferably one which has been converted into a handsome Soho restaurant by three ex-Hawksmoor employees, serving up a huge variety of delicious chops and cocktails for under a tenner… like Blacklock.
Details: 24 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7LG | Book here
Neil Borthwick at The French House | French Finesse in a Pub
If you haven’t yet checked out the classic Soho institution The French House, trust us… it’s a-maison.
Especially now that critically lauded chef Neil Borthwick has taken the reins in the kitchen, serving up an elegant Anglo-Gallic menu that involves oysters, roast pork chops, and pillowy choux pastry for dessert…
Details: 49 Dean Street, W1D 5BG | Email [email protected]
Bob Bob Ricard Soho | All-Out Decadence
Yes, there’s a button for champagne. But what’s more important is the buttons Bob Bob Ricard will be pressing for you, thanks to its luxurious decor, cocktails and Anglo-Russian dishes like melt in-the-mouth roast cod with beetroot-filled potato dumplings.
Details: 1 Upper James Street, W1F 9DF | Book here
Where to next? Hit one of the best bars in Soho for a nightcap…
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