Depending on who you ask, Clerkenwell is notable for different things.
Historians? They might talk your head off about the prisons. Bookworms? They’ll tell you about Fagin and the Artful Dodger. Us? We’ll tell you about all of Clerkenwell’s ridiculously good restaurants…
There’s sushi that Japan would be jealous of, a pioneering nose-to-tail dining institution, great tapas, great tacos and an age-defying chophouse that’s been around for over 150 years.
So, here’s our collection of the best restaurants in Clerkenwell. Chop chop…
Securing one of the seven seats at this tiny sushi shrine (spot the green noren curtains) is almost a bigger hoopla than a flight to Tokyo, but if you do, it rivals any fish on rice you’ll find outside of Japan. There are two options; a la carte or omakase – both correct paths to take, with the head honcho Toro Takahashi tending to sea bream, cuttlefish, marinated eel and squid (whatever catch is best on the day) with the kind of painstaking attention to detail that you’d think he’s working on pieces of fine art… which he kind of is.
Details: 12 Jerusalem Passage, Finsbury, EC1V 4JP | Reservations at Sushi Tetsu are taken over the phone only (020 3217 0090) on the first and third Monday of each month from 11am – 4pm for the following month’s reservations. You also keep a close eye on their Twitter for any cancellations (good luck).
Sessions Art Club
Sessions Art Club’s former grade II-listed courthouse digs was just as popular in the interior design mags as it was in the food and drink world when it opened last year. You don’t just come here to admire the walls though (even if they sure are pretty); it’s one of best restaurants in Clerkenwell thanks to chef Florence Knight’s (of Polpetto fame) masterclass on ingredient-driven dishes that have included the likes of hake, purslane and chilli or clam and turnip-top orecchiette depending seasons.
Details: The Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0NA | Book HERE
Still going strong in the same bacon smokehouse building that it moved into way back in October 1994, St. John is the first of its kind with a philosophy grounded in British meat, gourmet donuts and nose-to-tail dining (where everything on the animal is a go; here translated to devilled kidneys and peas and lamb tongue with chicory and anchovy). It’s since spawned multiple spin-offs around London, including a bakery, but here in Clerkenwell is where the dynasty all began. It’s tightly held onto a Michelin star for over a decade, and rightfully so, for its offal-led menu – a completely new one printed each day – where most of the stock comes from the iconic Smithfield Markets across the road.
Details: 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY | Book HERE
Moro’s lively younger sibling in Exmouth Market, Morito, comes with strong am I in England or España? connotations, especially if you’ve just plundered the bar for their lengthy list of sherries and Spanish wines. This pint-sized tapas bar ain’t a place to swing by – rather – it’s where you park yourself at the bright orange counter and order an unrealistic amount of tapas until you’re politely told they’re wrapping things up (around 11pm). Share if you dare (or take the greedy guts tag on the chin) and get down with salt cod croquettes, sweet onion tortillas, beet borani and boquerones laced with a thyme and orange zest… and try to squeeze in some of that Malaga raisin ice cream too.
Details: 32 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE | Book HERE (note they only do walk-ins for the outside tables).
The Quality Chophouse blew out the candles for its 150th birthday in 2019 and today, it’s never looked younger. Once a canteen for the working class, now one of the best restaurants in Clerkenwell, the rustic dining room has grade II-listed status and the *ahem* quality of meat you enjoy here (Hereford sirloin, Aberdeen angus) certainly does the name justice. The a la carte menu that changes every day is also cracker, and excitement levels always reach fever pitch when impeccably-done British dishes along the lines of Dorset venison tartare and brown crab rarebit with crème fraîche and black pepper hit the table.
Details: 88-94 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA | Book HERE
A quick glass of wine? Don’t do it to yourself, it’s just not gonna happen here. Have a scan of the warmly-lit dining room – stocked with shelves of wine bottles and delicious, independent produce – and you’ll understand why. It’s Quality Chophouse’s wine-swirling neighbour (steered by the same team), so no surprises that they look after the food with as much care as the vino; egg yolk pappardelle with rabbit ragu and parmesan; lobster spaghetti and pig fat cannoli have all been seen scribbled up on blackboard at different points in time as the menu changes on a weekly basis. Group visits are optimal so you can take down the whole thing in one go – and then discuss afterwards which small plate was the best over a glass, or ten…
Details: 88 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3EA | Book HERE
Street food heroes Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney moved on up in the world when they got their own permanent taco gaff in Clerkenwell, kitting it out with a Mexican volcanic stone mill for the tortillas (as you do…). The tacos are a product of the duo’s tough journey taste-tasting their way around Mexico and America, which has led to variations like a queso birria number stuffed with slow-roasted beef shin, bone marrow and short rib. If you can drag yourself away from their taco brilliance, sturdy sides such as the sashimi-grade tuna tostada leave a lasting impression too.
Details: 82 Goswell Road, EC1V 7DB | Book HERE
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar
Berber & Q’s Exmouth Market follow-up plays a pretty important role in society: serving up arguably the best shawarma in town. The huge hunks of spit-roasted meat that you see turning from the open-kitchen are its prized possessions where glistening racks of slow-roast lamb and harissa chicken are shaved off and readied for action in grilled pitas, rice bowls or sharing plates. Although meat has a domineering presence here, don’t overlook the veggie options either; the cauliflower shawarma and mezze (Iraqi hummus and roasted aubergine, for your interest) more hold their own. A wicked list of heady cocktails and an unfinished (in the cool kind of way) interior also have date night written all over it.
Details: 46 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE | Book HERE
In spite of Polpo’s immense popularity, Russell Norman proved he’s still a humble guy when he named his take on a Tuscan trattoria, in plain English, ‘ugly but good’. Found in the heart of Farringdon, it’s a room of red-chequered tablecloths (and a divisive graphic mural) where the restaurateur’s ode to Florentine food includes t-bones steak, penne con vodka pasta, tagliatelle al ragu and a hearty rabbit pappardelle. Added bonus: The pastas are brought to your table with a separate bowl of freshly-shaved parmesan, so you can adjust the cheese levels to your liking.
Details: 36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross St, EC1M 6BN | Book HERE
Le Café Du Marché
A fixture since 1986, this timeless family-run restaurant has gone beyond in mission to be as elegantly French as possible. It’s concealed down a cobbled alleyway, vintage posters adorn the walls, the tables are candle-lit and the wine list fast tracks you to all the major regions. The handwritten food menu is rife with rich, bistro classics from our neighbours across the Channel; côte de boeuf with sauce béarnaise, cheese boards and ham terrine with foie gras, to give you a gist. It’s also one of the best restaurants in Clerkenwell for romance, not just for its Frenchness, but because musicians serenade you with live jazz while you dine.
Details: 22 Charterhouse Square, Charterhouse Mews, EC1M 6DX | Book HERE
Granger & Co.
The egg master of Sydney. That’s the kind of standard you’re working with at Granger & Co. – it’s the formidable nickname owner Bill Granger was given when he lived in Oz. This breezy Clerkenwell branch is his London first (there’s others in Chelsea and Notting Hill) and it’s easy to see why he’s such a smash hit with the brunch contingent: perfectly-done eggs over sourdough is the big needle-mover here, though the ricotta hotcakes, drizzled in honeycomb, closely nip at its heels. A sunny window-side table, power smoothie and one of those breakfast dishes is the ideal way to get a bit of Aussie café culture in you.
Details: 50 Sekforde Street, EC1R 0HA | Book HERE
Fancy venturing a bit further afield? Check out our guide to the best Islington restaurants
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