Sometimes you want an elegant, low-key, supper à deux in a quiet, romantic restaurant.
And sometimes you want to wake up the next morning with patchy memories of singing karaoke in the basement of a Japanese chicken restaurant; a feast on a 114-year old Dutch barge moored outside the Olympic stadium; and a mysterious playing card in your wallet that can only have come from a poker game you ended up playing after pouring your own beers… with your own personal croupier.
What follows is very much a list of places for those times.
Moored up with a view of Hackney’s canals and the Olympic stadium, Barge East is – without a doubt – London’s best historic Dutch cargo barge for barnstorming below-deck banquets; cocktails; local beers; sun-drenched terraces; and private captain’s cabins with a direct phone-line to the bar. READ MORE
Details: River Lee Sweetwater Mooring, White Post Lane, E9 5EN
A maximalist Italian Trattoria serving ten-layer lasagne and carbonara mixed before your eyes in a wheel of pecorino cheese, alongside outlandishly creative cocktails, available until 2am. READ MORE.
Details: 54-56 Great Eastern St, Shoreditch, EC2A 3QR
Little Blue Door
A night at the Little Blue Door is like going to your best friends’ house party. Except with resident DJs, piano-bolstered singalongs, frozen cocktail stations, party games, emoji menus, retro gaming aaand three-course dinner parties. And better houseplants. READ MORE
Details: 871-873 Fulham Road, SW6 5HP
A tequila-drenched neighbourhood taco joint, with tick-box menus; daily happy hours; live DJs and two founders behind the bar, who will probably be louder than your entire group. READ MORE
Details: 129 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB
The third Indian restaurant from the team behind Michelin-starred Trishna and Gymkhana, these Brigadiers are armed with 4-pint growlers of beer and cocktails on tap; whisky vending machines; pour-your-own beers; whole roast suckling pig; wine-paired seven-dish Sunday feasts; pool tables; card tables; and even a personal croupier who’ll join you in your private dining room for post-dinner poker. READ MORE
Details: 1-5 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR
Welcome to Circolo Popolare, the restaurant freakshow which has done the impossible by being fun, well designed, buzzy, permanently overflowing with guests, easy to get into (for those willing to queue), affordably priced and critically acclaimed.
Details: 40 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, W1T 1HX
Jazz Cafe Camden
Once a Barclay’s Bank, nowadays you’ll find a spacious yet intimate live music venue, fitted with a mezzanine restaurant overlooking the stage – and the joint is jumping every night.
Details: 5 Parkway, Camden, NW1 7PG
La Bodega Negra
Just getting inside this place involves finding a Soho sex shop and asking the man inside for a little help. Then, once you’re in, you’ll find an aromatic, candlelit cavern serving tequila-based cocktails and a gorgeous Mexican menu.
Details: 9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF
It’s a secret restaurant hidden within another restaurant. There, for the most part, no plates, and no cutlery. Instead, you’ll get a wine-paired kebab tasting menu…
Details: Downstairs at Maison Bab, Mercer’s Walk, WC2H 9QE
It’s underneath Soho House (and owned by the same people), it’s open until 3am, and there’s live music every night. In fact, it’s positively bohemian.
Details: 13 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JQ
Est. 1972, Tayyabs is a revered London institution of insanely delicious (and well-priced) Punjabi-Pakistani food; dashes to the corner shop for BYOB reinforcements; and raucous dinner parties drawing crowds from across London and beyond. It’s noisy, rammed – and completely perfect. READ MORE
Details: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU
Red Rooster: it’s got plenty to crow about. Namely, critically acclaimed Southern soul food (and by ‘critics’, we actually mean ‘Obama’); roomy booths; savoury cocktails; live music; 2am openings; and a Sunday brunch with Bloody Maries, whole fried chicken and a gospel choir. READ MORE
Details: 45 Curtain Road, EC2A 4PJ
An almost 24-hour, late-license, constantly buzzing dining room, that looks a little like a cross between an industrial Brooklyn diner and an opulent Georgian brothel (in the best way), and where you can also score Lobster Benedict, steak and eggs, club sandwiches, burgers and Full Englishes at any hour of the day. With an absinthe fountain. In the best way.
Details: 60 – 62 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UG
A restaurant where dancing on the tables is, if anything, encouraged – because that’s about the least dramatic thing you’ll see happening on them. Book yourself onto the long dining table in the centre of the restaurant and watch as acrobats, fire-breathers and contortionists turn the whole thing into a stage… READ MORE
Details: 27-29 Endell Street, WC2H 9BA
An opera-themed, Mediterranean / Turkish restaurant on Drury Lane that offers actual operatic performances by both professional singers and staff alike. If you were to go, it would be for the theatre of it all (and to experience what it feels like to be in a restaurant that’s managed to fit twice as much stuff inside as should be physically possible). READ MORE
Details: 126 Drury Lane, WC2B 5SU
Blues Kitchen, Camden
Part restaurant, part bar, part club, specialise in finger-licking American BBQ (Buffalo wings, Southern Fried Chicken, and pan-fried catfish with cornbread); house London’s largest Bourbon collection; and offer live Motown, funk, and soul seven days a week. READ MORE.
Details: 111-113 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 7JN | Note: you can find them in Shoreditch and Brixton too.
Last Updated: 10th August 2020 | Main image: Circus
Looking for more inspiration? Check out the Best Restaurant in Every London Neighbourhood