Venue says: Come and try our brand new spring menu including aubergine meatballs, pumpkin fritters, farfarelle à la crème, Cuban salad and more!
There are reasons why Ethos might make you wary. It’s near Oxford Circus, it’s vegetarian, it’s a self-serve buffet and you pay for your food by weight. (That’s the weight of the food, not your weight.) This ‘comida por quilo’ system is a popular economy-restaurant style in Brazil, but it’s been relatively unexplored in the UK. Adding to the gimmicky potential, on any given day the main menu might include more than a dozen dishes from the diverse cuisines of Japan, Southeast Asia, Italy, Korea, India, Mexico and Lebanon – and anywhere else that does brilliant vegetarian dishes – plus a few of their own creations. You can choose as few or as many as you like, building your own bespoke meal, before having your plate weighed and then paying at the counter. The concept may seem incoherent at first. Standing by the platters and bowls at the buffet – hot on one side, room temperature on the other – wondering whether the Korean kimchi might go with some nasu dengaku (Japanese miso-roasted aubergine), or the restaurant’s Indian-inflected ‘scotch egg’. But sitting in the spacious, box-fresh surroundings – the decor is predominantly Nordic white and blue, with some bucolic trunks of silver birch reaching skywards – you taste the food and think: ‘Hang on, this is really good.’ Rather than worrying about whether Thai sweetcorn fritters are complemented by a lovage-laced tomato and bread panzanella salad, the world tour of dishes becomes a mini-adventure in flavour, colour and textuRead more
There’s a vast bar-restaurant in Helsinki called Zetor (‘Tractor’), where Finns go to sit on hay bales, admire each other’s checked shirts, then indulge in wildly drunken barn dancing. It’s also a place to witness the infamous Finnish capacity for booze. Heavy drinking is something that Londoners do well too. Getting in touch with our inner bumpkin, however, is still a niche interest in London, and it’s one that Barnyard is now here to satisfy – particularly those with a more sober desire for rus in urbe than the Finns. Barnyard’s walls are corrugated iron, the tables stripped planks; plates are enamelled, some seats are oil drums. But wait a minute, isn’t this the latest venture from Ollie Dabbous, a chef so cutting edge he could probably chop down a wild elderberry shrub with his bare hands while out foraging. Of the modernist restaurant Dabbous, the one that’s fully booked until the northern hemisphere runs out of chilled pine infusions and fig leaf broth? Ollie Dabbous doesn’t just do hifalutin’ cookin’, that’s clear; he can also do casual, family-friendly, and affordable. Barnyard’s menu at first glance can read like motorway service station caff – cauliflower cheese, sausage roll, chicken in a bun – until you delve a bit deeper. ‘Lard on toast’ and ‘mince and dumpling’ are just that, in small-plates portions – but both dishes were full-flavoured and beautiful in their simplicity. More complex was the crispy chicken wings, rubbed with smoked paprika, garlic and lRead more
Venue says: 10% off evening hire at Attendant when you quote 'Time Out'! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Opened in January 2013, Attendant occupies London’s most original location for a coffee bar: a late-nineteenth-century gents’ toilet. The urinals provide seating with small tables, and there’s additional seating at a banquette at the back. Be warned: this place is tiny, and rammed at a weekday lunchtime. But that was the only problem apparent. Everyone in the young office-worker crowd looked very happy, and the food – cold sandwiches, hot sandwich of the day, various salads – looked great. Coffee-lovers will love Attendant. The barista, obsessively committed to his craft, apologised because the Caravan blend might have a little too much citrus flavour from sitting for just three days after roasting (he likes six). It was citrusy; but it was wonderful. He offered to brew a free cup of something else, so we could compare and contrast. All in all, this is a great place. The only difficulty is resisting making jokes about Attendant’s previous life. We could crack a million of them, but you’d only get pissed off. Looking for another caffeine fix? Find more coffee shops in the capitalRead more
Soho’s lively little Lebanese hub continues its success, judging by the numbers who cram around the tables in the distinctive yellow, black and white interior. At the back is a counter stacked with ready-made wraps to take away. This cheery café is a world away from staid traditional Lebanese restaurants. There’s none of the formality (or the space), but the standard of food is just as high. On a recent visit, we loved the tangy stickiness of sawda djej (melt-in-the-mouth chicken livers), which, in this version, came in a dark sauce sweet with pomegranate seeds. Falafel made a great contrast: soft, cushiony insides and crisp shells, served with a generous portion of tahina. They went well with the dense, garlicky houmous too. Manakish zaatar was perfect: pitta bread drizzled with olive oil and dusted with lemony zaatar spice, warmed in the oven just enough to let the flavour flood out: simple but delicious. Yalla Yalla is popular as a lunch spot – and staff can get overwhelmed – but it’s open in the evening too, and serves grills and mains alongside the meze all day. It also has an extensive, largely Lebanese, wine list and cocktails.Read more
On this site for 60 years, the Indian YMCA sees little need to change a formula that has successfully fed generations of Indian students newly-arrived in the UK. The concrete and glass post-war modernist building looks institutional but is an institution, though these days you are more likely to share your table with a bargain-hunting British office worker than an trainee doctor from the Punjab. Queue canteen-style at the counter, while checking off the low prices on the pegboard menu above; ‘tin fruits 75p’ is typically succinct. We recommend the freshly-prepared dishes: the curries (fish, mutton, veg, chicken) are all cooked home-style and sensitively spiced. The dahl is a comforting version, the turmeric-coloured toor dal giving body to the dish. Mounds of rice soak up the sauces; be warned that the pilau rice uses generous sprinklings of vivid food colourings. Although most of the dishes are North Indian in style, a soothing South Indian breakfast snack of dahi wada is a lentil rissole swathed in a heavy, palliative yoghurt. A sink for washing your hands afterwards is discreetly concealed behind a glass screen, not on public view in the Indian way. The Y’s better for lunch than dinner.Read more
Venue says: Own-blend coffee and an interesting, seasonal, all day menu. Lantana has been called 'a little bit of Australia in London'.
A pioneer of the Australian-run modern café scene, Lantana remains a lively spot. Its look – wooden tables, mismatched chairs, small pieces of art on white walls – is now commonplace, but the staff pride themselves on their coffee-making and baking skills, and rightly so. The flat whites are super-smooth and go well with a moist raspberry friand or an Aussie ‘cherry ripe’ cake slice. The breakfast and brunch menu sounds great too, though sadly, maple french toast with streaky bacon, grilled banana and candied pecans was a little dry and came without any syrup; the chef had also forgotten to candy the pecans. Nevertheless, the staff, though the relaxed side of perfect, were very apologetic. At lunchtime and in the evenings savoury dishes can be ordered with a glass of wine. The kiosk next door sells some dishes as takeaways, such as the tart of the day; on our visit this was a big slice of mushroom, spinach and goat’s cheese tart, served with a selection of salads that included a slightly bland lentil and beetroot assembly, but also a much more vibrant and flavoursome greek salad.Read more
Thomasina Miers’s Mexican ‘market food’ concept is now an eight-strong chain (plus two street food vans). The restaurants all share a cheery vibe, with young, efficient staff buzzing round bright interiors, as well as a commitment to sustainability and animal welfare. The large Charlotte Street branch has a takeaway hatch (which sells a few ingredients such as salsas, chillies and fresh corn tortillas, as well as lunches) and a mezcal bar on the first floor, in addition to the ground-floor restaurant. Tortillas loom large, in soft, crisp, toasted and chip variations, and in flour and corn versions, though there are also a few grills (fish, steak or chicken served with green rice). But no one is complaining – it’s tasty, addictive stuff, with recent meals only revealing one dud – the mushroom quesadillas. Favourites include the steak burrito (which comes with a zingy chipotle salsa); the little black bean tostadas (refried beans with avocado salsa, crema, cheese and fresh tomato salsa); the spicy slaw; and the guacamole (served with either tortilla chips or fennel pork scratchings). Puddings include a version of churros y chocolate. Breakfast is served here too: indulge in huevos rancheros, a burrito filled with Brindisa chorizo, or a dulce de leche doughnut. Drinks run from mocktails to tequila.Read more
London’s Tex-Mex eateries are currently ten a peso, and the branded interior of Benito's Hat looks ripe for replication – no doubt something owner Ben Fordham, a former City lawyer, has considered. Lime and orange walls overlook functional wooden tables, with cactus pots sitting precariously among the condiments. The fast-moving production line serves some of the best burritos in town. We plumped for one loaded with slow-cooked pork, and loved the soft, floury tortilla, the freshness of the fiery salsa brava (made several times daily) and the black beans, which were authentically flavoured with avocado leaves. Chicken, steak and vegetable options are also available, as are suitably merciless margaritas.Read more
London’s food obsessions continue to evolve, but despite burgers being ‘so 2013’ we still can’t quite seem to shake our pimped patty addiction. Big Fernand is a French import that is the latest addition to this crowded market. The mostly-French staff were exuberant in the opening week, and on our visit the music was so loud that you had to strain to hear your conversation. The experience is made all the more curious by the premises’ split-personality décor – downstairs a rough hewn wood-and-slate burger bar; upstairs a chintzy Fitzrovia living room. The burgers don’t scrimp on flavour: Le Bartholomé piles raclette cheese, smoked bacon, confit onions and own-made barbecue sauce on top of a thick beef patty, cooked as requested (although the dominant flavour was of the sweet-sour onions). Meanwhile, Le Victor offers a veal burger topped with mild blue Fourme d’Ambert, the same slightly overpowering confit onions, and a sweetened version of the house sauce. The chips are another flavour bomb – that, or the chef’s hand slipped while seasoning them with smoked paprika. These aren’t the best burgers in town, or – at around £12 a pop without fries – the cheapest. But they’re a decent enough take on this mega-trend that refuses to go quietly.Read more
There are two sides to this Great Portland Street spot - and don't be fooled by the '50s aesthetic, either. By day it's a cool, contemporary café specialising in coffee; by night it's a classy little cocktail bar with signature concoctions alongside a few classics. Keep an eye out for film nights and cocktail master classes, too. They serve two types of coffee bean: arabica sourced from Climpson and Sons, and robusta from Black Sheep - London roasters both. The flat whites, espressos, hand brews, cold brews, lattes and cappuccinos are served alongside milkshakes, smoothies, fresh juices and various teas. And if you're hungry? Gluten free cakes, croissants, muffins, focaccia sandwiches and platters of meat or cheese are on the food menu. There's a focus on house cocktails, though all the classics are available on request. Signature drops include the Lavender Hill (Beefeater gin, lemon, egg white, lavender flavoured sugar syrup, Zedda Piras drops and soda) and the epicolada (Dictator 12 rum, almond-washed pineapple juice and coconut syrup).Read more
El Burrito is currently doing battle with Benito’s Hat for control of the area’s lunchtime hordes; its prices are slightly lower, but whether its tacos, burritos and quesadillas are better remains open to debate. A queue snakes out of the door at peak times, and most customers choose to take their food away with them – not surprising, given the rather uninspiring interior (the small room at the rear, largely undecorated save a handful of functional tables and chairs, is an unappealing place to eat). Burritos are the main draw; they’re filling, juicy and fresh-tasting, though go easy on the potent hot sauce. Our one complaint? Being charged 50p for guacamole or pico de gallo salsa seems a little unfair.Read more
Venue says: Come on down to Moba and get a free selection of our four delicious crostinis with every bottle of wine or prosecco purchased!
The French introduced their beloved baguette to Indochina during their colonial rule in the 19th century, and the Vietnamese held onto it even after they’d ousted the wheat bread roll's creators. They made the iconic French stick their own, turning it into a lighter, leaner loaf with rice flour in the mix, filling it with the fresh flavours synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine, and calling the resulting sandwich ‘banh mi’. Much as the British finally left India but couldn’t resist trying recreating a version of Indian cuisine for years afterwards, the two French men behind this Fitzrovia café are fusing more typically artisanal baguettes (chewy, dense and crisp-crusted) with a combination of rich and zingy South East Asian fillings to create Gallic-style banh mi. Care has been taken to get the flavours right. Some baguettes are infused with Asian spice mixes; others with French ingredients such as garlic or mustard. Fillings such as gravlax are home-cured and intensively marinated, then paired with shreds of crunchy pickled vegetables. Our favourite was a warm filling of Thai-inflected beef bourguignon, slow-simmered in coconut milk until tender. The only gripe was the bread-to-filling ratio – baguettes this robust require a lot more stuffing (especially when you consider you’re paying nearly £7 for a posh sandwich). However, the bright, modern tiled dining room, with its communal counters and tables and high leather seats, is a pleasant place from which to watch Goodge StreetRead more