Venue says: New summer menu now available and now open on Sundays 10am-5pm.
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
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
Obikà is a casual Italian restaurant concept based on the best Mozzarellas di Bufala Campana, together with traditional Italian recipes and high-quality Italian handmade products, prepared “in sight” and served by drawing inspiration from traditional sushi bars.Read more
This is another long-term pop-up, in Fitzrovia, from Scottish game specialists the Wild Game Co. The restaurant has hard benches, shared tables, a chill counter and a blackboard menu like a hymn board. It’s about as sparse as a John Knox sermon. True to the name, they serve venison from their own estate in Sutherland, at the far north of the Scottish mainland. The menu is a short one: simple platters of venison steak with chips (£12.50), venison burgers (from £6), a squash-based salad (with optional venison steak or venison carpaccio) and even stovies (£3.50). Scottish children are raised on stovies as they’re cheap, and sold from chip vans and caffs across the land. Here, this stew of mashed-up new potatoes is cooked up with onion, seasoned with pepper, and – in this case – mixed with venison mince to add flavour. Venison steak, the fanciest and priciest dish, was very well executed. Tender in the centre, not too gamey-tasting, nicely carved and served with crisp beef-dripping chips and hollandaise sauce on a wooden board as sturdy as a drawbridge. Despite the presence of the token salads, vegetarians are definitely better off elsewhere. The Wild Game Co may be more chip van than ‘Wicker Man’, but authentically Scots nonetheless.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
Authentic Food in the Authentic Way. Traditional eating, Italian style comes to central London in the shape of In Parma, a chichi little Fitzrovia restaurant where the produce of the Food Roots company is explored. Food Roots is dedicated to the preservation of traditional Italian produce, importing foods bearing the Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication seals, which guarantee authenticity of flavour and support the ancestry of Italy’s most famous foodstuffs. In a charming dining room with just a handful of seats, surrounded by hanging meats, shelves lined with wines and refrigerators bursting with cheeses, guests are invited to sample those products that Food Roots holds so dear, guests to In Parma learn more about the origins and creation of favourite produce and the people behind it, sampling food and wine the way it is meant to be enjoyed – with passion and knowledge.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
This small vegetarian café, opened in summer 2014, has plenty to recommend it: a bright, pleasant space with skylight at the back, a display counter at the front bearing the photogenic food offerings of the day, friendly and attentive staff. And the promise is partly made good by the food itself, which majors on salads, sandwiches and baked goods both savoury and sweet. Not every dish is above criticism. A buckwheat roast was a little dense and dry, and the selection of salads all contained a fair proportion of grains and/or pulses which added up to carb-overload when assembled on the plate. But the salads themselves were individually good, if perhaps a little under-seasoned. The star of the show was an improbably flavourful spinach soup: great depth of flavour, coarse-textured, with the odd fragment of sweet, soft garlic to provide a surprise. Don’t expect cutting-edge vegetarian cooking here. Indeed, there was something pleasingly retro-veggie in some of the dishes, especially that roast. But the food is good, and the vibe is quiet and soothing. Finish with a single-estate Aeropress brew from Workshop coffee roasters and you’ll walk away content. We’re certainly happy to join the Kin family.Read more
This is the second branch of the popular Korean mixed rice restaurant in Soho. Since the first branch opened in 2011, Bi Bim Bap has become a regular favourite for a cheap and warming bowl of its namesake dish – bibimbap. Served here in hot stone bowls (dolsot), there are ten varieties of the spicy rice mix to choose from including beef fillet, spicy pork and five different veggie options, all topped with a range of shredded vegetables and ready for you to mix with all the chilli sauce (gochujang) and bean paste you fancy. Even the simplest version topped with seasoned vegetables (cucumber, bean sprouts, spinach) and a fried egg was filled with flavour, and just the right amount of crisp rice. Our spicy hotpot with pork slices and hot and sour pickled kimchi cabbage also packed a flavoursome punch. Housed in a much narrower space than the Soho original, what the Charlotte Street branch lacks in spaciousness it makes up for with lively dishes and charming staff.Read more
Whether homesick Scandinavian, or hungry Brit, you get a warm welcome from the smiley staff at SK. They cope well even during busy periods, when seats (at tables at the back, plus a few stools and a sofa at the front) are at a premium, and are a dab hand at doling out decent coffees (made with Monmouth beans) and Swedish cinnamon buns. At lunch, there are mix-and-match combos of salads (beetroot and apple, carrot and courgette, sweet potato with rye grain – all good), open sandwiches (such as smoked salmon) and wraps (smoked ham and Scandinavian cheese), plus a soup of the day (always vegetarian) or a hot dog with crispy onions. Cakes are baked every day: kladdkaka (Swedish sticky chocolate cake, served with whipped cream) and apple cake are excellent choices; there’s a good range of teas, such as elderflower and ginger, too. Further temptation comes in the form of Scandinavian groceries, from crispbreads to herring and liquorice, dotted about the red- and black-accented premises (with even more available online).Read more