If you fancy some spice, are itching for Italian or are just in the mood for a great burger, Covent Garden has a range of restaurants to satisfy. Try Clos Maggiore for traditional French fare or Opera Tavern for Spanish. Wherever you go for dinner, get dessert from gelateria Scoop. Check out our guide to the best mid-priced dining options in Covent Garden. Don't forget to read our guides to cheap eats and fine dining in Covent Garden. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Venue says: Join us for our new flambée menu that includes a mixed leaf salad, classic tarte flambée, a glass of wine or beer, plus tea or coffee.
The Delaunay was Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s 2012 follow-up to the Wolseley and, like that handsome behemoth, it looks like it’s been here for decades. Grand European cafés provide the inspiration, and the interior is a treat – a David Collins-designed mix of green leather banquette seating, dark wood, brass rails, antique mirrors and a black and white marble floor. The café and bar area leads through to the main dining room; next door is the Counter (a café serving savouries, cakes and coffee, with takeaway available). The menu runs from breakfast to dinner, taking in afternoon tea (a not-to-be-missed opportunity to try the Austrian-biased cakes, all made in-house). There’s a dish of the day (goulash, say, or chicken curry), soups, salads and egg dishes, plus savouries (welsh and buck rarebits) and crustacea. The sandwich selection runs from croque monsieur to a brioche burger with french fries. Starters include steak tartare and smoked salmon plates; mains take in kedgeree and choucroute à l’Alsacienne. There’s also a good choice of sausages, served with potato salad, sauerkraut and caramelised onions: try the käsekrainer (an Austrian meat and cheese version). In short, there’s something for everyone, at prices that aren’t greedy given the setting, the quality of the service and the assuredness of the menu.Book now Read more
Venue says: Heading to the theatre in Covent Garden this month? Our tapas menu of small plates is perfect for a quick pre-theatre or post-theatre meal!
Despite growing competition, the Opera Tavern remains one of Covent Garden's best dining options and among London’s top tapas restaurants. Formerly a pub, it’s split into a slightly charmless upstairs restaurant and a cosy, mirror-backed bar at street level. The latter has been stylishly updated with chocolate leather bar stools, copper spotlights and an open grill; the main kitchen is in the beer cellar. The Spanish-Italian menu is kept fresh with regular specials. The signature burger of juicy ibérico pork and foie gras remains deservedly popular, though more inventive combinations better showcase the kitchen’s delicate touch and careful sourcing of ingredients. Char-coated venison was enlivened by jerusalem artichoke, pickled walnuts and truffle, while the natural sweetness of scallops (served in the shell) was balanced by a feather-light pea, fennel and mint purée. Watch out, though: portions are dainty and it’s easy to rack up a hefty bill. The Spanish and Italian wine list is well curated; smooth and nutty manzanilla pasada is the ideal aperitif for sherry sceptics. Little touches such as allowing diners a taste before committing to a glass exemplify the sophisticated, amiable service. Opera Tavern is part of the Salt Yard Group, along with Dehesa in Soho and Salt Yard in Fitzrovia.Book now Read more
Venue says: Join us for our new market-inspired menu, for a fresh and healthy lunch!
Turning up at a smart destination restaurant with a large suitcase is always going to be awkward. What’s more awkward is not being able to find the front door. I’m not sure who was more surprised, us or the kitchen porters, when we marched, suitcase in tow, through the kitchen door of Central, currently the hottest restaurant in Lima, Peru. Central is so discreet it doesn’t even bother with a sign. But its dishes are the opposite, with plate after plate dazzling its mixed clientele of tourists and wealthy Lima residents. There’s no such problem finding the new London outpost – its sign is clearly visible. And considering the near-impossibility of transposing chef Virgilio Martinez’s uniquely Peruvian style of cooking more than 6,000 miles, they’ve done a pretty good job. This is Martinez’s second London restaurant, following on from the success of Lima in Rathbone Place, an elaborate affair that has already bagged him a Michelin star. Lima Floral, on Covent Garden’s Floral Street, is not a copy but an extension of this gambit, and showcases more Peruvian classics. This time there’s a little less fuss, a more reasonable price tag, and a bar in the basement serving pisco cocktails. Interesting textures and depth of flavour, rather than the high-tech wizardry of Central or Lima, take centre stage here. Sea bream ceviche comes as a sublime starter, teamed with mounds of guacamole-like avocado uchucuta (salsa), speared with dried onion slices and sprinkled with toasted corn. Sea bBook now Read more
This former fruit warehouse is now Carnivore Central in Will Beckett and Huw Gott’s confidently expanding empire, and the bar a place of pilgrimage in its own right for cocktail geeks. Winner of Time Out’s Best New Restaurant award in 2011, the discreet-fronted basement location is elevated to a high-end destination with a characterful interior of reclaimed materials and the fan-boys’ zeal for premium meats and other taste sensations. The bad news is, with a similar appreciation of gustatory pleasures (a couple of cocktails, say, followed by crab or lobster, sirloin and side dishes, wine and pudding), dinner here can easily set you back £100 a head. The good news is the express menu (ideal pre-theatre when tables are easy to snare) proffers two courses for £25 and three courses for £28 – and still allows enjoyment of fine Ginger Pig Longhorn ribeye (a more-than-strictly-needed 250g), and bone marrow with onions. Desserts here, in our experience, don’t benefit from the same obsessive attention to detail as the beef dripping chips, kimchi burger, hot dogs or historic anti-fogmatics – still, there’s the post-prandial cocktail list to peruse featuring the likes of Climpson’s espresso martini. See more mouthwatering Sunday roasts in the capitalBook now Read more
Venue says: VICO has just won a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide 2017 for restaurants with 'exceptional good food at moderate prices.'
‘Ugh! Can’t think of anything worse than eating a meal on a plastic stool that doesn’t have a back!’ This WhatsApp from a 23-year-old gal-about-town lays bare part of the challenge that Jacob Kenedy has set himself in Vico, his new fast-food restaurant (an outpost of Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo) in Cambridge Circus. The stools are indeed plastic, and backless. Other challenges include a site next door to a Polpo, easy-to-dislike decor and an ordering system so unconventional it has to be explained to first-timers. Most food (pre-cooked) sits on the counter awaiting your choice, though there’s also raw fish and shellfish deep-fried to order and brought to your table by the waiting staff. Everything else you carry to the table yourself. It’s not all that different from a deli counter or buffet, but in a place like this, the idea takes time to get used to. And I give full credit to Mr Kenedy and Co for making numerous changes to food and setting (some in response to customer feedback) during the course of an unusually lengthy soft launch. So: what about the food? I have been to Vico five times now, first in soft launch (which doesn’t really count) and more recently after proper opening. One part of a single dish was an out-and-out dud. The rest has ranged from good to pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming fabulous. Deep-frying is a particular strength, both in dishes cooked to order and in arancini and polpette, deep-fried balls with daily-changing fillings. Pizzas feature thick but featBook now Read more
In early 2013, Keith McNally’s much-anticipated NYC import Balthazar finally opened, and London got to see what this Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie was actually like. The response was positive, and for weeks afterwards it was hard to get a table. Chef Robert Reid has tinkered little with the nostalgic transatlantic menu, and we loved signature dishes such as the onion soup (grilled gruyère lid on thick country bread, immersed in a rich and sweet chicken stock); duck shepherd’s pie was another powerfully flavoured treat. More recently, some of the gloss seems to have worn off (though service remains prompt and friendly). The cheeseburger, no bargain at £17, was a chunky patty but had little flavour, and needed more than the limited, bland trimmings to give it an oomph that might have justified the price tag. A pleasant gruyère and herb omelette tasted as though it had lingered a little too long at the pass. Best was pavlova (one of several delightfully retro desserts) – it may not have looked like a classic version (the meringue sat on the fruit, rather than the other way round), but it tasted good. Bread, from master baker Jon Rolfe, is a must-try. Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls and mosaic floors, but to British eyes, the decor can look a little too close to any old chain brasserie.Book now Read more
All right, Frenchie?’ That’s how Jamie Oliver used to greet his Nantes-born head chef Gregory Marchand when they shared the kitchens at Fifteen. Chefs do love a bit of banter. Fast-forward to 2009. Marchand – who started cooking aged 16 and has worked everywhere from the Savoy to New York’s Gramercy Tavern – was about to launch his first solo spot and needed a name. And so, on April Fool’s Day of all days, Frenchie was born: a tiny restaurant, down a cobbled Parisian alley, where you can’t get a table for six months. This Theatreland spot is its younger sibling. I say ‘younger’ but it actually looks like the mature one. Pale and chic, every design element has been carefully sourced: those distressed-zinc-topped tables are crafted by an eccentric old man from northern France; the sharp, bone-handled knives by the fifth generation of Corsica’s Ceccaldi family. For a more casual vibe, head downstairs, where you can watch the chefs do their cheffing and chit-chat to strangers over a trough-like communal washbasin (don’t panic: the loos themselves are in individual cubicles, it’s not that friendly). Service is polished and professional, the music chilled. But you don’t come to Frenchie for these things. You come for cooking: impeccably composed modern European small plates. It’s one of those menus where a dish only has three ingredients listed, but when it arrives you realise it’s more like two dozen. In less skilled hands, this can cause confusion; here, there is only depth andRead more
A swish Bombay brasserie in the style of the old post-colonial 'Irani cafés' of Bombay, Dishoom is filled with retro design features: whirring ceiling fans, low-level lighting and walls adorned with vintage Indian magazine advertising. The look is certainly distinctive, but the effect can be so slick when compared to the real thing that the venue can feel rather soulless and corporate. This doesn’t stop the design-conscious and Indophile thronging here through the day, from breakfast (for sausage nan rolls with chilli jam) to dinner (for the stir-fries and tandoori grills). The main attraction though is the menu, loosely styled on Irani café food with birianis, bhel (crunchy puffed rice with tangy tamarind chutney) and even pau bhaji (toasted white bread rolls with a spicy vegetable stew as a filling). Our black dal was exemplary, and the lamb biriani suitably moist. We particuarly like the endlessly refilled house chai (Indian-style tea), but the other drinks are interesting too – excellent lassi concoctions, good wines by the glass, even the soft drinks Limca and Thums Up in glass bottles imported from Mumbai. Queues are common in the evening (bookings are taken for breakfast and lunch, but only for groups at dinner), though the basement bar helps make the wait more than bearable.Read more
How did food get quite so rock ’n’ roll? This summer London’s teeming with ‘gourmet’ fast food joints, rooftop pop-up bars, night food markets and street food vendors. This new wave of edgier eateries are changing the game for restaurateurs too – crisp tablecloths and prim service are out, industrial-chic décors and young, liberally pierced and tattooed staff are in. One chef who’s at the fore of the latest trends is Ross Shonhan. His first solo venture, Bone Daddies, is a self-styled ‘rock and roll’ ramen joint that opened just last year. It’s still making a big noise, literally, with New York-style Japanese noodle dishes and the sound system cranked up loud enough to make conversation a challenge. Hidden in a capacious Covent Garden basement, Shonhan’s second venture is no less modish. Once again he’s taken influence from the Big Apple for his East Asian eats, with a side order of loud rock music. As for the décor and staff: see above. This time the focus of the menu is hirata buns. A US interpretation of a Taiwanese street food, the sweet and fluffy dough is folded then steamed before being brought to the table. Diners then stuff these pockets with their choice of ‘flesh’. These are the signature dish, and a must-try. Mustard miso and a few slices of subtly pickled apple were a perfect foil for tender pulled pork. Crisp-skinned grilled sea bass was also skilfully cooked and served with a fresh tomato salsa. Small plates include sushi rolls, contemporary sashimi and temBook now Read more
As one door closes, so they say, another opens. As we process the sad news that Neal Street’s Food for Thought, a veggie institution with rock-bottom prices, is closing after more than 40 years, only a couple of streets over, newcomer Jar Kitchen shows how far good café food has come in that time – but also how some things never change. Most of us still need friendly places serving good, imaginative food at fair prices – especially in Covent Garden. Run by Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero, this smart café sits at the northern end of Drury Lane. The kitchen is open to the ground-floor dining room where Brown, a former model agent, was busy greeting and waiting tables on our visit. So far, so ordinary. What makes Jar Kitchen super is the brief menu, prices midway between caff and restaurant, and delightful dishes. An Ottolenghi-ish mixed-grain salad looked great, with its pomegranate arils and fresh mint leaves, toasted almonds, roasted heirloom carrots and drizzle of coconut yoghurt. A sizeable bowl costs £8; for an extra £3, the kitchen adds shreds of braised lamb shoulder. Another simple but brilliant dish was a green chopped salad, costing a mere £3.50, featuring pert mixed leaves and an attractively tangy dressing. Jar Kitchen does vegetarian dishes well, but it’s not a vegetarian restaurant. Scraps of ‘ceviche style’ sea bass (£6.50) came with creamed avocado, chopped fennel, and a multi-seed dressing. Orther dishes might include roast pork belly, or lemon sole with brownRead more
If you want to find out what the whole natural wine thing is all about, pay a visit to Terroirs. These minimally manipulated wines (most organic and/or biodynamic, made with little intervention from the winemakers) form nearly the whole list, and they keep this rustic-French-looking place jumping. Plenty are on offer by the glass, and while it’s not bargain-basement cheap, it accurately reflects the cost of producing these wines. If you’re more interested in the food than the vino, you won’t be disappointed: a changing list of small plates and plats du jour never falters in its high quality (or fair prices).Book now Read more
Venue says: Two-for-one on cocktails, Peroni Rossa, glasses of house wine and prosecco every day from 5-7pm.
London’s Coolest bars are usually found on a rooftop or underground – drinking on the ground floor is so last year. The Escapologist, a Covent Garden cocktail joint from the folks behind Adventure Bar, is one of the latter. But it’s hardly a diminutive basement bar, with a ‘grand hall’ behind a secret door and a ‘vault’ even further underground. The venue gets its name from a Victorian scoundrel, Baron Von Took, whose supposed last wish before a date with the gallows was to have a drink in one of Covent Garden’s brew houses; as you can probably guess, he managed to escape. Whether or not the story rings true, the bar uses it as an excuse to style itself as a low-lit Victorian gentlemen’s club. With a 20-strong cocktail menu divided into ‘premium’ and ‘party time’, the theme ends there. But it’s fun: The Flaming Zombie (£11.50) came in a white skull glass with a flaming sugar cube on top, naturally. It was pretty boozy from three types of rum, but balanced by fruity sweetness. A selection of pizzas should soak up that triple rum nicely. But if sobering up isn’t on the agenda, head down between 5pm and 7pm for the daily happy hour. Unlike the baron, you won’t want to run after just one drink.Read more
Venue says: Why not come in and try some delicious seasonal red cabbage with your pie and mash. Don't forget to include lashings of gravy!
With bargain prices and proper British food, this pie and mash house is something of an anomaly among the tourist traps of Covent Garden Market. It’s housed in one of the refurbished subterranean arches, keeping the traditional exterior and flagstone floor, but the fixtures and fittings are stylish and modern: bright white tiles, polished marble tables and a shiny counter. Besides the traditional fillings such as steak and mushroom with stout, minced beef and onion, or chicken and mushroom are less expected versions such as butternut squash and goat’s cheese or salmon, cod and prawns. They all have pleasingly firm crusts. A chicken and mushroom costs a mere fiver and creamy, well-whipped mash an extra £2.75. Rich red-wine gravy arrived separately in a miniature jug. Ingredient quality was exemplary throughout – so much so that, even though full, we attempted to finish a sticky toffee pudding (£4.75 and also tip-top) between two of us. Even for a counter-service place this little caff is terrific value – and is the exception to the rule that central Covent Garden is best avoided by the bargain hunter.Read more
Venue says: New exciting specials on our menu. Plus we're preparing paella for lunch.
It’s always a good sign when the waitress insists you start your night with a sherry. This little tapas joint off Covent Garden has dark wooden tables for two opposite the bar, and larger tables lining the wall at the back. The menu is small but varied. Pick up citrusy pulled pork quesadillas or spicy chicken chipotle bocadillo sandwiches for lunch, or come for dinner specials that change weekly and, of course, a glass of sherry. Condesa takes its tapas inspiration from across Spain and Latin America, so you might find unexpected dishes on the menu, such as the little pan of grilled provolone cheese – a typical Argentinian tapa. It’s not good for your cholesterol levels, but it spreads so easily over fresh bread, your doctor would surely understand. Pork cheeks were succulent, with strands of meat falling into a puréed carrot sauce; however, seasoning was timidly applied. Mole tacos had a dense, meaty filling wrapped in the softest of corn tortillas. We loved the half carafes of wine too, as they provide a convivial way to graze across the menu and pair wine accordingly.Book now Read more
Venue says: Local. Seasonal. Sustainable. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For a place that sounds like it sells punnets of strawberries and fresh duck eggs, this eco-friendly salad box joint is surprisingly clean-lined and minimalist. A neat row of tables is obscured by a brightly lit fridge of salad boxes and juices. Fortunately the food, though undeniably health-conscious, is far from clinical. Tender strips of chicken that have been properly committed to a harissa marinade come in a pile so huge you’d think they were trying to get rid of it – and we’re talking the fanciest of free-range varieties here. The standard serving (£7.50) allows you to add two salads (hot or cold) to your protein of choice, all of which are impressively hearty. Squidgy roasted Jerusalem artichokes with capers and parsley are a lovely alternative to the usual potato-heavy sides, and a raw romanesco cauliflower and mustard seed salad provided a good dose of colour to balance the box out. In fact, it wasn’t until I cracked open a suspiciously nutritious-tasting bottle of juice that I realised everything in our box had been wheat-, gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free. Yet still felt like a proper meal. And while it’s not exactly a cheap ‘to-go’ option, if you manage to snag one of the tables and refresh yourself on free filtered tap water (sparkling or still), Farmstand suddenly becomes a great-value, slick spot for a wholesome sit-down meal. Feast on your five-a-day, set the world to rights and go back to the office feeling good inside.Read more
Don’t worry, it’s not an actual clubhouse – women are permitted in the main bar and you may wear shorts. If it was any sort of house, it would be a frat house, or ‘Animal House’, or maybe ‘Road House’ – the walls of this basement bar and pizzeria are covered in vintage American beer adverts and road signs, and there’s a classic Wurlitzer jukebox in one corner. The cocktails would get any bunch of Delta Tau Chi boys merry. They reference US cultural benchmarks from the last 30 years: the Axel Foley has tequila, lime and sparkling grapefruit, and the Cruel Intentions comes with coconut vodka and tropical fruit juices. The pizzas sound like a ‘most-requested’ list in a ’90s video store – the Ferris Bueller, the Dawson’s Creek, the Screech. And they’re good; not Napoli-authentic like the sort from Franco Manca, but crisp, generously proportioned and loaded, just the thing to go with the good-time drinks. ESC doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s flawlessly professional: it’s refreshing to see a more fun side of American culture represented than the poshed-up fried chicken-and-burgers or Brooklyn small plates that have come to proliferate round these parts.Read more
Venue says: Join us for beautiful, simple, contemporary Italian food, funky cocktails and a superb wine list. Ci vediamo!
Aldwych is a funny old corner of London. I’ve been there hundreds of times, and seem to navigate it differently on each visit. Is this Drury Lane? Oh no, it’s the next one. What’s this one, then? Catherine Street. Never heard of it. Businesses must worry about repeat trade here, in case you never find them again. For restaurants, it’s probably academic: so much of their custom is from tourists and theatregoers in the world of the long-running musical. Four to Eight is on one of the spokes radiating from the gyratory’s north side, as you head up towards Covent Garden. In a handsome, wedge-shaped space, it’s light and glassy: it looks vaguely ‘contemporary’. And maybe that’s its problem. Four to Eight promises ‘beautiful, simple food’, which is a noble pursuit. Most of what we ate managed one or other, but rarely both. A small plate of slow-poached egg with chicken-skin crisp, cod roe and broccoli was mostly successful. It was certainly beautiful, with a delicate rosemary crumb. But the taramsalata consistency of the roe wasn’t that nice. Bottarga would have delivered a bit more punch, or maybe just leave it out altogether? Courgette flower with goat’s cheese was better: both pretty and straightforward. A main of black ink linguine with clams and cuttlefish was over-oily, which made the pasta slovenly. Though there were clamshells aplenty, their former inhabitants proved more elusive, shiftily skulking around the edges and unable to account for the whereabouts of half their nBook now Read more
Books. Covers.You know what to do. Or, rather what not to. Yet it’s hard not to get a bit judge-y over somewhere that has both a silly name and (ugh) a ‘concept’. The one at Talli Joe, splashed across signage, website and menus, is to offer ‘Indian half plates + full drinks’ (don’t you just mean ‘small plates’ and, er, ‘drinks’?). What’s more, when I walk in, I can’t help but clock the lights are too bright, the air con too cold. Not a great start. But guess what? This new regional Indian ‘small plates and cocktails’ joint (because that’s what Talli Joe actually is) gets two crucial things right: the food and service. This is bright, bold cooking designed to enchant both tastebuds and soul. One of my favourite dishes was the Goan pork and ‘offal’ curry, made mostly with shoulder and belly meat, but also enough heart and liver to give it an exceptional depth of flavour and texture. Also excellent was a crab ‘scotch egg’, the warmly spiced crustacean’s meat wrapped around a soft, almost-runny quail’s egg, its yolk the colour of marigolds. For something more prosaic, try the seafood curry. I loved it that, simmering in the mild, fragrant sauce, were not just prawns, koli and squid, but a handful of drumsticks – no, not the cluck-cluck kind, but the green veg variety traditional in south Indian cooking (picture hard-skinned celery sticks: you scrape out the soft, mild flesh and put the rest aside). It’s this commitment to spot-on sourcing that gives Talli Joe its edge. CaBook now Read more
The London branch of Robuchon’s high-end globe-spanning chain (there are also outposts in Las Vegas, Taipei and his native Paris) could be anywhere in the world, but thinks it’s funkier than most gastronomic shrines. The ground-floor restaurant – sorry, ‘counter concept’ – is an international nightclub-like red- and black-lacquered room with red leather high stools either facing the chefs at their balancing-act work or at small tables. Customers are mostly tourists, drawn by the reputation for quality control and clever layering of texture and flavour – distilled in a stunning amuse-bouche of foie gras under a port reduction and hot, umami-rich froth. Flavours are big, such as pig’s trotter with bone marrow on toast, powered up with parmesan (a rewarding choice from the small plates menu). Portions aren’t prissy, either; from the set lunch, chicken escalope dotted with dark olives and roasted cherry tomatoes covered the plate. Steak tartare was exceptionally punchy, though the accompanying ‘hand-cut chips’ were lost in translation – they were actually own-made crisps. Mashed potato was wonderfully rich and smooth, and a side plate of glisteningly green olive oil-bathed courgettes and puréed spiced carrots was no afterthought. Desserts conjured with refreshing and intensely flavoured combinations of jellies, mousses, foams and ices. Except for lunch, pricing is pitched at fat wallets, with menus and wines matched into accessible packages. Knowledgeable staff come with a twinklBook now Read more
Once upon a time, if you were a celeb, you went to The Ivy. That was back when Chiltern Firehouse could still send a fire engine if your kitchen was ablaze. In the 1990s and 2000s, pretty much all you had to do to be a celeb was to go to The Ivy, and then be papped as you left. It was exclusive in the wrong sense of the word. But times have changed. The celebs have gone elsewhere. And now – after an expensive five-month refurb – The Ivy is once again open for business. It’s ready for you and me, without the three-month wait once endured by us hoi polloi. Getting a table still isn’t easy, though I eventually secured seats at the bar. Mind you, it remains a parallel universe. When you arrive, you’re made to feel like you’ve arrived by the charming maitre d’, smiling waitresses attentive wine waiters. The room was always a looker, but it’s been scrubbed up, and it’s now even better than before. The feel’s still classic and timeless: dark wood, flattering lighting, well-chosen art, green leather seating, smartly attired staff. A huge new central bar allows good views of the beautiful mullioned stained-glass windows. The new menu combines old Ivy favourites with some recent additions. The famous shepherd’s pie is there, with its rich browned-meat flavours, along with old-fashioned seafood dishes such as plaice with earthy brown shrimps, doused in a buttery sauce. The Ivy made its name on this sort of comfort food: it’s like what you might get at a top boarding school, only bettRead more