Broths have a rep as a dull lunch, but Angela Hui picks eight great bowlfuls that are anything but boring. Time to warm up. Illustrations: Arnas Samuolis
Spicy rice noodle soup with coconut milk, lemongrass and vegetables, Phat Phuc Noodle Bar, £7.50 (pictured above)
The majority of Phat Phuc’s menu is Vietnamese, but it’s the west London hole-in-the-wall’s Malaysian laksa that’s the star of the show. In bowls the size of your head, you’ll spot delicious specks of red oil floating on the surface of the soup, which indicates a good, proper laksa. The second thing you’ll notice is how long you’ll be slurping it for: there are plenty of chewy egg noodles to go around. You can choose to top your soup with chicken, beef, or vegetables. But take it from us: you want the big, juicy prawns. The Courtyard, 151 Sydney St, SW3 6NT. Tube: South Kensington.
Soon tofu soup, Bibimbap, £7.80
Bibimbap is famed for its sizzling stone rice bowls, but if you’re after a real winter warmer, don’t miss its luminously red soon tofu soup (haemul sundubu jjigae). Also served in a stone bowl, this traditional Korean number is made with anchovies and a red pepper paste (gochujang), which gives it a distinctly sweet, spicy and fishy taste. It’s loaded with silky tofu, succulent mixed seafood and crunchy veg, then topped off with a raw egg that’ll cook through as you eat it. Be warned: you’ll need napkins for this one, it’s a messy, sweaty affair. Bibimbap has restaurants in Soho, Fitzrovia and the City.
Shrimp island stew, Shoop Soup Shop, £6.90
From beef and beetroot to lemon chard with cauliflower dumplings, the soup menu at Shoop reads like a comfort food fever dream. We’ve got our eye (and stomach) on the coconutty, Caribbean-leaning shrimp island stew, which looks pretty as a picture thanks to finely sliced okra, plantain, corn and ginger floating on top. As soul-satisfying as it sounds, you’ll wish you could dive in and swim around in it. 27 Tottenham St, W1T 4RW. Tube: Goodge St.
Grilled aubergine and feta, Nincomsoup, £5.20
No broth bucket list would be complete without something from Nincomsoup, the godfather of liquid sustenance. The choice of flavours rotate daily here, but if you can catch it, the winner is the grilled aubergine and feta. It may not look like much, but the saltiness of the feta married up to the char from the grilled aubergine provides an intense smoky flavour that’ll make you think there’s a barbecue going on in your mouth. 7-8 St Agnes Well, EC1Y 1BE. Tube: Old St.
Pork slices with salted eggs and mustard greens (for two), Café TPT, £11
If you’ve got a hankering for proper Chinese food then the hawker-style grub at Café TPT is a good place to start. Especially the tangy sharing soup laced with pork, salted eggs and mustard greens. It comes in gargantuan portions meant for two to share as a starter and provides a blanket of umami that leaves you nestled in warming, all-consuming flavour, ready to start your meal. 21 Wardour St, W1D 6PN. Tube: Piccadilly Circus.
Seasonal guinea fowl agnolotti in brodo, P Franco, £8
Brodo is an Italian stock-based broth, often used as the support for showstopping floating pasta. And, sure, the cloud-like parcels of agnolotti pasta in this P Franco dish definitely make a fair claim for the limelight. (They’re stuffed with guinea fowl, prosciutto and parmesan.) The broth is the star of the show, though. The golden liquid is anything but simple. Made with fat from the meat, plus celery and sundried tomatoes, it boasts deep flavours but still holds light, delicate notes at the same time. It’s heaven in a bowl. 107 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 0NP. Hackney Central Overground.
Thai coconut and mushroom soup with chilli and lime, Mildreds, £5
This Thai broth packs a serious punch. Not only is it thick, creamy, stomach-filling stuff (you won’t find any sad, watery nonsense here), it’s laced with zesty lime, fragrant coconut, and hearty mushrooms, with hot hits from the occasional fleck of red chilli. One whiff of this soup and you’ll be transported to the heart of Bangkok. Best of all, it’s vegan. Mildreds has branches in Soho, King’s Cross, Camden and Dalston.
Beef goulash soup, Paul Rothe & Son, £4.45
Paul Rothe & Son is a family-run café-cum-deli that’s been serving up homemade nourishment since 1900. Right now, its beef goulash is making waves (and stains, dribbled down T-shirts from over-eager eating). It’s a smoky soup that’s so thick you could almost call it gravy, chock-full of hearty vegetables and tender chunks of beef. It’s rich, dense and perfect for dunking one of the café’s gigantic sandwiches into. 35 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2NN. Tube: Bond St.
Want more food to warm your cockles? Check out London's best veggie comfort food.