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zone 1

  • British
  • Soho

Old Soho looms large at Quo Vadis. This elegantly bohemian members’ club heaves with history, despite the fact that its public dining room received a thorough makeover at the start of 2023. Previously a dark and moody mystery, with the restaurant’s floorspace doubled, this once rather poky room is now wonderfully welcoming. Eat alongside glamorous wine-swilling pals and oyster-slurping folk who look like artists – even if they’re not – who feasting on congenial chef Jeremy Lee’s indulgent takes on classic British food. 

https://media.timeout.com/images/106138839/image.jpg
Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Evoking the traditional feel of a Japanese udon-ya, this casual eatery wouldn’t be out of place in Tokyo. A blond-wood counter dominates the long narrow space (chefs on one side, diners on the other) but it still feels spacious and airy. And there’s now a diddy table out the front, too. Koya classics such as udon with mushrooms and walnut miso (kinoko) are available here, as is breakfast – try the ‘English breakfast’ udon: an earthy broth topped with fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushrooms.

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  • French
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • price 2 of 4

In little over a decade the French pleasure palace that is Brasserie Zédel has become a London landmark. Long gone is Zedel’s famed two courses for under a tenner deal, but the prix fixe menu remains, it’s just a little more prix-y than before. That said, two courses for £16.95 (or three for £19.75) remains decent value for a zingy mound of dijon-drizzled carottes râpées followed by the house speciality of steak haché – another mound, this time of chopped steak with peppercorn sauce and perfect fries. Slam a creme brulee on the end and you’ve got yourself a fabulous three course dinner for under £20, a real rarity in Soho. 

https://media.timeout.com/images/106138839/image.jpg
Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
  • French
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

Head to the top floor of this old-school boozer to the teeny dining room, which is decked out with black-and-white pictures of salty old Soho geezers. The daily-changing menu – cooked up by Neil Borthwick (ex-head chef of The Merchant’s Tavern) – is crammed with seasonal French and British fare. It all tastes brilliant – gutsy, stripped back and practically cutting-edge.

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  • Filipino
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

A small ‘modern Filipino’ restaurant from the same group behind Kentish Town’s culty Panadera Bakery and Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream, Donia offer a brief but masterful menu of rousing, flavour-packed gastronomy. Think prawn and pork dumplings with white crab, thick-cut sea bream kinilaw, massive lobster ginataan with creamy coconut and pumpkin sauce and sensational lamb shoulder caldereta pie. 

https://media.timeout.com/images/106138839/image.jpg
Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
  • Thai
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

The sequel to Ben Chapman’s original Thai barbecue joint Smoking Goat is a slam dunk. Sit up at the stainless-steel counter and watch the chefs stoke and tame the fires to produce authentic-tasting northern Thai dishes, baked in clay pots over the charcoal barbecue. It’s pure theatre for food lovers, and the dishes boast memorably intense flavours – from the dry spice rubs used on the fresher-than-fresh fish, to the lashings of ginger and spice in the beef-neck curry. 

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  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Home of the best prawn tempura hand roll in the city, this Winnett Street sushi joint is so humble you could walk past it and never realise it was there. When marking up the dishes you’d like on the paper menu, don’t hold back; as well as those hand rolls, there are street-food snacks, sushi and sashimi.

  • American
  • Soho

This is a place to see and be seen. Interiors-wise it’s all super-cosy with diner-style red leather booths, wood furnishings, a rustic Mexican tiled bar and even a much-coveted central London enclosed garden space out back. If you’re looking for a place to catch-up with pals in central London and want to watch the world go by with some superior snacks and a corker of a cocktail, then this is the place to be.

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  • Middle Eastern
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4
Yeni
Yeni

The London spin-off of one of Istanbul’s most celebrated restaurants, Yeni is deliciously atmospheric – all high ceilings and pretty patterned tiling in the open kitchen – plus the food is excellent. Try the snow peas with apple mint and chilli, or the dessert of kadajifi (bread pudding) fritters. It’s quite pricy, so ask for a basket of bread to fill you up (it’s not on the menu, but staff happily gave us one).

  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

When the then-twenty-something head chef Angelo Sato opened Humble Chicken in the bones of the original Barrafina in 2021, people were tripping over themselves to sing the praises of his cosy Soho yakitori joint. A couple of years down the line and Sato has shifted his own goalposts. He's now moved on from acclaimed and juicy Japanese chicken skewers to Humble Chicken 2.0 which offers an omakase of 13 immaculate east Asian-rooted dishes for a not cheap, but not extortionate £115. It spans snacks, oysters, dumplings, sashimi, and, of course, chicken. Impressive stuff. 

https://media.timeout.com/images/106138839/image.jpg
Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London

Zone 2

  • Mexican
  • Holborn
  • price 1 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Daddy Donkey
Daddy Donkey
If you have a hankering for a burrito as well as a cheap handbag, Leather Lane is the place to be. Nestled among the bric-a-brac, cheap shoes and 'classic' CDs is this behemoth of an operation – Daddy Donkey is a self-proclaimed ‘kick-ass Mexican grill’. Started by Joel Henderson in 2005, the street food stall grew massively over the past few years, and in 2014 the operation moved into a permanent coner site.  But despite settling into a 'proper' takeaway joint, has still managed to keep the quality of their offerings consistent. Whether you’re having the ‘naked burrito’ (sans tortilla, replaced with salad) or the Daddy D burrito, choose from five fillings (a step above other burrito stalls), including shredded beef (cooked with green tomatillos and lime salsa; £6.50), or carnitas (pork shoulder cooked in with garlic, cola, spiced and chili; £5.95). The combinations are endless, but there is one constant – be prepared to queue.
  • Things to do
  • City Life
Don’t be fooled by its sartorial-sounding name: leather is no longer readily available here. Instead this scenic street, nestled between the hustle and bustle of Gray’s Inn and Farringdon Roads, and running parallel to the jewellery trade hub of Hatton Garden, is a haven for food lovers. Leather Lane mixes the best of traditional London with the new. Its down-to-earth weekday market – which has been operating for a staggering 400 years – is one of the city’s best and is constantly evolving, these days feeding the suited lunchtime worker crowd. Meanwhile innovative, independent, and – dare I say it – kind of hipstery restaurants and coffee shops are springing up on the street all the time. Surprisingly for somewhere so central, Leather Lane is also majorly residential, which has fostered a greater sense of community than you’ll find in most parts of the City. The Friends of Leather Lane Market group and Leather Lane Stars project work hard to preserve this; it’s them you can thank for helping to retain the lane’s unique character and independent spirit. Okay, yes, there is a Pret, a Subway and a Greggs, so you’re sorted for sandwiches – but apart from that, you’d be hard pressed to find any major chains setting up shop here. Drink this   A photo posted by Camylla Vitorio (@camytomylife) on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:16am PDT Microbrewed cask ales from the Sir Christopher Hatton, a cosy traditional pub with outdoor tables for those rare sunny days. Craft beer, obviously, at The Craf
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We made it! Christmas is almost upon us and London has pulled out all the stops to make it better than ever. Pick up beautiful gifts at festive fairs, dance, prance and skate your way around town, or sing your heart out at candlelit carol services where you can stuff yourself with mince pies and mulled wine. Finish off 2015 with a bang using the list below!  THINGS TO DO Dec 1-24: Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum The Charles Dickens Museum has an obvious right to go fully festive come December, and this year they'll be marking the season with near-daily special events and an exhibition themed around 'A Christmas Carol'.  Dec 3: KidZania Adult Lates The incredible children-only city that is KidZania – where kids play a sort of real-life version of the Sims – is opening to grown-ups exclusively for Time Out this winter. If you're over 18 this is your only chance to explore the diminutive world and pretend you're a child again.  Dec 3: Seven Dials and St Martin's Courtyard Shopping Party Over 100 stores, hotels, bars and restaurants will be offering a 20% discount plus live entertainment and activities during this central London annual shopping soirée. Dec 3: Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony A huge Christmas tree will herald the arrival of the festive season (someone ought to tell the supermarkets they started early) when it is lit by the Mayor of Oslo, the Mayor of Westminster and the Norwegian Ambassador at 6pm. Dec 3: William Morris Gallery Late: Agita
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