The best restaurants in Holborn
If you’re heading from Holborn towards the British Museum, take time to visit this lively Japanese eatery specialising in okonomiyaki – savoury omelettes/pancakes that are whipped up in front of your very eyes on a special hotplate fitted into each table. All you have to do is pick your fillings and garnishes. Alternatively, dip into the selection of teppanyaki grills, soba noodles, gyoza and the like, finishing off with a mitsumame fruit salad and sweet red beans.
Discreetly hidden next to Holborn station, this bustling below-stairs restaurant was spreading the Korean gospel long before kimchi, bulgogi and bibimbap became buzzwords in London. Tabletop hot plates do the business on everything from beef to deftly marinated pork belly, while the full menu includes most of the usual suspects – think bowls of spicy yuk kae jang soup, savoury pa jeon (seafood pancakes) and yuk hwae (Korea’s answer to steak tartare with soy, pear and egg yolk).
It’s a bonus to find proper Vietnamese cooking in Holborn, so load up on soups, summer rolls, bánh xeo (pancakes) and other classics at this handily placed venue. At lunchtime, local workers pop in for takeaway bánh mì (crisp baguettes stuffed with pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber and a filling of your choice), while the various versions of pho are perfectly decent renditions.
Venue says Every day great value, popular Vietnamese eatery in Central London with weekly specials showcasing regional dishes.
The queues are endless at this branch of no-bookings Barrafina in the hinterland between Holborn and Covent Garden, but your patience is amply rewarded once you claim your stool at the L-shaped marble counter. Flawless cooking is a given, and the hero kitchen doesn’t disappoint when it comes to delivering starry scene-stealing tapas – seafood empanadas, pork belly with chickpeas, chargrilled artichokes romesco and so on. Your money might go further in Spain, but who cares when the quality’s this good.
A terrific breakfast, brunch and lunch spot midway between Holborn and Covent Garden stations, this cheery café/takeaway is right on the money. Early birds come here for brioche French toast, bubble ’n’ squeak and confit duck hash, while others take time out over sprightly salads, soups, stews and quiches. With enticing sweet treats, invigorating coffee, piles of arty magazines and a super-soulful soundtrack added to the mix, it’s tempting to spend all day here.
If you’re tired of the Berlusconi-themed cabaret shenanigans in Bunga Bunga’s basement bar, head upstairs to Bungatini – a straight-down-the-line, no-nonsense pizzeria with crowd-pleasing credentials on Drury Lane. The decor comes with a contemporary edge (note the USB ports at every table), but the menu goes for rustic familiarity in a big way – pizzas with artisan toppings, bookended by antipasti and decadent homemade gelati. You can sip cocktails, too, without having to endure BB’s excesses.
A few minutes’ stroll from Holborn station, in Covent Garden’s ‘Opera Quarter’, this is queen bee Angela Hartnett in casual mode, offering laid-back café-luxe and a menu of hearty Italian flavours, peasant classics and intricate cicchetti plates. You can opt for a helping of pasta (tortelli with lemon, ricotta and marjoram) or go the whole hog with some antipasti and dolci too. Start things off with a CM spritz, before settling into the gorgeous reds from small Italian producers.
The noodles served at this functional drop-in between Holborn and Bloomsbury are of the Chinese hand-pulled variety – stretched, folded, then stretched some more, before being piled up into big bundles or doused in sumptuous soup. Chang’s on-trend soup dumplings are also fragrant and perfectly chewy, while Sichuan classics such as mapo tofu or pig’s ears in chill oil will blow your head off – even if you’re used to living on the spicy edge.
In the basement of Soho House’s Hoxton hotel, this laid-back chicken joint promises good times, dim lights and pulsating music. A wood-fired spit gets the free-range chooks looking nice and blackened by the time they reach your table – all you need is a side order of slaw and fries. The menu also features buttermilk-fried ‘dirty birds’ with chipotle mayo, as well as various naughty riffs on the ‘dirty burger’ theme – perfect for an all-out meat-fest in the Holborn ’hood.
A stalwart of London’s Spanish scene, Jake Hodges’s singular Holborn haunt is no fashion leader, but it’s a light, modern and good-natured venue with more than a touch of enterprise and elan on the food front. The menu hops from tapas to paellas to juicy cutlets and fish cooked on the plancha, with set lunch and dinner menus keeping the costs down for the business crowd. We’d gladly return for the unusual by-the-glass sherries and the heavenly salt cod (if it’s on).
Strutting its stuff down Aldwych way since 2012, this crowd-pulling take on a grand European café comes from the ever-productive duo of Corbin & King (The Wolseley, Brasserie Zedel, Bellanger etc). The menu covers breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner and everything in between – think pancakes, brioche burgers, tartes flambées, schnitzels, choucroute, sausages and indulgent viennoiserie. For something more laid-back, try the no-bookings counter next door with its tempting range of sandwiches, pastries and light bites.
Venue says Enjoy our Menu Rapide for just £13.50. It includes a classic tarte flambée, mixed leaf salad, glass of wine or beer and tea or coffee.
Don’t expect strawberries in December at this clean-lined minimalist diner on Drury Lane. Inspired by the namesake roadside produce stalls of America’s Midwest, Farmstand goes all out when it comes to unrefined, GM-free, sustainable and seasonal produce – although it never rams its healthy credo down people’s throats. Colourful salad boxes and trays are the big sellers, supported by liquid assets including cold-pressed juices, gluten-free lager and filtered water. They do takeaways and home deliveries too.
Venue says Fast, fresh and delicious evening dining. A menu of small plates & sharing dishes, botanical cocktails & a short list of organic wines.
A real-deal chippy, Fryer’s Delight has been serving up the good stuff in Holborn since 1962. It may look like a London cabbie’s hole-up with its Formica-topped tables, long benches and old-school menu scrawled on the wall, but fans come from far and wide to sample its wares. Expect battered cod, rock, skate, fishcakes, roe, saveloys, pies and chicken – with chips, peas and ‘wallies’ (chubby pickled gherkins) on the side, plus tartare sauce and ketchup. Don’t forget a can of fizzy pop too.
Although it launched on the back of the noughties gastropub boom, the perennially popular Great Queen Street (on the Holborn side of Covent Garden) is no trumped-up foodie boozer. Instead, it serves a daily menu of seasonal grub to punters who book tables for proper sit-down meals in casual, cacophonous surroundings. Dishes are produce-led, unfussy and predominantly British, from suet-crusted chicken pie to whole lemon sole with leeks, samphire and wild garlic. Walk-ins may find space at the back bar, while the outdoor tables are like gold dust.
A grand British brasserie, the Holborn Dining Room within the Rosewood hotel is all plush red-leather banquettes, pillars, tweed detailing and marble floors – like a bustling salon or an old, gentlemen’s club. The menu matches the aesthetic with true Brit dishes such as hot buttered shrimp, roast pork belly or lemon curd slice – although top billing goes to the meaty output of the pie-making room. The food is complemented by one of the largest stocks of gin in London.
Venue says Join our Head Sommelier, Michael Raebel for a unique wine experience with our newly launched Wine Discoveries available from £45.
On the ground floor of Soho House’s hip Hoxton hotel, this grill/café/bar hybrid gives off a Brooklyn warehouse vibe, while an all-day repertoire references the stateside classics – bagels for breakfast, burgers, grills, salads and pasta for supper, plus trendy ideas such as goat tartare with sriracha dressing or BBQ octopus with beetroot pickle and squid-ink spelt. Meanwhile signature cocktails, seasonal botanicals, craft beers and global wines suit the drinkers just fine.
It’s an easy hop from Holborn station to this flagship London branch of the super-slick Ippudo chain – a deafening multi-storey labyrinth overlooking St Giles Piazza. The speciality is big-flavoured bowls of tonkotsu featuring sliced pork loin, cloud-ear mushrooms and own-made noodles, but Ippudo trades on variety – so you can also get hirata bins, black cod with miso, seared wagyu beef, chicken karaage, rice bowls and lots more besides, plus fun cocktails and premium sakés. No bookings, so be ready for long queues.
Venue says Our Summer Tsukemen is back: hearty portion of chilled home-made thick noodles with hot broth with your favourite toppings!
It’s all about roll-your-sleeves-up DIY at this branch of Kintan – a bargain-basement Japanese eatery specialising in yakiniku, a variant of Korean BBQ involving a smoky thick-ridged grill built into each table. The fully illustrated medley ranges from USDA kalbi short-rib to duck breast and tiger prawns, but we’re sold on the pre-marinated spicy pork. Wipe-clean menus are splashed with red-sticker deals, while daily ‘happy hours’ just keep rolling on – so you’re quids in from the start.
Hip and minimalist, with splashes of colour from its Ottolenghi-style displays of salads and cakes, this cute café is a boon for the crowds of tourists and legal eagles who circle around Aldwych. There’s coconut milk porridge for breakfast on-the-go, plus an array of inventive sandwiches, toasties and other savoury fillers, all backed by Assembly coffee and seasonal cold-pressed juices. Great food, good looks and a friendly vibe – who could ask for more?
If you enjoy luxuriating in sumptuous vintage glamour, you’re going to love Margot – a gloriously old-school Italian complete with a behatted doorman, a jazzy crooning soundtrack, flattering lighting and a wealth of brasserie luxe trappings. The food is smart and elegantly rendered (think pan-fried hake with fregola, shellfish and sea herbs), although it almost plays second fiddle to the ritzy surrounds, cosseting staff and dizzying 300-bin wine list. Worth the trip from Holborn station to Great Queen Street.
Venue says We are pleased to have added breakfast to the menu. From our gorgeous granola to all kinds of eggs, served from 8am Monday to Friday!
More restaurant than wine bar these days, Noble Rot comes from the owners of the eponymous magazine, a cult read for London’s oenophiles. This venue also boasts some serious culinary cred, with Stephen Harris of the Michelin-starred Sportsman in Whitstable consulting on the seasonal menu. Expect wine-loving Franglais dishes ranging from lamb’s sweetbreads with broad beans to seared thornback ray with brown shrimp and caper butter. Wine buffs can pick up a copy of the mag while they’re there, too.
Although it parted company with the Salt Yard group in 2018, it’s business as usual at this old stager opposite the Drury Lane Theatre (less than ten minutes’ walk from Holborn station). Once a thespian watering hole, it now serves up charcuterie, cheeses and modish small plates such as Gorgonzola-topped beef and lardo sliders. The food is solid rather than spectacular, although OT is just the ticket if you fancy knocking back a few sherries with some croquetas.
As a stablemate of Zuma, Roka’s Aldwych branch gets the gold seal of approval from aficionados for its fresh-as-they-come sushi and juicy cuts of meat straight off the robata grill. It’s a flashy place to splurge on the expense account, although it’s also worth keeping an eye out for more affordable bottomless brunch deals with plenty of signature dishes washed down with wine. The restaurant’s dessert platter on ice has to be seen to be believed.
Occupying what was Ichiryu, the New Oxford Street branch of Shoryu Ramen brings steaming bowls of ramen to a hungry West End crowd. The signature ganso tonkotsu, a great go-to dish, has a wonderfully meaty broth, caramelised black garlic, smoky pork belly and a gooey slow-cooked egg, but other variations on the theme also cut it. There are tempura gyoza, curries and buns too, but ramen is the real star of the show. Head to the Great Queen Street branch if you’re in Covent Garden.
Find more great restaurants near Holborn
Covent Garden is so stuffed with restaurants that decision fatigue can threaten the quality of your dinner. If only the best Covent Garden restaurants are good enough, then our list of the cream of the culinary crop will steer you to the right tables. From pre-theatre favourites and cheap eats to restaurants for a special occasion. Think of it as your Theatreland bucket list.
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