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Photograph: Rob Greig
Photograph: Rob GreigKiln, Brewer Street - photographed for Time Out London

The best restaurants in Soho

Soho is the glorious epicentre of London’s incredible culinary scene

Angela Hui
Joe Mackertich
Written by
Angela Hui
Contributor
Joe Mackertich
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There’s nowhere in the world like Soho. The haunt of poets, pimps and parvenus, the seedy, sleazy, impossibly romantic heart of London’s West End is home to tons of great independent shops, cafés, bars and, most importantly, restaurants. Its culinary diversity has been fuelled with centuries of immigration and cultural cross-pollination. From rustic French fare to Mediterranean small plates and tasty tapas, here is Time Out’s directory of our favourite Soho restaurants. Whether you fancy a slap-up meal or are just in the market for a mid-town pitstop, our list definitely has you covered. 

Here’s a reminder of how we do restaurant reviews and how we recommend places to eat and drink.

The best restaurants in Soho

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Soho

Founded in 1926, this Soho sanctuary is full of character. There’s even a blue plaque outside to Karl Marx (a massive foodie, apparently). With a big chunk of its original dining room hived off to accommodate Barrafina, this Soho veteran has lost a bit of its vim and vigour – in fact, the petite space now feels a bit like a members’ club, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s cosy and makes it all that more special. A serious contender for business lunches or sociable catch-ups – especially if you’re partial to their signature smoked-eel sarnies and humble British dishes such as fish and chips.

Wun’s Tea Room and Bar
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

Pretend you’re in Wong Kar-wai’s classic ‘In the Mood for Love’ and be transported back to 1960s Hong Kong at this late-night, neon-lit drinking dive. Order a variety of fluffy steamed buns, revolutionary sugar-skin Iberico char siu and innovative cocktails, like the Pandan Old Fashioned and Wun’s signature Rice Negroni. 

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  • Restaurants
  • 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.

  • Shopping
  • Bakeries
  • Soho

Three-quarters of a century after opening its deli, Soho’s Lina Stores has launched this proper restaurant. Go hard on the pasta: al dente handrolled pici pasta noodles, gnudi ricotta and semolina dumplings, squid-ink spaghetti and agnolotti filled pasta. The best seats in the house are at the street-level counter, or head downstairs to the intimate trattoria-esque space. Small portions make this the ideal place to grab a quick bite before moving on.

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Chin Chin Dessert Club
  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Soho

Come to Chin Chin Dessert Club for the wacky Willy Wonka-esque liquid nitrogen frozen ice-cream creations, and stay for the pimped-up hot chocolate with a mountain of fluffy blow-torched marshmallow. It’s out of this world. Sure, the temperatures may have dropped, but whatever the weather there’s always time for dessert. Expect some spectacular sweet winter treats such as the oozing handmade cherry pie and the sticky toffee pudding drenched in warm salted caramel.

  • Restaurants
  • Taiwanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Though based on Taiwanese street-food dishes, Bao’s kitchen really pushes those boundaries. The restaurant’s name derives from ‘gua bao’: fluffy white steamed buns, in this case filled with braised pork, sprinkled with peanut powder. Other sorts of bao are more slider-like. But buns are only half the story. Xiao chi (small eats) are given equal prominence, and the drinks list (well-matched beers, chilled foam tea, glorious peanut milk, and ten-year-aged oolong teas) is especially distinguished. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Soho

A small, unshowy restaurant that’s made a name for itself with a short but perfectly formed menu and easy-going conviviality. Dishes are seasonal and it’s excellent value for money. Adept, friendly staff are a further plus. It’s added ‘Roman style’ pizza to the menu, along with added outdoor seating as part of the area’s pedestrianisation, and tables can be booked in advance. 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

A proper Soho institution that’s open seven days a week, 22 hours a day, from 7am to 5am. Established in 1949 by Lou and Caterina Polledri, this little neon-lit family-run Italian café has been passed down through generations and serves a damn fine cuppa joe. You’ll still find a lot of the original fixtures, from the red-and-white formica and tiled floor, to the Gaggia espresso machine. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a lively Italian football match blaring on the TV.

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  • Restaurants
  • Taiwanese
  • Soho

This is the kind of casual-eating Soho spot you want to take your mates to: cool but not too try-hard. It serves crispy and juicy fried Taiwanese chicken that slaps, and a well-thought-out menu that pulls no punches. Make sure you order the cheesy and decadent prawn ‘in’ toast.

  • Restaurants
  • 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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Barrafina Dean Street
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho

The no-bookings star of London’s tapas scene is now… taking bookings! But only on its counter stools, once among the most clamoured-for seats in town, a popular perch to watch the chefs dole out dazzlers such as oozing tortillas and milk-fed lamb sweetbreads to go with picks from a knockout list of Spanish wines and sherries. Don’t worry, the world isn’t completely back-to-front: seats outside can’t be reserved, and are open for walk-ins only. 

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Soho

Lavish, ostentatious, excessive: in other words, a whole lotta fun, Bob Bob Ricard is an outlandish one-off for those who want to impress hot dates (or ‘valued clients’). Louche roaring twenties decor sets the scene for an indulgent menu of international comfort food with a Russian slant – vareniki (potato dumplings), fish pie, chicken kiev etc. Just press the champagne buzzer if you’re running low on bubbly.

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Hoppers
  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This Sri Lankan stunner may have a chilled aesthetic, with its vintage/modern interiors and focus on street-food dishes. However, it’s from the team behind Gymkhana, Bao and Bubbledogs, so you can bet your bottom rupee that a slick experience awaits. The eponymous savoury pancakes are crisp and chewy in all the right places, the karis are full of flavour, and starters such as goat roti are unmissable. But no dessert menu? Sacrilege!

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho

The buzz is as important as the food at Jacob Kenedy and Victor Hugo’s enduringly popular restaurant. Dine at the bar and you’re in for a fun time – especially if you sit by the window, where you can watch the occasional celeb swan into the dining room. The menu is a (slightly confusing) jumble of small and large plates celebrating the best of artisan regional Italian cooking – all supported by an enticing selection of cocktails and an impressive all-Italian wine list.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

One of those properly romantic Soho restaurant-wine bar hybrids, Ducksoup is pimped with candles, a few small tables along the wall and a bar that acts as a dining counter. The menu is seasonal and comprises quality European dishes. And there’s a truly lovely atmosphere (plus outdoor tables now).



Blanchette
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Soho

Here’s a delightful distraction in the heart of Soho – a French fantasy complete with stripped furniture, objects d’art and a menu that’s as Gallic as ‘La Marseillaise’. Whether you fancy the oozing camembert or a mighty helping of braised lamb shoulder with anchovies and soubise sauce (made from onions), the cooking is all about fine ingredients and bourgeois sensibilities. And the outdoor seating du jour only adds to the overall effect.

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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Like its sister restaurant Barrica, this is a place where you get proper tapas-sized dishes, so you can really get stuck into the menu. Copita sidesteps the usual clichés in favour of less familiar ideas such as smoked anchovies with pork crackling – no wonder it’s popular with the post-work crowd and can get fairly cacophonous. Thankfully, service is always fast and friendly, making this a real find in the heart of Soho. And it’s now taking bookings.

Berenjak
  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This boho-chic Persian joint, from the group behind Bao and Hoppers, may be small but it still packs a punch. Take a seat with views of the open kitchen and plump for one of the innovative grills. Our favourite is the poussin: its charred, blackened edges offset its chilli, red pepper, sumac and garlic marinade. Berenjak is vibrant and atmospheric, with eager-to-please staff, and a bill that won’t kill.

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  • Restaurants
  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

Escape Carnaby’s touristy throngs at this bubbly rendezvous from the Salt Yard Group. Everyone’s here for the hybrid Spanish/Italian tapas menu, which promises acorn-fed porcine treats galore, alongside artisan cheeses and creative morsels such as confit salt cod with chives and ’nduja. Iberian wines and sociable staff ensure an upbeat, uptown vibe. And Dehesa was doing outdoor dining before all these news streetside eateries.

 

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Ember Yard
  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho

Out of the same stable as Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern, Ember Yard builds on the strengths of its fellows, using Italian as well as Spanish tapas-style dishes and techniques as inspiration. What sets Ember Yard apart from its siblings is an even greater emphasis on the grill – if you’ve ever eaten in the Basque country (or even, er, Dalston), you’ll know what we mean. Get up close and smoky by sitting near the glowing coals. 

  • Restaurants
  • Sri Lankan
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

By anyone’s standards, it’s pretty punchy for a South Asian restaurant to open next door to a Dishoom. Truthfully though, Kolamba is a very different beast: smaller and more sophisticated. Sri Lankan signatures include fish cutlets – aka spiced mini fishcakes with deep-fried coats – fiery patties and monkfish curry. Best of all: the creamy and comforting cucumber curry. With serious atmosphere and style, this stands up to its neighbour for sure.

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Inko Nito
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

With a flaming charcoal grill at its centre and a menu offering a mish-mash of Asian creations, Inko Nito on Broadwick Street is the laidback Japanese fusion restaurant you need in your life. Breadcrumbed fried chicken comes with a yoghurt and peanut dip, and the maki rolls, like the one with Korean fried cauliflower (dubbed ‘The KFC’), are innovative.

Engawa
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 4 of 4

Whether you’re already hooked on the (not so cheap) thrills of super-premium kobe beef – or simply want to try it for size – this bijou Japanese eatery should do the trick. Inside, it looks the business (dig the ornate typographic chandelier), while the menu offers a range of elegant dishes best sampled via the full omakase menu. Lunchtime bento boxes also keep things serene ’n’ clean. 

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Le Bab
  • Restaurants
  • Lebanese
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

It had to happen, didn’t it? We’ve had gourmet burgers, gourmet hot dogs and gourmet fried chicken. Now it’s the kebab’s turn. And the kebabs here are beauts. They have an almost Scandinavian look, served ‘open sandwich’-style, the contents painstakingly arranged over a thin, house-made flatbread. It almost seems a pity to roll them up. Fillings change with the seasons, with preserved, charred and fermented ingredients adding to the Nordic vibe.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

A spin-off from the original shipping-container pop-up in Brixton (now closed), Kricket’s Soho site adds a stylish, sophisticated vibe to its short menu of brilliantly conceived Anglo-Indian small plates. Try the Keralan fried chicken or the ‘coronation’ smoked mackerel. Spiced-up cocktails and masala chai also cut the mustard.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Soho

Though its food certainly passes muster, it’s this restaurant’s concept that earns it bucket-list status (and you won’t hear us saying that very often). Hidden behind/beneath its sex-shop façade, La Bodega Negra continues to befuddle first-timers – especially as the ‘shop assistants’ play along even after you’ve worked up the courage to enter. The dining room is so dark, sultry and downright Mexican that you half-expect Salma Hayek to sashay past. Order some cocktails, ignore the prices and let the good times roll.

Pastaio
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Pastaio on Ganton Street is like the Italian version of a large ramen joint, only serving pasta. The music is loud, there’s an open kitchen billowing steam and row upon row of communal tables. It’s all about the pasta, with lashings of butter and parmesan. Go for the carbonara made with bucatini (thick spaghetti) or the weekly-changing special of stuffed shapes.

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

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).

  • Restaurants
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

This offshoot of the Borough Market original has atmosphere by the bucketload – and you can expect a properly effusive Spanish welcome too. Foodwise, Lobos is all about meat – or, more specifically, prime cuts of Ibérico pig, which might turn up as croquetas, meatballs, grills or sliders (with anchovy mayo and pickled cabbage).  There are also plenty of non-porcine tapas on offer.

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Leggero
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This restaurant is a carb-fest with a difference: Leggero is totally gluten-free. Standout dishes include the ‘bruschetta trio’ – featuring gorgonzola, honey and broccoli cream – and the fresh handmade tomato pappardelle. It’s somewhere gluten-free diners could happily take friends for dinner without dreading the inevitable comparisons with how food is ‘supposed’ to taste.

Señor Ceviche
  • Restaurants
  • Peruvian
  • Soho

You know what they say: practice makes perfect. And Harry Edmeades, aka Señor Ceviche, has had plenty of practice. In 2012, after a stint at Lima’s renowned ceviche restaurant El Mercado, the 25-year-old British chef came back to London and started Don Ceviche, a pop-up with just five ceviches (raw fish cured in citrus juice). Then he spent another two years perfecting and expanding the menu before launching this ‘proper’ restaurant. 

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Nopi
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Global
  • Soho

Nopi’s chef-owner is Yotam Ottolenghi, who struck culinary gold with his game-changing Ottolenghi cafés. This is a more formal, more grown-up take on proceedings that shares the same look and ethos – right down to the inventive fusion of Middle Eastern cuisine with bold forays into the Mediterranean and Asia. Nopi isn’t the greatest bargain in town, and two-hour table slots are strictly enforced – but the wide-ranging wine list has some excellent (if pricy) selections to wash down the decent food.

Social Eating House
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Soho

Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred Soho enclave is one of his more frenetic outposts – a sprawling dining room with exposed brick walls, traditional whitewashed copper ceilings and a menu of reimagined modern cooking delivered by a profoundly skilled brigade. Sharing jars, steaks and sundaes sit alongside pitch-perfect dishes such as roasted Cornish hake with aubergine, capers and bone-marrow butter. Savvy Soho drinkers use a separate entrance to access the Blind Pig cocktail bar upstairs.

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The French House
  • Restaurants
  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Soho

Michelin-starred Yauatcha comes on like some gussied-up Taipei teahouse, offering all-day grazing, superior dim sum, petit gateaux and teas of exceptional quality and value. At the same time, the lighting and seating embody the atmosphere of a congenially vibrant ‘chatter shop’ – akin to traditional Hong Kong dim sum palaces during the wee small hours of the morning.

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