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Kolamba
Milo Brown

The best restaurants in Soho

The centre of London is a glorious melting pot of incredible cuisines

Joe Mackertich
Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
Contributor
Joe Mackertich
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Soho has a lot going for it. The formerly grubby heart of central London is home to tons of great independent shops, cafes and the like. And, as you'd expect, it does a great line in restaurants.You’ll find all sorts there. Authentic tapas and rustic French fare? Check. Sumptuous buns and superlative sushi? Double check. So, without further ado, here are our favourite Soho restaurants (for a proper sit-down meal) and pitstop places (for those on the go).

Check out five of the best eats in the area in our video:

The best restaurants in Soho

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Soho

A small, unshowy restaurant that’s made a name for itself with a short but perfectly formed menu and an easy-going conviviality. Dishes are seasonal and it’s good 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
  • Taiwanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Though based on Taiwanese street-food dishes, Bao’s kitchen pushes far beyond 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 (bun) are more slider-like. Yet 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 distinguished. 

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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 place to watch while the chefs dole out dazzlers such as oozing tortillas and milk-fed lamb’s 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 pre-booked, and are open for walk-ins only. 

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 over 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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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 effect.

  • 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 business colleagues or hot dates. 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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  • 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.

Burger & Lobster Soho
  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Soho

You know where you are with the Burger & Lobster chain – and this flashily decorated Soho branch is no exception. Obviously, everything hinges on the titular combo of hand-minced burgers (made from Nebraskan beef) and lobsters (shipped over from Nova Scotia), although B&L have tweaked their offer of late, adding a veggie black bean burger and a brioche roll with chilled lobster and Japanese mayo to the menu. There are also some lush desserts if you still have room.

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Ceviche Soho
  • Restaurants
  • Peruvian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

The Peruvian party hasn’t stopped on Frith Street since Ceviche showed up: Martin Morales’s restaurant-bar (and his joie de vivre) seems to have struck a chord with Londoners. Pisco cocktails alone are worth a visit, but the food is just as impressive. Obviously the star of the show is ceviche. Order with corn cakes, fresh and vibrant salads packed with avocado and lightly spiced chicken dishes and you’ll be feeling higher than a gap-year student on a Peruvian journey of self-discovery.

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

From those devilishly clever mavericks at Camden’s experimental Chin Chin Labs, this Soho venue is famous for its out-there ice creams but bills itself as a Dessert Club – so expect plenty of saccharine surprises along the way. Perch at the bleacher-style bench in the centre of the lurid marble-and-gold room and indulge in wacky Willy Wonka treats galore. Anyone up for the compressed strawberry ice cream topped with chocolate fudge sauce?

 

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Chotto Matte
  • Restaurants
  • Peruvian
  • Soho

Good times beckon at Chotto Matte – a vast Frith Street rendezvous that takes Japanese-Peruvian fusion (aka Nikkei cuisine) and really cranks up the volume. On the ground floor is an enormous bar (a seething mass of suits and glamour pusses, drinking cocktails against a vivid manga-style mural), while the upstairs restaurant serves up new-style sushi, tostaditas, robata-grilled bits and tempura.  

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Like its sister restaurant Barrica, this is a place where you get proper tapas-sized dishes and 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 valuable find in the heart of Soho. And it’s now taking bookings.

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  • 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.

 

  • 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, comprised of quality European dishes. And there’s a truly lovely atmosphere (plus outdoor tables now).



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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 forebears, 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. 

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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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 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!

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

With a flaming charcoal grill in 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. Breadcrumb 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.

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Island Poké
  • Restaurants
  • Hawaiian
  • Soho

In case you’ve been out of touch, poké is an on-trend alternative to high-carb sandwiches and expense-account sushi in the shape of virtuously healthy Hawaiian-inspired raw fish salad bowls. The Island chain is one of the frontrunners, offering a build-your-own bowl in a tiny interior that marries a South Pacific beach-shack vibe with a heavy R&B soundtrack.

  • 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.

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Kiln
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This sequel to the 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, most baked in clay pots over Thai tao (charcoal barbecues). It’s pure theatre for food lovers, and the resulting 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.

 

  • 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, it stands up to its neighbour for sure.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Evoking the more 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 in earthy broth topped with fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushrooms.

  • 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 (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.

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 beautiful. They have an almost Scandinavian look, being 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.

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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.

Lina Stores
  • Shopping
  • Bakeries
  • Soho

Three quarters of a century after opening its deli, Soho’s Lina Stores has launched this restaurant proper. Go hard on the pasta: think al dente pici (hand-rolled, worm-like), gnudi (ricotta and semolina dumplings) and squid ink spaghetti. There’s a trattoria-esque downstairs area but the best seats are at the street-level counter.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

This offshoot of the Borough Market original has atmosphere by the bucket load – and you can expect a properly effusive Spanish welcome too. Food-wise, 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.

Machiya
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Leicester Square
  • price 1 of 4

Japanese home-cooking from the people behind Kanada-Ya, this clean little restaurant is dishing up simple plates at affordable prices. Nothing’s compromised to suit a Western palate: take the dessert of matcha roll cake with green tea cream and azuki yokan (a jelly made from red bean paste). But there are classics here too, like panko-breaded pork with tonkatsu sauce.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

You’ll often find customers queuing out the door of this cafeteria-style Japanese restaurant, where the portions are huge and the food is generally pretty ace. It’s a no-frills spot, with minimal decor. The menu ranges from sushi and bento boxes to large rice dishes, katsu curry and noodle soups – plus it’s all ridiculously good value. Service is fast and friendly, too. 

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.

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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 pasta.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Soho

Introduced to London by Alan Yau and Rocco Princi in 2008, this smart outpost of a Milanese bakery chain remains a popular all-day option. It’s a good-looking room, and the food is varied enough to keep diners coming back for more: as well as cakes, pastries and breads, there’s a choice of filled focaccia, hot dishes, slices of pizza and lots of attractive salads. Prices are higher than average, but it’s all quality, seasonal stuff. The bakery is (somewhat chaotic) counter service, while the adjoining pizzeria offers table service and a marginally calmer atmosphere.

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Soho

With a big chunk of its original dining room hived off to accommodate Barrafina, this Soho veteran seems to have lost some of its vim and vigour – in fact, the petite space now feels a bit like a members’ club. It’s also pricy, although we still recommend it as a contender for business lunches or sociable catch-ups – especially if you’re partial to smoked eel sarnies and humble British dishes such as fish and chips. ‘Satisfying but safe’ sums it up.

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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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Like Bone Daddies and Flesh & Buns before it, Ross Shonhan’s Shackfuyu is another self-styled rock ’n’ roll take on modern Japanese cuisine. Originally billed as a long-term pop-up, it’s now gone permanent and that’s great news all round. There’s nothing on the menu we don’t fancy – from the tuna tacos with avocado to the wagyu beef laced with a ginger soy dressing.

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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  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

Brindisa began as an importer of quality Spanish ingredients in the late 1980s, but its founders later segued into hospitality, launching the first of their small chain of tapas restaurants in Borough Market in 2004. This branch is the first to shift focus from tapas to cooked meats – roasts, grills, and slow-cooked braises – in a modern take on the Spanish asador. The handsome, low-lit dining room features sleek tiling, copper light fittings, and a central marble-topped bar-cum-kitchen.

  • Restaurants
  • Barbecue
  • Soho

Fun-loving music, good-time vibes and smokin’ hunks of meat sizzling over the fiery coals – that’s the instantly addictive deal at this windowless basement dive dreamed up by chef Neil Rankin (of Smokehouse fame). Impossibly juicy steak keeps it simple, while assorted tacos play fast and loose with their exotic fillings – take the smoked goat. Delirious puds, meanwhile, are guaranteed to finish you off.

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Upstairs at 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 geezers. The daily-changing menu – cooked up by Neil Borthwick (ex-head chef of Merchant’s Tavern) – is crammed with seasonal French and British fare. It all tastes brilliant – gutsy, stripped back and practically cutting-edge.

  • Restaurants
  • Lebanese
  • Soho

Head down an old Soho passageway to find this dinky self-styled purveyor of ‘Beirut street food’ – a jam-packed lunchtime haunt popular for its takeaway wraps: try the spicy sujuk sausage version with some Arabic bread, olives and torshi (pickles) on the side. Otherwise, sit at one of faux-rustic tables and graze from the all-day mezze menu with some refreshing mint tea or pomegranate juice.

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  • 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 early hours of the morning.

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 pricey, so ask for a basket of bread to fill you up (it’s not on the menu, but staff happily gave us one).

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Zima
  • Restaurants
  • Russian
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Russian street food comes to Soho. No, really. In reality, Zima is serving sharing plates and pickles and there’s not much street to it at all. But it’s still an edgy den – all blue tiles and rustic wooden benches – under the steer of Russian superstar chef Alexei Zimin, who founded Russia’s foremost food mag, Eda, and Moscow’s restaurant and cookery school, Ragout.  His star credibility has brought a buzz through the door, and Russian princesses with megawatt wristwatches posed around with caviar and jugs of vodka on our visit.

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