Unless you want a takeaway sandwich, eateries are few and far between on Oxford Street. Look beyond the main drag, however, and you'll find plenty of places to refuel and recover from a hard day of shopping, from the mouth-watering burger joint Meat Liquor to mezze restaurant Yalla Yalla.
Plus, if you're looking for a good watering hole in which to wash down your meal, check out our guide to the best pubs in the West End.
Think we've missed a great restaurant near Oxford Street? Let us know in the comment box below.
On leaving tourist-thronged Argyll Street to check into the Aqua ‘concept’, you’re greeted by a dark, sinful-looking lobby. Take the lift to the fifth floor, where, after bypassing Japanese restaurant Aqua Kyoto, you arrive at the large, glitzy dining room and terrace of the Spanish part of the operation. The location, hybrid offering and high prices (expect to blow £80 on a tapas lunch for two, including a couple of glasses of house wine) may make diners wonder who all this is for – but the stylish presentation and panoramic views temper such misgivings.
In 2014, the Golden Hind will celebrate 100 years of providing solid fish suppers to the residents of Marylebone – almost as long as the dish has been in existence. It’s therefore no surprise that the kitchen team have their craft well honed. Our haddock was exceptional, with a light, wonderfully grease-free batter. Chips were chunky, less well done than the norm, but crisp and fresh-tasting (if not quite melt-in-the-mouth on the inside). Perfectly seasoned mushy peas were a treat, and provided more than just a splash of colour on the plate.
‘Bringing the New York steakhouse to London.’ Not the most original brief, but this (Russian-owned) newcomer has a decent stab at bringing Manhattan to Mayfair: dark-wood panelling, inviting leather booths, a bar counter running the length of the restaurant, and staff so chatty and involved in your order they practically sit down to eat with you. (Our waiter gave us a five-minute wine discourse, talking through the choice of 20-odd on the red-heavy list.)
Givenchy, Chanel – Hix. The restaurateur’s name sits oddly above the designer-label haven of the Selfridges ground floor, just past the Prada and Dolce & Gabbana concessions. Yet the ‘Hix Restaurant & Champagne Bar’ (to give its full name) would look at home in an airport shopping mall, which – in some ways – is exactly what this corner of Selfridges is. For our fellow diners have not specially sought out this new, third London location for Mark Hix’s growing restaurant empire any more than I’m likely to impulse-buy a Balenciaga handbag.
Just getting into this cult destination can feel like cause for celebration. Not only is the queue epic, but Meat Liquor employs ‘good cop, bad cop’ strategies to manage it. On our visit, Bad Cop was played by a giant bouncer who prowled along the line ink-stamping hands: a ploy that stops late-comers from joining their friends mid-queue. Good Cop, meanwhile, was a doe-eyed girl with a tray of the famed deep-fried pickles to quell munchies.
Come to this trailblazing rib joint on a Friday or Saturday night and there’s one certainty: a painfully long queue. Not only do you have to shuffle along patiently, but once inside, you still might have to wait a little longer (though at least you can order drinks). Even if you play smart and come one quiet weekday lunchtime, you may still endure a brief pause, but for rib-lovers, it’ll be worth it. The Pitt Cue-ers honed their craft under a bridge on the South Bank, selling to a demanding, social media-savvy, twentysomething audience – and their cooking rarely misses a beat.
Pollen Street Social’s philosophy is ‘deformalised fine dining’, and to this end the decor is smart but approachable – white-walled, linen draped and wood-panelled. Dishes are grounded in French and English tradition and embellished with occasionally esoteric side notes of texture and taste, sometimes garnered from chef Jason Atherton’s travels. They’re seasonal too, in terms of ingredients, but not necessarily in mood.
Whether you’re looking for black, white or green tea, you’ll find intriguingly unusual examples here. A friendly, classic-looking shop located in an 18th-century Mayfair building, Postcard takes pride in its support for high-quality estates in Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan and elsewhere. You can sit and have a pot at the tasting table to help you choose and, for those who’d like to learn to be more discerning when it comes to the nation’s favourite pick-me-up, there are tea tastings at 10am on Saturday mornings.
The arresting entrance hall, with its high-impact artworks and greeters who are part-cast and part-personal assistant, are cues that you are entering not just a building of dizzying grandeur, but a designed world with a playful, theatrical bent. Sketch’s Lecture Room & Library is up a very fine staircase. Flooded with light from a glass ceiling dome, and governed by immaculately tailored staff, it’s the most classical space in the complex, with the food providing the trademark fantastical note.
Wild Honey underwent a revamp in autumn 2012 – the dining room still has the same wood panelling meets modern art vibe as before, but it’s now possible to look from one end of the vibrantly accessorised (the soft furnishings, in particular) restaurant to the other. The quirky nooks and crannies have been lost, but it no doubt makes things easier for the staff. A meal from the spring menu promised much, but didn’t always deliver: organic salmon, with piquillo peppers, butter beans and parsley, was almost raw in parts, and Scottish crab with guacamole and green mango (a starter) was almost too delicate in flavour (only white meat was used).
Soho’s lively little Lebanese hub continues its success, judging by the numbers who cram around the tables in the distinctive yellow, black and white interior. At the back is a counter stacked with ready-made wraps to take away. This cheery café is a world away from staid traditional Lebanese restaurants. There’s none of the formality (or the space), but the standard of food is just as high. On a recent visit, we loved the tangy stickiness of sawda djej (melt-in-the-mouth chicken livers), which, in this version, came in a dark sauce sweet with pomegranate seeds.
Mac and Wild
Veniphobia. It’s not an official phobia, like arachnophobia, agoraphobia or my personal favourite, omphalophobia (the fear of belly buttons). But it should be. We all know someone who suffers from it: an irrational fear of venison. Mac & Wild is the cure. A cosy Fitzrovia newcomer with a Scottish heart, it specialises in wild deer that has none of the off-putting ‘gaminess’ people associate with venison -- it also happens to be mind-bogglingly tender. Most of the meat comes from co-owner Andy Waugh’s father’s estate, the rest from other trusted highland hunters, all of whom use state-of-the-art refrigeration techniques. On our visit we watched a waiter convince a table of fashionistas to go for venison, rather than beef chateaubriand: ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll take it off the bill.’ They devoured every morsel. Mac & Wild’s origins date back to 2010, when Waugh drove down to Borough Market with a van-load of raw deer meat. This led to him selling venison-based street food (as ‘The Wild Game Co’) at markets and pub residencies, before finally opening a 2014 pop-up. It was so popular that within weeks Waugh and his team were looking for a permanent site. The result: Mac & Wild, a stylish place filled with rough-hewn wood tables, bare bricks, and modish lighting. The Scandi-leaning Scottish food it serves (the chef is Danish) is mostly sensational. In addition to terrific venison ‘steak frites’ (£11) and order-by-weight chateaubriand, there are beefy alternatives
Venue says: “Wild Brunch Club, Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-4pm. Bottomless brunch cocktails.”