Healthy eating is all the rage these days, and we’ve no issue with that. But being on a diet, detox or health kick (or maybe you need coeliac-friendly, dairy-free or paleo-style dishes) doesn’t mean you can’t dine out in style.
Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best healthy restaurants in London, including superfood pitstops, healthy vegetarian and vegan restaurants, calorie-conscious eateries, raw food specialists and sushi restaurants. Plus, we've also chucked in ‘regular’ spots that offer healthier dishes, so you don’t have to say goodbye to your gluttonous dining pals altogether. Proof that clean eating can still be little bit dirty.
Healthy restaurants in central London
Poké – the Hawaiian health bowl involving sashimi fish, veg and grains – goes some way to explaining how the bare-all hula skirt ever became part of the island’s national dress. After a stint enjoying this breezy café’s rice, quinoa and kale bases topped with sustainably sourced raw seafood, vibrant vegetables, nuts and seeds, we imagine you’ll feel similarly body-confident. Veggies can bypass fish for fungi.
The owners of this gorgeous-looking Clerkenwell joint want us all to ‘make friends with food’ – and we’re certainly sold on the place, with its low-key backstreet vibe, pretty plants in pots and cleverly contrived gluten-free cooking. Everything is nutritionally balanced, from the frittata muffins and sweet potato hash to the luscious cakes made with coconut sugar. Juice ‘shots’, homemade pressés and organic wines are on-message too.
Soho townhouse meets Peruvian den at this venture from the team behind Ceviche. Not surprisingly, the result mixes bits of the original (zingy small plates of cold marinated fish) with bits of big brother Andina – especially when it comes to ‘superfood’ ingredients and gluten-free riffs. Lean eaters might choose the steamed monkfish in dashi broth or the annatto-marinated lamb loin with herbs, but maybe give the indulgent choco-cherry balls a swerve for afters.
A self-service veggie buffet that comes up with the goods from breakfast to lights out, Ethos scours the globe for culinary inspiration. Start the day with a gluten-free egg and spinach protein pot plus a slug of beetroot-and-carrot juice, lunch on Japanese miso-roasted aubergine, quorn lasagne or salads that exceed your five-a-day, and finish with a self-styled ‘healthy’ black-bean brownie. Note that you pay for your food by weight.
Don’t expect strawberries in December at Farmstand – a clean-lined minimalist diner inspired by the namesake roadside produce stalls of America’s Midwest. Unrefined, GM-free, sustainable and seasonal are its watchwords, and the food’s also healthy without ramming the ethos 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. There are takeaways and online deliveries too.
These spiralising sisters need no introduction, and their first ‘clean’ café – a chic, sleek vision in brushed gold, blond wood and herb-green upholstery – is bang on-trend. It’s also a snug fit for Selfridge’s Body Studio. Buy into the H&H brand via organic gluten-free dishes without refined sugars or hydrogenated fats – think stews made with their famous bone-broth base, a ‘spag bol’ involving ‘courgetti’ noodles, and luxurious ‘choco-coco’ smoothies.
Venue says: “Build your poke bowl your way. Try tuna, salmon, octopus or tofu!”
A longboard outside the door points up the breezy surfing vibe at this addition to the surging poké roadshow – an airy spot with a clean Asiatic look and a menu of Hawaiian-style raw fish salad bowls. Choose one of the ready-mades or build-your-own combo from the colourful pick ’n’ mix assembly line. Seating is limited, but Honi is just fine for a grab-and-go lunch or an early-evening refresher.
Hummus might be fatty, but it’s the good sort of fat, okay? Top yours with crisp Greek salad and no one can accuse you of being unhealthy – in fact, if you’re following the Zone diet, this dish is probably spot-on. If pulses don’t set your pulse racing, try quinoa salads and seasonal soups. Warning: finishing with a honey-drenched baklava will undo your good work (we won’t judge!).
In case you’ve been out of touch, poké is the latest craze – 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 front-runners, offering a build-your-own conveyor-belt system in a tiny interior that marries a South Pacific beach-shack vibe with a heavy R&B soundtrack.
Japanese, vegan, and organic? What’s not to love – and, rest assured, we do love this cool little miracle near King’s Cross station. Only the slurping of noodles disturbs the Zen-like tranquillity, as punters dip into a virtuously healthy menu that makes the most of a few key ingredients (expects lots of tofu and seaweed). Laidback staff go with the flow, while zealous foodie workshops, art exhibitions and live music make Itadaki even more lovable.
Healthy restaurants in north London
Bill Granger has the youthful looks and other-worldly serenity of a cult leader – a great advert for his chain of sunny-side-up all-day restaurants. Like its siblings, the goodness-packed menu at this branch has a whole section devoted to 'bowls and grains', plus another offering really inventive salads – although it references just about every on-trend fashion on the current foodie agenda. Granger is also known for giving good brunch – healthy, of course.
‘Eat No Evil’ is the mantra behind this homely yet très tasteful ‘clean food’ café near Hampstead Heath, which offers an all-day menu of vitamin-packed smoothies, energy-giving breakfast bowls and colourful layered salads in jars – plus vegan cakes engineered to pass for more-or-less healthy. Signature serves include cacao-chia pudding with whipped coconut cream and a healthier version of challah french toast that will make you forget you’re dieting.
Of course, the food at this top-class yoga school is bound to be virtue incarnate – these people’s bodies are temples. Expect green smoothies (aka ‘medicinal nectars’), organic snacks, and liberal use of herbs and botanics – all tailored to that healthy lifestyle. Also expect to enjoy the experience – as George Bernard Shaw said, ‘virtue is insufficient temptation’. (TriYoga’s sister schools in Soho and Chelsea feature some alternative healthy-eating pitstops, too.)
Healthy restaurants in east London
Martin Morales’ follow-up to Ceviche gives free rein to calories, but makes up for it in the healthy-eating stakes with more than its fair share of ‘superfoods’ – many native to Peru – plus mountains of gluten-free options. Fill up on quinoa and chia croquetas with whipped avocado, zingy ceviches and out-there salads. Also check out the pre/post-workout ‘replenish menu’ – think of it as playing the long game.
Those outdoorsy Aussies have taught us a thing or two about healthy living over the years, and the bright and breezy Beany Green café sells Londoners the whole package in a colourful modern setting compete with a hip hop soundtrack and a funky heated balcony. Expect to find vegetables loaded into almost everything, from hearty salads and pulse-packed, high-energy ‘power balls’ to broccoli and corn fritters. Go nuts.
The secret to dining out on a diet is to pick a restaurant where your ‘normal’ companions can chow down on full-fat dishes while you order light. This Gordon Ramsay venue obliges, with big-ticket plates such as Josper-grilled rib-eye steak or poussin with chimichurri lined up alongside starters from the raw bar and superfood salads. Meanwhile, pineapple and kiwi carpaccio solves that problem called dessert.
If you stay off the pisco sours and stick to the signature marinated fish, this branch of Soho’s Ceviche easily cuts it as a healthy-eating restaurant without the smug vibe. Choose from zesty, punchy ceviches and a host of unusual salads featuring ingredients ranging from quinoa and charred cauliflower to avocado purée. To drink, check out the funky mocktails or the ‘chicha morada’ (a purple maize, superfood refresher).
Cojean is to Paris what Pret is to London: ubiquitous and usually a lunchtime proposition accompanied by a Gallic shrug. Like Pret, it’s also very good at what it does: health-conscious fast-food including wholegrain salads, wholesome soups and curries, delicious sandwiches, and lots of veggie and gluten-free options. Hardly revolutionary, but a solid lunchtime go-to for anyone on a health regime.
What was a carnivorous curry house is now Mooshies vegan burger joint – a sure sign that the times are a-changin’ on Brick Lane (and elsewhere). Instead of macho vindaloos, expect patties made from aubergines, quinoa and suchlike, all served with cracking sides including guacamole and chickpea fritters. This rough-and-ready outfit is still a work in progress, but if you want to stretch Veganuary out across the year, it’s worth knowing about.
Venue says: “Independent cafe and catering company.”
With resolve-crumbling, Oreo-laced, sea-salted caramel brownies weighing down its counter, Hackney’s most ‘colourful’ café (and we don’t mean that as a euphemism) might not be the most obvious pick among London’s healthy destinations. However, those in the know order cashew-milk mochas, turmeric-topped avocado smashed on to gluten-free toast and pastel-hued matcha chia pots scattered with fresh berries as diet-regime comfort.
This uber-committed, clean-eating café might have a clinical feel, but it’s a City oasis for desk drones craving quinoa, bone broth and the sort of kale-based breakfasts that are par for the course in London’s hipper enclaves. The menu is a great read for picky eaters – the small print even details the health perks and micro-nutrients of each dish. The name? It’s an acronym: ‘Simple, Healthy, Organic, Tasty’.
Before you cave in and dial a Domino’s, try giving your health kick a jolt with a trip to this control freaks’ paradise. Use the café’s iPads to choose your ingredients (and their quantities) so that you reach your desired calorific intake; options range from crispy chicken thighs with sweet potato mash, artichokes and smoked tomato dressing to white beans with avocado, shepherd’s salad and sage polenta. Everything is gluten-free.
Healthy restaurants in south London
Vauxhall’s green-living, eco-minded community café – a former squat – sees a rolling roster of cooperative members on hand to prepare and serve globally minded vegan/vegetarian food at rock-bottom prices (£3 for a starter). Cakes and other temptations might thwart your healthy mission, but there are always lighter options on the regularly changing menu. Cash only and BYOB (no corkage).
Lu(cy) and Ma(ria) – the mother-and-daughter team behind this pretty hotel café – preach ‘healthy eating made easy’, which means no hidden surprises and no dodgy labelling. They’ve removed red meat, dairy and refined sugars from their dishes, so diners don’t have to consciously avoid them – most of the menu can be customised to gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diets, too. Also check the fridge for Lu-Ma’s cold-pressed juices.
Venue says: “Treat your MOM this Mothers Day. Three Course Bespoke Peruvian Sunday Roast Dining + our delectable "House" cocktail - the MOMMI fizz.”
Brunch at this Peruvian/Japanese bar and dining room on Clapham’s booze strip offers particularly healthy pickings: try ceviche and sushi from the raw bar, or house signatures such as purple-potato pancakes with blueberries, honey and crisped quinoa. Otherwise, there are lean contenders aplenty from the grill, if something bigger is required. Everything is gluten-free, but be warned: the ‘bottomless bubbles’ brunch option could be your undoing…
With herbs sprouting in the window box, plants in bottles and a veg-centric menu that champions healthy eating, Spinach is as green as its leafy moniker. Weekend brunch might bring spinach and cumin pancakes (of course), while the seasonal menu tempts dieters with the likes of seared wasabi-coated tuna or sweet potato and tamarind curry. At lunch, check out the ‘two salads, one protein’ deals.
Healthy restaurants in west London
Don’t be fooled by the name – everything at this North End Road eatery is 100 percent vegan. It’s also deliberately low in fat and salt – so if you’re going to indulge in the likes of raclette (made with tofu cottage cheese), stroganoff (enriched with cashew cream) or pancakes (wholemeal), best to do it here. It's not about raw food or clean eating, but 222’s nosh is still darn good for you.
West London’s ladies who lunch like to keep Michelin-starred Amaya on speed dial, because they know that the staff take care of regulars, and that light dishes – even off-menu ones – are in plentiful supply. Everything revolves around specialities from the tandoor, grill and ‘tawa’ hotplate – all healthy, low-fat, high-protein stuff. What's more, Indian cuisine is generally accessible to those with food and dietary intolerances of various kinds.
Although more grown up than Pachamama, this seafood-centred sibling still magics up a happening vibe. Modish Peruvian small plates play to Chelsea’s carb-avoiding crowd: sea bass ceviche and chargrilled bream with smoked ají panca and horseradish sauce deliver knockout flavours without troubling size-zero waistbands. It hardly matters that desserts don’t quite cut it – no self-respecting calorie-conscious Chelseaite eats pudding anyway.
A Nando’s for clean-living Londoners, Cocotte serves up healthy rotisserie chicken on wooden boards alongside a choice of seven homemade sauces and pretty superfood-packed salads. Sadly, some dishes are too good to be true: we reckon there’s only one way to enjoy truffled mac ’n’ cheese (and that’s ‘unhealthy’) but other ideas, such as the fudgy gluten-free brownie, are a deliciously sin-free prospect when it comes to dessert.
Owned by well-connected glamour-puss Camilla Al-Fayed (of Harrods fame), Farmacv sells ‘clean indulgence’ to an eager audience of moneyed Notting Hillbillies and aspirational hedge-fund wives. It’s a happy, joyful, ‘free-from’ kind of place – no dairy, no sugars, no additives, no meat – with lots of plant-based goodies ranging from ‘clean curries’ to macro ‘earth bowls’. Even the most virtuous dishes taste luxurious, especially when eaten in such chic surroundings.
Parsons Green boasts two health-food havens, both created by a husband-and-wife team whose love of the clean-living scenes in California and Cape Town inspired this hip restaurant and nearby café-juice bar. Delicious options such as avocado fries with wasabi-lime mayo, vibrant veggie salads or salmon poached in aromatic stock with fennel, black olive, salsify, rocket and salsa verde taste nothing like deprivation.
The staff may be way too cool for tree-hugging, but this purveyor of frighteningly good ‘artisan raw foods’ has soul and warmth – even though everything on the menu is uncooked and worthily unrefined. Sushi comes with ‘rice’ fashioned from grated kohlrabi, the lasagne involves cultured cashew ‘cheese’ and don’t even ask us about the ‘pizzas’. It’s all played out against an austere white-walled backdrop that’s more art gallery than restaurant – no ‘paleo’ caveman antics, please.
Venue says: “Snaps & Rye have been selected for a Time Out Recommended Award. We consider Snaps & Rye to be one of the best of its kind in London.”
A bright, clean jewel of an eatery, this Scandi café is true to the feel-good ethos of hygge, and serves up food that sings of rude health and nutritional cred. Lunchtimes, in particular, abound with naturally vivacious options: try a selection of smørrebrød (open sandwiches topped with smoked fish and suchlike) or plump for a bowl of homemade soup with rye bread, washed down with a glass of antioxidant-rich birch juice.
Given the rodent-themed interiors, indoor trees and bird-house cutlery holders, you might be tempted to go nuts at Squirrel – and there are plenty of opportunities to indulge your inner muncher at this cosy spot. We like the smoked tofu and the various themed bowls (including a zesty guac ’n’ roll riff), and it would be good to dip into the ‘drinking well’ for unlimited green tea and infused water sometime.
Find more healthy food in London restaurants
When it comes to vegan-only restaurants, London has got herbivores covered. But what about when you're eating as a group, and only some of you are vegan? We've hand-picked mainstream restaurants, covering cuisines from Japanese and Thai, right through to Peruvian, which 'cater for all'. Because the only thing better than eating out, is eating out with all your friends.
The Megaro Eatery and Karpo Grill
Please note, the review below relates to the venue when it was called Karpo, its previous name. Time Out editors, Feb 2018. A hypercoloured graffiti mural covering the top four floors of the building sounds warning bells. Is Karpo going be a style-over-content kind of joint? Thankfully, no – the food delivers innovative flavours, the staff are friendly, and the location is ideal for an easy-going dinner date or catching up with friends near King’s Cross. A small entrance opens up to the main restaurant, giving a wide view on to chefs working in the kitchen. Dark decor and a quirky wall covered in plants keep the bohemian look going inside, but the focus is on the food. We started with cocktails in the railway-inspired basement bar, where you can also order nibbles such as soft-centered ham croquettes from the upstairs menu. From a seasonally-changing menu, mains are playful: roast venison came with an on-trend side serving of tender salt-baked celeriac, but it tried too hard with an overly-sweet chocolate garnish to the meat. Mac ’n’ cheese went retro, arriving in a hot cast-iron pan, and the mixed leaf salad had a tangy red wine vinegar dressing. To finish, rhubarb fool was a tasty jive off traditional trifle, coming with a rich custardy cream served between layers of stewed rhubarb, pistachio nibs and a fine shortbread crumb.
Venue says: “Karpo grill offers great steaks from Britain, aged a minimum of 28 days, complemented by fun dishes from far and beyond.”