The most quirky restaurants in London
What’s quirky about it? Remember when gap-yah bores dined out on tales of deep-fried insects? Well, that’s nothing compared to the menu at determinedly quirky Archipelago, which features everything from smoked python carpaccio and ‘love bug’ salad to weaver ant garnishes served amid a riot of anthropological artefacts straight out of ‘Indiana Jones’.
Don’t miss: The pan-fried chermoula-spiced crickets.
How much? Meal for two with drinks and service: around £90.
What's quirky about it? As the name suggests, Attendant’s previous incarnation was an altogether different place to spend a penny. Abandoned since the 1960s, this former WC has been repurposed as a hip café with urinals as single-seater booths and an admirable (but perhaps wise) absence of scatological puns.
Don't miss: Attendant is also open for breakfast and brunch – start the day with almond-milk porridge or a ham and cheese croissant.
How much? Sandwiches and coffee for two: around £15.
What’s quirky about it? Firstly, it’s a Soho restaurant that takes bookings. Secondly, its art deco interiors are so lavishly decorated that you feel like you’re on a film set. And on top of that, there’s a special champagne button by each table that can be used to summon up more fizz. Just don’t nudge it by mistake.
Don’t miss: A chaser of celebrated dessert wine Château d’Yquem (£34.50). BBR is the only UK restaurant officially endorsed to sell it by the glass.
How much? Meal for two with drinks and service: around £140.
What’s quirky about it? This Soho take on the Hong Kong phenomenon had fans queuing around the block when it opened. But what exactly is a bubblewrap? Essentially, it’s a freaky egg waffle: the bobbly batter forms a cone that’s filled with ice cream, fruit, chocolate and whatever else takes your fancy. Expect to queue, take out and eat on the street.
Don’t miss: Special releases such as the romantically inclined coconut cream gelato with fresh raspberry, rose petals and white chocolate sauce, plus handmade chocolate hearts... you know what we’re talking about.
How much? Waffles start at £5.99.
What’s quirky about it? An outrageous party-time homage to Silvio Berlusconi, Bunga Bunga is big, brash, brassy and enormous fun. If you’re planning to eat, come with a sizeable group, sit in the crowd-pleasing brasserie (Bungatini) and get stuck into the trattoria menu before heading downstairs to Bunga Bunga proper for cabaret and burlesque.
Don’t miss: The seriously good pizzas, served by the metre, plus a final hit of tipsy tiramisu.
How much? Bungatini’s ‘Tavolata’ set menus (for 12 or more) are £24pp. Otherwise, pizzas start at £9.50.
What’s quirky about it? Let’s get this party started – Berlusconi-style! Paying tongue-in-cheek homage to the former Italian PM, Bunga Bunga is fabulously ostentatious and enormous fun. Come in a big group, take over a cluster of tables and share the spoils from the trattoria menu. The party continues upstairs at weekends.
Don’t miss: Seriously good pizzas sliced from metre-long beauties, plus decent antipasti and boozy tiramisu.
How much? Pizzas from £10; ‘Celebrazione’ set menus £27pp, including a shot of Bunga limoncello.
What’s quirky about it? Colourful but socially divisive (remember those protests?), this East End café serves hundreds of breakfast cereals from all over the world at snap, crackle and pop prices. Milk upgrades include flavours such as bubblegum and salted caramel (as well as nut-based options), and you can pay extra to top the lot with chocolates and sweets.
Don’t miss: Crazy cereal mocktails such as ‘unicorn poop’ (Ricicles, party rings, marshmallows, hundreds and thousands, semi-skimmed milk).
How much? Medium bowls of cereal from £3.60, breakfast tea £1.90.
Venue says Who likes a happy hour? Come see us from Sun to Thu, 6-8pm, and get two cocktails for £10 y'all!
What’s quirky about it? Taking its name from Hong Kong’s vintage 1950s tea cafés, this oddball fusion eatery is an unashamedly inauthentic mash-up of East, West and everything in between. Who knew that US diner food, ersatz curries and Chinese comfort classics could be such good mates. CCT is a bit bonkers, but we love it.
Don’t miss: The signature BBQ hoisin Coca-Cola ribs and the pandan Arctic roll – plus the stuffed mushroom and carrot omelette topped with almond crumb.
How much? Small plates from £5, big plates from £12.
What's quirky about it? Batik textiles, colourful masks, incense and acres of carved teak spell exotic romance at this self-styled ‘Thai-Malay’ favourite. Its unique offering, however, is a private table à deux on the mezzanine, accessed by a ladder – watch your waiter negotiating it, plates in hand.
Don't miss: Inventive vegan and veggie dishes such as crunchy green papaya salad with crisp tofu, pomegranate som tam and roasted cashew nuts.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £85.
What’s quirky about it? It’s a whole damn restaurant dedicated to the good stuff: dairy. The Cheese Bar is from the street food gods behind The Cheese Truck. Go wild on baked camembert, queso fundido and more oozing toasties than you can shake a mozzarella stick at. It’s going to be gouda.
Before you go: Maybe skip lunch before a trip there. The poutine contains chips, cheese curds, a fried egg, candied pancetta and bacon gravy. Sweet cheesus.
How much? Toasties hover around the £5 mark.
What’s quirky about it? Those nitro-fuelled experimentalists at Chin Chin are the Willy Wonkas of the ice-cream world, and this Soho shop is an ostentatious showcase for their wares. Not only their signature ices, but also full-on desserts – there’s some seriously elaborate stuff going on here amid all the bells and whistles.
Don’t miss: The fantastically moreish taco wafer stuffed with avocado ice cream and topped with sharp yuzu cream.
How much? Ice creams from £4.45, desserts from £5.45.
What’s quirky about it? The sight of ice cream frozen to order amid billowing clouds of nitrogen-generated steam is always an eye-opener for locals and tourists who crowd into Chin Chin’s experimental lab-cum-café. The flavours are straight, but it’s all about pimping them with sprinkles, sauces and powders from a veritable chemistry set of DIY extras.
Don’t miss: The special dairy-free sorbet – perhaps caramelised apple with sage or watermelon and dill.
How much? Ice creams £4.45, cookies £1.50.
What’s quirky about it? The clue’s in the name: performers attempt to distract you from your dinner with feats of bravado or boldness ranging from fire-eating to burlesque – sometimes both at the same time. Between acts, you can return your attention to the kitchen’s pan-Asian dishes.
Don’t miss: Sounds daft, but don’t miss the entertainment – acts are short and take place hourly, so you don’t want to be stuck in the loo.
How much? Meal for two with drinks and service: around £110.
What's quirky about it? Anyone who’s ever had that ‘what would your last meal be?’ conversation will get a thrill out of dining at HMP Brixton’s training restaurant, where the professional-level kitchen and smart, buzzy dining room are staffed by prisoners working towards qualifications in catering and hospitality.
Don't miss: A pre-dinner mocktail – alcohol doesn’t feature anywhere on the menu.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £60.
What’s quirky about it? Any venue from boundary-breaking cocktail wizard Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) is bound to be off-piste, but Cub is something different. Located above the repurposed Super Lyan bar, this is more like a multi-sensory foodie ‘experience’ with drinks. We love the super-savvy staff and rockin’ house-party vibe too.
Don’t miss: Umami mainliners such as chervil roots layered with miso, apples and ‘turbo whey’ – plus any of the bizarrely alluring cocktails.
How much? Whole table tasting menu £55pp, small plates from £11 and cocktails from £6.
What’s quirky about it? When 24-hour licensing was introduced in the UK, we looked forward to round-the-clock craic. Not much actually changed – but at least it meant London could welcome this swanky, sky-scraping restaurant and bar with its 24/7 opening hours and spectacular 360-degree views of the capital.
Don't miss: Decadent favourites such as the spicy ox-cheek doughnuts with apricot jam, the foie gras crème brûlée or the signature salty-sweet ‘duck and waffle’.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £130.
What’s quirky about it? Not only are all the staff at this Clerkenwell restaurant registered blind, but they also have the upper hand, because your entire meal takes place in a darkness so total that even locating – let alone using – your knife and fork can be a challenge. Also, you’ll need to switch off all light-emitting devices – no selfies here.
Don’t miss: The ‘surprise menus’, where you’re left to guess exactly what’s on your plate. Take a look at the menu on your way out to find out what you’ve eaten.
How much? Around £70 for three courses with wine and an aperitif.
What's quirky about it? Everything on the menu at this bizarre restaurant contains garlic – ‘you can always order more, but never less’, warns the blurb. Expect to be fully ‘marinated’ by the time you’ve polished off the desserts (yes, they contain the pungent stuff too). Six of the shots on the 101-strong list have also succumbed to garlic overload.
Don’t miss: The Transylvania vampire steak with a deep-fried holy garlic ‘cross’ and bloody-red green pepper sauce.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £60.
What's quirky about it? Located in the crypt underneath St Matthew’s Church in Brixton, Gremio takes the idea of ‘underground’ quite literally. Churches always offer their own unique atmosphere, and the vaulted brick roof and flickering candlelight inside this tapas bar don’t hurt matters either.
Don't miss: Spanish porky delights such as jamón croquetas, butifarra (Catalan sausage) and cochinillo segoviano (roast suckling pig).
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £75.
What’s quirky about it? Three floors of Japanese overkill on Wardour Street – a ceiling papered with pages from Manga comics, serried ranks of Japanese jukeboxes, old stereos, wall-to wall memorabilia. If you like quirky (no, batshit-crazy) interiors, this is for you.
Don’t miss: The colourful maki rolls and milkshakes. The burger buns are less impressive.
How much? Bites from £5, cocktails from £8.50, shakes £5.
What's quirky about it? Long before we all had touch-screen devices chock-full of apps on the go 24/7, there was Inamo. Its touch-screen table menus still offer a dose of fun, especially for kids – you can view and order dishes electronically, alter the restaurant’s playlist, and even book a cab home.
Don't miss: Asian-leaning fusion dishes such as sizzling chilli tofu – perfect candidates for a bit of bragging on Instagram.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £80.
What's quirky about it? Unlike 99 percent of London restaurants, this cut-price lunchtime bolthole couldn’t give a toss about its looks. There’s a strong staff-canteen vibe about the place, but that doesn’t put off in-the-know office workers who come for the freshly prepared, astonishingly cheap and pleasingly authentic curries.
Don't miss: Veggie delights such as dahi vada and egg curry.
How much? Meal for two including drinks: around £12. Weekend set menu £8.50pp.
The neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’; the mannequin in the entrance wears a PVC gimp suit. But the real excitement begins when you descend the stairs into the bowels of this nightclub-like restaurant. It’s so dark and loud you’ll need a moment to adjust (the light bulbs have been blacked out). By comparison, the homely Mexican cooking can feel run-of-the-mill, though effort is put into presentation. On our visit, soft flour tacos with a tender beef filling arrived beautifully arranged on a specially designed wooden board; a crunchy cheese and roasted tomato quesadilla was served ‘open’; pinto beans with a spicy chorizo kick came in a dinky glazed bowl. The real highlight was the dish least concerned with its own looks: a rich lamb shank in intensely dark juices. Seafood cazuela (a one-pot dish like a wet paella), containing clams, squid, prawns and mussels, was creamy, tangy and perfectly fine, though not especially memorable. Factor-in the small portions and two-hour table limits (though you can decamp to the bar), and you might wonder what the fuss is all about. But that would be missing the point. You come here to see and be seen, and for a thrilling atmosphere and exceptionally friendly service. A must-try. La Bodega Negra also have a cafe round the other side (entrance on Moor St).
Venue says Get 50% off food if you dine before 7pm! Book using the code 'FRIDA'. Sunday to Wednesday only.
What’s quirky about it? The neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’ and the mannequin in the entrance wears a PVC hooded suit. But the real excitement begins when you descend the stairs and hit the fired-up vibe of this nightclubby Mexican restaurant – even if the food struggles to match the venue’s racy mood and film-star looks.
Don’t miss: Tacos, tostadas and grills such as pork belly with mezcal and salsa verde, all washed down with bespoke margaritas.
How much? Meal for two including service: around £95.
What’s quirky about it? East London’s pre-eminent novelty café surely needs no introduction – its USP is its band of resident prima donnas (sorry, cats), who may or may not choose to approach you during your visit. Until then, there are strictly no unsolicited advances.
Don’t miss: A visit to the gift shop for all your moggie-themed needs, from latte-art stencils to kitty nail transfers.
How much? High tea is £25 per guest, including the entry fee to the Cat Emporium (usually £10pp). Add £10pp for unlimited non-alcoholic drinks.
What’s quirky about it? Take your average ice-cream cone, add some lurid-green matcha soft-serve ice cream, top with oreos, choc chips, sprinkles and the like. And then – and here’s the good bit – watch as the servers weave a web of candy floss around it all. This Taiwanese invention has had tourists tripping over themselves to get through the door.
Don’t miss: The sheer thrill of the candy-floss action inside the shop.
How much? Prices depend on fillings and toppings, but reckon on £5+ per cone.
What’s quirky about it? Never has a restaurant been so relieved to lose its Michelin star – described as a ‘curse’ because it raised expectations of what is essentially a high-end, hippy-chic garden-centre restaurant. Take your seat in the greenhouse, enjoy the herb-laced, petal-strewn dishes, and don’t let the dirt floor scuff your Manolos.
Don’t miss: A stroll around the gardens, with an obligatory selfie stop. Or book a candlelit dinner at one of the restaurant’s sporadic ‘supperclub’ nights.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £100.
What’s quirky about it? Water pistols, gunge chairs, jelly wars, champagne spraying – all part of the zany fun if you book London’s first ‘waterproof’ dining room. It’s just one feature of Rascals’ pink-hued 3,500 square-foot pleasure dome – a venue with a zero-tolerance policy on ‘straight backs and small talk’.
Don’t miss: Innovative small plates such as tempura squid with jalapeño ketchup, dreamed up by resident chef (and Gordon Ramsay alumnus) Heritier Nsemi.
How much? Small plates from £6, cocktails from £8.
What's quirky about it? Everything! This is strictly tourist fodder, with flamboyant surrounds including dine-in opera boxes, crushed-velvet tablecloths, a stage hung with gold drapes, erotic art in the loos, musical entertainment every night – and much, much more. Sarastro’s Turkish owners actively court its quirky reputation.
Don’t miss: Stars from the Royal Opera House on Sundays and Mondays.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £100.
What’s quirky about it? A Chinese hotpot hotspot promising DIY dining to the max, Shuang Shuang is fast and mega-healthy too. Here’s the drill: choose your flavour-packed broth, add a dipping sauce, then cherry-pick some kooky ingredients from the kaiten that snakes around the gleaming white-and-steel space.
Don’t miss: If you’re picking and mixing ingredients, be sure to choose the luncheon meat and the cuttlefish buns.
How much? Hotpots from £9.60, all-in set deals from £30 (for two).
Venue says Latest of our hot pot signature series with Somsaa collaboration. Kiao tiew ruea, or simply pork boat noodle. £10.50 for the set menu.
What’s quirky about it? Like the rest of this luxe Mayfair extravaganza, Sketch’s velvet-clad dandy-esque Gallery is a lesson in more-is-more eclecticism, complete with semi-permanent exhibitions from high-profile artists like David Shrigley. Afternoon tea in this decadent pink boudoir is one of the quirkiest in town.
Don’t miss: A trip to the cluster of egg-shaped toilets, where birdsong piped into each pod will preserve your dignity as you pee.
How much? Afternoon tea from £58 per person (£72 with champagne).
What’s quirky about it? Two nine-hole crazy-golf courses in an office block beside the Gherkin would be quirky enough, without the addition of five bars (count ‘em) and a trio of street-food vendors: Pizza Pilgrims, Patty & Bun and DF/Mexico. It’s all about competitive socialising.
Don’t miss: Cocktails on the clubhouse terrace.
How much? It depends which vendor you visit, but £10-£15 per head should be ample.
What’s quirky about it? Yodelling, accordion tunes, a ‘Sound of Music’ soundtrack, schnitzels, strudels and fondues – welcome to Austria in party mood (albeit tweaked-up for Westbourne Grove). A godsend for anyone who’s ever wanted to channel their inner Von Trapp without feeling embarrassed.
Don’t miss: The highly hilarious Tirolean cowbell show – as seen on TV.
How much? Meal for two including drinks and service: around £80.
What's quirky about it? Whatever your take on Russell Brand, you can’t fault the campaign he successfully backed to save Hackney’s New Era estate from being sold to developers – or his self-funded, not-for-profit community café, which employs recovering drug addicts. Pop in for a shot of caffeine and a side of Russell-style revolution.
Don't miss: Brand fans might catch a glimpse of the man himself – he occasionally uses the café for meetings. Also, the menu is mainly vegan.
How much? Meal for two: around £18.
What’s quirky about it? Eat up ‘in the Gods’ like a true opera buff at this reimagined restaurant from the Little Bay group. Gilded candlelit booths and rich red swags set the opulent tone, while divas serenade diners from the stage. A golden gem that’s big on romance and atmosphere.
Don’t miss: Generous small plates such as duck fillets with pickled cauliflower and raisins.
How much? Signature ‘half-price’ menus weigh in at around £25 for two (without drinks).
What’s quirky about it? It may look like your average trendy Shoreditch café, but everything you eat and drink at Ziferblat is free – you merely pay for the time you spend within its walls. The idea’s based on Russian community centres, with group discussions and idling actively encouraged. Pick up a stop-clock at the counter to keep track of the passing minutes.
Don’t miss: Special events including board game nights, creative writers’ meet-ups and music jams.
How much? First hour 7p per minute (£4.20); after that, 4p per minute (£2.40 per hour).
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