OCTOBER 2019:We’ve added a bunch of restaurants currently making waves in the neighbourhood. Upscale Turkish food is the draw at Selin Kiazim’s Kyseri, while globally-inspired small plates do the business at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Rovi. Elsewhere, Sushi Atelier is known for its fun vibe and classy raw fish, Passyunk Avenue is a real deal US dive bar/diner, and Yopo brings exciting Latin-inspired food to The Mandrake Hotel. Finally, sound the trumpets for Kitchen Table, James Knappett’s brilliant 20-seat hotspot in the basement of Bubbledogs.
Fitzrovia’s aura of upper-crust bohemia is perfectly encapsulated by its quality mix of maximalist and minimalist restaurants. Don’t expect cheap eats in this part of town, but if you’re going to splash out on dinner in Fitzrovia, then we can show you how and where to spend your hard-earned cash in the area’s finest restaurants.
We visited Fitzrovia-favourite Roka, one of London’s best Japanese restaurants:
If you’re fed up with queuing for your favourite bao fix, book a table at the Fitzrovia branch of this renowned Taiwanese bun specialist. All the usual favourites are here – the confit pork with crispy onions is a must – but there are also some excellent rice bowls and xiao chi (small eats) for grazing and sharing (we love the beef cheek and tendon nuggets). Otherwise, go with some mates, reserve a communal table in the basement and order the ‘P.P.P feast’.
For years, this elder sibling of Soho’s Copita has been offering fans a proper taste of laidback Spain with smart decor to match. Oak furniture, chequerboard floor tiles and sunny yellow walls set the scene for some impressively consistent tapas – not only Padrón peppers and croquetas, but also ambitious ideas along the lines of chargrilled chorizo with piquillo sauce and saffron-pickled cabbage. There’s a serious list of wines and sherries by the glass too. And you can book ahead.
All-out glamour in one of London’s slickest metropolitan dining rooms is the promise at this swaggering Jason Atherton venue within Fitzrovia’s splendid Edition Hotel (think opulent chandeliers, wall-to-wall artworks and a bevy of properly elegant staff). Top-drawer cosmopolitan food and smart cocktails add to the fabulousness of the Ian Schrager-designed space, so put on your glad rags and enter the kingdom of the beautiful people. Just remember to bring some serious cashish, though.
On a villagey corner of Foley Street, Bonnie Gull’s Fitzrovia is a dinky beauty with jaunty decor evoking a seafood shack-feel, featuring a menu that whisks you away to the seaside. Come here for fastidiously fresh and ding-ding-delicious small plates, grilled fish and other maritime treats from old Blighty. The rock oysters, fishcakes and battered haddock are must-order fixtures. Close your eyes and you’ll feel as if you’re breathing in the sea air.
Although it was given a chic revamp in 2019 with plush banquettes, colourful stools and deep purple tones, Bubbledogs is still in the business of doling out a kooky mix of outré hot dogs and grower champagne to a lively Fitzrovia crowd. The dogs have names like ‘Sloppy Joe’, and they’re served with lush dips and tots (short, crunchy cylinders of fried potato). The bubbles, selected by co-owner Sandia Chang, are all from small elite growers. Go for the fizz and the vibe.
A huge but grotto-esque sibling to Shoreditch’s chintzy cheese-fest Gloria, this Fitzrovia spot looks simply magical with its strings of fairy lights, kaleidoscopic colours and fronds of greenery dangling from the rafters. The kitchen serves up a wide-ranging trattoria-style menu, although we advise sticking to the brilliantly executed small stuff rather than the more substantial pizzas, pastas and mains. Either way, Circolo is a breath-takingly inviting space – and you can book ahead at certain times.
The very model of a smart-casual neighbourhood restaurant, this sibling of Portland is quietly chic, interesting and exactly what’s required for a sociable well-priced business lunch or a tête-à-tête supper. Seasonal small plates, sharing dishes and timeless brasserie classics are all up to standard – cod with girolles, salsify and ponzu butter is typical – while genial staff, twisted vintage cocktails and decent wines (including some by-the-glass rarities) help things along nicely.
If payday and date night coincide, then it’s off to Hakkasan with you: this slick, sexy Cantonese restaurant has been thrilling spendy Londoners since it burst onto the dining scene in 2001. Hakkasan’s darkened interior, with its carved lattices, sliding screens and thumping music, is a restaurant/club hybrid whose shadows could harbour any number of famous faces. The kitchen’s take on Cantonese cuisine shamelessly name-drops big-ticket ingredients, with luxe offerings ranging from peerless dim sum to signatures such as roasted silver cod with champagne and honey.
Fitzrovia’s fanciest restaurant it is not, but this Bavarian sausage-seller is still one of the best places to part with za lunchtime tenner. Queueing for your meal, fast-food style, gives you time to square the venue’s jokey menu and ironic soundtrack of German techno with that supposedly AWOL sense of humour. When you bite into your banger, you’ll be pleased the Germans take the things that matter seriously: these Black Forest beauties are 100 percent springy, meaty wonderfulness. Prepare for the wurst.
Run by a husband and wife team with Ottolenghi credentials, this cute Israeli bolthole serves up colourful Middle Eastern dishes inspired by home cooking and Jerusalem street food. The window is filled with breads, pastries and exotic jams, while the menu always includes stonking seasonal falafels alongside pastillas, shawarmas, tagines and slow-cooked stews – although prices are on the high side for a neighbourhood drop-in. For a cheaper deal, try canteen-style sibling Honey & Smoke nearby.
Formerly of Gilgamesh (RIP), pan-Asian pro Ian Pengelley is currently at the helm of this swish four-storey Fitzrovia townhouse – a clubby colonial-themed mishmash of marble tables, ceiling fans, bentwood cane chairs and designer lighting. Fairly-priced Vietnamese cooking is the order of the day, with bowls of punchy fragrant pho, dumplings, curries, shaking beef and seafood noodles, alongside Pengelly signatures such as crispy duck and watermelon salad. Good for groups.
‘When you’re short on your dough’ (Village People, geddit?), you can fill up on authentic curries at school-dinner prices in this utilitarian dining hall attached to the long-running Indian YMCA. The canteen is open to all (not just resident students), so join the merry throng of office workers, tourists and bargain hunters as they line up for their lunchtime nosh – mutton biryani, tandoori fish, dhal and the must-have egg curry. Fixed-price suppers weigh in at under a tenner.
A semi-secret space in a back room of Bubbledogs’ basement, the U-shaped Kitchen Table allows up to 20 punters to perch on stools while getting their kicks from James Knappett’s 12-course tasting menus. The day menu gives few clues apart from single-word pointers such as ‘oysters’, ‘chicken’ and ‘gooseberry’, but the chefs enthusiastically introduce each dish, and the result is a procession of modernist, meticulous, micro-sized plates served in surroundings that are neither formal nor hushed.
Having wowed Shoreditch with Oklava, Turkish-Cypriot chef Selin Kiazim is now pushing the boundaries in Fitzrovia. Kyseri is small but beautiful, and it’s a fun place to eat (despite a few inconsistencies and misfires). Expect a mix of modern Turkish food and fascinating off-piste dishes with names like ‘Black Sea fondue’ or ‘beef and sour cherry manti’. You’ll want to make a return visit just to see what Selim comes up with next.
Part of the Peruvian wave that hit London back in 2012, Lima is known for its boisterous edge, easy-drinking pisco sours and vibrant gussied up food. The small plates menu showcases classic and modern regional cuisine, which means upmarket takes on the ceviche theme, plus tostadas, tiraditos and headliners such as the ever-present 18-hour braised suckling pig with huacatay (black mint cream) and field corn. Set menus and bottomless weekend brunches are worth knowing about.
Scot and street-food alumnus Andy Waugh is a venison evangelist; after years spreading his gamey gospel, Mac & Wild is his church. The meat comes mainly from his father’s estate – the menu details who shot what and where – and the concept is driven home in the stylish dining room, which combines animal skins with black-and-white prints that storyboard a hunt. Happily, these deer did not die in vain: the haggis pops, Venimoo burger and the outrageously tender chateaubriand are all must-orders.
Venue says Try our Venison topside steak, chips & glass of house wine or beer for only £19 pp (available 7 days/week, can't be used with other offers).
We can thank the Waney family (of Roka and Zuma fame) for this really stylish, upmarket addition to Fitzrovia’s Greek scene. Meraki takes the sun-drenched flavours of the Aegean and serves them up to business folk, tourists and shoppers who want to escape Oxford Street’s bedlam. Wooden trays loaded with dips and meze are the top calls – we can’t get enough of their insanely good kopanisti (barrel-aged feta with Florina peppers).
Big-name chef Jun Tanaka has been around for years, and this chic, contemporary venue in Fitzrovia is the ninth restaurant he has been involved in (geddit?). Although eye-catching small plates with a French slant are the focus, the cooking doesn’t really lend itself to sharing-is-caring – still, Tanaka has a talent for pointing up flavours, creating harmonious marriages and making ingredients sing.
Mattieu Germond was co-owner and sommelier at swanky Pied à Terre before taking over this Fitzrovia site (formerly Dabbous), freshening up the decor and pitching the place as an upmarket French bistro/wine bar (with heavyweight prices to match). Expect a seasonal menu full of appetising ideas along the lines of veal tartare with Jerusalem artichoke and truffle emulsion. Wine is taken seriously here, and the owner actively encourages BYOB (although corkage ain’t cheap).
Named after an increasingly hip district in South Philadelphia, this faithfully recreated American dive bar/diner is the real deal. TVs show baseball games, the walls are covered in vintage sports paraphernalia and the menu focuses on Philly classics including cheesesteaks and tender roast pork rolls packed with Parmesan, pesto and tenderstem broccoli. Textbook fries, peanut-butter cookies and choc-chip cannoli also get locals (and US expats) coming back for a ‘real’ taste of America.
Compared to some new-wave pasta joints, this Goodge Street canteen/pasta ‘lab’/wine shop is refreshingly ungimmicky. The focus is firmly on the artisanal handmade stuff, served al dente and tasting like it has just come out of nonna’s kitchen. Space is limited, with high tables and bar stools along counters, and the short daily menu is peppered with must-haves – don’t miss the spaghetti carbonara if it’s on. Prices are fair, portions are sizeable, and you can wander in without booking.
A bijou Fitzrovia aristocrat, Pied à Terre purrs like a vintage Bugatti while doling out tasteful pleasures for those who are happy to pay top prices for that very special gastronomic experience. From clever amuse-bouches onwards, the kitchen delivers wave after wave of dishes that taste sensational and look a million euros on the plate. The room is quite small and prices are seriously scary, although you can stay solvent by dropping in for the set lunch.
Starry chef Merlin Labron-Johnson has gone, but this cool, pared-back and thoroughly grown-up Fitzrovia gem still serves up bold, powerful and surprising food from its visible open kitchen. Diners congregate at bare Scandi-style tables for reasonably priced small plates and larger sharing dishes in the modern idiom – check the blackboard for the latest specials. Turn over the menu and you’ll find a list of ‘textbook’ and ‘leftfield’ wines, plus privately sourced single bottles.
Like its starry stablemate Zuma, this Japanese stunner gets top marks for glitz and glamour. You may need to pull a few strings for a ringside seat at the counter overlooking the robata grill, but service is outstanding and the vibe is infectiously buzzy. Expect to pay a pretty penny for Roka’s top-end sushi and izakaya-style small plates – if we mention beef tartare with black truffle ponzu, you’ll understand what we’re talking about. Still, it’s definitely worth the splurge.
If you’re looking for a casual Yotam Ottolenghi fix within striking distance of Oxford Circus, then warm, buzzy Rovi is your go-to destination. True to form, this Fitzrovia goodie touts a breakfast/brunch menu, but its all-day offerings sizzle with bright ideas on small plates – with top marks going to the ravishing ‘fruits of the earth’ stuff (celeriac shawarma with bkeila and fermented tomato, anyone?). In this drab little part of Fitzrovia, Rovi is something quite special.
The forefather of a pioneering group famous for its hybrid Spanish and Italian tapas, this smartly informal Fitzrovia favourite seamlessly combines two gastro-cultures under one roof – although the buzziest vibe is in the bustling low-lit bar rather than the basement dining room. Food-wise, there’s still plenty to enjoy, especially if you stick to the classics - the blistered padrón peppers, the jamón croquetas or the legendary cheese-stuffed courgette flowers drizzled with blossom honey. Other items quickly swerve from olé to merely okay.
A spin-off from Señor Ceviche in Soho, this Peruvian eatery occupies a lovely Fitzrovia townhouse with a little terrace out front – although the best seats are at green marble tables in the upstairs restaurant. Ceviche is the speciality (obvs), with top honours going to the signature ‘Señor’ version (sea bass and octopus marinated in creamy, spicy tiger’s milk). The kitchen also turns out some very decent meat dishes to soak up all those pisco sours.
Small but lovely, this sibling of Mayfair’s Chisou offers the best of both worlds: it feels old school, but the music’s upbeat, there’s a vivid geisha mural splashed on one wall, and the kitchen is manned by a brigade of blowtorch-wielding chefs from all nations. Fish fans drool over the modish carpaccios, the market-fresh sushi sets and the outstanding sashimi (including some magnificently silky o-toro tuna). Great fun all round.
Replacing Serge as the flagship all-day dining room in Fitzrovia’s Mandrake Hotel, Yopo serves up a fusion of Latin American and westernised small plates in a colourful space festooned with exotic art. Expect everything from bite-sized potato churros with coffee and bottarga to octopus tacos and Argentinian shortbread sandwiches. At night, the colourful room comes to life with a DJ, moody lighting and cocktails. Our advice? Come for the food, stay for the party vibe.
Soho has a great range of restaurants to satisfy any culinary craving. If you want to try a traditional British restaurant, try Dean Street Townhouse. If you're more in the mood for authentic tapas, there's Barrafina, and for sumptuous spicy asian buns, try Bao. Read on for our recommendations for the best restaurants in Soho.