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Image: Time Out

Revealed: Time Out London’s 2021 Love Local Awards winners

From beloved boozers to favourite cafés, these are the places Londoners love most

Isabelle Aron
Edited by
Isabelle Aron
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If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that Londoners really love their city. In this year’s Love Local Awards, there were a whopping 100,000 votes as you guys championed your favourite places in the capital. All those votes are a celebration of the city’s beloved local restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés, shops, music venues, galleries and theatres – the places that make this city what it is. Now, we can finally reveal the winners… 

The 2021 Love Local Awards winners

  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Holloway Road
  • price 2 of 4

Lemongrass, chilli, coconut – these are the smells that fill your nostrils when you step inside Sambal Shiok on Holloway Road. ‘It’s busy, loud and casual,’ says general manager Gabi Cekauskaite. ‘You can see the kitchen, and if you sit outside you feel the buzz of the street. It’s what you’d expect in Malaysia.’

Sambal Shiok was born in 2013, when founder Mandy Yin, who’s Malaysian-born Chinese of Peranakan Nyonya heritage, decided to ditch her career in law and serve up delicious Malaysian food to Londoners instead. Yin began doing pop-ups around the city and her food was a hit. In 2018, she opened her first permanent restaurant on Holloway Road. ‘There was a queue outside for six months,’ Cekauskaite says. ‘One customer, who used to live in Singapore, was never able to find anything like the laksa there in London. When he ate here, he was like: “This is exactly how I remember it.”’ It’s a story that sums up the essence of Sambal Shiok. ‘It’s not all about business,’ says Cekauskaite. ‘People come here and have a laksa because it brings them good memories.’

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Chiara Wilkinson
Staff Writer, Time Out London
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Brixton
  • price 2 of 4

Despite its mystifying name, Brixton’s Naughty Piglets is tremendous. Its USP is allowing natural and orange wines to shine by carefully choosing Anglo-French dishes to serve them with. Margaux Aubry, the Lyon-born proprietor, dishes up mussels, duck rillettes and other Gallic classics alongside a consistently intriguing selection of vins naturels. Chapeau!

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It’s an indisputable fact that being presented with a pot of hot molten cheese and a load of carbs to dip into it makes everything better. It’s no wonder, then, that Londoners love fondue specialist Bistrot Walluc. Decked out in vintage finds (think: massive flamingos, porcelain dogs, miscellaneous instruments), this gem serves up platters that come with a shot of limoncello as standard. It also hosts live music and comedy, so you’ll be entertained while you gorge, ‘Asterix in Switzerland’-style, on melty cheese.

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Acton

Chris and Elly Walsh, the husband-and-wife team behind Acton restaurant Fed & Watered, have one simple aim. They want punters to leave their neighbourhood eatery feeling they’ve eaten and drunk well (hence the name) – a throwback to Chris’s mum’s approach to having people over when he was a kid. With a creative cocktail list and a comforting menu including buttermilk chicken bites with gravy mayo, roasts with all the trimmings and toasted marshmallow crumble, we reckon they’ve got that well and truly covered. It’s the kind of local restaurant you’d be very, very happy to live down the road from.

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  • Restaurants
  • Taiwanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Where Bao goes, ravenous Londoners follow. The effortlessly refined, handmade steamed-bun specialist no longer exists solely in its original (charming) poky Soho venue. King’s Cross, Borough and Shoreditch all now have impressively unique iterations. But to all of the city’s true Baoheads, it is that Lexington Street branch that will always be the mini-franchise’s spiritual home. It’s genuinely hard to think of many restaurants that inspire as much affection in so many Londoners. That famous combination of braised pork and peanut powder is still the taste of this city in 2022.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs
  • Finsbury Park
  • price 1 of 4

What’s that, on a residential backstreet, hidden behind loads of delightful foliage? Why, it’s north London’s legendary sports pub The Faltering Fullback. The same one that made headlines last year when hundreds of people queued up to get in, from the crack of dawn. That’s how sought-after its walk-in-only tables were then and still are. A properly bubbly atmosphere and one of London’s nicest beer gardens are the icing on the pub cake.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Gastropubs
  • Tooting

There are some pubs where you get a pint of warm ale and a bag of pork scratchings and that’s your lot. But The Selkirk does things differently. From a seasonal menu made with high-quality ingredients to a function room that hosts weddings and birthdays, to pub quizzes and board games, to cracking Sunday roasts, this place has all bases covered. In fact, if you like the idea of WFP (working from pub), it welcomes punters to use the space as their very own office on weekdays, with bottomless coffee, decent wi-fi and even use of their printer.

East London’s most-loved pub or bar: Pub on the Park
  • Bars and pubs
  • London Fields

Pub on the Park by London Fields is a classic of the ‘lazy summer drinks venue’ genre. With its vast outdoor drinking terrace, it’s always been a top choice for post-picnic bevs on long hot days. And, with all the bans on indoor hangs we’ve had over the past couple of years, it’s become even more of a firm favourite. The best thing about this pub, though? It has a bloody boules set-up. Game on.

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West London’s most-loved pub or bar: The Churchill Arms
  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs
  • Kensington

Part pub, part London legend, The Churchill Arms is famous for its incredible display of baskets and planters. In full bloom, this boozer looks like a psychedelic take on one of those dystopian films where flora take over a city. The interior, often filled with a gratifying mix of young and old punters, is exactly what you’d want a 271-year-old-pub to look like: dark wood, plenty of space and lots of shiny brass beer taps. Long live London’s most colourful and leafy drinking spot.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs
  • Oxford Street
  • price 1 of 4

Yes, this joint might have ‘Spanish’ in its name. Its signage might be painted in the colours of the Spanish flag. But Bradley’s is a London joint through and through. You can always expect to find punters spilling out of the tiny dive bar just off Oxford Street on Friday nights – with the sense that some chaotic fun is about to go down hanging in the air around them. Regulars love its retro jukebox, with a changing line-up of more than 20,000 singles.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Dalston
  • price 1 of 4

‘There will probably be paint peeling off the walls and the radiator might be broken,’ says co-founder Max Tobias of Dalston fave The Dusty Knuckle. ‘But ultimately, you’re going to get fed – and the person serving you will be smiling.’ It might be a little chaotic, but that’s part of what makes it so treasured.

If there is paint peeling off the walls, you probably haven’t noticed, because the baked goods at this beloved café are so damn good. Its sourdough, pastries and loaded sandwiches are all made in-house with quality ingredients.

The bakery is also a training organisation and social enterprise. It works with young offenders to develop them into professionals. Tobias came up with the concept in 2014, after ten years of working with young people engaged in gang-related offending. ‘I wanted to involve young people in bigger-picture projects,’ he says.

Along with co-founder Rebecca Oliver – a friend and chef – Tobias started up a bakery in a shipping container in Hackney, selling bread to local restaurants and cafés.

Three years later, The Dusty Knuckle moved to its current Dalston site and partnered with prison rehabilitation charity Switchback to get more young people on board. ‘People come because it’s not pretentious,’ says Tobias. ‘They can see there are real people behind the brand and that hard work and passion have gone into it.’

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Chiara Wilkinson
Staff Writer, Time Out London

London’s mini marts and cornerstores have always been integral to our city but, during the pandemic, we’ve become especially grateful for their existence. So it makes sense that the winner of London’s best indie shop wasn’t a bougie ceramics store or posh fashion spot: it was a slightly-fancier-than-the-average cornershop in Leytonstone. Stone Mini Market is known by locals for its wide-ranging selection of tasty produce and friendly vibe.

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  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Chalk Farm

Perhaps no building in the capital charts the ups and downs of London like Camden’s Roundhouse. A superb piece of Victorian civic engineering, it fell into disuse, then by the 1960s it was hosting happenings and gigs by The Doors and Pink Floyd, before becoming derelict again in the 1980s. It has since had a new lease of life, and is once again a landmark music venue with an outstanding programme of education and workshops for young Londoners. A true survivor.

  • Cinemas
  • Independent
  • Brixton

One of London’s oldest purpose-built picturehouses, the Ritzy has been an iconic Brixton institution since it opened in 1911, and even survived the Blitz. ‘It’s stood the test of time,’ says manager Wayne Hall.

It’s the kind of place that brings people together, and not just strangers in the café who bond over their shared love of niche film genres. Its unmissable readograph (the signboard on the front of the building), which was salvaged from a deserted cinema in Hammersmith, has facilitated romcom-style wedding proposals over the years, spelling out ‘Will you marry me?’ for all of Windrush Square to see. ‘The thing that I love the most is the community engagement,’ says Hall. ‘People stop and stare and take pictures.’

The cinema’s film offering ranges from big blockbusters to specialist fare (Icelandic folk-horror, anyone?), and Upstairs at the Ritzy hosts events like Reggaeoke, rare-soul nights and the regular Tuesday evening Queenstown Sessions. The Ritzy is way more than just a cinema, it’s a cultural hub, where, as Hall says, ‘there’s something for everybody’. 

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  • Theatre
  • Off-West End
  • Soho

Sure, there would be a London comedy scene without Soho Theatre. But its heart would be ripped out. The Dean Street venue has a virtual monopoly on critically acclaimed midsize acts, and has launched the careers of superstars such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge. With three lively venues and regular late-night shows, plus an intriguing bill of theatre and cabaret, it’s probably the busiest and vibiest programmed venue in London, a veritable one-building Edinburgh Festival.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Dulwich

Even without its world-class collection of Old Masters (including three Rembrandts), Dulwich Picture Gallery would be a London gem. The building, by neoclassical genius Sir John Soane, is the oldest purpose-built public art gallery in the country and a masterpiece in its use of light and space. It has interesting temporary shows, a nice (newish) café and that world-class art collection

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  • Shopping
  • Music and entertainment
  • Shepherd’s Bush

With the buzz of an LP that needs flipping whirring through speakers and shelves stocked with arty bottles of orange wine, Next Door Records is the sort of place you might expect to find in Hackney – but probably not in Shepherd’s Bush.

‘We stand out in the area,’ says Thom Parris, the co-founder. ‘When we opened, the reaction was: “We’ve always needed something like this.”’

Parris started selling secondhand records with his pal Alfie Aukett in 2015. After meeting fellow music-lover Louis Ray, they found the space and launched a crowdfunder to get started. With lots of DIY and ‘taking a shot whenever there was a disagreement’, Next Door Records was born.

It has DJ decks, a bar serving coffee, natural wine and local beer, and a record store specialising in jazz, indie and drum ’n’ bass. At the back, there’s an area for intimate gigs, DJ sets, supper clubs and a rotating kitchen residency.

‘There are people who come in for a coffee, or to dig for records, who’ve been part of our journey from the start,’ Aukett says. ‘They feel an emotional connection with us.’ Parris agrees: ‘We’ve met amazing locals,’ he says. ‘People are excited that something like this exists. If we had done it in east London, maybe it wouldn’t have had as much of an impact.’

https://media.timeout.com/images/105874301/image.jpg
Chiara Wilkinson
Staff Writer, Time Out London
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