London's best restaurants for drinking cocktails
We’ve all done it: you book a restaurant on the promise of great food, only to find the cocktails resemble the sort of umbrella-topped disaster you’d get on a cheapo package holiday in Benidorm. But you needn’t opt for pre-dinner drinks at a cocktail bar and settle for a watery mojito alongside the main meal – just head to one of London’s best restaurants for drinking cocktails and have the best of both worlds.
The best restaurants for business dinners in London
If you’ve ever ended up at a candle-lit table for two, locking knees with your new boss or prospective client, you’ll know just how crucial it is to pick the right venue for corporate occasions. Whether you’re networking for opportunities or hoping to nail down a new contract, there’s a range of great formal and informal restaurants for meetings and business dinners in London.
Listings and reviews (26)
A crêperie with a touch of Brazilian influence, Senzala specialises in white-flour crêpes and buckwheat galettes. The restaurant recommends flour for sweet toppings and buckwheat for savoury, though all the pancakes can be made with either and the latter is both vegan and gluten-free. The savoury galettes came generously filled. Our Asparagus Plus saw the wholesome buckwheat pancake filled with cheese, ham and cooked crème fraiche for a hearty all-day breakfast, though the fried egg topping was a tad rubbery. A vegan Rosa Squash was chock full of courgette and red pepper confit, nicely offset by toasted almond, but light on the promised tomato chutney. Both arrived with a good helping of zingy rocket salad. Dessert crêpes were satisfyingly sweet, with plenty of moist grilled banana and a kick of cinnamon. Away from the pancake-y items, a starter of grilled rump steak strips was a letdown, with the beef both overcooked and underseasoned, and the bread slightly stale. Accompaniments of guacamole, tomato salsa and parmesan were also a tad tired and bland. It has its flaws, but Senzala’s lively ambience, colourful decor, friendly staff and cosy interior help make it a Brixton Village staple.
Okan Brixton East
Okan Brixton East is the younger, bigger sibling of Okan Brixton Village. While the tiny original restaurant serves Osaka-style okonomiyaki pancakes and yakisoba, this one focuses on ramen noodles, rice donburi and Japanese snacks including bao, gyoza and dim sum. It’s a great spot if you’ve got special dietary requirements, as it dishes out vegan ramen, wheat-free noodles and more. A starter of takoyaki was a shareable portion of four soft, oozing balls of octopus, similar to croquettes. True to the Osaka street food original, the balls were chock-full of octopus and topped with fluttering bonito fish flakes, spring onion and tangy mayonnaise. Meanwhile, a special of spicy kimchi seafood ramen had generous amounts of tender squid and shell-on prawns in a satisfying, creamy sauce. But there were disappointments. The pulled pork and kimchi bao may have been good value at £4.50, but it came filled with sliced instead of the promised pulled pork. The signature Tokyo shoyu ramen delivered on extra spice (as requested), but its chicken broth base was low on the umami scale, while the thin sliced pork was lacklustre compared with the succulent, thick meat often found in ramen. There’s plenty of competition for good ramen in Brixton, but Okan delivers on friendly, fast service, good-value food and a quirky interior, making it a decent spot for a low-key, midweek slurp.
El Rancho de Lalo
A small family restaurant that’s popular with South Americans, El Rancho de Lalo serves hearty, traditional Colombian meat dishes in a cosy, ranch-themed room. Its menu centres on the national staples of rice, beans and meat, and although main courses aren’t cheap, the portions are huge and ideal for sharing. Snacks of empanadas, fried corn arepas and plantain patacones are excellent value and are freshly made above Lalo’s Gelateria, which is just opposite. Bandeja paisa, Colombia’s national dish, was like a supersized full english, complete with chorizo, fried pork belly, beef steak, rice, avocado, plantain and fried egg. Homemade chorizo was the highlight, with achiote lending it a fruity flavour and orange colour. Later, a plate of pollo en salsa criolla turned out to be a huge portion of chargrilled chicken breast with a moreish sauce of bell peppers and tomatoes. On our visit, only one of the two desserts was available, but the tang of soft white cheese perfectly offset a sweet, gooey dollop of cajeta, Colombia’s version of dulce de leche. With just one vegetarian option and a pictorial menu that reads like a game of spot the difference, there is little choice beyond meat, meat and more meat. But judging by the queues on weekends and lunchtimes, there’s no shortage of carnivores looking for a slice of Colombia in a corner of Brixton.
Mar i Terra
A totally unpretentious tapas bar close to Waterloo, Mar i Terra has been a neighbourhood favourite since it opened 20 years ago. The tall, white-painted building nestled between railway arches once housed a century-old pub, and Mar i Terra still retains the look and feel of your friendly local. All the staples are done well, and much of the simple but wide-ranging menu is gluten-free. Among the star dishes, braised aubergines came rolled up with generous portions of hot tomatoey sauce and oozing manchego cheese, like a nourishing vegetarian lasagne. Boquerones (finger-sized fresh Cantabrian anchovies) were nicely succulent and also came doused in tangy wine vinegar and olive oil. The Spanish tortilla was moist, while the grilled chorizo was juicy, not chewy. Likewise, the arroz a banda (saffron rice) had a good risotto-like consistency and came generously packed with chunks of shrimp, squid and octopus. Patatas bravas were a little dry (tip: ask for extra aioli). They were still crunchy on the outside and soft inside, though the sauce was too mild for spice addicts. Pan con tomate came with four pieces of soft, toasted bread that was a little light on the tomato but still satisfyingly moist and sweet. Portions of sizzling tiger prawns and boquerones were on the small side, with just five apiece, but prices are kept at neighbourhood level so they’re still good value. When Mar i Terra opened on a desolate backstreet in 2000, its owners couldn’t have predicted the surge of tren
Tiger & Pig
A tiny joint inside Brixton Village Market, Tiger & Pig serves Taiwanese-style bao alongside Asian barbecue and Japanese-influenced small plates. Almost every item on the menu is under a fiver, making it good value compared with other bao places. Of the four filled buns available, three were excellent. Slow-cooked pork belly had crispy skin with soft, tender meat and tangy pickled cucumber. Panko-fried chicken was spicy and crunchy on a generous bed of kimchi, and shiitake was a bite of meaty, glistening mushroom in teriyaki and soy sauce topped with hotdog-style crispy fried onions. From the small plates, Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks with truffle ponzu – a hat-tip to the Kurobuta fave – were delicate sticks filled with umami-packed paste, while sweet potato fries came in a huge portion with mild wasabi mayonnaise. The tofu and kimchi bao was a little lacklustre and light on the kimchi, while the whole menu was crying out for some citrus to offset the largely sweet and spicy flavours. Of the mochi ice cream trio, coconut was a sweet ball of intense desiccated coconut, but raspberry and yuzu didn’t quite deliver the desired fruit hit. Service was friendly and the place was packed, but the market seating was a little cosy, so grab an indoor bench to avoid sitting thigh-to-thigh.
An old-school chippie popular with cabbies and local workers, Masters Superfish is something of a south London institution – a canteen-like room packed with personality serving many types of fish straight from Billingsgate. Among its charms are the complimentary spread of tiny, sweet shell-on prawns, crunchy pickled gherkins and onions, bread and butter, and sauces that come with each main course order. But don’t fill up too much on the free stuff as the portions here are huge. Fried whitebait was a seemingly bottomless pile of non-battered, crispy little fish with a squeeze of lemon. A main course of Superbites was enough for two, with around eight fist-sized hunks of cod, plaice, huss (rock salmon) and haddock, and a generous portion of chips. Batter was crisp with meaty, super-fresh fish inside, while chunky chips were a little dry but well-proportioned with soft centres. Mushy peas were as they should be – piping hot and full of texture and sweetness. It was once only for those in the know, but Masters Superfish is now firmly on the tourist map. Prices have increased accordingly, and unfortunately the standard of service has fallen, with staff neither attentive nor knowledgeable on our visit. But that’s not a reason to give it a swerve, especially as its takeaway hatch serves all the favourites at lower ‘to go’ prices.
Bao – Borough
Taiwan-meets-Japan is the theme for the third Bao, which departs from its Soho and Fitzrovia siblings with a Tokyo-style grill and a karaoke bar. Laminated menus with sketches of the dishes replace the usual paper-and-pencil order system (so you know exactly what you’re getting), while a much bigger space dramatically reduces Bao’s characteristic queueing madness. There's also a grab-and-go hatch. Highlights of the xiao chi (small plates) included the veggie panko-breadcrumbed bao, the crisp disc served alongside a smoky, fiery aubergine dip, and a generous portion of tender 40-day-aged beef topped with a vibrant egg yolk on a bed of buttery Taipei rice. But the real stars were the new bao dishes, in particular the prawn shia song, a hotdog-shaped, deep-fried savoury doughnut-bao hybrid (quick, someone trademark the baonut) filled with tiny juicy prawns. Curry cheese bao was another winner, with produce from nearby Neal’s Yard coated in tapioca starch and deep-fried into a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside slice slathered with satisfying katsu curry-like veggie sauce. Other small plates and sides were unfortunately hit and miss, with a sameness of textures often short on crunch and long on gloop. The beef meatball was crumbly and bland with raw onion adding little, while scallops lacked in promised beef dripping and cold, curried yu shiang eggs would have been better warm. The quirky-casual vibe here makes it a welcome addition to Borough Market, but really, it’s sti
Yopo, the all-day restaurant at Fitzrovia’s Mandrake Hotel, replaces Serge et le Phoque (later just ‘Serge’), which closed in January. Though named after a Venezuelan jungle plant, it serves a fusion of modern European and South American: think bite-sized Josper-roasted potatoes with fiery Argentine chimichurri, or savoury potato churros served with creamy bottarga (cured fish roe) for dipping. A main course of octopus tacos was a DIY job: six soft corn tortillas, grilled tentacles mixed with avocado and coriander, a dollop of Mexican mole sauce and another of mildly spicy Peruvian ají panca, plus a side bowl of tomatillo sauce. It’s ideal for sharing, though you won’t want to. Yopo’s chefs have mastered the art of contrasts; many dishes combine crunchy with smooth. A radish, raw beef, shiso and sesame roll was a refreshing mouthful of fragrant herbs and was not unlike a juicy, crunchy twist on a Vietnamese summer roll. Similarly, grilled aubergine came topped with crunchy puffed rice balls, while an Argentinian-inspired shortbread sandwich, its sweet dulce de leche filling woken up by zingy passionfruit sauce, was a strong finish. Seven days a week, Yopo also offers an extensive breakfast menu of free-range, organic eggs, ricotta pancakes and chia porridge, as well as two-and three-course set lunches. But the best time to go is in the evening, when the colourful, exotic art-adorned dining room comes to life with a live late-night DJ, mood lighting and cocktails. Come for the
The Cronx Brewery
It’s only natural that Croydon’s Boxpark should embrace local artisans – and The Cronx Brewery brings the goods with craft beer and ales. It’s definitely more brewery than pub – think industrial-style interiors with high stools and wooden walls – but cosy nonetheless. Brews range from the highly pleasant Anglo-American Pale to weirder and wackier flavours like Lemon Saison, which tastes more like vodka lemonade than beer. Food is limited to cheese toasties so stick to the ale and head inside the Boxpark proper for dinner.
If the measure of a good tapas restaurant is its patatas bravas then Donde – formerly of Honour Oak – is doing well, with a good crispness-to-fluffiness ratio in the potatoes and a sufficiently spicy sauce, topped with tangy aioli. The daily £5 ‘artisan bap’ option of tapas sandwich plus bravas is a nice idea for lunchtime but better without the bread. There’s a lovely sit-in area reminiscent of a real Spanish tapas bar, though – one of the warmer spots at Boxpark in which to hibernate over the winter months. But first check Twitter.
Mayfair and Croydon aren’t really words you’d expect to hear in the same sentence, but this scaled-down takeaway version of a West End Lebanese restaurant totally works in the Cronx. The cramped shipping-container confines may smack of a fast-food joint, but the food is packed with flavour, from nutty falafels to meaty lamb kibbeh and chewy chargrilled flatbreads with just the right amount of bite. But first check Facebook.
With an enormous branch of Meat Liquor as a neighbour, it was always going to be a tough market for anyone selling burgers at Boxpark Croydon, but Fixed is doing a pretty decent job. The tangy stilton in their ‘red and blue burger’ is nicely offset by sweet red onion chutney and the 28-day-aged, 6oz beef patty cooked to a perfect pinkness, but the accompanying salad was unremarkable. There’s a decent offering of chicken and crab in addition to the cow, though. Main location:Northcote Road
Seven of the best things to eat at Boxpark Croydon
With over 80 shipping containers chockablock with delicious street food stalls and artisan coffee places we've narrowed down the seven best dishes to satisfy those hunger pangs at Croydon's Boxpark. 1. Chickpea roti at Nanny Outars, £6 A photo posted by Warren Goodwin (@the_cool_chef) on Mar 5, 2015 at 8:27am PST Say yes to all the trimmings on this Guyanese wrap – jerk-pickled cucumber, coconut yoghurt and Nanny’s Ball o’ Fire chilli sauce. Outars also wins the prize for friendliest staff. 2. Sweet potato, tomato, mozzarella and pesto at The Potato Project, £5.75 A photo posted by @thepotatoproject_london on Dec 10, 2015 at 7:32am PST The jacket spud gets a healthy, twenty-first-century makeover. Just like the pre-Pret era, minus the polystyrene boxes, tiny wooden forks and post-lunch food comas. 3. Pho bo tai at Bang Bang Hawker, £9.50 A photo posted by Bang Bang Hawker Kitchen + Bar (@bangbanghawker) on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:28pm PDT Vietnamese hawker-style pho with rare beef sirloin and flat rice noodles in an 18-hour bone marrow broth – fresh, flavoursome and a healthy alternative to Boxpark’s many fast food joints. 4. Wild mushrooms on sourdough at Mud, £9.80 A photo posted by Laura Leporati (@lauraleporati) on Oct 15, 2016 at 5:10am PDT A punchy, pesto-packed plate of mixed wild mushrooms, sausages, poached Cotswold Legbar eggs and red onion jam. Wash it all down with a cup of artisan coffee. 5. Jerk chicken at Fish, Wings & Tings, £