If you’re not from London you’ll know the West End as a glowing beacon of culture, full of bright lights, theatre, and some of the best shopping in the world. If you are from London then you’ll know the West End as that place you tend to avoid at peak hours so that you don’t end up screaming “tortoise fuck” at the eighth slow-walker you encounter. Either way, there’s no denying that the West End has some of the best restaurants in London. Whether you’re after a big, affordable restaurant that’s perfect for groups, or an old school seafood spot that you should hit after the theater, these are the best restaurants in the West End.
You know that kind of incredibly British TV show where some peppy Westminster sidekick falls in love with a dapper spy, who actually turns out to be Jack The Ripper’s godson - we know, Phoebe Waller Bridge eat your heart out - well, let’s just say that their intense meet cute would definitely occur in J Sheekey. This old school seafood spot in Covent Garden is basically the epitome of a classic West End restaurant. Expect seared tiger prawns, their legendary fish pie, and a colourful outdoor terrace that is literally the best spot you can go to for a post-theatre G&T with an out of towner.
Imagine your body was itself a world of its own. Different parts the equivalent of different countries, cities, and places. All with their own personalities and histories. Now, imagine going to a restaurant and eating food that turns your tongue into the Hacienda circa 1991. That’s what happens at Scully in St. James’s. Hot, cold, sweet, sour. Why is everything vibrating? Everything here from an aubergine sambal with a zingy bergamot labneh to a grilled, vinegar-packed broccoli with egg yolk and onions, will make your tongue-tap and your eyes roll.
Much like if you went to see Paul McCartney and left before he sang Blackbird, you’d not only be missing out on the chance to ugly cry with hundreds of weeping strangers, but you’d also be missing out on the best part of the set. It would be exactly the same if you went to Sri Lankan spot Hoppers without getting involved in the headline act, their huge egg hopper - which is basically the lovechild of a paper-thin pancake and the world’s sexiest bowl. As well as having some stupidly tasty food on offer, their whole exposed brick and warm light glow thing, make it the perfect spot for a lowkey date or a proper catch-up with your favourite person and lime-heavy cocktails.
Honestly, hand us a mic, set a beat, and we can perform the most majestic spoken word performance about Bocca Di Lupo. Yes, partially because it’s pretty easy to think of words that rhyme with cheese. But mostly, because this relaxed Italian spot in Soho serves such great Italian food that it’s basically impossible to leave here without discussing the orecchiette you just had. Open for over fifteen years, everything from the food, to the staff, to the laid back feel, make this place a London classic that’ll work just as well for an anniversary meal as for dinner with the whole family. Heads up, dinner here isn’t complete without a post-pasta trip to their excellent gelato spot Gelupo across the street.
In an alternate reality we would be Richie Rich rich and have golden plaques screwed into certain seats in certain restaurants where that seat, and that seat alone, is for us only. The Wolseley would definitely be one of these spots. Not because London’s best food is served at this blasphemy-inducingly grand continental brasserie, but because it’s just so bloody good at being a restaurant. And, Christ, what a room. The full English, wiener schnitzel, and the banana split are our moves for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and whenever. They should be yours too.
When you’re around Piccadilly Circus and there’s a gap in your stomach and stress in your head, just head to Jen Café in Chinatown. It’s London’s most straightforward dumpling situation: they’re handmade in front of you, 7 of them cost £5, and you’ll want to get them both steamed and fried, before covering in a healthy amount of chilli oil.
Imagination games were one of the best things about being a kid. You could be anyone or anything you wanted to be, in any era, real or not. It’s more frowned upon to have this mentality as an adult, but at Kitty Fisher’s you can happily and legitimately live out any monarchy-like fantasy you may have. Everything at this creaky little Mayfair spot screams decadence: from the cubes of Welsh rarebit served by an oh-so-proper gent, to a hay and strawberry ice cream that will make you nostalgic for a country childhood you never had.
Great dim sum. Classic crispy aromatic duck. Fresh Scottish lobster. If you like the sound of that, you’ll like Royal China. This classic, upmarket Chinese spot on Baker Street is huge and has enough big, round group tables and must-order dim sum sharing dishes, that it should be right at the top of your West End group dinner agenda. In fact, the only reason you shouldn’t be coming here is if you’re looking for something light, as it’s almost physically impossible to not get involved in every single section of the menu.
Given the fact that we once left a party because there was a three-minute queue for the bathroom it should be known that the fact we’re willing to wait in line for the udon at Koya Bar should tell you a lot. This little corridor of a restaurant in Soho specialises in udon and whether you go for some hot udon in cold broth or for a tempura donburi that we’ll probably request on our deathbed, you’ll be set for a seriously excellent - and seriously affordable - meal. It’s also perfect if you’re heading to the theatre or you need to grab a top alternative breakfast before work - you might have to queue but once you’re in they’ll feed you fast.
One day, not far from now, someone will make a film of our lives. Maybe. Either way, if that happens we want it to involve a montage of us slow-walking down the central steps of Brasserie Zedel, the big chandelier twinkling, and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien blasting in the background. This huge, beautiful basement brasserie by Leicester Square not only looks like you’ve stepped into 1920s Paris, but it’s also super affordable. Like, two-courses for £10.95 affordable. Be sure to book ahead and to follow up dinner with an Old Fashioned in their slick bar.
Kiln isn’t just one of the best Thai-influenced restaurants in London. It’s one of the best restaurants in London full-stop. The bar is where you want to be at this hot hot hot Soho restaurant, where the clay pots are sizzling in front of your eyes, and a bead of sweat is forming on your head as you take another bite of ox heart laab. Though we prefer being opposite all the action, if you’re in a group you’ll be just as happy eating pork belly and crab baked glass noodles, and Burmese-style beef curry downstairs. But be aware: Kiln is very popular.
Cora Pearl is the from the same people behind Kitty Fisher’s, only this Covent Garden spot feels a little more casual than its sibling. The menu is full of refined British classics, like the ham and cheese toastie fingers that you could, and would, conceivably eat until the four horsemen of the apocalypse trotted in and asked you to leave. The buzzy and velvet-heavy room has a good, ‘oh is that the time’ feel to it, and you’ll happily munch confit chips alongside a bottle or two with friends or a loved one here until closing time.
The middle-eastern inspired dishes at Rovi are not fucking around. Things like the tempura stems and celeriac shawarma are not only some of the best dishes you can eat in the West End, but in the whole of London. As well as having creative cocktails and a menu that reads like a vegetarian’s wet dream, it’s a bright, zen, and slightly retro space where you’ll be happy to spend several hours eating no matter who you’re with. Also, if you happen to be rolling solo, Rovi has one of the best central bar situations going, where stopping in for a casual cocktail and a prawn crumpet is always a good idea.
49 Dean Street, Soho, is one of London’s best known, much loved, and dependable institutions of happiness and hangovers. That’s because it’s home to The French House and has been for what the historians refer to as ‘donkey’s years’. The floorboards and wooden bar of this boozer have seen things. Some good, some bad, and some that look like Hugh Grant recreating his mugshot look. Legendary downstairs bar aside, you’ll want to go up to the softly-lit dining room and get involved with a daily-changing menu of Anglo-French classics like rillettes, braised oxtail, and Paris Brest with chocolate sauce.
Everyone loves a party. Except maybe that AirBnB owner you woke up at 4am because ‘the keys ran away’. But mostly, everyone loves a party, especially the kind of grown-up, octo-hummus charged party you’ll find going on at the counter of The Palomar. Now, you might have to put your name down for a seat here, but there are plenty of top pubs to wait in nearby and it’ll be totally worth it once you’re on your fourth glass of orange wine, dipping a chunk of kubaneh bread in tahini, and bonding with the bartenders over just how tasty the falafel is.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, says Soho quite like a converted brothel that specialises in meat - yes, literal meat, take your mind out of the gutter - and has cocktails for a fiver. If you’ve ever uttered the words ‘I could smash some pork belly right now’, or ‘pass me the garlic marrow spread’ then this is the place for you. As well as the general cool, cabin-in-a-particularly-sexy-woodland aesthetic, Blacklock has some of the best weekly deals in Soho, including a £20 ‘all in’ selection, ‘butcher price’ Mondays, and some totally affordable on-tap wines. Be sure to get involved in their Sunday roasts, they’re serious winners.
A few questions will probably cross your mind as you wait in line for a seat at Bao’s tiny original Soho restaurant. The first is whether it’s worth it, and the answer is yes. Yes, yes, and one more confit pork belly bao please yes. The second is how much Taiwanese fried chicken is too much fried chicken? Here the answer is never enough. Finally you’ll wonder: dessert? No prizes for guessing what we think about the deep fried bao with Horlicks ice cream. Come alone, come with a friend, and most importantly, come hungry.
Sushi Atelier is a beautiful, fishy unicorn. Okay, that sounded better in our heads, but stay with us, because this laidback spot in Fitzrovia is that rare London restaurant that not only serves genuinely excellent sushi, but shockingly, it’s also relatively affordable given the quality of the fish. On the menu you’ll find everything from octopus carpaccio to snow crab sashimi to yellowtail truffle rolls, but our game plan here is to always go for one of the omakase selections or the sushi sets. Although we’re big fans of sitting up at the counter where the action is, if you’re rolling with a group there’s more seating downstairs.
If we were to guess Circolo Popolare’s star sign, we’d say Sagittarius. We don’t actually know anything about astrology, we’re just guessing that if any of the zodiac signs were going to open a restaurant that encourages downing Aperol Spritzes and eating a pizza called I Wanna Nduja, it would be some raging fire sign. This huge, glitzy, and somewhat daft, trattoria in Fitzrovia is always ridiculously busy, so unless you have a booking, you might have to put your name down and go and wait somewhere local. But hey, that’s just what happens when a restaurant serves their carbonara out of a giant wheel of pecorino and such pumped-up churros that you’ll start wondering if they’ve been hitting the gym after your third cocktail.
In our humble, professional, and undoubtedly correct opinion, there are only two ways to Imperial Treasure: dim sum and duck. The reason being is that this somewhat sombre but undeniably expert Chinese restaurant makes the best cheung fun around, and the xiao long bao aren’t too shabby either. The £100 peking duck, a kind of extortionate but wholly delicious tableside show is extremely good as well. Just be aware that all the fun here is brought by flavour as opposed to anything resembling atmosphere.
Frenchie is a real looker. Think pastel velvet seating, warm dome lighting, a big shiny bar, and a general glow that’s basically the IRL equivalent of a big love heart emoji. The best part though, is that the food at this modern Covent Garden brasserie is also excellent. Whether you go for the bacon and maple syrup scone starter, the guinea fowl, or the banoffee dessert, you’ll leave happy. Heads up, prices here can be high, but they have some sweet set menu deals that make it perfect for a special date night or a birthday drinking a great bottle of something from the Loire Valley section of their big wine list.
If you combined the lyrics to Beyonce’s Flawless and the blueprints for Jay Gatsby’s mansion, you’d end up with Bob Bob Ricard. Nowhere in Soho does opulence, gold detailing, or even caviar, quite like this incredibly luxe, OTT restaurant. In case you didn’t guess from what we’ve said so far, this place is expensive, but when you’re looking to go all out, it’s entirely worth it for their excellent steak tartare or for hitting their profoundly satisfying ‘press for champagne’ buttons.
The area surrounding Regent Street isn’t lacking in upmarket Indian restaurants, but Bombay Bustle on Maddox Street is one of favourites thanks to its casual feel. The front room is loosely designed to look like a Mumbai train carriage - if that carriage worked in the City, frequented Mahiki in its youth, and had a touch of the magpie about it. This hint of glam is part of the fun though, and most of the food, like mini pappadoms, Achari lamb chops, and rarah keema pao have that too.