LondonTravel

FACT’s tried and tested guide to eating out in London

From casual street eats to upmarket omakases, spanning Brixton to Belgravia, these are the best places to eat in the UK capital.

As a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, London’s 32 boroughs offers an overwhelming wealth of options when it comes to eating out. To help narrow down the options and ensure you enjoy a gastronomic treat when visiting the UK capital, this list showcases tried and tested FACT favourites from across the city.

Bao

What started as a street stall in East London’s Netil Market has graduated into a fully-fledged restaurant empire dedicated to Taiwanese pillow-soft buns. With locations in Fitzrovia, Borough, Kings Cross and Soho, you’re never too far from your bao fix. However, be prepared to queue as all locations are guaranteed to be busy. Whilst most people will likely order the classic bao (£6.50) and beef short rib bao (both of which are excellent), don’t overlook the signatures, some of which are unique to each location. Trust us when we say that the 40 day aged beef with Taipei butter rice (£11.75) at the Borough branch is one of the best things you can eat in London period.

GO: Visit https://baolondon.com for reservations and more information.


Black Axe Mangal

A restaurant like F.K.A.B.A.M. (Formerly Known as Black Axe Mangal) shouldn’t exist. A tiny spot serving a very niche cuisine on the side of the Highbury and Islington gyratory doesn’t necessarily equate to the stuff of culinary dreams. But venture into the dark dining room where tables are covered in lacquered floral designs, and you’ll see why London’s foodies flock to this place in droves. What started as a Turkish-inspired restaurant has evolved into something unique, where a tasting menu is offered each week for £54 per head. With a changing menu comes some adventurous eating, and while Black Axe Mangal is famed for its squid ink flatbread with smoked cod roe, our recent dining experience involved confit lamb tongues and bone marrow with oxtail gratin. So for something truly out of the ordinary, look no further. 

GO: Follow @fkablackaxemangal on Instagram for more information.


Chishuru

Brixton’s Chishuru is currently the talk of London town. This restaurant serving modern West African food using age-old recipes and techniques has fired the bellies of food critics and picked up numerous accolades along the way. Nigerian-born chef-owner Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare’s restaurant opened in Brixton Market during the pandemic and has since attracted a fiercely loyal clientele. Like F.K.A.B.A.M., Chishuru serves a set menu for lunch (£30 per head) and dinner (£48 per head) that features corn bites with chicken floss and Scotch Bonnet sauce, pan-seared hand-dived scallop and mphu (Cornish hake with banana leaves and spiced plantain sauce). The simple yet charming restaurant offers both inside and terrace seating for a truly flavour-packed dining experience.

GO: Visit www.chishuru.com for reservations and more information.


Endo at The Rotunda

Perched high above the old BBC Television Centre in White Citythis high-concept Japanese restaurant is one of London’s most sought-after reservations. With just two omakase sittings for a limited number of diners each evening, Chef Endo Kazutoshi prioritises Japanese ingredients and techniques to offer an incredible omakase experience that revolves around sushi, sake and an education in the intricacies of Japanese cuisine. Seated beneath a lighting installation that resembles a floating cloud, you’d be mistaken for thinking that you were dining high above the Tokyo skyline rather than the old Blue Peter garden, where you’ll eat handcrafted sushi straight from your bare hands. We challenge you to find a more bespoke dining experience in the Big Smoke.

GO: Visit www.endoatrotunda.com for reservations and more information.


Gunpowder

Famed for its spicy venison and vermicelli doughnut(£8), the modern Indian-inspired Gunpowder has expanded from its small shopfront in Spitalfields Market, introducing not one, but two new locations since our last visit to London. Diners can now enjoy sharing dishes of addictive Gunpowder chaat with Norfolk potatoes (£11) and Chettinad pulled duck with homemade oothappam (£8.50) across the city at Tower Hill and Soho. Much of Gunpowder’s success stems from its succinct menu, where every dish is a signature. Accompanied by speedy service, bombastic flavours and eclectic interiors, you can’t leave London without ordering the Kerala beef pepper fry (£18) – you can thank us later.

GO: Visit https://gunpowderrestaurants.com for reservations and more information.


Hoppers

Those in the know will already be well aware of the charms of Sri Lankan hotspot Hoppers. If you’re searching for dosas, rice and (of course) hoppers, then this quaint spot with locations in Kings Cross, Marylebone and Soho will already be on your radar. You can’t go wrong when it comes to the menu as every dish is a winner, but the beef rib fry(£11.50), devilled paneer (£8.50), mutton rolls (£5) and egg hoppers(£5) come highly recommended. Just be prepared for the spice, as those with a low tolerance for heat may struggle.

GO: Visit www.hopperslondon.com for reservations and more information.


Ikoyi

This restaurant close to the National Gallery and Leicester Square has put West African cuisine on the radar of many Londoners. Since our last visit back in 2019, Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan’s celebrated West End restaurant has picked up two MICHELIN stars, and rightfully so. The tasting menu (£220) is a revelation of flavours and textures, and while not cheap, it’s worth every penny. Expect audacious culinary creations such as the sweetbread, nespoli and N25 reserve caviar or the Instagrammable plantain smoked kelp and blackberry, which is easily one of London’s most recognisable plates. Despite the deserved fanfare and accolades, what lies at the heart of the Ikoyi experience is an impressive menu of expert cookery built around British micro-seasonality and the spices of sub-Saharan West Africa.

GO: Visit https://ikoyilondon.com for reservations and more information.


Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London

A Dubai favourite has touched down in leafy Mayfair and is well worth a visit, even if you’re a regular at the Middle Eastern original. Spanning two floors, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro London welcomes guests with a modern and stylish bar, complete with a cosy fireplace. The first floor (where we’d recommend you reserve a seat) features an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven and a private dining room overlooking bustling Berkeley Street. The London menu features many of the Dubai Tuscan signatures, including pappa al pomodoro (£15.50), crostini ai fegatini di pollo (£14), cacciucco alla Livornese (£33.50) and bistecca alla Fiorentina (£170). 

GO: Visit https://ilborrotuscanbistro.co.uk for reservations and more information.


Kiln

This hole in the wall in Soho is easy to miss, but shouldn’t be overlooked by lovers of Thai cuisine. Take a seat at the bustling counter and enjoy dishes that draw inspiration from the regions where Thailand borders Burma, Laos and Yunnan. A selection of skewers, curries and clay pots will fill your belly and although you may want to linger, the turnaround is quick due to the limited seats. While the fried curried monkfish with its liver (£10.50) comes highly recommended, our personal favourite remains the unassuming but flavour-packedclay pot baked glass noodles with Tamworth belly and brown crab meat (£6.50). This buzzy Brewer Street spot is ideal for a hearty feed accompanied by a bout of people-watching. 

GO: Visit www.kilnsoho.com for reservations and more information.


Pahli Hill Bandra Bhai

Tucked away behind the busy thoroughfare that is Oxford Street lies this charming Indian eatery and cocktail bar. Pali Hill is a gem of a find in busy Fitzrovia and offers regional Indian small plates derived from home recipes and traditional techniques in a casual setting. The food from Head Chef Avinash Shashidhara is the main draw, and his impressive Mangalore bun and Dorset crab sukkha (£16) should not be missed. We’d suggest gathering a group of friends and working your way through the appealing selection of sharing plates that include chargrilled Cornish lamb cutlets (£28) and tandoori Cornish monkfish (£28). Once you’re done with dinner, a subterranean drinking den awaits below street level, where live music and mixology ensure a night to remember.

GO: Visit https://pahlihillbandrabhai.com for reservations and more information.


San Carlo Cicchetti

It would seem that no visit to London is complete without a trip to Harrods. But once you’re tired of retail therapy and luxury goods, San Carlo Cicchetti awaits. The famed Italian restaurant has recently opened in Knightsbridge opposite the world’s most famous department store, offering diners a relaxed environment to enjoy pizza, pasta and Italian favourites. The atmospheric dining room offers plenty of appeal, but it’s the menu of burrata with black truffle (£12), spaghetti carbonara (£9.85) and traditional tiramisu presented with unabashed enthusiasm by the friendly staff that has diners returning time and again.

GO: Visit https://sancarlo.co.uk for reservations and more information.


Smoking Goat

This no-reservation spot on Shoreditch High Street requires plenty of patience to get a seat, but wait it out (for up to two hours), and you’ll be rewarded with an exceptional meal. As has become the trend de jour in London of late, the ever-changing menu means that no two meals at Smoking Goat are ever the same. Although dishes like the chilli fish sauce wing (£3.80) and crab fried rice (£7.60) remain regular fixtures, venture into unfamiliar territory at this Thai-inspired eatery and you’ll be rewarded. With a bustling atmosphere, loud music and a casual familial setting, it’s a great spot for groups of friends. Just beware of the raw laab of moorland beef and bitter leaves (£10.40), which is so spicy that it had us crying into our napkins.

GO: Visit www.smokinggoatbar.com for reservations and more information.


Zuma

When it comes to eating out in London the original flagship of Japanese juggernaut Zuma remains a must-dine destination in upmarket Knightsbridge. The restaurant that has spanned many imitators still holds its ground amidst London’s bustling restaurant scene and is fully booked on the Saturday night we visit. There are so many dishes to love, including the wagyu no tataki kuro natsu toryufu nose, miso-marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf and the spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chilli and sweet soy, that we’d suggest opting for the premium tasting menu to experience all of the highlights and signatures. With an open kitchen, sushi counter and vibey soundtrack, Zuma London stands the test of time two decades on from its initial opening. 

GO: Visit https://zumarestaurant.com for reservations and more information.


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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As the editor-in-chief for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications, David Tapley is a self-proclaimed Hip-Hop aficionado, championing all things, food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the UAE and KSA. This sneakerhead may also be Kanye West's biggest fan.

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