The Best Restaurants Near The BarbicanFrom a bustling food market, to a British institution, to a Tuscan trattoria, and more.
Excellent exhibitions. One of London’s best cinemas. That time you got lost in Beech Street tunnel and thought you finally understood the true meaning of Pan’s Labyrinth. Whatever it is that you associate with the Barbican, it’s safe to say that it’s one of the top places to spend an afternoon, evening, or an entire day. Once all that culture and thoughtful chin-stroking has made you hungry, use this guide to find somewhere to eat. All of these spots are around a 10-minute walk from the main Silk Street entrance.
A famous, beloved British institution that is respected worldwide. No, we’re not talking about the Barbican, we’re talking about OG nose-to-tail dining, meaty-marrow-wielding royalty, St. John. This legendary Clerkenwell restaurant is one of those all-day, all-night, all-seasons spots that’s just as perfect for some pre-show, early evening madeleines and a glass of wine in the bar, to a huge dinner involving pie, pheasant, roast bone marrow, wine, bread pudding, and more wine. You should know that this place also does a mean lunchtime egg mayo sandwich. Order it.
Whitecross Street's food market is a bustling ruckus most days, with workers and tourists eyeing up everything from Thai curries, to Turkish lahmacun, to Brazilian tapioca flatbreads. Given that you can more than likely smell the market from one of the Barbican’s courtyards, this is the most convenient place to grab something in the week. Just be warned that peak lunchtime means peak queues.
Given that we’ve spent many an afternoon happily lost within the Barbican compound, finding little reading benches and photogenic angles at every turn, a short walk to or from Officina 00 shouldn’t be a problem. There’s nothing Brutalist about this handmade pasta restaurant on Old Street. In fact, it doles out bowls of nourishing ragu-based comfort and pillows of gnocchi for anyone in need. It’s built to suit everyone, from the day-off gallery-goer taking a seat at the bar, to friends or family who have a rather serious eye on the lemon and chocolate profiteroles.
One of the great (and short) London journeys you can make is from the Barbican’s martini bar to Trattoria Brutto’s £5 negroni. Booze is by no means the only reason you should be visiting this gorgeous Tuscan trattoria in Farringdon but, frankly, it’s a bloody good reason to get you through the door. Everything else will likely make you stay. Be it the anchovies with cold butter and St. John sourdough—an assembly of ingredients that everyone should take note of—to the pink, charred bistecca alla Fiorentina. If there’s only one steak left on that blackboard you should very much be ordering it.
Cold, overwhelming, brutalist—those are all words we’d use to describe both the Barbican’s architecture and ourselves before 8am. But we’d never use any of those words to describe The Sichuan on City Road. To get the most out of this big, family-feel Chinese restaurant, come with a group. That way you can order everything from wontons to Sichuan beef to braised pork belly. Plus, if you’ve been looking for a way to get your mate who considers Keith Lemon to be the defining artist of our generation to come and see an actual exhibition with you, The Sichuan’s dan dan noodles are a compelling argument.
Few places impress quite like the counter at Luca. A warm and upscale Italian restaurant in Clerkenwell, it serves excellent pastas like rigatoni with pork sausage ragu and some parmesan fries that honestly might be the best thing since discovering the Barbican’s collection of podcasts. Although they have a big dining room you should call ahead to request the counter, they’re the best seats in the house.
Pham Sushi is serving some of the best affordable sushi in London. And when we say affordable, we don’t mean that you might be able to escape with a bill just under £200 dahling, we’re talking a reasonably priced deluxe 16-piece set, including some pretty great nigiri. At the bottom of the Heron Tower, it’s a slick space with plenty of red leather and a few Japanese touches. When you're done with culture at the Barbican, get involved in the tempura—we’re big fans.
Finsbury Avenue Square might feel like a pretty soulless setting for a romantic night out, but Bar Douro fills it with some heart. It’s a relaxed Portuguese bar and restaurant which should be top of your list the next time you’re looking for somewhere to eat after a trip to the Barbican. Come for the counter seating and the laid-back style of the place, stay for small plates of croquetes de alheira, salt cod hash, and the one absolutely essential order, the cheese selection served with homemade biscuits.
Ever since Geri quit the Spice Girls, we’ve been bitter people. That’s why when anyone describes anywhere as ‘intimate’, all we hear is that getting a seat will be a nightmare. Kurumaya is an intimate sushi spot in the City, but luckily for you and our cold hearts, none of the above are true. Yes, this affordable Japanese spot is pretty tiny, but they’ll do their best to find space for you and worst comes to worst, you can get all of the sushi to takeaway. We’d also recommend doubling your order and going in on the chicken katsu curry and ramen too—we’re pretty sure that’s what 2 Become 1 was about anyway.