For most people, Fitzrovia is ‘that bit up from Oxford St’, or ‘that posh part of central’. Although these sound very general, both associations are justified. Fitzrovia is north of Oxford Street and it does have two Planet Organics within a seven minute walk of each other. It wasn’t always known for these two things though. Acclaimed writers like George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas all lived, and, more importantly, ate and drank in the area. As such it’s only natural that we continue this literary tradition and, er, add our name to that list. This is our guide on where to eat in Fitzrovia:
Circolo is from the same people as Gloria and just like it’s loud, proud, and Aperol-fuelled sister, this Italian trattoria is a restaurant to party in. It’s a Disney-ish take on the Italian riviera, with thousands of bottles of booze (yes, they’re real and unsecured) lining the walls, fake plants hanging, and enough chintzy crap to make an Antiques Roadshow superfan faint. The food is a backup dancer. But that doesn’t really matter, because the courgette flowers are crunchy, the lasagne tastes decent enough, the meringue pie is great, and you’re not really here to eat anyway.
The corn ribs at Rovi are kind of a big deal. Sure, they look a little like some alien veggie claw served with a side of apricot sauce, but it’s that rare thing: a non-meat dish that rivals and beats almost every other dish we can think of in London. Then again, pretty much all of the vegetable dishes at this spot on Wells Street deserve a shout out. The celeriac shawarma is borderline life-changing. Celeriac? What’s that? How is it so tasty? Should we… order another one? Yes, you probably should. It’s that good. The restaurant itself is bright and charming, in a minimalistic way. It’s a great spot for a grown-up, sit-down meal with colleagues.
This restaurant is pronounced ‘Mary’. It’s important you know how to say it, because as soon as you try the food at this excellent fine dining spot in Fitzrovia you’ll want to tell people about how their pea custard has ruined mushy peas for you forever. It’s a sophisticated South Pacific-meets-French spot with a velvet-packed bar upstairs and a serious dining room situation underground. Although there are a la carte options here, what you really want to get involved in is one of their tasting menus. Come here and do the full three hour, wine pairing, blow-the-budget evening or don’t come at all.
In our opinion, Portland is one of the best new London restaurants in recent years. It’s the ideal place for anyone who’s curious about The Chef’s Table experience they’ve seen on Netflix, but doesn’t necessarily want to commit a huge chunk of their salary to dinner. You can order from the brilliant regular menu of small plates, or from a tasting menu which, at £45 at lunch, is a steal in this part of town. Most importantly, even though the food’s creative, at the end of the day they’re always focused on making everything taste good, like an Iberico pork dish with sticky black garlic ‘jam’, or a crisp chicken skin bite with a light chicken liver mousse.
Our alarm bells tend to ring when restaurants have a ‘concept’. Especially when that concept is partly related to fashion. And so it is with Greyhound Cafe. It’s got a slightly manic but also too cool for school thing going on that manages to produce some (but not all) very good Thai food. Once you work this place out: distracting, distracted and sometimes delicious, then it can become a useful place for midweek dinners and the like. Just try not to get too annoyed by anything. Remember, it’s all part of the concept.
London is such an exciting melting pot of cuisines from all over the world at the moment, that a French restaurant might not sound that exciting. But Noize in Fitzrovia is definitely worth a visit. There are white tablecloths and a serious wine list, but it’s not overly formal or poncey, and the food is fantastic. The suckling pig belly, in particular, is some of the best we have had in London, and be sure to order the rice pudding for dessert. Use it for a nice date night or dinner with people who appreciate good wine and food.
Madhatter's Tea Party
There are probably as many spots for afternoon tea as there are pubs in Central London, but one of our favourites is The Alice In Wonderland-themed Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel. Yes, it sounds like an activity you would be emotionally manipulated into by your five-year-old goddaughter, but we dare you to find a more fun tea service and better scones than the ones served here in their courtyard.
Clipstone is the younger and even more informal kid sister to Portland. The food takes after its older sibling with lots of creative small plates, but with the added bonus of a pizza oven charring up delicious things that you definitely want in your body. The cooking’s never show-offy, and it’s another good spot for anyone looking to dip their toes into fine dining, but without the price tag or time commitment. Bear in mind that it’s a small dining room, so they ask for tables back after an hour and three quarters.
The main reason to visit any of the Homeslice locations is that they make some of the best thin-crust pizzas in London, and each one is approximately the size of a 90s satellite dish. Sharing is therefore advised. The Fitzrovia location is useful for plenty of situations. Try it for a casual mid-week dinner, a pre- or post-shopping meal, or for gathering a crew for a bite and a few beers before heading out.
Meraki is a big, bright Greek restaurant run by the people behind Zuma and Coya, but you wouldn’t know it - things here are pretty relaxed. It’s a spot where you could eat here with either your crazy mother in law, your cool East London mates, or messy baby brother without fuss. The food here is great overall: get the chops, any of the mezze options, and make sure you try at least one of their pasta dishes.
The Riding House Cafe is a smart brasserie that’s Perfect For Literally Everyone, and almost every occasion. The upmarket gastropub and bistro-style dishes will always deliver - think chopped salad with halloumi, or a posh-yet-incredibly satisfying mac and cheese,. Also factoring in the central location, it’s a useful place to know for last-minute dinners and get-togethers, and for when you’ve forgotten to book something for date night. The brunches here are a classier take on the usual Soho places you’re familiar with, but bear in mind it’s popular at the weekend, so book ahead if you want the super-comfy orange sofas.
Slowly, but surely, London is finally getting some pretty nice sushi spots where you don’t have to deep dive into your sofa to fund a dinner. Sushi Atelier does excellent sushi at a pretty decent price, and the sushi also comes with some exciting twists. Expect your sushi to be topped with anything from foie gras to BBQ sauce to parmesan - things that sound like they wouldn’t work, but actually do brilliantly. Use this restaurant for a quick fun meal in Fitzrovia, or for anytime you want an affordable but high-quality sushi dinner.
Here’s a likely conversation: ‘where should we meet?’ ‘I dunno. Central?’. Oh yes. Fitzrovia is to friendships what Clapham Junction is to trains. All pals are going to pass through there at some point, and when you do, you should head to Yalla Yalla. This Beirut spot has a long, long menu full of classics like lamb kibbeh, moussaka, and tahini. But, where this place really comes into its own is sharing, with everything from their mezze feast set menu to their shawarma platters, to their cosy interiors, make it prime casual catch up material. Head for a big table, invite everyone you like (hell, invite that smart ass you’d rather not, it means you can get an extra portion of the lamb skewers) and see just how much Beirut sangria you can get through on a school night.
There are very few restaurants in London where you’re guaranteed a good time no matter the occasion. Roka on Charlotte Street is one of them. The energy level at this modern Japanese restaurant is always high, and the food (sushi platters, miso black cod, etc.) is enjoyable if not overly exciting for the price. Still, it’s good for a night out with some drinks, and there’s also a bar downstairs called Shochu Lounge to keep the night going.
At the back of Bubbledogs, London’s premier hotdog and champagne restaurant, is a second room that’s home to one of the city’s most unique dining experiences. If Bubbledogs is the result of a restaurant focus group full of The Only Way Is Essex fans, then Kitchen Table is the result of a brainstorm (sorry, thought shower) of Masterchef fans that really, really want to do well in the impressing the critics round. It’s a swish counter-only restaurant in which you sit around an open kitchen of chefs cooking interesting, fine dining dishes. It’s a tasting menu, so it’s a bit of a costly time and money-wise, but the food is very good and it’s definitely a special occasion experience - as long as you can secure a booking.
If standing in a long line in Soho (probably in the freezing cold) just to eat at a restaurant sounds like literal hell, then we have some good news for you. The second outpost of Soho’s hugely popular Taiwanese spot Bao, is just a short-ish walk away in Fitzrovia - and you can book a table. It’s still a pretty busy spot, but slightly less so, and you can usually pop in solo without too long a wait. Try any of the baos, but don’t skip out on the small plates, which can sometimes be even better.
Having dinner in the Berners Tavern feels like eating inside the Sistine Chapel, or at least a really, really rich guy’s house. The posh brasserie food’s good, but you’re really paying for the atmosphere - it’s a rite of passage here to pretend that the ridiculously ornate decor and high ceilings are no big deal. It’s excellent for celebrations with a group, or when you’re going all-out to impress someone. If you don’t want to commit to a full meal, the bar’s excellent for an epic drink before you hit a show.
We like to visit Sagar for the kind of vegetarian food our South Indian friends make at home, especially when they haven’t invited us over for a while. It’s comfortable and you can always get a table, and the food is incredibly consistent and always tasty. They have the usual dosas (light, crispy pancakes) and thali set menus if you’re famished, and don’t miss the papadi chat, which is a mixed salad of lightly fried bread, potatoes, tangy sauce, and yoghurt. You didn’t think we actually came here to eat vegetables, did you?
If you’re looking to eat Korean food, Koba is where you should be doing it in central London. This is a swish spot that’s perfect for giving friends an intro to the joys of Korean barbecue, bubbling stews, and pajeon savoury pancakes. The seats at the bar are nice, but the sleek restaurant at the back is where the real action is - you’ll feel like you’ve been seated at a high-tech art installation with futuristic induction fans at each table that make sure you don’t smell of smoke after a few rounds of sizzling short ribs and seafood. Koba’s a little pricey, but for the experience it’s worth the cost, and it’s especially good for a small group hang.
They say that all good things come in small packages (apart from meerkats. Those things are arseholes) and in Fitzrovia, this small but perfectly formed restaurant serves homely Middle Eastern food that will make you feel good. The play here is to go for the set menu, which lets you sample their excellent mezze, which will give you a great introduction of the flavours to come. The mains, like slow cooked lamb and lentil stew, are extremely tasty and filling but won’t weigh you down. Come when you need something a little different, and when you’re looking for somewhere different to eat with a small crew. Make sure to book ahead.
You’ll have to grab a shotgun to get in the door here, but don’t worry - it’s just the door handle, which sets the tone for this restaurant that’s all about the Scottish pursuit of wild food. The menu uses venison and haggis as the basis for some fantastic cooking, and the Veni-Moo burger (a double whammy of venison and beef) is a classic you should try on your first visit. There are also expensive steaks and a whole roast shoulder of lamb for two or more, but you can have a great time with cheaper main dishes, small plates, and side dishes. The basement is much bigger than the ground floor and better in the evening, especially if you’re on a date – which should probably be a second or third outing rather than the opening event. No one’s going to be impressed by how much red meat you can put away, unfortunately.
This, the original Lantana, has the intimate feel of a local cafe, just a few minutes away from the chaos of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. The sleepy backstreet it’s on makes it feel like you’ve stumbled on something awesome, and the ambience is as laid-back as it gets. Order a sandwich and coffee, and maybe a pastry and settle in with the newspaper. Those still exist, right?
Kaffeine was one of the pioneers in London’s coffee scene, and remains one of the best. During busy times, which means a lot of the day, it’s pretty frantic - try to grab a seat at the back to stay out of the crush. The food here is always good – nothing spectacular, just sandwiches, salads, and tasty baked things made with good ingredients and sold at reasonable prices for this part of town. If the place is really heaving, order your coffee at the counter and stay there to get it, rather than counting on the sometimes-overworked waiters.