The Best Restaurants Around Bloomsbury And Holborn
15 great spots for when you’re out and about in Bloomsbury or Holborn.
It sounds obvious, but there are lots of people doing lots of things around Bloomsbury and Holborn. You’ve got multiple universities. You’ve got Great Ormond Street. You’ve got the British bloody Museum. Basically, it’s non-stop and everyone tries to be as efficient as possible. Which is reflected in a lot of the restaurants around here. This is the guide to use for when you just want a late-night pizza after work, a big noodle-filled group lunch, the best restaurant in London, or just to pick up a pie on the way home.
Catalyst Coffee Roasters + Cafe
The quality of Catalyst’s food, coffee, and service means that it can feel reductive to simply call it a cafe. But that’s what it is. A better way to put it is that Alex Gkikas and his team are pushing the boundaries of what you should expect from a cafe and coffee roasters in their stylish corner spot in Holborn. Not only does Catalyst roast and grind its own beans but it has also created its own groundbreaking condiment in the form of their coffee sriracha, as well serving a superb Greek-leaning daytime menu, plus bar snacks and drinks on Friday evenings.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Fuwa Fuwa is a Japanese cafe that specialises in soufflé pancakes. Basically, they’re similar to a glorious scotch pancake that’s been put under a serious workout regime and bulked out big time. When it comes to toppings you can expect everything from chocolate, to strawberries, to our personal favourite, the Biscoff special. It’s a bright and simple space but be warned, Fuwa Fuwa is walk-in only and these pancakes will bring the crowds at weekends.
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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
There are restaurants you want to be in for special occasions, others you save for your beloved, and some that you simply want to age decrepitly and drunkenly in. Café Deco is all of the above. Humble but perfectly formed, just like the food it serves, there is little that doesn’t feel right about this cafe, restaurant, and wine bar hybrid that’s a hurried walk away from Goodge Street. It feels more like a day or night at a gastronomically-gifted friend’s house than anything fancy. Expect the room to be filled with murmuring voices, elbows on tables, and spoons and bread that are getting stuck into French onion soup, chicken pie, apple fritters, and more.
There are many things to like about Balady’s second location on Leather Lane, not least the fact that we find it markedly easier to get to than the kosher spot’s original one in Temple Fortune. Of course it’s all about their falafel: crisp and fresh out the fryer, fluffy inside, and steaming with green herbiness and spices. All of which cry out for the combination of fruity amba, punchy zhug, and cooling tahini that lines their soft pittas. That will always be the #1 appeal, closely followed by their fantastic hand-cut chips.
Tarim Uyghur Restaurant
You’ll find big plate chicken, cumin-rubbed lamb skewers, and soft boiled dumplings at Tarim. The Uyghur restaurant is from the same people as Dilara in Finsbury Park and although this spot isn’t quite as homely, it’s still a good choice for some hand-pulled leghmen noodles and more. Just remember to ask for everything spicy. Not the polite kind of spicy either.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Getting a plate of fragrant coconut rice and all the trimmings—ayam masak merah, say, and, beef rendang—from Dapur is just the ticket for anyone who’s looking for a midweek pick-me-up. The daytime cafe has a selection of Malaysian curries to choose from, but the familiar (the rendang) and the fiery (chicken in a tomato chilli sauce) are go-tos. There are a handful of tables inside and plenty on the pavement outside. Working lunches rarely get better than this.
Master Wei is the second restaurant from the folks who run Xi’an Impression. Need we say more? Probably not, but we will anyway. It’s got the same Chinese specialities that we know and love—cold liangpi noodles, rou ji mo buns, biang biang noodles—only in a bigger and slicker space in Bloomsbury. It’s super casual and walk-in only. Though, after the first time, you’ll find yourself walking in again and again.
Holborn Dining Room
Holborn Dining Room is a big faux-old brasserie attached to the Rosewood Hotel. The room itself is always buzzing and the menu is pretty extensive and full of price-hiked British classics. Ignore all these distractions and focus on one thing only: the pies. This place is home to London’s finest filled bits of pastry. Whether it’s the potato, comté, and caramelised onion, or the curried mutton, every pie is pretty magnificent.
When it comes to Ciao Bella, we’re still slightly suspicious that someone stole an entire restaurant from an Italian coastal town and dropped it down on Lamb’s Conduit Street. This old-school Italian restaurant has been here since the ‘80s and everything from its nightly pianist Norman, to the banging atmosphere, and outdoor terrace, means that you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time here. Don’t miss their spaghetti al cartoccio, a big portion of pasta and seafood in a white wine sauce that arrives on your plate in a greaseproof bag. See, old-school.
There’s nothing like a bit of theatre. And Abeno is a restaurant that understands that. Not in an am-dram, jazz hands way, but in a ‘wow, look at what that server can do armed with only a metal spatula, a hot plate, and some eggs’. They specialise in okonomi-yaki—a Kansai omelette situation—that they cook at your table, but they also serve other classics like notto, beef kara-age, and some very tasty tempura and yaki-soba. The tables are designed for twos and fours max, but the chill, slow-paced, casual feel makes it perfect for a low-key birthday dinner, a long lunch, or a getting-to-know-you-better date.
The Fryer's Delight
The Fryer’s Delight is the most aesthetically pleasing chippy in London. We know we’re not meant to care about these things, but, honestly, it’s hard to resist a little smile when you sit down in one of their bright red formica-table booths. This place isn’t trying to be old-school, it just is. The fish and chips themselves are tasty enough, though by no means the best we’ve ever had. It doesn’t really matter though as a solid portion of haddock, chips, and mushy peas is well under a tenner, and also a bit priceless in a place like this.
You’ve probably got lots of big, important things on your bucket list, like skydiving, making a family, and finally watching the entirety of The Wire. But no matter what else you’ve got planned for your life, a trip to Noble Rot should happen. This wine bar on Lamb’s Conduit Street is so much more than just a restaurant. There’s bread so good the memory of it will appear before you as a mirage whenever you’re hungry. There’s the kind of classy but friendly service that ensures you’ll have a good time whether you’re here for a full dinner or just a glass of wine in the bar area up front. And there’s the kind of atmosphere that makes it near impossible to leave. Even if you’ve got plans to watch The Wire.
Everyone knows the worth of a place that you can just walk into and sit down, no stress, at any time of day or night. Especially one that actually serves good food. Chang’s Noodle is one of those. This Chinese spot in Holborn is one of our go-tos when we’re in need of some hand-pulled noodles, alone or with other people. Although we like a lot of the menu, it’s the shan xi yo po that we keep coming back to. That said, don’t sleep on their sweet and sour pork. It’s some of the best we’ve had.
You should expect two things from Seoul Bakery. One is a queue. And the other is the kind of kimchi rice that makes you understand exactly why there’s a queue. The walls of this little Korean spot are covered in graffiti from previous visitors, there’s communal seating, and a K-Pop memorabilia store downstairs. Basically, it’s cheap, it’s cheerful, and the food is great. Be warned, it’s cash only and they close at 7.30pm.
Pizza Sophia is the exact kind of restaurant every non-stop area in London needs. This is a charming, family-run pizza spot that doesn’t overthink things. The pizzas are the kind with a fat, charred, and doughy crust, and a super thin, slightly sloppy base. They’re a snip at under a tenner for a margherita, considering how good they taste. Unfortunately this spot is no secret and it’s usually chocka, so call ahead if you’re going at peak lunch or dinnertime.