Maybe you’re cold. Maybe you feel like a human snot bucket. Or maybe you just really want a bath but forgot to check that you had one before moving in. For whatever reason, sometimes you just need to eat a bowl of delicious hot liquid, and that’s okay. Because there are some - actually, many - situations in life that are exponentially improved by going to a restaurant and eating some really good soup. From a tiny Korean walk-in spot that serves a huge, spicy dak udong, to a Primrose Hill landmark, these are the best places in London for when you just really fancy some soup.
This broth gives us tingles. Whether that’s a reflection of our tragic love lives, our affinity for pink braised beef, or the fact that we just really stan a huge ceramic serving bowl, is TBC, but our money is on the fact that it’s just because it’s a truly excellent noodle soup situation. If you’re after a serious hit of winter heat then get involved in the fiery huo-guo fen or the cabbage-packed chongqing xiao mian. Also, might as well have a round of the joyous crinkle-cut chilli oil chips. Would be rude not to.
We’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve walked into Song Que hungover, sniffling, or wounded in some other fashion, before a bowl of their pho has restored us to a less pathetic state. It’s the best Vietnamese on Kingsland Road, maybe even London, and their rare sliced steak and tofu pho is an always reliable answer to when you’re asking the question, ‘what will heal me?’.
Look, Heinz has our hearts, but the soup at Jolene, well, that’s our bit on the side. This bakery, café, and restaurant on Newington Green - aptly named after that Dolly Parton song about similar betrayals of the heart and soul - is usually full of people who look like they make excellent playlists, and it serves some really tasty soups that tend to be around the £6 mark. Although their blackboard menu changes daily, you can expect everything from sweetcorn chowder, to minestrone, to our personal favourite, the pumpkin and bean soup with rosemary.
Is slurpyness a word? Frankly, we don’t care because there is simply no other way to do verbal justice to the Tainan beef noodle soup from Bao Noodle Shop. It is a broth that is truly worthy of respect and if you’re feeling extra beefy (also not a word, but here we are) you can add additional beef or a beef butter for extra hibernation season comfort. FYI there’s also a kelp and aubergine noodle soup for all our vegans out there.
El Rancho De Lalo is a lively Colombian restaurant in Brixton Village that makes it its mission to fill everyone with piping hot and freshly made soup everyday. The soup of the day is £3.50 or comes as a starter as part of the £8 lunch offer. Expect something heavy on root vegetables, like cassava and carrots, as well as corn, parsley, and fresh lime. It’s a bowl of goodness that we could eat everyday.
Greenberry is therapy in restaurant form. It’ll soothe that part of your soul that whispers ‘move to the countryside, we could get a dog’ every single day. Up on Primrose Hill this place has got that whole idyllic home-county thing going on, with a menu to match. Expect eggy brunch dishes, pastries, chunky sandwiches, and you guessed it, big, comforting soups.
Look at that glorious red shimmer. Just look at it. And then imagine if you were actually sat in front of it, steaming your pores with your nose already twitching from all that chilli. Now would also be a good time to tell you that all this spicy soup goodness is under a tenner. Plus, Mr. Meng on Charing Cross Road is home to many a spicy broth ranging from seafood numbers to a chicken and matsutake mushroom broth that will make you throw that tin of Heinz cream of chicken some serious side-eye.
You know that noise you make when you take your first sip of an excellent soup, that satisfied hum that sounds like Barry White warming up his vocal chords? That is exactly the noise you’ll make when you eat Rochelle Canteen’s soup. This British restaurant in Shoreditch is one of our all-time favourites, partly because we’ve never had a bad meal here, but also, that soup. The menu changes regularly, but if the pumpkin and sage one happens to be on, prepare to be very happy and very soothed.
St. John are experts in all things hearty and hug-like, and their soups are no exception. At the exact moment your eyes start watering from the cold, the folks in their kitchen in Clerkenwell start making a superb daily soup or broth. Recent winners have included a cauliflower soup so smooth we wrote our number on the napkin below it, and lamb broth that was practically baa-ing.
Everyday Persepolis makes either ash (an Iranian noodle soup) or a vegetable soup that comes with warm flatbread for the excellent price of £5.50. That’s just the kind of place this Persian-influenced deli and café in Peckham is. Everything here is simple, fresh, and homely. And also vegetarian as well. If you’re looking for a sanctuary as well as soup, this is your place.
In the immortal words of a soup enthusiast and Very Wise Person (my nan) there isn’t anything you can’t put in a soup. For full disclosure, she usually says this whilst holding a hand blender like a lightsaber. The Attendant does a daily, changing soup and you’ll find all kinds of different ingredients and options, ranging from your classics to vegetable heavy numbers. Grab one of their sourdough sandwiches whilst you’re here too. Hello excellent dipping potential.
King’s Cross is about as relaxing as a family breakfast on New Year’s Day, so it pays to know about anywhere that’s set apart from the madness, and that’s where Supawan comes in. This brilliant little Thai restaurant serves a couple of excellent noodle soups as part of its lunchtime menu. The tom yum soup, loaded with chicken, prawns, rice noodles, and fresh lime, is particularly good.
The way to do Dotori is to turn up at 5pm on the dot. That’s because this no reservations, cash-only, Korean and Japanese restaurant in Finsbury Park makes some very tasty food and is pretty much always teeming by 6pm. The Korean menu is our favourite, and, soup-wise, you’ll want to be looking at the enormous yukgejang - it’s a spicy red broth filled with beef and vegetables - but there are some excellent tofu stew options as well.
The first thing you should know about Seoul Bakery is that, without fail, there’s always a queue to get in. The second is that their dak udong is big enough and spicy enough to clear your sinuses quicker than bathing in an entire pot of Vicks. Pretty much everything at this tiny Korean spot in Bloomsbury is cheap and cheerful, and their ramyens, udongs, and ke jangs are included in that. And by ‘cheap and cheerful’ we mean seven quid for a giant metal bowl of braised chicken that’s big enough to feed a family of four. Or, you know, you when you skipped breakfast.
We have two words for that mood you’ve been in since you had to start wearing a scarf again. Curry. Soup. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at cool little counter Japanese spot, Koya Bar in Soho. They specialise in udon noodles in hot broth and although there’s usually a queue to get in, it’s worth the wait. Oh, and if that little voice in your head that reminds you to do things like pay your council tax chimes in and says you should order some of the braised pork belly on the side, it’s because you absolutely should.
Sambal Shiok is a busy spot on the Holloway Road making laksa so pungent and spicy that you’ll feel like you’ve been slapped around the chops in a steam room. Their standard laksa comes with rice noodles, tofu puffs, green beans, and bean sprouts and, for under £10, it’s a filling bowl that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner. If you’re looking for a little more, then poached chicken, king prawns, or both can be added. There’s a vegan option too. Be warned, this place gets busy.
A bowl of soup and a toastie is one of the world’s most perfect combinations. It’s satisfying, and familiar, and even the laziest and most incompetent amongst us (we’re currently looking in a mirror) can make it happen. The Camberwell Arms clearly knows this as well, because their daily lunchtime soup and a toastie combo is a steal for £6. Their crab soup is chuggable and combined with a gooey cheese toastie, it’s an always delicious lunch.
You get the feeling that some of the locals having a lone bowl of soup in Lemonia have been wiping their bowl of fagges (spicy lentil soup) clean with warm pitta bread for the best part of a decade. To be honest, we don’t blame them. This classic Greek restaurant in Primrose Hill is an old favourite, and when their bowls of avgolemono (chicken broth with lemon and rice) and fagges are this generous and warming, you can see why there are so many loyal regulars.