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 cosy Clerkenwell café with a proper Irish stew, these are the best places to go in London when you just really fancy some soup.
We’ve lost count 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kings 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.
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.
Once, in the midst of feeling like we were extras in Ice Age, Monty’s Deli’s chicken soup single-handedly revived us into feeling like we had a pulse again. Did we promise to name our firstborns Monty? Well, that’s between us and the matzo balls, but the point is their soup is light, salty, and just the thing to warm you up on a cold day. It’s inside Seven Dials Market and there is some seating, but if you happen to work in the area, heading back to the office with some soup-to-go is never a bad shout.
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.
Sambal Shiok is 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.
You get the feeling that some of the old blokes 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.
J&A is the kind of cute little cafe that would be the setting for the meet cute in a Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation. Down a quiet Clerkenwell alleyway, this Irish daytime cafe is very cosy and their homemade stew is pretty much the definition of ‘hearty’. Order some of their freshly baked soda bread too and you’re set for an excellent lunch.