14 Standout LGBTQIA+-Owned Restaurants & Bars In LondonFrom cult bakeries to sweaty basement bars and refined restaurants where you might need to check if you can wear your carabiner keys on Carhartts.
A few years back, you would have been hard pushed to find many queer-owned food businesses in London who would openly advertise and celebrate being LGBTQIA+, for fear of not being taken seriously or pigeonholed. But the times are moving and the London queer community is serving up some of the best food this city has to offer.
It’s still a small scene but is very much taking off and looks like it is only going to get bigger and better. Bars and restaurants are no longer isolated to traditionally gay areas like Soho and are spreading out across London—from cult bakeries in Camberwell and sweaty basement bars in Dalston, to refined restaurants where you might need to check if you can wear your carabiner keys on Carhartts and Nike Air Maxs.
It’s very easy to walk right past Bistrotheque without even noticing it. It has an aloof air but don’t be put off. Once you walk up the stairs to the light and airy warehouse dining space, and are met by the friendly wait staff, this soon fades away. The menu features a good mix of well-executed bistro classics, but really you’re here for the fun atmosphere. In the downstairs dining room you can book tickets for cabaret, featuring the finest east London queer scene royalty, and their weekend brunch services are notoriously an excellent hangover cure (or cause).
Quo Vadis is a Soho institution. There’s no doubt the British restaurant and private members’ club is one of the classiest dining rooms in London, with white tablecloths and slick, cordial service. The renowned chef-proprietor Jeremy Lee heads up the kitchen and is an intrinsic part of what makes Quo Vadis, Quo Vadis. His menu is succinct and ever changing, making the best of what the seasons have to offer. Think lighter starters like asparagus vinaigrette or a delicate cuttlefish salad, and a hearty pie of the day for those in need of something more substantial.
On Saturday mornings, Toad Bakery has a queue to rival Berghain, but here everyone is welcome and it’s definitely worth the wait. The small spot galvanised a small but committed community of fans from their bakery pop-ups in nearby Brixton, and crowdfunded enough dough (sorry, not sorry) to open a bricks and mortar shop in Camberwell. Go for the impressive selection of changing, creative savoury pastries like everything bagel-inspired croissants, cooked up by the consistently passionate Oliver Costello (ex Ottolenghi) and Rebecca Spaven (ex Brickhouse Bread), who are both fast becoming two of London’s most exciting bakers.
Dalston Superstore is east London’s most notorious queer bar, run for the community by the community. By day it’s a small neighbourhood cafe/bar and sweaty heathen dance floor by night. The crowds and vibes of each club night are often vastly different, but the door and bar staff are some of the sweetest around. Body Swap, a weekly party for the trans community, as well as the likes of Fèmme Fraîche and Club Tantrum are not to be missed. Keep an eye out for London’s hottest go-go dancers who, when the time is right, will clamber (with grace) on to the bar and put on a show. While in Dalston, check out Superstore’s little sister, Karaoke Hole, to belt out some camp hits, then go upstairs for a slice of Voodoo Ray’s pizza.
Come for the New York-style pizzas and stay for the good vibes. You can purchase Voodoo Ray’s pies by the slice to go or sit in and enjoy a 12 or 22-incher (depending on your size queen tendencies…). The chilled-out Dalston branch also has seasonal craft beers from top London breweries, and there are normally plenty of seats. We rate a slice of the Giorgio Moroder, with goats’ cheese, courgettes, and sunblush tomatoes, and the fact it’s named after the ‘father of disco’. There’s also a Peckham location which isn’t open as late as the east London outpost (which closes at 2am on the weekends) so it’s more suited to a quick bite before a night out rather than on the way home.
Tonkotsu’s tagline, “If you don’t make your own noodles, you’re just a soup shop” is just as true today as it was when it started out as a pop-up in 2011. They make all of their own noodles fresh every day and use top-quality produce for satisfying ramen. It’s ideal for a low-key, quick meal. There are locations across London and each spot is a solid option when a noodle soup craving hits.
Weino BIB, a natural wine shop, deli, and bar in Dalston, has everything you need to settle in for the evening. It champions a more sustainable approach to winemaking, so the excellent bottles sold and served are from people not corporations, and made with minimal intervention. Quality bits from the deli—tinned fish, olives, and cheeses—and simple, tasty small plates are ideal snacking fodder. And the warm and welcoming atmosphere invites lingering. The bar can ramp up a few notches later in the evening, and if it puts you in the mood to go out, you’re ideally placed to explore some of the nearby queer-owned bars and clubs like Dalston Superstore, The Glory, and Vogue Fabrics.
Step away from the Mr Whippy and give Happy Endings’ soft serve a go. Their signature milk flavour is sublime and made with the finest British white stuff from The Estate Dairy. Be sure to add some sprinkles too. They also have a range of excellent ice cream sandwiches—The Malty One is hard to beat. You can order online via the Slerp app for London delivery or catch them at stockists all over the city. They will also be serving their famous ice cream sandwiches and decadent soft serve from Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park all summer long.
Bleecker Burger’s vision is simple: to have an equal world, where Bleecker is the best burger. The menu is stripped back and focuses on making great, simple, juicy burgers. There are a few locations in London—the Victoria one is one of our favourites for a dependable pit stop. Don’t skip the milkshakes—get the Black & White which is a mix of chocolate and vanilla, giving you one less tough decision to make.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, or RVT as it’s known to most, is an iconic institution on the London club scene. It has been around since the 1980s and was made infamous by the police raid in 1987 at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Paul O’Grady (at the time performing as Lily Savage) said to the officers pouring in, all wearing rubber gloves: “Well well, it looks like we’ve got help with the washing up.” But the RVT is famous for so much more than this. It continues to host fun nights and always has a friendly and welcoming crowd. The small, intimate venue regularly hosts LGBTQ+ cabaret and often breaks out into a dance floor. Be sure to check out the legendary Duckie and Butch, Please club nights too.
Trailblazers of the London vegan scene, Club Mexicana is a solid bet for tacos, burritos, and tequila-infused cocktails. The Mexican-inspired restaurant is splashed with pops of colour, reminiscent of the Progress Pride flag, and the atmosphere is set to fun. The menu serves fresh plant-based takes on many classics—be sure to try the short ‘rib’ taco. Their two locations in Kingly Court and Spitalfields make it a perfect place to grab a bite before exploring the nightlife in Soho or Shoreditch. Or come for the weekend brunch menu before hitting Brick Lane.
Facing Heaven serves high camp from the moment you walk in the door, with its neon nail shop signs and kitsch fake roses on the tables. Embrace the slightly-chaotic-but-fun atmosphere and cosy setup—it’s part of its charm. Everything on the Chinese-inspired menu is vegan and dripping in Sichuan pepper, so be prepared for a bit of a kick. They’ve also opened Easy 8, a charming little dive bar next door, which serves bar snacks and cocktails with moody red lighting that will make you feel like you're in Twin Peaks whilst sipping on your Pabst beer.
Fink’s is north London’s hottest deli. Come for great coffee and fail miserably at leaving with just one thing from the counter. Their ample focaccia sandwiches are hard to ignore and the array of pastries and sweet treats impossible to resist. It’s a short walk to Clissold Park, where they have another small kiosk just in case you change your mind and do want that cake after all. There’s a reason their fabulous pastry chef Adriann Ramirez is known as the @gay.nigella on Instagram. They also proudly boast around 50% LGBTQI+ staff at the last count.
At Paladar, expect three things: delightfully welcoming staff, London’s juiciest cochinita pibil, and a mean margarita. The Latin American bar and restaurant in Elephant and Castle is something of a vibes merchant. The walls are covered with knickknacks and the drinks flow inside the restaurant and their hush-hush courtyard. Dinky jackfruit empanadas and fresh ceviche are on the menu, but the cochinita pibil—four gloriously tender pulled pork tacos—is what you won’t want to share.