The Best Restaurants In Soho
Our 20 favourite spots in London’s most famous area for eating and drinking (and repeating).
Soho is London’s most famous area for eating and drinking. It’s also its least reliable because there’s no limit to options around here. You’ve got everything from legendary handmade udon and 12 million handmade pasta options that may or may not leave you disappointed, to London’s most famous fish sandwich. You can’t run out of options around Soho, good, bad, or so-so. But we’re only interested in the former, as we’re sure you are too. So think of this list as a step one for restaurants in Soho, old and new, that you should be eating in.
The days of napkin-essential fried chicken and tequila-heavy frozen cocktails at Rita’s previous incarnation in Hackney may be gone. But this version, in the heart of Soho, is something different and better. Here it’s candlelight and Roy Davis Jr playing in the background, trademark punchy cocktails alongside cream cheese and chilli water-laden gildas. The room isn’t big, nor is it particularly elaborate, but it is comfortable. Bowls of homely clams with sugared Idaho scones, and a plate of still mooing bavette with creamed greens and crispy potatoes. It’s a dash of Americana that feels completely at home in London.
Noble Rot Soho
The superlative-laden (many of them from us, yes) wine bar and restaurant’s second location is right in—or rather on the edge of—the thick of it on Greek Street. Despite no official bar area, this sibling spot to Noble Rot’s original Bloomsbury location retains the magical sounds of chatter and clinking glasses, alongside the reassuring glug of glasses being refilled. Add in the Hungarian-leaning menu, featuring duck liver-stuffed choux buns, and a shared plate of roast chicken, morels, and vin jaune you’ll have lurid dreams about, and you have the perfect early evening to before-bedtime venue.
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Walking through Rupert Street, you might go straight past this small moody Sri Lankan spot. But that would be to the detriment of your stomach, because this is a place you’ll get exciting, flavourful sharing plates like a spicy, sweet breadfruit pastry with tangy pineapple ketchup that you’ll want a second round of as soon as take your final bite of the first one. And a sea bass curry which pairs excellently with layered, lamb fat-infused paratha roti that will leave your fingers greasy and your heart happy. Come with a small group to try a little bit of everything—although the bar stools facing the window also make this one of our favourite places for solo dining.
The Palomar is the restaurant version of that live wire friend you know you’re always going to end up doing shots with. It’s loud and the atmosphere is pure energy, while the Israeli-influenced food is very good—the Jerusalem mix and shakshukit kebab are the ones you need on your table. Things can be hectic here and the seats you want are the ones at the bar, where you can watch the chefs do their thing.
££££41 Dean St, Soho
Once you’re inside this slip of a wine bar and restaurant, you feel more like you’re in a backstreet in Hackney. It’s got a relaxed, personal touch which is a rare find in the West End, and the creative European small plates menu will have you wondering why you never whip up a plate of bobby beans with charred potato, walnuts, and parsley when you’re drinking a glass of wine at home. This spot is perfect for when you want something busy and intimate, and it works as well for a casual date as it does for when you need a bite to eat before a show.
The French House
Few London pubs are as well known as The French House in Soho: this place is a classic and the food very much follows suit. While the downstairs of this drinking institution is still kept to mostly that, if you walk up the creaking stairs you’ll find a red-walled, yellow-lit dining room. This place is made for consumption. Specifically terrine, steak frites, chocolate mousse, and, of course, wine. You’ll be leaning over the table and stage whispering conversations before you know it.
Mele E Pere
Al dente handmade pasta, a vermouth menu, and a sexy basement that feels distinctly Soho. What more could you want from an Italian restaurant in central? If you’re thinking, ‘actually I’d quite like a giant 48-hour fermented dough pizza please’, then you’re in luck because this trattoria on Brewer Street has got those too. Open for over a decade and owned by three brothers, this place is a proper charmer and has got something for everyone with gluten-free pasta options, a good-value pre-theatre menu, and a cocktail bar that’s perfect for having a couple of negronis before deciding whether this person is worthy of sharing Nonna Mantovani’s tiramisu. Just don’t skip the beef ragu, it’s excellent.
Koya Bar is a temple of noodles and soups and all manner of good things, and it legitimately can lay claim to having the best udon in London. It’s a great place to come for a Japanese-style brunch, to eat at the bar with a friend or two, or even solo should you have an hour to yourself. Besides the noodles, order some of their sides, like the braised pork belly which will make you very happy.
Bocca Di Lupo
Bocca di Lupo is an Italian restaurant that still hits all the right notes, over a decade after first opening. There are amazing pastas, excellent grilled meat and seafood, and it ups the ante with regional dishes from across Italy that even your Italian friends would be hard pressed to say they’d tried. The bar is where you want to be sitting—it’s the best place to grab one of their very good wines and observe the upscale dining room. Call ahead if you can, as it gets ridiculously popular in the evenings.
If you’re the kind of person who loves first editions and candlelit romance, you’ll appreciate Andrew Edmunds. It’s an old-school Soho bolthole that takes romance seriously—you’ll eat by candlelight and order from a menu scrawled on a chalkboard. It’s obviously ideal for a date, but the food is really good too. The braised squid and dressed crab are excellent, and the goat’s curd with courgettes is a good vegetarian option.
We can’t think of anyone you shouldn’t go to Bancone with. Except maybe that mate who has sincerely given up carbohydrates due to that three-mile fun run they’re doing in six months. But friends, colleagues, family, dates are all welcome. Hell, bring your ex—you’ll look fantastic sitting at the counter in the candlelight. The handmade pasta is excellent and the best part is you can easily go all in and still have a pretty affordable meal.
Hoppers is a modern Sri Lankan restaurant done Soho-style—it’s exciting, laid-back, and fun. The egg hoppers are awesome for mopping up curries—the bone marrow is incredible, and the black pork curry and devilled shrimp dish are class acts. It’s perfect for lunch, but it’s also worth the queue if you want to hit it up for dinner. The wait’s usually about 30-45 minutes when they’re not taking reservations, but Hoppers is definitely worth planning an evening around.
A yakitori counter, with its open flames, twirling skewers, and unceasing provision of food on stick, is a completely thrilling place to be. And Humble Chicken is a very good one. Of the many skewers, it’s things like the soft knee and cartilage, or inner thigh that are essential. Unlike an Arsenal midfielder, there’s nothing dodgy about the achilles here, nor the offal. Every part of the bird is cooked to juicy and slightly charred perfection, and each yakitori is topped with something different: lemon ponzu, spicy miso, and more. There are a few bigger plates too, as well as a small section of stuff from the sea and ice-cold Asahi on tap.
Barrafina is a brilliant tapas restaurant that makes some of the best Spanish food in London, in very swish, upscale surroundings. Whatever the occasion—a ‘casual’ date (that’s not really casual at all), bringing friends from out of town, and so on—a dinner sat at the marble bar will knock it out of the park. If you haven’t managed to make a reservation, there’s a very good chance there’ll be a queue, but make like the regulars and order a glass of cava and some of their fantastic bar snacks while you wait.
Bao has become a local legend both for its pork buns and for the lines needed to get in, which are a Soho landmark in their own right. We like the buns fine (the pork confit bao is the one to get) but some of the other dishes, like the Taiwanese-style fried chicken and beef with aged soy sauce, are the true must-orders. Also know that Bao is an in-and-out kind of place, so don’t bring a big group and don’t expect to linger. This place is worth the wait, but generally only a short one.
As far as Soho institutions go, it doesn’t get much more classic than Quo Vadis. It’s a great spot to escape the chaos of the street outside, and to eat excellent British food in a highly British environment. The service and food are exceptional, and you’ll be reminded of how good a simple soup or roast can be. We like to pay it a visit as an upmarket lunch spot from time to time, and it’s worth dropping in for the legendary smoked eel sandwich and a glass of wine.
Kiln is one of the best places to eat Thai food in London, and certainly in central London. Everything’s cooked in an open kitchen in front of the ground-floor bar, so you can get an eyeful of the action while you wait with a beer or cocktail. It can get as busy as all the best places in Soho do (get there early if you can), but we can emphatically say that the food’s worth it. A lot of it is sharing-style, so get a couple of drinks while ordering a few dishes to split. The lamb and cumin skewers and smoked sausage are very good, and the Burmese-style curry is indecently tasty. There are tables downstairs for four to six that you can book in advance if there are a few of you.
What’s that? You woke up simultaneously craving the juicy meat of an animal, and also needing to book somewhere to eat in Soho? Blacklock has you covered. The steaks here are excellent, as are the roasts. Plus, there are great cocktails and the entire restaurant is in a former brothel. It’s everything you’ve been dreaming about.
Bob Bob Ricard
For going big in Soho, Bob Bob Ricard gets our vote every time. The restaurant’s been put together in such a way as to make the entire evening unforgettable, from the over-the-top art deco room and completely, unnecessarily opulent food, to all the moneyed-up Londoners and glamourpusses it attracts. The food’s memorable with French and British classics (a very good beef wellington, boeuf bourguignon) paired with upscale Russian dishes (there’s so much caviar), but it’s all very enjoyable and in the best possible taste. You will take a thousand selfies here, drunkenly bash the ‘press for champagne’ button at least a couple of times, and stumble out into the night all the better for it.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Entering Brasserie Zédel is like walking down a flight of stairs into 1920s Paris. On any given night, this art deco dining hall is packed with people eating brasserie classics like steak au poivre and oysters with wine, while a swing band plays, but not in an annoying way. Aside from the room and ambience, the most impressive thing about Brasserie Zédel is the price. For the setting, it’s very affordable, and you can get away with dinner and a drink for under 20 quid. It’s popular, alas, but you can avoid queueing if you book ahead. And the adjoining Bar Américain is a good spot for a late-night cocktail or aperitif before hitting the main room.