LDNGuide

The London Restaurants That Will Give You That Holiday Feeling

Want to escape London without leaving the city? Here are some holiday-feeling restaurants.
The London Restaurants That Will Give You That Holiday Feeling image

We love London. Truly, we do. But we’re also happy to admit that London can be a bit of an arsehole. One minute it’s all drinks on the Thames and skyline views, the next it’s pollution and being charged £900 to live in a box with a leaky sink. But the good news is that there are ways to feel like you’ve abandoned London for a holiday without actually having to book a flight or even breach the limits of the M25. Namely, by going to one of these restaurants. Bottles of rosé and flip flops encouraged.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Malaysian

Queensway

$$$$Perfect For:Catching Up With MatesHalalLiterally EveryoneLunchVegansImpressing Out of Towners

Normah’s is the kind of restaurant you stumble upon by chance and becomes the highlight of your trip. The little Malaysian spot is tucked away inside Queensway Market, surrounded by mobile phone shops and cupboard-sized barber shops, but is a destination thanks to its flaky roti, tender beef rendang, and splintering fried chicken. Everything in this simple, food-focused, windowless bunker of flavour is made to order by Normah herself and everything is superb.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

If impromptu sing-a-longs, dangerously cheap vinho verde, and never-ending grilled fish is your kind of getaway, then Sporting Clube De Londres will feel like a holiday away from holiday. The Notting Hill restaurant and social club has a familial and party-ish atmosphere every day of the week of the most Portuguese variety. There are long banquet tables of birthdays, marriages, friends, and family, and everyone is chewing freshly grilled chouriço and swigging beers to the sound of a stranger gently murdering Fleetwood Mac on stage.


Things that make us smile: dogs wearing sunglasses, the smell of sun cream, watching people try to board a lilo seal-style, and Lemonia in Primrose Hill. This classic, old-school Greek restaurant has a whole lot of tzatziki on the menu and fake vines on the walls. The fact that it’s just a tiny bit naff adds to the charm and sipping ouzo in their back conservatory is always a laugh. Make sure the tyrokafteri, calamari, and baklava are on your order.


Singburi is a whirlwind. Of plates, of bodies, of hands grabbing at spicy pad cha razor clams. Every Thai dish is slurped and chewed within seconds. Nodded at and paused over. Just for a millisecond though—because a jungle curry has just been put down. One day it may be gang bpa pla sai (red mullet), the next it may be gang bpa nok saep (quail). Singburi’s holy specials blackboard always changes. But the energy, the sweetness of that pineapple fried rice, the fire of the kitchen, and the food does not. It’s rare to find a restaurant or food like this in any city, let alone so close by in Leytonstone.


Restaurants like Imad’s Syrian Kitchen are rare. Not only does this place make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere far, far away where you could viably wear a vest without judgement or hypothermia, it also simultaneously makes you feel like you never want to leave London because, well, Imad’s Syrian Kitchen is here. Located on the top floor of Kingly Court, it serves a baba ghanouj we would lay down our lives for (probably), grilled okra, and tender lamb shoulder that will erase the bleak chaos of Oxford Circus station and replace it with the perfect white noise of chewing perfectly spiced meat. Is that the sound of waves in the distance?


Few things spell holiday like saucy bowls of pappardelle ragu, rickety chairs on cobbled streets, and occasionally aloof service. Campania has all three. The Italian restaurant off Columbia Road is gorgeous in every sense of the word. It’s a restaurant that specialises in two things: the food of southern Italy—think risotto gamberoni or a slab of polpettone covered in red sauce. And a vibe so sexy it feels like it’s come straight from a Condé Nast Traveller shoot.


photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The best thing about a retractable roof, other than the obvious protection against British weather, is you always kind of feel like you’re sitting outside. Which is why we make sure to ask for a table at the back of this restaurant, with a view of the canal, because water equals holiday, right? A brunch here comes with a healthy dose of fresh air, carb-filled Lebanese mana’eesh, and creamy hummus. Sit by the window, order the meat and cheese manoushe, and don’t make any plans soon after, because once you sit here you won’t be getting up for at least a couple of hours.


Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley is the seminal holiday film. We will not be taking questions on this. Core to its brilliance is a series of things: linen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, the rippling waves of the sea around Positano, and boats. We’re not saying that anything nefarious is going to happen on Caravel’s bobbing little bistro boat. Nor are we saying that Jude Law is going to look you in the eye and ask whether you’d like jelly cream. But we are saying that being on a boat, even one moored in Angel, is a lovely thing. Especially when silky smooth pâté and crab tagliatelle is involved.


Holiday feels come in many forms and a holiday from your own reality, via a trip to one of Kate Moss’ favourite restaurants, is one such example. The Hampstead izakaya is a bustling low-lit den where you’ll squeeze past those getting into chūtoro tuna at the sushi counter, before settling beside those bedded in at the smoking hot, sake-heavy yakitori counter. It’s the kind of restaurant that you can lose hours in very easily and given the breadth of Jin Kichi’s menu—the gindara black cod (black cod) is also excellent—you’ll soon understand why it’s a favourite among locals and travellers alike.


There are few better ways to spend an afternoon in south London than… pretending you’re not in south London. Italo, a coffee shop and deli on the corner of Bonnington Square, has the kind of outdoor patio that makes you forget that you’re a 10-minute walk away from one of London’s busiest underground stations. An alfresco lunch here consists of things like ciabattas filled with goats’ curd and braised leeks, fresh pastas, and blueberry sauce, maple syrup, and whipped ricotta french toast. The deli also has a range of Italian produce, from Pan di Stelle cookies to specialty olive oil and tinned tomatoes, so you can keep that holiday feeling going long after you’ve eaten lunch.


The fun thing about Meraki is that if you do actually commit to fleeing the country you can hit up its spots in Riyadh or Mykonos. But you know what people say—Fitzrovia is the Mykonos of central London. Maybe. Kind of. OK, no one says that but this upmarket Greek restaurant will bring the sunshine via the medium of light crispy squid, an oh-so-rich hummus, and a signature courgette tzatziki that proves that Eau de Garlic will forever be the ultimate holiday scent. Be warned, the cocktails usually fall around the £18 mark but they’re essential if you’re in the mood for a paloma or are just trying to convince your mate that Soho is totally the Mykonos of London. 


We’d still be into this Brixton spot’s smoky jerk chicken and the creamy kick of the coconut prawns even if it was pissing it down, snowing, or the sky was doing that whole misery, sorrow, and sadness thing. But the experience of sitting out on one of their pop colour benches in the sunshine? Unbeatable. The market has that summer soundtrack of people suggesting pints in the park and Radio 1 blasting from car windows, the mandatory portion of zingy coleslaw will cool you down, and the sticky pineapple and mango chutney that comes with the reggae wings somehow tastes even sweeter. Get the rum punch too, obviously. 


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There are garden restaurants, and then there’s the cafe at Petersham Nurseries. It’s essentially a cafe in the greenhouse of a private garden in Richmond, with Italian food that’s pricey, but always extremely pretty and the kind of thing even your pickiest friend would nod approvingly to. Get a plate of the saffron gnocchi and sit in the absolute stunner of a conservatory, which opens on to an actual meadow during summer. As far as escapes go, it feels like you’ve left town because you basically have left town. Factoring in the walk from Richmond tube, it’s a proper mission. But compared to getting on the train to Oxfordshire to eat at a mediocre country pub, we’ll take this any day.


Llewelyn’s is the kind of restaurant that makes you feel like you might look up and see Richard Curtis saving a small kitten with a kite. Basically, it’s quaint AF. Not only is there a seriously lovely outdoor terrace, the modern European menu suits that white-wine-sipping, risotto-gobbling energy of summer that we love so much. Just be sure to book ahead, all that charm makes it popular. You should also know about its dinky next-door wine bar, Lulu's.


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