Food halls are a great idea in theory. Big spaces, vast options, walk-ins welcome. But the reality tends to involve weeping into a stodgy taco, while being elbowed off of a table by a tourist and shouting "I’M BY THE CHURRO STAND, NO THE OTHER ONE" into your phone. Not anymore, not at Arcade. This modern food hall near Tottenham Court Road is reimagined for people who objectively hate neon signs and refuse to eat standing up because they respect the confines of proper digestion. Forget nightmare scenes of Midsommar by way of a 2-4-1 pink gin happy hour, at Arcade the food comes first.
Open from early to late throughout most of the week and constantly buzzing with catch-up conversations, the huge glossy space offers shelter to anyone who finds themselves caught in the consumerism hot mess that is Oxford Street. It understands that type A adults require bookings and chic high stools with back support for their tom yam mojito-fuelled catch-ups. And that everyone in a two-mile radius of the UK’s most feral Primark might require an emergency serving of restorative fattoush salad on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
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Come evening, coffee and IRL Slack chats are traded for happy hour picante margaritas and the resident DJ’s soundtrack of songs traditionally used to get grumpy uncles dancing at weddings. It’s loud, it’s proud, and the lighting is kind to those of us who already own four types of moisturiser. It’s exactly the kind of place where you can have a big group hang that’ll cover everyone’s dietary requirements and cravings, and every grown-up’s secret urge to eat jelly and ice cream for dessert. But know that the food goes above and beyond ‘booze stomach liner’.
With everything from Nashville hot chicken buns to salmon chirashi bowls on offer, Arcade is an indecisive person’s dream. Scan a QR code and then boom, the whole menu is right there in one place and it’s all delivered to your table. In one glorious cuisine-jumping sitting, you can get involved in the unbeatable peanut crunch of sate marangi from Indonesian spot Bebek! Bebek!, move on to a buttery North Indian wagyu keema pao bun from Hero, with a side of Manna’s waffle fries. The people behind this food hall masterclass have curated a line-up of London’s best street food spots, with a fantastic, fiery Thai restaurant on the mezzanine as the cherry on top. Welcome to the new age of grown-up food halls because Arcade isn’t just good in theory, it’s good, full stop.
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Tipan Tapan's Chicken Momo
We are powerless in the face of these saucy little guys. We’ve had them every time we’ve gone to Arcade, and although they’re not quite as good as the first time we had them, the ginger and garlic flavours from the jhol keep us coming back. Be warned that on one occasion, the dough fell apart but we sincerely hope the momo odds will be ever in your favour.
Hero's Wagyu Keema Pao
We have a real soft spot for any restaurant dish that momentarily tricks us into thinking we have culinary skills. Case in point: loading the lightly spiced masala wagyu keema into these oh-so soft and buttery pao buns, and feeling like a hot chef. The wagyu itself could be a touch more tender, but we can overlook that because the buns and spices are winners.
Bebek! Bebek!'s Sate Marrangi
Never have we fallen so hard and so fast for a peanut dish, since that momentous day when someone gave us our first Reese’s peanut butter cup. The peanut sauce that accompanies the tender grilled beef sate manages to have enough peanut pieces for crunch, but is also blended enough to have a rich, creamy consistency. It’s rounded off with a chilli hit and makes for the ultimate mojito sidekick.
Mexa's Pork Carnitas
If you’ve ever been to—the sadly now closed—Sonora Taquería, then you’ll know that in its past life at Netil Market, this taco was one of the best ways in London to get glorious pork juices down your top. This version is entirely one-note, with just a smidge of salsa verde, and loaded with dry chunks of pork that pale in comparison to the melting pulled meat medley it once was. It’s a no.
Viêt Populaire's Special Bánh Mì
An absolutely epic bánh mì that requires true bravery when wearing a white shirt. Once you’ve successfully taken a bite, you’ll need a hot second to process all of the flavours. The soft sweetness of the fresh bread, the slap of coriander and chillies, the smokiness of that red roast pork, all brought together with the fragrant taste and jelly texture of the headcheese.
Sushi Kamon's Salmon And Avocado Chirashi Bowl
We’ve got a zinger on our hands. Thanks to the slick pieces of raw salmon, sesame, and nori, this is a seriously refreshing bowl of food. It has that quality of making you feel like you’re one of those Very Healthy People, while the sweet soy and creamy chunks of avocado stop any snooze factor in its tracks.
Manna’s Nashville Hot Chicken Burger
Crimson in colour, fiery in taste, and with a vinegar-like tang from the cayenne butter. It’s less surprising how excellent this Nashville-style hot chicken burger is when you find out that Manna is from the same people behind Bake Street. Another restaurant, another faultless hot chicken burger that we’d get on the Central line for.