These days, there are a lot of extreme emotions in the press (and on your social media feed) – every new song, TV show or book is either the best thing to ever happen or the worst thing that’s seen the light of day. The same can be applied to London’s restaurant scene, with everyone expecting new restaurants to be totally unique and at the top of their game.
Here at SquareMeal though, we’re going to argue that it’s okay for a restaurant to just be ‘nice’, without declaring it as the best or worst dining establishment to ever open its doors in the capital. To prove our point, we’ve rounded up a bunch of London restaurants which we love that are simply ‘nice’ – no big proclamations or grand statements, these restaurants just guarantee a good quality meal and a fun time. Check them out below.
Nice restaurants in Soho
Settling on where to dine in Soho can be quite the overwhelming affair, with such a vast amount of restaurants available to choose from. Although there are plenty of restaurants here that grab the headlines, there are lots of other delicious spots which can often be overlooked. That’s not the case for long though, as we’ve plucked out some of our favourites from the fray.
Breddos Tacos Carnaby
Why: The second Breddos site in the capital (the original is in Clerkenwell) is a hit thanks to its simple menu of nibbles and tacos, although there are a few other dishes available if you’re not in the mood for tacos. Our top fillings from the menu include the Baja fried fish which is pepped up with habanero mayonnaise, and the masa fried chicken which arrives topped with pickled red cabbage. Wash it all down with Margaritas or draft beers.
Where: 26 Kingly Street, W1B 5QD
Why: Bringing a slice of Peru to the capital, long-standing Casita Andina specialises in gluten-free fare, but that doesn’t mean that flavour is sacrificed. The dining room is a riot of colour and the dishes aren’t far behind, featuring the pretty-as-can-be likes of a prawn and avocado ceviche, and cassava fries with Casita Andina’s signature amarillo chilli and feta dip. It’s a good shout for a casual brunch too, when you’ll find traditional corn cakes topped with eggs on offer.
Where: 31 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7LP
Why: Occupying an intimate space in Soho, the booths at Corazon make it a great destination for small groups, while the succinct menu of tacos and ‘big plates’ lends itself well to sharing. Swing by here to tuck into tacos filled with the likes of shredded slow-cooked pork shoulder, or pan-fried Portobello mushrooms. Fair pricing and killer cocktails are further draws, while decadent desserts such as churros with salted caramel ice cream seal the deal.
Where: 29 Poland Street, W1F 8QR
Why: Sleek and sophisticated Inko Nito mixes classic Japanese dishes with their more contemporary counterparts, which means you can expect to see the traditional likes of yellowtail sashimi alongside the less conventional grilled cheese ‘sando’ with braised beef and black truffle. Inko Nito’s large tables also lend themselves to group dining, and there are two special menus for larger parties, which are full of dishes designed to share.
Where: 55 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QS
Why: Italian food being your favourite cuisine when you’re intolerant to gluten is a special kind of hell. Luckily, lovers of pasta who can’t stomach gluten can head to Leggero, where much of the menu is gluten-free. Tuck into a range of pastas which are made by hand, as well as bread baked in-house. Those following plant-based diets are taken care of too, as there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options to try.
Where: 64 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UQ
Nice restaurants in Mayfair
Low-key isn’t exactly a word that’s associated with the moneyed neighbourhood of Mayfair. Nevertheless, there are a handful of slightly more laidback restaurants in the area, which act as an antidote to the flashy, celeb-baiting likes of Park Chinois and Sexy Fish. Check them out below ands see why we love them.
Why: High-end Indians are ten a penny in SW1, so it’s refreshing to witness Bombay Bustle’s more casual take on things. Spice levels have definitely been toned down for Mayfair palates, but exciting dishes at a snip of the usual prices offered in the area make this a compelling haunt. Our top menu pick? The doughy naan topped with spiced scrambled egg and a shower of black truffle shavings.
Where: 29 Maddox Street, W1S 2PA
Why: This tiny, 15-seat site is the perfect example of a restaurant that is small, but mighty. Titu’s main speciality is its gyoza, which come filled with spicy prawn, Wagyu beef and foie gras to name a few. While not exactly a bargain, prices at Titu are a snip compared to the usual Mayfair standards, and there are a few fun deals to take advantage of too, including any gyoza with a glass of Moet & Chandon Champagne for under £18.60.
Where: 1A Shepherd Street, W1J 7HJ
Why: Found in Shepherd Market, Kitty Fisher’s is a cosy restaurant which spreads itself across two floors, although it’s worth noting that tables are tightly packed together. The interiors hark back to the 18th century (think dark wood and pillar box red studded banquettes), but Kitty Fisher’s menu is far more forward-looking. Tuck into the likes of smoked eel with celeriac and apple, before rounding things off with chocolate truffles.
Where: 10 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QF
Why: Although occupying a cavernous space, Bocconcino manages to still feel cosy thanks to exposed brick, warm colour tones and an imposing indoor tree in the centre of the dining room. Top-notch service and knowledgeable sommeliers add to the restaurant’s appeal, as does the unashamedly indulgent menu: think pasta served in a wheel of cheese and large pizzas flecked with shavings of black truffle.
Where: 19 Berkeley Street, W1J 8ED
Why: Quietly flying under the radar in Shepherd Market, Taka is an intimate two-floor site dishing out a selection of unexpectedly high-quality sushi. Great for a low-key Mayfair dinner, prices here are pleasingly affordable for the area, with top picks from the menu including crispy prawn tempura, the signature Taka roll (grilled white fish topped with avocado and spicy mayonnaise), and an indulgent chocolate fondant to finish.
Where: 18 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QH
Nice restaurants in Covent Garden
Home to hoardes of tourists, Covent Garden was once upon a time a no-go zone for discerning Londoners, unless you were off to catch a show in the West End. These days though, WC2’s cool factor has started to rise, largely thanks to a slew of trendy new restaurants opening their doors in the area. Take a look at some of our favourite, nice restaurants in the area below.
Why: Any restaurant with an oyster happy hour (half a dozen rocks and a glass of fizz for £10) gets our stamp of approval. The Oystermen’s charming service and buzzy atmosphere make it an appealing spot to escape the crowds in Covvy G, and seafood lovers are unlikely to leave disappointed. Dive in to a range of oysters served straight up or with thoughtful accompaniments, before moving on to more substantial dishes, such as grilled Cornish mackerel with pomegranate.
Where: 32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA
Why: The second branch of low-key Jidori (the first is in Dalston), spreads itself across multiple floors and serves an expanded range of its signature grilled small plates, skewers and seasonal specials. The concise menu features small plates such as karaage and a cheeseburger sando, while those looking to crank up the party vibes can hire out the private karaoke room in the basement, where you’ll find a roster of smash hits ready to remix.
Where: 15 Catherine Street, WC2B 5JZ
Why: You may be wondering what the legendary Joe Allen is doing in an article which promised to shine a light on lesser known restaurants. Well, it’s made it in because Joe Allen has never really been the place to go for the most high-quality food (although that’s not to say its menu of US-style comfort food isn’t perfectly fine.) Instead, Joe Allen is where theatre lovers go to spot their favourite thespians and soak up that unique atmosphere that cannot be replicated.
Where: 2 Burleigh Street, WC2E 7PX
Why: Operating seven sites across the capital, Masala Zone is well-loved by Londoners for its reliably good selection of Indian classics. These days, media buzz may swarm around the likes of Dishoom and Kricket, but Masala Zone has still got it. We love the restaurant’s vibrant and colourful interiors, while it’s hard to go wrong with the menu of street food bites, thalis, dosas and regional curries.
Where: 48 Floral Street, WC2E 9DA
Buns & Buns
Why: Followers of the Atkins diet look away now, as often-packed Buns & Buns is all about championing bread. Prices can be a little high (that often comes with the territory in Covent Garden), but some of the dishes served here are real winners – in particular, we love the brioche lobster roll which bursts with freshness, and the cloud-like bao bun, stuffed with joyously fatty pork belly that has been glazed with bourbon.
Where: 5 North Hall, WC2E 8RA
Nice restaurants in Shoreditch
Shoreditch may no longer be London’s trendiest ‘hood, but there are still plenty of reasons to make the trip East. Lots of big-name restaurants have opened their doors here in the last few years, but we can’t help but be drawn to the handful of independents that put on a strong showing. Book a table in one of these dining rooms to see what we mean when it comes to nice restaurants in Shoreditch.
Bull in a China Shop
Why: Found opposite Box Park, Bull in A China Shop is a dark and moody restaurant which specialises in Japanese and Scotch whiskies (there are more than 100 varieties to choose from). Whisky expertise aside, the restaurant also does a good hand in Asian-accented dishes; try the likes of rotisserie chicken glazed with Nikka whisky and soy, or honey-glazed Wiltshire duck breast with baby beetroot and a butternut puree.
Where: 196 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6LG
Why: Burmese food isn’t particularly well-represented in the capital, so it’s great to see Lahpet bringing it to the fore. Good for groups, thanks to cosy booths and long communal tables, Laphet turns out dishes such as pork and mustard green curry, and roasted aubergine stuffed with oyster mushrooms and fried shallots. There’s a short (but delicious) list of cocktails too, while the cassava cake with ice cream is the go-to dessert option.
Where: 58 Bethnal Green Road, E1 8JW
Why: Two Lights has received a little less attention than its siblings The Clove Club and Luca, but there’s a lot to love here. It’s a minimalist space accommodating just a handful of covers, with the menu touting on-trend European dishes with Asian accents – think two thick-cut beef-fat chips crowned with crab, or middle white pork collar with beans, bacon and mustard. Dessert sees a vanilla custard tart of poached apricots, while there’s a selection of English cheeses for the savoury-toothed.
Where: 28-30 Kingsland Road, E2 8AA
Why: Oklava is a super casual Turkish that was the debut site for chef Selin Kiazim (a spin-off, Kyseri, which is now open in Fitzrovia). Oklava has plenty of attractive features, benefiting from reasonable prices, an electric atmosphere and simple yet effective contemporary takes on Turkish dishes. Start with lahmacun, before moving on to slow-cooked spiced aubergine or smoky lamb belly.
Where: 74 Luke Street, EC2A 4PY
Why: Shabby-chic French bistro Blanchette has a cheeky side (check out the wallpaper in the loos), but there’s no messing around when it comes to the food. Expect high-quality dishes such as crispy chicken breast stuffed with wild garlic butter, and seared duck breast with cherries and red wine. There’s a vegan menu available for plant-based diners, while those looking to enjoy a leisurely meal can indulge at the weekend with a brunch of fluffy pancakes and Mimosas.
Where: 204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA
If you’ve exhausted our list of nice restaurants, move on to our pick of the coolest restaurants in London, which you’ll want to book a table at.