Best restaurants in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars

Looking for a restaurant in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars? We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to, and compiled a handy list of the best. Whatever your budget or taste, SquareMeal is here to help, with a selection of the best restaurants for every occasion. Read on for our pick of the best restaurants in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars.

Updated on 17 January 2018

Best restaurants in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars


Paternoster Chop House

Paternoster Chop House

Paternoster Chop House
British

Unit 1, Warwick Court, London, EC4M 7DX

Being the First Dates restaurant of choice is rather cool, but don’t let its TV fame distract you: the Paternoster Chop House really means business. Here is a kitchen that butchers all its meaty carcases in-house, so expect roast bone marrow among the starters, steak and kidney pudding “chock-full” of meat, and plenty of action from the Josper grill when it comes to Black Angus rib-eyes, Middle White pork chops and suchlike. It’s all robust stuff, but with plenty of refinement too. Elsewhere, game turns up in season and seafood gets a good outing (fish and chips and whole Dover sole, for example), while the classically minded simplicity extends to desserts of sticky toffee pudding and vanilla cheesecake. Hand-cut chips and other essential sides can bump up the bill, although the set menu is particularly good value. Paternoster’s heated covered terrace is a “lovely spot”, with a stunning backdrop courtesy of Sir Christopher Wren.

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Sushi Tetsu

Sushi Tetsu

Sushi Tetsu
£50 - £79
Sushi

12 Jerusalem Passage, London, EC1V 4JP

A quick glance at the website is essential before a visit to the tiny Sushi Tetsu as the chances are it may be may be fully booked. Still, once you’ve secured a perch and made it through the door, you’ll see a handful of punters, with chef/proprietor Toru Takahashi on the other side of the counter, calmly preparing the sushi and sashimi with near forensic precision. This is a husband-and-wife outfit, with spouse Harumi completing the perfect circle that is Sushi Tetsu. Since you’ve gone to all the trouble of bagging a seat, you might consider going for the bespoke ‘omakase’ menu at 96 quid a pop: what you get depends on what the chef decides is good enough, so glistening sea urchin, turbot, snow crab, black bream, octopus and (hopefully) seared otoro fatty tuna might be on the cards, all embellished with the necessary accoutrements (wasabi, soy, mirin, seaweed and chilli). From the rice to the saké, everything is impeccable.    

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Oriole

Oriole

Oriole
Bars

Smithfield Market, EC1A 9LH

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Club Gascon

Club Gascon

Club Gascon
£50 - £79
French
One michelin star
£50 - £79

57 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9DS

Famous as one of the best places to eat duck and foie gras since opening in 1998, Club Gascon is moving with the low-waste and sustainable times, re-opening from a refurb with a ‘Garden’ section of the menu featuring six veg-focused starters and mains. Rest assured, however, that if slow-cooked egg with plankton, seaweed and bitter leaves doesn’t float your boat, all things duck still form the core of the menu – and are far and away the best things to eat here, foie gras especially: a smooth-as-butter terrine served with banyuls, fig and Argan oil to start or, spectacularly, served with a Bailey’s and mandarin sauce for pudding, beguilingly sweet and savoury; thick lobes of pan-fried foie gras sitting under a shell crammed with razor clams is another flavour bomb. Non-ducky options such as roasted sturgeon with leeks, bone marrow and Craster sauce, and roast grouse with popcorn, Guinness and oyster sauce seemed less appealingly individual and more fine-dining-by-numbers, but a kitchen that excels with pudding ensures things end on a high note, from a pre-dessert variation on prunes and Armagnac that left us wanting much, much more to a ‘millionaire’ dessert made from 72% Colombian chocolate with black olive, lemon gel and thyme ice cream, so rich it demanded to be savoured slowly. Eye-opening wine matching remains a strength, while the restaurant’s new look has a timeless modernity that should last for another 20 years. 

 

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The Quality Chop House

The Quality Chop House

The Quality Chop House
£50 - £79
British
Wine Bars

92-94 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3EA

There aren’t many Grade II-listed dining rooms in London, but this is one of them, with wooden booths and black-and-white tiled floors recalling its relatively humble Victorian origins. Of course, The Quality Chop House is now a thoroughly modern enterprise, with a second dining room, private facilities and an adjoining butcher’s/food store. The daily menu displays a touch of wanderlust – just like our Victorian forebears – so expect Gloucester Old Spot pork chops with rémoulade, or red mullet partnered by Tokyo turnip and bagna cauda. Mackerel crudo with crème fraîche and chickweed makes a feisty little starter, while desserts such as pear and apple crumble are just the sort of thing you’d hope to see on the menu. Service is perfectly paced thanks to staff who are “enthusiastic and knowledgeable”. The wine list is updated monthly (co-owner Will Lander is Jancis Robinson’s son, so no pressure), and it’s a “damn fine piece of work”.

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The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell

The Modern Pantry Clerkenwell
£30 - £49
International
Fusion

47-48 St John's Square, London, EC1V 4JJ

Given that she was born in Canada, raised in New Zealand and has parents with Belgian/Danish roots, it’s no surprise that fusion queen Anna Hansen takes her foodie inspiration from far and wide. Like her former gaff, The Providores, this Clerkenwell townhouse eatery is a place of two halves, with a buzzy ground-floor café/traiteur and a serene upstairs dining room with clean-lined contemporary decor. Breakfast and brunch are popular shouts, although the kitchen delivers “tremendously flavoursome food from start to finish”. Aubergine dengaku is a Japanese favourite, served with pickled mushrooms, while other dishes take a more European approach – a salad of buffalo mozzarella, roasted fennel and roasted peach, perhaps. After that, expect a riot of flavours: chermoula-infused sea trout comes with pea and yuzu purée, onglet steak gets its oomph from miso and tamarind, and pavlova comes fired up with Asian flavours. As expected, the wine list is a fascinating globetrotting compendium.

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Foxlow Clerkenwell

Foxlow Clerkenwell

Foxlow Clerkenwell
£30 - £49
International

69-73 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AY

Foxlow is the kind of joint that every neighbourhood should have. Friendly service, a relaxed atmosphere and crowd-pleasing dishes are hallmarks of this mini-chain, which is a spin-off from the mighty Hawksmoor dynasty set up by Will Beckett and Huw Gott. The duo have a knack for creating venues with shared style, but without cookie-cutter sameness, giving each branch of Foxlow a unique character. Menus major on popular chicken and steak options - think finger-licking Tamworth spare ribs with green slaw, a juicy chicken burger with avocado, and perfectly cooked sirloin steak with fries and béarnaise - plus interesting veggie choices, such as spice-roasted cauliflower with chickpeas, wilted spinach and curried aubergine sauce. Separate kids’ menus, good value express deals (two courses for £12) and the popular brunch menu score further points with readers; with one fan declaring it “the best brunch ever!” Drinks meanwhile range from creative softs, like fresh grapefruit soda, to craft beers and well-priced wines. Meanwhile cocktails, including the Hawksmoor classic Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew, are impeccably made. 

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Bird of Smithfield

Bird of Smithfield

Bird of Smithfield
£50 - £79
British

26 Smithfield Street, London, EC1A 9LB

Tommy Boland (Almeida, Tom Aikens, The Square) heads the kitchen, producing an alluring menu of modish British cooking. Our baked beetroot with celeriac and goats’ curd was a good-sized, well-balanced plate, as was the dish of fat, perfectly cooked scallops with squash purée and Jerusalem artichoke gratin. Mains tend to be big and rich: pan-fried sea bream with chanterelles and Parmesan gnocchi was delicious but intense, while roasted turbot arrived in a similarly generous portion. For pud, we recommend waiting for the light, creamy pistachio soufflé with bitter-chocolate ice cream. Open from breakfast, the five-floor establishment also houses a lounge bar, cocktail bar, private dining room and roof terrace. Service is attentive – sometimes overly so, as unnecessary top-ups filled our glasses to the brim (albeit with delicious Portuguese Chardonnay from a list starting at £20). There are worse crimes.

Bleeding Heart Restaurant

Bleeding Heart Restaurant

Bleeding Heart Restaurant
£50 - £79
French
Under £30

Bleeding Heart Yard, EC1N 8SJ

The name references a murder hereabouts back in the 16th century, but there’s nothing gruesome about this glorious cellar restaurant – often described as one of London’s more romantic dining destinations. A series of subterranean rooms shows off bare-bricks and earthy colours, with flickering candles and real fires upping the mood – “I wouldn’t have it any other way”, notes a fan. The menu seduces with gently modern interpretations of French and European classics – think paupiette of smoked salmon enriched with Dorset crab and parsley sauce, “outstanding” steak tartare or pumpkin and butternut squash ravioli enriched with herby butter sauce. It’s a measure of the kitchen’s confidence that it can work its way through wild mushroom risotto, lemon sole meunière and côte de boeuf, before ending on a triumphantly patriotic note with crème brûlée and nougat glacé. The winning wine list is a bumper tome with classy French connections – the perfect accompaniment to something ripe from the monumental cheese trolley. In short, a “truly traditional” dining experience.  

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Moro

Moro

Moro
£30 - £49
North African
Tapas
Spanish

34-36 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE

The word “love” crops up repeatedly in Moro’s plaudits – a sure sign that it’s still held in high regard after rocking on for two decades. From day one, Sam and Samantha Clark’s ground-breaking eatery made an impact with its zinc-topped bar, pavement tables, wood-fired oven and compelling Spanish/North African cuisine. The whole shebang still thrills, although nothing can trump the food: heady spicing and subtly matched flavours are at the heart of things, from a lamb and saffron broth with wee dumplings, or a rustic salad of warm white beans and celery topped with bottarga, to luscious chocolate and apricot tart. In between, the wood-fired oven makes easy work of sesame chicken (served with couscous), while the charcoal grill offers up lamb with fava bean and bitter leaf purée. Alternatively, pick some small plates from the tapas bar menu – perhaps fried spiced chickpeas or anchovies on toast. The wine list shows the same geographical interests as the menu, and the sherry line-up warrants proper consideration. “Fabulous, I just love this place”, raves one fan.

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Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black
£30 - £49
Vegetarian

17-18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB

After years of enduring the dreaded 'veggie option', vegetarians should be giddy with excitement when faced with the remarkable creativity on show at Vanilla Black. There's not a pasta bake or soupy bean stew in sight. Instead, diners are treated to imaginative combinations such as a multi-layered dish of cornmeal, beetroot and horseradish with aged garlic oil, artichokes in hay, parsley root and hazelnut milk or dried-yeast ice cream with red pepper and almond milk purée, cured yellow pepper and avocado brioche – proof positive that experimental technique isn't the preserve of carnivore establishments. Some say Vanilla Black's unapologetically complex food has "a high opinion of itself", and the bill will certainly come as a shock to those who equate vegetarian fare with cheap prices – though the set lunch (£19.50 for two courses) will impress both bean counters and bean eaters.

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Northbank

Northbank

Northbank
£30 - £49
British
£30 - £49

1 Paul's Walk, London, EC4V 3QH

Crowned by a “gem” of a terrace, Northbank serves up a panorama of London that reflects modern-day developments, the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and all. Mind you, the view is equally appealing inside, where booth seating and dressed-up tables provide the backdrop for a contemporary menu that makes much of its Cornish connections. The county’s award-winning Yarg cheese appears in a tart flavoured with saffron, and there’s a terrine of rabbit and foie gras, pointed up with raw fennel and vermouth cream. Maritime hotspots such as Falmouth Bay and Helford provide much of the seafood on offer (monkish in a Thai green curry, say), while Devon Red beef is a cross-border interloper (try the deliciously tender brisket in a clear parsley broth). Desserts such as hot fudge sundae also hit the spot. A selection of mead cocktails hammers home the Cornish theme, and “it’s all in the best possible taste”.

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Morito Exmouth Market

Morito Exmouth Market

Morito Exmouth Market
£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

32 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE

‘Orange is the New Black’, as they say on TV, which makes the chosen colour for the dinky offshoot of big-hitting Moro totally on-trend. Morito is a tiny spot and it fills up fast (bookings are only taken at lunchtime), but we guarantee you’ll love this immensely stylish little joint. Once you’re in, get stuck into small plates with a decidedly rustic Spanish flavour: salt cod croquetas, Padrón peppers, jamón Ibérico, patatas bravas and other tapas classics are all here, but keep an eye out for the specials too – perhaps pork belly with mojo verde or deep-fried rabbit shoulder flavoured with rose harissa. The plancha turns out lamb chops spiced up with cumin and paprika, while desserts might include a divine chocolate and olive oil mousse. The enticing all-Iberian wine list features some splendid sherries and watch out for Morito’s annual ‘seafood and sherry’ festival.

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St John

St John

St John
£30 - £49
British
One michelin star

26 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AY

St John’s utilitarian simplicity was revolutionary back in the day, and its ‘nose-to-tail’ concept raised a few eyebrows too. Once ahead of its time, it’s now of its time – and is still relevant. The industrial minimalism of the starkly white interior places the focus firmly on matters gastronomic (and the company you’re keeping, of course), while the menu reads like a foodie’s dream – “oh, the bone marrow and parsley”, sighs one fan. Alternatively, play it safe with a damn fine pea and ham soup or go for broke – braised cuttlefish and alexanders, lambs’ tongues with chicory and anchovy, or braised hare with swede, kid liver with turnips are “simply great”. As for pud, take your pick from the likes of quince and hazelnut pavlova or apple and blackberry pie. “Everything is good, I never know what to eat”, sums up readers’ heartfelt enthusiasm for Fergus Henderson’s trailblazer turned Michelin-starred City treasure. The wine list is exclusively French, with interesting options by the glass and bottles to take out too.

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The White Swan Pub & Dining Room

The White Swan Pub & Dining Room

The White Swan Pub & Dining Room
Gastropub

108 Fetter Lane, EC4A 1ES

It's a wrench to tear yourself away from the cosy wood-panelled bar on the ground floor at The White Swan but it's not such a sacrifice when you have a seat reserved in the dining room upstairs. Pristine white tablecloths, heavy leather chairs and a mirrored ceiling lend the place a clubby, urbane air, and the cooking is the perfect complement – in other words, sophisticated restaurant food rather than the pub grub served downstairs (think rib and shin burgers with smoked Cheddar). The kitchen puts its own spin on the classic repertoire – such as a pea velouté with ham-hock Scotch quail's egg or a bouillabaisse of red mullet, scallops and cod cheeks with saffron potatoes. For dessert, treacle tart is paired with zingy lemon and yoghurt ice cream. Wines start at £19, with the upper end dominated by France.

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Luca

Luca

Luca
£50 - £79
Italian

88 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH

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The Eagle - Farringdon Road

The Eagle - Farringdon Road

The Eagle - Farringdon Road
£30 - £49
Gastropub
£50 - £79

159 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AL

The kitchen may be a bit of a squeeze (it’s only big enough for two), but since launching in 1991, The Eagle has maintained a reputation for gastropub food of the best sort. It’s was the first of a new breed when it opened its doors, a trailblazer that’s still deserving of your attention. The daily menu is scrawled on blackboards, you order at the bar, the decor is “unreconstructed corner pub” and there’s an impressive range of beers, while the intelligent wine list offers everything by the glass. It’s an all-round winning format. The robust flavours of southern Europe and the Med are prominent, but not exclusive, and everything is spot on from an onglet steak served rare with roast potatoes to grilled mackerel with an Asian spin. After that, desserts such as buttermilk pannacotta with spiced plums round off proceedings in fine style.  

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