Best restaurants in Soho

Looking for a restaurant in Soho? You're certainly spoilt for choice, but how do you make sure you get the best out of one of London’s most electric neighbourhoods? We’ve compiled a handy list of the best restaurants in Soho. Whatever

Updated on 10 December 2018

Best restaurants in Soho

Discover the superb range of top restaurants in London’s lively Soho district with SquareMeal’s list of the best restaurants in Soho. Soho has long been the fashionable heart of the West End of London, now bursting with media offices, cool boutiques, busy bars and clubs and an abundance of great restaurants. Enjoy the delights of Chinatown, situated in the heart of Soho or head to the iconic London thoroughfare of Carnaby Street. Soho is also at the heart of London’s theatreland and boasts a handful of the capital’s top theatres.

There are so many great London restaurants to choose from in Soho it can be quite a task to decide where to dine. SquareMeal’s carefully selected list of the best restaurants in Soho is designed to help you select the very best Soho restaurant for you. You might also be interested in restaurants in the surrounding London areas such as Covent Garden and Oxford Street.

Every one of the Soho restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top Soho restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today. As well as the restaurants on this page, we have listings for British restaurants in Soho, French restaurants in Soho and Italian restaurants in Soho as well as many other types of restaurant in Soho. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.


Nopi

Nopi

£50 - £79
Mediterranean
Fusion

21-22 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE

Aimed higher than his eponymous deli/café chain, Yottam Ottolenghi's "gleaming" spin-off hits its target with ease: the cream-coloured ground floor is a serene space artfully decorated with white tiles, polished marble and brass fittings, while downstairs offers large communal tables and an open kitchen. However, readers save most praise for Nopi's "exquisite", "healthy" and supremely tasty food: raw cauliflower is paired with sprouts, nectarines and Gorgonzola, sea trout gets a global makeover with koji rice, watercress pesto and labneh, while beef short-rib keeps more familiar company with smoked beer glaze and horseradish. Whether you're sharing dishes or going it alone with one of the more expensive mains, it's all about creativity and depth of flavour. Signature cocktails also pick up on the kitchen's eclectic ingredients. Some bemoan high prices and petite portions, but most reckon that Nopi is "worth every penny".

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Rambla

Rambla

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish

64 Dean Street, London, W1D 4QQ

Chef and restaurateur Victor Garvey has made a name for himself with a pair of restaurants (Sibarita, Bravas Tapas) cut from a different cloth from the Spanish norm. Rambla, his latest, is named after the most famous street in Barcelona and its breezy design is meant to evoke the city’s beachfront restaurants, although the people-watching is arguably more diverting here, through big windows looking onto Dean Street.

The menu deals in raw and cured meats and Catalonian specialities from the mountains and the sea, and Garvey is once again to be congratulated for attempting to wean Londoners off chorizo al vino and ham crouquetas. So while you will find croquetas at Rambla, they’re filled with spinach and topped with pine nuts; elsewhere there are meaty lamb chops with rosemary aioli, a Camembert-like navat cheese baked in a dish with bread and crudités for dipping, and excellent octopus grilled to almost-melting gooeyness, with crispy garlic and tarragon aioli. It’s all nicely dine, if lacking the high-octane culinary thrills of Encant, but ticking the box for a younger, more casual crowd. To drink, a gin and tonic served in a highball rather than the giant balloon glasses we’ve got used to seemed like a missed opportunity, although the bottle of white Idoia that the waiter recommended is the sort of wine you take a photo of to track down online when you get home.  

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Barshu Restaurant

Barshu Restaurant

Szechuan
Chinese

28 Frith Street, London, W1D 5LF

Strictly a domain for chilli-heads, this smart, light-filled Chinese delivers a riotous flavour ride, Szechuan-style. Complaints of “lucky dip” portion sizes have been addressed with the introduction of illustrated menus, which also help to identify the hottest propositions. Dry-wok options (stir-fried frog’s legs, pig’s offal and duck tongues) all arrive emblazoned with dried chilli, as do fleshy strips of boiled sea bass and appetisers such as sliced pork belly, nestled in a blood-red sauce. Moments of relief come in the shape of soothing soups, and stews, and you’ll probably be glad to see mango sorbet and coconut ice cream offered for dessert. The restaurant makes no bones about the fact that it uses MSG and aims to turn your table within two hours – two drawbacks that will be familiar to anyone who frequents neighbouring Chinatown. High prices are out of sync with the neighbourhood, but you’re paying for an “authentic”, thoroughly thrilling taste of central China.

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Vasco & Piero

Vasco & Piero's Pavilion

£30 - £49
Italian

15 Poland Street, W1F 8QE

A resident of Poland Street since 1989, this unassuming low-key Soho Italian still exudes the comforting vibe of a well-loved neighbourhood restaurant. Tables are tightly packed in the long-narrow dining room (those at the rear are the best for privacy), while the kitchen delivers “comforting traditional food” with a strong regional slant. Expect a succession of delicately rendered Umbrian dishes from a menu that changes twice a day – perhaps handmade tagliatelle with a rich ragù or roast Tuscan sausages with black truffle butter and Pecorino. Elsewhere, a crisp endive salad with Gorgonzola, walnut and sweet mustard dressing shows the kitchen’s lighter side. The menu’s layout invites flexibility, although we recommend a conventional sweet finish – perhaps a serving of gooey bonet (chocolate, coffee and Amaretto mousse). Prices are modest considering the location, an all-Italian wine list explores the regions, and “superb” switched-on service will please West End diners looking for a mature, but thoroughly modern, Italian experience.

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Yauatcha Soho

Yauatcha Soho

£50 - £79
Chinese
Dim Sum
One michelin star

15-17 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 0DL

“Still incredible after all these years”, ultra-cool Yauatcha Soho stakes its claim with “smart, snappy decor” and an inviting patisserie bar out front. The trademark blue-glass frontage gives way to a frenetic grey-toned room, while a glowing fish tank, candlelit tables and twinkling “night sky” lights await diners who descend to the “stunning” brick-lined basement. Wherever you sit, expect ultra-professional service, but with lots of winning smiles. The comprehensive menu is populated by “steamed to perfection” dumplings (try the edamame and truffle beauties) and other luxe Chinese ideas such as jasmine tea-smoked ribs and venison puffs – described by one salivating fan as “the sweetest, most crumbly piece of heaven”. Elsewhere, bigger items ranging from spicy steamed sea bass with pickled chilli or ‘lunar’ chicken hotpot with cured pork to homemade spinach tofu with shimejii mushrooms and baby asparagus are also in demand. “Spectacular-looking” chocolates, macarons and petits gateaux such as a ‘tropical’ dome of coconut dacquoise, passion fruit and pineapple get rave reviews, while a swanky line-up of classy wines, teas, sakés and killer cocktails completes Yauatcha Soho’s winning Michelin-starred package.   

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The Palomar

The Palomar

£30 - £49
Middle Eastern
International

34 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DN

“What an experience!” shouts a fan of The Palomar – a fun-loving foodie hangout driven by funky chef Tomer Amedi’s infectious joie de vivre. The whole place feels like a house party, complete with hard drinks, kooky cocktails, loud beats, kitchen banter and “laid-back staff”. A grill-focused menu references the cuisine of modern Jerusalem, so be prepared for highly original food with a seasonal slant: we’re hooked on the ‘chicken under pressure’ with citrus, lentils and courgettes, the ‘Josperised’ octopus with chickpea msabacha, and the Persian pappardelle with artichoke, lemon and mangetout. Elsewhere, the bread is “fantastic” and the chopped liver is “sublime”, while the pick of the puds has to be ‘kiss kiss bang bang’ – a wicked confection of pomegranate ‘basbousa’ semolina cake, halva ice cream and almond palmier. You’ll need to queue for a seat at the no-bookings counter, but it’s worth it just to watch the kitchen’s livewire performances. When it’s really firing (and that’s most of the time), The Palomar is Soho at its best – and the perfect spot if you want to “impress your friends”.

 

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Inko Nito

Inko Nito

£30 - £49
Japanese

55 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 9QS

You might expect a Japanese robata-grill venue from the team behind Zuma and Rokato exude an air of starchy exclusivity, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that Inko Nito is a restaurant for all. The dress code is relaxed, the young staff are chatty and friendly, and there are even high chairs to seat toddlers with a taste for edamame.

The setting is a stylish, post-industrial dining room with plenty of shiny wood and slate. Action is centred around the aforementioned robata grill and its wraparound dining counter, though you’ll also find some standalone tables. Due to the snazzy design, there is thankfully (and unusually) adequate space between diners. Small plates from the kitchen vie on the menu with slightly larger meat, fish and veg dishes from the grill. We’d recommend ordering six to eight dishes between two – but prepare for a hefty bill at the end.

From the small plates, slinky salmon teriyaki dressed in a lightly spicy wasabi ponzu and butter-soaked lettuce is an impressive dish – so too the moreish fried shrimp served with a tongue-tingling Korean miso (a peppering of Korean ingredients spice up the menu). The more substantial grill dishes include lusciously fatty cubes of pork belly finished with a boozy Japanese whisky glaze, and strips of crispy panko-fried chicken dipped in a thick chilli and yoghurt sauce. Not everything sang on our visit though: an attempted reinvention of prawn toast turned the salty, crispy classic into a rather chewy concoction. No complaints, though, about the decent selection of saké, wine and cocktails on the drinks list, or the postprandial fortune cookies that conceal cheeky messages.

With its slick look and neat collection of popular dishes, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a major roll-out of Inko Nito (the brand also has an outlet in LA). Watch this space.

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Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo

£50 - £79
Italian

12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB

Sit at the “lovely marble bar” at Bocca di Lupo for a quick refuel or book one of the wooden tables at the back if you have more time: the vibe is the same – busy, buzzy, noisy and fun, with a menu offering some of the very best Italian regional food in London. Although the idea is to share, there are full-size versions of nearly all dishes for diners who don’t like another person’s fork near their plate. The seasons dictate proceedings at Bocca di Lupo, but some items are all-year keepers: delicate sea bream carpaccio, anointed with orange zest and rosemary; unctuous arancini filled with soft cheese and pistachio; wonderfully rich and comforting tagliolini gratinati with prawns and treviso. Also expect simply grilled fresh fish (perfect) and soft slow-cooked specialities such as white polenta with suckling pig ragù. Gelati come from Gelupo (Bocca’s own ice-cream parlour across the road), and we’d recommend them over the restaurant’s more adventurous desserts. There are also some terrific Italian regional wines by the glass or carafe for refreshment.

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Tamarind Kitchen

Tamarind Kitchen

£30 - £49
Indian

167-169 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8WR

Following a complete rebrand and move upmarket, this less-formal offshoot of Tamarind (the Michelin-starred Mayfair Indian) is now a twinkling den of dark woods, swirling incense and low-lit corners. On our early visit it was already buzzing, both at the window-side tables – which glow from lights installed within them – and among elevated booths at the rear. There’s an equally handsome basement dining room for Soho overspill, while bartenders shake up sparky, fruit-laden cocktails at the small entrance bar. The two-page menu is simple to navigate, exploring small plates and Indian kebabs before curry-dominated mains and sides. The delicately presented likes of a whole, deep-fried soft shell crab with a potato, yoghurt and turmeric salad was pleasant, if timidly flavoured, as were seared scallops with slivers of jarringly hard parsnip slices. We recommend fast-forwarding to the curries, because our Alleppey-style fish curry of tamarind, mustard and curry leaves delivered one velvety punch of hot flavour after another. Side-step feeble naans in favour of steamed rice and some tempered, yellow-lentil dahl and don’t neglect the very pretty dessert options. Thanks to its bold reimagining, this Tamarind site now delivers succinct quality and cosseting vibes.

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Yeni

Yeni

Turkish

55 Beak Street, London, W1F 9SH

You wouldn’t know it from looking through the big windows, but this small dining room, decorated in the standard Soho mufti of distressed walls, statement lights, colour-pop tiles and a central communal table, is an offshoot of one of the hottest restaurants in Istanbul, Yeni Lokanta. But the warmth of the welcome from the sweet young staff and a quick look at the menu (and prices) from star Turkish chef Civan Er makes it clear that, as its name promises – Yeni is the Turkish word for ‘new’ – we’re a long way from Green Lanes. 

The big break with trad Turkish is to have a menu drilled down to around a dozen dishes, with the idea that two people should share four starters and one main, though anyone as hungry as we were might want to add a second main – small portions are another thing that’s new about Yeni’s re-invention of the traditional Anatolian repertoire.

Cig kofte upgraded the usual raw beef meatballs to a full-blown steak tartare, the finely minced meat fragrant with herbs and topped with a deep-fried potato ball which cracked open to reveal a dribbling egg yolk. Pan-fried feta tweaked the familiar cheese-and-honey combo with the addition of hazelnut and samphire to produce a very satisfying dish of cream and crunch cut through by the iodine tang of the samphire.

Our main of roasted beef ribs, spiced with isot pepper and cumin and served on a bed of sourdough to soak up the slow-cooked meat juices also impressed; only a mushy starter of olive-oil braised celeriac tasted lacklustre, although we appreciated the occasional jolt of anchovies.

But although we liked nearly everything we ate, we felt that prices (for both food and wine) were hard to swallow given the homely surrounds and low-key vibe, not least if you were paying for the privilege of sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers rather than at one of the smaller tables. But like the toffee-flavoured smoked butter served with toasted sourdough, Yeni does offer an eye-opening taste of modern Turkish cooking and a welcome dose of originality in Soho.

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Hovarda

Hovarda

£30 - £49
Greek

Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DW

Darting between Turkish and Greek cuisines, this Soho grill isn’t quite sure where its culinary expertise lies. Nevertheless, Hovarda (‘vagabond’ in Turkish) is an enchanting spot, its glamorous dining room decked out in aquatic blue and gold tones, its waiters dressed in crisp white shirts. Small plates may be commonplace in London nowadays, but the concept is welcome here thanks to such accomplished cooking. Rings of battered squid dipped in a sharp squid-ink sauce made a promising start to our impressive meal. Strips of coal-roasted red pepper were enlivened by hints of mint and lime; hollowed-out red mullet arrived uber-fresh and mixed with juicy chunks of tomato and avocado; and crispy rolls of filo pastry contrasted well with their delicate crab meat filling (although the tart lemon sauce that accompanied them wasn’t needed).

 

Dish of the night was an intensely smoky, delectably tender ox cheek paired with thick baba ganoush. We’d recommend not skipping dessert either – our pick being the miniature balls of fried pastry (lokma) that arrive drizzled with sweet-as-can-be thyme honey, a sprinkling of walnuts and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. On your way out, stop by the stand-alone cocktail bar that turns out plenty of diverting concoctions, including the signature Hovarda cocktail where yoghurt and coffee are blended to create a creamy mix that is more subtle than you might expect. Service is perhaps slightly too attentive and prices can add up, but overall Hovarda is a welcome addition to Rupert Street’s already impressive gastronomic line-up.

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Shackfuyu

Shackfuyu

Under £30
Japanese

14a Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TJ

Bone Daddies' year-long pop up has gone permanent, with a refurbishment including a new upstairs bar and basement private dining. Housed in a former Italian restaurant, high-energy Shackfuyu makes use of the old pizza oven for mentaiko (marinated fish roe) and USDA beef picanha (a rump cut), while the succinct, keenly priced menu is an addictive pick-and-mix of flavours inspired by current trends: a moreish prawn toast/okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza) hybrid; yellowtail sashimi tostadas packed with contrasting textures, and delicious miso-coated roast aubergine. With so many hits, we can forgive the odd dud (disappointing mackerel escabèche) – especially when the sole dessert (springy kinako cake with whipped green tea ice cream) pays sweet dividends. The bar delivers strong cocktails, sakés and mighty sharing goblets of Koshihikari Echigo beer, plus gao bao buns at lunchtime.

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Evelyn

Evelyn's Table at The Blue Posts

£50 - £79
Modern European

28 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DJ

Roman Polanski might not be the most savoury inspiration in the current cultural climate so it’s a punchy move by The Palomar owners to name their new chef’s counter after Faye Dunaway’s femme fatale in the director’s 1974 film Chinatown. But that’s the only questionable note in the sort of accomplished offering that we’ve come to expect from siblings Zoe and Layo Paskin, who followed up The Palomar with The Barbary and Jacob the Angel, and who readers whose memories weren’t frazzled by the 90s club scene may remember from AKA restaurant at The End nightclub.

Evelyn’s Table sits in the cellar of the Paskins’ reinvention of Chinatown boozer The Blue Posts, beneath the ground-floor pub and first-floor Mulwray’s cocktail bar; it’s an intimate, romantically-lit space, with a ‘private’ sign on the door and 15 diners around the horseshoe counter.

Small plates with a southern European accent feature some top-notch suppliers: Hedone sourdough, La Fromagerie cheeses and fish from the dayboats at Looe, which delivered the biggest hit of the night: beautifully cooked hake with capers and olive oil-soaked croutons. Overall, fish dishes impressed the most: our croquette-like salt-cod beignets with punchy taramasalata, and subtly smoked eel on excellent blinis, had the edge over good (but just not as good) duck tortellini and presa iberica, which lacked the same clearly defined flavours – although there were no such complaints with a chewy tarte Tatin, sweet as a toffee apple.     

Food aside, how much you enjoy this experience will depend on how open you are to chatting to the friendly chefs and front of house rather than giving your companion your undevoted attention – this is not somewhere to come for diners who wish to be left undisturbed. “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”, Jack Nicholson’s character is told at the end of Polanski’s film – but this is a location to remember.

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Social Eating House

Social Eating House

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star

58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR

“Great food, informal and fun” sums up Social Eating House, Jason Atherton’s regularly rammed Soho outpost – a noisy Michelin-starred hangout that mixes cool-dude vibes and moody lighting with cooking that bears all the chef and restaurateur’s culinary hallmarks. Chef/patron Paul Hood (previously at Atherton’s flagship, Pollen Street Social) oversees proceedings day-to-day and his seasonal menu shows a trademark commitment to native sourcing as well as a fondness for all things creative and cheffy – we’re huge fans of the mushrooms and toast, a richly flavoured, artful melee punctuated with pickled girolles, creamy cep purée and onion marmalade. In a very British twist on steak tartare, tender chunks of Buccleuch Black Angus are paired with beetroot, horseradish and egg-yolk jam, while baked Cornish hake is served with hispi cabbage gratin and textured slices of Tokyo turnip laced with saffron. Simpler pleasures range from aged native-breed steaks with triple-cooked duck-fat chips to the addictive mac ‘n’ cheese with chanterelles and luscious sundaes for afters. Social Eating House’s well-curated wine list and spot-on cocktails are further pluses, while staff are hip, happy and on point (well, most of the time). 

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Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard

£50 - £79
International

1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF

“That restaurant with the Champagne buttons” is more than just a gimmick, although ostentation is undoubtedly blingy Bob Bob Ricard’s primary selling point: “I feel like I’m in Gatsby’s dining room”, notes one fan. Luckily, the palpable sense of enjoyment lends warmth to the glitz and gold, which is everywhere you look. Cloistered royal blue booths explain why celebs enjoy hiding out here, as does a sumptuous menu of comfort food – think mighty beef Wellingtons and deep-filled, steaming pies. A new executive chef has introduced some lighter (but no less lavish) additions to the menu in the shape of, say, lemon sole stuffed with scallop mousse or lobster in a sparky Champagne sauce. The Sunday roast lunch stars prime USDA Black Angus beef, drizzled with truffle gravy, while the pricey wine list favours treats from the French regions. Service glides effortlessly, and although prices are reasonably high, it’s worth it for the fun you’ll have.

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Hoppers Soho

Hoppers Soho

£30 - £49
Indian

49 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SG

Sometimes, very good things come in very small packages. This no-reservations South Indian eatery from the Sethi siblings (of Trishna and Gymkhana fame) goes from strength to strength, with the implementation of an app in 2016 eliminating one of very few negative points: the need to queue outside on Lexington Street. The average wait at dinner is still over an hour, but the pay-off is astoundingly good-value Sri Lankan and Tamil cuisine “full of delicate flavours and fragrances”. Pick an eponymous hopper (a bowl-shaped rice pancake) with a gooey egg embedded in its base or a sticky, crunchy dosa cone, then match your choice with a “perfectly balanced” kari (curry). Options range from lamb, black pork or fish to red pumpkin and gourd with cashew, irresistibly supported by fiery, must-order Bengali prawns or crisp and deeply meaty mutton rolls. Hoppers is perpetually packed, but “friendly, discreet staff” won’t rush you, so sit back and sip an exotic Margarita (pepped up with pickled lime and coconut salt) to compensate for the absence of a dessert menu.

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Barrafina Dean Street

Barrafina Dean Street

£30 - £49
Tapas
Spanish
One michelin star

26-29 Dean Street, London, W1D 3LL

It might be modelled on Barcelona’s legendary tapas bar Cal Pep, but well-travelled readers reckon Barrafina Dean Street surpasses the original. The Barrafina chain is a homage to the traditional tapas bar, refracted through a very London vibe – a feeling enhanced by this handsome space (all steel, marble and mirrors) which takes up most of the ground floor of Quo Vadis. Classic croquetas, garlic prawns and grilled sardines are done to tapas perfection, deep-fried courgette flowers combine fragility with a hot spurt of grassy goats’ cheese, octopus is rendered meltingly soft and sticky from the hotplate, and Barrafina’s made-to-order tortillas, bound with barely set egg yolk, are the finest you’ll eat anywhere. To drink, an excellent choice of all-Spanish wines includes own-label Manzanilla and plenty by the glass. However, serving such “delicious and exciting” Michelin-starred food does have its downside: you need to turn up at Barrafina Dean Street before 6pm to guarantee a place at the counter, and even then you could face an hour’s wait – although it’s no hardship with a glass of rosé cava in one hand and a plate of ham croquetas in the other.

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Quo Vadis

Quo Vadis

£30 - £49
British

26-29 Dean Street, London, W1D 3LL

Founded back in 1926, this quintessential “Soho sanctuary” isn’t drifting quietly into old age: autumn 2016 saw the ground-floor dining room reduced by two-thirds to make space for Barrafina Soho (both are owned by the Hart brothers), following the latter’s eviction from nearby Frith Street. The room looks the same, with brown-leather banquettes, “beautiful fresh flowers” and jewel-like stained glass windows, although there’s less all-round hubbub than before. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s menu is still a joyful celebration of the seasons, so expect anything from a warm salad of grouse and elderberries to a strapping leg of lamb garlanded with a pick-and-mix of gently cooked mushrooms. Lee’s refined repertoire also makes room for simple comforts such as chunky, lightly fried chips or steamed lemon pudding with rhubarb, while the trademark smoked eel sandwich is a must-order. None of this comes particularly cheap, but thanks to great service, really good Martinis and a dash of British eccentricity (John Broadley’s distinctive illustrations are a hoot), we reckon it’s great value.

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Bao Soho

Bao Soho

Under £30
Taiwanese
Chinese

53 Lexington Street, London, W1F 9AS

Despite the opening of Bao Fitzrovia in 2016, the diminutive original still entertains lengthy (some say “interminable”) queues, such is the power of those Taiwanese steamed buns. With just 30 elbow-to-elbow pine seats, this minimalist, no-bookings outfit definitely rewards patience and an adventurous spirit. It’s worth the time spent in line to access Bao’s short, tick-box menu of calorific, sticky-and-sweet treats. Xiao chi (snacks) include deep-fried nuggets of pig’s trotter and fried chicken slathered in hot sauce – “strictly not for sharing”, warns one fan. That said, bao buns remain the “stars of the show”: try the classic version with moist shreds of braised pork, coriander and peanuts or the confit pork option, which adds crispy shallots and hot sauce. The balance of pillowy dough and intense flavours is just right, thoroughly addictive and a snip at a fiver or less. Service is rather solemn but highly efficient (a necessity given the demand), and we recommend ordering a glass of peanut milk to wash it all down.

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The Duck and Rice

The Duck and Rice

£30 - £49
Chinese
Gastropub

90 Berwick Street, London, W1F 0QB

“Vibrant, buzzing, yet elegant” sums up the mood at Duck and Rice, where Pilsner Urquell drinkers rub shoulders with Chinese food fans and the high-spec design features gleaming beer tanks, open fires and Chinese-style blue-and-white ceramic panels. The upstairs dining room is calmer than the ground-floor pub, although both serve the same muddled one-page menu of dim sum, chow mein, chop suey, crispy duck and various bites. If you’re feeling adventurous, order the fiery Szechuan chicken or the melting jasmine-smoked pork ribs. However, D&R’s more traditional dishes are barely above the bog-standard Chinatown norm, making much of the menu seem overpriced – order wisely from the capable staff to ensure the best outcome. Ale-based cocktails (Beer Negroni, anyone?) are joined by “amazing Gin Mares” and a big selection of French-led wines, while weekends are for dim-sum brunching. Finally, an events programme including bingo nights and drag-queen quizzes is exactly what the area needs.

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Aqua Nueva

Aqua Nueva

£50 - £79
Tapas
Spanish

Fifth Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), London, W1B 3BR

Refurbished in 2015, Aqua's upmarket Spanish eatery is predictably sleek and glamorous, although the food is sufficiently accomplished to hold its own. Low-lit black tables are arranged beneath an arched, copper-clad ceiling, while the menu of show-stopping tapas ranges from ultra-traditional pan con tomate and patatas bravas to glazed veal cheek with pickled mushrooms or poached cod fillet atop fennel purée. Respect for ingredients and presentation is evident throughout, from melting black-ink seafood croquetas presented in mussel shells to deep-pink raw tuna rolls, stuffed with a confit tomato and almonds, then studded with pomegranate (a riot of colour and texture). There are also larger plates of grilled octopus or perhaps Ibérico secreto pork, but our advice is to stick with the smaller, more adventurous tapas. Big bills come as standard, but the striking black-and-gold bar provides a more wallet-friendly alternative with its evening snack menu, array of cocktails and a terrace overlooking Regent Street.

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10 Greek Street

10 Greek Street

£30 - £49
Modern European

10 Greek Street, W1D 4DH

From the prosaic name to the determinedly plain decor, everything about this pint-sized Soho favourite is purely functional – apart from the food and wine, that is. The short, daily changing menu “always pleases”, pulling in ideas from Western Europe to point up its larder of British ingredients. You might find chicken hearts and livers with Brussels sprouts, Marsala and sage, Tamworth pork partnered with savoy cabbage and a scattering of soft pancetta or plump hake and spinach given extra bite with some dense chorizo. An all-day selection of smaller plates keeps things simple (think salted Padrón peppers, crumbed pig’s trotters or smoked mackerel with fennel), while adding some flashes of colour to the black-and-white room. You can reserve a table for lunch (“perfect”, says one fan), but dinner is no-bookings only: if you’re willing to queue, however, the wine list helps to spin out an evening with its brilliantly affordable selection from across the globe.

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Engawa

Engawa

£50 - £79
Sushi
Japanese

2 Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT

Cloaked in the shadow of the Ham Yard Hotel, you could easily miss this Soho Japanese, although those in the know are handsomely rewarded – especially fans of Kobe beef. With just 29 covers and an abundance of clean lines and pine, there isn’t too much to distract from the open kitchen’s theatre. You can watch as the chefs prepare morsels of sashimi, sushi and snacks such as chawanmushi (steamed egg custard with sautéed foie gras) as a warm-up to the beefy headline act – served perhaps in cheese-oozing croquettes or simply seared with an extravagantly presented salad. Whatever the cut, this is extremely exclusive stuff and it comes with an understandably lofty price tag that we think is justified. Bento boxes offer a more accessible way in, while the comprehensive drinks list is well worth exploring – note the cloudy sakés and Matcha Sours. As gastronomic experiences go, this under-the-radar option is a Japanophile’s dream.

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Claw Carnaby

Claw Carnaby

Under £30
International
Fish

21 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5QA

We’re always happy to see a good street food vendor graduate to a restaurant proper, so were delighted to hear that Claw had bagged itself a permanent site, an intimate two-floor space in Soho with smaller tables on the ground floor and long communal ones in the basement. Crab is the star of the show, with provenance taken seriously: all of the crab is sourced from Salcombe and ingredients are kept British wherever possible. Highlights include crab beignets (delicate crab meat mixed in with choux pastry and dipped in a peppy crab mayo) and a truly indulgent crab-flecked mac ‘n’ cheese that is best shared between two. If you don’t want to overdose on claws, we were also impressed by sticky barbecue-glazed chicken wings and smoky octopus dressed with fennel and tomato. There are only two desserts on offer, but both play with the palate – rhubarb crumble is less tart than expected and arrives dusted with photo-friendly glitter, while a toasted milk parfait graduates from the ordinary via shards of gingersnap and a sour toffee sauce that makes the mouth pucker. To drink, there’s a choice of in-house cocktails, beers and wines, and prices are decent considering the location. We’d recommend snapping this one up.  

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Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

Lina Stores - 51 Greek Street

£30 - £49
Italian

51 Greek Street, London, W1D 4EH

Opened in 1944, Soho’s Lina Stores delicatessen has managed to survive the sky-high rents and glossy redevelopments that have claimed all too many of the area’s Italian old-timers. Now, it has produced a bambino: a debut pasta restaurant just a few minutes’ walk away on Greek Street. Here, the exterior proudly displays Lina’s signature green-and-white colour scheme, which is continued inside the tiny space. Try to bag a seat at the counter and watch the chefs at work; all pasta is made on site daily. Alternatively, if you’re hoping for a chat, head to the basement – don’t discuss anything confidential, mind, as tables are packed tuna-can tight.

Charming, attractive staff explain the menu of sharing antipasti and pasta dishes. We were impressed by the lusciously fatty strips of pork belly sandwiched between slices of crisp ciabatta, and also by a vegetarian take on meatballs that came stuffed with silky aubergine and tomato. The stars of the show, though, are the comforting plates of pasta. Don’t miss the gamey veal ravioli: tender chunks of veal wrapped in delicate pasta parcels, given crunch with a smattering of breadcrumbs. A plate of sticky green gnudi was also heavenly, the smooth ricotta and herb filling melting on the tongue. In comparison, dessert disappointed: an overcooked, dry slice of cherry and almond tart. Much better was a zesty cocktail of Blood Orange Bellini. Our advice? Skip dessert and order another plate of pasta – your dough will be well spent on Lina’s.

 

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Darjeeling Express

Darjeeling Express

Under £30
Indian

2nd Floor, 6-8 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5PW

Touted by The Cinnamon Club supremo Vivek Singh (no less) as one of London’s top Indian female chefs, Asma Khan is now fronting her own gaff – a relaxed, comforting venue that provides a showcase for her blend of north Indian and Bengali cooking.

Walking into Darjeeling Express feels like popping over to a friend’s house for a (very well-cooked) dinner, with warm, casually dressed staff and a kitchen team made up of women who learnt their craft from their mothers. The results on the plate are excellent: crumbly minced mutton cakes come stuffed with hung yoghurt and chopped mint leaves, while the must-order Tangra chilli and garlic prawns are zapped with a tongue-popping five-spice blend.

To follow, you might find slow-cooked Bengali goat curry, but we’re sold on the spice-laden venison meatballs bobbing in a creamy tomato and green-chilli gravy. Sides include fiery beetroot croquettes, although we’d recommend keeping things simple with the delicious red onion and chilli-flecked roti. With Darjeeling Express, Kingly Court has a new jewel in its crown.  

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Freak Scene

Freak Scene

£50 - £79

54 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SL

Kurobuta founder Scott Hallsworth is back with a bang at this firecracker of a chef’s counter which started life as a Clerkenwell pop up and has gone permanent on the Frith Street premises last occupied by the original Barrafina. Looks wise, little has changed since the Barrafina days, although the stools at the counter have been joined by further seating along the ledge where the queue used to be – a tight squeeze when busy, but at least Freak Scene takes bookings. Entertainment comes in the form of a mosh-pit of an indie playlist and replays of Japanese gameshow Takeshi’s Castle projected onto the wall.

The food, meanwhile, offers some of Kurobuta’s greatest hits (the salmon sashimi ‘pizza’ remains as riotously flavoured as ever) and while the cooking is never subtle, the umami explosion of sweet and salty is sure as hell tasty. Several dishes are served in taco variants to be greedily scooped up with the hands – black cod and sushi rice tacos re-invent the Nobu classic as junk food – and almost all come with the sort of sticky sauces that leave you smearing ingredients around the plate chasing one last flavour hit, including our favourite dish of aubergine grilled to a meltingly soft goo offset by the sugar-rush crunch of caramelised walnuts. 

Come with a decent appetite and you could make a healthy stab at ordering most of the menu for around £50 a head. Wine prices will bump up the bill considerably (there’s iced tea for teetotallers and bargain hunters) but this is still great value for an experience that couldn’t be any more Soho, overseen by Hallsworth himself in the open kitchen.

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Pastaio

Pastaio

Under £30
Italian

19 Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BN

Pastaio is the newest site from restaurateur Stevie Parle, who already oversees the likes of Rotorino and Palatino. Here at Pastaio, the name of the game is to serve plates of handmade pasta at pocket-friendly prices. Tightly packed tables lend themselves to creating buzz, while we have a sneaking suspicion that the vibrant pops of colour and marble-topped tables were chosen with Instagram in mind. Other millennial-bait includes great lemon-dashed Prosecco slushies and a moreish fried ’nduja, mozzarella and honey sandwich which is satisfyingly ‘dirty’, if not the instant classic we’d hoped for. Where  Pastaio really shines is in its eight pastas. Soft shells of malloredus are served with crispy shards of pork and a thick sausage sauce, while supremely velvety agnoli is folded over a gamey filling of pheasant, rabbit and pork. Desserts stick to the Italian classics, with the likes of tiramisu and a selection of gelato, but we were impressed by a flaky cannoli, dotted with jewels of pistachio and completed by a fluffy orange and saffron filling. It may not live up to the giddy heights of the much-lauded Padella, but for affordable, fun comfort food in the heart of Soho, we reckon Pastaio is worth every penne.

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The Ivy Soho Brasserie

The Ivy Soho Brasserie

£30 - £49
Brasserie

26-28 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8JB

The Ivy Collection has spread once again, with this large Soho site which is most closely related to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie. Unlike that site, Soho is a far clubbier proposition, perfect for this part of town and packed with flashy artworks and even flashier customers. It’s a testament to the formula that it feels different here, yet still unmistakeably The Ivy. That’s down to the menu which, just like every other outpost, offers the same please-all, international menu of prawn cocktails, chicken liver parfaits, steaks, grilled lobsters and that trademark shepherd’s pie. We can’t fault the food here, from a warm duck and watermelon salad crunching with toasted cashews, to jet-black, Dukkah-spiced aubergine atop sumptuous labneh. Prices are surprisingly accessible too (another Ivy trademark), while the cocktail list has been given particular attention, majoring in fizzing and fruity vodka-and-gin based mixes. With so much space, the restaurant is divided up into more and less informal sections and cubbies, while a large terrace is going to make this a hot summer ticket. Yes, it’s predictable stuff and yes, its gleaming demeanour won’t please Soho traditionalists, but it’s already popular and injecting a party buzz into this newly overhauled W1 street.

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Ceviche Soho

Ceviche Soho

£30 - £49
Peruvian

17 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RG

Even on the greyest London day, it’ll feel like summer in this perky Peruvian, which helped to trigger the cuisine’s invasion of the capital. Ceviche’s winningly cheerful service, razor-sharp flavours and punchy Pisco Sours attract a “mixed Soho crowd”, with “very cool” staff adding to the vibe. From the decorative photographs of Lima locals to the jaunty soundtrack, it’s a relentlessly patriotic offer – although everything hinges on the menu: intricate nibbles such as flame-licked eel with avocado and wasabi cream precede a “seriously delicious” selection of ceviches, salads, grilled meats and fish. Tiradito de conchas is a clash of succulent scallops, sea fennel, caviar and puckering lemon juice, while costillas chifa sees pork ribs doused in soy sauce and chilli, then sweetened with pineapple. Vegetarians and gluten-intolerant types will have a field day here, while the helpfully annotated wine list is exclusively South American. A deftly packaged “vibrant” prospect that’s certainly worth the money.

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Kiln

Kiln

£30 - £49
Thai

58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL

The name of Ben (Smoking Goat) Chapman’s second restaurant tells you everything you need to know: it’s cramped, full of fire and spins out baked clay pots filled with outstandingly appetising noodle dishes from the northern Thai borderlands. Kiln’s focus is on casual dining, with a long, metal counter running parallel to the open kitchen: various Thai-style barbecues deal with the clay-pot dishes, while modern grills turn out the meat skewers, smoked sausages and chickens that complete the menu. Our must-order is a sticky, dense assemblage of glass noodles with pork belly and brown crab, but there’s also grilled Tamworth pork loin paired with a sweet, dark fish-sauce dip and super-spicy Laos-style salad with roasted rice and a heavy dose of chilli. Order stir-fried greens or brown jasmine rice to counteract these intense, salty flavours, and drink quality beers or something from the ever-evolving wine list. Uncomfortable stools don’t encourage lingering and mark-ups sometimes seem high, but this high-voltage newcomer is an undoubted hit.

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Dean Street Townhouse

Dean Street Townhouse

£50 - £79
British

69-71 Dean Street, London, W1D 3SE

Recently bolstered by nearby Café Monico, Soho House’s presence hereabouts is pretty strong, with its backbone being this classy British workhorse. Dine in enticingly soft armchairs, amid an abundance of heavy fabrics with low ceilings helping to absorb the chatter that constantly zips across the glowing room from the rammed wooden bar. Atmosphere is Townhouse’s trump card, so the menu plays it simple with lots of comfort on offer – from delectable lamb rump with grilled artichoke or partridge and oxtail on toast (lifted by the juice of blackcurrants), to salads of perhaps chicory, squash and walnut. It’s all thoroughly hearty, seasonal and rather pricey, although a full English for less than a tenner explains why breakfast is so popular here. Service is predictably cosseting, and a broad wine list should reveal something for most tastes. There’s an adjacent, cloistered room for those seeking a more muffled evening, but this “always entertaining” restaurant is best for higher tempo occasions.

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Blacklock Soho

Blacklock Soho

£30 - £49
British

The Basement, 24 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D 7LG

As an affordable on-trend eatery with great food worth talking about, this cool basement chophouse is manna for West End diners on the prowl. Blacklock’s incognito street entrance adds to the allure, although it won’t prepare you for the rocking basement room that’s full to bursting with a garrulous young crowd. Vintage Blacklock foundry irons are used to press pork, lamb and beef chops on the charcoal grill, which also lends its smoky flavours to daily specials such as maple-cured bacon. Best of all is the menu’s all-in sharing option, which sees the day’s ‘skinny chops’ piled onto strips of toasted flatbread to catch the juices, with sides ranging from beef-dripping chips to courgettes with Doddington cheese. Cocktails start at a fiver, otherwise pick from a clutch of British beers and wines on tap. You can make a reservation (although Blacklock favours walk-ins), while the sought-after Sunday roast gets booked up months in advance.

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Kricket Soho

Kricket Soho

£30 - £49
Indian

12 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HH

Cooked up by Rik Campbell and Will Bowlby, casual Kricket is a “modern memoir to time spent living and working in Mumbai”. The duo’s original shipping-container eatery at Pop Brixton has been making waves since 2015, but this is a proper restaurant with snazzy London embellishments including an open kitchen and dining counter, plus tables in the darker, atmospheric basement. The succinct small-plates menu changes daily, and Kricket’s game is a gentle one – the heavy pepper dusting on the signature Keralan-fried chicken is as fiery as it gets. Bhel puris come with a swirl of tamarind stickiness, crunchy puffed rice and dollops of yoghurt, while bright yellow kichri combines rice and lentils with morsels of haddock and lightly pickled cauliflower – all beautifully presented. Barbecue-blackened sweet potatoes and crunchy samphire pakoras make a convincing case for vegetarianism, while spice-infused cocktails and cheeky rum masala chai pep up the drinks list. With its fair pricing, cool vibe and bright, eager-to-please staff, Kricket is settling in very comfortably.

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Blanchette Soho

Blanchette Soho

French

9 D'Arblay Street, London, W1F 8DR

This quirky slice of rural France offers twists on the classics in a homely setting featuring cottage furniture and flamboyant pastoral scenes painted on tiled walls. Meanwhile, the private dining room downstairs takes it to another level, with its murals depicting a jungle scene. The mid-priced menu offers a range of seasonal small plates peppered with European influences: smoked mussels are paired with black pudding and artichoke purée; a combo of monkfish and pumpkin sparkles with buttery flavours, undercut by the zing of sun-dried tomatoes, while carnivores might veer towards braised lamb shoulder with anchovy, rosemary and soubise sauce. A varied selection of French charcuterie and cheese invites a wine-focused visit, supported by a carefully curated Gallic list that makes room for some Spanish and Italian tipples. It's all very amiable and charming, right down to the cow-shaped milk jugs. With a couple of street tables and a front window that can be opened completely, Blanchette was built for languorous summery days.

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Berenjak

Berenjak

Middle Eastern

27 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5AL

This new Iranian restaurant is spearheaded by founder and former Gymkhana chef Kian Samyani and is inspired by the kebab joints of Tehran, Iran’s capital. The real influence, though, comes from backers JKS Restaurants (the owners of Gymkhana), who have created a Middle Eastern equivalent of their Sri Lankan smash-hit Hoppers.

Berenjak is a tiny corridor-like space, with seating for couples at stools at a counter overlooking the open kitchen, and tables for four in leatherette booths along a wall decorated with artfully distressed plaster; a small dining room behind has – what else? – a Persian rug on the floor. It’s atmospherically snug, with light and heat coming from a flaming tandoor and the coals of a mangal barbecue.

The idea is for two people to share half a dozen small plates, prettily served on silver saucers, before a couple of kebabs each. A dish of aubergine combined with onions cooked for so long they were almost caramelised was the real flavour revelation, scooped up with excellent bread from the clay tandoor; elsewhere grilled calf’s liver with onion salad added punch and a feta salad creamy freshness.

To follow, a kebab made with minced goat shoulder was terrifically succulent and beautifully seasoned, though the dish destined for must-order status is the kabab torki, the post-pub guilty pleasure of chips and kebab meat re-invented as a mixed meat shawarma atop a bed of fries drizzled with homemade chilli and garlic sauce that actually taste of the ingredients they’re made from. Order a side of authentically hot pickled chillis to cut through the richness.

Without drinks, you could eat very well at Berenjak for £30 a head, though that would be to miss out on the charms of the house-special fruit cordials (lemon and parsley, saffron and apple) that can be spiked with vodka, gin and Tequila. Two wines at £28 and two at £35 will bump up the bill considerably, but beer at £4 a bottle is more in the spirit of the cheap and very cheerful spirit of the place.  

As at no-bookings Hoppers, staff take your mobile number and text you when your table is available; waiting over a Martini at Kettners next door is no hardship when a meal at this Aladdin’s cave of a restaurant is the reward.

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Brasserie Zédel

Brasserie Zédel

£30 - £49
French

20 Sherwood Street, London, W1F 7ED

Proving that chain restaurants don’t have all the fun on Piccadilly Circus’s tourist highway, this archetypal brasserie provides Gallic staples at low prices in the glitzy surrounds of a cavernous former ballroom dripping with marble-clad charm. Start with a hefty bowl of soupe à l’oignon or a clutch of escargots slathered in parsley butter, ahead of baked trout with almonds, smoked pork belly or something more exotic such as spicy merguez sausage with couscous. Steaks are also perennially popular, from good-value haché with pepper sauce all the way up to a luxe rib-eye with Café de Paris sauce. The separate gluten-free menu’s “wonderful choice” gets a special mention, while over 30 selections from the all-French wine list are sold in five measures. Accusations of “unexciting” dishes are not unfounded but, for those who want a good French meal in the West End at a reasonable price, Zédel is hard to beat – especially when you factor in surefooted service and the festive atmosphere.

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Gauthier Soho

Gauthier Soho

£50 - £79
French

21 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5AF

Step through the unassuming, glossy-black door and you’ll discover a high-end French restaurant in what looks and feels like a moneyed Soho resident’s front room – albeit one with lots of tables. This is the elegant domain of Alexis Gauthier, an Alain Ducasse protégé with a penchant for vegetarian and vegan cuisine alongside more conventional offerings. The seasonal carte might include pancetta tortellini in a deeply aromatic chicken jus, pink-roasted loin and rack of Welsh lamb with spiced butternut squash, dates, pistachio and braised spelt or sparkling-fresh wild halibut with salsify and girolles, each labelled with a calorie count – a detail that typifies Gauthier’s nutrition-conscious ethos. More indulgent diners shouldn’t miss the “heavenly” Louis XV chocolate praline, while oenophiles will have plenty of fun with a hefty list that favours the Old World; also, marvel at the “amazing” breads and “fabulous array” of French cheeses. Super-polite service, hushed voices and loud prices signal old-style, special-occasion dining.

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Xu

Xu

£50 - £79
Taiwanese

30 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DL

Erchen Chang and co made London fall in love with Taiwanese buns when they opened Bao, and they look set to repeat that success for the island’s other culinary delights with this impressive venture – a handsome slice of 1920s Shanghai chic complete with some original space-saving touches (note the tables that flip over to make mah-jong boards). But the most original thing about Xu (pronounced ‘Shu’) is the food, which runs from ‘xiao tsai’ small plates and ‘mian shi’ pancakes to ‘classics’ such as char siu ibérico pork. Highlights include ‘numbing’ beef tendon set in a jellied terrine pooled with fiery chilli vinaigrette, a pungent whip of creamy crab meat with fermented shrimp, garlic and more hot chilli, and a dish of sweetbreads cleverly enhanced with fermented greens. There’s “sensational” onion rice too, although nothing can trump that char sui pork, meltingly tender in the middle and crisped around the edges. Some ideas are a taste or texture too far (we’re thinking of the spongy taro dumpling filled with sausage meat), but Xu is an exciting introduction to an under-represented cuisine – and you’ll be pleased to hear that it takes bookings.  

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