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5 Off-Radar Restaurants to Try

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Undiscussed for some time — but no less worthy of a visit

Xi’an Impression in north London
Lizzie Mabbot @hollowlegs

Yes — there are lots and lots of wonderful places to eat in London, some of which could be called essential; others hot. But there are also restaurants that fall into a category altogether less, well, categorical. A place that’s been around for a long time — reliable, reassuring, just right. A forgotten somewhere. Or somewhere that entered the business of hospitality before social media and PR became major determiners of a restaurant’s fate. Here’s five to try this week.

Margherita at Lardo
Lardo Official


When the sun shines and the weekends are long, my thoughts always turn to Lardo in London Fields. Lardo, where restaurant life spills exuberantly onto the street for blood orange negroni necking, or chomping on their home-cured salumi: fennel pollen salami or coppa Romana, or their own version of capocollo. Where the fine, blistered-base pizzas come fast and furious from a domed wood-fired oven as spangly as a disco glitter ball, my favourites the tenderstem broccoli with ‘nduja, pecoroni and roasted garlic paste, and the one with the black anise pepperoni. The menu changes all the time, but there might be small plates of oozing burrata with Amalfi lemon, gooey-cheesy semolina gnocchi alla romana, a whisper-light, salty fritto misto. This is the perfect place to get lightly pished before snoozing in the (hopefully) sunny park, or wandering off to make unsuitable purchases on Broadway Market. A meal here always feels like a holiday.—Marina O’Loughlin
197-201 Richmond Rd, London E8 3NJ

Apollo Banana Leaf
Chris Pople

Apollo Banana Leaf

Before you flounce out of London entirely, ask yourself exactly where — in St Swithuns on Sea — you are going to roll up unannounced, over a bank holiday weekend, and cover a paper tablecloth with crisp fried mutton rolls and chilli sauce, sambar vadai (little urad dal doughnuts, soft yet biteable, with runny chutney), green banana bhajis, masala dosa, then seafood string hopper fry, king prawn biryani and devilled mutton. For £20 a head, people! Decoratively basic, shyly brilliant, Apollo Banana Leaf is also kind enough to operate a BYO policy, so crack open a Sybille Kuntz or two, and smile, as you delete your Rightmove app for ever and ever. ABL's deft and correct Sri Lankan cooking is so thrilling, you'll barely even question the mesmerising photographic murals of Canadian lakescapes.—Sophie Dening
190 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SF

Hand-pulled noodles at Xi’an Impression

Xi’an Impression

Tucked on a little side street facing Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Xi’an Impression might look innocuous. Inside, this small, minimalist and welcoming Chinese restaurant proves first impressions can be wrong. Hand-pulled Chinese noodles are their thing: pale pappardelle-like ribbons in, for vegetarians, a deep, umami-rich sauce of soybean paste and zinging Sichuan peppercorns (one between two is good as a main). Fine salt and pepper squid is a textbook starter; garlic and ginger Chinese greens are almost always the perfect side.—Adam Coghlan
117 Benwell Rd, London N7 7BW

Dumplings at Royal China Club

Royal China Club

Is lunch at Royal China Club the easiest, most pleasurable routine to slip into in London? Partly it's the room itself: a comfortable, genuinely clubby setting, as welcoming to customers knocking back a couple of plates of dim sum and some jasmine tea as it is to the high rollers toasting abalone with Château Latour. Partly, it's the service: efficient, hospitable, nothing's-too-much professional. A lot of it's the food, which ranges from impeccable dim sum — classic har gau, cheung fun and xiao long bao; more novel house speciality buns such as divine lamb, and cutely mimetic iberico ham and mushroom — to noodles and roast meats, and even fresh seafood fished from tanks on-site. Ultimately, though, it's the quiet sophistication and flawless execution of every part of the experience — with the added kicker that they take bookings. The number to call is 020 7486 3898. That's one less excuse not to make a first visit, soon to be followed by a second, a third and many, many more.—George Reynolds
40-42 Baker Street, London W1U 7AJ

Phat Phuc’s laksa
Phat Phuc Official

Phat Phuc Noodle Bar

Sydney Street in Chelsea is not the sort of place you expect to stumble across a noodle bar with just a few rickety tables, serving very decent noodle soups, but that's exactly what you'll find here. Hidden below street level in an outside courtyard, you simply wouldn't spot this daytime only restaurant if you didn't know it was there. A short menu includes Vietnamese Pho and dumplings, Bánh cuốn summer rolls, one stir fry, pork buns and 'Bang Bang' noodle salad — but it's the bowl of Malaysian laksa that I return for: £7.50 well spent. Phucing good.—Zeren Wilson
The Courtyard, 151 Sydney Street, London SW3 6NT


197-201 Richmond Road, London , E8 3NJ Visit Website

Apollo Banana Leaf

190 Tooting High Street, , England SW17 0SF 020 8696 1423 Visit Website

Royal China Club

40-42 Baker Street, , England W1U 7AJ 020 7486 3898 Visit Website

Phat Phuc Noodle Bar

The Courtyard, 151 Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NT Visit Website