An excellent example of a family restaurant — no kids’ menu, sleek dark interiors, a cocktail menu designed by the Nightjar team, imaginative Japanese food — with the ability to deal with a rambunctious 4-year-old, the allergy-ridden brother-in-law and out of town parents. A family-friendly, grown-up spot, with effortless service, it is a Japanese izakaya, (akin to a tapas bar) that seamlessly uses British and Japanese ingredients. To go alongside their excellent sushi and sashimi try a wakame seaweed and samphire salad, grilled aubergine with sesame paste or the lamb cutlets with Korean kimchi chilli. —Anna Sulan Masing.
72 Lordship Lane, SE22 8HF
The Hampstead Paradox: not a Booker-winning follow-up to The Finkler Question, but the fact that one of London’s most cosmopolitan and comfortable corners still, bafflingly, has very few great places to eat. Avoid the sad trombone noise that is Cafe Hampstead and make haste instead to Hām: a neighbourhood restaurant that’s fast becoming a destination and a cure in its own right. Head chef Matt Osborne learned the ropes at The Ledbury, Terroirs, The Other Naughty Piglets and Salon, so seasonality is big, of course, as is provenance (Devon crab and beef, Norfolk quail, Wiltshire Horn lamb, all cooked and plated reverently). The beautiful, bustling room is one to linger in, and there’s a champion pastry section. NW still has a way to go — but Hām is where its heart is. —Emma Hughes.
238 West End Ln, London NW6 1LG
Any bar menu that has “All Three Meats” as a menu item is worth some consideration. A serious hustle in the Holloway Road bustle, Provisions excels in four crucial disciplines: beer; wine; charcuterie; cheese. Beer favours (north) London breweries and runs a gamut of styles; wine is both natural and not natural, with the option to order the latter if you don’t like the former. #Revolutionary. The best of the charcuterie is a crumbly, anise-kissed finocchiona; it’s hard to choose the best cheese from such a groaning array, so let the mood take the lead there — if crippled by indecision, a Large Cheese Plate will prove restorative. It’s compact, and very much a shop with some seats, but that’s just further assurance that is is a place that really knows what it’s doing — wines and cheeses are imported directly. —James Hansen
167 Holloway Rd, N7 8NA
It may not talk a big game about honouring the centuries-old tradition of Italian gelato (this is categorically good old fashioned ice cream), but when the temperature rises, this Upper Street shopfront is the sort of place everyone wishes they had on their doorstep. Flavours run the gamut from old-school classics (including a fine pistachio) all the way through to outré combinations like Bourbon Carrot Cake; there is a monthly competition for anyone with a bright idea seeking to immortalise themselves on the wall of fame. Even though that has been running for years now, it’s still going to be pretty hard to beat the dark chocolate and sea salt sorbet, which surely ranks high on a London list of frozen treats — a reason, perhaps, why Udderlicious continues to do brisk business even in winter. —George Reynolds.
187 Upper St, N1 1RQ
Toconoco has been Haggerston’s best-kept canalside secret for years. Tucked away overlooking Kingsland Basin, it’s a light-filled oasis of calm on weekdays, and a heartwarming chaos of tiny people at weekends thanks to the adjacent children’s play room. Which is also to say, it’s the right kind of conceptually weird — a cafe-cum-crèche by virtue of its founders’ simultaneously nurturing a young daughter and a young business — as to make eating here feel like being invited into someone’s home. The food is similarly comforting; carefully prepared traditional Japanese home-style cooking that includes fresh soba and udon noodles served hot or cold with a variety of accompaniments, brilliant onigiri (ume — sour plum — is not to be missed), Japanese desserts, and a daily-changing lunch special (usually posted on Instagram, and a cute note stuck to the Regents Canal entry gate). —Andrew Leitch
A, 28 Hertford Rd, N1 5QT