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The Royal Thali at Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden.
The Royal Thali at Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden.
Darjeeling Express

The Best Restaurants in Covent Garden

Royal thalis, hand-pulled Lanzhou noodles, an outstanding Swedish bakery, and more

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The Royal Thali at Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express in Covent Garden.
| Darjeeling Express

In London restaurant terms, what exactly is Covent Garden? It might be easier to say what it isn’t. It isn’t Chinatown or Soho, both of which have their own distinct gastronomic identities (and Eater London maps dedicated to them); it’s very much part of the West End, but is so densely visited that it requires a survey of its own.

Of course, there are plenty of tourist traps to be steered around, but it’s also home to some of London’s most interesting places to eat, from a truly old school French restaurant to a modern Filipino canteen and a stellar Swedish bakery.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Darjeeling Express

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Since moving from Kingly Court to Garrick Street in autumn 2020, Asma Khan’s feted Darjeeling Express has gone from strength to strength in spite of the pandemic. There’s now a deli, so it caters for everything from a casual tea and toastie to a Sunday lunch of biryani and a celebratory Royal Thali feast. Not merely one of the West End’s most brilliant restaurants, but London’s.

Le Beaujolais

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Long before Noble Rot, there was Le Beaujolais on Litchfield Street: candlelit and seductively gloomy, with a bar upstairs that hasn’t changed since 1972, restaurant tables below, and a cheese trolley for the ages. The wines (all French and all very good) start at £4 for a glass, and the treacly tarte tatin, served with a whopping scoop of freckled vanilla ice cream, is pure joy.

Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar

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Sufficiently distant from Chinatown proper to qualify, this hand-pulled noodle specialist between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stays open until 4:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The hot and dry Fujian-style noodles make a delicious and sustaining conclusion to a long night, but it’s the noodle soups that are the real draw: get the thick, knife-cut dao xiao mian, sliced straight into broth. 

Bongbong's Manila Kanteen

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Seven Dials Market, Covent Garden’s cavernous food hall, feels like a no-expense-spared relic from before the pandemic. But there’s still plenty of good food to be found here, and the best is Bongbong’s Manila Kanteen, run by the former Kerb stars. Stop by at lunch and dinner for fragrant lechon over rice and salad, adobo-glazed chicken wings and crispy pata pancakes with meltingly tender pork hock to share.

Barrafina

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Possibly the handsomest Barrafina, with the bar seats in its rotunda-upstairs dining room offering views of the kitchen and down to the Strand. As at the other three, the Adelaide Street branch is all about the seafood-leaning specials board: it might include cod cheeks, gambas, and quail escabeche, plus a regularly changing selection of croquetas to complement the peerless tortilla. On the other side of Covent Garden, the Drury Lane Barrafina more than holds its own.

The Barbary

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Layo and Zoe Paskin have been wowing visitors to Covent Garden with their Berber cuisine since 2016; before the pandemic this was one of the toughest places in London to bag a seat, and its Jerusalem bagels, Jaffa-style cauliflower and octopus masabacha are still hugely popular. Its admirers will be delighted by the news that The Barbary Next Door, a more casual kitchen-slash-wine bar focusing on bottles from Spain, France and Morocco, will open in October 2021, replacing Jacob the Angel.

Bancone

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This smart-casual, all-day pasta joint’s signature plate of silk handkerchiefs topped with a confit egg yolk is still a winner, but there are plenty more delights on the menu, from tagliatelle with rosemary and bay-braised rabbit to a forever-summer dish of Sicilian red prawns with gnocchi, datterini tomato and samphire. The ideal place to refuel mid way through a day’s shopping in Covent Garden.

Giovanni's of Covent Garden

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Hidden away down the sort of alley that looks as though it might only reveal itself after an incantation has been recited, this family-run, unselfconsciously traditional Italian has been winning admirers since 1952. The bay-fronted dining room is best after dark, when it’s lit by candles and there’s a procession of hearty but elegantly executed dishes: chickpeas in a rosemary-spiked broth, paccheri with wild boar ragu, cannoli and Sicilian oranges marinated in Zibibbo sweet wine.

Bageriet

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This Rose Street unit is one of London’s standout Swedish bakeries. As well as superlative cinnamon buns (and blueberry ones marbled with homemade jam), there’s a whole selection of miniature delights: neat marzipan tarts, little pineapple streusel cakes, semla buns. There are also tempting bags of treats to go, plus rolls of the fragrant gingerbread dough for home baking.

The 10 Cases

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This warmly welcoming, Franco-European bistro in Covent Garden has been going strong for more than a decade, and with good reason: the menu is endlessly pleasing (broad bean and rosemary croquettes, pork collar with ajo blanco, buttered ratte potatoes), the wine list is very reasonably priced, and both change regularly to shake things up. If the weather is fine a table outside is hard to beat.

The Espresso Room

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A top-tier West End coffee spot on New Row in Covent Garden, recently renamed after its parent company and its original site in Bloomsbury. Espresso, filter and cold brews are all executed with flair, along with a strong selection of viennoiserie and pastries (the almond croissants alone are worth the trip), all served by genuinely friendly baristas.

The Delaunay

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For breakfast, lunch, dinner or something in between, Corbin and King’s grand brasserie on Aldwych ticks the boxes. It’s somewhat easier to get a table at than The Wolseley but there’s a fair overlap menu-wise, and the prix fixe, at £25.95 for a feast of, say, minted pea soup, kedgeree and sachertorte, is foolproof. Next door, Viennese cafe The Counter is a more relaxed all-day spot.

Evelyn's Table

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Fans of both kitchen-counter dining and tasting menus will find their sweet spot here in the basement of The Blue Posts 2.0. Luke, Nat and Theo Selby are now running the kitchen, and the monthly-changing menu melds seasonal British produce with techniques inspired by Japan and France. There’s plenty of chat before each course but the experience never feels ponderous. With just 12 seats, booking is essential and things get cosy, so it’s best to go with someone special. The Mulwray, upstairs, is a wine bar worth a visit all of its own.

Parsons

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This elegant but unpretentious Covent Garden seafood specialist (run by the team behind The 10 Cases across the road) continues to give Sheekey’s more than a run for its money. Start with a manzanilla and tonic and some potted shrimp croquettes, before moving onto Shetland mussels with cider, Dorset clam chowder and Cornish cod with seaweed tartare sauce and fries. The presence of a Welsh rarebit on the dessert menu is always reassuring.

Now back in its bricks and mortar home after spending last summer serving pastel ice lollies and negronis from a pink shipping container in the Somerset House courtyard, Spring remains one of the most beautiful places to eat in central London. Expect the same emphasis there always has been on produce from Fern Verrow, the world-class Herefordshire farm that chef-owner Skye Gyngell has been working hand-in-hand with for years.

Darjeeling Express

Since moving from Kingly Court to Garrick Street in autumn 2020, Asma Khan’s feted Darjeeling Express has gone from strength to strength in spite of the pandemic. There’s now a deli, so it caters for everything from a casual tea and toastie to a Sunday lunch of biryani and a celebratory Royal Thali feast. Not merely one of the West End’s most brilliant restaurants, but London’s.

Le Beaujolais

Long before Noble Rot, there was Le Beaujolais on Litchfield Street: candlelit and seductively gloomy, with a bar upstairs that hasn’t changed since 1972, restaurant tables below, and a cheese trolley for the ages. The wines (all French and all very good) start at £4 for a glass, and the treacly tarte tatin, served with a whopping scoop of freckled vanilla ice cream, is pure joy.

Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar

Sufficiently distant from Chinatown proper to qualify, this hand-pulled noodle specialist between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stays open until 4:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The hot and dry Fujian-style noodles make a delicious and sustaining conclusion to a long night, but it’s the noodle soups that are the real draw: get the thick, knife-cut dao xiao mian, sliced straight into broth. 

Bongbong's Manila Kanteen

Seven Dials Market, Covent Garden’s cavernous food hall, feels like a no-expense-spared relic from before the pandemic. But there’s still plenty of good food to be found here, and the best is Bongbong’s Manila Kanteen, run by the former Kerb stars. Stop by at lunch and dinner for fragrant lechon over rice and salad, adobo-glazed chicken wings and crispy pata pancakes with meltingly tender pork hock to share.

Barrafina

Possibly the handsomest Barrafina, with the bar seats in its rotunda-upstairs dining room offering views of the kitchen and down to the Strand. As at the other three, the Adelaide Street branch is all about the seafood-leaning specials board: it might include cod cheeks, gambas, and quail escabeche, plus a regularly changing selection of croquetas to complement the peerless tortilla. On the other side of Covent Garden, the Drury Lane Barrafina more than holds its own.

The Barbary

Layo and Zoe Paskin have been wowing visitors to Covent Garden with their Berber cuisine since 2016; before the pandemic this was one of the toughest places in London to bag a seat, and its Jerusalem bagels, Jaffa-style cauliflower and octopus masabacha are still hugely popular. Its admirers will be delighted by the news that The Barbary Next Door, a more casual kitchen-slash-wine bar focusing on bottles from Spain, France and Morocco, will open in October 2021, replacing Jacob the Angel.

Bancone

This smart-casual, all-day pasta joint’s signature plate of silk handkerchiefs topped with a confit egg yolk is still a winner, but there are plenty more delights on the menu, from tagliatelle with rosemary and bay-braised rabbit to a forever-summer dish of Sicilian red prawns with gnocchi, datterini tomato and samphire. The ideal place to refuel mid way through a day’s shopping in Covent Garden.

Giovanni's of Covent Garden

Hidden away down the sort of alley that looks as though it might only reveal itself after an incantation has been recited, this family-run, unselfconsciously traditional Italian has been winning admirers since 1952. The bay-fronted dining room is best after dark, when it’s lit by candles and there’s a procession of hearty but elegantly executed dishes: chickpeas in a rosemary-spiked broth, paccheri with wild boar ragu, cannoli and Sicilian oranges marinated in Zibibbo sweet wine.

Bageriet

This Rose Street unit is one of London’s standout Swedish bakeries. As well as superlative cinnamon buns (and blueberry ones marbled with homemade jam), there’s a whole selection of miniature delights: neat marzipan tarts, little pineapple streusel cakes, semla buns. There are also tempting bags of treats to go, plus rolls of the fragrant gingerbread dough for home baking.

The 10 Cases

This warmly welcoming, Franco-European bistro in Covent Garden has been going strong for more than a decade, and with good reason: the menu is endlessly pleasing (broad bean and rosemary croquettes, pork collar with ajo blanco, buttered ratte potatoes), the wine list is very reasonably priced, and both change regularly to shake things up. If the weather is fine a table outside is hard to beat.

The Espresso Room

A top-tier West End coffee spot on New Row in Covent Garden, recently renamed after its parent company and its original site in Bloomsbury. Espresso, filter and cold brews are all executed with flair, along with a strong selection of viennoiserie and pastries (the almond croissants alone are worth the trip), all served by genuinely friendly baristas.

The Delaunay

For breakfast, lunch, dinner or something in between, Corbin and King’s grand brasserie on Aldwych ticks the boxes. It’s somewhat easier to get a table at than The Wolseley but there’s a fair overlap menu-wise, and the prix fixe, at £25.95 for a feast of, say, minted pea soup, kedgeree and sachertorte, is foolproof. Next door, Viennese cafe The Counter is a more relaxed all-day spot.

Evelyn's Table

Fans of both kitchen-counter dining and tasting menus will find their sweet spot here in the basement of The Blue Posts 2.0. Luke, Nat and Theo Selby are now running the kitchen, and the monthly-changing menu melds seasonal British produce with techniques inspired by Japan and France. There’s plenty of chat before each course but the experience never feels ponderous. With just 12 seats, booking is essential and things get cosy, so it’s best to go with someone special. The Mulwray, upstairs, is a wine bar worth a visit all of its own.

Parsons

This elegant but unpretentious Covent Garden seafood specialist (run by the team behind The 10 Cases across the road) continues to give Sheekey’s more than a run for its money. Start with a manzanilla and tonic and some potted shrimp croquettes, before moving onto Shetland mussels with cider, Dorset clam chowder and Cornish cod with seaweed tartare sauce and fries. The presence of a Welsh rarebit on the dessert menu is always reassuring.

Spring

Now back in its bricks and mortar home after spending last summer serving pastel ice lollies and negronis from a pink shipping container in the Somerset House courtyard, Spring remains one of the most beautiful places to eat in central London. Expect the same emphasis there always has been on produce from Fern Verrow, the world-class Herefordshire farm that chef-owner Skye Gyngell has been working hand-in-hand with for years.

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