Soho is approximately a square mile in size — flanked on the north by Oxford Street, the east by Tottenham Court Road, the south by Shaftesbury Avenue and west by Regent Street. Though it has recently undergone significant redevelopment, which threatened to sanitise its character, Soho retains lots its unique historical, semi-seedy, and exciting charm. Given its concentration of restaurants, of varying class and quality, it can be tricky to navigate and make a successful choice. Here’s the pick of the best, which aims to minimise the chance of disappointment.Read More
The Best Restaurants in Soho
From Sri Lankan street food, Mediterranean small plates, and udon noodles to Sunday roasts and northern Thai grills — Soho has it all
Noble Rot Soho
Taking over one of Soho’s institutions has proven no sweat for this phenomenal Bloomsbury restaurant, which has moved into the former Gay Hussar with swagger and panache. Alex Jackson’s menu is a little more rooted in French country cooking than the original, with roast chicken and morels in a vin jaune sauce; fish often paired with aioli, and a duck liver choux bun that’s pure ecstasy in a bite; the wine is, predictably, outstanding. If the downstairs dining room holds the buzz, then the upstairs, smaller nook feels like a treasured secret.
Brick walls and vintage furniture give this francophile’s delight a dainty appeal, and there’s an emphasis on fun, conviviality and sharing everything, from cheese beignets or frog’s legs to classics such as cod niçoise with brandade aïoli, or braised lamb shoulder with anchovy and rosemary. The bistrot-style menu is bookended by all-star French charcuterie and cheeses.
Fun, friendly and partly standy-uppy, in true tapas-bar style, Copita adventures far beyond patatas bravas. On the daily changing menu, you might find smoked anchovies with pork crackling; sweet potato with bravas sauce, alioli and peanuts; and crusted sweetbread with butterbean puree. The inviting all-Spanish wine list features sparkling Raventos and a dozen different sherries.
10 Greek Street
The team behind this tiny neighbourhood Sohoite have won a fantastic reputation by combining a fast-moving blackboard of superb gastropub dishes with an exceptional, unmercenary wine list (ask and ye shall receive). In late summer, Australian-born chef Cameron Emirali might pair pigeon with blackberries and pancetta, or watermelon with olives, feta and pine nuts. Bookings at lunch only, so don’t bank on availability by night.
Despite its no-bookings policy and a standard hour’s wait (at least) on any given evening, Barrafina wins over all comers. Yes, it’s Michelin-starred, but it’s so much more than that: the sheer gustatory thrills of meat and seafood, especially anything grilled, are worth every moment in a queue. Request a glass of godello or Hart Bros Special Selection manzanilla en rama, and look forward to ham croquetas, grilled quail with alioli, and pluma Ibérica, as well as sensational specials like razor clams, carabineros, and pig’s trotter and prawns.
Quo Vadis has a vibrant history — once both a brothel and the home of Karl Marx. In its current life under the Hart brothers (Barrafina) and chef Jeremy Lee, the restaurant is a mix of pressed linen, floral arrangements, and satisfying, generous seasonal British dishes. Onglet, rare with a monolith of a pickled walnut and properly sinus-clearing horseradish; smoked cod’s roe with a yielding egg and sorrel; the much-loved smoked eel sandwich.
Is this all-day dim sum teahouse and pâtisserie Soho’s nicest restaurant? Unfadingly cinematic and treatworthy, Yauatcha is impressive for worky lunch, and intimate for a moody dinner, with its dreamy blue decor, low lighting and conducive seating arrangements. Don’t miss the dedicated cheung fun section, and a “Liquid Sweet Shop” that lists Sauternes next to sea salt hot chocolate.
Wun's Tea Room & Bar
The team behind Bun House and Pleasant Lady jianbing — the attached hatch — reopened this Bun House as Wun’s last year, bringing a superb cocktail bar and a menu of skewers, claypot rice, and some “it” dish worthy sugar skin pork to Greek Street. Extremely vibey, often full, and an easy going option for mates and dates alike.
A one-time nexus of London’s speciality coffee culture, this is still the best place to get coffee in the hubbub-grid that is Soho and the formerly ... Idiosyncratic ... service has mellowed out. Get the eponymous drink and sit outside like it’s 2005.
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Shuko Oda's little bar in Soho is among London's most exemplary Japanese restaurants. Over a long, blond wooden counter, chefs calmly and politely pass hot bowls of steaming broth containing their own-made noodles with the likes of tempura prawn. The specials board of comparatively inauthentic small plates changes every day and exhibits some of the city’s best undiscovered treasures; the traditional Japanese breakfast is one of the best in London.
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JKS Restaurants has the Midas touch. Or at least the ability to open exactly what consumers want next and are willing to queue for — on trend, fun and precise restaurants. Note Bao, Bubbledogs, Trishna and Gymkhana. Hoppers serves Tamil street food at keen prices: egg hoppers and (podi) dosas come with a small bowl of curry and a selection of chutneys and coconut sambols.
Dean Street Townhouse
When you’re considering afternoon tea in a famous Mayfair hotel but you need that 150 quid for something else, try this buzzy, art-filled Jack of all trades, instead. Part of Nick Jones’ tentacular Soho House group, DST is a media haunt that’s also good for cocktails, breakfast and brunch (with compendious egg offering), up-to-date British comfort food and, ultimately, midnight fish fingers.
Streetfood stall to site proper is a journey the best traders are making with increasing regularity. But it's hard to recall such a stylish example or one that has courted such a devout legion of followers. Bao makes beautiful, pillowy buns and stuffs them with some traditional and some not-so-traditional fillings, often from fine British ingredients. Queuing comes as standard.
Arty and indie and a devoted pioneer of low-intervention wines right from the off (est. 2011), Ducksoup is a little slice of the 11th arrondissement in W1. Menus change often, and borrow ideas and ingredients from all over, so you might start with chargrilled octopus, cicerchia (ancient legumes) and marjoram, then eat lamb steak with freekeh, za’atar and salted cheese. Perching at the counter’s best, so go on your own or in a two. Mainly walk-ins in the evening.
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What a thing of joy: not only is this candlelit throwback to Eighties bohemia still going, but it’s still good, too. Start with artichoke vinaigrette, dressed crab or smoked eel and apple salad, then eat wild bass fillet, Irish rosé veal, or confit duck leg. Watch out for the Etienne Sauzet Puligny and Domaine de Trévallon, lying in wait.
Gabe Pryce and Missy Flynn’s new Lexington Street home is both a culmination of their contribution to London restaurants so far, and a place singular enough to demand attention without that context. The culinary cues still lean on Americana, and the cocktails are still the highlight on the drinks, but there’s now even more confidence and wit on show, with a beef tartare with “lots of herbs,” clams with a savoury rendition of puffy Idaho scones, with the texture of doughnuts, and an outstanding garlic bread the highlights.
Soho’s first Iranian restaurant is JKS Restaurants’ thirteenth, with Iranian chef Kian Samyani overseeing a short menu inspired by Tehran’s kabab houses on Romilly Street. It focusses in on those kababs and khoresht (stews) in line with tradition, but a couple of JKS flourishes are visible. First, in a baklava ice cream sandwich (the only sweet) surely created to mimic the Instagram fame of Gymkhana’s muntjac biryani, or Bao’s blood cake with cured egg yolk; second, a strict attention to the smallest details — such as the panir sabzi, the traditional pre-starter of feta, radish, nuts and fresh herbs — all in the service of giving diners what JKS knows they want.
One of London’s most famous vegetarian restaurants, which has existed on this Lexington Street site since 2000 (having originally opened on Greek Street in 1988) — when meat-free establishments were in much less demand than they are in 2020. It was ahead of its time with a no-reservations policy, too, put in place to turn tables which were paying less than three quid for main courses. Its aim has always been to broaden the appeal of vegetarian food, which may be less of a challenge now, but the draw of its “international”-leaning all-day menus (across four branches now), featuring dishes like “mock duck” banh mi, quinoa “soul bowls”, and tofu donburi, appears undimmed.
Soho’s best greasy spoon belongs to a different era. Get into Bet Bruno for a slice of London that’s hard to find so centrally these days. Order eggs, chips, and beans and marvel at the wood panelling. Also, put your phone down.
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A faceful of mouth-numbing Szechuan pepper is among the rewards of correctly navigating Barshu’s fiery, gloopy, pickled, offal-tastic and very long menu. Pock marked old woman’s tofu with minced pork, and that fragrant chicken in a pile of chillies are just two essential dishes. Good for groups, with several giant round tables — order the menu!
The French House
Chef Neil Borthwick, who counts some titans of the French food world (including Michel Bras) as previous employers has moved from Merchant’s Tavern in Shoreditch to revive the kitchen of the Soho institution that launched the careers of Fergus and Margot Henderson, Peter Gordon, and Anna Hansen. It is only open at lunchtime during the week and, somewhat fittingly for somewhere anchored by the 90s, could not be less Soho-in-2018. Rillettes, lamb broth, Welsh rarebit, ox cheek and mash, aligot, John Dory and green sauce, and Paris Brest co-exist on a menu which seems to seek solace in fuss-free, trend-oblivious nostalgia.
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The Georgian townhouse setting and Alexis Gauthier’s dedication to plant-based gastronomy combine to make a genuine original, and one of Soho’s smartest places to eat. This attracts occasion diners and well-to-do visitors to London, who tend to go for the tasting menus. The vegan one features seasonal dishes such as Charentais melon gazpacho, and confit and roasted aubergine with saffron tuile; there’s Welsh lamb and wild turbot on the à la carte.
Getting Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves of Tātā Eatery to input their sandwich wisdom is pretty shrewd of Samuel Haim, the owner of this (soon-to-be) vibey restaurant on Old Compton Street. And yes, the chicken thigh in a pineapple bun with Sichuan chilli and cucumber salad is a stand-out, alongside a poached soy chicken, and a prawn “in” toast which riffs on prawn toast but more faithfully so on Taiwanese coffin bread. The poached chicken is the stand-out and the cocktails are excellent.
Bob Bob Ricard
Love it or misunderstand it, Bob Bob Ricard offers glamour and lobster mac ’n’ cheese for all who enter the all-booth dining room. The menu is a weirdly attractive Russian-English mash-up, suggesting truffled vareniki dumplings, and chicken and mushroom pie in the same breath. It’s all a bit of a hoot, with the campest staff uniforms this side of a Wes Anderson montage, and “Press for Champagne” buttons next to every table. Amazing booze, too: 1998 Château d’Yquem by the glass for the price of a quick trot round Waitrose.
A mercurial but brilliant small sushi bar and izakaya, which, often inexplicably, is closed. When it’s open, it’s one of the best and most affordable spots to find sushi in central London. Chef Yuya Kikuchi is in charge — an affable and talented character prone to mix things up. Most recently, the restaurant began serving miso ramen. Turn up (in the hope Jugemu is open), sit at the bar, enjoy its chaotic energy, and order as Kikuchi advises.
First: Sri Lankan restaurants are not “having a moment.” Hoppers, sambals, and puttu have helped define the dining communities of Tooting, Croydon, Harrow, Wembley, and East Ham for decades, just as Hoppers is beginning to do in central London. Paradise, taking over the Spuntino site on Rupert Street, marks a further evolution — self-consciously describing itself as “contemporary” and focussing publicly on suppliers while acknowledging fealty to both familial and national traditions. For fans of dining comparisons, its approach scans with Ben Chapman’s Kiln. For fans of food: mackerel leaf cutlets and mutton shoulder rolls start short eats strong, while Jaffna-spiced lamb chops and a date and pistachio roti are early star dishes. Kolamba, in Carnaby, is also worth a look.
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For such an important pillar in British food culture, there are surprisingly few restaurants that better a home-cooked Sunday roast. The sourcing of meat from one of Britain’s best butchers (Warren’s in Cornwall) together with enthusiastic portioning and solid trimmings make Blacklock’s roast one worth going out for. During the week it’s central London’s finest chop house, too.
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A restaurant proper from Yotam Ottolenghi and head chef Ramael Scully — now in his own surrounds at Scully — Nopi is still relaxed, still an all-dayer, but the menu is more fully realised than the cafés, and the setting gleamingly elegant, with lots of brass and marble. Plan A should be breakfast, when black rice with coconut milk and mango is recommended, or the famed shakshuka eggs. Otherwise, go for a terrific vegetarian lunch of courgettes, edamame, samphire, kefalotyri cheese and tarragon; or coriander seed crusted burrata with slices of blood orange. Add pork chops with shiitake ketchup or lemon sole with nori to taste.
Bocca Di Lupo
Archer Street was nothing but a few theatre back doors before Jacob Kenedy introduced his regional Italian cooking to London. Memorably lovely tripe, pappardelle with chicken livers, and an appetising white negroni are just three of Bocca’s manifold enticements. Gelupo, the ice cream parlour and deli opposite, is even more godlike.
Gelupo is as much a destination as Bocca di Lupo across the street, with its dinky parlour hiding some of the best ice cream in the city. The amarena rippled through ricotta is unmissable, so too, for fans of chocolate, the Bonet: dark chocolate, rum, caramel, amaretti, espresso and egg yolk mingling indecently. Good for a dessert pit-stop or just a heedless afternoon sugar rush, and worth seeking out.
Ben Chapman is a learner and perfectionist, and curiosity took him to northern Thailand on a research trip in 2016. The findings have been on exhibition at Kiln in Soho ever since. In-house butchery of rare-breed British meat means prices are unusually fair; day boat fish means seafood curries are extra fresh. Thai veg and herbs are grown for him in Cornwall and every single bit of cooking is done not with electricity or gas, but over charcoal.
Bancone Golden Square
Next to Padella in London’s new-but-now-established wave of pasta restaurants, Bancone is a reliable, classy little option with a broad enough range of pastas to satisfy all kinds of scenario, including a flustered dinner after too much queueing and being told there’s a two hour wait. Ox cheek ravioli, mussel bucatini, and yes, the handkerchief dish that blows up Instagram are stars.
Kulu Kulu Sushi
A long-standing quick-service Japanese canteen serving affordable sushi, tempura, and bowls of udon noodles from either a conveyor belt or slightly more extensive a la carte. This is a low-key, unhyped, and reliable option whose unchanged menu and wood panelling recalls a less frenetic, and less commercial era in Soho.
A very jolly addition to the West End: a vast, bustling, glam-feeling, late-opening French brasserie with very jolly prices. Do onion soup, steak tartare, frog’s legs, celeriac rémoulade, confit duck, choucroute Alsacienne. Zédel is a respected cabaret venue, too. All in all, a gift.
Ramo Ramen - Soho
Following in the footsteps of ube bilog-slinging sibling Mamasons, the Kentish Town stalwart has gone central with a bang. Ramo Ramen is known for its creative, clever refraction of Filipino culinary traditions, leading to singular bowls of ramen which feel in tune with the spirit of the most exciting cooking in the city right now. Oxtail collapses into creamy peanut broth in a bowl inspired by kare kare, the Filipino stew, while grilled king prawns bob in a broth pursed by tamarind and lime in a rendition of the soup, sinigang. The long-cooked stocks, alkaline noodles, golden-yolked eggs, and sheets of nori are the holdovers from Japanese tradition, while everything else is a tribute to Omar Shah’s Filipino-Muslim background.