Vauxhall is probably most famous for its collection of gay pubs and clubs; the bus interchange with its jutting, cantilevered roof; and the looming MI6 headquarters. The odd mixture of tower blocks, gentrified backstreets, government buildings and recent riverside development make for a chaotic energy, magnified by the transport hub and Vauxhall Cross, where six major roads intersect. Restaurants in the area tend to be isolated thanks to the lack of a proper central zone, and although the community has a significant Portuguese contingent, its restaurants are more concentrated in neighbouring Stockwell. There’s still plenty to enjoy, however, from loaded Eritrean injera to lip-tingling Korean fried chicken. The boundaries of Vauxhall have here been stretched towards Oval in the interest of compiling the most practical guide.Read More
Where to Eat in Vauxhall
Head south for lip-tingling fried chicken, loaded Eritrean injera, and more
24 The Oval
As the name suggests, this popular neighbourhood spot is close enough to the cricket ground to hear the clack of ball on bat. Co-owner of celebrated Clapham restaurant The Dairy Matt Wells, and Andrew Bradford, of Knife Steakhouse, are behind a restaurant where the menu reads like a roll call of the finest seasonal ingredients. An assured kitchen team — many of them Dairy alumni — produces charcuterie in-house and serves one of the best Sunday roasts in the area, including a vegetarian version with a top-notch mushroom and spinach wellington.
Hot Stuff is the kind of cult restaurant that’s so adored by locals they won’t hear a bad word said against it. Serving boldly flavoured ‘curry house’ staples such as chicken tikka masala and lamb dopiaza, there’s a level of care which makes the restaurant on Wilcox Road stand out as a cut above the norm, and at an affordable price point. Is it some of the best Indian cooking in London? Certainly not — sorry to those locals — but it’s always packed, and has been turning out a mean chana masala — arguably one of the most deftly spiced dishes — for over twenty years. It’s also BYO.
Surely Eritreans must laugh at the modern concept of ‘sharing plates’ when every meal eaten is shared from a communal ‘plate’ of injera — a large, flat ‘pancake’ made with fermented teff flour. Local favourite Adulis has been serving them generously piled with tsehbi for 23 years: highlights include awaze tibsi fitfit, a heady mix of lamb, berbere spice and niter kibbeh (spiced ghee), and dulot made with spicy beef and tripe. Vegetarian dishes are just as satisfying, and here it’s all about the hamli b’ajibo, a dish of dry cottage cheese mixed with spinach, which lends freshness and verve to any injera it graces.
Brunswick House sits awkwardly among the traffic and fumes of Vauxhall’s stations, its Georgian architecture at odds with the modern developments nearby. The interior, too, is striking, twinkling with antique mirrors and chandeliers. Executive chef Andrew Clarke and owner Jackson Boxer have employed the capable hands of head chef Darren Kennedy, whose kitchen turns out sophisticated modern European plates with a seasonal focus. Sandwich fans should know about the rich, almost unmanageably sloppy ham hock and Comte breakfast muffin, guaranteed to slay the most monstrous hangover.
Pico Bar & Grill
Occupying two arches at the Vauxhall end of ‘Little Portugal,’ as the South Lambeth Road is known to Londoners, is Pico Bar & Grill. It shares many features with its Stockwell neighbours — outdoor seating, paper cloth topped tables and TV screens showing sports — and the food is fairly indistinguishable too. Large portions of tapas and grills are simple and lacking frippery; this is food to sustain not thrill. On a hot day however it’s a good spot for a cold beer and a plate of pulpo a la Gallega, or a dizzyingly strong cocktail which leaves plenty of change from a tenner.
Emily Dobbs, formerly of Duck Soup and Spring and known online as @weligama_ldn, runs the kitchen at this famous deli cafe in the gentrified backstreets of Bonnington Square. She has a passion for Sri Lankan food, and it’s possible to periodically enjoy hoppers and fragrant curries at Italo, rather than the usual staples of pasta and hearty sandwiches. The cafe really comes into its own during clement weather, when customers fill the distinctive red and white leather seats outside.
Opposite Italo is Bonnington Cafe, a much-loved veggie and vegan cooperative set up to serve locals during the 1980s, when most of Bonnington Square was occupied by squatters. Cooks change daily as per a list on the website, bringing the flavours of their home countries to the kitchen — patrons naturally have their favourites. The daily changing menu always follows the same format: a starter, a choice of two main courses, and three desserts. It’s hearty, satisfying stuff for very little money and a side helping of warm fuzzy feelings.
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London’s most famous ‘press for service’ buttons might summon champagne at Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard, but there’s an argument for their counterparts at Jihwaja bringing more joy, since they’ve the power to make Korean fried chicken appear with a side of ice cold beer — or for the more enthusiastic, soju. The sounds of K Pop reverberate as table after table of youngsters clamours to share stacks of craggy double-fried chicken, tossed with a signature sticky-sweet sauce that leaves diners’ faces gochujang red. The chicken really is the star of the menu here, and a much better option than the rapidly nose-diving Chee Mc in Camberwell.
Cafe Van Gogh
This charming vegan cafe is so named because Van Gogh himself lived just around the corner during the 1970s, while working at then-leading art dealership Goupil & Co. Food takes global inspiration but often leans towards the Caribbean — jerk plantain with rice and pineapple, perhaps — or hearty British comfort food like homemade baked beans, mushrooms on toast, and a vegan full English. On Sundays, vegans flock here for a generous and creative roast — butternut squash with pesto, and a mountain of carefully cooked vegetables and potatoes.