Once a butcher's, dating from 1911, Randall and Aubin is now technically a champagne and oyster bar - but it's all about all kinds of top notch seafood (though they do venture onto turf in the form of a great roast). In the window is a dazzling display of what's about to be in you, and as you go in it feels like a kind of souped-up pie & mash shop; marble tables, original fittings and the odd glitter ball. This place is very Soho, bustling - I believe we should also say 'vibrant', loud and proud. Music plays, the staff are a bundle of joy; it's the sort of place you'd go for a warmup for some Soho smashtime rather than perhaps an intimate occasion. Gets busy so can be better to head down at lunch - and you can't book.
28-34 St. Martin's Court, Soho, WC2N 4AL
Outside it's red awnings, gold lettering, frosted muntin windows (had to look that up, handy knowhow) and a be-top-hatted chap to welcome you in. Inside it's chequerboard floors, tasteful sea shell light fittings, a warren of rooms that are wooden wall decked with black and white portraits that tell the history of the West End's variety stars gone by. Which is what this place is really about; the heart of old Soho. It's formal but not overbearing, no tie required, and the seafood is as you'd expect, fresh classics like oysters and lobster, which is hard to beat. It's actually two places - adjoined is the newer oyster and champagne bar, where you're sat around a grand horseshoe bar - a little lighter on the wallet but all the class. Full on special occasion fodder.
39 Queen Victoria Street, City of London, EC4N 4SF **
It's been around since 1889, and with the exception of now accepting credit cards, not a whole lot has changed. It's been serving big fish to the City's fat cats ever since. Given it's only open 5 days a week, 3 hours at a time for lunch and full of suits (not that that's a problem, just setting the scene) the odds are stacked against it, but it absolutely pulls through. Inside it is a mosaicy tiled floor and a big oak counter, the walls peppered with Victorian caricatures and paraphernalia that's not been changed since David Cameron's nappy. It's a quickly does it affair, no coffee for dawdlers, with big portions served with mismatching cutlery - it's all part of the experience. There are longer wooden tables towards the back where you'll be arm to pinstriped arm, and after you've made it through the main some classic puddings await - spotted dick, apple crumble, bread & butter pudding. Ideal.
St John’s- St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant
26 St. John Street,London EC1M 4AY **
St. JOHN is open for lunch in the dining room from Monday to Friday between noon and 3.00 pm and on Sunday from 1.00 pm until 3.30 pm. Supper is served from 6.00 pm to 11.00 pm Monday to Saturday and closed Sunday evening. Famous among the foodie scene as the restaurant that brought the concept of nose to tail back in fashion. Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver are the brains behind this restaurant that now also has an hotel and a bakery. Not ideal for a romantic dinner, but perfect for lunch and a dinner with friends. Great for people watching and getting a sense of the rebirth of traditional British cuisine.
45 Lexington Street, Soho, W1F 9AN
This is vegetarian perfection. Inventive, affordable, guaranteed to keep even the most ardent carnivore amazed and delighted, and always justifiably rammed with happy punters. Oh - you can’t book. Which sometimes means a queue. But that’s really scraping the barrel for anything bad to say about this place. Risotto cake anyone? We heart Mildreds.
Food for Thought
31 Neal Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9P **
This cramped, slightly chaotic ramshackely little place lies nestled in the heart of Covent Garden and is a wonderful escape from the crowds of tourists and eyelashed swarthes of teenage shoppers on a Saturday. I’m not going to lie - this place below is often as busy as the streets above, but a homely, herby, stew-aromed atmosphere prevails, with dishes like your Mum should’ve made and a necessary emphasis on table sharing and general friendliness to other hungry shoppers around you. CLOSED
17- 18 Tooks Court, Chancery Lane, EC4A 1LB
If you want vegetarian, but not only that, this place is perfect. It’s posh, justifiably expensive, with a precise, exquisitely crafted menu and wears the hallowed crown of approval from London’s most discerning food critics. A challenge to preconceptions about vegetarian cuisine if ever there was one - and an almost guaranteed one - nil to you.
55 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0AR
After the almost offensively pink walls and pungent sense of incense sticks hit you in the face on arrival, rest assured that the menu promises a sensory journey of an altogether more delightful kind. Word of warning though - this is not the place to come to for a greasy vindaloo and stodgy naan to stuff down your neck before a perfunctory puke and pass out after a beery night out. A remarkable choice of some of the finest vegetarian Keralan cuisine this side of, well, India, after a meal here you’ll leave with change in your pocket and a smug sense of pride in discovering one of Stokey’s best now-not-so-secret little haunts. The original and best Rasa. and a few others: Hunan: Chinese cooking with Taiwanese inspiration brought to you by the inimitable Chef Peng. His son sees to the excellent wine list.
51 Pimlico Road, London SW1W 8NE Brawn
The sister restaurant to Terroir in Covent Garden, Brawn serves tapas sized portions of French-inspired food on Columbia Road in East London. Check out London Eater for a complete review. **
Terroir: in Covent Garden, just a stone throw away from the Savoy, great for a light, French flavored lunch **
Leila’s Shop: amazing breakfast in Shoreditch. Leila also sells her Polish sausages and pickled vegetables at the Maltby Street Market on Saturdays. Inexpensive.
Barrafina: A 23-seat bar in Soho serving top-notch Spanish tapas. Moderate.
Polpo (and Polpetto)
both in Soho- great Italian -Venetian food
Turkish mezes, lahmacun, and kebabs are served in the main dining area and next door, there is offal and künefe. Inexpensive.
Great Queen Street:
amazing for inventive Gastro Pub food. Local, fresh and in a great setting **
Excellent southwestern Vietnamese food in Battersea (there is another location in Shoreditch but it’s not as good). It is one of those few places on earth where everything is great. Don’t miss the stir-fried goat with galangal and chargrilled quail. The wine selection is small, well chosen, and affordable. Inexpensive.
Fernandez & Wells
Three Soho locations (a food and wine bar, a cafe’ and an espresso bar), each serving high quality food and drink that changes with the seasons. Inexpensive.
London’s best Mexican restaurant. Moderate.
The brewery tap for the Meantime Brewing Company, serving great fish and chips, excellent Angus burgers, and a nice Sunday roast in the heart of Greenwich. Moderate. Lahore Kebab House
A no-nonsense Pakistani kebab house in East London known for its succulent seekh kebab, spiced lamb chops and fiery curries. Inexpensive. **
Great Pakistani food (if you can bear the queues) in Whitechapel. Inexpensive. **
Galvin La Chapelle
Meticulously prepared French food served in an extravagant building next to the Old Spitalfields Market. Expensive **
Chef Francesco Mazzei’s contemporary Italian restaurant in the heart of the City. Expensive. **
A great noodle house in Soho. They have weird opening hours but when they are open they are packed!