It’s not just in Mayfair that there’s been a flurry of affordable dining options popping up (see our feature in the September issue of Atlas). The London food scene in 2019 has been all about big-name chefs taking their food to the masses. Though there are still well-trodden classic joints (and you can find these at the bottom of this article), this list features the hottest new names to drop when dining out in the capital.
Opened March 2019
What The deservedly popular Taiwanese xiao chi (small plates) crowd-pleaser still sees round-the-block queues at its Soho and Fitzrovia outposts so has opened a third address in street-food stalwart Borough Market. The difference? It’s by far the coolest space. Oh, and there’s a fast-service take-away hatch out front for stand-around Saturday snacking, as well as a downstairs karaoke room for the full made-in-Taipei crooning experience.
Order this There are no duds here: the bao are reliably excellent of course, or, for more adventurous eaters, there’s the spicy, umami-bombing xinjiang maitake mushroom or the deep-fried, hotdog-like prawn shia son.
13 Stoney Street, SE1 9AD; +44 20 3319 8132
Din Tai Fung
Opened December 2018
What If you eat out in London regularly, you’ll be no stranger to a queue every so often for the latest hyped-about opening – but the wait for Taiwanese dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung regularly tops the two-hour mark. And with a loyal fanbase flocking to 160 outposts around the world, from Hong Kong (once with a Michelin star) to Singapore, it’s not hard to see why. Their London branch on the edge of Covent Garden Market is their first in Europe and is unsurprisingly packed to the rafters at any given time of day, with headset-wearing staff rushing around waiting on hungry customers.
Order this The dainty 18-fold xiao long bao dumplings are made by lab-coat-wearing technicians behind a glass screen and explode on your spoon with rich, piping-hot broth. Make sure you also order the ever-so-tender Shanghaiese drunken chicken, cooked to perfection in Chinese rice wine.
5 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8PS; +44 20 3034 3888
The Fancy Fork
Opened July 2019
What By night, fresh fast-food joint Farmer J, just on the north side of London Bridge, turns into The Fancy Fork, a candlelit, plant-strewn sit-down space helmed by ex-River Café chef Shuli Wimer and possibly the best-value Middle Eastern restaurant in London.
Order this Build your own “field tray” for lunch, choosing from a base (lemon and oil brown rice, beluga lentils), a main dish (including miso tahini chicken or charred tofu steak) and two sides (ranging from garlic-grilled broccoli to roasted sweet potato). Sharing plates just top the £10 mark and consist of ricotta-and-basil-stuffed zucchini flowers and cured salmon with beetroot, and the bar serves up a killer nutty vegan tahini martini.
24-32 King William Street, EC4R 9AT; +44 20 7621 1850
Opened August 2019
What Continuing London’s pasta “love affair” is new self-styled pasta workshop Officina 00, between Old Street and Farringdon in East London. Helmed by Italians Elia Sebregondi and Enzo Mirto, it is, for now, still under the radar. Expect a tight-knit daily-changing menu of fresh pasta with every dish under £10.
Order this Pull up a seat at the emerald-green-tiled bar and watch chefs at work making delicate corzetti with wild mushroom and fennel, or linguine with egg yolk, clams and lemon.
156 Old Street, EC1V 9BW; +44 20 8037 7161
Opened May 2019
What Cult noodle spot Xi’an Impression next to Arsenal Stadium just opened a central London location in Holborn – meaning no more journeys up the Piccadilly Line for those famous biang biang noodles. Restaurant critic Giles Coren is a fan.
Order this Though the biang biang beef noodles have made headlines, make sure you order a portion of the shredded chicken with spicy sauce that the Guardian deemed “remarkable”.
13 Cosmo Place, WC1N 3AP, +44 20 7209 6888
On the Bab
Opened March 2019
What It’s been slowly building up a reputation in London for a while now, but the largest restaurant from lauded Korean fried chicken joint On the Bab opened in March this year, over two floors in a hidden courtyard off Archer Street in Soho. Expect rainbow crunchy salads and the crispy fried chicken that the chain is famous for.
Order this The new dish on the menu is the veggie dooboo bab (tofu cooked in spicy gochujang sauce with Asian vegetables) but the yangnyum Korean fried chicken will always be the star of the show here.
9a Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7AX; +44 20 7734 2972
Opened April 2019
What London Bridge now has another street-food market to rival Borough. Vinegar Yard hosts art installations, pop-up vintage markets and food trucks in the shadow of The Shard.
Order this Prosecco and English sparkling wine courtesy of Bubble Bros and Indian-style “naanwiches” from Baba G’s. Their “crazy lamb jalfrezi” bhangra burger comes loaded with mint raita, mango pulp and fresh chilli pickle.
72-82 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QU
Opened August 2019
What The newest food court in the city sure knows how to put on a show. Arcade Food Theatre in revamped Centre Point on Tottenham Court Road brings seven of the best restaurants in London under one roof. There are no newbies so it doesn’t matter what you take a punt on – everything is tried, tested and delicious here. Japanese Tou by Tata Eatery has a katsu sandwich shop and beloved 75-year-old Italian deli Lina Stores piles up plates of freshly made pasta.
Order this Wafer-thin parpadelle with slow-cooked veal ragu loaded with rosemary and sage from Lina Stores.
103-105 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DB; +44 20 7519 1202
Opened June 2018
What It started as a cult-followed food truck and now has its first permanent address in Bermondsey (close to The Shard). Opened last summer, it’s already been a big hit with the critics (“a little short of sublime,” says the Financial Times’ Tim Hayward).
Order this Without doubt, by far the two most accomplished dishes on the menu here are the crunchy tuna tacos and the superb, hyperbole-worthy crayfish-lobster roll made with perfectly buttered brioche, mayo and celery salt. The kind of comfort food you can’t stop thinking about. The wine list, too, has way below average mark-ups for this part of town.
Unit 71 St Thomas Street, Bermondsey, SE1 3QX; +44 20 7407 7099
Opened March 2019
What Coming to the capital from a street-food stall on the corner of New York’s West 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue, the Halal Guys are serving up their queue-around-the-block halal eats: chicken, beef or gyro platters.
Order this The platter of chicken and gyro over rice with red and white sauce, of course. At just under £8 it’s one of the best-value meals in the city.
14-15 Irving Street, Charing Cross, WC2H 7AU; +44 20 8706 0307
And the classic cheap eats…
What A cavernous French dining hall in Piccadilly Circus that offers the best prix fixe menu in town: £10.50 for two courses that include steak haché with chips and délice au chocolat noir. The late Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Gill loved it so much he even wrote a book about it.
20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED; +44 20 7734 4888
What The pasta restaurant that started it all. Chances are you’ll see the queue for Padella before the restaurant itself. Tucked into Borough Market, this restaurant serves up fresh pasta from £4 that has to be tasted to be believed – just arrive early.
6 Southwark Street, SE1 1TQ
What A London Bombay café chain that’s now a mini empire. Come for their sausage and egg naan breakfast rolls and stay for the unlimited free refills of milky chai tea.
7 Boundary Street, Hackney, E2 7JE; +44 20 7420 9324
What A 25-year-old Mayfair Spanish tapería with warm interiors and even warmer staff. Go for the grilled langoustines in garlic, tomato and white wine for just £11.50 or visit at lunchtime for good-value set menus.
5-6 Down Street, Mayfair, W1J 7AQ; +44 20 7491 3810
What A visit to the rival 24-hour bagel shops next door to each other on the East End’s Brick Lane is mandatory. Beigel Bake, serving since 1974, just pips The Beigel Shop to the post though. As for what to order, make it salmon with a slick of cream cheese or salt beef with pickle and mustard. Best eaten on the street, of course.
159 Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6SB