Whether you pine for its seedier past, or are content with its newly gentrified aura, Soho has always been associated in one way or another with, ahem, entertainment. Handily located for West End theatres and the Oxford Circus shopping district, where once its bars and eateries would have been filled with spirited, bohemian souls, they are now patronised largely by the area’s office workers and tourists.
And, while many opine the difficulty these changes pose for independent businesses, when it comes to restaurants, the influx of money into the area has seen it flourish as one of the finest places to eat in the capital. From tiny basement dining rooms to Michelin-starred favourites, here’s our guide to the best restaurants in Soho right now.
In summer 2019 chefs Chris Leach and David Carter set up shop in a temporary space at 10 Heddon Street, serving up the kind of fresh pasta and nose-to-tail dining that London’s foodies will never tire of. It was roundly praised but, always intended as a pop-up, was gone before many could get themselves a table. Happily, the team behind 10 Heddon Street now have a permanent space on Great Marlborough Street and are serving up a menu which builds on the British-Italian original under a new name: Manteca.
The homemade focaccia, pig head fritti and duck ragu fazzoletti that made the original such a hit remain, while having found a permanent home has allowed the kitchen to expand into classic Italian larger plates, such as slow-cooked cull ewe mutton shoulder, as well as a short but well thought out dessert list. The cocktail menu, which features Manteca’s extensive amaro selection, is not to be overlooked.
Taking its name from its mission to bring the best of LA’s Californian cooking to Soho, SO|LA opened in September 2019 and earned a coveted Michelin star in the 2021 guide. Helmed by chef patron Victor Garvey, who credits his upbringing between New York and Barcelona for his global outlook on food, menus come in the form of a five-course prix fixe (£89) or eight-course tasting (£139). Dishes rely heavily on seasonal produce, with summer’s seafood heavy menus featuring langoustine with mushroom, ginger and dashi, crab with pea, miso and tosazu, and turbot with caviar, leek and yuzu kosho. The wine list is also full of interesting American options, with bottles from Long Island, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Napa - opt for the premium wine pairing to sample the best.
Upscale Indian cooking is something that London has come to excel at in recent years, with Gymkhana, Bombay Bustle, Amaya and many more each offering their own take on the country’s varied cuisine. Fans of the trend shouldn’t miss Kricket, an industrially styled space close to Piccadilly Circus, serving up crowd-pleasing dishes packed with the flavours of South Asia.
Keen to impress that it offers food inspired by India, this is not the place to go if you’re looking for the capital’s most authentic Indian food. What you will get, however, is an unusual and memorable meal that cherry picks the best of the country’s rich foodie heritage and combines it with Western influences. The samphire pakoras, Keralan fried chicken and rabbit and pork fat kebab aren’t to be missed. Kick things off with a Gone South cocktail (mezcal, coconut oil, curry leaf and agave) for a fitting introduction.
If one of your biggest gripes with the London restaurant scene is how difficult it can be to find a booking at a reasonable hour, Evelyn’s Table may not be the restaurant for you. Tucked away beneath the Blue Posts on Rupert Street and offering just 20 covers per day, waiting lists can be long but, should you persevere, you’ll find a unique dining experience well worth the patience.
Helmed by chef Luke Selby, who cut his teeth at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Hide, to name a few, the ever-changing five-course tasting menu melds great British produce with Selby’s classical French training and knowledge of Japanese flavours and techniques. Aided in the kitchen by his brothers Nat and Theo, the counter set-up of the restaurant makes for an experience that is more foodie theatre than a standard meal out. One for those who take their dinner seriously.
If you’ve never been to Lina Stores you’ve almost certainly admired its pistachio-hued exterior. An extension of the original delicatessen on Brewer Street – a store almost impossible to pass without dreaming of cacio e pepe and gelato – this elegant Greek Street space is a go-to for reliably delicious handmade pasta, excellent antipasti and an Italian aperitivo and wine list to rival any in the capital.
The space is small so booking ahead is highly recommended. However, should you be lucky enough to snag one of the al fresco walk-in spots you’ll be treated to some of the best people watching in the city: this really is dinner and a show. Start with fried artichokes and tuna carpaccio before moving on to Lina Store’s signature pasta dishes. There really is no bad choice here but, if forced, we’d recommend the 30-yolk tagliolini with black truffle, butter and parmesan every time.
Bob Bob Ricard
You know Bob Bob Ricard – the hugely opulent Soho mainstay that launched a thousand Instagram posts with its ‘Press for champagne’ buttons. Accordingly, it holds the record for pouring the most champagne of any restaurant in Britain but, if you can drag yourself away from the bubbles, you’ll find a food menu that sparkles in its own right.
Working the pots and pans is head chef Tom Peters, who joined the restaurant in August 2020 after honing his craft at Roux at Parliament Square, Maeemo in Oslo and as a finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals in 2017. Featuring both Peters’ take on modern British cuisine, alongside influences from Russian owner and restaurateur Leonid Shutov, there’s a menu of vodka shots served at -18°C, alongside an extensive caviar offering and Bob Bob Ricard classics, including a bone-in chicken Kiev, Been Wellington and lobster macaroni and cheese. Brunch lovers should be sure to book a mid-morning table to experience the restaurant’s hugely popular waffle and Bellini hour.
With locations in Soho and Chelsea, Polpo is another of the capital’s eateries serving up the best primi and secondi you’ll find outside of Italy. This time inspiration comes from the rich culinary heritage of Venice, with the menu dominated by small plates of cicchetti and pizzette, all designed to be enjoyed alongside the restaurant’s impressive offering of Italian reds, whites and cocktails. Unconstrained by a starter, mains and dessert structure (in fact, there are no desserts here), allow yourself to meander around the menu, ordering an olive tapenade crostini here, a soft egg, spinach and Parmesan pizette there, while encouraging your dining companions to add some calamari fritti and gnocchi in sea urchin butter for the table, to create a dining experience as long and luxurious as an afternoon spent lounging beside a gently lapping canal.
With four locations across the capital, Barrafina has pretty much got the Spanish tapas scene sewn up and it’s the original (and now Michelin-starred) outpost on Dean Street we’d recommend booking. Owned by brothers Sam and Eddie Hart, also of Quo Vadis and El Pastor fame, Barrafina specialises in authentic tapas taken from the varied cooking traditions of Spain’s different regions, accompanied by a succinct list of Cavas, Spanish sherries and wines.
The core menu is dominated by familiar dishes taken back to their roots, including pan con tomate, gambas rojas and prawn and piquillo pepper tortilla. A daily changing list of specials – for which there is a dedicated Instagram account – is also worth exploring for its seasonality. Recent highlights have included cod cheek fritura, piquillo croquetas and Presa Iberica.
Part of the Gladwin Brothers' ever-expanding empire of modern British restaurants, which also includes The Shed in Notting Hill, Rabbit in Chelsea and Nutbourne in Battersea, Sussex specialises in local and foraged produce treated with proper care and attention. The majority of the high-welfare meat comes from the Gladwin farm while much of the wine list also hails from the family vineyard in West Sussex. When it comes to food, you’re unlikely to find a truer family affair.
Food at Sussex falls squarely into the British classics done right category, with Maldon oysters, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, roasted guineafowl, Beef Wellington and Dover sole all featuring. Special seasonal menus and regular events also provide a big part of the draw at Sussex, with the restaurant regularly hosting guest chefs, such as Masterchef: The Professionals 2020 winner Alex Webb, and one-off feasts to celebrate foodie events such as the Glorious Twelfth.
The first London offering from chef proprietor Civan Er, whose Istanbul eatery Yeni Lokanta is one the city’s most highly regarded, Yeni blends open fire cooking with fine British ingredients for a fresh take on Turkish culinary traditions. All dishes are designed to be shared and there’s plenty for vegans and vegetarians – who, understandably, often hear the words ‘open fire’ and assume it’s not for them – to get stuck in to.
Do, however, expect, your palate to be challenged – there are combinations here you almost certainly haven’t tried before. Think smoked tomatoes with watermelon and spicy sour cherry sorbet or lemon sole with monk’s beard and green plums. Feeling brave? Opt for the carte blanche tasting menu and let chef Er send out a parade of whatever he deems to be best that day.