Near to, but not quite in, Chinatown, this much-praised restaurant specializes in food from the northern provinces. It also claims to be the oldest Chinese restaurant in London. There's an emphasis on seafood, which has to be a good thing when it results in the kind of prawn cakes and soft-shell crab you get here. But there's nothing fishy about the most talked about menu item, the Mongolian Lamb. Service is intimate and unhurried, and the wine list is notable for a venue that specializes in food, not booze. The proprietor talks about the balance of yin and yang in a menu, and is happy to help you choose from his varied menu, or just let you have your head. TUBE: Piccadilly Circus
Mark Hix is one of the British food scene's rising stars. He has to date 6 restaurants in London and one in Lyme Regis. Not bad for someone who set up first in 2008 in his own name. Hix restaurants regularly collaborate with the art and hotel world in London, and can sometimes be found in 'pop up' form at various galleries and gatherings before later establishing themselves as a fixed restaurant. Expect delicious twists on British classics, and all the best from Europe with British ingredients wherever possible. Menus change daily, and are based on seasonal food. Downstairs is the eccentric cocktail bar, Mark's, with an 'apothecary bar' and some brilliant cocktails from the mixologist Lee Potter Cavanagh. Decor is simple with quirky twists, making sure that once you're in the building, all your senses are delighted.
This place does great steaks and fine dining with humour and a twist. Like everything in the Hawksmoor empire, meat is a must here. Of course they do cater for non meat eaters too, but if you like steaks you'll love this place. One of their current favourites is the Short Rib French Dip. A brioche style sweet bun, stuffed with slow braised short rib and melted Oglesfield cheese, a kind of British / French take on the Philly steak. On the side is a dish of rich gravy for dipping, their own website describes it as a 'culinary Lindsey Lohan', their explanation because it's rich and messy, and I would add deliciously naughty. They have consistently won the 'Best Steakhouse' in London plaudits, and they travelled the globe to get inspiration before coming back and setting up.
There is always a queue outside Misato, in London's wardour street, and much of it features Japanese young people. It is also a favoured place for students and those in the centre of town after some Japanese food for a relatively good price. You can get all the Sushi, Sashimi and Bento that you could think of here, plus great plates of rice, home made coleslaw which is delicious and fish or meat, either deep fried, grilled or steamed or covered in sticky sauces. This is not rarefied dining, tables are simple, water is plentyful, and comes in plastic beakers, and the service is fast and furious. Be prepared to queue up to get in, make sure that you take enough cash to pay for your meal, as they don't accept credit or debit cards, and as soon as you've finished, be prepared to clear out very quickly.
The Pitt Cue Co started just over a year ago as a pop up American barbecue van under London's Hungerford bridge. Tom Adams is the chef brains behind this venture, and after serving finger licking food out of his van, he moved his operations to Soho. Pulled pork, coleslaw, crunchy pickles, beef brisket are all on the menu here, so anyone who likes slow smoked American style barbecue in London should make a beeline for this place. Everything comes served in enamel bowls or tin trays, giving it that trendy diner feel, as though you were in the middle of a world recession; and oh yes, you are!
The Golden Union Fish Bar, in the heart of party district, Soho, celebrates serving the British fish and chip supper for 150 years. All their fish is caught in Icelandic waters, and they change their oil regularly to make sure that you always get a freshly cooked taste. Apart from cod, plaice and haddock, they also serve up coley and pollock, rock salmon and fish bites. If you don't want fish, but your friends do, then you can have saveloy or sausage in batter with your chips, and enjoy a nostalgic milkshake or a great glass of wine or London ale with your meal too. They make their own mushy peas and tartar sauce to their secret recipes and jars of pickled onions glisten on the counter as you enter to spice up your meal with a welcome bit of acidity and crunch.
Le Garrick is a little bit of France in the heart of the theatre district and Covent Garden. It's tiny tables and cosy ambiance means it's a perfect place to warm you up in winter, or chill out outside in summer. Perhaps because of the French influence of the place, it's very romantic, but also great for catching up with friends. The menus are classic French, with delicious Soupe a l'oignon (French onion soup) steak and pommes frites all cooked to perfection. The excellent wine list means you can pop in for a simple aperitif and a salad or nibbles if you want, and then roll on through the evening with a good bottle of red and a hearty cassoulet.
Tokyo Diner is a great place to go for a quick bite to eat before a show, or a longer meal with friends. It's reasonably priced food and diner style means it's a favourite with Japanese people in London, and those in the know, looking for relatively authentic Japanese style restaurants. Bento boxes allow you to sample many different things from the menu, and the meals that come with rice / fish or meat or noddles will fill you up against the London winter before you hit Soho, the bright lights and the big city. The great thing about this place is they state that you don't have to leave a tip, so you can save money and enjoy some delicious food all at the same time.
Bocca di Lupo literally means 'mouth of the wolf' and on the restaurant's website their tag line is 'for when you're hungry like a wolf', it's also an Italian expression for good luck! The food is good, and authentically Italian, the only quibble are the prices which although matching London standards and not too bad, are a lot more than you'd pay in Italy, particularly for things like 'fritti romani' that you can eat much more cheaply in any pizzeria in Rome. That said, it's worth it for a special night out in London. The rose and cucumber martini's are to die for, the fritti crisp and the meat well cooked. The wine list, broken down in to regional categories is well chosen and for the very big spenders among you, they've also got a bottle of barolo for over 2000 pounds!
Barshu is an elegant building on Frith Street, done up in the gold and red of the Chinese Emperors. The restaurant stretches over several floors, with different types of public dining rooms and 3 private dining rooms too. Sichuan opera masks hang from the ceiling, a statue of the Buddha presides over the main dining room . Hanging lanterns pretify all the rooms and make the gilt and gold glitter alluringly. The food is mainly Sichuan Chinese, so think spicy and good. Fuchsia Dunlop is a consultant for the restaurant, and she's already the author of two great cookbooks on Sichuan cookery, having studied cooking in the country and speaking Mandarin perfectly. She is the leading authority on that region's cooking in London, and has already attracted the restaurant some great reviews.