The London Hipster Guide
Many of the city’s young creatives roam the streets of East London, opening and popularizing a lot of the city’s most interesting restaurants, shops, and bars. (Don’t worry if East London isn’t in your plans: There are hipster-approved spots dotted across the city.)
Smoking Goat7 Denmark St., Soho
Waits can be long to get in at this dimly-lit Soho hole in the wall, even late into the night. But the street food-inspired, Thai wood-ember barbecue snacks and small plates are supposedly worth it (specifically the whole chili crab and the chicken wings doused in fish sauce). The kitchen is helmed by Chef Seb Holmes, though we hear Andy Ricker of Pok Pok’s influence is pretty unmissable.
Lee’s Seafood134 Columbia Rd., Shoreditch
The definition of hole-in-the wall, this completely undecorated storefront on Columbia Road serves up Lee's legendary seafood and a recent turn to Cumberland sausage rolls, which are heavenly. Lee also serves Monmouth coffee and hot chocolate. This is a great stop on market days; keep a lookout as it's easy to miss.
Caravan11-13 Exmouth Mkt., Clerkenwell | +44.20.7833.8115
The scrumptious, simple, yet interesting food (squid pancakes, for example) and hip yet relaxed Exmouth Market vibe make this one of our favorite places for brunch. It's also a great place to go for a coffee (which is roasted on-site) to linger over and enjoy with a book. This spot became so popular that they opened up a much bigger, industrial-inflected space at Kings Cross that serves the same great mix of small plates.
Berber & QArch 338, Acton Mews, Hackney | +44.20.7923.0829
Though meat, and generous hunks of it at that, is the main attraction at this Middle-Eastern BBQ joint, the array of pickles and vegetarian side dishes are a major highlight here—the Moroccan Spiced Carrots and Blackened Eggplant are pretty great, just to name a couple. In fact, we'd build a meal out of side dishes alone here. We'd also recommend sharing plates with a group and coming ready for a night out as the cocktails, each with their own Middle Eastern twist, are lots of fun as is the music that ramps up as the night rolls on.
Bao53 Lexington St., Soho
Baos are soft, doughy rice-and-milk buns, stuffed with any number of Taiwanese-style delicacies, like slow-cooked pork or daikon. And there are lines out the door for them at this sleek, wood-lined shoebox of a spot in Soho at any given time of day. (They also serve really good battered fries and chicken nuggets.) Like many good things in London, the founders first gained popularity for their Baos with a roving market stall that's still going in Hackney (where the lines are just as long). They're so popular that only a few months later, they opened another spot in Fitzrovia which is just as popular (if not more.)
Corner RoomTown Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, Bethnal Green | +44.20.7871.0460
This is a charming neighborhood restaurant housed in an old town hall turned hotel. The crowd is local, the decor is simple, and the food is great and well-priced. There are no reservations in the evenings so come early or book for lunch and have the set menu.
Hoi Polloi100 Shoreditch High St., Shoreditch | +44.20.8880.6100
This cool dining room in the Ace Hotel comes from the team behind Bistrotheque. It's a perfect mixture of posh and hip, with interiors by London's most in-demand duo, Barber & Osgerby, and waiters in Carharts, Nikes, and sweatshirts. Come for the cocktails and shared plates (we loved the crab salad) or for the New York style weekend brunch.
Lupita13-15 Villiers St., Kensington | +44.20.7930.5355
Brought to London by Mexico City's leading taqueria, this place delivers real Mexican street food to Villiers street, from quesadillas with cheese and Mexican cactus to shredded pork carnitas. It can get crowded, so be sure to make a reservation. If you happen to drop by, you can always order a margarita while you wait. There are two other outposts.
Sager + Wilde Paradise Row250 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green | +44.20.7613.0478
After cutting their teeth on the vineyards in Napa, Charlotte and Michael Sager-Wilde brought their love for great Californian wines back to London, where they’re something of a rarity. A meal at their first large restaurant venture, under converted railway arches in Bethnal Green, is pretty transporting (and a lot less than a ticket to Napa), pairing wonderful wines with an Italian-influenced seasonal menu of small plates. The terrace upstairs tucked into one of the railway arches, makes a great spot for a private meal; meanwhile, winos will love checking out the Sager-Wilde's collection in the room's glass cave.
Monocle Café18 Chiltern St., Marylebone | +44.20.7135.2040
There's Taco Salad, Bircher Muesli, a Shrimp Katsu Sandwich, and some pretty unreal baked goods including the Cardamom bun, on this menu. It's basically the greatest hits of international café cuisine, all brought to you by the editors of Monocle magazine. The space is light and modern, with a cozy living room space that's perfect for meetings.
Pitt Cue Co.The Avenue, 1 Devonshire Square, Spitalfields | +44.20.7324.7770
Having started off as a roving barbecue van, Pitt Cue Co. now has its very own brick-and-mortar location in a cool corner space in Soho. Their American-style BBQ is excellent but we especially love the sides (green chili stew and grilled baby gem lettuces) and the rowdy whiskey bar. It's great for a lively dinner out, but be prepared to line up—it's tiny in here, like, 30-seats-only tiny. Photo: Paul Winch-Furness
Polpo41 Beak St., Soho | +44.20.7734.4479
The décor, from artfully peeled paint to battered wood floors, is as spot-on as the no-fuss Venetian small plates here. The menu ranges from a simple bowl of olives to an intricate cuttlefish concoction. It can be a wait to get a seat at this locale, which is why the bar downstairs serving classic Italian cocktails is often our first port of call. The success of the first location prompted the opening of several more iterations across London.
Bel-Air54 Paul St., Shoreditch | +44.20.3774.8681
Inspired by a trip to LA and all its laid-back, healthy eateries, Andrew Bredon opened his own interpretation in London in early 2015. While he can't quite import the sunshine, he has managed to bring a healthy approach to food that is otherwise hard to find in London—it's not often you run into a to-go spot that has gluten-free and dairy free-options for both breakfast and lunch. He's also managed to create a space that has a nice informal quality with white marble tables and cheery yellow accents. We're expecting (and hoping) to see more pop up all over the city soon.
Honey & Co.25a Warren St., Fitzrovia | +44.20.7388.6175
Owned by a former head chef from Ottolenghi, this Middle Eastern/European restaurant offers a sophisticated and inventive menu of amazing mezes (think preserved lemons, pickled radishes, etc.) and not-too-sweet baked goods. The ingredients here are top notch and in addition to interesting small plates, they do the simple things really well (we had one of the best bib salads with fig and honey here). It's a tiny space but chic and cozy. Call for a reservation.
Sager & Wilde193 Hackney Rd., Hackney | +44.20.8127.7330
Like all good ideas, the premise of this Hackney wine bar is wonderfully simple: Buy quality wines in bulk so customers can order by the glass or bottle at very reasonable prices. You'll find excellent and unusual varieties from every corner of the wine-producing world, including Napa, Sicily, and Languedoc, along with a short but equally generous snack menu. We recommend the grilled cheese sandwich, which is actually kind of perfect with a glass of red wine.
Andina1 Redchuch St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7920.6499
The first of its kind in London, Andina offers up the concept of Andean “picanterias”—casual, family-run community restaurants. Serving up fresh juices and smoothies, a variety of ceviches, Quinoa Burgers, and the like, it’s one of our go-tos for a healthy, well-priced meal in Shoreditch.
Pizza Pilgrims11 Dean St., Soho | +44.20.7287.8964
Like all good things in London, this burgeoning chainlet is growing fast. Once a beloved food truck with a cleverly built-in pizza oven, it now has not one but two (as of last week) bricks-and-mortar outposts. The thin-crust pizza at all their charmingly lo-fi locations is superb, as are the negronis and affogato. At the new spot off Carnaby, we’re looking forward to fried pizza courtesy of their first authentic Neapolitan fryer—the guys spent a couple of weeks in Naples recently to learn the art of frying pretty much everything. There's also a location in Exmouth Market.
The Lockhart22-24 Seymour Pl., Marylebone | +44.20.3011.5400
Chef Brad McDonald and his wife Molly moved into the Lockhart space recently, shaking up the quiet backstreets of Marylebone with their brand of down-home Missisippi cooking. On a hot day, Molly pours sweet iced tea while customers choose between the fried chicken, the muffuletta (the meatiest of sandwiches), and the best shrimp grits this side of the Thames. It's true Southern cooking so it's heavy, but under this chef's watch, not unnecessarily so. Whatever you do, order a side of cornbread, which comes slathered in butter and honey. Get there early on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, for Brad and Molly's delicious side-project, 1235 Donuts.
Palomar34 Rupert St., Soho | +44.20.7439.8777
With a focus on the food of Jerusalem, the décor here is sleek and fun, as evidenced by the deep jewel toned leather banquettes and hot pink neon lights. There's a long, bustling bar serving drinks and dinner to walk-ins from the short and shareable menu. Our picks: Delicious "Moroccan" oysters (a Jersey oyster with Moroccan-inspired sauce) and the insane stovetop or "Plancha" dishes, like a rich and creamy polenta with buttery layers of mushroom, asparagus, and parmesan.
Dishoom7 Boundary St., Shoreditch | +44.20.7420.9324
This relatively new and growing chain of modern Indian restaurants reveals a new dimension to a city already well-versed in the cuisine. Expertly decorated to resemble an old Iranian Bombay cafe, the vibe is casual and, as tradition dictates, ideal for both large groups and singles reading the paper and having a chai. The long menu of rotis, naans, grilled meats, and stews is spice-inflected but not necessarily curry heavy. There are three more locations in King's Cross, Carnaby, and Covent Garden.