1 Westgate St., Hackney
Bright is exactly that. Tables are a bleached blonde, sun-saturated wood; walls are creamy linen white that borders on yellow; and the restaurant’s front is made entirely of glass. Settle into the high stools and rest against the wall. Bright speaks to the diner who wants to sink their teeth into perfectly toasted sourdough glistening with paper-thin cured pork belly, grilled radicchio stalks drowned in preserved cherries, and ropes of tagliolini swirled in porcini butter. And then there’s the wine. The owners are also the mavericks behind P. Franco and Noble Rot (two beloved London wine establishments), and the list is in line with their low-intervention, small-growers-only credo.
Din Tai Fung
5 Henrietta St., Covent Garden
Ask any Los Angeleno which restaurant justifies a slow crawl across the I-10 on a weeknight and the answer is almost always Din Tai Fung. The experience runs like a finely oiled machine from start to finish, to the point that it's (blessedly) predictable and outrageously tasty. Now, with an outpost open in Covent Garden, Londoners can breathe easy. Yes, you will wait, but you’ll wait with a ticket and a tick-the-box menu for no longer than half an hour. Once you’re seated, those delectable soup dumplings will be on the table in minutes, and the whole thing will cost you less than your weekly coffee order.
1 Bedale St., Southwark
The masterminds behind beloved Shoreditch institution Lyle’s opened their second restaurant amid fruit hawkers and oyster shuckers on London’s tastiest block of real estate—Borough Market. Flor is that around-the-corner casually excellent spot you look for when you move to a new neighborhood. It’s wine bar and it’s also a bakery; it’s the spot where you grab a coffee and croissant on the way to work and come back with friends for dinner. All the baked goods and bread are made from the finest British wheat milled at sister restaurant Lyle’s, and with produce fresh from local farms and an all-star kitchen, we will be treating Flor as our personal canteen next time we're in town.
30 Henrietta St., Covent Garden
London is the kind of city where residents find it perfectly reasonable to eat sashimi flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market for lunch and an authentic Bangladeshi curry for dinner. Global cuisine is London cuisine—and vice versa. But when all you crave is unintimidating, wholesome grub executed well (especially before a night at the theater), Cora Pearl delivers. From the same people as Mayfair’s Kitty Fisher’s, the menu is made for rainy Sundays when only a rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding will do. Monday through Saturday however, Cora Pearl's ham and cheese toastie with pickles, proper thick-cut chips, and old-fashioned trifle to share keep us quiet and contentedly well-fed.
4 St. James's Market, St. James
Mayfair and St. James have a reputation for being stuffy and formal (which they are), but these days, some of the capital’s best food is hiding behind the neighborhoods' shiny storefronts. That’s Scully. Chef Ramuel Scully is a global citizen, with Chinese, Indian, Irish, and Balinese heritage plus a Sydney upbringing, and you can taste all that on the plate. Dinner at Scully might look something like: slow-cooked eggplant paired with preserved lemons and spoonfuls of creamy curd, chili-marinated goat tempered with cooling labneh, the best tomato salad of your life, and a wine list that stands up to the food. And the interior is that classic medley of elegant greys and an open kitchen synonymous with upscale dining from London to Los Angeles. But the jars of pickles and ferments, the sheer artistry of each plate, and the feverish excitement when you finally get to dig in push Scully to the top of our reservation list.
11 Harrington Rd., Kensington
Lunch on the go can be a conundrum. One the one hand, you know you should eat something healthy and green. But you also want to feel full and not have to go miles out of your way to pick it up. For those based in West London, there’s Squirrel. The menu of build-your-own bowls is full of proteins, vegetables, and tasty add-ins like feta, avocado, and pickled onions, which make these salads feel like full-on meals. They are filling enough to stave off the dreaded 3 p.m. hunger pangs, but light enough to stop any midafternoon snoozing at your desk. Our standing order when in town is chicken or salmon mixed with nutty quinoa, kale, pickled onions, and a boiled egg—all tossed in a citrusy sumac dressing. You can order for delivery or pickup, and it never takes more than thirty minutes for your biodegradable bowl to arrive or be ready. Best of all, it’s consistent, and lunch is exactly as you order it every time.
149 Upper St., Islington
Three friends with careers in law and finance have come together to open their passion project: Slaw. The menu is rooted in the kind of plant-based, root-to-stem cooking that they love to eat, eliminating as much waste as possible. The interior feels straight out of Copenhagen, with chevron wood flooring, white-painted brick walls, and stacks of firewood heaped in the corners. You immediately want to settle into one of the wicker chairs and start eating. Bowls of squash and barley risotto topped with hazelnut crumb, a plate of garlicky chickpeas, and spicy, slow-roasted tomatoes are so nourishing and satisfying, you’ll hardly miss the meat—and that’s exactly the point.
Level 5, 95a Rye Ln., Peckham
Peckham is a neighborhood deep in Southeast London, and it’s experiencing an urban renaissance. And Peckham Levels—a multistory creative space that addresses the working needs of the modern multihyphenate—embodies this breath of fresh air. Wildflower is the Level’s canteen, where global vegetarian food is served—the type beloved in this culturally diverse area. A typical menu includes coconut dal with fried eggs and flatbread for breakfast, locally baked sourdough, all manner of roasted and glazed vegetables, and affogatos for dessert, spiked with Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. As is the case with most spots in this area, the décor is simple and utilitarian, with long tables for communal dining and plenty of greenery. Wildflower’s health-driven menu is affordable, too, which means those communal tables are always heaving with a loyal, local crowd.
30 Uxbridge St., Notting Hill
Tucked discreetly behind Notting Hill Gate Station, Egg Break is West London’s smallest and best-kept secret. Opened by the team from Soho House and the Hoxton hotel, Egg Break is, despite its name, not just for breakfast. In fact, we love it for lunch. Crispy fried chicken and waffles—drizzled in a generous amount of maple syrup—is our go-to, or if we’re keeping it light, the grilled halloumi with avocado and kale. Weekday mornings and early afternoons are always blessedly quiet here, which means there’s no problem taking over a table to get some work done solo.
51 Greek St., Soho
Every Londoner who frequents Soho knows Lina Stores. The Italian deli has occupied the same spot for close to eighty years, keeping pantries stocked with obscure pastas and excellent tomato sauce. The owners have had the good sense to open a restaurant on nearby Greek Street, and we can confidently say the pasta here is better than anywhere else in the area. Sit at the bar—it’s always the best seat anyway—and watch the chefs prepare your dinner. Classic Roman puntarelle (a bitter chicory) is on the menu, doused, as it should be, in a salty anchovy dressing. Pappardelle arrives in a rich rabbit ragu. The crab pasta is spicy and citrusy, and the gnudi smothered in brown butter and sage are is so good we ordered two. Bonus: practically every dish costs less than ten pounds.
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