Bao, Various Locations
With locations in Soho, Fitzrovia and Borough Market, Taiwanese steamed bun experts Bao make the best buns in the capital. There’s often a queue outside, so be prepared to wait, but once you’re in, expect signature buns stuffed with the likes of tender pork belly with peanut powder and pickled lettuce; soy milk marinated fried chicken with kimchi and Sichuan mayo; and lamb shoulder with coriander sauce, garlic mayo and soy pickled chili. Save room for something sweet – there’s a fried Horlicks ice cream bao on the menu that’s definitely worth sampling.
Price: Dishes from £3.25.
Locations in Soho, Fitzrovia and Borough
Brasserie Zédel, Soho
A longstanding French restaurant from the team behind The Wolseley and The Delaunay, Brasserie Zédel offers traditional Gallic dishes in beautiful art-deco surroundings (it’s been described by Pierre Koffman as “the only real brasserie in London”). We like to opt for the surprisingly affordable set menu, which allows diners to tuck into a carrot salad, followed steak haché with French fries and pepper sauce for just £10.50. Away from cassoulet and escargot, there are cracking cocktails to be had in Bar Americain, and live music in cabaret bar Crazy Coqs.
Price: Prix fixe menu from £10.95 for two courses.
20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED
Lina Stores, King’s Cross & Soho
Much-loved Soho pasta joint Lina Stores now has a second site in King’s Cross. Within a Victorian transit shed behind Granary Square, the location is bedecked in the deli’s signature green and white stripes, and stocked with the very best Italian pantry essentials to eat in or take away. Diners can enjoy the theatre of the open kitchen while they wait for dishes – such as crab, scallop and prawn rondini and pappardelle with ox-tail ragu and provolone piccante – to arrive. A pared-back selection of secondi includes ‘overnight’ beef cheeks.
Price: Pasta from £6.
21 Stable Street, King’s Cross, N1C 4DR and 51 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4EH
Homeslice, Various Locations
This small chain of pizza restaurants started as a pop-up in Neal’s Yard and now has permanent venues in Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Marylebone, White City, Shoreditch and the City. It’s noisy, informal and wouldn’t look out of place on any street corner in Brooklyn. If you’re going for a full pizza, go 50/50: one half with the fresh, garlicky courgette and artichoke; on the other, the rich, flavourful Neal’s Yard Dairy four cheese, jalapeno salsa and rye crumb.
Price: Pizza slices from £4.
Locations in Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, City, White City and Marylebone
The Borough Market Kitchen, Borough
Last year, Borough Market celebrated 21 years as a pillar of London’s food community by introducing The Borough Market Kitchen, a new communal dining space. The venue plays host to over 20 food traders, who cook with the market’s seasonal produce. Familiar favourites such as La Tua Pasta and Horn OK sit alongside newcomers including Mei Mei by chef Elizabeth Haigh and a new pintxos bar from Mimo London. As the space comes to life each lunchtime, the market is filled with long tables where guests can tuck into everything from Iranian scotch eggs from Scotchtails to traditional Jamaican dishes cooked by Rudie’s Jerk Shack.
Price: Mei Mei chicken macaroni soup, £4.50.
8 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TL
BaoziInn, Various Locations
Baozilnn’s four restaurants serve authentic, well-priced northern Chinese street food. Baozilnn, which means ‘people’s canteen’, has grown a loyal following for its all-day Cantonese dim sum with Hunan and Sichuan influences. Star dishes include prawn and pork wontons; chengdu jiaozi dumplings (steamed ground pork dumplings) drenched in XO sauce; and classic xiao long bao with minced pork and scallop. Away from the dumplings, make sure to leave room for the group’s handmade dan dan noodles in homemade soy sauce, sesame sauce, peanut sauce and minced pork. It’s one of the capital’s very best dishes.
Price: Dumplings from £4.90.
Locations in Borough, Soho, Victoria and Chinatown
In the middle of Brixton Village, this tiny Japanese eatery specialises in Osaka street food such as yaki soba, yaki udon and okonomiyaki pancakes. It’s a busy place, but you can usually beat the queues if you swing by around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. Be sure to try the okonomiyaki, served with prawns, squid kimchi and sweetcorn – it’s authentic and delicious.
Price: All dishes from £2-£9.
Brixton Village, Brixton, SW9 8PR
Bánh Bánh, Brixton & Peckham
Bánh Bánh serves a range of Vietnamese favourites, from bbq beef in betel leaves to sticky chicken wings and bánh khot pancakes (mini turmeric and coconut pancakes with tiger prawns and shrimp), all inspired by the owners' grandmother’s recipe book from when she worked as a chef in Saigon in the 1940s. Its menu has a strong Viet/French influence and a wide selection of vegan dishes. Standout plates include the eggs bò né, a classic Vietnamese version of steak and eggs with beef steak, pâté, grilled tomato and a fried egg, served with a warm baguette.
Price: Small dishes from £5.
326 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH and 46 Peckham Rye, Peckham, SE15 4JR
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar, Clerkenwell
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar opened in Exmouth Market in 2016, specialising in rotisserie Middle Eastern meats slow-cooked over charcoal and wood. Taking influence and inspiration from the streets and cafe culture of Tel Aviv, this restaurant from the team behind Haggerston’s Berber & Q features the same bold flavours and must-try meat dishes. We like to order babaganoush, muhammara and walnuts (£6.20) followed by the blackened aubergine (£12.50).
Price: Mezze from £5.80.
46 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, EC1R 4QE
The Cheese Bar, Camden
Having made 150,000 grilled cheese sandwiches and melted over 20 tonnes of British cheese with The Cheese Truck, Matthew Carver opened his first permanent restaurant in Grade I-listed Camden Stables Market in 2017. The Cheese Bar’s menu is crammed with dishes that champion urban cheesemakers in Greater London. From La Latteria in Acton to Peckham’s Gringa Dairy, cheese lovers can choose from over 30 different types of British fromage – we love ‘Fondue Thursdays’, where for £23pp you can get stuck into four different fondues.
Price: Grilled cheese sandwiches from £7.50.
94 Camden Stables, Camden, NW1 8AP
Maison Bab, Covent Garden
Maison Bab is a new style of kebab house, complete with a picture-perfect setting, a bar that pours out CBD cocktails and hidden ten-seater fine-dining restaurant, Kebab Queen. Three kebab flatbreads (all priced under £12) sit alongside a selection of starters, such as meat butter naan (a must-order) and superlative babaganoush. There’s also a focus on vegan dishes – think house-smoked aubergine with yoghurt, chilli peanuts, shallots, chilli and cress.
Price: Mains from £9.
4 Mercer Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA
Roti King, Euston
Roti King specialises in serving up authentic Malaysian dishes. Hidden away in a basement around the corner from Euston station, the restaurant is small and simple, and features an open kitchen where guests can watch roti (Malaysian flatbread) being made on the spot. Given its name and reputation, the roti is a must order – we like the chicken murtabak with minced chicken and egg filling (£5.50).
Price: Roti from £3.50.
40 Doric Way, Euston, NW1 1LH
Zia Lucia, Various Locations
Leading the charge in London’s pizza renaissance, Zia Lucia has become renowned for its 48-hour slow-fermented doughs: traditional, wholemeal, gluten free and black vegetable charcoal. New in 2019 was its third location at Boxpark Wembley, which features the ‘Burrata Bar’, a space that showcases creamy burrata sourced from Puglia. Diners are able to top their burrata (£4.50) with ingredients such as smoked salmon and avocado, spicy Spianata salami, or roasted peppers.
Price: Pizza from £6.90.
Islington, Hammersmith and Wembley
There’s no better place to indulge your pasta fix than at Padella, one of London’s most popular Italian eateries. Feast on flavoursome classics including the likes of tagliatelle with nduja, mascarpone and parsley; pappardelle with eight-hour Dexter beef shin ragu; and ravioli of Neal’s Yard goats curd with marjoram butter. Each dish is priced between £4 and £10, which means you can either be frugal or order twice as much as usual. There are no reservations, so you will have to queue, but it’s well worth the wait.
Price: Pasta from £4.
6 Southwark Street, Borough, SE1 1TQ
Kanada-Ya, Various Locations
Specialising in authentic Tonkotsu ramen, Kanada-Ya was founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, back in 2009. The restaurant’s signature ramen consists of noodles, tonkotsu broth, secret sauce (imported from the original restaurant, and hand-made by Kanada himself), wood ear fungus mushroom, finely sliced spring onion, chashu pork belly and a sheet of nori. Best of all, all noodles are made on site and customers are able to request how firm they like them. The best ramen in London? We think so.
Price: Ramen from £7.
Locations in Piccadilly, Covent Garden and Islington
Ahi Poké, Various Locations
This laid-back poké hangout specialises in build-your-own poké bowls. You choose a base of quinoa, sushi rice or kale, with a mix of proteins or veg including salmon, ahi tuna or shrimp, topped with your choice of sauce and salad toppings. There are signature bowls on the menu, too.
Price: Signature bowls from £6.45.
Locations in Fulham, Victoria, Fitzrovia, Bank, Spitalfields and Canary Wharf
Bun House, Chinatown
Inspired by 1960s Hong Kong, Bun House recalls the era’s tea house street stalls. Steamed bao buns are the stars of the menu, with pig, lamb, chicken, fish and veggie options, as well as an interesting collection of pickles – think daikon, jicama, blue garlic and seasonal choy – and small dishes including chilli tripe, lotus root crisp and wood ear salad.
Price: Bao buns, £2.50.
26-27 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA
Flat Iron, Various Locations
If you’re after somewhere cheap and cheerful for steak night, Flat Iron is your best bet. While the menu is small, and prices pleasing – you can grab a steak and salad for £12 – you’ll be guaranteed good quality cuts of meat, cooked to perfection. The sides are great too: think dripping-cooked chips, creamed spinach and blue cheese salad.
Price: Steak with salad, £12.
Locations in Soho, Shoreditch, Hackney, Covent Garden, King’s Cross, London Bridge and Notting Hill
Le Bab, Soho
This Soho hotspot serves up a mean selection of tasty kebabs. They’re served open sandwich-style on thin, homemade flatbreads, and topped with a range of locally sourced meat and seasonal veg. Choose from small plates of braised lamb shoulder, beef shin and onion bhajis with smoked chilli mayo; charcoal grilled cod cheek with lemon hummus, wild garlic and Szechuan pepper; and Lokma doughnut with spiced chicken liver parfait. Kebabs come in the form of corn fed chicken shish; Herdwich lamb adana; and free-range pork shawarma.
Price: Kebabs from £9.
Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1B 5PW
Pizza Pilgrims, Various Locations
If you’re looking for something quick and satisfying, you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere better than Pizza Pilgrims. Serving up a heavy hit of Napoli-inspired street food and cocktails, here the pizzas are soft and chewy, with thick bases and on-trend toppings – think ’nduja, salsiccia and smoked chilli jam mascarpone. The calzone with Napoli salami, ricotta and mushroom, topped with tomato, fior di latte and parmesan is a must-order.
Price: Pizzas from £6.
Locations in Soho, Exmouth Market, West India Quay, Covent Garden, London Bridge, Aldgate and Shoreditch
Dumplings’ Legend, Chinatown
Every good night ends with a trip to the local takeaway. But in Chinatown, forget kebabs: it’s all about midnight dumplings. True to its name, Dumplings’ Legend is the only place for a late-night fix. Open till 2:30am on a weekend, the team offers an extensive menu of steamed delights, including xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings), its signature dish.
Price: Mains from £8.50.
15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JE
Café Sou, City
Soho House Group’s pretty take on a plush Parisian railway café. The least formal of The Ned’s vibrant food offerings, this quaint café serves up a great selection of small quick eats – such as sourdough baguettes, rillettes, quiches, salads, omelettes and pretty patisseries – alongside coffees, teas and a good selection of French wines.
Price: Lunch dishes from £5.
27 Poultry, Bank, EC2R 8AJ
The Good Egg, Stoke Newington
Spanning Tel Aviv street food to fare from the grand old cafés of New York and Montreal, The Good Egg emphasises high-quality ingredients and sustainable produce. An ideal spot for weekend brunch, we love the sound of the babka French toast with caramelised halva, labneh and poached pear; and Montreal smoked meat hash with pastrami, smoked short-rib, fried potatoes, zhoug, pickles and two fried eggs.
Price: Small plates from £3.50.
93 Church Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0AS
Chick ‘n’ Sours, Various Locations
With its loud, party atmosphere, you could quite easily forget you’re in a grungy fried chicken shop. That is, until a towering buttermilk fried chicken burger is placed in front of you, stacked with crunchy slaw, sweet pickles and tangy gochujang mayo. Its chicken offerings come with a spicy Korean twist, as well as a large selection of cocktails. Dangerously good, and it won’t cost you much more than a tenner for one of the biggest, most delicious chicken burgers you’ve ever tasted.
Price: Small plates from £5.
Locations in Seven Dials, Spitalfields, Islington and Haggerston