Soho is full of places to eat, from classic dining institutions like L’Escargot in Greek Street and Quo Vadis in Dean Street (both places I’ve been to but not for a long time and pre-blog days) to familiar chains like The Real Greek, Cote Bistro, and recent ‘chain’ favourite, Franco Manca (links are to other branches I’ve eaten in). My childhood memories are of Saturday mornings with my parents having morning coffee with gorgeous cakes at Maison Bertaux in Greek Street and buying Italian foods in Camisa deli on Old Compton Street – both still going and still very popular.
In my long-ago full-time working days as a book editor at Methuen, I remember lunches with authors and agents in another Soho institution, The Gay Hussar, also in Greek Street, which serves fabulous Hungarian food. In Frith Street you’ll find the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, which I haven’t been to for so many years I can only remember seeing George Melly there (which does date me!) and further along, Bar Italia, which claims to have brought the cappuccino to London.
After rediscovering the fabulous Banana Tree last weekend, I realised that many of my favourite places to eat in London are in Soho. So, I thought it would be fun to give you my Top 5 – in no particular order!
1. The Palomar – Rupert Street
The Palomar has become almost legendary in its short life, winning multiple awards, and is now one of London’s most popular restaurants. People will queue for two hours for a seat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. I’d definitely have to put it in my all-round Top 5 restaurants – not just in Soho. It serves wonderful, exotic, exciting food but eating there is a fabulous dining experience not to be missed.
If you haven’t been yet – go!! (Click here for my review.)
2. Bocca di Lupo – Archer Street
I was really going in search of ice cream the lunchtime I first ate at Bocca di Lupo. My Italian teacher Fabio had told me I must try Gelupo for it sold the best ice cream in London (it’s still both our favourites!). Then seeing Bocca di Lupo (who own Gelupo) opposite, I thought I’d eat lunch too. It was full; at first, I thought they didn’t have a seat for me but was then given one at the bar, which is the very best place for a solo diner, but also a food blogger who wants to see everything going on in the open kitchen!
It lived up to everything I’d heard about it and I immediately wanted to go back with others, which I’ve done – with friends, with family. (Click here for review.) Do go – but don’t forget to have a gelato dessert at the brilliant Gelupo opposite! For me, the best ice cream in London.
3. Brasserie Zedel – Sherwood Street
I’d been reading so many good things about Brasserie Zedel and had been meaning to go for ages, but, like Bocco di Lupo, it was a spontaneous visit in the end when I was in the Soho area. And also like ‘Bocca’, it was a brilliant visit, fulfilling all expectations.
I loved it: there was a great value lunchtime menu, excellent food, a large and buzzing room full of diners and that quintessential touch of Paris about it that made it all the more exciting – even though I was only a few paces from Piccadilly Circus! (Click here for review.)
4. Yalla Yalla – Green’s Court
It was while I was enjoying one of my ‘days out in London’, visiting an art gallery and then finding a great place to try out for lunch, that I discovered Yalla Yalla. My friend Linda had told me about it and thought I’d like it. I did! I love it and have been back many times. It serves fantastic Lebanese food – and one of my favourite versions of fattoush.
The atmosphere is cafe-like and relaxed. You can’t book so get there early or be prepared to join the long queue. (Click here for review.)
5. Banana Tree – Wardour Street
I wrote only a few days ago about how delighted I was to discover this branch of an old favourite in Soho. This is informal, cafe-style eating at a very reasonable price. You’ll find fantastic food from Indochina – and the best Laksa I know. (Click here for review.)
There are so many other places to eat in Soho, of course. You might also enjoy Barrafina in Frith Street – their Covent Garden branch is one of my favourite places (click here); Cinnamon Soho in Kingly Street for fine Indian dining (I don’t know this branch but have eaten many times at the original in Westminster and Cinnamon Kitchen in the City – click here). Princi in Wardour Street is a great place for a snack or aperitivo (click here). And you can find more good ice cream at Snowflake in Wardour Street (click here for South Kensington branch review).
You can now download this guide and more articles about London on to your smartphone or tablet via the GPSmyCity app – great for when you’re out and about – click here.