Newington Green has all the luck. They've got the city's best fruit and veg shop, a pub with a killer Sunday roast (Lady Mildmay, in case you're in need) and now a restaurant. Perilla serves meat-light dishes that have all the expertise of an old-school, fancy pants, wine-pairing type menu, but taste so good they could be the modern definition of comfort food. Exceptionally fresh seaweed bread glistens thanks to a lamb fat glaze, cuttlefish bolognese is so good that you might swear off the trad version for life. It’s the least normal food in town, and you’ll go home dreaming of every last morsel.
Everybody loves pasta, but what’s the point in ordering it when you have a jar of pesto at home? Padella is the point. Their pasta is so delicious and so reasonably priced that Italian nonnas far and wide are burning their aprons. Dishes start at £5, ingredients include the likes of Dorset crab, Neal’s Yard goat curd and Dexter beef shin, they have more wines on tap than beer. The only downsides are how cramped it is -- railway arches aren’t the most spacious venues, turns out -- and the queue. But you’ll forget about the chilly start and lack of elbow room as soon as your belly’s full of wonderful carbs.
This modern Thai restaurant had already made quite the name for itself while in residence at Climpson and Sons in Hackney, so nobody was shocked when their Shoreditch restaurant was immediately packed full of people desperate to work their way through every flavour bomb on the menu. Food people of Instagram will easily recognise the deep-fried whole seabass, whose crispy eyeballs must get posted on a near daily basis, but skip it so that you can try more of the smaller dishes; every one is a fiery, fragrant winner.
Cute Neal’s Yard has always been home to the more hippy-ish end of the restaurant trade, but The Barbary stormed in last year like your older brother’s handsome French exchange. Except it would be a Berberian exchange; the menu is all harissa, cumin, aubergine and halva. All the seats are in front of the circular open kitchen so that you will always see the magic happen. And you’ll want to see the fresh naans fly in and out of the tandoor, and your next snack charring on the robata grill: the anticipation only makes it taste even better.
The little fluffy cloud buns are back, and this time they come with some tasty Taiwanese friends. The second permanent restaurant from team Bao offers XO sweetcorn in rich beef butter, soft duck hearts in chilli and garlic, and silky smooth soy cured egg yolks. Obviously you absolutely must order as many of the bao buns as you can scoff, but this is a menu that can do no wrong so go wherever your hunger guides you. And eat as hungrily as the cartoon man on their logo.
The kebabs at Bababoom are so far from greasy, late-night, rubbery doners that they shouldn’t really share their initial, let alone their name. You get fresh, herby salads piled high on Persian flatbreads alongside your perfectly tender meat of choice; cabrito kid goat adana sure as hell isn’t available in your local chippy. The place is bright and welcoming, the food fantastic, the frozen margaritas more boozy than they seem. Clapham is lucky to have them.
Who knew that Portuguese and Chinese dishes could merge so beautifully? Having launched their most unusual fusion food with occasional appearances at Druid Street Market, Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves put down dinner service roots in a Dalston café back in June. Go for perfectly cooked bowls of slightly sticky rice that are a vehicle for Iberica pork, giant octopus, marinated tofu or whatever treasures the chefs have plotted that day.
Michelin-starred Portland begat Clipstone this year, a less formal restaurant with a menu just as tempting as that of its grown-up sister. It charges slightly more manageable prices (wine from £3.50 a glass rather than the £6 Portland kicks off with) and has a brunch menu on Saturdays. Treat yourself to seasonal goodies such as Isle of Mull scallops with puy lentils, brown butter and dill, and save space for pudding.
For a while it seemed Itamar and Sarit -- the husband and wife team behind charming Middle-Eastern Honey & Co -- were content with running just one teeny but lovely restaurant. Which was a pain because you had to book miles in advance and practically share cushions with whoever is sat next to you, stranger or not. So London welcomed their second restaurant, Honey and Smoke, with open arms and empty bellies. More wonderful mezze, more griddled meats and spice-heavy sides. More of what is surely the world’s best cheesecake. More food made with actual love by the Honeys.
There are quite a few sequels on this list, but Chick ‘n’ Sours Seven Dials, despite serving exactly the same menu as the Dalston original, is more than deserving of a mention. Their tenders might just be the best fried chicken in London, the szechuan aubergine is crispy, squidgy, sticky joy, and their green slaw with ginger miso mayo is a real treat. And now you can eat it before the theatre, after an Oxford Street spree, between bars or basically any time you’re in central London and not already full.
1. Perilla1-3 Green Lanes, London
2. Padella6 Southwark St, London
3. Som Saa43A Commercial St, London
4. The Barbary16 Neal's Yard, London
5. Bao Fitzrovia31 Windmill St, Fitzrovia
6. BabaBoom30 Battersea Rise, Battersea
7. TĀTĀ Eatery258 Kingsland Rd, London
8. Clipstone Restaurant5 Clipstone Street, London
9. Honey & Smoke216 Great Portland Street, London
10. Chick 'n' Sours390 Kingsland Rd, London
Unlike some restaurants with upscale, daily-changing menus, Perilla doesn't let its emphasis on beautifully crafted plates overpower its dishes' ability to comfort and satisfy. The low-key, rustic-chic space in Newington Green features dishes that remain approachable despite their refined twists, such as a seaweed bread glistening with a roasted lamb fat glaze, and a cuttlefish bolognese so soul-warming it'll make you swear off the traditional meat-based version. The kitchen recommends ordering three shareable plates per person and, of course, pairing them with a selection from the expertly curated international wine list.
From the team behind Trullo, this chic pasta bar rolls, stretches, and cuts house-made dough daily for its exceptional Parmesan-sprinkled noodle dishes. The owners aren't the only things Padella has in common with Trullo -- the menu here features the same signature eight-hour beef shin ragu over pappardelle that fans have come to adore. Don't stop at the ragu though: taste the fettucine with chicken liver and wild mushrooms, and tagliarini (a skinnier tagliatelle) with Dorset crab, too. For dessert? A rich and crumbly chocolate tart.
Situated inside a former fabric warehouse, this industrial-chic Thai restaurant made quite a name for itself while in residence at a Hackney cafe, so it didn't come as a shock when its permanent Spitalfields outpost was immediately packed to the gills with guests clamoring for fragrant and fiery plates inspired by the northeastern provinces of Thailand. Speaking of gills, the deep-fried whole sea bass with roasted rice powder and Isaan herbs is just one example of how the menu at Som Saa goes far beyond your typical pad Thai. If you can't handle the sea bass' crispy eyes staring back at you, there are other, less lifelike options that will also shock your tastebuds, such as Kua-style red curry with pork neck and five-spice soy-braised beef cheek with a chili vinegar sauce.
From the team behind Palomar, The Barbary is a micro-restaurant whose dining area revolves around a 24-seat, horseshoe-shaped bar. Waiting for a seat is a given here, but luckily waiters are often on hand with snacks to tide you over until those who smartly arrived early finish their dinner. The food is headed up by Eyal Jagermann (who previously worked at Palomar), and is inspired primarily by North African and Israeli cuisines. Expect intensely flavored dishes like Chicken Msachen, which is marinated in yogurt and spices for 24 before meeting the grill. Though meat and seafood cooked on the coal-fired robata grill are the main event here, don't overlook the bread, be it the four-ingredient tandoor naan or the Jerusalem Bagel with za'atar and sesame seed.
The second permanent outpost of cult-favorite Bao sits in minimalist space on a Fitzrovia corner, where it's serving the fluffy steamed buns filled with braised pork or lamb shoulder that it's known for. The Fitzrovia location also features a selection of Taiwanese dishes, like XO sweetcorn in rich beef butter, soft duck hearts in chili and garlic, and soy-cured egg yolks. The lineup here is a more-than-welcome departure from the Soho outpost's menu, and luckily, prices are still easy on the wallet.
At BabaBoom, kebab is given a total facelift: instead of questionable meat on a skewer, puffy Persian flatbreads are topped with generous portions of high-quality charcoal-grilled meats and charred vegetable counterparts. Small, bright, and styled with exposed brick and colorful kitchen chairs, BabaBoom feels homey like a friend's flat, and the cuisine is just as vibrant. Tender meats like cabrito kid goat adana and rotisserie lamb shoulder (which, by the way, you'll never find at your local chippy) can be placed on a flatbread or fattoush salad, and are brimming with bold flavor, thanks to the aromatic herbs and slow-burning process the trio of co-owners uses. Finish it off with the Rotisserie Pineapple Castle (slow-roasted marinated pineapple with yoghurt ice cream, tahini, and pistachio) and you'll officially be hooked on this hidden gem.
During the day, this bright, rustic-chic space functions as a cafe, Curio Cabal, but on Thursday through Saturday evenings it becomes TĀTĀ, an unexpected Chinese-Portuguese fusion restaurant led by dynamic husband-and-wife team Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves. You'll be treated to their exceptional, culture-crossing bowls of perfectly moist rice beneath anointments like Iberian pork, giant octopus, and marinated tofu. Most important: you'll want to top off your meal with some "ricecream": rice ice cream that's toasted, speckled with caramelized cornflakes, and topped with smashed strawberries and pearl barley.
Reviewing the menu at this less-formal corner spot from the team behind neighborhood darling Portland, you're not sure what you're in for: the ingredients, such as baked carrot, creme fraiche, and radishes, all sound average -- but then the plated reality reveals tediously garnished, colorful courses. The elegant dishes change with the seasons, but you can expect goodies like Isle of Mull scallops with lentils, brown butter, and dill. Be sure to save room for some buttermilk pudding, too. The space itself is minimalistic, sporting simple dark wood tables that let the artistic plates do all the persuading.
The husband and wife behind the tiny Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co. could've quit while they were ahead, but instead, they evolved their fanbase even further with a larger second establishment, Honey & Smoke, which offers more of their big flavors and aromas. It's all about the grill at the aptly named spot, where dishes like grilled beef shish, marinated and grilled octopus, and grilled black fig skewers are all on offer. Luckily, the pair brought over the heavenly feta & honey cheesecake from the original kitchen.
From Carl Clarke, king of inventive London pop-ups, comes this permanent, rustic-chic Seven Dials space that specializes in carefully sourced fried chicken (from free-range, herb-fed birds), sour cocktails (pineapple & black pepper margaritas), local craft beer, and soft-serve ice cream. It's a winning lineup, to say the least. The traditional boneless, white-meat chicken tenders take comfort food to a new level via their delicate Asian flair: seaweed crack, Xian Xian spice, coriander, and sesame. On the side, order some crispy, sticky Szechuan aubergine accompanied by green slaw with ginger miso mayo.