Food & Drink

Restaurants in Covent Garden That Aren't Just for Tourists

A trip to Covent Garden is like participating in a game of human pinball: you careen off masses of loud tourists and bounce into the first watering hole around. While the main square is largely filled with middling, unoriginal restaurants, fear not -- some of the city’s best steaks, ramen, and Latin cuisine are hidden in this neighborhood’s winding streets.

Best authentic Mexican: La Perla/El Nivel 

28 Maiden Lane
Ideal for when your Mexican food cravings hit next-level need, head into La Perla on restaurant centric Maiden Lane. With high ceilings and skylights, plus the open kitchen and seriously stocked bar, you’ll feel a million miles away from London’s busy streets. And if you feel like taking things to the next level, pop upstairs for a hidden, speakeasy-style bar -- which offers up a all things agave.  

Best steaks: <a href="" target="_blank">Hawksmoor Seven Dials

11 Langley St

These guys pretty much single-handedly made steak cool again, and it’s no wonder why: in addition to enormous cut of beef, they offer hip extras like grilled bone marrow served by an attractive, tattooed waitstaff. While the meat tends to cause all conversation to devolve into groans of pleasure, the drinks are also award-winning -- basically everything in this place deserves some serious one on one time with your mouth.

Best Peruvian brunch: <a href="" target="_blank">Lima Floral

14 Garrick St

While its big sister restaurant over in Fitzrovia gets most of the attention, this airy space is badass in its own right. Chef Virgilio Martinez has once again developed a lovely menu that’s bright and fresh, with a heavy emphasis on seafood -- although what really gets us going is their super-excellent brunch. Opt for the multi-course “Long Lunch,” and consider add-ons like ceviche “shots” and epic smoothies. Once you’ve wrapped up the main event, you can head to their sultry basement pisco bar for drinks.

Best immersive Victorian experience: <a href="" target="_blank">Mr&nbsp;Fogg's Tavern

58 St Martin's Ln

Welcome to the 1880s: this place comes complete with bar wenches in corsets shouting bawdy catcalls to each other, vintage boat models hanging from the ceiling, and a menu full of pies, roasts, and other old-school fare. If you’re feeling fancy, pop upstairs for a visit to the gin parlour, where a library of nearly 300 different gins are waiting for you.

Best fast Italian with an indoor fountain: <a href="" target="_blank">Vico

1 Cambridge Circus

This spot was started by the culinary genius behind Soho staple Bocca Di Lupo, and it’s nearly identical -- only without the extra fanfare and hard-to-come by reservations. This regional spot is quick and easy, offering loads of antipasti, like ridiculously good burrata, blood orange tartar, and super fresh raw red prawn -- plus all the fritti, pasta, and pizza you could ask for.

Best slider with foie gras: <a href="" target="_blank">Opera Tavern

23 Catherine St

This place boasts some seriously good sliders: they’re made from Ibérico pork and foie gras, and are so fantastic that no one will judge you for licking the plate clean. If you feel like ordering something else, we might think you’re crazy, but the truth is that the whole menu is solid -- plus, they have a great wine list.

Best blast from the past: <a href="" target="_blank">Rules

35 Maiden Lane

Decked out in white table cloths, red velvet cushions, Rules offers traditional, British cookery at its old-school finest. The oldest restaurant in town (their history dates back to the 1700s), this is one of those quintessential London spots that everyone should try at some point. Admittedly, the whole thing is way over the top, but it’s good to feel like a king now and then.

Best Izakaya bar with the most cringe worthy name: <a href="" target="_blank">Flesh &amp; Buns

41 Earlham St

Developed by the same crew as the foodgasm-inducing Bone Daddies, this place is just amazing. Make your way into a massive hall hidden way below the shopping mecca and stuff your face DIY style: pick your meat, tell them how many buns you want, and get busy snacking. Manga cover the walls, and rock & roll blasts in classic Bone Daddies style, so the general effect is one part Izakaya, one part restaurant, and two parts party.

Best ramen worth waiting for: <a href="" target="_blank">Kanada-Ya

64 St Giles High St

This cult-forming mico-ramen joint has been garnering a lot of totally deserved hype. Their noodles are made on-site, and their signature tonkatsu broth is some next-level business: it goes through an 18-hour process before ending up in your bowl. Plus, the soft-boiled eggs -- trust us and order extra to avoid FOMO. Be sure to gaze out the windows every now and then to smile smugly at the crowds waiting to get in.

Best to visit NYC without the air miles: <a href="" target="_blank">Balthazar

4-6 Russell St

If you’ve ever been to the original in New York, then get ready for an eerie sensation of déjà vu -- this buzzy brasserie is almost a brick-by-brick replica, with the same red leather booths, mirrored walls, and marble columns. Keith McNally partnered up with Richard Caring of the Ivy for this massive establishment that looks like a film set -- and classic brasserie food, including one hell of a crème brûlée.  

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Haley Forest is a food & spirits writer who once professed her adoration to the sliders at Opera Tavern. This may have acquired her a few strange looks from the staff. Follow her adventures at @HCForest.