Food & Drink

Restaurants in Covent Garden That Aren't Just for Tourists

Published On 02/29/2016 Published On 02/29/2016

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.

La Perla

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.  

Hawksmoor Seven Dials

Best steaks: 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.

LIMA Floral

Best Peruvian brunch: 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.

Mr. Fogg's Tavern

Best immersive Victorian experience: Mr 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: 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.

Opera Tavern

Best slider with foie gras: 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: 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.

Flesh & Buns

Best Izakaya bar with the most cringe worthy name: Flesh & 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.

Kanada-Ya London

Best ramen worth waiting for: 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.

Balthazar Restaurant, London

Best to visit NYC without the air miles: 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.

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1. Agaveria El Nivel 28 Alto Maiden Ln, London, WC2E 7JS (Covent Garden)

This classy Covent Garden 'tail spot specializes in agave spirits and antojitos (small plates), the former of which is represented by a large variety of rare and exclusive tequilas, mezcals, bacanoras, sotols, and raicillas.

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2. La Perla Bar 28 Maiden Ln., Covent Garden, WC2E 7JS (Covent Garden)

If you can brave the tourist swarm that usually frequents Covent Garden, this Mexican restaurant is worth a visit. Here you'll enjoy high ceiling and skylights while you chow down on Mexican food and sip on delicious Mexican-inspired cocktails.

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3. Hawksmoor Seven Dials 11 Langley St , London, WC2H 9JG (Covent Garden)

It isn't the cheapest steakhouse you'll ever visit, but unless you make a living by recycling tin cans, it won't be the priciest, either. It's renowned for its collection of steaks and you'll always find the perfect pairing on the wine list.

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4. Lima Floral 14 Garrick St, London, WC2E 9BJ (Covent Garden)

It's hard not to love Lima Floral, especially with their welcoming, romantic atmosphere and seafood-heavy menu. We suggest stopping by with visiting family to taste their brunch menu, which is full of great food, cocktails, and specials.

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5. Mr. Fogg's Tavern 58 St Martin's Ln, London, WC2N 4EA (Covent Garden)

If you're looking for a unique bar that will impress visiting family and friends, Mr. Fogg's Tavern is the place to go. Once inside, you'll feel like you've traveled back to the 1880's, complete with an old-school menu and themed decor. If you are a gin lover, head upstairs to their special gin parlour.

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6. The Opera Tavern 23 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JS (Covent Garden)

Tomorrow in Covent Garden, the Salt Yard team's opening Opera: a porcine-centric 19c pub conversion maintaining many vintage features (theatre-style windows, green leather banquettes), and employing an open robata for grilled-to-order Iberico dishes like

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7. Rules 35 Maiden Ln, London, WC2E 7LB (Covent Garden)

Often cited as the oldest restaurant in London, it has been on Maiden Ln since Napoleon was still merrily invading his way across Europe. Starting as a humble oyster, porter, and pie bar, it quickly became a hangout for the young intellectuals of the time, solidifying its place in London lore. Over 200 years later, Rules is still keeping to its traditional roots with OTT comfortable luxury and a million staff on hand to take care of your every whim.

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8. Flesh & Buns 41 Earlham St, London, WC2H 9LX (Covent Garden)

Flesh & Buns has a great selection of cocktails, s'mores (that come with your own mini-fire pit!), and oh yeah... buns w/ awesome fish (flesh) options. We think that Flesh & Buns is the best Izakaya bar in London, and a great place to bring visiting friends and family.

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9. Kanada-Ya 64 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LE (Bloomsbury)

This Japanese chain has a solid foothold in London, thanks to keeping things short and sweet, with only a few differences in ingredients for its tonkotsu broths. The main catch here is that it doesn't include its signature hanjuku, eggs which you would be a fool not to add on. They will rock you’re world so hard. Another cool thing here is that you can order how you like the noodles: extra firm, firm, regular, or soft.

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10. Balthazar 4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ (Covent Garden)

This Parisian-styled NYC import, Balthazar, is a French brasserie decorated with dark wood and red leather banquettes. Located in the heart of Covent Garden and housed in an old theatre museum. Directly next door is their bakery, serving house-made artisan bread, a wide selection of homemade pastries, salads, and sandwiches all available to grab on the go.

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11. Vico 1 Cambridge Circus, London, SW20 0SN

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 and with other fresh accompaniments fresh -- plus all the fritti, pasta, and pizza you could ask for.

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