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.
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: 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: 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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sign up here for our daily London email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the capital.
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.
1. Agaveria El Nivel28 Alto Maiden Ln, London
2. La Perla Bar28 Maiden Ln., Covent Garden
3. Hawksmoor Seven Dials11 Langley St , London
4. Lima Floral14 Garrick St, London
5. Mr. Fogg's Tavern58 St Martin's Ln, London
6. The Opera Tavern23 Catherine Street, London
7. Rules35 Maiden Ln, London
8. Flesh & Buns41 Earlham St, London
9. Kanada-Ya64 St Giles High St, London
10. Balthazar4-6 Russell Street, London
11. Vico1 Cambridge Circus, London
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.