If you ask me, the best foodie neighbourhood in London has to be Soho. You can literally eat around the world within this small yet jam-packed action space. From Norway to Taiwan, from street food to Michelin dining, Soho is at the very centre of London’s dynamic food, drink and entertainment scene.
Getting To and Around Soho
Thanks to modern day conveniences such as Uber and 24 hour tube lines, it’s pretty easy to get in and out of Soho. However, if you don’t happen to call London home, or feel worried about commuting during an impending food coma, Soho is also a great place to stay. Ham Yard, Soho Hotel, the Courthouse and the Nadler are among some of the very best hotels in Soho.
Strictly speaking, Soho is the oblong shaped area south of Oxford Street between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road tube stations down to Piccadilly Circus; west of Shaftesbury Ave and east of Regent’s Street. However, in reality, places we consider as being in Soho tend to spill out beyond these lines.
For West Enders, Soho is at the very heart of London, surrounded by other popular areas such as Chinatown, Mayfair, Marylebone and Covent Garden, all within easy walking distance. The bulk of London’s shopping streets, department stores, clubs and theatres are all around here.
In collaboration with hotels.com, I was gifted some spending money to explore the area and write about my favourite places and hidden gems. Let’s start with where to go for breakfast, shall we?
Breakfast and Brunch
Whether it’s my age or my generation, going out for breakfast or brunch on the weekend has officially overtaken going out for drinks and nights out. How, when, why, I don’t know, but it seems there is no going back or denying the brunch trend, so hop on.
From avo-toast to eggs Benny and the classic Full English, there are many popular places worth their salt in Soho. Places I visit regularly include Gail’s, the Ivy, and the all-day Breakfast Club, while there are plenty others that I’ve yet to try, for example Farm Girl inside the Sweaty Betty shop and Balans Soho Society Café on old Compton Street.
Maybe it’s not even my age but my heritage that’s weirded out by this brunch business. I’m half Norwegian, half Portuguese, which means I’m perfectly comfortable with salty fishy things first thing in the morning or simply an espresso “um cafe” with a savoury, bacalhau-filled pastry.
And that’s really got to be the best thing about a place like Soho, is that you don’t need to board a plane for a taste of home. My Soho breakfast pick is therefore quite predictably the Nordic Bakery, a place where I’m free to start my day with a smoked salmon and mustard dill sandwich without any judgement.
Lunch and Dinner
Main meals – and not bowls of porridge or eggs on toast – is where I really start salivating and the options in Soho are endless. In fact, I have so many favourites that I had to sort them by theme or cuisine!
(Places in brackets are just outside the ‘Strictly Soho’ area but very close!)
Reservations (not) Required
One of the cool things about Soho is that many of the restaurants don’t take bookings. That’s great news for people visiting or last minute planning, but often means putting your name down on a list around 6-7pm for an 8-9pm seating.
Of course, you don’t need a reservation for a burger or pizza joint, but you definitely do for the fancier restaurants. Two of my favourites on this list are Ottolenghi’s Nopi, which gets fully booked well in advance and 10 Greek Street, which takes lunch but not dinner bookings.
- Burgers: Honest Burgers, Patty and Bun, Dirty Bones
- Pizza: Princi, Pizza Pilgrims, Pepe Italian Street Food
- Fancy: Bob Bob Ricard, Soho Eating House, Aqua (Berners Tavern, Sketch, Hovarda, Palomar)
- Casual (no reservation): Ping Pong, Burger & Lobster, Vapiano
- Healthy: Nopi, L’ETO, 10 Greek Street, (Ethos)
- Meaty: Temper, Hix, Sophie’s, (Hawksmoor, Goodman’s and Gaucho)
The first time I ever ate Korean food was at Soho’s Myung Ga, an authentic traditional mom and pop shop which I visit frequently. Down the road there is another, newer, more contemporary Korean restaurant called Jin Juu. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is your favourite.
Although the bao craze came and went, Bao Soho continues to draw long lines to its shop. I love bao, the Asian taco, and while there are many good places, there is something special about the Taiwanese version.
Right next door to Chinatown, three of the best Chinese restaurants are actually in Soho. For Michelin-starred dim sum, I highly recommend Yauatcha teahouse. It’s a beautiful, sleek restaurant with the best venison puffs in town. The other two popular places are Barshu serving up the finest, fieriest Sichuan cuisine and newcomer pub slash restaurant Duck & Rice.
Another cuisine worth a special mention are my two Indian recommendations. Dishoom and Kricket are two very different but highly recommended restaurants worth trying in Soho. You’ll probably have to queue around an hour for the privilege, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. The concept behind Dishoom is Indian street food, whereas Kricket ingeniously combines fresh British ingredients like mussels and hake with powerful Indian flavours.
- Japanese: Inamo, Chotto Matte, Engawa, Koya, Tonkotsu, (Benihana)
- Chinese: Yauatcha, Barshu, Duck & Rice, (Chinatown)
- Taiwanese: Bao, (Xu)
- Korean: Myungaa, Jin Juu
- Indian: Dishoom, Kricket
- Thai: Kiln, Busaba, Rosa’s
- Mexican: La Bodega Negra, Corazón, Breddos Tacos
- Peruvian: Chotto Matte, Ceviche Soho, Casita Andina
While the UK continues to debate the most ridiculous vote in history that is Brexit, we can, for now, continue to enjoy some incredible restaurants from around Europe.
Looking at London as a whole, Soho right now probably has the best pasta restaurant, Pastaio, and the best tapas at Barrafina. For British and French cuisine, these suggestions shouldn’t disappoint, however, my favourite British restaurant is and will always be Corrigan’s in Mayfair.
- Italian: Pastaio, Polpo, Bocca di Lupo, Lina Stores
- Spanish: Dehesa, Barrafina, Brindisa, Ember Yard
- French: Andrew Edmunds, Brasserie Zedel, L’Escargot, Pierre Victoire
- British: Quo Vadis, Dean Street Townhouse, Wright Brothers
A bit of everything?
Tucked between Regent’s and Carnaby Street is Kingly Court, an all-day food complex with a variety of restaurants to sit in or eat outside in the courtyard and the perfect place for when you can’t decide where to go!
Some of my favourites are Le Bab gourmet kebabs, the Life Goddess serving Greek food and pan-Asian Oka. Soho also has a vibrant street food scene on Brewer Street during lunch hours for something on the go.
Coffee and Cake
Despite its name, Soho is nowhere near as hipster as places like Shoreditch when it comes to coffee, although bearded men are still always welcome. The most trendy cafes are places like Soho Grind and Flat White, two necessary pitstops if spending the day eating and shopping until dropping.
There are also a few popular Japanese cafes selling instagrammable sweet treats, such as Kova and Tombo. While exploring places in Soho I didn’t yet know for this post I stumbled across Kova patisserie and ordered myself this almost too-pretty-to-drink matcha latte.
Soho used to be home to the Japan Centre, a wonderful two-storey place selling Japanese food, groceries, homeware and more. However, it has recently moved location to Panton street just outside the ‘strictly Soho’ borders.
Another insta-famous place that keeps popping up on my feed but which I had yet to try is Maitre Choux, heard of it? They are these little, elaborately decorated, very expensive pastries filled with cream that have grown into some sort of obsession.
So I tried one, and it was ok, but I like fish for breakfast so you’re probably talking to the wrong gal. However, my dessert and pastry expert husband wasn’t too fussed either. The French pastry I can’t get enough of is macarons, macaroons, those little things that Laudurée and Pierre Hermé do so well!
Pubs and Cocktails
When in Rome… As they say. London has hundreds of pubs and Soho is no exception. While walking around, I noticed several with the same name, Blue Posts, which stood out to me because I’ve been meaning to try the new speakeasy at the 275 year old Blue Posts on Rupert Street.
What makes a pub better than another pub? I can’t really say. All I know is that there are Victorian pubs like the Lyric, famous pubs like Coach & Horses, French pubs like French House, and Dutch pubs like De Hems! Personally, I prefer drinking beer the Portuguese way, on the beach!
In terms of bars, I have a few recommendations starting with Aqua Spirit on Argyll Street. This used to be a prime first dates location for me back in the day and probably still is for the 20 somethings out there. They have two restaurants, each with an outdoor terrace and excellent cocktails.
Once upon a time before I was pregnant and 30, I used to enjoy a caipirinha or ten at Barrio Soho. However, these days I’m more into places like Bar Americain, 68 & Boston, or Ronnie Scotts for some live music.
I also hear Graphic is a trendy place, but now that I’m too busy brunching and reproducing I haven’t been. While just on the other side of Shaftesbury Ave, you’ll find my two favourite speakeasy’s, ECC (Experimental Cocktail Club) and Opium.
For more London Food and Drink Recommendations…
The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.