Why settle for a dull meal when London is packed with some of the most exciting and oh-so-unusual places to eat in the country?
Whether you’re entertaining family, wowing your better half or impressing colleagues, London is jam-packed with restaurants that will take your breath away. Say goodbye to the samey chains and the hushed temples of Michelin food – these eateries are as far from the norm as it gets, and some are even keenly priced. Book now with LNER – you can travel from Leeds to London for just £29.70 each way – and make reservations for London’s most unusual restaurants.
The Clink Restaurant
Fancy some delicious food with a social purpose? The Clink Restaurant is a charity project that has seen inmates get City & Guilds NVQ training while working in the kitchens of what turns out to be an excellent restaurant (one of several across the UK) – it has even helped reduce reoffending rates. Step inside their Brixton restaurant and you’ll find leather seating and tables made by inmates in an early 19th-century governor’s house. The food? How does pan-fried sea bass with lime pickle potatoes, cured sea trout or venison pie sound?
The Clink Restaurant, HMP Brixton, Jebb Avenue, Brixton Hill, London, SW2 5XF.
Dans le Noir?
Dining in the dark? Dans le Noir? thrusts you into the pitch black, heightening your other senses as you’re served by blind and partially sighted waiters and waitresses. This is more than just a novelty, however, as the food stands up to the experience, even as each mouthful comes with an element of the unexpected. In fact, the entire menu is a surprise – they adapt the food based on things you can’t eat. After dining, you step into the light for a debriefing and photos of the food and drink you’ve just tried – it’s a treat for all the senses and perfect if you’ve saved up for a special occasion.
Dans le Noir?, 69-73 St John Street, London, EC1M 4AN.
The second you step inside Archipelago, you’ll feel a world away from London. This is a place that manages to deliver ‘exotic’ without being naff – the knick-knacks, giant peacock feathers and dark hues feel comforting rather than forced. But it’s the menu that really transports you. They’ve got chicken and steak, sure, but they’ve also got ostrich, elk, kangaroo skewers, camel, zebra jerky and spicy crocodile with honey poached plums. The crunch in that crispy salad starter? That comes from pan-fried crickets tossed in Chermoula.
Archipelago, 53 Cleveland Street, London, W1T 4JJ.
One of the most inventively beautiful places to eat in London – nay, the country – sketch has art and design at its core. That holds true whether you choose a plush, golden-hued meal in The Gallery with its Yinka Shonibare artwork or in The Glade with its hand-painted velvet furniture and carpet of grass and pine needles. The food is more than a match – The Lecture Room & Library holds three Michelin stars. Need to spend a penny? Even that’s a treat – the pod toilets here are worth the visit alone, like eggs from another planet.
sketch, 9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG.
Fuwa Fuwa Cafe
While there’s nothing particularly crazy about either branch of Fuwa Fuwa Cafe in London, a menu dedicated entirely to the lesser-spotted soufflé pancakes makes this well worth a detour when you’re in the capital. They’re a recent trend, and will forever change the way you view the humble pancake, knocking the French crepe and the trusty American take off their elevated perches. These take longer to cook but are fluffy, wobbly and delectably delicious, with toppings such as Nutella and honeycomb, matcha or the addictive Lotus Biscoff special. Cheap treats don’t come any more delicious.
Fuwa Fuwa Cafe, Unit, 8, Brunswick Centre, London, WC1N 1BS & 57A Dean Street, London, W1D 6AJ.
The ‘Walkie Talkie’ building might have been much maligned by architecture critics when it opened, but it has all been worth it for Sky Garden, which takes over the top three floors. This is a truly magnificent space, with floor to ceiling windows, beautifully manicured gardens and views of the capital that are simply breathtaking. Fenchurch is the rooftop restaurant within, serving up high-end fare such as hand-dived Isle of Skye scallops with brown shrimp jelly and stuffed turbot with whipped whey and Champagne sauce.
Sky Garden, The Fenchurch Building, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF.
Bob Bob Ricard
Slide into the snug, rich blue booths at Bob Bob Ricard and the Soho glamour is the first thing that catches your eye. The second? A button marked ‘Press for Champagne’. The genius is that it actually works, so press away and wait for the bubbles to arrive – more Champagne is consumed here than in any other restaurant in the UK. The food is fit to match too, from caviar with creme fraiche bliss through to a sensational Stinking Bishop Cheese Soufflé. With beef wellington for two and lobster mac and cheese, this is elevated comfort food – sometimes you just have to treat yourself.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF.
The Piano Works
You don’t go to The Piano Works for a quiet dinner. No, this is a live music restaurant where a six-piece house band plays throughout, taking requests from the diners. You’ll find a request slip on your table, so you can enjoy drinks and dinner while waiting for your song to be played. The food is relatively simple – JD-glazed pork ribs, bao buns, ribeye steak and fries – but ticks all the boxes. The main event is the vibe – you’re encouraged to sing and dance along. It’s a great way to see off the calories you’ve just consumed.
The Piano Works, 47 Whitcomb Street, London, WC2H 7DH.
The name doesn’t give much away, but Park Row is a Batman-inspired restaurant that takes its theming very seriously. Start the evening with a drink at the glorious art deco Pennyworth’s bar – named for Bruce Wayne’s erstwhile butler. Penguin’s The Iceberg Lounge has a chilled atmosphere perfect for the seafood and Champagne within, while both Poison Ivy and Catwoman get dedicated areas. It’s subtle, conjuring the atmosphere of Gotham rather than the comics or films, but the food and drinks will have you joining their fang club.
Park Row, 77 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9ZN.
You might not be able to find a decent public toilet anymore, but in London you can certainly find a very decent place to drink and dine that used to be one. WC – it stands for wine and charcuterie, rather than water closet – is a former Victorian loo turned into a very swanky wine bar that makes for a brilliant date night spot. The booths are made from the original wooden stalls, while much of the tiling is vintage too. The wine list is interesting, the cocktails cracking and the meats and cheeses exemplary, as are the highly tempting small plates.
WC Bloomsbury, Guilford Place, London, WC1N 1EA.
There are no creepy clowns or sad lions to worry about at this Circus. Instead, this vibrant and exciting destination restaurant is all about the glamour. Don’t come here for a quiet tete-a-tete, you’ll be dining on pan-Asian food while performers breathe fire, acrobats tumble past and contortionists adopt seemingly impossible positions. Cocktails are a must, while dishes include sweet miso salmon with blackened lime and pickled ginger, or Thai rare beef salad – there’s a vegan set menu too. After that, let the fun begin!
Circus, 27-29 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9BA.
Lost Souls Pizza
Dining in London doesn’t get more 80s than it does at Lost Souls Pizza. They don’t just pay lip service to the teen vampire classic they take their name from, they serve up pizza on black charcoal bases that give off a Halloween vibe all year round. Winners include Pops Go to Pizza with sausage, broccoli and parmesan, or Kale All Vampires with kale, cherry tomatoes and caramelised shallots. The dark, spooky vibe is perfect for the costume parties, 80s film screenings and Gothic drawing sessions that take place here. All this for the price of a pizza? Madness!
Lost Souls Pizza, 245 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 1BA.
The White Haus
Only London can offer an après ski restaurant without the skiing part. You don’t have to have slalomed down the slopes to book a table here, but it definitely serves up a fabulous fondue of Alpine vibes. Vintage cable cars and cuckoo clocks make it unmistakably Swiss, but the menu isn’t. Don’t worry, unlike skiing, it doesn’t go downhill – instead, feast on thoroughly modern grub such as gammon chop with Cacklebean egg, Valrhona chocolate chilli with toasted corn tortillas and a daily-changing array of delicious steak cuts.
The White Haus, 17 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4BL.
Sarastro takes its name from Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ and, right at the heart of London’s theatreland, it’s suitably musical and dramatic. The arched doorway and warm lighting call you into this Grade II-listed building, and you’ll be shown to a recessed table either in opera-style boxes that ooze glamour or framed by bannisters taken directly from the Royal Opera House. The decor is rich, opera music lights the room and singers perform everything from swing to Latin. The food is no afterthought either – elevated Turkish fare perfect for the ornate room.
Sarastro, 126 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5SU.
When it comes to high-concept restaurants, an eatery named after former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi takes the cake. The term ‘Bunga Bunga’ refers to the decadent, unbridled parties the disgraced politician used to attend, and this Drury Lane spot does its best to capture the essence with Italianate decoration, wild performers, a speedboat and an endlessly tongue-in-cheek approach. Food covers pizza and antipasti, but going to Bunga Bunga is more a feast for the senses – heck, you can even pour a cocktail from a certain part of a copy of Michelangelo’s David…
Bunga Bunga, 167 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PG.
Want to go to a restaurant with a real buzz about it? HIVE in Selfridges is a honey-themed dining room that isn’t content to just drizzle the ingredient on a few dishes. Nope, it even has onsite beehives – and keepers – with some 100,000 bees working away on the Selfridges roof. The main ingredient finds its way into delicious cocktails such as The Madame Guerlain – champagne, honey syrup, lavender and blueberry infused vodka – and is used sparingly but sensitively in mains. The cheese and honey afternoon tea is a thing of genius.
HIVE, Selfridges & Co, 400 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1AB.
The Top Hat Restaurant
London doesn’t just have the monopoly on crazy restaurants, it even has a crazy Monopoly-themed dining room. The Top Hat won’t leave you board – sorry – with dishes like the Hot Property chicken wings and The Water Works fish and chips. Even the cocktails are named after landmarks from the timeless game. And if you want the full experience, book in at the adjacent Monopoly Lifesized, an immersive version of the game played on a 15 x 15 metre board that includes mini-games, dance-offs and, of course, giant dice.
The Top Hat, 213-215 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7PS.
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