Arancini Brothers – Kentish Town, Dalston and Old Street
While the rest of the city goes nuts about burgers, bao and burritos, the Arancini Brothers have carved out their own niche with risotto balls that would make any Italian ex-pat weep. Kentish Town is the original and probably the best if you want to sit down and take a bit of time, but they’ve also opened smaller premises in Dalston and Old Street and their van does the rounds of the capital’s food markets.
As with most of London’s hippest food crazes (and the décor at Bao should leave you in no doubt about how hip it is), expect to wait for a spot at Bao. You might wonder why you’re standing in line when there are so many alternatives around, but these beautifully soft steamed Taiwanese buns make it one of the few ‘no reservations’ joints that is truly worth it.
Brasserie Zédel , Soho
Scraggy looking cafés that serve incredible food are always an exciting find, but for special occasions or rare romantic excursions, you need a bit of pomp and circumstance to add to the atmosphere. Brasserie Zédel, from the team behind the Wolseley and the Delaunay, is ideal for a bit of something fancy on a budget. The room is a cavernous art deco basement, the food classically French and very reasonably priced, and the house wine a resounding bargain.
Brick House, Dulwich
Dulwich’s hidden gem is no longer quite so hidden, not with plaudits such as London’s best sourdough to brag about. This is quite possibly the best brunch destination in south-east London, drawing the crowds from far and near not just because of the quality of the bread, but just about everything else too – and that includes the prices. Pick up a loaf on your way out and relive the moment each morning.
The Golden Hind, Marylebone
Not Francis Drake’s ship but a piece of history all the same. The Golden Hind has been going for over 100 years and is still probably the best fish and chips in the whole city. The restaurant is decidedly no frills, as any good chippy should be, and it’s BYOB, which helps keep the cost of your meal down.
Indian YMCA, Fitzrovia
Another guarded secret that is quickly becoming common knowledge, the Indian YMCA dining hall is a great place to get authentic Indian curries at ridiculously low prices. The standard of the food far outweighs the experience, so this is better used as a lunchtime treat.
Mangal Ocakbasi, Shacklewell
The area around Dalston in east London is famous for its wealth of Turkish restaurants, but none come close to this absolute gem. There are two ‘Mangals’: Mangal 2 on Stoke Newington Road and Mangal 1 on Arcola Rd. It’s the latter that you want, the smell of barbecued meat hitting you like a delicious punch in the face as soon as you open the door.
Melt Room, Soho
We’ve just about forgiven Melt for taking the spot that was once home to Miletti, one of Soho’s most beloved Italian lunch spots. It’s helped that this place does the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the city: golden, crispy bread spilling out mounds of gooey, tangy cheese. It’s so delicious it’s almost indecent.
Speaking of Italian lunch spots, Miletti’s absence has been softened by the existence of Princi on Wardour Street. The long counter houses square after square of incredible, authentic Italian pizza, filled focaccia, pasta, salads, cannoli, tiramisu… the list goes on and on and on. The restaurant next door is more expensive so this is better as a lunch option.
Roti Chai, Marylebone
Just a short stroll from Oxford Street, this Indian street food restaurant is hidden away down the alley beside M&S, which is the only reason it’s not heaving 24/7. The restaurant downstairs is a bit pricier and fancier, so stick to the bright, inviting upstairs and enjoy some of the best and most reasonably priced Indian curries that central London has to offer.