The City’s restaurants, cafés, bars and coffee shops often play a greater role than simply filling your belly. Deals are done over oysters and Champagne (or, increasingly, quinoa and kale), ideas are hashed out over bottomless filter coffee and WiFi, romances begin with cocktails and blossom over big bowls...
The City’s restaurants, cafés, bars and coffee shops often play a greater role than simply filling your belly. Deals are done over oysters and Champagne (or, increasingly, quinoa and kale), ideas are hashed out over bottomless filter coffee and WiFi, romances begin with cocktails and blossom over big bowls of pasta, and hangovers are soaked up with egg and bacon butties.
But with so much choice in the Square Mile, it’s hard to know where to go for that quick lunch that won’t ruin your spin class or the Thursday night group dinner that will win you legions of fans at work. Whether you need a quiet corner to plug in your laptop or a posh wine list to impress your colleagues, City Matters has your ultimate guide to eating and drinking in the City of London.
A quick bite
Lunch from Counter Kitchen comes complete with a healthy dose of smugness. Billing itself as a ‘mindfulness eatery’, this new-ish Clerkenwell spot serves up Asian-inspired breakfast and lunches with a focus on raw, nutritious ingredients. Think avocado toast with kimchi for breakfast, and wild mushrooms and pickled daikon and healthy wholegrain soba noodles for lunch.
63 Goswell Road, EC1V 7EN
California here we come thanks to this LA-inspired, Shoreditch-honed brunch and lunch spot that has just opened a second location in Farringdon. Bel-Air‘s range of seasonal salads currently includes a ripping Mexican quinoa salad with black beans, tomatoes, jalapeño, coriander, lime and pepper and a pumpkin falafel combination with kale and quinoa. Sit-in for a more chilled take on fast food and mainline bottomless Ozone filter coffee to get you through the afternoon.
12 New Fetter Lane EC 4A
“Think about what you bought for lunch yesterday, and then think about flank steak with spiced roast sweet potatoes and honey-charred broccoli on a bed of freekeh for £7.50.” That’s the tempting offer from Farmer J, the Leadenhall eatery flogging fast food that’s actually good for you. Select from the ‘Forkin Fast’ menu of healthy breakfast options (granola, chia, Bircher etc), protein snacks, salads and sandwiches, or design your own ‘Field Tray’ of a main, a grain and two warm or cold sides. You’ll find it almost impossible to go back to the humble meal deal.
107 Leadenhall Street EC3A 4AA
In this post-gluten paleo age, we’ve all been running on raw kale and the misconception that eating healthy requires significant compromise in the flavour department. Not so, say the founders of Aprés, who are aiming to redefine clean eating with their sugar and gluten-free menu of healthy and hearty dishes based around functional medicine. Start the day off right with poached eggs over slow cooked tomatoes and peppers and keep going until dinner with fresh filled rolls, bone broth chicken risotto, or fragrant lamb curry over cauliflower rice.
72 St John Street EC1M 4DT
For those looking to treat themselves, Savurè is a Turin-based pasta restaurant and shop making its first foray into the London market with a snazzy ‘pasticio’ (pasta lab) and casual dining space just south of Old Street. Pasta is prepared fresh in front of your eyes to dine-in with a sauce of your choice or take home. One bite of the pillowy ravioli filled with three Italian meats, Mediterranean herbs and spices and you’ll be doing both.
20 Paul Street EC2A 4JH
A longer lunch
Burdock opened as an all-day drinking and dining venue on the ground floor of the brand new Montcalm Royal London House Hotel in Finsbury Square late last year and it’s just as fancy as the digs above it. Four overhanging beer tanks filled with rotating craft ales preside over the 20,000sq ft bar, which is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. Light lunchers can snack on superfood salads or, for something more substantial, select from the casual menu of small plates and sharing dishes, washed down with a couple of cocktails.
22-25 Finsbury Square EC2A 1DX
This seafood joint at the top of D&D South Place Hotel was recently recognised by Michelin inspectors in a new category for restaurants that hold on to their stars despite the departure of a head chef. But with Gary Foulkes, formerly of The Square, taking over the reins last June, there was probably not much chance of a slip-up anyway. Angler serves up sustainable seafood from British waters paired with seasonal sides.
South Place Hotel, 3 South Place EC2M 2AF
You will want to linger over a second coffee at Jason Atherton’s sky high City Social if only to take in the incredible views on offer from the 24th floor of Tower 42. Happily, executive chef Paul Walsh delivers food to match; pretty Michelin-starred dishes that range from line-caught halibut with fondant potato, turnips, crispy prawns and tenderstem broccoli, to Lincolnshire rabbit with Parma ham, trompette mushrooms, spelt, lovage emulsion and black garlic.
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street EC2N 1HQ
A romantic dinner
When Michelin-starred chef Anthony Demetre launched Osteria just over a year ago, the Barbican’s much-maligned absence of a decent pre-show dinner was rectified. But Demetre’s artfully curated menu of bold ingredient-focussed Italian dishes has seen Osteria rise to become a destination in its own right, despite being hidden away behind the estate’s highwalks. Keep an eye out for regular tasting menus with an emphasis on seasonality.
Barbican Centre, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS
28°-50° WINE WORKSHOP
Wine bar by name (the 28°-50° refers to the latitudes within which most of the world’s vineyards are located), cosy dining spot by nature. Chef Julien Blanc has eschewed the traditionally simple dishes favoured by most bars, working with 28°-50°’s sommeliers to develop dishes that bring out the best in each drop. Here, punchy flavours have much to say in the form of cod swimming in lemongrass and coconut sauce, salmon ceviche with chilli and ginger, and lamb with ratatouille and pistou.
140 Fetter Lane EC4A 1BT
LA DAME DE PIC
The Four Seasons brought out the culinary big guns for the food offering in its brand new luxury hotel in Tower Hill, installing multi-Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic at the helm. More than famous for pushing boundaries when it comes to cooking methods and flavour combinations, expect the same creative approach at La Dame de Pic that earned her restaurant in the Maison Pic hotel in Valence a coveted three stars. Mains start at £32 so perhaps one for a special occasion.
Four Seasons Hotel, 10 Trinity Square EC3N 4AJ
After work drinks
Given our fondness for throwback-themed bars, it’s surprising one hadn’t thrown back quite as far as the original founders of our great city until late last year. Roma, if you haven’t already guessed, aims to transport after work drinkers back to Ancient Rome with a carefully curated list of wines that can be traced back to vineyards the Romans would have drunk from themselves. The food continues the theme with a selection of moreish Roman-inspired share plates to feast on, and salumi boards until 2am – because when in Rome.
14 New London Street EC3R 7NA
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
As the name suggests, this luxurious cocktail den, which is housed in a former Turkish bath house, is open exclusively for bookings on Friday and Saturday nights. This means no stumbling in after five pints looking for somewhere ‘quiet’ to talk, but it also means nobody else will be doing that when you do get your act together and book in advance. The By Appointment Only mixologists make magic happen with sharp cocktails, in-house spirit infusions, and a ‘Ginspiration’ menu, where the humble G&T is elevated to new heights.
Victorian Bath House, Bishopsgate Churchyard EC2M 3TJ
FOUR SISTERS TOWNHOUSE
Hidden away at the end of the Dickensian doors that line Grovedale Court, off Bow Lane, Four Sisters Townhouse is the lively but still relatively obscure cocktail bar sorely needed at this end of town. The ‘Market to Glass’ cocktail menu is entirely seasonal with combinations like tequila, lime, jalapeno and grapefruit in summer, and cognac and aromatic bitters in winter. A separate section dedicated to new wave, classic and forgotten cocktails will also have you rediscovering old favourites (or finding new ones).
5 Groveland Court, Bow Lane EC4M 9EH
Spruiking a low-lit bar for after work tipples, a restaurant with a DJ booth for dining and dance, a cellar for small group gatherings, and a hidden bar for whiskey and sake tastings, Ember ticks boxes in almost every category. Executive chef Jonathan Villar has injected fresh life into the archetypical Asian-European fusion cuisine, while signature cocktails are presented under the auspices of light, medium and dark: a refreshing Kimchi martini for lunch or pre-dinner, the rich and nutty River Dragon during the meal, and the Kiuchi Highball to wind down – though by the sound of the Japanese whisky, sherry chocolate bitters and amber ale concoction, the party might be just getting started.
1a Pudding Lane EC3R 8AB
Few things in life bring out pretension in the human race quite like a glass of fermented grapes, but tucked away in the historic vaults of St Bride’s is a refuge from talk of tannins and terroir. Humble Grape is a safe haven for those who enjoy wine but don’t know tonnes about it. Founder James Dawson and his team of expert palettes scour the globe for small, sustainable, independently-run vineyards. Each has a story behind the drop, which inspires the unique tasting notes. Pick a bottle to take home or stick around to sample it with dishes from the small but succinct menu of sharing platters and simple mains – steak, salmon tartare and vibrant sides.
1 St Bride’s Passage EC4Y 8EJ
A group dinner
A favourite of City workers since opening in 2001, Chamberlain’s specialises in seasonal fish and seafood, which is wholly unsurprising when you consider its parent company is a wholesale fish business in the heart of Billingsgate. Chef Andrew Jones oversees a massive four-storey operation – dining split over the ground floor and mezzanine, plus event spaces, and a basement brasserie and bar – but his menu lets the produce do the talking. Go for the Dover sole poached or grilled in Champagne sauce, stick around for the Scottish lobster served with cognac, gruyere, mustard, tomato and tarragon and wash it all down with a couple of bottles of old or new world white from the extensive wine list.
23-25 Leadenhall Market EC3V 1LR
MAC & WILD
The City offshoot of Scottish favourite Mac & Wild is much larger than its original Soho site, allowing room for a subterranean whiskey bar below the restaurant and ‘hunting room’ where diners can shoot for their supper on screen complete with live foliage and tam o’ shanters. It will be the most elaborate game of Buckhunter you and your mates ever play; the cherry on top of a menu of moreish Scottish snacks like scotch eggs and haggis pops, prime cuts straight from the Highlands, fresh seafood and plenty of whiskey, naturally.
9a Devonshire Square EC2M 4YN
City carnivores have been stampeding to Little Smoke, the meaty new CityPoint venture from the folks behind Smokehouse, Pig and Butcher, and The Princess of Shoreditch. The focus here is on seasonal cuts from independent local farmers so the menu changes based on what’s being butchered for the day. The meat is cut on site at Smokehouse in Islington, then trucked into the City where it is roasted, smoked or grilled and served up with a range of moreish sides and homemade condiments.
CityPoint, 1 Ropemaker Street EC2Y 9AW
There is a reason this steak specialist has mushroomed to a six-strong chain. The Guildhall branch of Hawksmoor advertises the standard ‘dictionary-thick’ steaks and a diverse wine list perfect for power lunchers on expense accounts. Groups lucky enough to have a little more time on their hands should consider signing up for the Beef Tasting Menu for a ‘tongue to tail’ tour of a cow.
10 Basinghall Street EC2V 5BQ