London is hardly short of wonderful places to eat. It is, in our completely biased opinion, simply one of the best cities in the world when it comes to dining out. You can get your hands on almost any cuisine you’re after, at any time, anywhere in the city.

Like many big metropolises, London has pockets of particularly wonderful places to eat. Areas or patches of the city where good eating and drinking comes in particularly high concentration with endless new and exciting restaurants and bars to discover; and none are more iconic than Carnaby, which has long been synonymous with London’s cultural trends.

In 1957, John Stephen – an entrepreneur who would go on to become a prominent designer in the mod scene and known as ‘The King of Carnaby Street’ – opened his first boutique, His Clothes. By the early 1960s it had not just become a fashion hub, but also a key location for the Swinging Sixties movement in the city, thanks to the multiple music venues that made their home both on Carnaby Street and among the lanes leading off it.

It then moved on to become the backdrop to many significant punk moments in the 1970s. In 1973 the ‘Carnaby Welcomes the World’ sign was installed, the initial hint of what would go on to become one of the most iconic elements of Carnaby; the art installations that stretch across the wide expanse of sky above.

Just a few years later it became home to a new wave of designers in the 80s, including iconic British names like Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg.

It is a widely known fact that wherever good music and fashion are – and wherever tastemakers flock to in pursuit of them both – good food tends to follow. Carnaby is no exception to that rule. Long cementing its status as a key destination in London – with locals and visitors alike – Carnaby today is without a doubt a hub for some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.

This was furthered by the opening of Kingly Court in 2014. The iconic, three-floor food and drink destination sees a wide range of culinary concepts set around an open-air courtyard. Over the years the space has acted as an incubator for some of London’s seminal restaurants, from Asma Khan’s much-loved, celebrity-approved Darjeeling Express (which has, in a full-circle moment, recently returned to the building) to the life-affirming Imad’s Syrian Kitchen from Imad Alarnab, who fled Damascus in 2015 when in just six days all of his restaurants in the city were destroyed.

And it doesn’t stop there – the multi-level venue is home to a range of cuisines. You’ve got crowd favourite Korean Dinner Party, which does exactly what it says on the tin, serving up Korean-fusion food in a vibrant space alongside a great cocktail list; Shoryu Ramen, with its slurp-worthy bowls of noodle soup; vegan Mexican at Club Mexicana, which will transport you to the palm tree-lined streets of LA; kebabs and mezze at Le Bab; plus and Disrepute, easily one of the city’s best cocktail bars. On the fringes of the court you’ve got even more hot spots, like Pastaio which serves up heaping Italian plates from River Cafe-trained Stevie Parle and Rosa’s Thai, which has Londoners salivating over its vibrant curries and incredible Pad Thai.

Elsewhere in Carnaby, down the smaller lanes that lead off it, like veins from a beating heart, the gastronomical offerings remain just as strong. On Kingly Street you have an outpost of the ever-growing Dishoom empire and Sri Lankan spot Kolamba, alongside some of the city’s best watering holes, including Bar Crispin for small plates and wine, and Cahoots Ticket Hall and Signalling Station, the above-ground venue from its subterranean cousin Cahoots. On the opposite side of the neighbourhood you’ll find the Newburgh Quarter, home to Turkish restaurant Zahter, modern Greek joint INO, ramen favourites Kanada Ya and French-accented wine bar Antidote. Meanwhile, around the corner on Beak Street, you’ll find the recently opened bar kroketa, an intimate little tapas spot dedicated to the croqueta from the team behind Brindisa; and Polpo, the small-plates Italian that shook up what it meant to eat in London when it first opened in 2009.

With all that in mind, is it any surprise that the neighbourhood has a special festival dedicated to all things food and drink? Carnaby Street Eat, running this year across the first fortnight of June, sees a bunch of the area’s eateries band together to offer special deals, events and masterclasses. Head to the Ugly Dumpling for a dumpling lesson, visit Darjeeling Express for a special meal hosted by Asma Khan Herself or simply make the most of the numerous £5 deals on offer. One thing is for sure: you can guaranteee you definitely won’t be going hungry in Carnaby.

Carnaby Street Eat

Carnaby’s abundance of brilliant food and drink means it’s a great destination all year round, but Carnaby Street Eat provides an ideal platform to dive in. Running from 1-15 June, it’ll showcase £5 dishes, activations, masterclasses and more.

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