Ah, Soho – home to Karl Marx, most of the City's gay nightclubs plus one of the best-loved London food markets in town. Down the many cobbled backstreets, you'll find plaques to Virginia Woolf alongside neon-lit sex shops; speakeasy bars hidden behind dustbins; the actual street where Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? album cover was shot; and age-old John Smith's pubs next to ice cream parlours pumping out Insta-perfect cones. And that's before you even stumble across the three theatres, pop up stores and eternally busy Carnaby Street.
Among the madness lay some of London's very best restaurants, bars and places to eat. So good, in fact, that we've written you a whole entire guide to which Soho restaurants we think serve the most delicious food, including Tapas Brindisa's oil-drenched garlic prawns, so spot on you could be in Southern Spain; Tap's rocket-fuel coffee, which breezed onto our best coffees in London list with effortless ease; and Bun Houses' fluffy Cantonese steamed buns, complete with crispy duck tongue fries.
Your Soho restaurant guide: best for breakfast
1. The Detox Kitchen
Where? 10 Kingly Street, W1B 5PJ
Don't let the name put you off – The Detox Kitchen may sound like a health nut's haven (and we can't deny, it is) but its reputation precedes it because the team knock up healthy grub really damn well. So well, in fact, that you can easily forget you're eating mainly plant-based altogether. Stop by for breakfast to try their hero egg wrap, stuffed generously with roasted courgette, peppers, spinach, broad bean hummus and sunflower seeds. Plus, the build-your-own salad lunch boxes are totally worth the £8, too.
Where? 22 Kingly Street, W1B 5QB
Ah, Dishoom – better known as London's best-loved Indian restaurant group. Every meal here is spectacular, but the breakfasts are the beating heart of its menu offerings. Shock your avo-loving tastebuds with milky, spicy, tummy-warming unlimited chai lattes, sweet appam pancakes, dripping with creamy shrikhand, fresh berries, toasted coconut and jaggery syrup, and fried egg and Insta-famous Ginger Pig bacon-stuffed naans. PSA: the vegan roll, complete with flavourful peppery vegan sausage, is pretty darn good, too.
Where? 128 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZL
Sure, the city may be bursting with seriously good sourdough (Bread Ahead and Pedlar, we're looking at you), but Gail's has got to top the list for the sheer bread-th (yep) and depth of the loaves it bakes. Plus, it's an independent success story, having started life as a passion project in 2005, now with 50 stores across London. Stop by for everything from French dark, Russian rye, and Barley porridge to its all-new Einkorn and whey sourdough loaf, plus a wide assortment of birchers, porridge bowls and yoghurt pots, alongside a killer cup of coffee.
4. Le Pain Quotidien
Where? 18 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7HU
When team LPQ opened their doors in Belgium in 1990, they probably had very little idea that 29 years later, they'd be the proud owners of more 200 restaurants, spanning 17 countries and five continents. Grab breakfast at LPQ for steaming coffee served in bowls, rye bread warm from the oven and open top sandwiches decorated with only the freshest veg. Make sure to check out the dry stores for sale whilst you're there – the in-house hazelnut spread is seriously decadent.
Best for coffee
5. Tap Coffee
Where? 193 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZF
It made the cut of the Foodism guide to the best coffees in London – and if that isn't enough to highlight a seriously good cup of joe, we don't know what is. Relax with a coffee made from their Probat roasters surrounded by exposed wood, hanging light bulbs and tasty pastries galore.
6. Nordic Bakery
Where? 14A Golden Square, W1F 9JG
Cinnamon buns and danish twirls and Skolleboller, oh my. We're pretty sure fika in its truest form just may have hitchhiked a ride to London disguised in one of Nordic Bakery's baking tins. For a quiet, off-the-beaten-track spot Soho restaurant perfect for a quiet moment or catch up over croissants, Nordic is the perfect spot, and its buns, baked fresh daily, are so good, you won't be able to help yourself going back. On the hungry side? Grab a rye sandwich, generously stuffed with cheese and pickles to keep you going until lunchtime.
Best for lunch
7. Bun House
Where? 26-27 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BA
Whether you fancy a taste of Hong Kong halfway through the working day or simply want to chow down on fluffy Cantonese steamed buns and succulent, sweet-and-spicy meat dumplings on the weekend, Bun House is your spot. Everything's a touch umami-rich, a tad crispy and a lot delicious. Don't miss the silky tea-poached eggs – they've become somewhat of a hero dish – and an ice-cold craft beer, imported from Hong Kong, to wash your meal down.
8. Tapas Brindisa
Where? 46 Broadwick Street, W1F 7AF
It's very rare that you find tapas in central London that's genuinely as good as small plates eaten in Spain, sun beating down on your shoulders, sand tickling your toes and sea breeze rustling your hair. It's part of what makes tapas so delicious, really; olive oil-drenched patatas bravas, chargrilled padrón peppers and juicy garlic gambas reach that higher echelon of spectacular tasting paired with the intoxicating contentment of holiday mode. The exception to that rule, however, can be found in Soho, where on even the greyest of days, Brindisa serve up melt-in-the-mouth croquetas, devastatingly delicious Galician octopus and thick hunks of Manchego cheese. That is all.
Where? 21-22 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE
Nopi is Ottolenghi's all-day brasserie – need we say more? The Middle Eastern-born chef has accrued somewhat of a cult gathering in recent years for making tahini, za'atar and dukkah mainstream in the UK, so expect all of the above dressing up veg-centric dishes. At Nopi, you share plates and get to try a little bit of everything as a result – tangy, creamy yoghurt dips, coriander seed and peach topped burrata, peach and smoky roasted aubergine topped with feta, green chilli, walnuts and pomegranate jam. Fun fact: Nopi is short for North of Piccadilly.
10. Le Bab
Where? Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, W1B 5PW
Outside of the mangal restaurants of Dalston, Green Lanes and Camberwell, the humble kebab has been experimented with in recent years by the likes of Maison Bab and Berber & Q. Le Bab and the like serve contemporary kebabs, if you will – meat, seafood and tofu char grilled over charcoal and wood, served in fluffy flatbreads stuffed with the all-essential chutney, crispy onions and sriracha mayo. Oh, and did we mention they're cooked by two ex-Gavroche chefs? Off you trot.
11. Berwick Street Market
Where? Berwick Street, W1F 0PH
You may have already caught Foodism's review of Berwick Street Market in our guide of the best food markets in London, but if you missed it, you can read up on the many amazing (and budget-friendly) street food vendors here, instead. There's something for every sort of lunch you may fancy – from light and flavourful Savage Salad boxes, to juicy jerk chicken from Caribbean favourite The Jerk Drum, to authentic Greek pork souvlaki pita breads. Yep, we're hungry too.
12. Lina Stores
Where? 51 Greek Street, W1D 4EH
Pas-sta the buck, it's time for tagliatelle, on the set of what feels like a 2019 Wes Anderson movie, no less. They've been selling pasta from the store since the 1940's, which, alongside the aesthetically-pleasing pastel mint and white striped walls, only add to the experience at Lina Stores. The speciality (you guessed it) is the pasta, handmade daily and served by the (rather generous) bowlful. Enjoy with a glass of wine, all for under £15. We're in.
13. 10 Greek Street
Where? 10 Greek Street, W1D 4DH
It's one of Soho's better known institutions, having opened its doors in 2012 to round-the-clock queues and hungry punters. If you haven't already eaten at 10 Greek Street, head for crispy, crunchy squid, pink, earthy venison and a really rather pleasant dining experience – if you can hack the wait, which is often lengthy but worth it. You can eat at a counter overlooking the chefs in the kitchen – quite a treat, if you're a fan of immersive dining – or on your own table, if you'd prefer.
14. Barrafina Dean Street
Where? 26-27 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
Inspired by Barcelona's Cal Pep restaurant comes Barrafina, serving tapas so delicious in central Soho that founders Sam and Eddie Hart were one of the first Spanish restaurants in London to earn a Michelin star for their work. Although they may have relocated from their original location on Frith Street to a more spacious spot up the road, where Quo Vadis once sat, the dishes are just as delicious. Be ready to queue – no, you can't make reservations – and to eat more than you knew you could. From the charcuterie, to the ham croquetas and the prawn and piquillo pepper, you're in for a treat. Top tip: make sure to opt for one of the blackboard specials – everything from pigs' ears to sea anemone.
Best for dinner
Where? 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS
BAO down, for the tastiest Taiwanese food in London, if not the UK, is being served up at (yep, you guessed it) BAO. What started out as a humble market stall in Netil Market now has three bricks-and-mortar locations, the first of which sits on Soho's Lexington Street. There's pig blood cake, topped with a decadent soy cured egg yolk, fried chicken sandwiched in fluffy bao buns and a whole range of weird and wonderful cocktails – yakult float or gingerbread milk tea, anyone? For more on the dishes that shaped team BAO's success story, simply click.
16. Breddos Tacos
Where? 26 Kingly Street, W1B 5QD
What do you get when you cross Mexican food with someone who's damn good at cooking it? Bloody great tacos, that's what – and that's what you'll get at Breddos, where co-founders Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney serve up outlandish, extravagant and outright delicious tacos, miso butter grilled corn and yuca fries. Similarly to BAO, they too started life at Netil market and migrated to their permanent sites in Soho and Clerkenwell some years later. Breddos Tacos are not messing around here – there are five different salsas to choose from – so get settled, grab an ice cold, salt-rimmed margarita and tuck in. It's a Soho restaurant you won't be forgetting any time soon.
Where? 9 D'Arblay St, Soho, W1F 8DR
The original Blanchette, situated on D'Arblay street, offers a fresh kind of French dining from a sibling-team of three brothers. There's an excellent wine list jam packed with French producers, and more cheese and honey pairings than you know what to do with, plus saucisson, moules and pomme frites. Bon appetit.
Where? 36-40 Rupert Street, W1D 6DW
Tucked away unassumingly on Rupert Street lies Hovarda, an Aegean-inspired restaurant serving Greek-Turkish fusion food in a very plush setting. Velvet chairs, chandeliers and glistening cabinets stocked with perfectly asymmetrical bottles of Ouzo make up your dinner setting. Foodism recommends the feta saganaki, dripping in truffle honey and basil, and courgette fritter "mücver", paired with roasted garlic yogurt. One for date night or a special occasion – the plates aren't the cheapest – but one to add to the "Soho restaurants to try" list nonetheless.
19. INKO NITO
Where? 55 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QS
INKO NITO, from Roka and Zuma founder Rainer Becker, describes itself as "unconventional Japanese", and that, it certainly is. Seats surround the grill, set up for you to watch the chefs at work, and bright neon lights and cartoon posters deck the walls. Food wise, it's a great spot catching up with friends over relaxed Japanese food and a few cold beers. The black tiger prawn skewers are juicy, flavoured with sansho, lemon and garlic, and free-wheeling spicy tuna and yuzu mayo nigaki. Enjoy.
20. Dirty Bones
Where? 14 Denman Street, W1D 7HJ
Comfort food, old school tunes cranked high and cocktails sound like a bit of you? Yeah, we thought so. For all of the former and food in the shape of crispy onion topped hot dogs, sticky, BBQ glazed ribs and fat, juicy burgers, get yourself down to Dirty Bones. We're pretty sure it's where the term "dude food" may just have originated from. Fancy making their infamous mutts nutts cocktail at home for yourself? Lucky for you, we've got the recipe.
21. Ember Yard
Where? 60 Berwick Street, W1F 8SU
Reminiscent of a more upmarket, Soho-based Turkish grill, Ember Yard serves mainly-grill focused tapas to an exceptionally good standard, you'll keep coming back for more (and more, and more, and more…). Quite frankly, the whole menu is a delight; grilled prawns, pickled daikon, mussels, chilli aioli & mussels cracker, Gloucester old spot pork belly with smoked aubergine & date chutney courgette flower, Monte Enebro and blossom honey. Grab a plate of Boquerone anchovies to accompany your cocktail – Foodism recommends the vintage negroni, a combination of Tanqueray Ten and smoked Campari, complete with grilled orange and smoked ice. Oh yeah.
22. Duck and Rice
Where? 90 Berwick Street, W1F 0QB
Towering over the bustling Berwick Street market is Duck and Rice, what founder Alan Yau self-titled a new hybrid of "Chinese gastropub". It operates from a large restaurant space, for Soho, meaning you can sink into the plush round tables, sip your pilsner (they sampled over 1,000 beers during the menu planning stage) and while away many hours over spicy small plates of dim sum, gyoza and – the star of the show – mooli puffs.
Where? 64 Dean Street, W1A 4QQ
Having laid claim to a mini empire around these parts, Spanish-American chef Victor Garvey could probably lay claim to the title of Prince of Soho, if not King. The much-loved Encant and Sibarrita might have closed their doors in the last couple of years, but the excellent Rambla remains. An ode to the eating culture of Barcelona, the restaurant focuses on ingredient-led Spanish cooking with the odd twist courtesy of Garvey's haute-cuisine background. Think fat gambas al ajillo, octopus a la plancha, stuffed courgette flowers and – one of the most talked-about dishes in the neighbourhood – chorizo flambéed tableside in a pear liqueur, served with Spanish-style cheese-on-toast. Delicious.
Where? 12 Denman Street, W1D 7HH
Dishoom may win on the breakfast front, but for seriously handsome Indian supper fare, Denman Street's your best bet. Kricket's reputation likely precedes it - its bhel puri became Insta-famous from its original Brixton site. Must tries also include the keralan fried chicken, which is crispy, crunchy and more-ish, and the handsome as hell lamb chop, served with sweet yoghurt and peas. Fyi, the chaitinis are pimped with a generous splash of vodka and coffee liqueur if you do want to make a night of it.
Best for dessert
Where? 155 Wardour Street, W1F 8WG
We hear the sweet toothed among you breathing a sigh of relief – fear not, we've covered the desserts, although you will definitely have noticed L'Eto already if you've ever walked far enough down Wardour Street. Hundreds of perfectly-baked cakes line the shop window, from larger-than-life macarons, frosted blueberry topped cheesecakes and tiramisu slices oozing with cream. L'Eto's famous for its honey cake – they outlet has sold over 2 million – we dare you to leave without buying another to scoff at home. (Impossible).
26. Hummingbird Bakery
Where? 155a Wardour Street, W1F 8WG
Hummingbird Bakery were the original bakers introducing New York-style cream cheese-topped cupcakes to London from its Notting Hill bakery – now, many moons on, the Hummingbird bakers are known internationally for their delicious bakes. Grab a red velvet cupcake, zesty lemon traybake and showstopper meringue-topped coconut cake – you won't regret it.
Where? 130 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZN
In need of an ice cold refreshment piled high with toppings of your choice? Well, then, it's yorica time (apologies). The Soho joint serves smooth, soft serve ice cream with fresh berries, brownie bites and gummy bears, marshmallows, Jammy Dodgers and popcorn. Oh yeah. Don't miss the free sprinkles, or the fun fact (that we didn't realise until after we'd devoured our tub); all the ice cream served at Yorica is totally vegan, made from rice milk and coconut cream. It's so good, you'd never know. For Foodism's guide to the best ice creams in London, click here.
Best for drinks
Where? 12 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TQ
A definite contender for the best bar in the capital, Swift has quickly seen itself become a mainstay in the World's 50 Best Bars list, but unlike many of the upper-echelon bars that have received that accolade, Swift isn't particularly conceptual. Or overly expensive. It's split into two floors with distinctive personalities: the top a marble-decked, approachable aperitivo bar, and the bottom a lounge bar that has a proper lean-back and relax sort of vibe. Cocktails are excellent and a steal at around £10 each – definitely go for the signature Irish coffee if you head downstairs.
29. Milk & Honey
Where? 61 Poland Street, W1F 7NU
Cocktail fan? It doesn't get much better than Milk & Honey, a reservation-only members bar best described as a Moulin Rouge-esque speakeasy artfully disguised behind an unassuming black door in the heart of Soho. Stop by for some of the best cocktails in the City – Foodism loves the rather historical Penicillin, a mix of unpeated scotch, peated scotch, ginger liqueur, honey and lemon, created in the bar's original Manhattan site – and there are more than 70 beers, wines and sparklings on the list as well. Top tip: it may be a members' club, but if you're not a member, you can visit before 11pm if you book in advance.
30. Bar Termini
Where? 7 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JE
Tony Conigliaro has made his name in high-concept cocktail bars and a genuine laboratory where he and his team make many of their homemade ingredients, but his Soho mainstay is totally pared-back, with a simple menu of negronis (OK, they're infused with botanicals in a sous-vide, but still), spritzes, light bites and espressos. It's a proper aperitivo bar – perfect for a pre-dinner drink to whet the appetite.
31. Mele e Pere
Where? 46 Brewer Street, W1F 9TF
Speaking of aperitivi, the underrated Mele e Pere is, in our humble opinion, the best place to go in the city for a bitter Italian-style cocktail that'll get your stomach rumbling before dinner. There are two floors – our preference is going downstairs and sitting at the burnished copper bar counter, and make your way through its negroni and spritz list. The focus here is vermouth, and there's a huge list of it, as well as gins and amari, so you can build your own (or tell the bartender what you like and have one custom-built for you). You can stay for dinner – a year or so after opening the bar introduced a full menu – but if you're off to dinner somewhere else, the nduja-stuffed deep-fried olives are an absolute must.
32. The Blind Pig
Where? 58 Poland Street, W1F 7NR
Speakeasies are typically basement-level, but in case you didn't know, there's a hidden bar above Jason Atherton's Social Eating House in Soho. The Blind Pig – recogniseable only for the pig-shaped knocker on its otherwise incognito door – is a cozy, loungy bar that serves a rotating list of conceptual drinks alongside classic cocktails and sharing plates. A nightcap inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Don't mind if we do.
33. The Sun & 13 Cantons
Where? 21 Great Pulteney Street, W1F 9NG
It is the east, and Juliet is The Sun (& 13 Cantons). Or something like that. We're not certain that it was this pub that Shakespeare was waxing lyrical about back in the day, but we are certain that it's one that we wax lyrical about a lot. Not only is it an adept boozer with a fair selection of pints and wine behind the bar, but it's played host to numerous excellent food residencies over the years. Heard of Asma Khan's Darjeeling Express? It had a residency in The Sun & 13 Cantons. Sambol Shiok? Ditto. Go there for good food, good drink, and a good time. In fact, go there whenever you're sick and pale with grief.