Nose-to-tail eating has been a thing on a lot longer than you think. In fact, it’s been a thing ever since our hunter gatherer ancestors first started tucking into cute little creatures. Yes, it was Fergus Henderson’s 2004 book The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating – and his pioneering restaurant St. John – that helped get the slow food movement off the ground in London’s fine-dining scene, but the likes of regional restaurants in the city have been serving tripe, liver, heart and everything in-between since they opened.
If this guide was going to do the origins of nose-to-eating justice it’d probably be comprised completely of those wonderful restaurants working wonders with tripe. We have, however, decided to stick to the more modern restaurants that have directly taken influence from Henderson’s work. Think of these restaurants as a user-friendly gateway into the wonderful world of sweetbreads, kidneys, and calf's brains: baby's first offal experience.
From Kiln and Smoking Goat to whole animal barbecue experts like Temper, this list of London’s best nose-to-tail restaurants – presented in no particular order – should have you snuffling for innards in next-to-no-time.
15 of London's best nose-to-tail restaurants
1. Smoke & Salt
Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ
Pop-up maestros Remi Williams and Aaron Webster launched their permanent site, housed in one of Pop Brixton's shipping containers, in 2017 and the duo have been turning heads (and hearts) ever since. Head there for the likes of Wiltshire beef heart with new potatoes and a creamy blue cheese sauce, lamb (most recently seen in the form of knock-your-socks-off porchetta), and ethical British rose veal.
2. St. John
26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
St John restaurant in Smithfield is a bastion of the London food scene – and so is its chef and founder Fergus Henderson, who set it up in 1994 with Trevor Gulliver. At the restaurant, Henderson pioneered nose-to-tail cooking through his use of offal, heads and snouts. He's an expert on the subject, having also published a book called, er, Nose-to-Tail Eating. The restaurant is hugely respected in the industry, and it's gone on to branch out with its Bread & Wine, Maltby and Druid St Bakery sites. The standout dish on the menu? The devastatingly simple roasted bone marrow. It's the granddaddy of them all for a reason - and why it's so high on this list of London's best nose-to-tail restaurants, without a doubt.
35 Sclater Street, E1 6LB
For a city that's called The Big Smoke, London has a surprising dearth of barbecue restaurants. Unlike the American south, our capital isn't known for its brisket or its ribs. The brisket and ribs at Smokestak though? That's another story. Smokestak is a meat mecca where you can find just about every edible part of an animal on the menu. Crispy ox cheek nuggets are rich, idyllic and go especially well when half-cut by the acid honk of anchovy mayo. We're fairly sure there's not another restaurant in the city where you can gnaw on chewy pigtails drenched in an addictive and treacly soy molasses, but, boy, are we glad there's at least one.
4. Black Axe Mangal
156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP
Lee Tiernan's Black Axe Mangal is the epitome of a rock and roll restaurant; a place where the music is just as loud and bracing as the flavours of the food. Crispy calf's brain mapo tofu, tête de cochon (aka pig's head) with fermented black beans and pickled cabbage, and gnarly flatbreads topped with everything from lamb offal to bone marrow are the sorts of plates you can expect to find here. All pretty out-there stuff, right? Well, that whole-animal ethos becomes a lot less surprising once you've learned that Tiernan used to work at St. JOHN under Fergus Henderson. Highbury hasn't ever been the same since Black Axe Mangal rolled into town with its St. John-on-steroids approach to cooking, and we don't think we've ever been the same since we found out just how exciting eating at London's best nose-to-tail restaurants can be.
58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL
When it comes to counter dining options in London, we'd struggle to find a restaurant that offers a better overall experience than Kiln. Sitting square in front of the Thai-influenced restaurant's fiery kitchen is one of the most exciting ways to eat in London. Vibrant flavours and aromas are thrown to and fro across the galley, and it doesn't hurt that the menu is one of the best examples of nose-to-tail done right. Wild ginger and beef neck curry is a soft and dark affair which shows off all that cut of meat is capable of. Isaan-style sausage and raw chopped mutton laap, on the other hand, are dishes that bring together the whole animal for an indulgent flavour profile that's more than the sum of its parts. Kiln's Tamworth pigs are bred for the restaurant by Fred Price in Somerset with the Hogget reared by Phillip Warrens Farmers. It's that sustainable ethos that proves why Ben Chapman has earned his reputation as one of the best nose-to-tail gurus in London.
6. Coal Rooms
11a Station Way, SE15 4RX
London's best nose-to-tail restaurants aren't just confined to mammals, y'know. At Coal Rooms you can also get involved in some scale-to-whale (we're still working on the name) bits and bobs; roasted cod heads and smoked cod's roe can both found at this Peckham favourite alongside your more traditionally untraditional offcuts. Breakfast options include pig's head blood pudding served in a soft brioche bun while lunch and dinner can see you wolfing down smoked duck rillettes on toast and Jerk Gloucester Old Spot pork sausages. All of the above are utterly delicious and a great example of how nose-to-tail doesn't have to beat around the bush about its offal ancestry.
56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
James Lowe is a London food legend, no doubts about it. Having previously worked in St JOHN's innovative kitchen, chef Lowe has brought his own sense of reinvention to Shoreditch at his Michelin-recognised restaurant Lyle's. With a menu that boasts veal sweetbreads, Badger Face mutton, and rainbow trout head, Lyle's is where you go when you want to prove to a fussy eater that even a pancreas can be made a tear-inducingly brilliant in the hands of maverick like James Lowe.
8. The Dairy
15 The Pavement, Clapham, SW4 0HY
All you need to do in order to convince yourself of The Dairy's quality is pay a visit there. Just one. And it doesn't have to be a big meal, either. Sit down for a superlative glass of wine and alongside a dish of chicken liver mousse or and you'll instantly be convinced that this is a restaurant for the history books. No, Robin Gill's restaurant isn't slouch – by which we, of course, mean that it's easily one of the best restaurants in Clapham and more than worthy of its place on this list of London's excellent nose-to-tail restaurants. Don't get us started on the bone marrow agnolotti with chestnut mushrooms and wax beans.
9. Marksman Public House
254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
"Braised lamb neck" and "pressed pig's head" aren't exactly the most appealing word combinations are they? They sort of remind you of the wartime fare that your grandparents might have grown accustomed to; using every part of a beast whether it was actually edible or not. Thankfully, at the Marksman Public House, both of those descriptions are worth getting very excited for indeed. Marksman's braised lamb neck is fall-apart soft and served with a barley and green sauce that brings out its best features. As for the pressed pig's head? It's fatty flavour is lifted by the presence of puntarelle and mustard to a level of culinary ecstasy your grandparents could only dream of.
10. Flank at The Print House
133 High Street, E15 2RB
Tom Griffiths is a man who knows his meat. If we were a pig we'd happily sacrifice our lives to the greater cause preordained with the knowledge that our carcass would end up in his safe and tender hands. Griffiths and his fellow butchery experts have brought his nose-to-tail ethos to Stratford in Flank's latest residency at The Print House. He truly cares about every ounce of meat that's served; offals, snouts and whatever other morsels he can weasel flavour out of making a starring appearance on the menu.
11. Smoking Goat
64 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Serving up spicy Thai barbecue with an ever-increasing focus on all-animal eating, Soho's Smoking Goat expanded to a new site on Shoreditch High Street, and hasn't slowed down ever since. Expect authentic Southeast Asian-inspired dishes that include ingredients like smoky duck offal, suckling pig liver and turbot heads. The Offal Mondays one-offs are absolutely worth booking.
12. Chinese Laundry
10 Coulgate Street, SE4 2RW
Chinese Laundry, obviously, focuses on Chinese food, but with a difference: it's the kind of cooking you'd find if you visited someone's home or on the street. This means you'll find a constantly changing menu of dishes like five spice offal with daikon and a gluten ball or fermented tofu chicken liver. What we're particularly interested in, however, is one of its most popular bites: the dry fried chicken feet and marinated chicken thighs that arrive piled high with hot chillis, designed so that diners can just gnaw at the poultry toes – a dish worth getting sticky fingers for.
13. The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall, 360 Old Street, EC1V 9LT
Isaac McHale's vaunted restaurant, located in Shoreditch Town Hall on Old Street, is well-known for many things, but it's particularly renowned for one of its signature dishes: deboned, crispy chicken feet with a tarragon vinegar emulsion. It's so popular that it spawned a wave of beak-to-feet menus across the capital, but many believe that the original is still the best. Offal also crops up on the menu in dishes such as the Scottish blood pudding. This may be a restaurant to save up for, but it's undoubtedly worth it.
32 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU
Borough restaurant Native is based around wild food that's indigenous to the UK, with a menu made up of our country's best foraged produce and game. It was set up by Ivan and Imogen, who have both racked up experience in street-food markets and pop-up restaurants. Ivan earned his stripes at the River Cottage in Devon, one of the finest exponents of sustainable cooking, while Imogen learned about gathering food while running her family's falconry business. Interest piqued? Here's a few examples from the menu: deer stalker pie; fermented Heritage tomatoes; confit wild mushroom with smoked egg yolk and reindeer moss.
Ever heard of whole animal barbecue? While we'll admit it sounds like a pretty self-explanatory concept, there's actually a bit more to it than you might think. And it's what exactly what Temper does best. Unlike a lot of other restaurants, Temper buys most of its meat whole, direct from small farms, and butchers it all in-house. That means Temper uses an average 65 less cattle a week to serve the same amount of meat as any like-for-like meat restaurant, which works out to around 3,300 less cattle a year per restaurant. Temper's commitment to using every part of an animal and reducing waste – whether that's through a lamb fat bearnaise or a portion of pork carnitas – is admirable. The restaurant group also sources rare breed from small selected UK farms with high welfare practices and refuses to get involved with anything mass-produced. It's all about as ethical as meat-eating gets.