The first things that spring to your mind when you hear the words "Covent" and "Garden" are probably hazy memories of over eager street performers and overpriced tat. Mimes walking on knee-high tightropes and magicians haranguing snap happy tourists – that sort of thing. Well, we'd like to change that association. Because when we hear the words "Covent" and "Garden" our minds race to plump xiao long bao, hunks of fresh turbot and addictive bacon scones. Yep, Covent Garden is actually something of a haven for the hungry.
After all, it's not like the area doesn't have a storied history with food and drink—there are all many things to do in Covent Garden to know where to start. The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks was established at Covent Garden's Theatre Royal in 1735. It's just that, somewhere along the line, Covent Garden grew an unwieldy reputation as an area saturated by sub-par chains and tourist traps. Which is way harsh in our opinion because there's a lot of top-notch nosh to be had there, too.
Away from the buskers and overly busy business lunches, there are a lot of excellent restaurants, pubs and cafés to eat and drink in Covent Garden. Whether you're in the mood for a pre-theatre dinner, a post-theatre cocktail or thoroughly detest all forms of live entertainment and just want to eat something nice, we'd sure that at least one of these fine locations will be up to your exacting standards.
20 things to do in Covent Garden
Where? 26 Southampton Street, WC2E 7RS
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Why? Cosy, aesthetic and Aussie as hell, Abuelo is a place where you'll want people to see you sipping on a perfectly tempered cup of flat white. It doesn't hurt that Abuelo's resident dog Annie is usually around to keep the good vibes going.
Order something as tasty as it is astonishingly pretty and be prepared for the onslaught of 'OMG where is this???' comments on the Instagram post you inevitably make afterwards. The kitsch cafe's mascarpone and figs on toast has become something of a legend for that very reason. Simply put: Abuelo is one of the best things to do in Covent Garden thanks to it's effortlessly 'Grammable dishes.
Where? 16 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8QH
Why? Frenchie is a modern French brasserie that will slap you round the chops in the flavour department and offer a real injection of Parisian culture into the heart of Covent Garden. Terrine and foie gras hold the fort when it comes to the Gallic classics while a brave range of locally sourced meat, fish and game underline what old Blighty has got to offer in the food wars.
No matter which side of the channel you hold your allegiance, don't leave without a bacon scone. They're so good, you'll never Google 'things to do in Covent Garden again.' Viva la Frenchie.
3. The Oystermen
Where? 32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA
Why? Friends and fellow seafood aficionados Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton founded The Oystemen together in 2016. What started as a two-man wedding party oyster shucking operation turned into something a lot more tangible after the opening of The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen in Covent Garden in 2017. Daily fresh oysters are an obvious must whenever you make a visit to the oyster boyz but we'd also recommend that those with an appetite take on the whole undressed Devon brown crab. It is after all, a wholly messy, wholly delicious and wholly rewarding affair to wheedle out every last morsel of the crustacean's sweet, sweet meat.
4. Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Where? 11 Langley Street, WC2H 9JG
Why? Is there a more reliable purveyor of meaty meals in the city than Hawksmoor? That's certainly a question which is up for debate when considering how just about every one of the city's steak specialists is just as good as the last. There are so many amazing things to do in Covent Garden, but located in the old Watney-Combe brewery, Hawksmoor Seven Dials is a must-try thanks to its consistently strong quality.
Claw your way through a juicy haunch of cow and you'll immediately feel pity for anyone following a plant-based diet. The express menu option to dive head first into two courses for a mere £26 is also a bargain you'll want to make the most of.
5. The Ivy
Where? 1-5 West Street, WC2H 9NQ
Why? The Ivy has been around since 1917. A time where food shortages and rations were a prominent concern of the public, a time when World War I was simply known as "that war that’s going on right now". But perhaps what’s even more impressive than The Ivy’s longevity is how its not really lost a step since its opening.
Just like your grandad given two brand new hip replacements, The Ivy continues to shuck and jive with the best of London’s fine-dining restaurants, making it one of the most prominent on your list of things to do in Covent Garden. Executive chef Gary Lee is partly the reason for that. Chef Lee’s menu (rifling with everything from British classics like shepherd’s pie to Asian-influenced dishes like seared tuna sashimi) ensures there’s something for everyone at The Ivy. As long as you can afford it, that is.
6. Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels
Where? 8-10 Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP
Why? A relaxed ambience and many, many bottles of fine wine are what you can find at Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels. The wine bar – which comes from the same collective behind the Experimental Cocktail Club – serves glasses of vin that range from the affordable (£6) to the eye-watering (£29). The food isn't anything to sniff at either. CDVS's 'Posh Madame' (essentially croque madame with the luxurious accoutrements of truffle ham and a quail egg) makes for a fine snack no matter whether you opt for a crisp white or a heady red.
7. Din Tai Fung
Where? 5 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8PT
Why? 250 seats, a queue that can last over an hour on a busy night, and a glass box full of masked dumpling engineers crimping your dinner as you walk in – chances are high that you've already heard Din Tai Fung hailed as one of the best things to do in Covent Garden. The popular Taiwanese import specialises in Huaiyang cuisine and tender soup-filled xiao long bao.
The expansive menu at doesn't skimp out on quality – yes, you can find more economic dumpling joints in Chinatown, but who said dumplings have to be cheap? If a high-end Spanish restaurant can charge £6 for a plate of padrón peppers, then why can't Din Tai Fung do the same for four lovingly constructed thin-skinned soup children?
8. Cora Pearl
Where? 30 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA
Why? The second site from the folks behind Mayfair restaurant Kitty Fisher's, Cora Pearl brings together sumptuous, boudoir-style interiors and a menu that straddles the best of English and Parisian dining. We could wax lyrical about all of the dishes at Cora Pearl but we'll use just one as an example of how Cora gets it so right.
Take the cheese and ham toastie: you know exactly what you're getting here, but what you don't account for is the perfection achieved somewhere between the gentle squishiness of the three finger-sized sarnies, the tender ham hock and oozing cheddar, and the tart, sweet and delicate clone of Branston that adds texture and crunch with its minutely diced veg. It's the best toastie in London, for sure, and one of the tastiest things to do in Covent Garden, without a doubt.
Where? 4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ
Why? On the corner of Russell Street and Wellington Street sits Balthazar. Inside of Balthazar sits an innumerable number of tourists looking for a properly glam dining experience. They're sort of in the right place. The Covent Garden remix of the original New York brasserie fulfils the same sense of satisfaction when it comes to its lush interior, grand scale and excellent service. The food might not exactly be as stunning as you'd expect from its price point, but if you're going to Balthazar for the food alone: you're going for the wrong reason.
10. LIMA Floral
Where? 14 Garrick Street, WC2E 9BJ
Why? Head chef Patricia Roig is in charge of serving some of the best Peruvian cuisine in the area (and perhaps the city). The ceviche and tiradito at LIMA Floral are sharp, refreshing and the perfect antidote to the tasteless stodge catered to Covent Garden's many hapless tourists. The cooked grub is great, too: pan roasted lamb rump and beef saltadito with celeriac, soy sauce and creamed corn are both worth putting in your belly. Order a pisco sour from the cocktail list because you can. And you should. The top things to do in Covent Garden far extend past delicious food—there's a whole world of mouthwateringly good cocktails, too.
11. The Lamb & Flag
Where? 33 Rose Street, WC2E 9EB
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Why? Here's what The Lamb and Flag's website has to say about the pub's storied past: "The pub acquired a reputation in the early nineteenth century for staging bare-knuckle prize fights, earning it the nickname 'The Bucket of Blood,' and the alleyway beside the pub was the scene of an attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, with whom he had a long-standing conflict."
So it's not just one of the best things to do in Covent Garden thanks to it's delicious cask ales, rotating seasonal beers and guest ales on tap—it's rich in local, albeit slightly violent history, too. Worth noting: Bloodsport is also no longer encouraged.
12. The Harp
Where? 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS
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Why? If you're looking for a traditional pub with an array of real ales, 47 Chandos Place has just got the public house for you, my friend. The Harp doesn't do a lot aside from serve good pints, but it does what it does and it does it well. If you're looking for more traditional things to do in Covent Garden, this one's for you.
There isn't really much to say about The Harp apart from the fact it's an old-school pub that serves great pints to locals and tourists alike. Although it occupies a pretty circumspect street of Covent Garden, The Harp still feels very neighbourhood: the sort of place you'd be comfortable bringing a date or your grandad. Probably not at the same time.
Where? 39 Endell Street, WC2H 9BA
Why? This little Endell Street restaurant is the epitome of classic. Every plate is well-balanced; every eavesdropped conversation is fascinating. Everything is done just right at Parsons: a restaurant where delicate dishes of fresh fish and shellfish changes on a daily basis.
By keeping an eye on sustainability and using unloved species of fish like huss, dab and ling, owners Ian Campbell and Will Palmer are trying their damndest to keep the ecosystem that their restaurant (and we as a species) inhabit better off. Parson's Inverawe smoked salmon? Excellent. Parson's wine list? Excellent. Parsons? Yeah, excellent.
Where? 43 Drury Lane, WC2B 5AJ
Why? Tapas is good when it's fine and astounding when it's great. So it's really something when we say that the tapas at Barrafina is probably the best in Covent Garden, if not, in London. And, as most of us know, things that are heralded as "the best" when it comes to food (or at least fit the criteria of what "the best" is according to a group of fussy tyre merchants) tend to get Michelin stars. While the Dean Street version of the restaurant has got one of those shiny Michelin stars to its name, it lacks any of the pretensions usually associated with such an honour. Barrafina is relaxed as they come. No reservations means you'll have to queue no matter how much clout you have.
Once inside, however, you'll find any irritation about the wait melting away almost immediately like a page of Ibérica ham slowly dissolving onto your tongue. When it comes to ordering, you can't really do wrong either. The Ibérica ham and croquetas are the obviously reliable meat and potatoes of the small plates world but everything from the quail to the fennel, radish and pear is worth your utmost attention.
15. Frog by Adam Handling
Where? 34-35 Southampton Street, WC2E 7HG
Why? Frog by Adam Handling builds on the playful and at-times poetic food and service that has seen Adam Handling become one of the key players in modern London fine dining scene. A range of tasting menus ensure that both the food and experience is one you won't find replicated anywhere else around, making it undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Covent Garden. Eating at Frog is a handshake guarantee that palate will be taken to the nth degree, and we'll be damned if you don't find yourself wanting to take it there once again not long after your first visit.
16. Lady of the Grapes
Where? 16 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NJ
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Why? 'Lady of the Grapes' is the nickname we wish we had at uni. Which seems rather fitting seeing that Lady of the Grapes is a wine bar we wish we had the opportunity to drink at while at uni.
This Maiden Lane wine bar focusses on organic, biodynamic and low intervention wines that have been carefully selected by its house sommelier. Accentuating that feel-good ethos, more than 70% of the wines on the list are made female in to pay homage to – and support – women in the industry. It would be a disservice not to swing by for a few glasses of excellent wine and a range of the bar's small plates and charcuterie. Because, c'mon, positive female-powered wine AND a deli counter? It doesn't get much better than that.
17. American Bar at The Savoy
Where? The Savoy, WC2R 0EZ
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Why? If we weren't so charmed by American Bar we'd probably do a pastiche of that Lenny Kravtiz song and write something like: "American bar, stay away from me". Unfortunately, The Savoy's American Bar is far too nice for us to get away with that. As one of London's oldest cocktail bars and most traditional things to do in Covent Garden, American Bar has an air of sophistication and suave to it that's simply missing from a lot of poorly-lit modern haunts. You won't find anything too out-there on the cocktail list (though all its tipples are highly delectable) and the same thing can be said about the clientele. It's staid, but wholly likeable. It's not cool, but it is a classic.
18. The Barbary
Where? 16 Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP
Why? Sister to Soho favourite The Palomar, The Barbary was one of the biggest openings of 2016 – although it was also technically one of the smallest, as the restaurant only seats 24, occupying a space in the picturesque surrounds of Neal's Yard. There's a similarly Levantine feel to the menu, although The Barbary is specifically inspired by The Barbary Coast, an area in the Atlas Mountains that was once roamed by pirates. The restaurant leverages the region's romantic heritage to create dishes that showcase the flavours and cooking techniques of the Spice Route, from North Africa to Jerusalem. It's not big but it is clever.
19. The Petersham
Where? 31 King Street, WC2E 8JD
Why? Set in an Italy-meets-old-London Covent Garden courtyard that's all very, very gorgeous, The Petersham – all towering floral displays, distressed mirror tiles and sexy modern art – is at the heart of it. The cooking here's very much in the Italian tradition of letting great ingredients do a lot of the hard graft, and the menu's dripping with evocative names (cuore del Vesuvio tomatoes, Culatello di Zibello ham, Amalfi lemon) and namec hecks for Haye Farm in Devon, run by Harry Boglione (whose parents own Petersham) and his partner, Emily. Dishes are predictably pretty and the layering-on of flavours is subtle; when it works it's a winner. And it oh, so often works.
Where? 5 William IV Street, WC2N 4DN
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Why? The Terroirs group is a key player in London's natural wine scene – a visit to this rustic premises located close to The National Gallery is a nice way to experience what that scene is all about. The menu is full of weird and wonderful wines you'll have never hard of. All selected for specific reasons and all pairing excellently with the European small plates it serves, too. Terroir's weekly 'Wine Underground' tastings reflect the group's ethos that excellent wine should be accessible to everyone. Those with even the vaguest interest in natural wine should make a trip to Terroirs at the top of their things to do in Covent Garden list.