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Friday, 21 August 2015

No Reservations - Soho

Soho's food scene has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years and Londoners now have a long list of outstanding, affordable eateries to choose from right in the centre of town. However, you do have to be careful where you go as the trend for no reservations, championed by the likes of Polpo, Burger & Lobster and Barrafina, is still going strong.  Queuing is what we English do best though. Here are ten restaurants worth getting in line for:

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1) Bao - one of the hottest restaurants in London right now. Street food heroes Bao have settled down in a tiny space in Soho serving up their signature steamed buns and Taiwanese dishes. Queues start building before it opens at 12 for lunch and 5.30 in the evening, but it's worth the wait.  Don't miss the Pig Blood Cake or the Fried Chicken Bao.


53 Lexington St, Soho, W1F 9AS - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5.30-10


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2) Pizza Pilgrims - another street food team turned permanent, Pizza Pilgrims quickly took over Franco Manca as the sourdough pizza darlings of London. There are two Soho sites (Dean St. & Kingly Court) so there's never much of a wait for a table. I rarely make it past the Salsiccia e Friarielli on the menu, with some deep fried mac'n'cheese ragu balls and a shot of their very own Pococello on the side. Oh, and there's table football in the basement of the Kingly Court site. The Dean Street site does allow two bookings per night for groups of 8 or more in "The Crypt".


11 Kingly St, London, W1B 5PW - Mon–Sat: 11.30–10.30 / Sun: 12–9.30

11 Dean St, Soho W1D 3RP - Mon–Sat: 11.30-10.30 / Sun: 12–9.30


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3) Smoking Goat - take a bib and night vision goggles. Smoking Goat is a smoky, messy affair, and you'll most likely come out covered in crab or some other fantastic modern Thai twist plus plenty of eau de BBQ. The menu changes regularly but Fish Sauce Wings are usually there to start you off. You can book the "Lazy Susan Feasting Room" apparently, but otherwise it's time for another wait.


7 Denmark St, Soho, WC2H 8LZ - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5-12 / Sun: 12-9


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4) Blacklock - one stop shop for all the chops. Blacklock from ex-Hawksmoor folk has quickly built up a large fan base who get in line for chops cooked over charcoal with Blacklock irons. Go all in for £20 to get pre-chop bites, and a huge plate of the day's skinny chops piled on top of chargrilled flatbread.  You can reserve for lunch or for tables of 6 or more in the evening - huzzah!


The Basement, 24 Great Windmill St, Soho, W1D 7LG - Mon-Fri: 12-3, 5-11.30 / Sat: 12-11.30


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5) Flat Iron - Flat Iron in Beak Street has been around longer the most on this list but the queues are still there. A second site in Denmark Street has helped to alleviate the crowds. A beautiful £10 flat-iron steak is the reward for the wait (a lively basement bar with St John doughnuts in Beak St. makes time fly). Keep an eye out for Flat Iron burger specials.

Photo taken from Flat Iron Facebook page

9 Denmark St, Soho, WC2H 8LS - Mon-Sun: 12-11

17 Beak St, Soho, W1F 9RW - Mon-Sun: 12-11


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6) Barrafina - The most serious restaurant on the list, Barrafina in Frith Street was recently awarded a Michelin-star for their outstanding tapas.  Once you are in, it's relaxed and fun counter dining, and the food is phenomenal. There are two more sites in Adelaide St and Drury Lane, but I suggest starting with the original.


54 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SL - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5-11 / Sun: 1-3.30, 5.30-10


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7) Bone Daddies - Bone Daddies arrived early to the London ramen scene before it exploded, and their rock'n'roll Peter Street joint still draws the crowds. Multiple visits are required to work through their range of ramens. Their late night menu 10.30-11.30 Thu-Sat might be a clever way to avoid queuing. They have recently opened a second site in High Street Kensington and also run Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden and Soho popup Shackfuyu.  A third outpost in Old Street should be open by the end of 2015.

Photo from Bone Daddies Facebook page

Mon-Wed 12-3, 5.30-11 (Mon-10) / Thu-Sat: 12-11.30 / Sun: 12-9.30

31 Peter St, London W1F 0AR


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8) Pitt Cue Co - another oldie in relative terms, Pitt Cue Co is an outstanding, 30-seater BBQ joint that started life on the street food scene under Hungerford Bridge.  Get a drink in the bar while you wait before heading downstairs for all the meat and bone marrow mash. Exclusive hire is available on a Sunday night.

Photo Credit : Paul Winch-Furness

1 Newburgh St, Soho, London W1F 7RB - Mon-Sat: 12-3, 5.30-11 / Sun 12-4


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9) Balls & Company - the newest addition to the list is a meatballs focused joint from Australian Masterchef 2012 finalist Bonny Porter. It's been an instant hit with its simple but superbly executed menu, and the basement bar is a great spot for a drink whilst waiting for a table. Groups of 8+ can reserve tables, but there's not a lot of space! Don't miss the Wagyu meatballs or the Brownie with Persian Fairy Floss.


58 Greek St, Soho, London, W1D 3DY - Mon-Sat: 12-11


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10) Polpo - Restaurateur Russell Norman's original Venetian bacaro in Soho was an early proponent of the no reservations theory, and Londoners continue to flock to Beak Street for ciccheti and spritzes in a stylish space. There are now six Polpo sites in London, and chef director & founder Tom Oldroyd recently left the company to open his own neighbourhood restaurant Oldroyd in Islington which has been earning him rave reviews.


41 Beak Street, Soho, W1F 9SB - Mon-Sat: 12-11 / Sun: 12-10


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Notable omissions:


I'll see if I can scramble together a Yes Reservations post soon...

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