The Best Covent Garden Restaurants
In cities the world over it is demonstrated again and again that the quality of an area’s restaurants unambiguously decreases in inverse proportion to the number of undemanding tourists that frequent it. In Times Square in New York, in St Mark’s Square in Venice, as in Leicester Square in London, there are huge numbers of lazy chains, ripoff steakhouses and dive bars that exist for no other reason to fleece passing trade of as much cash as possible with the almost certain knowledge they’ll never have to deal with return custom. So how refreshing, then, that in London’s Theatreland, the most tourist-trodden part of town, there still exist some marvellous places to eat. Here are my favourites:
The Salt Yard Group run many fine Spanish restaurants, but my favourite has always been Opera Tavern, a grand old converted pub on Catherine Street. What they don’t know about grilling meat and fish over charcoal isn’t worth knowing, and there are few better places for a pre- or post- or anytimeatall- sherry and plate of acorn-fed ham. But leave room for the extraordinary foie gras and Iberico pork burger, a miniature work of art.
Neither the first, nor the grandest of the Venetian sharing-plates concept mini chain, but Polpo Covent Garden is a cozy and usually quiet (at least by the standards of the area) spot to enjoy very reasonably priced Italian food and beakers of cold prosecco. Pork and fennel meatballs, pizzetta (mini pizzas) of pork shoulder and pickled pepper, and a selection of interesting cicheti (Venetian snacks) are all good, but don’t miss the fritto misto, a generous pile of crisp-fried seafood for £9.
Image credit: Kake, flickr
From Spain, to Italy, and now France – unpretentious and buzzy, this little room on Endel Street is a friendly and comfortable place to enjoy a short daily-changing menu of Gallic comfort foods alongside a constantly-evolving wine list; the name (10 Cases) refers to the fact they only ever buy 10 cases of the listed wines, to keep things constantly new and exciting.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Spitalfields may be where it all started, but this cavernous space under Langley St is where most people’s Hawksmoor love affair was sparked. Prices may have crept up slightly over the years, but there are still few better places to enjoy vast slabs of grass-fed Yorkshire beef, alongside some of the city’s finest cocktails. In the bar area, try the lobster roll or the burger – still leading the competition.
32 Great Queen Street
The word “gastropub” is so used and abused these days that’s almost lost all meaning, but fortunately we have 32 Great Queen Street, from the Anchor & Hope (Waterloo) guys, to remind us all how it should be done. The menu is largely (and refreshingly) British, with interesting game, grilled fish and slow-cooked cheaper cuts of beef and pork regularly making an appearance, always accompanied by a very reasonably priced list of wines. Rustic, friendly, and honest cooking that won’t break the bank – there’s really not much not to like.
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Cover image credit: Ewan Munro, flickr
Over the seven years Chris Pople has been writing the Cheese and Biscuits blog, he has written about nearly 500 different restaurants, which is far too many by anyone’s standards. During that time he has been lucky enough to be picked as one of the top food blogs in the Times, New Statesman and Esquire magazine, and for the last three years running has been named as one of London’s 1000 Most Influential people. He’s probably in a restaurant right now, scouring the menu for spelling mistakes and waiting for a martini.