Savour’s Rosie Jenkinson says head to Soho this summer for independent restaurants and street food markets that will give you tastes from around the world.
XU, 30 RUPERT STREET
Reminiscent of luxury dining rooms in 1930’s Taipei, Xu is a theatrical, yet relaxed, teahouse and restaurant that blends Taiwanese culture and cuisine together effortlessly.
We arrive for lunch. Dishes are intended for sharing so we order a selection of snacks and small plates to start. The standout dish is the cuttlefish toast with whipped cod roe. It’s a meatier and more upmarket version of sesame prawn toast. The beef pancakes with bone marrow are also a must – a taste sensation on a plate.
One of the ‘classic’ main dishes is shou pa chicken and it is full of flavour. It’s sprinkled with ginger, spring onion and chicken skin, which give a good crunchy texture. The grilled sea bass is another knockout, marinated in fermented bean curd and red and green pickled chilli, it has a subtle heat that builds over the course of the meal.
There’s an extensive range of imported teas from Taiwan with a more casual version of the traditional Taiwanese tea ceremony available. The tea’s different flavour profiles can be enjoyed across a number of different infusions, as well as special cold brew teas, whisky teas and a variety of cocktails. xulondon.com
THE DUCK AND RICE, 90 BERWICK STREET
Victorian pub + Chinese kitchen makes for a winning combination at this quirky and stylish venue.
The menu is predominately Cantonese based, with influences from Japan and Malaysia. If you’re eating here, you’ve probably come for one of two things: dim sum or duck.
The dim sum menu is vast with authentic Asian flavours. Order a few plates, including the Sichuan vegetable dumplings and mooli puff, and share them with friends. Or go for the duck. Whether that’s the ‘House Duck’, a Cantonese roast duck served in a quarter or half sizes, the crispy duck with pancakes, or the crispy duck fried rice – you can’t go wrong.
Choose to eat downstairs in the pub which serves traditional British ales alongside brewery-fresh Czech Pilsner and delicious cocktails, or in the more luxurious dining room upstairs. Our favourite spot is at one of the balcony tables, which opens up to look over Berwick Street during the summer months. theduckandrice.com
EVELYN’S TABLE AT THE BLUE POST, 28 RUPERT STREET
What a hidden gem Evelyn’s Table is.
Housed in the cellar of reopened pub The Blue Posts (by the team behind The Palomar and The Barbary), this 11-seater restaurant gives diners an intimate kitchen-counter experience with chefs cooking dishes and serving them up right in front of you, while drinks come from the bar upstairs.
Serving seasonally-inspired southern European dishes, diners are encouraged to share plates, with around 5-6 per couple being a good amount. Our dishes included the courgette flowers stuffed with goats’ cheese and honey, cured monkfish with tomatoes and courgettes, and Presa Iberica pork with ratatouille. These handsome plates of food have serious style and taste.
Although covers are few, the vibe is relaxed and you are never rushed by the waiting staff. Most of the seats are for walk-ins, with only a few dedicated to reservations, so if it’s full when you arrive, grab a drink from the bar and wait for a space to become available. theblueposts.co.uk
THE PALOMAR, 34 RUPERT STREET
“I’ve taken modern Jerusalem cuisine and Israeli street food and elevated it to Soho standard,” says The Palomar’s head chef Jeremy Borrow, who lived in Israel for more than 25 years.
The restaurant, next door to XU, opens at noon, but it is so popular that you best get there quick as a queue always forms. Inside, you can choose to sit at the 16-seat kitchen bar to watch the chefs in action, or head to the intimate dining room at the back.
The Palomar is part of The Sustainable Restaurant Association, so fish are line caught and chicken and beef are raised naturally.
Start your meal off with some kubaneh bread, baba ganoush and chef’s falafel, before tucking into a Moroccan fish tagine or Josper-roasted poussin.
For those unfamiliar with Jerusalem cuisine, imagine a melting pot of dishes from North Africa, Turkey and the South of Spain – fresh, healthy and full of flavour. If you’re after an exciting, different restaurant to visit in London, this is the place to be. thepalomar.co.uk
TEMPER, 25 BROADWICK STREET
When it’s hot and the sun’s out, the last place you probably want to be is in a basement with an open fire pit. Except you’re wrong, that’s EXACTLY where you need to be.
At Neil Rankin’s unique barbecue restaurant, South Americaninspired cuisine is cooked in front of you, using only charcoal and wood, in a huge open kitchen fire pit.
Feast on tacos, tostadas, smoked and grilled meats on flatbreads – all washed down with a fine selection of wines, gins, beers and cocktails. Be sure to leave room for dessert, especially the deep dish brigadeiro cookie with fior di latte ice cream – you can thank me for that later.
The restaurant is open until 11pm, Thursday to Saturday, and perfect for late night, summer evening dining. Plus, Neil has just opened his third restaurant in Covent Garden, which focuses on cured meat pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. temperrestaurant.com
HOVARDA, 36 – 40 RUPERT STREET
Hovarda is a beautiful bar and restaurant with the menu focusing on dishes inspired by countries surrounding the Aegean Sea – with a strong emphasis on fresh seafood. The interior is modern luxe, with large patio doors opening on to the street.
The lunch and pre-theatre menu is a great option to get a taste of what’s on offer at Hovarda, with the lokma (doughnut) dessert served with cinnamon ice cream, thyme honey and walnuts a real must-have.
On Thursday to Saturday evenings, the first-floor bar is the place to be with live music and Greek and Turkish DJs getting the party started for the weekend. At the bar, you’ll find cocktails, wines, brandy and whisky, as well as raki and ouzo spirits. hovarda.london
THE BEST OF THE BEST
For the best burgers and cocktails: Dirty Bones, 14 Denman Street
For a new take on traditional Indian cooking: Kricket, 12 Denman Street
For the best bowl of hot ramen: Bone Daddies, 31 Peter Street
For your bao steamed bun craving: BAO, 53 Lexington Street
For delicious Jungle Curry and Larb: Kiln, 58 Brewer Street
For the best Charcuterie: Ember Yard, 60 Berwick Street
For unrivalled Spanish tapas: Tapas Brindisa, 46 Broadwick Street
For authentic French small plates: Blanchette, 9 D’Arblay Street
To find out more about independent and iconic restaurants, cafés, bars, clubs, traditional London pubs and theatres in Soho, visit thisissoho.co.uk