If you haven’t got a holiday planned this year or yours is already a distant memory, add these restaurants to your To Do list. These tapas bars, tavernas and trattorias will transport you to sunnier climes – no passport required.
Spain is paradise for foodies, whether you prefer seafood by the coast or tapas and cava in the big cities. London might not be able to compete with the Spanish sunshine but there are plenty of top tapas bars to try, from big names like Barrafina and Brindisa to neighbourhood gems like José, Barrica, and Boqueria. You can relive memories of San Sebastián with a pintxo feast at Donostia Social Club, sip sherry at Drakes Tabanco, or linger over wine, cheese and charcuterie at Sibarita – the possibilities are endless.
Flavours of France
Have you been daydreaming about Parisian bistros or long lunches on the Côte d’Azur? Fear not – you can find fabulous French food (and wine) much closer to home. Choose from grand brasseries like Zédel or Bellanger; try Parisian import Frenchie in Covent Garden; or embrace the old-school charm of Otto’s or L’Escargot. We love wine bars like Antidote and Terroirs, too. A special mention must go to Le Café du Marche, which has been serving rustic French fare in Smithfield for over 25 years.
A taste of Portugal
Wish you were in Lisbon right now? Same here – but we’ve found the next best thing. Inspired by the cervejarias and tascas of Lisbon and Porto, Bar Douro is the place to go for authentic Portuguese dishes, dreamy pastéis de nata, and those Instagrammable blue-and-white tiles. Follow our advice and order a white port and tonic, then tuck into pão com chouriço, garlic prawns, and salt cod fritters. Hungry for more? Try Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields or visit Canela Café in Seven Dials for petiscos, charcuterie, and wonderful Portuguese wines.
London might not be able to compete with timeless beauty of Venice but there are a handful of restaurants serving fantastic Venetian-inspired food. Head to Polpo for pizzette, fritto misto and an Aperol Spritz, or to TOZI in Victoria to graze on cicchetti and explore the all-Italian wine list. At Veneta in St James’s, you can try dishes like sardines in saor, saffron bigoli with tomato and crab, and honey and thyme gelato. On a warm day, their terrace is the perfect place to sip a Bellini and soak up the sun.
New York, New York
No time for a transatlantic flight? No problem! Some of NYC’s top eateries have outposts in London, including Balthazar, Bar Boulud, and Red Rooster (a Shoreditch newcomer serving Harlem soul food). You can satisfy your burger cravings at Bleecker Burger or pig out on BBQ at HotBox, Pitt Cue or Big Easy. For proper all-American comfort food, head to Dirty Bones and get stuck into chicken and waffles or a Mac Daddy burger topped with pulled beef short rib and mac & cheese.
Greek taverna vibes
Want to relive those Greek island holiday memories? Head to Camden – home to traditional Greek restaurants like Andy’s Taverna, Karavas, and Alexander the Great. The food is fresh and authentic and you’ll leave feeling like part of the family. If you’re out with friends, keep things casual with grilled meat skewers and stuffed pitas at Suvlaki, who now have restaurants in Soho and Shoreditch. For date night or a special family feast, try Opso in Marylebone where they serve delicious modern Greek small plates. Save room for desserts like sticky-sweet künefe or loukoumades – Greek puffed ‘donuts’ with thyme honey, walnuts, and Kaimaki ice cream.
Take me to Turkey
You’ll find some of the best Turkish food in London on Green Lanes – from mezze and lahmacun at Antepliler to huge platters of smoky grilled meats at Gökyüzü and Hala. If you stroll up towards Turnpike Lane, look out for Tarshish – a modern grill restaurant with a retractable roof and a focus on grilled meats and Mediterranean mezze. If you’d prefer to stay central, book a table at Yosma for raki cocktails, lamb chops with smoked garlic yoghurt, and coal roasted aubergine.
In search of pizza perfection
These days, you don’t have to head to Italy to find the perfect slice. Jump on the bus to Stoke Newington to tick the much-hyped L’Antica Pizzerica da Michele off your list, or try its equally excellent neighbour, Pizzeria Apollo. It’s still hard to beat Pizza East – their veal meatball pizza is one of our all-time faves – though the Shoreditch branch has stiff competition in the form of Amici Miei and Radio Alice. In fact, you can find great pizza all over town, from reliable chains like Homeslice and Pizza Pilgrims to local gems like Pizzicotto in Kensington and Zia Lucia in Holloway.
Where do you dine when you want to recapture those holiday vibes? Let us know in the comments.