One could be forgiven for thinking that Fitzrovia is one of those names invented by estate agents — like east Bayswater being dubbed Connaught Village, or the Strand being marketed to credulous tourists as The Northbank. But despite various (ludicrous) efforts of (ludicrous) developers to rebrand it as NoHo, the quadrangle of the West End bounded by Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, Portland Place and Euston Road has been Fitzrovia since the 1930s.
Though the neighbourhood’s grandest address, Fitzroy Square, dates back to Georgian times, the Fitzrovia moniker was coined by the gossip columnist Tom Driberg, when the area was a byword for bohemianism. In the 20th century, the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street was the watering hole of some of arty London’s most legendary drinkers, from Jacob Epstein and Dylan Thomas to Augustus John and George Orwell. But while Fitzrovia is still home to a handful of London’s best boozers — following up the Fitzroy with the Newman Arms and The Wheatsheaf would make a fine pub crawl — the area is today more famous for eating than drinking.
Charlotte Street has long been one of London’s great dining thoroughfares: a photo from the restaurant frontages from the mid-part of any decade would provide as sure a snapshot of trends in the capital as the hemlines and trouser widths of the Londoners strolling past: 90s haute cuisine, noughties modern Japanese, or the chef’s tables of the teens.
There is, though, more to Fitzrovia than one restaurant-stuffed road and for anyone looking to escape the hecticness of Soho or the high prices of Mayfair, this is a corner of the West End that repays exploration (and eating). From sushi counters and US dive bars to modern Greek joints and West African fine dining, here are our favourite places to channel your inner bohemian. Or, at least, your inner glutton. As Dylan Thomas so memorably wrote, do not go gentle into that good night. Cheers to that.
Clipstone is a sibling of the more high-end Portland nearby (as well as Clerkenwell’s Quality Chop House), but as with so many casual spin-offs, this feels far more fun — and is way more affordable, especially at lunch when two or three courses clock in at either £28/£32 and the corner dining room is flooded with natural light. The bistro-style menu changes daily, with seasonal British ingredients treated to more global influences, with hogget stuffed into potsticker dumplings and paired with gem lettuce, mint and pecorino, or Cornish cod accompanied by violet artichokes, leeks and yuzu butter. Co-owner Will Lander is the son of globally recognised wine guru Jancis Robinson, and accordingly the snappy drinks list takes the road less travelled.
5 Clipstone Street, W1W 6BB, clipstonerestaurant.co.uk
Before every Michelin-starred restaurateu decided that punters want nothing more than to get as close to the kitchen action as possible without actually becoming commis chefs, London’s Japanese spot provided the only opportunity to sit at a counter and see dinner prepared IRL. Masayuki Kikuchi opened this tiny evening-only sushi joint in 1998 at a time when most Londoners’ experience of raw fish was from a conveyor belt in Yo!. The food pretty much arrives the moment you order it, a flash of Masayuki’s knives delivering sea bream and salmon, sea bass and scallop atop logs of rice with the imprecise shape of having been crafted by hand. Note there’s a minimum food spend of £55, and be aware that figure is very easy to achieve, not least with a £120 omakase menu.
14 Hanway Street, W1T 1UD, kikuchisushi.com
Pied à Terre
One-Michelin-starred Pied à Terre celebrated its 30th birthday in 2021 and while it is undeniably a fine-dining experience of the old school — hushed tones, tasting menus of edible art, wine flights — it remains relevant by moving with the times. Owner David Moore says that 30 per cent of customers opt for the plant-based tasting menu, full of clever touches like “caviar” made from balls of Minus 8 vinegar, though all that effort means vegans pay only 20 quid less (£120) than omnivores for their 10 courses. Still, a roomful of millennial vegans does at least mean this is one of the few haute-cuisine experiences in London when you won’t be dining in a sea of grey hair.
34 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NH, pied-a-terre.co.uk
Yotam Ottolenghi is widely loved, not least for making vegetarian dishes that are just as appealing to meat eaters as veggies. Rovi is the chef’s breezy Fitzrovia outpost where not only do diners eat their way to five a day in the likes of grilled carrots with spiced greens and lentils, honey-pickled kumquats and crispy garlic, but just as much thought goes into the meat dishes: lamb ribs with black garlic and cumin marinade, say, or pork chop with kohlrabi and apple kimchi. Go in a gang, order two of all the small plates and eat your way through the entire menu, though it must be said — the veggie dishes really are the best.
59 Wells Street, W1A 3AE, ottolenghi.co.uk
Philadelphia might be synonymous with cream cheese in this country but in the States it’s cheesesteak which the City of Brotherly Love is most famous for. The Pennsylvanian delicacy involves a hoagie roll — like a soft baguette — filled with steak and melted cheese. What else could you want from a sandwich? How about a buffalo chicken cheesesteak? Or a meatball parm, smothered in marinara sauce and provolone? American football on TV and a clientele of college-age expats tip the basic surroundings into sports-bar territory but after your fifth round of Coors or pitcher of Bud you will, to quote the eternal wisdom of the Cheers theme tune, be glad there’s one place in the world where everybody knows your name. And tonight your name is probably Brad. Probably best not to mention in here that Cheers was set in Boston, though – Passyunk is a neighbourhood of South Philly. If you’re closer to Waterloo, there’s a very good, larger site there, too.
80 Cleveland Street, W1T 6NE, passyunkavenue.com
It’s a brave chef who submits themselves to the judgement of Monica Galetti on MasterChef. Galetti was perhaps even braver for putting her money where her mouth is and submitting herself to the judgement of the public at her first solo restaurant, Mere — though as Galetti is the former senior sous chef at Le Gavroche (where she met her sommelier husband and Mere’s co-owner David), her cooking chops have never been in doubt. The chef’s Samoan and Kiwi heritage provide a fresh perspective on Gavroche-style fine dining, so that monkfish comes with variegated kale, pickled pear, pumpkin and a hazelnut and miso velouté, while vegetarians get their own tasting menu. Spare some time beforehand for a glass of Mere’s own-label Champagne in the elegant velvet-upholstered bar.
74 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QH, mere-restaurant.com
Ragam might not serve the best south Indian food you’ll find in London but it is certainly among the best-value (for the West End, at least) — where else will you find a mushroom biryani and still get change from a tenner? A refurbishment a couple of years back has smartened up premises, which are now cheerful as well as cheap, and while the menu does a decent smattering of meat and seafood dishes — fish moilee, a chicken varutha kozhi kari — it’s with the vegetable dishes where the real interest lies (and where you’ll get the most bang for your buck). Order some tamarind curry, aubergine-based kathrika koottan or a tomato-and ginger thakkali curry and get stuck in with uttapam, vada, idli and dosa.
57 Cleveland Street, W1T 4JN, ragamindian.co.uk
Hakkasan Hanway Place
It’s far more chilled out than when it first opened but there is still nowhere quite like the original outpost of Hakkasan, the restaurant which made Chinese food seriously fashionable when it launched in a dodgy back alley in 2001. The blueprint remains the same: low lighting, loud music and vividly flavoured Cantonese cooking that refines high-street favourites (salt-and-pepper squid, sweet and sour pork) alongside alluringly luxe in-house creations such as black truffle-roasted duck, and king crab glass noodle. Prices, alas, are far from high street, and investigating the aromatic wine list will send the bill stratospheric; afternoon dim sum and a glass of tap water, however, is a relative bargain.
8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD, hakkasan.com/hanway-place
Fortune favours the brave, and James Knappett has been rewarded for re-opening Kitchen Table with a £250 no-choice tasting menu with the retention of his two Michelin stars and each of the 18 seats orbiting the chef’s counter booked months ahead. Leave yourself in the hands (literally) of Knappett and his chefs and they will pass you 20 courses of intensely flavoured, insanely labour-intensive miniature masterpieces. A barbecued Jersey Royal potato, for instance, bathed in a roast chicken sauce made by scraping out the fat from beneath the chicken skin. Wines from Knappett’s partner Sandia Chang get star billing along with the food while non-alcoholic drinks made in-house are just as thought-provoking. If your budget doesn’t stretch anywhere near that far, Knappett recently opened The George, a bijou boozer with an elegant upstairs dining room on nearby Great Portland Street.
70 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QQ, kitchentablelondon.co.uk
Owner and entrepreneur Aji Akokomi has channelled his West African heritage into an impressive labour of love at Akoko. There’s just one eight-course tasting menu (£110, with wine pairings £75) on which simple descriptions — Gambian stew, jollof rice, baobab — belie the effort going on in the open kitchen and don’t hint at the complexity of the unfolding layers of flavour nor the time spent sourcing techniques from across west Africa. The chef’s counter gives a ringside seat to food that blends African spicing with British ingredients, but the terracotta-toned dining room is just as atmospheric, with Nigerian pop on the playlist and bespoke cutlery and handmade crockery that show just as much thought as the cooking.
21 Berners Street, W1T 3LP, akoko.co.uk
Ampéli’s Athens-born owner, Jenny Pagoni, has a parallel career as a photographer, which means there’s a better class of artwork over the restaurant’s three levels than you will find in most Greek restaurants. Ampéli takes its cue from the modern Athenian dining scene, with enough nods to the classics to be recognisably Greek: bavette steak with espresso and cardamom marinade, but also hummus with chickpea salad and pitta. Ampéli, by the by, is the Greek word for vineyard, and the fascinating wine list proves that there is more to Hellenic grapes than assyrtiko. If starting your meal with a glass of ouzo feels a little much, try a bottle of sparkling Tselepos from the Peloponnese instead.
8 Charlotte Street, W1T 2LZ, ampeli.london
You know you’re in safe hands at Sushi Atelier when the rice arrives ever-so-slightly warm, as it should be, and individually grained. You can watch the rice being moulded behind the counter (hence the atelier/workshop element), though it’s what goes on top that is the main draw: spanking fresh tuna and turbot, sea bream and sweet prawn, at prices that while not exactly cheap (top-quality fish never will be), are less that you’ll pay at siblings Chisou and the soon-to-open chef’s table Roji. Elsewhere are seared scallop and asparagus, and pan-fried tuna with truffle butter, plus wagyu shumai and Iberico teriyaki for when all that delicacy begins to pale.
114 Great Portland Street, W1W 6PH, sushiatelier.co.uk
Anyone who thinks that paella is just a pan-full of rice with some prawns and mussels should pay a visit to this assertively modern spin on Spanish cooking from chef Quique Dacosta, who has three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant near Alicante. The signature Valencia paella comes with rabbit and chicken and a crispy rice base blobbed with aioli, though there’s more to the place than rice, with a six-metre woodfired stove lending a flame-licked flavour to everything from Iberian presa to Galician octopus. The best seats are on a stool at the chef’s counter. Leave time for a sherry-based cocktail in the sleek bar.
6 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8NQ, arrosqd.com
Customer loyalty is the surest path to success for a local restaurant and there was no shortage of diners when Noizé opened in 2017. Owner Mathieu Germond is the former manager of Pied à Terre and the sort of local lynchpin one would find in a central quartier of Paris but is less common in the West End of London. Menus are a mix of classic French and more modern ideas — poached halibut with brown shrimps and sauce ravigote, but also yellowtail ceviche with avocado purée, soy and citrus dressing. Wines include some terrific options from the Loire, where Germond’s grandparents owned a farm in the village of Noizé, a backstory that is typical of the personal approach of this highly individual venture.
39 Whitfield Street, W1T 2SF, noize-restaurant.co.uk
Honey & Smoke
Warren Street’s Honey & Co is relocating to Bloomsbury but the second restaurant from husband and wife Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer still offers Fitzrovia a contemporary interpretation of a Middle Eastern grill house, in less homespun surrounds. Moroccan sourdough, Kalamata olives and pickled crudités indicate the quality of what is to come: veggie-based starters such as Yemeni falafel and aubergine and tomato salad, followed by good things from the grill — lamb shish, tuna skewers, chicken thighs and smoked duck breast, all glinting and glistening with pomegranates and pickled currants, caper leaves and candied walnuts.
16 Great Portland Street, W1W 5QW, honeyandco.co.uk
Roka launched as a spin-off from Knightsbridge’s Zuma in 2004 but having sprouted its own branches in Mayfair, Aldwych and Canary Wharf — as well as the honeypots of Istanbul, Mallorca and the Middle East — has arguably eclipsed its originator. Sushi, sashimi, tempura and robata form the core of the menu and, if you find traditional Japanese cuisine too austere, Roka’s riot of full-on flavours will hit the spot. Think soft-shell crab and kimchi maki, yellowtail sashimi with yuzu-truffle dressing, tiger prawn tempura with chilli mayo and Korean spiced lamb cutlets, plus there’s a tasting menu (£77) if you can’t be bothered to wade your way through choosing. The saké selection is just as strong as the wine and there are cocktails sent up from the basement Shochu Lounge bar.
37 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RR, rokarestaurant.com
Jun Tanaka has some of London’s most high-end kitchens under his belt but his first solo restaurant (and the ninth that he has worked in) finds the chef in more casual mode, and all the better for it. A narrow Fitzrovia townhouse with bare-brick walls inside and a terrace out front is the setting for friendly service and comforting cooking: snacks of crispy artichoke with aioli or salt-cod croquettes with tartar sauce, silky pastas like langoustine ravioli with datterini tomatoes, gutsy mains along the lines of chargrilled lamb with broccoli and anchovy butter, and a truly winning way with veg. Order roast celeriac with pickled mushrooms, cavolo nero and red wine and you may think you never need animal protein again.
22 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NB, theninthlondon.com
Recently located from Marylebone to Charlotte Street, Carousel offers a fortnightly changing merry-go-round of visiting chefs, often trialling dishes from a soon-to-open solo restaurant destined to become the hottest thing in London (past residencies have included Kol’s Santiago Lastra, Jikoni’s Ravinder Bhogal and Ikoyi’s Jeremy Chan), and also offers the opportunity to try the food of chefs from some of the most famous restaurants around the world without jumping on a plane. For something more permanent, Ollie Templeton, who opened Carousel with his brother Ed in 2014, serves up seasonal small plates in the on-site wine bar, while next-door number 24 is home to longer residencies from the likes of Mumbai’s Goila Butter Chicken.
19-23 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RL, carousel-london.com