Restaurants in London’s tourist trap Leicester Square that are actually great
LONDON’S Leicester Square is a magnet for tourists, it even has a spot on the Monopoly board.
But its popularity has not guaranteed culinary greatness, in fact, you’re more likely to end up with an overpriced and bland meal if you don’t do your homework before visiting.
There are some fantastic places to eat if you know where to look though – here, our travel team share some of their favourites.
Cork And Bottle, Cranbourn St
By Caroline McGuire, Travel Editor
Enter an unassuming door opposite the entrance to ‘Magic Mike Live’ and make your way down a winding staircase, into the underbelly of Leicester Square.
There, you’ll find by far the most charismatic restaurant in the area, founded more than 50 years ago by the legendary Don Hewitson, who was credited with transforming the UK wine industry in the 1970s.
Cork And Bottle sells 300 wines from across the world, many at very reasonable prices.
They also have a great food menu, featuring their signature cheese and ham pie and a fantastic cheeseboard.
it’s always wise to book ahead, but I’ve popped in on a whim at 9pm on a Friday night and 3pm on a Sunday and have always managed t find a table.
With some extra luck you’ll be given the cute little candlelit cave at the back.
Panton Yokocho, Panton Street
By Ryan Gray, Travel Writer
Although it’s in a hugely touristy area right next to Leicester Square, Panton Yokocho is not a particularly well-known spot, despite the fact it really ought to be.
The restaurant has managed to capture the atmosphere of an old Tokyo alleyway very well, decked out with red lanterns, retro music posters and Japanese toys.
The options are almost as tasty as some of the better ramen I have tried in cities and towns throughout Japan.
The spicy miso ramen has the perfect blend of spice and umami flavours in its broth, while the Napoli ramen offers a fusion of Italian and Japanese food.
Head there during the Mon-Thu 4-6pm Happy Hour to try out some of their cocktails for £7, including the dirty lychee and the shochu sou.
You can book ahead but they’ll often have spare tables if you drop in.
Brasserie Zedel, Sherwood St
By Sophie Swietochowski, Assistant Travel Editor
If ever I have non-London friends visiting, I’ll take them to Brasserie Zédel.
It’s very unassuming from the outside, two small doors beneath a red sign, but buried underground, below the chaos of London’s West End is 1930s Paris.
A giant grand-father clock welcomes you into a marble-clad dining room, accented by gold-trimmed pillars and littered with wooden tables dressed in candy pink cloths.
Brasserie Zédel really oozes glamour without feeling stuffy and offers fancy-dining without the hefty price tag.
The set menu, written in Franglais in cursive-style font, is such a bargain for central London with three courses coming to less than 20 quid (£19.75, to be exact).
The spinach, pumpkin & ricotta pithivier is a personal favourite, while meat-eating friends say you can’t go wrong with the “chopped steak Americain” (featured on the fixed-price menu), then wash it all down with a bottle of vin rouge – simply divine.
If you’ve never visited, put it on your bucket list now – and make sure to book ahead.
Bancone, William IV St
As a born and bred Italian, I have a high bar for good Italian food and Bancone more than makes the cut.
A hidden gem with a traditional and straightforward menu, ‘Bancone‘ means ‘counter’, and countertop dining is what people come here for, as chef-watching is a big part of the experience – if you’re lucky enough to snag a seat there.
That being said, there are also regular tables, and, for me, the best part is the food – regardless of where you sit.
The menu varies slightly every season, with pasta dishes costing from £8 to £17, but they’re guaranteed to always be below £20.
My favourite dish, the ‘bucatini cacio e pepe’, is a staple item you’ll find all year round. It’s £12, and on par with the authentic cacio e pepe you’ll find in Rome.
To top it off, Bancone has some of the cheapest cocktails I’ve found in central London, with the ‘Bancone Signature Negronis’ costing only £7.
It’s advised to book ahead as the restaurant is small.
Jinli, Leicester St
If you don’t know where to go, London’s Chinatown can be busy, bustling, and downright overwhelming.
I’ve spent years navigating its winding streets and maze of restaurants, and I can finally say that I’ve settled on a favourite, Jinli.
There is nearly always a free table and even at busier times, the service is prompt, which is great if you’re in a bit of a rush.
Specialising in authentic Chinese Sichuan food, I love the hearty portions, which, as expected, have a little kick.
For a spot in central London, it’s reasonably priced too, with plates of fried noodles coming in at £8.20, and hotpots for as little as £11.80.
I always keep this in my back pocket for a cheap and cheerful bite to eat in the heart of the English capital.
While you’re in town, don’t forget to check out the incredible £1.75 bus journey that takes you past London’s top landmarks.
And we visited London’s biggest winter attraction with rollercoasters & funfair rides – here are the rips-offs to avoid.
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