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You want to get away, far from maddening crowd, but you live and work right here in London. Is there anywhere to eat around here that doesn’t require queuing around the block? Damn that no-bookings on-trend policy! It’s all hype and zeitgeist. What you need is an unassuming restaurant that nobody knows about but that will tick all your restaurant-must-have boxes: cosy atmosphere, inspiring cuisine, unusual wines and beers, and no queue out the door. Well, keep these to yourself, but here are 10 restaurants that you’ll want to keep a secret.
Powder Keg Diplomacy
Clapham / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
Although a visit to this out-of-the-way restaurant might require a short walk up St John's Hill, the area has nascent kudos (see also The Plough and Ben's Canteen). The quirky, verdant conservatory restaurant at the rear (beyond the bar section, which you MUST visit for a cocktail libation before dinner) has an antiquated, Georgian feel and the dim lighting provides heady, almost Dickensian, romance. The menu is all about British cuisine. In fact, the chef takes pride in having entirely British ingredients. Tip: skip dessert in favour of a starter. Best dish: pork belly with kale, especially with a bottle of Chapel Down Bacchus English wine.
The Dock Kitchen
Ladbroke Grove & Kensal / Restaurant / Cuisine: International
The view of the Grand Union Canal in from the Portobello Docks is probably one of the more calming rooftop restaurant experiences in London. The restaurant is not directly on a main road either, so quieter times are assured (although the restaurant is also child-friendly, so that could swing the other way). The sunshine peak hours on this 50-seater terrace are 12-5pm (long lunches!) and in the unlikely event of the British sun becoming too unbearably hot, umbrellas provide shade at every table. Visit on a Sunday and you might get lucky because, occasionally, live music is also provided. Chillax to the max, man!
Chelsea / Restaurant / Cuisine: Italian
Sitting discreetly along a quiet residential street in Chelsea, this family-run Italian restaurant may not have the fame of some of its illustrious neighbours, but that?s part of its understated charm. Look out for the orange awning and step inside for rustic yet stylish regional Italian food at its best, plus lesser-known wines from small producers on the island. It?s a firm locals? favourite, and it's easy to see why with charming staff and an unassuming atmosphere often missing in these moneyed parts.
City of London / Restaurant / Cuisine: Vegetarian
This totally organic vegetarian restaurant tucked away in the back alleys around Smithfields, is a cute, relatively inexpensive hidden gem that has City workers thinking twice about pie, chips and a pint for lunch. The seasonal menu has plenty of authentic Italian goodies, whilst the restaurant itself is warm and inviting. The key to its assured success will be the simplicity of its vegetarian Italian menu. Amico Bio offers a diverse range of delicious dishes, with ingredients coming straight from the owner's family farm. With a sister restaurant in Naples, you know this is the real deal.
City of London / Restaurant / Cuisine: Italian
This slim pocket of real estate between St Paul's and Bank Tube stations is synonymous with banking and finance and general fiscal high brow stuff. Yet, if the summer sun is shining brightly and the skies above are painted blue, the pretty courtyard at this secret Italian restaurant, in the classic trattoria style, will be filled with romance and love and faces of glee (business lunches are also welcome too obviously). The short passage to the side of the restaurant leads to a secret courtyard where a timeless slice of Tuscany can be brought to you on plate in the form of simple, yet expertly crated Italian cuisine. Best place in the City of London to escape for an hour or two.
Fitzrovia / Bar / Cuisine: European
The north edge of Fitzrovia, along the Euston Road, seems an unlikely dead zone of activity for a hidden gem restaurant; but that's the point of this list. This wine bar and kitchen serves delicious small plates of very simple dishes, each with no more than four ingredients. The house specialities, however, are oysters and sausages. Basically, we advise ordering the entire menu. Oh, and if you like wine, they have 250 bins of the stuff! Cosy, comfortable, and delightfully friendly.
four o nine
Clapham / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
The irony here is that this is notoriously known as Clapham's best hidden gem restaurant and yet everyone knows about it. But for good reason. This is definite special occasion territory so bust out your best attire for first dates, anniversaries, and birthdays. Sunday lunches, weekend BBQs on the alfresco terrace, and Afternoon Teas are all worth a look but really, you cant beat the candlelit a la carte. Any restaurant that buzzes you in through a discreet door must be classy. Tip: always order sides. Best dish: Champagne poached sole with Serrano ham, sorrel, oysters & oak smoked tiger prawn. Oh yeh!
West End / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
This classic restaurant is often referred to as a hidden gem in reviews by bloggers and critics as most people don't expect such an opulent room in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. Many comment about how you'd never expect to find such an opulent and glamorous venue in the heart of a traditionally tourist area. Once you walk through the revolving doors, you forget the bustle of outside and the unique Neo-Byzantine architecture with marble walls and dramatic arches provides a calm oasis. A literal gem, the beautiful gilded ceiling is currently valued at £8m and inspires awe at the intricate mosaic detailing. And that's all before we even mention the food.
Dalston / Bar / Cuisine: Italian
This is one of those hidden gems you'll find totally by accident. We did, when we cycled along the Regent's Canal between Kingsland and Angel one sunny day. It should really remain a secret, but we know you can keep secrets (unlike us). It's a long walk from almost everywhere, thus ensuring its secrecy too. This south facing cool cafe has some communal chairs and tables on the actual towpath - clue in the name, people - and serves breakfast, cakes, coffee, and lovely sourdough sandwich fuel using locally sourced ingredients. Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, cyclist-friendly (there?s a bike tune up shop next door), so kick back and enjoy a lovely glass of homemade ginger beer. Or a glass of wine.
Chiswick & Brentford / Restaurant / Cuisine: Japanese
Hidden away like a secret restaurant on a Kyoto side street, Chisou Chiswick restaurant is an oasis of Japanese calm, away from the bustling high road. The ground floor is split between intimate booths and a traditional sushi counter. Head upstairs for sake bar and a sky lit dining space. Serving the very best Japanese food, the menu is gimmick free, the focus instead on exceptionally fresh fish and authentic dishes. Changing chef's specials, an amazing sake list and a cosy atmosphere make Chisou Chiswick a true taste of Japan.
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