A tiny Lebanese restaurant managed by a Lebanese co-owner and Polish partner tucked down a dingy Soho alley may not sound promising, but Yalla Yalla has been turning away eager diners nightly since opening last year. Offering excellent Beirut street food, including fresh wraps and light mezze, its Kibbe Nayyeh – pounded raw lamb with parsley and bulgur – is especially good. Evening bookings essential.
1 Greens Court, W1F 0HA (+ 44 (0)20 7287 7663; yalla-yalla.co.uk) Nearest Tube Piccadilly Circus.
Meals at Heal’s
One of London’s best-kept secrets, although its prices do push the £15 limit. The café and restaurant hidden at the back of the Heal’s furniture shop offers Mediterranean-influenced light meals and old-fashioned British cakes, and is worth a look-in for its weird Alice-in-Wonderland-on-acid décor alone.
1st floor, 196 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7LQ (+44 (0)20 7580 2522; heals.co.uk/pcat/healcafe) Nearest Tube Goodge Street station.
While many of the curry houses surrounding east London’s Brick Lane have let their standards slip, Tayyabs remains something of an institution. First opened in 1972, it’s popular both with local Muslims and curry pilgrims from across London (it’s only a short hop from the City).
Tayyabs, 89 Fieldgate Street E1 1JU +44 (0)20 7247 6400; tayyabs.co.uk. Nearest Tube Whitechapel.
Cha Cha Moon
Taking over the mantle from the now-indifferent Wagamama, this Chinese noodle bar also launched by Alan Yau is a cut above the competition. Offering brisk but stress-free dining, its Chinese and Singaporean dishes try that little bit harder with their recipes and ingredients.
15-21 Ganton Street W1F 9BN +44 (0)20 7297 9800. Nearest Tube Oxford Circus.
With only two spaces to sit down, this tiny pizzeria works best if you decamp with your food to nearby Soho Square. It’s worth the hassle, however – Malletti serves London’s best selection of pizza al taglio (in squares), the food is fresh and the toppings superb. Service is friendly too.
26 Noel Street W1F 8GY +44 (0)20 7439 4096). Nearest Tube Tottenham Court Road.
This ‘Communist chic’ Chinese café offers democratically low prices for excellent food — and a soundtrack of old workers’ songs. Noodle and rice dishes – often with a hot Sichuanese bent – are the order of the day, with spicy pork-stuffed crescent dumplings a particular favourite.
25 Newport Court WC2H 7JS + 44 (0)20 7287 6877. Nearest Tube Leicester Square
The Rock and Sole Plaice
Good fish and chips are increasingly rare in central London, but this Covent Garden fixture is a reassuring exception. Offering fancier fish such as halibut as well as the usual cod, the place is generally packed with local office workers and hungry theatregoers.
47 Endell Street WC2H 9AJ +44 (0)20 7836 3785. Nearest Tube Covent Garden
Another one from Alan Yau’s growing stable, this sleek and usually packed Soho bakery and café offers an authentic Italian experience – from the food and the staff to the confusing ordering system. Many customers are just there for the fine (and very affordable) cakes, but good pizza and pasta are also on offer.
135 Wardour Street W1F 0UT. +44 (0)20 7478 8888; princi.co.uk. Nearest Tube Oxford Circus.
The crowded dining area at this self-service organic food emporium wins no prizes for aesthetics, but its selection of hot, Asian-influenced vegetarian food is among the best in central London. Cakes are surprisingly indulgent.
22 Torrrington Place (off Tottenham Court Road) WC1E 7JH +44 (0)20 7436 1929; planetorganic.com. Nearest Tube Goodge Street.
Kingsland Road in grungy/trendy Shoreditch is fast becoming London’s Little Vietnam. Most of the restaurants on this short strip are reasonable enough, but Viet Grill stands out thanks to its more ambitious menu and good wine list. It’s usually busy, but it’s big enough to accommodate everyone, including drop-ins.
58 Kingsland Road E2 8DP +44 (0) 20 7739 6686; vietnamesekitchen.co.uk. Nearest Tube Old Street