Home Miscellaneous Where to Eat Near Leicester Square

Where to Eat Near Leicester Square

by Krista


So I am reading The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. I thought this passage was pretty interesting:

“Inside information also means that it is hard to get a decent meal in a tourist trap like London’s Leicester Square, Times Square in Manhattan or the Plaka in Athens. With few exceptions, the hungry visitor will pay a lot for mediocre cuisine. Tourists are willing to pay high prices because they have no sense of where better alternatives, even just a few streets away, might be found.

But the tourist-trap phenomenon is not just about high prices. If it was, we would see a wide range of restaurants, charming little bistros, and downmarket pasta or burger joints, all kinds of food from superb to disastrous, all charging a premium. Instead, we see a truncated market–high quality places, whether the good food is fried chicken or fine dining, are simply not to be found.

I think the reason is simple enough; tourists will only be making a single visit and will find it hard to pick out the great food from the bad. Good restaurants all locate where they are more likely to be appreciated by more informed locals. The bad ones remain…the “lemons” of the restaurant trade.”

So as a service to tourists everywhere, I’d like to start a list….The Best Restaurants in and Around Leicester Square List. But I need your help.

If some tourists stopped you in the middle of Leicester Square and asked you where they should have lunch within a five minute walk, where would you send them?

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fatima December 4, 2007 - 4:15 am

What about Abeno Too? It’s right next to Leceister Square and has amazing onomiyaki. Also you could do worse than to eat a burger at Ed’s.

Also, the National Gallery cafe is really nice for sandwiches, cakes, tea and their delicious Ploughman’s lunch. Also the cafe inside the Curzon Soho (Konditor & Cook) has delicious cakes.

There is also the Japanese Ten Ten Tei just behind Piccadilly Circus, as well as Randall & Aubin for seafood. For really cheap, Maoz Falafel.

There is also cheap, good sushi at that Japanese place behind Leceister Square that refuses to take tips or serve tuna, but I forget what it’s called…

chrisc December 4, 2007 - 8:36 am

Are these to be places where they are likely to be able to walk in?

If not, then J Sheekey is an obvious one.
There are a few places in Chinatown I assume, though I haven’t been there in years.

RW Apple Wannabe December 4, 2007 - 10:00 am

Dim sum at Chinese Experience or Royal Dragon – both in Chinatown. Wahaca isn’t too far a walk from Leicester Square. J. Sheekey is close by, though it’s pretty hit-or-miss and pricey.

Graham Lubin December 4, 2007 - 10:28 am

I would say the C+M Malaysian Restaurant in Rupert Court. A family owned restaurant. I have been going there for years.

chrisc December 4, 2007 - 11:57 am

Speaking of the National Gallery the National Portrait Gallery restuarant is also supposed to be good. Great views too – tourist heaven!

NB I am in two minds about this challenge. On the one hand I don’t want people to come to London and think that places like Leicester Square and Oxford Street are all there is to it. On the other I don’t want to find too many of them in EC2 (where I live) – though St Paul’s obviously ensures that a few do head my way – or in any of my favourite haunts.

Anna Goss December 4, 2007 - 1:19 pm

For the cheap and cheerful, the West End Kitchen on Panton Street and the Stockpot on Old Compton Street both do basics very well and very not-expensively.

I’d also be tempted to get them to cross Shaftesbury Avenue and wander along Frith Street for Barrafina’s brilliant tapas.

Seconded on Konditor & Cook’s cakes.

Chris December 4, 2007 - 2:30 pm

Walk up Wardour Street from Leicester Square, and go to Busaba Eatthai. It’s inexpensive and usually delicious, but beware of big queues in the evenings – its secret is long since out!

Chris December 4, 2007 - 2:31 pm

Also fatima – are you thinking of the Tokyo Diner? They don’t take tips but it’s been a while since I’ve eaten there so can’t vouch for the quality of the food these days.

fatima December 4, 2007 - 4:12 pm

Yes, Tokyo Diner! For the price, it is good.

I also meant to write ‘okonomiyaki’.

I agree with West End Kitchen – it’s ridiculously cheap and although the food is what you’d get in a boarding school (which isn’t necessarily bad), it’s so much better than going to Angus Aberdeen Steakhouse.

Also, if they have lots of $, they can always go to The Wolseley or Joel Rubochon.

Jane December 5, 2007 - 9:31 am

Busaba Eathai, Maoz Falafel or Wagamama on Irving Street.

Sarah December 5, 2007 - 10:18 am

This list is great for Londoners too – always nice to know where to go before/ after the theatre. On Saturday we had pre-theatre drinks and snacks at The Light Bar at the St Martin’s Lane Hotel (it shares a kitchen with Asia de Cuba) and much later had cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding at Browns Restaurant and Bar, also on St Martin’s Lane.

'Pomiane' December 5, 2007 - 8:19 pm

How can it be that nobody has mentioned the faded Edwardian splendour of CCK (Chuen Chung Ku) on Wardour Street? Endless amounts of lunchtime Dim Sum served from an equally endless parade of trolleys – hasn’t changed in the thirty years I’ve known it, and has always been reliably good…..

thekua December 6, 2007 - 7:34 am

+1 Abeno Too

As above with Konditor and Cook – they also do great sandwiches and soups

Cafe in the Crypt (below St Martin in the fields) do reasonable brasserie style food

For dim sum, I toss between Golden Dragon (in the middle of Chinatown) and Laureate (Shaftsbury Avenue).

Now that Four Seasons have moved to Chinatown if their duck is as good as the one in Bayswater it’s worth going to.

Best BBQ Pork buns from Golden Gate Cake Shop

Jacob Sager Weinstein December 7, 2007 - 8:27 am

Yeah, I bet Fatima is thinking of Tokyo Diner, at 2 Newport Place–I was just there last week, reading the little thing on the table about why they won’t serve tuna.

They are indeed still very good. They’re not fancy, but it’s satisfying, hearty food, and very reasonably priced .

If our mythical tourist is willing to walk 10 minutes instead of 5, I would also recommend Food For Thought, near Covent Garden. VERY good vegetarian food, and very cheap; it’s a crowded, cafeteria-style restaurant, and they obviously skimp on atmosphere, but they don’t skimp on food quality.

For desert, there is currently a branch of La Duree on Picadilly, halfway between Picadilly Circus and Green Park. Worth heading there for some macaron.

Fulvia December 8, 2007 - 10:10 pm

Misato in Wardour street. You can find it if you follow the usual big queue of Japanes people outside.

Feathers December 12, 2007 - 5:47 pm

Seems like lots of Asian so I’ll try to go non-asian. I’m not sure if this is within the specific radius but we had a lovely meal at Christopher’s. A bit expensive but great service and food. They specialize in American so no American tourist should go pay £20 pounds for a good steak but if you are from anywhere else it is a great meal.

My second suggestion is the Low Lander. Belgian bar with many many beers on tap but also nice food. Typical Moules but I had a lovely Croque Mouisure and Goats Cheese salad and the fries. MY GOD THE FRIES. They double fry them and serve with homemade garlic mayo and spicy ketchup. They are worth the trip alone.

Krista, please compile and post a list when people are done.

anonymoose December 12, 2007 - 5:53 pm

Speaking as an actual tourist who ate in Leicester Square, I went for Abeno Too. 🙂

Rob Green January 3, 2008 - 10:09 am

Satsuma on Wardour Street has a reasonably priced lunch menu, you can comfortably eat for around £10 and the ramen, noodles, etc are all pretty decent.

Krista January 6, 2008 - 4:09 pm

I think this is one of my favorite posts ever. Thanks to everyone for all the comments. I have added Tokyo Diner and Abeno Too to my to-do list! Will give this a couple of more weeks and then post a round-up. (Hopefully by then I will have visited some of the spots too.)

Lesley January 10, 2008 - 8:11 pm

I can’t believe noone has mentioned the Cork and Bottle which is actually as near as dammit on Leicester Square! It’s been going for donkey’s years and is a basement wine bar next to a dodgy sex shop!

Also for a little bit of France in the capital, Le Beaujolais on Litchfield St (just off Charing Cross Road) is formidable.

Vickie February 7, 2008 - 12:50 pm

I second the votes for the Cork and Bottle and Le Beaujolais, both little gems, well hidden and well worth checking out.

aforkfulofspaghetti February 17, 2008 - 12:26 pm

I say Hi Sushi in Frith Street (Leic Sq end) for great sushi, sashimi, and tempura. And I’d also vote for a great eggs benny at Balans on Old Compton Street. Randall and Aubin isn’t far away, either…

Hannah Bow March 20, 2008 - 1:32 pm

Viet for cheap but extremely yummy Vietnamese food. It’s at the right end of Greek Street for Leicester square too. In the words of G.Ramsey, Done.

Rachel March 20, 2008 - 2:11 pm

There’s a great new Mexican place called Wahaca, at 66 Chandos Place.

Definitely worth a try – good service, delicious fresh food, and a great attitude.

Harriet March 27, 2008 - 8:41 pm

I would send them to cafe koha behind the theatre in st. Martins square. Not massively cheap but nice and calm with great wine. I know i shouldn’t promote my own blog but I am also putting together a list of restaurants I love around London…Cafe Koha is definitely one.

Alice July 14, 2008 - 2:54 pm

Possibly a little longer than a 10 minute walk away but definitely worth it, I would say Mildreds, the vegetarian restaurant on Lexington Street. I’m a massive fan of meat but this restaurant does the best burgers ever (beetroot, courgette and carrot, yum!) and amazing sweet potato chips. I recommend it to everyone!

christine July 25, 2008 - 3:14 pm

Wagamama’s in Leicester Square. Its near the half price ticket booth. Its cheap & healthier than most places.

Tom August 25, 2008 - 9:43 pm


Stockpot, Old Compton Street restaurant.
Cheap as anything, serves a wide variety of food and I’ve never had a bad meal there. Good for those wanting to save their sterling for the better aspects of London.

Do not expect anything fancy, or even comfortable, but if it’s the middle of winter and you’re dying for a good meal, you can’t go wrong.

guinness February 5, 2009 - 12:38 pm

joy king lau is good for dim sum, just off the square

Chris May 11, 2009 - 5:19 pm

Haozhan on ChinaTown’s Gerrard Street is superb. Try the wasabi prawns! It’s not on the menu but request the black sesame seed ice cream too- yum!
I also support the recommendations of; Wahaca, Randall and Aubin, Konditor and Cook, St Martin’s Crypt cafe and anything to do with the National Gallery and a certain Mr Peyton!

Feathers June 22, 2009 - 6:06 pm

These posts are great but can you make a top list with links to addresses and any posts. That would help me specifically.


Charles July 20, 2009 - 5:13 pm

I like Arbutus (http://www.arbutusrestaurant.co.uk/) on Frith Street. Might be a bit far to qualify for the challenge, but is obviously easily walkable. I’m impressed with the people who’ve come up with good places that are right amongst all the crap though.

Krista July 20, 2009 - 7:58 pm

Chris, I love Arbutus. It's a bit of a hike from Leicester Square, but a good choice nonetheless.

Charles July 28, 2009 - 10:25 pm

Oh cool, glad you approve.

Nice blog by the way, I think your style is great.

Webcowgirl August 17, 2009 - 3:20 pm

I agree with the article. In fact, I’ve written up a whole list of restaurants to go to if you’re going to theater for the night. My personal recommendations for near Leicester Square are: 1) Wahaca (but only if it’s 6 or earlier, otherwise you’ll never get a table before your show), 2) Red Hot (Charing Cross road), and 3) Baozi Inn. If they’ll go a little further Assa (near TCR) is also awesome.

Krista August 17, 2009 - 4:02 pm

Great list! Thanks!

Emily December 19, 2009 - 2:12 pm

For Chinese food, Imperial China in Chinatown is one of the best (http://www.imperial-china.co.uk/). Four Seasons (12 Gerrard Street) is good too.

For Taiwanese, Leong’s Legends. But bad service.

For Malaysian food it’s C&R Cafe & Restaurant (4 Rupert Court) or Kopitiam (67 Charing Cross Road).
For Spanish tapas and paella – Mar y Terra (http://www.mariterra.co.uk) or Cafe Espana (63 Old Compton Street – but at least 20-min queue, no reservations).
Balans (there are two) on Old Compton St is also esp good for late nights. they serve dinner till about 1am then start their breakfast menu then. so you can have english breakfast till 6am in the morning. and since it’s a bar you can have cocktails alongside your hot chocolate or coffee.
Arang in Golden Sq is the best Korean restaurant in town, and affordable. http://www.arang.co.uk/

Krista December 19, 2009 - 8:35 pm

Emily, I like your style! Thanks for the tips. (Although Arrang isn't my fave Korean. I like Polo behind Centre Point.)

Dan Kaszeta January 19, 2010 - 6:56 pm

The slightly misspelled Corean Chilli on Charing Cross Road does really good bulgogi and kimchi, with real Korean OB beer.

Krista January 23, 2010 - 11:37 am

Awesome. But I have to say…the OB beer drives me crazy. That's a tampon brand!

Farida March 25, 2010 - 3:58 pm

It’s slightly further away towards Tottenham Court Road, but I’d always recommend the Giaconda Dining Room on Denmark Street(although tough as a walk-in tourist, you’d have to book…)

Racheldsc September 18, 2010 - 11:03 pm

Joy King Lau for dim sum, Yum Chaa or C’est Ici for tea/coffee and cake, the Soho Pizzeria for Italian, Kaslik for Lebanese. Most tourists who have asked me for advice seem to want something “traditionally English”, though, which is more of a challenge! :O

Ebi Atawodi December 3, 2010 - 3:39 pm

Can’t help but chirp in seeing as I worked for the most time on Floral Street and later Strand. Definitely without a doubt, Fernandez and Wells on lexington http://www.fernandezandwells.com Cafe Boheme on Old Compton, definitely have the lychee martini yummm. And ditto Balan! Carluccios, 35 Rose Street, which is actually a chain is not half bad and I loveeee their bread. Theres a thai place on maiden lane, can’t remember the name for the life of me but right across Fire and Stone (which you should avoid in my opinion!) If willing to walk, Kastner and Ovens, 54 Floral Street – or as we call them, two fat ladies, right by the suspending bridge of the ROH is to die for. Freshly made organic food/deli style. Patara, 15 Greek Street does amazing thai. Even further off is Gordons Wine Bar, the oldest wine bar in London on Villiers Street.

Thumper December 2, 2011 - 6:00 am

Corean Chilli gets my vote too. Best kimchi in London. Was previously the Satsuma I used as my regular haunt for a quick fix of noodles.

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