The City: the best restaurants in the Square Mile for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus pubs, bars, cafés, street food and more.
Welcome to a new series exploring London’s food and drink offerings, one area at a time. We eventually plan to cover the whole of the capital, but that’s quite a big task. If you have any recommendations for us in your area, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Square Mile might be more about going to the office than going out, but anywhere that hosts 300,000 people every day is going to need some decent spots to feed and water them. Our City picks include the best of the old school bankers’ haunts along with hot newcomers, historic boozers and skyhigh dining.
NOTE: We’ve used the official boundaries of the City of London as our parameters here. The Square Mile runs roughly from Chancery Lane in the west to Middlesex Street in the east, the river to the south and Charterhouse Street and Broadgate to the north.
The most impressive breakfast to be had in the capital is 40 floors above the Square Mile at Duck & Waffle, where you can tuck into the house special — crispy duck leg confit with a fried duck egg on a waffle, drizzled with mustard maple syrup — and watch the sun rise over London. The breakfast at Hawksmoor Guildhall might leave you just as breathless, as you struggle to get through an epic portion of meaty goodness that includes a smoked bacon chop, short-rib bubble and squeak, black pudding, grilled bone marrow, sausages, fried eggs, trotter baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and unlimited toast. At Bad Egg in Moorgate much of the all-day menu features eggs, with morning highlights including breakfast tacos, while a very good Full English can be had at nearby 3 South Place. There’s also a wealth of breakfast options and very good coffee at Grace Café in St Paul’s.
While the City is teeming with branches of Leon, Pret and other decent but unexciting lunch-oriented chains, there are other options out there. Tuck into some street food courtesy of Kerb which assembles at the base of the Gherkin from 12-2pm every Thursday. On other days find banh mi, spring rolls and other Vietnamese street food dishes at City Càphê near St Paul’s or head to one of the Taylor Street Baristas sites for sandwiches, salads, soups and excellent coffee. There’s a lot of love for Italian food in the City too, try pizza from Franco Manca in Broadgate, Venetian small plates at Polpo Smithfield, well-sourced and crafted Italian dishes at L’Anima Café near Liverpool Street or all kinds of pastas, sandwiches and bakes ‘like mama used to make’ at the four Coco di Mama shops in the area.
The City is full of restaurants, particularly at the higher end of the spectrum — after all, that hard-earned cash has to be spent somewhere. A lot of them fall into the old school category, but don’t let that put you off. Highlights among them include French fine dining spots Sauterelle and Coq d’Argent, pan-European restaurant 1 Lombard Street, buzzy Italian Taberna Etrusca, fish restaurant Sweetings, resolutely British longtimer The Mercer, and relaxed bistro The Sign Of The Don.
Also worth a try is Simpson’s, which has been around since 1757 and is London’s oldest existing restaurant — it serves traditional British food.
More recent arrivals include branches of dim sum and tea house Yauatcha and Spanish restaurant José Pizarro at Broadgate, steak restaurants Goodman and Hawksmoor (the latter is our favourite), and long-term pop-up Beer & Buns which serves Japanese hirata buns and craft beers from a space above conveyor-belt sushi restaurant K-10 near Liverpool Street.
Something special — fine dining
When it comes to special it’s hard to beat the City’s skyhigh set. Try Dan Doherty’s cooking at Duck & Waffle or Japanese dishes with a South American influence at Sushisamba, both in the Heron Tower near Liverpool Street station. Venture up to floor 24 of Tower 42 to enjoy Jason Atherton’s food with a view at City Social, or head up to the Sky Garden near Fenchurch Street for a number of dining options — read more about the offerings here.
The City’s top coffee spot is almost certainly Curator’s Coffee Studio just off Fenchurch Street, where beans are taken as seriously as at the many specialist shops in nearby Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. The several Taylor Street Baristas across the City also serve excellent brews.
The City of London is packed with characterful pubs, from historic entities such as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Jamaica Wine House and The Blackfriar to craft beer haunt the Old Red Cow. Visit our good-pub database to see more recommendations in the area.
At steak restaurant Silk & Grain the bar ages virtually all its cocktails in barrels, bottles or leather for the best taste, while Merchant House offers unparalleled selections of both gin and rum. Decent cocktails are to be found among the post-work crowds at rowdy American-themed Steam & Rye, and Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town beneath the Breakfast Club restaurant on Artillery Lane still has the cool factor despite the secret of the fridge door being well and truly out of the bag. If you’re a fan of Campari it’s worth visiting the dedicated Negroni Bar at Polpo, while all of the Square Mile’s plush skyhigh restaurants offer suitably scenic bar areas.
Duck & Waffle is open 24 hours a day, making it the perfect spot for late night dinner or drinks. Regulations in the area mean that other options generally involve members’ clubs or migrating east into Shoreditch and beyond.
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