Although chains abound in Shepherd’s Bush thanks to the domineering Westfield shopping centre, step outside the mega-mall's shiny shell and you can discover a whole lot of lovely places to eat and drink in the old-world SheBu.
This western borough borders several worlds: posh Holland Park, dishevelled Uxbridge Road, twee Chiswick and homely Hammersmith. Meanwhile, the triangular green at the centre — previously bordered by grimy takeaways and tat shops — is slowly being gentrified and begrudgingly becoming, dare we say it, trendy?
Breakfast bites in Shepherd's Bush
Get your fry-up fix at 'proper local' greasy spoon Embassy Cafe, or an equally affordable but more upmarket version at Liz Cafe, just off the green. Following the demise of the previously loved Hummingbird Cafe, Proud Mary's has stepped up to claim the top brunch spot. Savour a leisurely few hours mopping up the likes of blueberry pancakes, marmite brioche melts and courgette fritters with guacamole in the cosy dining room.
Meanwhile, if you are rushing through Westfield on your way to work and just want to grab a pastry to go, Danish bakery Ole & Steen has all the kløben buns and cinnamon swirls you need.
Lunchtime inspiration in Shepherd's Bush
Next to, and owned by, the music hall, Bush Hall Dining Rooms offers very decent brunch and lunch menus. The former is extensive in range and more indulgent in nature (think bacon butties and eggy bread), while the latter leans towards classics like mussels with cider cream, steak burgers and salads. Plus, it's unfairly under-patronised so you’re often guaranteed a table.
Thai restaurant Jasmine serves very good meals at any time of day, although the swift service, reasonable prices and mouth-watering flavours render it perfect for a quick lunch stop. Be warned: the jungle curry is knock-your-socks-off spicy. Hankering for Chinese? Shikumen is usually a pricey pick but the lunch menu proffers dim sum deliciousness with most plates costing no more than £5 a pop.
If it's a tasty lunch on the hop you're after, Shepherd's Bush Market is likely to throw up a gem. Sam Sandwiches whips up hot Algerian sandwiches faster than you can say "what's a merguez sausage?", The Grill Master is your go-to for juicy meat wraps, while Mr Falafel's hearty veggie wraps have put a smile on the face of the lunchtime masses for yonks. Don't be fooled by the unassuming frontage — it's a local legend.
Restaurant and dinner recommendations in Shepherd's Bush
Middle Eastern restaurants abound along Uxbridge Road, but we particularly recommend Abu Zaad and Ayam Zaman. Both are affordable and welcoming with a focus on traditional Syrian dishes. To choose between them is splitting hairs, but we think Abu Zaad has the better hummus while Ayam Zaman wins on the falafel front.
Rivalling east London for the best fish and chips in town, Kerbisher & Malt doesn’t have too many tables but it does offer takeaways. And you'll be more than happy to munch on the street when you get a taste of the feather-light batter and sublime mushy peas. Looking for something with a little more ooh la la? Le Petit Citron, edging into Hammersmith, is a charming independent French bistro full of heart, soul and caramelised onion tarts.
Overlooking the green, Al Forno's cafe-style restaurant is simple and flavoursome — a particular hit in summer when the front-facing patio really comes into its own. On the other side of the green, Harana boasts delicious Turkish fare, generous portions and a melt-in-the-mouth lamb shank stew.
If you're willing to add on a few extra minutes up Uxbridge Road, your reward is a trio of global delights just a few doors away from each other. Esarn Kheaw, going strong since 1992, continues to draw in the crowds with its authentic Thai dishes and family run atmosphere. It may be younger, but Nepal Authentic Dining does exactly what it says on the tin (the traditional, filled momo dumplings an absolute must-try), while Red Sea Restaurant flits between Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine with surprising panache.
Something special — fine dining in Shepherd's Bush
Shepherds Bush was never known for its fine dining, but the newly-arrived Dorsett Hotel has made an impact on the area's restaurant scene. Shikumen is its centrepiece, where you can kick back in swanky surrounds and gobble up supremely elegant dim sum, seafood-strewn Singapore noodles and some of the finest xiao long bao (a type of Shanghainese steamed dumpling) in London.
Le Petit Citron, also mentioned above, isn't your typical fine dining but the chequered tablecloths, candlelit tables and thoughtful menu of French classics absolutely make it feel like a special treat. Of a similar style is Bocconi, a sophisticated neighbourhood Italian where panna cotta is always the right way to end your meal.
Gastropubs and pubs in Shepherd's Bush
The Bird In Hand in Brook Green serves enormous wood-fired pizzas with creative toppings, as well as an array of land, sea and garden-inspired small plates which complement the extensive wine list perfectly. A few doors down, the award-winning Havelock Tavern has a small but perfectly-formed menu, decent beers, and outdoor seating on a quiet road.
The Sunday roasts at the Queen Adelaide rule the roost (and they do Bloody Marys), although it’s worth visiting any day of the week. We also hear nothing but good things about The Anglesea Arms, which changes its menu daily according to available produce and favours Mediterranean flavours.
When it comes to drinks we love the former gin palace, Princess Victoria, for its classy interior, picture-perfect courtyard garden, plus the excellent selection of gins (what else?) and non-alcoholic spirits and beers too. Hidden away, the Crown & Sceptre is a traditional local boozer with a friendly atmosphere and several decent board games.
Easily the best pub in the Bush, however, is The Defector's Weld. It has friendly service, a wide range of craft beer, cosy modern decor, and does top notch burgers. Immediately opposite, The Green isn’t particularly special, but is the place to go if you want to catch a game on a big screen with fellow sports fans.
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Coffee shops in Shepherd's Bush
Yes, they're both in the belly of the beast, but Sacred — found on Westfield’s ground floor — and Black Sheep Coffee on Ariel Way serve arguably the best coffee in the heart of the area. Many of the places mentioned here as breakfast hotspots also whip up a mean brew, most notably Proud Mary's and Liz Cafe. But if you're willing to make a small detour, swing by Swallow Coffee Shop next to Goldhawk Road station for Ozone-roasted coffee with an effortlessly hip vibe.
For the hot drink spot with 1920s swag try Betty Blythe, a vintage tearoom hidden away in Brook Green. Arrive early to avoid the hen parties, or book the whole place for a retro bash of your own.
Bars in Shepherd's Bush
Arguably more bar than pub, the Shepherd's Bush branch of Brewdog provides post-apocalyptic industrial chic and all the beers we know and love. Culture vultures will relish Bush Theatre’s Library Bar, so-named because it's housed in, you guessed it, an old library. Swig on craft beers and cocktails among the teetering shelves of playtexts, and then make the most of the ace up its sleeve — an outdoor terrace (one of the only ones in the area) that's prime for people watching.
Easily missed but for its proximity to Latimer Road station, Garden Bar is your summer sanctuary. The impressive beer garden is a total gem, crammed with trees, plants and ramshackle seating in every corner. Drinks are standard but food is good, and festooned as it is with fairy-lights, the place is surprisingly romantic.
Speaking of romance, Albertine wine bar is a wonderful date spot. Snuggly interior, candlelit tables and an ever-rotating wine list where they offer at least 20 by the glass (and more by the bottle). Best enjoyed with a charcuterie platter to share.
Located halfway down Shepherd's Bush Road in between Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith stations, technically Smith's Cocktail Bar is in Hammersmith. But who's quibbling when a mere 10 minute walk assures you 'proper' cocktails in sultry speakeasy surrounds?
Late night in Shepherd's Bush
We’ve seen queues stretch out to the green outside club BarFM where they offer karaoke and live music until 2:30am on Friday and Saturday. The Defector’s Weld has DJs and remains open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, while The Sindercombe Social offers late night burgers and music until 1am for a generally younger crowd than the Weld. And for when all you need is something to soak up the alcohol, Abu Zaad does a cracking mixed grill until 11pm.
Original article by Robyn Jankel. Updates by Ruth Hargreaves.