Deliciously un-faddy, meatballs are the stalwart comfort food. Succulent, saucy and oh-so simple, they can often be overlooked on London's competitive and ever-evolving dining scene.
So let us dial it back a bit and give the humble meatball its due. A good meatball means top-quality ingredients, patience, care and fullsome flavour - no wonder it's a firm family favourite.
Manna Vegetarian Restaurant
To our knowledge, this is the oldest vegetarian/vegan restaurant in London at 50 years old. No wonder, then, that the spaghetti and 'veatballs' are top of the veggie tree. One of the restaurant's most popular items, these vegan veatballs bust all myths about flavourless, wan, uninspired meat substitutes and instead pack full, fresh flavour and substantial texture. Manna's is always busy - book in advance to get your veatball fix.
Chef Russell Norman is a meatball fanatic and it shows in his popular chain of Venetian-inspired restaurants across the capital. There are a variety to choose from - lamb and pistachio, spicy pork and fennel, chickpea and ricotta - and we love that you can order them on their own or with spaghetti, allowing you to gorge on a full meal or opt for a tapas-style pick'n'mix. Soho is the original location, but Polpo's balls are spreading and can also be enjoyed at their Covent Garden, Chelsea, Notting Hill and Smithfield locations.
Meatballs on a pizza? We're in. In fact, Pizza East has us swooning with a double whammy: veal meatball pizza for main and a baked lamb meatball starter. If you're in full-on meatball mode then order the two together. Demolish the moreish pizza which swaps the traditional, heavy tomato sauce for light cream and lemon, then finish off by dipping the crusts in the sumptuous tomato sauce that comes with the starter. Double meatballing - you won't regret it.Deliveroo now from Shoreditch
Curious Yellow Kafé
Don't be fooled into thinking this brightly coloured "kafe" on Pitfield Street is nothing more than a coffee shop. Do so and you risk missing out on their delightful Scandinavian breakfast and lunch offerings including ... you guessed it ... Swedish meatballs. It's all homecooked, the service is personal and you can expect to have to wait during busy periods. The lingonberry jam makes it all worth it.
Another Swedish offering, this time a restaurant serving up the meatball goods just a short walk from Ladbroke Grove station. Admittedly we're there most often scoffing their Pytt i Panna for breakfast, but for a heartier dish their meatballs come up trumps. Pickled cucumbers, lingonberries and mash make this an authentic dish in beautifully cosy surroundings. Head to the tucked-away back room for added snugness.Deliveroo now from North Kensington
Specialising in Italian-American street food, Capish? packs one hell of a meatball-sub punch. Previously a roving stall, hungry punters can now also find them seven days a week shacked up with Mason and Company, a craft beer bar by Hackney Wick's canal. Grab a generous stack of napkins and opt for the Meatball Hero sandwich - pork and beef meatballs, slathered in homemade marinara sauce and topped with a smothering of provolone cheese sauce. It's oozy - oh gosh it's oozy - and just as you're wiping that last drip of sauce from your chin you'll start to wonder if it's too soon to go back for seconds.
Acclaimed Spanish chef Jose Pizarro did two things right when he opened up his third restaurant in the City's Broadgate Circle: 1. He brought his bright, fresh Spanish flavours closer to the Londonist offices (cheers, Jose) and 2. He put meatballs on the menu. That's lunch sorted, then. Teaming sweet, juicy lamb with zesty orange and hearty tomato sauce, these meatballs (or albondigas) continue to give us that summer feeling all through the year. They're light, bright and immensely satisfying.
Balls and Company
This tiny Soho restaurant claims it does "the simple stuff well" and you won't catch us arguing with that. As the name suggests, all of this eatery's offerings are spherical in nature and there's a rotating specials menu month to month. One thing remains the same though: they know their balls.
Pick your ball, pick your sauce and enjoy the delicious flavour combinations. Herby chicken with creamy ricotta and parmesan remains a favourite of ours, although the salmon and dill comes a close second. Experiment for yourself.
In the quest for the perfect meatball, the Belpassi brothers spent years traversing Italy testing various ingredients, flavours and textures. The result? Five meatball options at a small neighbourhood restaurant in Tooting. If it sounds underwhelming, then pay them a visit and prove yourself wrong. This is heartfelt, flavourful cooking that is comforting, satisying and utterly worth the wait. Two beef, one lamb, one pork and one veggie - that's all there is, but that's all you need. Go with friends, order them all and be prepared to fight it out for the last one. Great wine list too.Deliveroo now from Tooting