Feeling a bit peckish but don't know what you're in the mood for? We're so spoilt for choice in London it's hard to know where to start, so here's a street full of restaurants to get you going — Maiden Lane in Covent Garden.
The former Nobu Manager for Europe, Kurt Zdesar, had a passion for dim sum that drove him to open the first Ping Pong in 2005. Ping Pong is now in the hands of Art Sagiryan. His favourite dish? The black prawn dumpling, though you might want to give the duck spring rolls and Shanghai chilli wontons a try too as they're top sellers. On the drinks side of the menu, the lychee and roses martini is flying out the door. Authenticity is the name of the game, and the restaurant has specialist Chinese dim sum folders which use traditional Chinese techniques.
The menu changes twice a year, with special seasonal drinks and dishes that appear throughout the year in summer and at Christmas, with additional changes for Chinese New Year. The latter is a particularly great time to visit, as in the past they have brought in lion dancers, magicians, fire breathers and contortionists to delight guests. If you love the food as much as we do, you can learn the art of dim sum folding and making the the perfect Ping Pong cocktail at a masterclasses.
The piece de resistance? "Lazy Sumday' where you can get unlimited dim sum for £24.95 per person, or upgrade to £35 to enjoy a bottle of prosecco all to yourself.
Ping Pong is open Monday-Sunday 11am-late
The award-winning Porterhouse is the perfect Irish pub if you're out for a drink with thirty of your best mates — it's huge, split over three main levels with various mezzanine levels in between. Its outdoor space is prime real estate, especially on good weather days. The speciality here is Irish beer, which is hand crafted in Dublin and shipped to London, and they also take pride in their Dingle Whiskey Bar with over 180 world whiskies to choose from.
If food is what you're after, the traditional pub classics should have you in through the front door fairly sharpish, from pies to fish and chips, and steak and ribs from the Bertha chargrill oven. If entertainment would help up the ante for you, they also host live music and show all major sporting events on their TV screens.
The Porterhouse is open Monday-Sunday noon-late
Get whisked away into the markets of the Middle East at Cinnamon Bazaar, which fuses together real Indian heritage with urban London. The trading routes that connected the empires of the Old World inspire its ingredients, spices and flavours. Of particular note are the Chicken Haleem, connecting India with Iran, and the Lahori Chicken Kadhai, sending you on a route from Old Delhi to new Lahore.
The small plates are perfect for tasting tidbits and sharing, like the Indo-Chinese chicken wings with burnt chilli dip, and the Malabar boatman's haddock curry with hokum and green mango chutney. Cinnamon Bazaar has a great connection to history, providing a range of chaats which throw back to the 1600s when bazaar traders working long days would find sustenance in the snack.
The restaurant itself is a step into another world with colourful hand-painted graphics and patterned tiles, hanging lanterns and strong fragrances.
Cinnamon Bazaar is open Monday-Sunday noon-midnight
Mabel's Bar & Kitchen
Quirky and classy, Mabel's Covent Garden is a true delight along Maiden Lane. The menu is a true mix of culinary flavours, including the American southern-fried chicken burger, the German chicken schnitzel, and the French baked Camembert. For something a little more eclectic, how about trying the Bloody Mary meatballs?
You're probably had a bottomless brunch or two by now, but have you tried one at Mabel's? You get 90 minutes of fizz, live music and breakfast for £27.50. Or try the upscaled pub quiz, 'Mabel's Masterminds' the first Tuesday of every month.
Mabel's Bar & Kitchen is open Monday-Sunday various times.
Fire & Stone
In this Streets for Eats series, we hope to help you out when you're confused as to what kind of cuisine you're in the mood for. If you really want to leave that decision to the last second, Fire & Stone is the perfect choice. We just hope you like pizza.
The dishes are inspired by the ingredients from cities around the world, and are even named after them. The Marrakech is topped with spiced minced lamb, preserved lemon and Greek yoghurt, hummus and pomegranate. The Acapulco is perfect for those who like things spicy, as the pizza is covered in slow cooked ground chilli beef, jalapeños, red onions, mozzarella and tomato sauce, with sour cream, guacamole and coriander.
If you're not in the mood for pizza after all, the Melbourne burger with melted brie, sweet red onions, free range egg, tomato, lettuce and gherkins might be more to your taste. And so affordable too.
Fire & Stone is open Monday-Sunday noon-late
If you've gotten this far and are thinking "I like the sound of all of these restaurants, but what we're missing is tapas," Condesa has that sorted. In 2012, Daniel Caballero and Kaska Ludzik joined forces to blend Mexican and Spanish cuisines in a tapas format. Daniel was born in Mexico and lived in Spain, holding a degree in Food Technology. Kaska, we are told, is a sort of hyperactive artist, keeping everything running smoothly and looking sexy.
The authenticity even extends to their staff who are mainly Spanish-speaking, from Spain, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. Condesa's signature dishes are the Barbacoa beef cheek taco and octopus tostada. To help them slide down nicely, Daniel recommends a smoky Mezcal Negroni where as Kaska suggests the Milu, a Ribera del Duero wine. Their philosophy is to offer high quality food and drinks in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.
Condesa is open Monday-Saturday noon-late, Sunday 2pm-8pm
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
In 2001, New Zealanders Brandon Allen, Greg Driscoll and Adam Wills began what is affectionately abbreviated to GBK, with the help of New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon. The idea was to give burgers the deluxe status they deserved, and it has succeeded with a menu that gives your regular BBQ joint a run for its money. Inspiration for their burger ingredients comes from all over the globe.
Now, GBK is a burger empire with over 60 restaurants around the UK, one of which is located in Maiden Lane. Despite the original owners selling on GBK, the restaurants still retain a Kiwi theme.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen is open Monday-Saturday 11.30am-11pm, Sunday noon-10pm
To dine in a a one of London's oldest restaurants, look no further than Rules, opened in Covent Garden by Thomas Rule in 1798. The restaurant has been in the hands of only three families during this time, spanning the reigns of nine monarchs. The menu is deeply British, such as the rabbit braised in saffron and roast squab pigeon, with mains running mostly £20-£30. The restaurant's decor is as luxurious as its dishes; sumptuous reds and golds with white linen table cloths.
Not only this, Rules owns an estate in the High Pennines, where it trains its staff in game management. The menu even stipulates that game bird dishes may contain lead shot. As you can imagine, throughout its long history, it has been frequented by all manner of famous names. From Charles Dickens to H G Wells, from Henry Irving to Laurence Olivier. There's a significant nod to the stage and cinema on the walls of the establishment. If you're looking for somewhere special to dine, this is certainly one of those places.
Rules is open Monday-Sunday noon-midnight
Big Easy goes above and beyond to ensure great flavours and qualities in the dishes it serves, inspired but the Gulf Coast. Its meat comes from trusted butchers who prepare only the finest cuts from carefully selected farmers. This care extends to the seafood, which is fished off the icy waters of Nova Scotia and flown in three times a week. It houses 2000 live lobsters on site in specially designed tanks to make sure you're getting fresh and the best.
It's not just the food you should get excited about though. The back bar has over 500 bottles of domestic and imported whiskey, tequila, rum, brandy, aged gin and mezcal. If you've ever been to New Orleans to sip on frozen margaritas, get excited because Big Easy has a supply of up-to-date blends as well as boozy juice and milkshakes. See you at happy hour?
Big Easy is open Monday-Sunday noon-late
If a restaurant could be class in a glass, Sibarita would be it. It describes itself as being a simple laid-back wine and cheese joint, but if the reviews are anything to go by, it's a lot more than that. The place was opened by restauranteur and chef Victor Garvey with his father.
The tapas is more casual than Condesa but still packs a punch with crispy 'Calamares a la Romana' with alegria pepper and toasted coriander, free- range chicken 'Chilindron' with crispy serrano ham salpicon, and oven- baked Torta Del Casar cheese with farmer's market crudités and garlic bread.
Sibarita is open Monday-Sunday various times
In 1986, Russell Norman got on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice and became obsessed by the tiny wine bars packed with people, drinks, and small Venetian plates. While sitting in one of these wine bars in 2008, he mused about how polpo (meaning octopus) would be a great name for a restaurant. With a bag of recipes, ideas, and sketches and a new octopus tattoo on his back (that serious), he handed in his resignation and made it a reality in 2009. Now, along with his best friend Richard Beatty, they have a family of restaurants with an emphasis on humble, unpretentious food and drink.
POLPO is open Monday-Sunday 11.30am-11.30pm
If you haven't heard of Franco Manca yet, where have you been? It originated in 1986 with a guy called Franco (didn't see that one coming) working at a pizzeria called Francos in Brixton Market. In 2008, he asked friend Giuseppe Mascoli to take it over, which he did with friend and artisan baker Bridget Hugo. And so Franco Manca was born, which is Italian for 'Franco is missing'. Although they had never owned a restaurant before, Franco Manca became a hit. The slow-rising sourdough pizzas are made on site and the menu is small, simple and affordable, and uses only quality ingredients from small local suppliers.
Franco Manca is open Monday-Sunday noon-11pm
Maiden Lane is looking seriously good, eh? And we've only just reached Canadian pub the Maple Leaf. This has been the place for Canadians to meet up in London since 1986. Former Canadian Prime Ministers and famous hockey players have had a Caesar cocktail or two in the establishment, and it's well known as a favourite sports bar — especially when Canada is playing. But of course, you don't have to be Canadian to go in and enjoy yourself, and the food and drink is a must to try. Signature dish is the home-made meatloaf, though the owner's favourite meal is the Montreal Deli Poutine — with a Molson Canadian drink in the other hand.
Maple Leaf is open Monday-Sunday 11am-late
Covent Garden Grind
Where can you find a coffee bar, cocktail bar and restaurant all in one on Maiden Lane? That would be at Covent Garden Grind. While the food menu is limited, it goes well with the extensive drinks menu. The flat-iron steak with béarnaise sauce and sweet potato harissa cakes with a poached egg all have our name on. And then there's the weekend brunch with bottomless Prosecco, a vegan Bloody Mary or a Mimosa.
Covent Garden Grind is open Monday-Sunday 7.30am-11pm