Leicester Square in LONDON is a tourist magnet and even has a place on the Monopoly board.
But its popularity is no guarantee of culinary greatness. In fact, if you don’t do your homework before your visit, you’re more likely to get an overpriced and boring meal.
However, there are some fantastic restaurants if you know where to look – here our travel team introduces you to some of their favorites.
Cork and bottle, Cranbourn St
By Caroline McGuire, Travel Editor
Enter an inconspicuous door opposite the Magic Mike Live entrance and descend a spiral staircase into the underworld of Leicester Square.
There you’ll find by far the area’s most charismatic restaurant, founded more than 50 years ago by the legendary Don Hewitson, credited with transforming the British wine industry in the 1970s.
Cork and bottle sells 300 wines from all over the world, many of them at very reasonable prices.
They also have a great menu with their signature cheese and ham pie and a fantastic cheese board.
It’s always advisable to book in advance, but I popped in on a whim on Fridays at 9pm and Sundays at 3pm and always couldn’t find a table.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get the cute little candle-lit cave at the back.
Panton Yokocho, Panton Street
By Ryan Gray, travel writer
Despite being in an extremely touristy area right next to Leicester Square, Panton Yokocho is not a particularly well-known place, although it should be.
The restaurant has managed very well to capture the atmosphere of an old Tokyo alley, decorated with red lanterns, retro music posters and Japanese toys.
The options are almost as tasty as some of the better ramen I’ve tried in cities across Japan.
The spicy miso ramen has the perfect mix of spice and umami flavors in its broth, while the Napoli ramen offers a mix of Italian and Japanese food.
Head there during happy hour Monday to Thursday from 4pm to 6pm and try some of their cocktails for £7, including the Dirty Lychee and the Shochu Sou.
You can reserve in advance, but there are often free tables available if you stop by.
Brasserie Zedel, Sherwood St
By Sophie Swietochowski, Deputy Travel Editor
If I ever have friends who aren’t in London, I go to Brasserie Zédel with them.
From the outside it looks very inconspicuous, two small doors under a red sign, but buried underground, beneath the chaos of London’s West End lies the Paris of the 1930s.
A giant grandfather clock welcomes you into a marble-clad dining room accented by gold-trimmed columns and dotted with wooden tables adorned with candy-pink linens.
Brasserie Zédel really exudes glamor without being stuffy and offers first-class food at a high price.
The menu, written in cursive Franglais script, is a steal for central London, with three courses costing less than £20 (£19.75 to be exact).
The spinach, squash and ricotta pithivier is a personal favorite, while carnivorous friends say you can’t go wrong with the Chopped Steak Americain (on the prix fixe menu) and then wash it all down with a bottle of Vin Rouge – simply divine .
If you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list now – and be sure to book in advance.
Bancone, William IV St
As a born and raised Italian, I have high standards for good Italian food, and Bancone is more than just a standout.
A hidden gem with a traditional and uncomplicated menu.Bancone“means “counter,” and people come here to dine at the counter, as watching the chef is a big part of the experience – if you’re lucky enough to get a seat there.
However, there are also regulars’ tables and the best thing for me is the food – no matter where you sit.
The menu varies slightly each season, with pasta dishes costing between £8 and £17, but always guaranteed to be under £20.
My favorite dish, the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, is a staple found all year round. It costs £12 and is comparable to the authentic cacio e pepe you’ll find in Rome.
To top it off, Bancone offers some of the cheapest cocktails I’ve found in central London, with the ‘Bancone Signature Negronis’ costing just £7.
It is recommended to reserve in advance as the restaurant is small.
Jinli, Leicester St
If you don’t know where to go, London’s Chinatown can be busy, bustling and downright overwhelming.
I’ve spent years navigating the winding streets and labyrinth of restaurants and can finally say I’ve settled on a favorite: Jinli.
There’s almost always a free table and even at peak times service is timely, which is great if you’re in a bit of a hurry.
I specialize in authentic Sichuan Chinese food and love the hearty portions that, as expected, have a little kick.
It’s also pretty cheap for a place in central London, with plates of fried noodles available for £8.20 and hotpots for just £11.80.
I always keep this in my back pocket for a cheap and cheerful bite to eat in the heart of the English capital.
Read more at the Scottish Sun
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