Clichés about the City usually go one of two ways. On one side you’ve got the belief it’s a capitalist cesspit that’s inhabited with identical human shells. Then on the other side you’ve got the belief that it’s the ‘Square Mile’ cog that makes London tick. Neither side, really, considers the City as a dining destination. Eating here is seen as function, not fun. We get that. The restaurant scene used to be a bit barren - in quality and atmosphere - unless you enjoy eating in a board meeting of course. These days it’s a bit different. There’s a load of restaurants that range in terms of casual and classy, accessible and astronomical, and if you stick to the best of them, the City can be a good place to eat.
Statistics show that the people who work in the Square Mile produce more stress driven sweat than there’s rainfall in the Amazon on any given day. Okay, we just made that up. But, either way, Brigadiers is the stress free playground where City folk can let their hair down and have some serious fun. And no, we’re not talking flamingo shaped stirrers in your watered down martini, we’re talking a big fat glossy pool table, leather booths that you’ll flatly refuse to leave, a drinks list that you could practically read for fun, and wise monkey lamps that you half-expect to be oracles that whisper, ‘forget the capital assets friend, eat some bone marrow biryani’. This huge Indian barbecue spot has several rooms that you can flit between, from masala chicken skins and nitro espresso martinis at their entirely glorious bar, to a full-blown feast of BBQ butter chicken wings and tandoori surf ‘n’ turf in one their many private dining rooms. Whichever room you land in, be sure to get the lamb chops, they’re the best in London.
The first thing you should know about Bob Bob Cité is that it’s expensive. The second thing you should know, is that it’s entirely worth it. This flashy, over-the-top restaurant inside the Leadenhall Building has blue leather booths, a huge shiny dining room, ‘presse pour champagne’ buttons on every table, and a menu packed full of things like caviar covered steak tartare, oysters, and lobster. Thanks to the slick service, big wine vault, table-side USB ports, and excellent, rich French food, it’s perfect for impressive business meals, but it’ll also work for pretty much any other special occasion you throw at it.
Lunchtime in the City can be dangerous. You have to dodge those flying arms whilst very important business people hail cabs, side-stepping the aggressive walk of The Angriest Human Who Ever Lived, and the emotional toil of witnessing a complete breakdown as someone simultaneously realises their sandwich is crappy and that they’re part of a Ponzi scheme. Take cover in Koya Bar. This Japanese spot in the Bloomberg Building specialises in noodles, and most of their 31 hot udon dishes come in around the £11 mark. If you’re not one for udon, they also do sticky donburi, and small plates like crispy fried prawn heads. Grab a seat at the bar solo, or bring a pal and split the kakuni (braised pork belly with cider), and whatever you do, finish up with one of their many sakes, you know, for your safety.
City Social is where Patrick Bateman would go if he came to London on holiday. This flash art deco style restaurant is on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the middle of the City. It’s all black and booth-y, with gold detail and very impressive views. The bar has a reasonably priced and reasonably tasty three course, £28, set lunch menu. Or, if you’re really looking to make someone believe this is Dorsia, go a la carte.
It is physically impossible to say the words, “Can we get the haggis pops from the wee plates section?” without cracking a smile. Seriously, try it. It’s basically a Robert Burns poem for hungry people that also happen to have a real penchant for whisky. This Highlands-inspired restaurant is not only a guaranteed good time due to all of the antlers and Scottish comedy sets blaring from the speaker as you enter, but the food is also top-notch. The go-to here is their venison-and-beef double-patty burger with a side of truffled mushroom mac and cheese, but you should know that their steaks are excellent too.
Some people consider the City to be a serious place. Probably because most millennials know that they’d go a bit Tyler Durden if they had to try and understand stock exchange rates. But, when you need somewhere in the area that’s undeniably feelgood, and arguably a little bit silly, there’s 14 Hills. This sky garden situation at the top of 120 Fenchurch Street looks like The Jungle Book got a makeover by the producers of Made In Chelsea, and although prices can be hefty, they have great desserts, affordable set menu options, and some seriously great views across London. Whether you’re hosting a G&T-fuelled birthday in one of their huge circular booths or simply swinging by for a post-work drink at the 360º bar, be sure to get involved in the long list of cocktails. They’re excellent.
Sometimes restaurants are a bit like your ex, or your favourite aunt. No, not that they make you cry on your birthday, but in that they’re charmers. Kym’s is very good looking Chinese restaurant on Bloomberg Arcade where the crispy duck comes with a paintbrush for the plum sauce, and a giant fake cherry tree ‘grows’ through the big sweeping staircase. See, charming. This place is perfect for a sophisticated birthday, or a sexy date night involving some of the best sweet and sour ribs in London.
Temper City might sounds like an anonymous tell-all by a young, hyped up stockbroker embroiled in a financial scandal, but it’s actually a suave, loud and proud restaurant serving wildly inventive curried dishes. Sure, the sound of Korean haggis (a spicy tartare you spoon on to lettuce leaves and eat ssam-style) might not sound tempting, but the first thing you need to do at Temper is leave your presumptions at the door. Yes, that weird and wacky haggis is actually delicious, and so is the green curry fish and the lamb skewers, and the dry goat plate and the squid and samphire pakora. Basically, bring several people so you can get that fork acquainted with as many of their flavour mash-ups as possible, whilst eyeing up the open kitchen with a glass in hand. This spot is perfect for a slightly raucous office birthday celebration, or a Friday night boozy meal with those colleagues that you actually like.
Nothing says “I think I’ve got massive kahunas” more than a slap up steak meal. Charred? Of course I want that hunk of meat charred. Side sauce? Extra testosterone please. This may be what most of us think about a steak dinner in the City, but Goodmans is actually just a good all-round restaurant. As long as you like beef of course. The steaks are lovely, hefty (and pricey). The service super swift and explanatory, and the room old-style New York-y. Head to Goodmans if you’re looking to be particularly carnivorous.
Ekte Nordic Kitchen is also in Bloomberg Arcade, but unless you get your kicks from smorrebrod and lingonberries, you might find it lacks some of the excitement of Brigadiers or Koya. That’s no reason not to come here though. This all-day restaurant is perfect for when you’re looking for a quiet spot to catch up with a friend over something kind of healthy, or when you’re not trying to prove your alpha-dog credentials by consuming your own weight in red meat. But, with tasty and well-priced mains like the deep fried plaice fillet, there’s no need to leave hungry either.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you want to go to a pub that treats you like the grown-up you’re trying so hard to pretend to be. The Three Cranes is that pub. They don’t blast out music, or try to tempt you with flashing lights, crisps, scratchings, nuts, or the school dinner classics that make up most pub menus. This place serves proper French bistro food done right. The pub itself is fairly small, but the upstairs grill room is where you want to eat. It’s quiet, it’s comfortable, and pork rillettes and a pair of lamb chops with bone marrow butter are the kind of grown up choices you should be making in your life.
Imagine a world different to this one, where you can order proper food from restaurants at 5am. Enter, Duck And Waffle. This spot is on the top floor of the Heron Building, has exceptional views of the City, and serves really good food all day and all night. 24/7. And yes, that includes Sundays. Their menu is posh British with a twist. Think Aberdeen Angus beef tartare, and it’s tasty in pretty much all conceivable situations. In need of early afternoon work drinks and nibbles? Get a round of cocktails, and a few of the pulled goat doughnuts at the bar. Famished from the excitement of spotting two noughties X-Factor contestants on a Thames boat party? Finish the night right, with some BBQ crispy pig ears. The love of your life dumps you over Facebook messenger in the middle of the night? Delete their number, get the duck leg with waffles, and watch the London sunrise from a leather booth. Duck And Waffle has got your back.
You can’t have a more City-ish meal than at Sweetings. It’s been about for donkey’s, serving all kinds of seafood to the folks who supposedly make things tick. It’s an old restaurant that serves old classics, think fish and chips, prawn cocktail, fish pie, and a warm pudding to to finish it all off. This certainly isn’t the best food in London, but its charm is undeniable. Especially after you’ve got a black velvet - Guinness and champagne - tankard down you.
This Cantonese spot has a terrace overlooking Broadgate Circle with a fully-fledged blossom tree. And that’s just where the pretty starts. Their dim sum is the kind of thing you drool over whilst you secretly scroll through Pinterest in search of a better looking life. Even if you’re the proud owner of a decrepit Nokia 3310 you’ll still attempt to take pictures of their black truffle dumplings. Hell, bring some watercolours along for the jasmine tea steamed ribs and paint a portrait of the flower daisy petit gateau. It’s that pretty. Oh, and the food tastes pretty good too.
The Sichuan is a big Chinese restaurant on the City Road that’s made for banqueting. This isn’t a let’s-go-and-grab-something-together place for just you and your mate. This is an en-masse kind of restaurant. ‘Wantons and dumplings everyone, yeah? Dan dan noodles? Yeah that mapo tofu looks good. And the Sichuan beef?’. You get the idea. The Sichuan gets pretty busy, day and night, so it’s worth calling ahead.