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Thanks to the endless imaginations of London’s restaurateurs, the capital is packed with one-of-a-kind places to eat and drink. Sometimes it’s the menu that makes a restaurant unique, or perhaps the history of the place that gives it an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else. Here are our suggestions for a meal less ordinary...
To its customers, Malabar Junction is a haven in one of the busiest parts of central London. Behinds an unassuming entrance lies a huge space with the glass-domed ceiling competing with the menu as the star attraction. It doesn’t matter how busy it gets at this old school south Indian restaurant - they’ll always find time for you. It's also the perfect choice for those looking for a quick pre-theatre meal.
Malabar Junction 107 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3NA
Rango’s Hot Stone Kitchen lets you go back to your primal roots with meals served on a bed of lava stones. Before coming to your table, the stones are heated to 260C and then allowed to cool. This traps the heat so you can cook your own food, to taste. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere sizzling - what more could you want?
Rango’s Hot Stone Kitchen 59 Mt Pleasant, London WC1X 0AY
Ever found yourself looking for an authentic Korean restaurant that also cuts hair? Maybe not, but that’s what you will find at the unique Hurwundeki. The unusual London restaurant is located under a railway bridge near Cambridge Heath station and serves fresh and tasty traditional Korean food that contains no MSG or artificial additives. They even blend their own soy and chilli sauces on the premises. The menu includes the Korean classic Bibimbap and spicy barbecue dishes, and if it’s a haircut you’re after then there’s no appointment required and prices start from just £9 for men and £14 for women. You may not have ever thought of a restaurant concept like this before but it sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Hurwundeki, 298-299 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9HA
Once upon a time, restaurants not unlike Sweetings were found all over London. Now, this City institution stands as rare survivor of a bygone age. Founded in 1889, it’s been serving top-quality fish and oysters to City gents (and later, ladies), ever since. Little has changed, from the evocative Victorian décor and old-school service to the opening hours: Sweetings is open for lunch only, Monday to Friday.
Sweetings, 39 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4SF
A Soho institution, the Gay Hussar has been the scene of much radical political plotting and ferment since it was opened in 1953, though the rich, traditional Hungarian menu should hold cross-party appeal. There are still plenty of reminders of its fascinating past all around, though, from the bookshelves packed with revolutionary memoirs to the political caricatures that line the walls.
The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, W1D 4NB
If you’re the kind of person who likes to know exactly what it is that they’re eating, then Tramshed is for you. Mark Hix’s Shoreditch restaurant offers just two options – roast chicken or roast beef – and, just in case you were in any doubt, the dining room is dominated by Damien Hirst artworks of a cow and a chicken preserved in formaldehyde cases.
Not for vegetarians, then – but perfect for the indecisive.
Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, EC2A 3QE
As you climb the stairs of a dingy multi-storey car park in Peckham, you might reflect that it isn’t the first place you’d look for a good meal - but Frank’s puts its quirky location to brilliant use. When you emerge onto the rooftop, you’ll find talented young chefs serving up a short, immaculately sourced and ever-changing menu to an arty crowd, plus a bar that mixes some of the best Negronis in town. Oh, and it’s all set against one of the best views that London can offer.
Frank’s Café, 10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Story Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
If you’re a bookworm, then this is the place for you. Bright young chef Tom Sellers has built his restaurant around a literary theme. Every dish – from the beef-dripping starters to the ‘three bears’ porridge’ - comes served with its own story, and you’re encouraged to leave a book behind when you leave. Tables are hard to come by by, but food this genuinely innovative is worth the effort.
Restaurant Story, 201 Tooley Street, SE1 2UE
Marooned in the middle of an unlovely roundabout in Vauxhall, Brunswick House looks like a life-sized doll’s house. Most of the mansion is entirely given over to an architectural salvage store, but one wing combines showroom with restaurant. The setting is fairytale jumble store: perch on church pews, under rescued theatrical lights and surrounded by old street signs. The small but perfectly formed menu and excellent cocktails are more than good enough to match the ambience.
Brunswick House Café 30 Wandsworth Road, SW8 2LG
You’ll have to ring a bell to be let into the playground of the old Victorian school that Rochelle Canteen, headed up by Margot Henderson, has made its home. The former bike sheds have been turned into a pared-down restaurant of elegant and sublime simplicity: think classic British with a delicate touch and an absolute dedication to seasonality. Open for breakfast, lunch and tea but closed in the evening, this is one of East London’s best-kept secrets.
Rochelle Canteen, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, E2 7ES
Hidden behind a heavy curtain through the back of Bubbledogs, its sister restaurant, is Kitchen Table – but you wouldn’t know it, with no signage or clue to its existence out front.
Here, chef James Knappett turns meals into theatre: take a seat at the bar that encircles the open kitchen as he and his team create and serve technically stunning dishes from top-notch ingredients. With fewer than 20 places per sitting and no barrier between you and the chefs, this is good food at its most intimate.
Kitchen Table, 70 Charlotte Street, W1T 4QG
Belgo bill themselves as the ‘world’s greatest Belgian restaurants’ and we’re not going to argue with them. Their flagship 12,000 square foot restaurant in London’s Covent Garden is always buzzing with diners enjoying moules pots and famous double cooked fries. Their beer list is extensive and you can even indulge in their Schnapps shot sticks. None of this may sound unusual enough to warrant Belgo’s inclusion in this list, but what really sets the restaurant different is its waiting staff’s robes that make you feel like you are enjoying your meal in a monastery.
Belgo Centraal, 67 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TD
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|How booking last-minute saves you money|
|1||Even the best restaurants have empty tables. TablePouncer negotiates last-minute deals on their unfilled tables, with discounts of up to 70%.|
|2||You book the tables easily and securely on our website. You pay a small booking fee up front to secure your table and we send an SMS booking confirmation to your mobile.|
|3||The restaurant will automatically apply the TablePouncer discount to your bill when it's time to pay. No vouchers needed!|