Leicester Square is notorious for being a tourist trap and heavy on fast food, but you can get great food just a short walk away. These are the places worth seeking out.
Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian
If you want pizza, you want it fast and you want it piled with toppings, MOD Pizza is the place to go. Originally from Seattle, the MOD concept launched here first in Brighton and Leeds before taking on Leicester Square. The premise is simple: You choose from one their 10 pizza options, which range from the classic cheese Maddy-Marie to the blue cheese, chicken, jalapeno and hot buffalo sauce Calexico. Customise with as many extra ingredients as you like, and watch it get assembled in front of you. It’s all the same price no matter how crazy you go with those toppings.
Even if you’re not planning to check out the art in the National Gallery, the National Dining Rooms is well worth a look. Run by Peyton and Byrne, the restaurant not only offers wonderful views over Trafalgar Square but some of the best quality British fare using some of the country’s top produce. Delicacies include curry spiced quail with grilled gem lettuce and Cumbrian pork chop with apple and mustard slaw. It also serves afternoon tea should you want something a little more decadent.
For consistently good Bangkok-style food, Busaba Eathai is always a solid option. Sit at one of the large wooden communal tables and tuck into a sen chan pad Thai, Songkhla beef curry or guinea fowl stir-fry if you’re after a quick and complete meal. If you’re in a group however, and have more time to linger, plump for one of the sharing menus, and you’ll get to sample way more dishes.
Just a stone’s throw away from Leicester Square tube station is the Covent Garden outpost of Brown’s. Housed in the former Westminster County Court building, this bustling brasserie has all bases covered, with pre- and post-theatre menus, afternoon tea, a gluten-free menu and a main offering that includes fish pie, steak, watercress and chips, and caramelised lemon tart. The drinks list is just as comprehensive, with a varied wine selection and range of classic cocktails.
If you’re struggling to find somewhere to eat, you won’t have any trouble nabbing a table at Brasserie Zédel. It truly is a grand brasserie, with a huge number of tables in the gilded main room and more across the venue as a whole. You also won’t have any trouble finding something tasty to eat, because the menu features prix fixe, plats du jour and formule sections as well as a variety of French classics, from bouillabaisse to steak à la Bordelaise, and a long French wine list too.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, British, Steakhouse, Seafood, $$$
Hawksmoor may be renowned as one of the best places to get a steak in London, but with its art deco Air Street site, they’ve branched out into great seafood too with a little help from chef Mitch Tonks. All the same quality steaks and large cuts are there, joined by some of the best fish from Devon, including turbot, dover sole and Dartmouth lobster, simply grilled over charcoal. As this Hawksmoor is close to the West End, it’s got an express menu that’s perfect for a pre-theatre bite to eat.
North India meets Britain at Tandoor Chop House, which blends the spices and marinades of the subcontinent with some of the best meat produced in this country. Tandoor ovens are at the heart of the kitchen. In fact, you can see them and the chefs at work, turning out dishes like masala boti rubbed ribeye, black pepper chicken tikka and those indulgent naan breads, including one topped with bone marrow butter. Cocktails follow suit, with a Darjeeling negroni and Punjabi sour featured on the short drinks list.