Love them or loathe them the Regent Street lights are on, and by this stage we’ve all teared-up at the John Lewis ad, which means one thing – Christmas shopping is about to start in earnest. If you’ve got presents to buy and are dreading the crowds, queues and general mayhem, then we’ve got the antidote: 12 stress-busting restaurants where, present-laden, you can relax and unwind or simply refuel and keep shopping. Here are our top Christmas shopping pitstops…
Refresh yourself while shopping at Selfridges…
Restaurateur Des McDonald’s latest pop-up project on the Roof at Selfridges, Oxford Street, is an autumnal woodland. Their latest collaboration will offer comfort food and seasonal cocktails throughout the cooler months. The menu includes hot pots, grilled meats and fish and seasonal vegetable dishes. The Cabin Bar, situated on the terrace, which has its own entrance, serves Choctails (that’d be hot chocolate cocktails), seasonal ales and warming mulled wine and cider.
Take a break from designer clothes and toys that cost more than the average person’s salary and revive yourself with “noodles to soothe the soul”. Tonkotsu, the ramen chain that’s mega popular with the cool kids, launched a Selfridges outpost in October last year. The menu features chilli chicken ramen alongside edamame beans, pickled cucumber and gyoza. Other noodle bowls include the eponymous Tonkotsu, made with slices of pork belly, pork stock broth and a miso variety made with Shiitake mushrooms. A range of London and Japanese beers are available.
Escape the buzz of Liberty’s and Carnaby Street…
“Tucked away off Carnaby Street”, this “wine bar gem” – with “a lovely, small upstairs dining room” – serves some “truly superb” dishes alongside a “fantastic biodynamic wine list”. (However, if you seek it out mindful of the kitchen’s connection to Hedone’s Mikael Jonsson, aside from the marvellous bread, you may leave “a bit disappointed”). Top Tip – the set lunch menu is extremely good value.
A “brilliant vibe” has been captured by this “energetic” and impressively executed concept – a growing chain of Mumbai-inspired Parsi cafés; “vibrant street-food” (including a great “brunch Bombay-style”) is served in its “stunningly designed” outlets; “shame you can’t book”. In autumn 2015, a new branch is slated to open off Carnaby Street – very handy for Xmas shoppers.
There’s loads of stuff to choose from in the restaurant hub of Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street, but in our opinion you can’t go wrong with a quick pizza pitstop. Our reporters say: “I don’t like pizza, but I LOVE this pizza!” – the Elliot brothers’ “funky and fun” Soho venues are “worth the pilgrimage” thanks to “authentic” fare that’s “a slice above the chains”.
For dude food just off Oxford Street…
Just a stone’s throw from Selfridge’s, the perfect respite for those who have really worked up an appetite with all that Christmas shopping. As our 2015 survey notes: “If they laced dishes with crack, they wouldn’t be more addictive”, the “ultimate dirty burgers” (and “superb” wings too) served by these “funky” pit stops; they’re “seriously cramped” though, and the queues can be “unreal”
Perhaps this Fitzrovia joint isn’t a foodie destination, but for a fun Christmas treat give in to your ‘devil-may-care’ streak, and sip a glass of bubbly while munching on a hot dog. As the more upbeat fans in our survey say: “Hot dogs and champagne, what’s not to love?”. If you want to forget about shopping altogether, try to grab a place at Bubbledogs Kitchen Table. Curtained off from the main restaurant this secretive little gem delivers an amazing tasting menu, which is (unsurprisingly), quite a way more expensive than its counterpart.
This pop-up-turned-permanent restaurant in trendy Brixton Market, famed for its pulled pork burger, opened a second site in Marylebone last year. The new venue benefits from a 25-seater cocktail bar below the dining room, serving Thyme Collins and Figgy Ol’ Fashioned concoctions (£6.50), crafts beers and wines – a great way to unwind after hitting the shops. Our reporters say: “The best pulled pork this side of anywhere”, and “ribs and wings like you get in the deep South” are plain “brilliant” at this “lip-smackin’” BBQ duo.
Take a break from Harrods and Harvey Nic’s…
The NYC super chef’s London outpost at the Mandarin Oriental last year supplanted the likes of Patty & Bun and MEATLiqour on our 2015 survey top London burger list! It might not have made it to the top of the list this year, but its armies of fans still say: “How can you not love their burgers?” – they’re “the best in town”.
Escape the hoards of shoppers on Brompton Road and seek out Beauchamp Place where you’ll find tasty Lebanese cuisine at Maroush. The “fresh, bright flavours” and “top shawarma” have long made this bustling spot a hit with our reporters. Top Menu Tip – if you’re on a budget, ask for the menu of wraps.
For those looking to spend that little bit more – without the sometimes oppressive atmosphere of one of the Knightsbridge hotel dining rooms – then the relaunch of Toto’s is a good choice. It was a big hit in the 2016 survey: “It’s good to see it back in operation under its new owners”; “the resurrected incarnation is excellent”. The ‘face’ of the enterprise is none other than Silvano Giraldin, who has gone back to his Italian roots after decades as the face of the irredeemably French Le Gavroche.
Scott Hallsworth’s ferociously popular izakaya (Japanese pub) brand takes up residency Harvey Nichol’s fifth floor restaurant space. Our reporters say: “Super oishi!” (as they say in Japan) – the ex-Nobu supremo’s “funky, young and vibey” venues have won fame with “amazing dishes, bursting with big bold flavours”.