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Little-known London restaurants the Stylist team adores

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Harriet Hall
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London's real culinary gems are found in the least expected places.

It's your local Caribbean joint, the friendly family-run Italian you've been frequenting for years, or the Japanese dive-bar with melt-in-your-mouth maki.

We whipped around the Stylist team and discovered a range of unsung food heroes in and around our fair capital.

From pies in Putney to burgers in Brixton, behold our favourite hot spots: 

  • The Gate, Hammersmith

    London’s “most successful vegetarian restaurant since December 1989,” The Gate is a great place to go if you’re after something different. Tucked away past the Hammersmith flyover, you have to know it’s there to find it.

    The food is Indo-Iraqi Jewish, with inspiration from French and Italian cuisine – so there’s a diverse menu of interesting dishes. If you can’t decide what to eat, the meze platter is always a good place to start.

    Harriet Hall, Stylist.co.uk writer, says:

    “As a vegetarian, I get fed up with the lack of options, so The Gate is my dream come true. It’s just choosing what to eat that’s a challenge!” 

    thegaterestaurants.com/hammersmith

  • WOW Japanese, Crouch End

    Proud to be the first Japanese restaurant in Crouch End, WOW is not a swanky eatery, it's an authentic, delicious Japanese with a large range of dishes. If you're after the freshest fish, this is the place for you.

    The sashimi is seared with poppy seeds and it's melt-in-the-mouth delicious, and the chilli salt crispy squid is totally addictive.

    Lisa Smosarski, editor-in-chief of Stylist says:

    “I eat here really regularly, have never had a bad meal, and love that I can load up and still feel virtuous on a Monday night!”

    wowsimplyjapanese.co.uk

  • Breads Etcetera, Clapham

    If you fancy having brunch in a place that feels just like sitting by the Aga in your mother's country kitchen - then look no further.

    With loaves of bread and toasters on every table, there's a bit of a DIY vibe at Breads Etcetera. Grab your toast and personalise as you wish, with fresh eggs, bacon or sweet jams.

    Sarah Biddlecombe, Stylist.co.uk junior writer, says:

    “The smell of freshly baked bread hits you as soon as you get in, and I literally stay there until closing on Sundays, armed with the weekend papers.”

    020 7720 3601

  • Joanna's, Crystal Palace

    Joanna's is a 37-year-old bistro-style family run restaurant and it is famous amongst south London locals for its unbeatable Anglo-American food. 

    Be sure to try their signature beef hamburger with all the trimmings, served in a brioche bun (before anyone else was doing it).

    Joanna McGarry, Stylist's associate editor (beauty) says:

    “The beetroot carpaccio with goat's cheese is INSANE.”

    joannas.uk.com

  • Bukowski's, Brixton

    Build the dream burger at Bukowskis. The hamburgers here beat all others and you can tailor them to your culinary preferences. Be sure to grab a side of beef-dripping cooked chips, Waldorf coleslaw and popcorn crayfish. Yum.

    Kat Poole, Stylist contributor, says:

    “It has the best meat for miles.”

    bukowski-grill.co.uk

  • Ciao Bella, Lambs Conduit Street

    Ciao Bella is a Stylist favourite.

    Just down the road from our HQ, this little family-run spot with its chaotic decor of famous Italians and wine bottles stacked everywhere is the dream spot for authentic home-made Italian food.

    Dishes are simple, but divine. We'll see you there.

    ciaobellarestaurant.co.uk

  • Santa Maria, Ealing

    A hidden gem in West London, This traditional Neapolitan pizzeria was opened in 2010 and always has queues around the block. Simple, cheap, scrumptious. 

    Shannon Peter, Stylist's beauty assistant, says: 

    “It's honestly the BEST pizza I have EVER eaten.”

    santamariapizzeria.com

  • Cotton's Rhum Shack, Camden

    Cotton's has been in Camden for 30 years and has a relaxed, holiday atmosphere and the staff are so friendly you'd be forgiven for thinking you're not in grey north London, but on the sandy beaches of Jamaica. 

    Lucy Frith, Stylist's senior sub editor, says:

    “I love it, especially their dumplings and mammoth jerk chicken.”

    rhumshack.co.uk

  • Pedler, Peckham

    A dream brunch spot, this vibrant local place set on Peckham’s bustling Rye Lane offers modern twists on classic British food made from seasonal ingredients.

    The quirky ramshackle décor gives Pedler a great, laid-back vibe and the staff are friendly and efficient.

    Harriet Hall, Stylist.co.uk’s writer, says:

    “The gruyere and leek Yorkshire pudding is cheesy madness. Wash it down with some freshly squeezed spinach and fruit juice and you're set.”

    pedlerpeckhamrye.com

  • My Old Place, Liverpool Street

    My Old Place is the best if you're after top quality Szechuan Chinese.

    The authentic food tastes exactly like it does in China and the staples are excellent. The extensive menu will have you uhming and ahing to decide, but you can't go wrong - from lamb skewers to tofu and sweet aubergine. Wash it all down with a Tsingtao.

    Amy Swales, Stylist.co.uk contributor says: 

    “It's all about the food here (I like what they fondly call 'meat on a stick'). The service is brusque and non-flowery, but who cares when it tastes this good.”

    020 7247 2200

  • Pepper Tree, Clapham

    For fresh, clean and brilliantly priced Thai food, head to Pepper Tree in Clapham. They serve all the usual suspects along with a selection of more interesting regional specialities.

    Head there early to snuggle onto the long canteen-style benches and get a taste of the dish of the day which is always fresh and runs out fast. 

    Sarah Biddlecombe, Stylist.co.uk junior writer says:

    “I love it here. They don't make a song and dance about the restaurant itself because the focus is on the amazing food.”

    thepeppertree.co.uk

  • Trangallan, Newington Green

    Not your basic tapas place, Trangallan is a step above. With its second-hand furniture and cosy atmosphere, you'll want to settle in and start racking-up the dishes.

    From the broad beans with serrano ham to the dover sole with saffron potatoes, you'll need to go more than once to experience the full delights. 

    Jamie Klingler, publishing manager for Shortlist Media, says:

    “This place has amazing everything - but the tortilla at brunch is especially great.”

    trangallan.com

  • Al Boccon Di'Vino, Richmond

    This is the perfect place to re-fuel after a long walk in Richmond Park. 

    This family-owned Venetian eatery offers only a set menu at set times - simply tell the waiters if you’re a meat-eater or a vegetarian, and the food will begin to appear. Courses are small and frequent and range from delicately grilled vegetables to cured hams and smoked cheeses.

    Be prepared for a feast that lasts around four hours and make sure you book in advance - this place is a local favourite and celeb haunt, so tables don’t come easy. Around £45/person.

    Harriet Hall, Stylist.co.uk's writer ,says:

    nosolovinoltd.co.uk

    “Dining at Al Boccon Di'Vino is a real experience and like nowhere I’ve ever eaten. The staff create a great atmosphere and it’s more like an evening’s entertainment than just a meal. Make sure you go on an empty stomach, though, as you will leave here absolutely stuffed.”

  • Zara, South End Green

    For fine Anatolian cuisine and the friendliest team around, don’t miss Zara in South End Green. Warm Muska Boregi pastry rolls filled with ricotta cheese are a starter to die-for, as are the hearty mixed meze plates. 

    Anna Brech, Stylist.co.uk editor, says:

    "Grab yourself an (endlessly refillable) pot of fresh mint tea and settle in for the afternoon, surrounded by colourful glass lanterns and group of locals playing chess in the corner."

    zararestaurant.co.uk

  • Putney Pies, Putney

    The pies here are exquisite, and after-hours they open up their underground vaulted bar which goes through a tunnel out onto the river. The restaurant has great lighting - from streetlamps to oversized chandeliers - which makes for a fun setting, too. 

    Georgina Wilkinson, Stylist.co.uk's social media manager, says: 

    “I don’t know how they’ve managed to make pies chic, but that’s undoubtedly what they’ve done. BRAVO Putney Pies. Bravo.”

    putneypies.co.uk

  • Sonny's Kitchen, Barnes

    Co-owned by Michelin star chef, Phil Howard, the food at Sonny's is simple but impeccably cooked. Classic and affordable in a chic and sophisticated setting with extremely friendly staff, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to enjoy a Friday night dinner. 

    Lucy Frith, Stylist's senior sub editor, says:

    “The food is incredible and the porcini soup with truffle oil is a bowl of magic.”

    sonnyskitchen.co.uk

  • Chai Ki, Canary Wharf

    Everyone should make a trip down to Canary Wharf to try Chai Ki’s Dum Ka Gosht – slow cooked Welsh lamb shoulder in a saffron, mushroom, spinach and green chilli gravy. 

    The ambience is so warm and the décor so carefully crafted, that you'll want to save this place to mark a special occasion. As a new restaurant in the large Crossrail development, it’s easy to get a reservation.

    Sejal Kapadia, Stylist.co.uk writer, says:

    “It’s not cheap (£16.80) but the portions are large enough to split with a friend, especially if you have starters. I recommend the chicken pear chaat.”

    canarywharf.com/eating-drinking/directory/chai-ki/