unique London restaurants: the spread at Bar Shawarma in Clerkenwell

London has never tasted so good!

The days of drab and dreary British food are truly in the past, as the London restaurant scene has become more exciting and interesting with each passing day. You can still get fish and chips from the local “chippy” and meat pies smothered in “liquor” from old school pie and mash shops, but these days you are hard pressed to find a high street that doesn’t also feature a new no-reservation hot spot that is packed night after night with adventurous eaters.

London has gone food crazy.

There are unbelievable markets to be explored, from the legendary Borough Market, to the increasingly popular Broadway Market in hipster East London, selling a dizzying array of goods.

There are cheese shops, butchers, and fishmongers slinging high quality, local, sustainable products, not to mention an exploding street food scene, thanks in part to innovators like KERB and Street Feast that have set up street food markets around the city.

In essence, it’s hard to not eat well in London these days. And while seemingly a dozen new dining destinations have opened in the the past 6 months, we went out and tried to find our picks for the best of the best.

Here are our selections for 3 new and unique London restaurants to check out next time you’re in town!

unique London restaurants: the open kitchen with a huge fire pit for roasting meats at Temper in SoHo

Temper

If you don’t like smoked, roasted, or grilled meat, then Temper is probably not for you.

This new SoHo restaurant from Chef Neil Rankin (who used to helm the kitchen at Smokehouse, a favorite spot of ours for Sunday roast) is meat-centric, with the basement dining room built around the open kitchen. Almost everything is made over an open flame, with large hunks of meat cooking in a variety of ways at all times, from leg of lamb, to goat shoulders, to whole pork loins.

The menu is divided into tacos, sides/vegetables, and chopped/smoked/grilled meat. They also have a snack or two listed daily, like nachos with braised pork, Red Leicester cheese, chiles and chipotle aioli, which is not a bad way to start a meal here.

unique London restaurants: a snack of nachos at Temper in London's SoHo

unique London restaurants: the cheeseburger tacos at Temper in London's SoHo

The tacos are outstanding, designed as an appetizer, and they highlight both the quality of the meat (ranging from goat to mackerel) and the corn tortillas, which are milled, mixed, and made in house. The aged cheeseburger taco features incredibly high quality dry-aged beef that tastes much better, and more meaty, than you average burger patty.

The star of the menu though is the meat section, showcasing the wide array of items that the kitchen team has been smoking and grilling all day. It is priced in 100g portions, with 200-300g recommended per person (which is about 7-10oz for those not familiar with the metric system), and served over grilled flatbread.

You can add on sauces (up to 7 to choose from) and “sprinkles” (essentially toppings like crispy onions or dried shrimp with peanuts and lime zest) for an additional price.

And while the meat is certainly the star, the sides and vegetables should not be overlooked. The basic baby gem salad is given an upgrade by grilling the lettuce and serving it in a pool of yogurt-based dressing, with pops of heat from thinly sliced chiles.

The kitchen team repurposes the rendered fat from the roasted meats, cooking potatoes in beef fat before smothering them in gooey, melted raclette cheese. Even the grilled corn gets a coating of lamb fat butter.

For anyone with a hankering for a fire and grilled meat, Temper is the place to go!

unique London restaurants: Laotian-style pollock with lemongrass and chiles at Kiln in SoHo

Kiln

Not too far from Temper in SoHo is Kiln, which opened just last autumn, and focuses on regional Thai food. The restaurant is tiny and narrow, with mostly counter seating around the bar area and the open kitchen.

They do take reservations for 4 or more for the few tables that have, but this is mostly a no-reservation spot, so expect a bit of wait for a seat during peak dining hours (we had to wait 45 minutes for 2 chairs at lunch in the middle of the week!).

The menu is mostly small plates, with a few additional snacks and side dishes. If you don’t like spice, make sure to speak up, as many of the dishes come liberally sprinkled with chiles (they can tone it down if desired).

The dishes are reasonably priced for the quality and variety, with no dish over £10. That said, the server recommended we get up to 8 dishes for 2 diners, which would have still been quite an expensive lunch out. We ordered five, which was plenty.

unique London restaurants: Clay Pot Glass Noodles with pork and crab at Kiln in SoHo

Onto the menu! The chilled langoustines, which come split in half, are topped with chiles, kaffir lime, and mint, highlighting the sweetness of the shellfish. The dark, rich Tamworth pork curry is intense and deeply flavorful, while the Lao-style steamed pollock is topped with lemongrass and a fistful of fiery chiles that will make you feel the burn.

Glass noodles, topped with pork belly and brown crab meat, is cooked in a clay pot, over an open fire of course. The flavors are bright, rich, and simply delicious.

If you like Thai, but are sick of pad thai, a meal at Kiln will open your eyes at how great authentic Thai food can be.

unique London restaurants: the menu at Bar Shawarma in London

Bar Shawarma

This is the recently opened restaurant from the team behind Berber & Q, one of our favorite meals of 2016. It is located in the middle of the perpetually busy, and perennial favorite, Exmouth Market.

Bar Shawarma takes inspiration from the street food of Tel Aviv and adds a unique spin, slow roasting meat over charcoal and wood. There are pita sandwiches, hummus, and a variety of mezzo as you would expect. But there are also dishes like cauliflower shawarma and roasted butternut squash with mograbieh and curd cheese where the kitchen really shines.

unique London restaurants: the rice bowl at Bar Shawarma

The rice bowls, made with mejadrah as a base (a mix of rice, lentils, and fried onions), can be topped with lamb shawarma, or merguez kofte, Joojeh chicken, or cauliflower shawarma. Each comes  specially dressed too, with accompaniments like blackened green chile sauce, harissa creme fraiche, or flaked almonds with roses. The same goes for the pitas, stuffed with tahina, herb salad, and pickles, along with a choice of charcoal-grilled meat.

Bar Shawarma also has stellar natural wine selections, some fun cocktails, and even some tasty non-alcoholic choices as well. With a central location, affordable pricing, and a unique spin on Middle Eastern, it’s a can’t miss addition to the London restaurant scene.

This is a couple of steps up from the traditional late night kebab in London, that’s for sure.

Like what you seen or have some tips of your own to share? Check out the comments section below!

3 New and Unique London Restaurants

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  • January 28, 2017

    We are always looking for new places to eat when we are in London. Mel would love Temper although I’m not such a meat fan. Bar Shawarma sounds good too as we are often in the Exmouth Market area.
    Marcus and Mel recently posted…24 Hours In Bath, EnglandMy Profile

  • January 28, 2017

    What a list! Everything looks so delicious! Especially the first: Tamper.If we ever go back to London, we’ll have to check those out!
    Nat Deduck recently posted…How much does it cost to travel the world for 2 amazing years? Our Budget and Travel Tips!My Profile

  • January 28, 2017

    It is not surprising that London is joining in on the foodie revolution. I am second generation American from England any my mom still makes all kinds of traditional dishes. I have a hankering for flame grilled meat way more than boiled meat. Your list sounded delicious.

  • January 28, 2017

    Man, that food looks incredible. Especially, the Thai and the Shawarma. London really impressed us when it came to food. It was pricey but everything tasted amazing. Especially, the Indian food.

  • January 29, 2017

    We are always on the lookout for great places to eat whenever we visit London. These sound like 3 solid options. Of the three, Temper has me salivating….good to know and thanks for the suggestions.
    Rosemary recently posted…How to Drink Water Safely in Southeast Asia – Helpful TipsMy Profile

    • January 31, 2017

      fantastic place, super cool layout, and in a super convenient location.

  • January 29, 2017

    These photos are making me dizzy with hunger! That one of the taco with the juicy meat slab?! Drool! I haven’t been to London in years, but this food is pulling me back…
    Lillie recently posted…Northampton, MA: Ideal Weekend Getaway from BostonMy Profile

  • January 30, 2017

    Everything looks delicious in this post – thanks for the resto recommendations! I’ve longed to return to London to just sit and eat at Ottolenghi for an entire day. 😉

    • January 31, 2017

      Feel the same way about Ottolenghi. The original location was a 5 minute walk from our flat…perfect place to pop into and grab some ridiculously good pastries and cookies!

  • January 30, 2017
    Chrysoula

    Love your photos, they make the food look so real you want to grab it. Great recommendations, Temper is very close to my taste and I would love to eat there. Going to note it down for next time I am in London.

    • January 31, 2017

      Super unique and fun concept…as long as you are a meat eater!

  • January 30, 2017

    I’ve been wanting to return to London for a very long time. This food looks awesome. Kiln, in particular, is making me drool!
    Rachel Elizabeth recently posted…Terrific Small European Towns for Solo TravelersMy Profile

    • January 31, 2017

      Super delicious! Definitely worth a visit!

  • January 31, 2017

    THOSE PHOTOS! You just made me so hungry. Def keeping these in mind for my next trip to London.
    Stephanie Be recently posted…“National Plan for Vacation Day” is REAL – Are you in? (Photos)My Profile

    • February 1, 2017
      Julie

      Glad you like the pics…the food tasted pretty good too!