Ideal for a quick lunch or longer dinner after some time at the Brutalist arts and learning centre.
The aesthetically striking Barbican Centre is one of London’s finest (and Europe’s largest) centres to get entertained and educated, with arts, film, music, performance and exhibitions all housed under one roof. The cultural choices within are endless, with a concert hall, three cinemas, art gallery, theatre, the Museum of London and three dedicated restaurants, cafes and a bar. If we could stay here for a whole weekend, we would. The culinary options within walking distance are close to endless, too, with several superb restaurants just a few minute’s stroll away. With that in mind, here are 5 of the best restaurants near the Barbican, City of London.
OSTERIA (0 metres)
Since the Barbican Centre sets out to satisfy all your creative needs under one Brutalist roof, we’d be fickle not to first recommend one of the centre’s three restaurants. Housed on the second floor, the convenience of Osteria can’t be denied. What’s more, the food is decent; you can be fed some capable Italian food here, all with some cracking views of London to match. Top London chef Anthony Demetre was involved in the opening, and the menu still carries the weight of a chef of his pedigree; it’s gutsy, confident and generous. For the sake of climbing a flight or two of stairs, Osteria represents an effortless, enjoyable lunch option.
LEROY (500 metres)
The truly top notch food is going to cost you a short walk away from the Barbican, though. And that’s just fine with us. Just a ten minute walk away, on Phipp Street, is Leroy, nominally a wine bar but one which wants to feed you really, really well. It’s a small plates affair, with all the noisy cheer and chatter which a good version of the ‘sharing concept’ brings out in people.
Here, simplicity is the watchword; the cooking is confident and free from all frippery. A steak tartare has sharp, piquant notes aplenty to help it along, and a dish of pearl barley with courgette (we visited in summer) is effortlessly delicious; we’ve been trying to recreate it at home ever since! With a 100 bottle strong, globe trotting wine list and an open-arms welcome, don’t expect to be racing back to the Barbican after your meal; it’s a lovely meal to spend some time over.
SMOKING GOAT (800 metres)
Now we’re talking. If all that ‘culture’ has got you craving the heat of an open grill and the smell of the wok in your hair, all washed down with decent lager and brow mopping spice levels, then Thai barbeque joint Smoking Goat is only a short hop from the Barbican Centre. This is food designed to reinvigorate. Though the fish sauce chicken wings have gained deserved cult status, and the five spice smoked chicken is a real crowd pleaser, too, it’s the restaurant’s work with the offal and lesser known fish which keeps us coming back.
The menu changes daily, but if it’s on, be sure to order the jungle stir fry of chicken livers with earthy, grachai (a cousin of ginger). A whole grilled flounder with spicy, sharp dipping sauce and some shrimp paste fried rice with all the fixings will see you through. Now, who’s hoarded all that damn toilet roll?
QUALITY WINES (900 metres)
Next door to the superb sibling restaurant Quality Chop House is new kid Quality Wines. Opened in 2018, the Q word is certainly appropriate here; whether you’re looking for a quick snack, a late lunch or something more sustaining and boozy, this walk-in only restaurant is doing all the good things well in their little corner of Farringdon. So, pull up a stool order what’s good faily from the chalkboard menu; there’s excellent charcuterie, cheese and focaccia bread, as well as a superb octopus terrine and a comte and caramelised onion tart which has got London’s culinary cognoscente in something of a fluster. We’re right there with them. Open from 4pm Tuesday to Saturday.
TWO LIGHTS (900 metres)
One of London’s most blogged about restaurant openings of the last couple of years, and fronted by former Clove Club head chef Chase Lovecky, Two Lights built up huge expectation before their beef fat chips topped with crab even hit the fryer. Fortunately, with a menu full of crowd-pleasing small plate dishes like these, London lapped it up. The food is so hip it hurts; the deep fried sardine katsu sandwich, and custard tart with smoked, salted bourbon caramel have done the rounds on Instagram to the point of saturation. But that’s just fine; they’re more than worthy of all those snaps.
Fortunately, this focus on the eye-grabbing hasn’t affected the flavour. Dishes are uniformly knockout (that skate wing…), and although it’s not cheap, the convivial vibe and crisp, creative wine list make it a great place to hang out, even if you’re just sharing a couple of plates.