Located right in the heart of Central London, the Holborn area is somehow still relatively unknown by visitors – maybe because it sits between a number of other areas full-up with better-known attractions (like Russell Square to the north, Covent Garden to the west, and The City to the east).
That’s a good thing though: while many people pass through the area, not as many stop to explore, and you can actually find some lovely spots to rest and refuel with less crazy crowds than elsewhere in this part of London. To be more specific, there are some great restaurants in Holborn, running the whole gamut from British classics to far-flung flavors.
Below, I’ve put together what I think is a list of the best restaurants in Holborn to help you pick a spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner depending on when you find yourself here. Some I know quite well from having visited – or from visiting outposts of them in other parts of the city; others just catch my eye as looking truly delicious and worthy of a stop on my next trip.
Whichever you choose, you really can’t go wrong – so let’s grab our utensils (or in some cases, chopsticks) and dig in!
1. Kintan Japanese BBQ
Photos courtesy of Kintan Japanese BBQ via Facebook
If you’re looking for an interactive dining experience in Holborn, try Kintan Japanese BBQ, which serves authentic Yakiniku (grilled meat.) There is a smokeless grill at every table, where guests can cook their own food, typically marinated meat – you can select the food you want to grill based on your budget and taste – Besides grilled meat, there are also several side dishes: the garlic rice is pretty good!
Pro-tip: Visit during Happy Hour to enjoy discounted prices – always a great deal when you can find a restaurant that offers it!
2. Colonel Saab
Photos courtesy of Colonel Saab via Instagram
If you’re a fan of Dishoom, you’ll enjoy Colonel Saab, a modern Indian London restaurant located in the Grade-II listed former Holborn Town Hall.
The brainchild of Roop Partap Choudhary, who was inspired by the tales of his parents’ travels across India, Colonel Saab offers delicious Indian food and terrific cocktails in a beautiful setting. The decor is just as good as the food, with the chandeliers and collection of eclectic Indian art. Oh, and you can’t beat the atmosphere with old-school jazz music murmuring at the back.
Photos courtesy of Hiba via Instagram
Still wondering where to eat in Holborn? Try Hiba, a family-run restaurant that brings the taste of Palestine and Lebanon to London. (The head chef is the Grandmother!) London has very good Middle Eastern food, and Hiba keeps the standard high.
Meaning “lovely surprise”, Hiba uses only fresh ingredients and is known to have some of the best shawarmas in London. The friendly staff will soon make you feel like one of the family!
4. Holborn Dining Room
Photos courtesy of Holborn Dining Room
Holborn Dining Room in the Rosewood Hotel is one of the best restaurants in Holborn for British food, such as Scotch Egg and Beef Wellington. It is especially well-known for its Pies – definitely try the Pork Pie! – and extensive collection of 500 types of gins and 30 tonics.
It has a distinguished dining room with marble floors, antique mirrors, reclaimed oak banquettes, and copper-topped bars that will make you feel like you’re in a private member’s club.
5. Ciao Bella
Photos courtesy of Ciao Bella
If you want to know where to eat in Holborn, which has live piano music, look no further than Ciao Bella, an authentic, old-school Italian trattoria that dates back to 1983.
Ciao Bella has good food, an extensive wine list, and a lively atmosphere. The spaghetti vongole is delicious, and for a touch of drama, try the Seafood Spaghetti (Spaghetti Al Cartoccio), which is served to you in a paper bag!
Note that the basement seats can be a bit dreary, so reserve early and ask for seats on the ground floor.
6. My Old Dutch
Photos courtesy of My Old Dutch via Instagram
My Old Dutch is the original London Dutch pancake house – I’ve been visiting the King’s Road outlet since I was an Undergrad student at the University of St. Andrews over two decades ago!
It serves both sweet and savory pancakes. Note that these are thin pancakes, Dutch-style, so almost like crepes, and not the thicker ones Americans are familiar with. (You can order American-style pancakes, too, if you’re missing home!)
The interiors are lovely, with lots of flowers hanging from the ceiling. Perfect place to get that Instagram shot!
7. The Delaunay
Photos courtesy of The Delaunay via Instagram
The Delaunay is an all-day European cafe by the same team as the very popular Wolseley. Decked up in an old-school style, with dark wooden furnishings, it’s very close to London’s theatre district (Covent Garden), so it’s the perfect place for a pre- or post-show meal. If you’re not sure what to order, the Chicken Schnitzel is one of the most popular dishes.
For those looking for a quick bite, it has a takeaway section simply known as The Counter, next door.
8. Roka Aldwych
Photos courtesy of Roka Aldwych
Roka Aldwych is a wood-paneled, chic robatayaki (Japanese BBQ) restaurant with an eye-catching open-plan kitchen that ensures you can always catch the delicious smells wafting out of the kitchen.
Besides slow-grilled meat, Roka also offers other dishes, such as high-end sashimi and sushi. (The Han Setto brunch and black cod are two of their most beloved offerings.) However, I must say I wasn’t too impressed by the sashimi when I had it at Roka’s Charlotte Street location: the uni tasted less than fresh!
If you’re confused by roabatayaki (Roka) vs yakiniku (offered by Kintan Japanese BBQ), the former originated from Hokkaido and is done around a large central hearth or grill whereas the latter is more similar to Korean BBQ.
9. Barrafina Drury Lane
Photos courtesy of Barrafina via Instagram
Another of the best restaurants in Holborn is Barrafina, a modern Spanish tapas restaurant. One of the most lauded restaurants in the London food scene – its sister restaurant in Dean Street has a Michelin star – it does not take bookings, and the queues can get quite long. (Go during off-peak hours if you don’t want to wait in line.)
Note that it’s counter dining, so you’ll be sitting on stools – not the most comfortable for everyone – which gives you a great view of the chefs in action. Despite all the acclaim, I must confess that I wasn’t too impressed when I visited. Don’t get me wrong, the food was well-executed and tasted good. Unfortunately, it just didn’t make much of an impact!
10. Noble Rot
Photos courtesy of Noble Rot via Instagram
Originally a wine bar, Noble Rot, or “Shrine to the Vine” as it calls itself, now also serves great seasonal food and is one of the best restaurants in Holborn if you enjoy food and wine. The executive chef, Stephen Harris, is from the Michelin-starred Sportsman in Whitstable.
The restaurant has an amazing award-winning wine list, a great atmosphere, and amazing bread. (I always judge a restaurant by the quality of the bread basket!)
Noble Rot’s set menu is one of the best value-for-your-money meals that you can get in London: £26 for a starter, main, and dessert, or £22 for two courses, so you definitely shouldn’t miss it!
If you have more questions about where to eat in Holborn, let me know in the comments so I can help you pick the best spot for your time in this part of London.