Out in the capital and in need of quality post-pub food? Our experts have selected their favourite after-hours havens for bagels, burgers, noodles – and yes, kebabs
There are three important ingredients for successful late-night food: it needs to be quick, delicious and fun. No one wants to sit down for a six-course, white-tablecloth meal at 1.30am and pay attention to their table manners. You want something tasty and you want it fast. And you don’t want anyone telling you to stop laughing so loudly. Voodoo Ray’s lives up to this because it serves pizza by the slice, a post-midnight pizza special and a solid drinks list – as well playing excellent music. Inside white subway tiles and flickering neon lights rebound the always-incredible disco/dance/electro/better-music-than-most-nearby-clubs playlist. It never feels like it’s overrun by super-smashed vampire clubbers. It’s full of the usual Dalston crowd of overgrown tweens dressed like Full House extras, drag queens, off-duty witches, people who freelance for Vice and people in search of an amazing slice of pizza before, or after, heading out. They have far-above-average toppings such as fennel chilli sausage and bacon dust, and it named a pizza after Giorgio Moroder. That’s a pizza mic drop right there.
• voodoorays.com. Open Mon-Wed 5pm-midnight, Thurs 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat noon-3am, Sun noon-10pm
Brittney Bean, co-founder of Mother Clucker
Spuntino has a grungy, Edward Hopper-ish quality that is perfect for night owls. Squatting in one of Soho’s still ungentrified corners, it doesn’t announce its presence with anything other than an understated number 61. You perch on stools round a central bar where cool, beautiful people knock up punchy cocktails and deliver food that’s perfect for the late-night reveller: sliders, delicate pizzette, perhaps the capital’s finest, fromage-iest macaroni cheese, oozing and bubbling in its cast iron skillet and laced with at least three different cheeses. Sophisticated versions of diner classics, with an occasional Italian accent is the house style. Despite being owned by the same people as the ever-expanding Polpo chain, Spuntino retains the air of a rackety insiders’ secret.
• spuntino.co.uk. Open Mon-Wed 11.30am-midnight, Thurs-Sat 11.3am-1am, Sun 11.30am-11pm
Marina O’Loughlin, Guardian restaurant critic
It can be hard to find somewhere good to eat late at night in London. One of the reasons we opened Duck & Waffle as a 24-hour restaurant was to give people somewhere decent to go after hours – away from a nightclub or kebab shop. I love late-night dining at Bob Bob Ricard. It’s so elegant, chic and understated; inside are beautiful booths that are perfect for an intimate gathering but the restaurant doesn’t feel pretentious or stuffy. It also has “press for champagne” buttons in each booth – lethal when you’ve already had one too many. The menu has mainly Russian dishes but there are British and French influences too. One of my favourite things is the “iconic” steak tartare, which is made with foie gras and capers. I also like to get a couple of the smaller dishes, especially the oysters and lobster dumplings, and, of course, champagne. Eating there can get expensive but it doesn’t need to be; the house champagne isn’t going to bankrupt you but, compared with a kebab and a can of coke, it’s definitely a treat. Bob Bob Ricard is the kind of place you go on a whim but that’s the wonder of it.
• bobbobricard.com. Open daily, 12.30pm-3pm and 6pm-midnight; Fri and Sat 5.30pm-1am
Dan Doherty, executive chef at 24-hour restaurant the Duck and Waffle
I’ve just had a kid, so it’s not often enough I find myself in the state, or the area, for Brick Lane’s Beigel Bake. But there have definitely been times I’ve been tempted to drive down after work and get something. It’s open 24 hours a day and makes its own bagels. It’s comforting to know you can go there any time and get something to eat. It’s usually exactly what you’re looking for at that time: hot salt beef, loads of mustard and bread. Sometimes I go off piste and get a salmon and cream cheese … but it never hits the same spot. You get an eclectic mix of people in there. Sometimes it can be a bit scary, other times a good vibe. But the staff have a good way of dealing with people. You get a few people asking for money, so you might give them half your bagel. It’s never quiet or empty. That area has changed a lot over the years but hopefully, it’s got the strength to stand the test of time.
• On Twitter. Open daily, 24 hours
Lee Tiernan, chef-owner, Black Axe Mangal
I have a long history with Meat Liquor’s green chilli cheeseburger, having taken my first bite in a Peckham car park back in 2009, when the future restaurant was just a burger van. There was this guy inside (Yianni Papoutsis) going on about frying the chillies in butter and proportions of fat to meat; I knew then I was onto a good thing, and it’s still my favourite burger in London. If I’m in town, past midnight, then I’m inevitably drunk and it’s all I can think about. I head for the Bond Street branch, a dark cavern of neon, graffiti, noise and meat-smoke. The burger arrives rustling in tissue paper, a frosty beer on the side. I’m no burger bore but there’s serious attention to detail here, and it shows. A glorious, messy fix.
• meatliquor.com. Open Mon-Thurs noon-midnight, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun noon-11am
Helen Graves, writer at Food Stories
Sometimes, I want somewhere to go and hang after a bar or pub, or even the theatre (I’d love to add club but I fear those days are over). You’re most likely to find me eating in Ranoush Juice when I’m drunk, in town and hungry for good food. I was bought up in Paddington, just off the Edgware Road. From the age of 15, when I started going out, Ranoush Juice was the place my sister Cora and I would end up. Despite living in Hackney now, I’ve been known to pitstop there for a takeaway in the middle of the night on many occasions. It’s essentially a Middle Eastern/Lebanese shawarma bar, but the shawarma is great and the vibe is bouncing. The decor is stripped-back and very neon and metallic, but it’s filled with fruits for the juice and different Lebanese treats on the counter. I will always get a shawarma wrap, as it comes with extra garlic and chill sauce, but if I’m eating in I’ll get loads of small plates. I love the hummus with lamb shawarma, the chicken livers and pomegranate, the soujek spicy sausages and a fatoush salad.
• 43 Edgware Road, 020-7723 5929. Open daily 9am-3am
Gizzi Erskine, chef and food writer
What I want from a late-night eat is something that is tasty, fast … but not too guilty. From the outside, Lanzhou Noodle Bar looks like any Chinese buffet restaurant, but if you look just behind you will see someone hand-pulling lamian noodles. Stretching and teasing huge lumps of dough in the air. Terrific bouncy Chinese noodles that you can have in a variety of ways. I have mine dry with Fujian peanut sauce. Inside, it’s basic, brusque and lively. Shared tables. Everyone focussed on their food and eating speedily. It feels like wandering into China. Lanzhou is all about the food. It is fast and delicious and very affordable. If I’m on my way home from somewhere and I need to fill a hole in my soul and/or my belly, this is where I’ll be.
• 33 Cranbourn Street, 020-7836 4399. Open Mon-Thurs 10am-2am, Fri-Sat 10am-5am, Sun 10am-10pm
Niamh Shields, food writer and blogger
My one problem with the (understandable) extreme popularity of Duck & Waffle with the post-pub crowd is that the atmosphere can get a bit raucous. But then sometimes the annoying loud drunk is on the next table, and sometimes it’s me, so it all works out in the end. And anyway, I’d suffer many a braying account manager (and a truly terrifyingly fast lift) for that view: breathtaking at any time of day, but taking on a particular drama at sunset and sunrise when London’s skyline is framed by horizontal rays. Paper bags of barbecued pig’s ears and foie gras crème brulee just add to the otherworldliness of it all.
• duckandwaffle.com. Open daily, 24 hours a day
Chris Pople, food writer and blogger
If I’m running late or rushing home and need a bite of something I can trust, I always descend on Palmera Oasis on Essex Road. I used to live around the corner and for a while it became a bit of a problem for me. I found myself eating the lamb shawrma way more than I should have. On the outside it’s like so many other kebab shops in London, but the one thing that keeps me heading back is what is possibly the most delicious tahini sauce known to man. If, on the rare occasion that I am out and in a more central location, I will always go to Shochu Lounge under ROKA on Charlotte Street. The food is superb, its central and the cocktails are killer.
• palmeraoasis.co.uk. Open Mon-Fri 4pm-midnight, Sat-Sun noon-midnight
Miles Kirby, chef and co-founder, Caravan
After leaving work for the night, I often find myself sinking into a seat in the dimly lit basement of Ronnie Scott’s. For those in need of a quality, late-night food menu, look no further than Upstairs @Ronnies which operates as a separate venue with its own live music programme. Choose from a variety of small and large plates and dine in a venue with the perfect ambience. Combined with the excellent service from the immaculately dressed waiters, it’s no wonder it is adored by Londoners. Listening to Ray Gelato with a martini in hand transports me straight to the 1950s; I find it hard to make it out before midnight.
• ronniescotts.co.uk. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-3am, Sun noon-midnight. Tickets prices vary.
Tony Conigliaro, mixologist and owner, Bar Termini
In LA, you can hit up a food truck for some fine tacos after partying. In New York, you can hit up tons of places for awesome pizza or a bowl of banging noodles. In France, it’s escargots, every time. London’s food scene is up there, but we’ve a long way to go when it comes to late-night eats. But maybe not that long now, though, as wine “don” Charlie Mellor will be opening the Laughing Heart later this month. It will be a wine bar, dining room and off-licence on Hackney Road. Expect exciting wines and a produce-driven menu headed up by Tom Anglesea. Last orders? 1am. Booze until 2am. Sounds like the dream come true. Until then, there’s Tayyabs. I’m a Tayyabs girl. Its Peshwari naan, lamb chops and dry meat hit the spot every time – especially after a few beers, which is why it’s brilliant that the kitchen does last orders at 11.30pm. Because of the whole sharing plates thing, and the size of the restaurant (it’s massive), it lends itself to big groups, another plus when you’ve been out with friends and need to soak up some juice. Then there’s the mood lighting: no bright canteen lights here, it’s all dark and vibe-y so you don’t need to feel too aware of your slightly flushed cheeks. Order the Pista Kulfi on the way out, it’s pretty much the perfect to-go dessert – as you’ll probably want to have a walk around the block!
• tayyabs.co.uk. Open Mon-Sun noon-11.30pm
Freddie Janssen, chef and authoer of Pickled
My favourite pitstop for south Indian dosa is Dosa n Chutny, where the perfectly cooked rice pancakes are packed with spicy potatoes or chicken or lamb masala and served with fabulous fresh coconut chutney. The veggie options are less than £4, the meat ones under £5. But it closes at 11pm, so if you miss that go grab yourself a pile of lamb chops or a seekh kebab (minced lamb with fried onion and capsicum) from the hugely popular Lahore Karahi nearby, which many say serves some of the best Pakistani food in London.
• dosanchutny.co.uk. Open Mon-Thurs 11am-10.30pm, Fri-Sat until 11pm; lahorekaraho.co.uk. Open Mon-Sun until midnight
Meera Sodha, author of Fresh India, published by Penguin