Some places just have that certain something. The French have a phrase for it: ‘zat certain sumsing!’ Quirky spots you stumble upon and tell stories about. Lesser known marvels like bonkers bars, rickety restaurants or curious museums where the curator’s cats run wild. It’s not about price or prestige, no, no. It’s all charm and character. Places with personality. That’s a GLP, my friend. Come in and explore, then go out and explore.
Randall and Aubin, 16 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0SQ
Soho perenially seems harder than it ought to be to find great little places, so this is a very handy spot to have on your radar. Once a butcher's, dating from 1911, Randall and Aubin is now technically a champagne and oyster bar - but it's all about all kinds of top notch seafood (though they do venture onto turf in the form of a great roast). In the window is a dazzling display of what's about to be in you, and as you go in it feels like a kind of souped-up pie & mash shop; marble tables, original fittings and the odd glitter ball. This place is very Soho, bustling - I believe we should also say 'vibrant', loud and proud. Music plays, the staff are a bundle of joy; it's the sort of place you'd go for a warm-up for some Soho smashtime rather than perhaps an intimate occasion. Gets busy so can be better to head down at lunch - and you can't book. Thanks for the tip off: Gemma Proudley, Sabina Bhugun, Jenny McNeill, Rafel Martins, Jennifer Walker, Jon Hammond, Sasha Jenkin, Helen Pinkerton and Brian Fernandes.
J Sheekey, 28-34 St. Martin's Court, Soho, WC2N 4AL
J Sheekey is one of those places that comes with a bit of an aura about it, and rightfully so. Tourist hot spots and celeb hang outs do not usually a GLP make, but J Sheekey is a blissful exception. Outside it's red awnings, gold lettering, frosted muntin windows (had to look that up, handy knowhow) and a be-top-hatted chap to welcome you in. Inside it's chequerboard floors, tasteful sea shell light fittings, a warren of rooms that are wooden wall decked with black and white portraits that tell the history of the West End's variety stars gone by. Which is what this place is really about; the heart of old Soho. It's formal but not overbearing, no tie required, and the seafood is as you'd expect, fresh classics like oysters and lobster, which is hard to beat. It's actually two places - adjoined is the newer oyster and champagne bar, where you're sat around a grand horseshoe bar - a little lighter on the wallet but all the class. Full on special occasion fodder. Thanks for the tip off: Enrique Nalda, Russell Pond, Simon Thompson, Uz Sheiky, Catherine Powell, Niamh Marnham, Kate Farquhar and Burhan Al-Galiani.
Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House, 13 Kingly Street, Unit G7/G8 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW
Sea to plate, that's what these guys are all about. From harvesting from the coast of Cornwall, to the wholesale (they supply to the likes of Bentley's, J Sheekey's and Scott's) to their London restaurants they run the whole supply chain. So they, and you, know what you're getting. And isn't it good. The Soho Oyster and Porter House is the newer offering, opened in December 2010 (their original London restaurant is in Borough Market, and also a corker). It's split out onto three levels, plus an outdoor courtyard, with the most restauranty floor up top, with banquette seating overlooking Kingly Court. An open kitchen features down at ground, where you're sat on high legged stools, surrounded by white tiles, dark wood, dangling lightbulbs, exposed brick and stainless steel. A modern rustic feel. The seafood, as you might expect, is fresh and fantastic. Thanks for the tip off: Eileen Lam.
This is a little corner of Italy that harks back to the pre-Hugo days when Notting Hill had a wave of Italian influence. We love a bit of dual purpose, and Pescheria Mattiucci is just the gig - fishmongers by day, seafood restaurant by night. It's all Italian, from the actual fish to what's on the menu to the staff - it's in fact a branch of a restaurant from Naples (and in Milan too). Run by brothers, Luigi and Gennaro Mattiucci, it's simple but fun inside - you sit on upturned blue barrels or blue chairs around the walls, with a few pictures dotted around them. A tiled wall behind the counter is adorned with a comedy blue sketch that tells the story of the place. Lighting is low but intimate in the evenings - it's not refined dining but the atmosphere is anything but stuffy. It's like a holiday away in a night. The food's classic Italian and elegantly cooked - not the cheapest but damn good. Wash down with Italian wine, obvo. Thanks for the tip off: Peter Glenser.
London's very own crab shack. The Big Easy has been serving up Louisiana styled crab, lobster and ribs for more than 15 years. The menu goes well beyond seafood, but for the full Big Easy experience you'll be getting your own claws into some lobster claws. This is not the home of elegant dining, you'll be given a plastic bib, a mountain of food and set to work. It's classic American south-coast themed, dark and woody with US bric-a-brac all over the shop, with live bands playing every night. The crab and lobster, as you'd expect, is incredible, and most of all it's proper fun - it's hard to be snooty when you've got a plastic sheet with a cartoon lobster on it hanging round your neck. Which is why we like the place so much. Thanks for the tip off: Ida Frössander.
Sariyer Balik, 56 Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, N16 9NH
Off the scale on the GLP-ometer. This is full on sea world - nets hanging from the ceiling with taxidermied fish (less morbid than it sounds), small and warrenlike. There's a ground floor and a downstairs, each equally kitschy wonders. The owner is half Turkish and half Italian - this is definitely his Turkish portion. It's best to have the grilled fish, they really go for it. There won't be a whole lot of room left for your Turkish tea. Thanks for the tip off: Vladimir Savic, Duncan Walker.
Sweetings, 39 Queen Victoria Street, City of London, EC4N 4SF
Sweetings is the sort of place that's usually followed by the word 'institution'. It's been around since 1889, and with the exception of now accepting credit cards, not a whole lot has changed. It's been serving big fish to the City's fat cats ever since. Given it's only open 5 days a week, 3 hours at a time for lunch and full of suits (not that that's a problem, just setting the scene) the odds are stacked against it, but it absolutely pulls through. Inside it is a mosaicy tiled floor and a big oak counter, the walls peppered with Victorian caricatures and paraphernalia that's not been changed since David Cameron's nappy. It's a quickly does it affair, no coffee for dawdlers, with big portions served with mismatching cutlery - it's all part of the experience. There are longer wooden tables towards the back where you'll be arm to pinstriped arm, and after you've made it through the main some classic puddings await - spotted dick, apple crumble, bread & butter pudding. Ideal. Thanks for the tip off: Justin Eeles.
Beachcomber, 34 Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich, SE10 9BL
On the corner of Greenwich Market can be found this little seafood restaurant / cafe. It's tiny, on a couple of floors and kitsch-tastic, again full on marine theme. Rubber plants, paintings, fairy lights inside and out and of course some stuffed fish. It's cheap and it's cheerful and you'll have a lot on your plate. Rumour is this area will be being knocked down and replaced by a shopping centre next year, oh joy (any Greenwich council people please let us know if we've got this wrong) so get there while you can. Thanks for the tip off: Annabelle Lau.
Following in the footsteps of the visual feast that is Gilgamesh, Shaka Zulu joined Stables Market in Camden and hasn't held back. It's a bloody riot of African mosaics, carvings and characters including the Zulu king himself looking over you - illuminated escalators taking you up and down, it's every inch the experience. Overlooking the main restaurant is the Oyster bar, taking Cape Towns's flair for fish an landing it squarely in NW1. The menu features such exotic delights as Namibian oysters, Mozambican prawns and a Cape seafood selection. It's opulent, impressive, manages not to be gauche - and whilst it has a price to match, it's not somewhere you'll forget in a hurry.
Now, not that we'd have favourites... this place is exactly what we love. It's off the beaten track, unless you live nearby I can't imagine you've dined in Kennington too many times, it doesn't shout at you from the street, but behind the blue and white exterior (with a necessary doorbell for entry) is a treasure. Done out like a boat, and with no half measures taken, complete with portholes, lighthouse mural, shiny ship steering wheel and flotation rings it's a lovely little place to be. And the food matches up. Fresh every morning from Billingsgate Market, Hervé Regent (with full moustache) and his team are determined to bring a little bit of Brittany to your life. Whilst the whole menu is superb, it's got to be the lobster. It's also next door to the sister restaurant Brasserie Toulous Lautrec, very much a GLP itself. Thanks for the tip off: Maria Fenton.
Fish in a Tie, 105 Falcon Road, Clapham Junction, SW11 2PF
A blink and you'll miss it place, Fish in a Tie is on an unexpected corner a little way behind Clapham Junction station. The name gives an indiciation to the quirky little number you'll find here - a bohemian den of gold gilted mirrors, chandeliers, candles and bronze lanterns. The food is excellent - crab choux pastry to start recommended - but most fishy of all is the fact it's very easy on the wallet. Prices kept low by having set-menus every day. Thanks for the tip off: Kerensa Shiel.
This little corner of Portugal, between Lee, Hither Green and Blackheath stations, has been doing its do in London for years. Famed for a warm and informal atmosphere, it's cute and cosy inside with candle lit tables, hanging nets and vines and a mural adorned wall. A broad Mediterranean menu feature oysters, calamari, octopus, monkfish and more - big portions will have you waddling home happy. Read more...
Thanks for the tip off: Jo Carter.
North Sea Fish Restaurant, WC1. World class fish & chips, and a classic venue. Thanks for the tip off: Toby Harrison. Sea Shell Restaurant, Lisson Grove. Reputedly Diana's favourite chip shop. Thanks for the tip off: Silas Spencer, Kate Farquhar, Fish Club, Clapham. A firm favourite for SW9's young professionals. Thanks for the tip off Kangan Arora, Sam Jarman. Geales. A modernised incarnation of a 1939 classic. Thanks for the tip off: Joel Blackmore.
Free full access, latest and greatest, newsletter and exclusives.