1 | El Pastór
Sam and Eddie Hart are the brains behind the ragingly popular Barrafina tapas bars and Soho's much-loved private members' club, Quo Vadis. Now they've taken on Borough Market with a taco place inspired by Sam and new business partner Crispin Somerville's former life, running nightclubs in Mexico City.
Under the rounded roof of corrugated metal, you almost feel like you've wandered down the corridor-cum-bar into a bunker ready for an underground party, illuminated as it is by the cheerfully draped strings of light bulbs. It has the same idea as the brothers' Spanish restaurants: no reservations, a lively but unfussy bar, and lots of little plates of food that will be devoured a matter of seconds after landing in front of you. But, since they're all so small, you can try a nice lot of them. The house special is a tangy treat of pork belly and shoulder, marinated overnight and served with onion, pineapple and lovely warm chilli flavouring. And if you ask about the prawn tacos, you'll get excited responses about the effort that goes into the marinade, which is made from the stock of the shells – the resulting taste is quite incredible, and you'll understand the enthusiasm. The sharing options come DIY and, though you will likely have filled yourself up before even thinking about pudding, the chilli and mint-infused pineapple is a winning palate cleanser.
Order in the mezcal and you've got yourself a fiesta.
7a Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AA; tacoselpastor.co.uk
2 | Ginvent Pop-Up
For this weekend, and this weekend only, the Gin Foundry will be bringing their now famous (and much copied) gin-based advent calendar to life with a pop-up bar in Soho. As part of this immersive fandango, you'll be able to climb inside Ginvent (literally) and try all 24 gins featured in the calendar. In addition, there'll be tasting sessions and masterclasses across the weekend, and the charming people from Fever Tree, because what's a gin without tonic, right? The entrance to this magical juniper land is through the Phonica Records shop on Poland street, just before you get yourselves confused.
The Vinyl Factory, London, W1F 7BE; ginfoundry.com
3 | Temper
Temper is the first solo restaurant from Neil Rankin, the former head chef at Pitt Cue who is also behind Bad Egg and Smokehouse. And in his safe hands, if meat is your thing, you'd really struggle not to have a good time here. From a glassy exterior exposing a petite upstairs bar, you wander down the stairs into a subterranean den of smoky goodness. The meat is cooked over raw flames – just as it should be – and you simply pick how much you want in terms of weight. It then arrives on a flatbread, with which to mop up those delicious juices
. It's the flavour and the tenderness of the meat itself that is so special here, not to mention the easy-going vibe that the unexpectedly large venue manages to maintain. It's in no way pretentious, yet not so informal as a canteen; the air is rich and warm without being suffocating; the staff are really friendly but not overly so – you just sit down, order a couple of refreshing tacos to start, and then get stuck into to the main event. What's not to love?
Trenchard House, 19-25 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 0DF; temperrestaurant.com
4 | VICO
If you're simply after more of the comfort food that is so devilishly hard to resist this year, then give VICO a try. One of Shaftesbury Avenue's newest additions, this Italian restaurant is serving mini Panettones filled with gelato as individual deserts. And no judgments will be made if you just go in for that alone. Although, while you're there, it couldn't hurt to try one of the Winter Warmer cocktails, now could it? The Caffé Speciale contains espresso, Amaretto and chocolate – the perfect fuel to help you finish off the Christmas shopping.
1, Cambridge Circus, London, WC2H 8PA; eatvico.com
5 | SKATE Somerset House
Christmas in London would barely be Christmas at all without the tiniest bit of skating action. And SKATE Somerset House has the edge not just for the beautiful architecture and easy location but for its ongoing association with Fortnum & Mason, which means that the accompanying food and drink is top notch (and it needs to be if you're to freeze yourself to death whilst making a fool of yourself ready for Facebook's judgment). Retreat to the lodge for soul-satisfying Welsh rarebit, or the cheese fondue to share: utter bliss.
Strand, London, WC2R 1LA; somersethouse.org.uk