Late-night eats along London's 24-hour tube

Story highlights

  • London's underground trains now run 24 hours at the weekends
  • The service launched on the Central and Victoria lines
  • The Jubilee line service begins October 7

(CNN)After delays and an embarrassing false start in 2015, London's Night Tube public train service finally debuted in August, much to the delight -- and relief -- of many residents and travelers.

The Night Tube's Friday and Saturday-only service has been hailed by some as a savior for those who enjoy dining and drinking on the weekend after-hours.
    "The journey time is slashed to a fraction of what it used to be. I feel you can enjoy going out a lot more now," says local Otto Gumaelius, who lives in East London's Whitechapel neighborhood.
    "The Night Tube is just what London needs; now the city gets a chance to keep New York hours," says Kitchen Journeys blogger Madeleine Morrow.
    Though such major changes could have consequences for restaurant in terms of staff costs, recruitment and capacity, the reception's been overwhelmingly positive.
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    Antonio Polledri, who runs the family-owned cafe Bar Italia in Soho, a late-night haunt long before the Tube's nocturnal extension, says it's good for customers and employees alike.
    "Our staff along with other people who work night shifts in the service industry will no doubt benefit from the Night Tube," he says.
    "It has been a long time coming for one of the most exciting, vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world," says VQ Restaurants founder Simon Prideaux, who owns two 24-hour diners in the city in addition to a new third branch open until 3 a.m. everyday.
    "It's great to be a part of London's booming nighttime economy, and we look forward to welcoming more night owls."
    If you ever feel peckish on a weekend well after the clock strikes midnight along the Central and Victoria lines (the Jubilee line service starts October 7, with more to follow), here's a sample of where to nosh on a late night in London.
    Each option is within walking distance of a current Night Tube station.

    Duck & Waffle

    Late-night eating doesn't have to mean poor quality.
    Nearest Tube Station: Liverpool Street, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 24 hours, limited menu from 5 a.m. - 6 a.m.
    London's highest 24-hour restaurant might also be the city's poshest for around-the-clock dining.
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    Accessing the upscale restaurant and bar involves an ear-popping ascent 40 floors up Heron Tower, but patrons are rewarded with stunning city views some 230 meters above the Thames.
    "I think [the Night Tube service] may change the demographic of who comes, rather than the volume of people coming through the doors," says Dan Doherty, the chef who helped craft the restaurant's namesake dish from crispy leg confit, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup.
    "People in different areas now have the chance to come without lengthy bus journeys or pricey cabs."

    Duck and Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate 40th Floor, Heron Tower, London England;

    Bar Italia

    Nearest Tube Stations: Tottenham Court Road, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 7 a.m. - 5 a.m.
    Bar Italia is one of the city's most beloved cafes, having first opened in 1949, and continues to bring the buzz in a very happening, dense section of the central Soho district.
    Though wholly inclusive and inexpensive, Bar Italia remains a draw for celebrities, musicians and athletes to this day.
    "People love coming to Bar Italia because it's still [in its] original, iconic 1940s condition," boasts Antonio Polledri, the cafe's third-generation restaurateur who's "keeping it in the family" on behalf of original husband and wife founders Lou and Caterina Polledri.
    Though light bites, pizza and paninis are available, Bar Italia's calling card is their Gaggia machine-pumped coffee, which is the family's secret blend... though many might not need such an energy boost at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday.

    Bar Italia, 22 Frith Street, London W1D 4RP England;

    Balans Soho Society Cafe

    Nearest Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 24 hours
    A Soho dining legend, Balans Soho Society Cafe has provided booze and food for convivial guests for decades.
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    Like its neighboring sister with a slightly shorter curfew (Balans Soho Society Restaurant), Balans was given a recent full-on facelift, but classic dishes such as the Infamous Balans Burger and 12 oz sirloin steak remain a fixture for the cafe.
    With the recent advent of the Night Tube, this fun and flirty 24-hour spot's already seen an uptick on the amount of people arriving after midnight.
    "No one wants to stick to a timetable when you're out for the night. We have a sign when you come into one of our restaurants: 'Abandon All Plans,'" says Balans Cafe waitress CiCi Coleman.
    "You just can't do that if you're having to watch the time, can you?"

    Balans Soho Society Cafe, 34 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4TS England;

    Polo Bar

    The literally all-day breakfast.
    Nearest Tube Station: Liverpool Street, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 24 hours
    Conveniently located across from bustling Liverpool Street station, Polo Bar has been a beacon for hungry ravers, early-shift City workers and everyone in between since 1953, serving a long list of 24-hour breakfast foods, sandwiches and burgers.
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    Though a majority of the late-night dining industry has seen a recent customer increase in the wee weekend hours, Phil Inzani, Polo Bar's founder, finds the Night Tube service has created an opposite effect.
    "At Polo Bar, the busiest hours used to be after midnight... after a bar closes. Now that the Tube is running much later, going home is less of a drudge -- it's quicker, easier and making it less tempting [for customers] to go for the nightcap!" Inzani says.

    Polo Bar, 176 Bishopsgate Liverpool Street, London EC2M 4NQ England;

    VQ Notting Hill

    Nearest Tube Station: Notting Hill Gate, Central line
    Weekend Hours: Friday 7 a.m. - 3 a.m., Saturday 8 a.m. - 3 a.m.
    VQ ("Vingt-Quatre") Notting Hill is one of London's newest additions to the city's late-eats lineup, helping to address West London's dearth of post-midnight dining options beyond Soho.
    Fans of VQ Bloomsbury and the Chelsea original will still feel at home with the restaurant group's third location, as the all-day and night breakfast menu (including Full English and Eggs Benedict) and "smart diner" vibe remains intact.
    The caveat: though VQ's other two branches run 24 hours a day, the Notting Hill location shuts its doors at 3 a.m.
    VQ Notting Hill, 24 Pembridge Road, Notting Hill; +44 20 3745 7224

    Beigel Bake

    With a comforting amount of fat, Beigel Bake's salt beef bagel is one of the best late-night cheap eats.
    Nearest Tube Station: Liverpool Street, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 24 hours
    Beigel Bake is widely considered one of the finest cheap-eats joints in the capital, and a prime grub spot for the many after-hours revelers spilling from Shoreditch's bars and clubs.
    "No matter the time of day there seems to be a queue which gets quirkier as the night goes on," says Kitchen Journeys blogger Madeleine Morrow on the no-frills, Brick Lane-based bakery.
    Newcomers of any given hour wanting a proper rite of passage should look no further than Beigel Bake's salt beef version, clocking in at under £4 (around $5).
    "The salt beef on rye or beigel is the best in London in my opinion. Freshly prepared salt beef, cut in thick slices with just the right amount of fat, a pickle and mustard that clears the sinuses. It is one of the best deals in London," Morrow says.

    Brick Lane Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB England;

    VQ Bloomsbury

    Nearest Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 24 hours
    VQ Bloomsbury is the Chelsea location's first offspring, tucked underneath the St. Giles Hotel in the heart of the nightlife-heavy Tottenham Court Road area.
    The sophisticated but relaxed diner provides 24-hour breakfasts, burgers, hot dogs, pastas and other quintessential diner favorites.
    VQ founder Simon Prideaux believes that West End weekenders will take more advantage of VQ Bloomsbury's central location.
    "Our Bloomsbury site, being in the heart of London, should particularly benefit from all those late-night diners wanting to have a more leisurely meal and not have to rush off to catch the last tube," he says.

    VQ Bloomsbury, 111A Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NQ England;

    MEATliquor W1

    Nearest Tube Station: Bond Street, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 12 p.m. - 2 a.m., reduced menu from 1 a.m.
    MEATliquor helped place craft burgers on London's dining trend map in 2011, and there are still legendary lines for tables in the evening hours.
    Though yards away from the hyper-commercial shopping promenade of Oxford Street, MEATliquor screams East London edge, with occult-inspired, "bloody" interiors and heavy metal music to accompany those heavy, meaty meals.
    Those with serious hunger pangs can try the MEATliquor's Triple Chilli Challenge. Former London local Faisal Nisar explains, "If you manage to finish the Green Chili Cheeseburger, Chili Dog and Chili Cheese Fries in under 10 minutes, it's all free and you'll walk out a rich man. If [not] pay for everything (£24.75 or $31.56)."
    "Don't try this if you're new to chili, binge eating and/or if you're a vegetarian."

    Meatliquor, 74 Welbeck Street, London W1G 0BA England;

    Balans Soho Society

    In addition to the classics -- burger and steak -- Balans Soho Society offers modern British dishes.
    Nearest Tube Station: Tottenham Court Road, Central line
    Weekend Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.
    Over the last 30 years, the Old Compton Street favorite has been a haven for night owls who are always up for a rowdy good time, with weekend drinks flowing until 3 a.m. and indulgent dishes served until 6 a.m.
    Both Balans Soho Society and its sister 24-hour cafe were given a recent refurb by Simon Costin, who has showcased his flair for fun design in fashion show sets for Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
    In addition to the restaurant's classics, newer Modern British dishes in the lineup include skillet-roasted chicken with farro, fig and pine nuts and grilled halloumi atop olive mash potatoes.
    Bonus: The Balans group offers Late Night Deliveries, where one can choose anything from burgers to tacos to pancakes for home delivery between 11 p.m. - 5 a.m. via Feast HQ.

    Balans Soho Society, 60 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UG England;

    Hubbard & Bell

    Nearest Tube Station: Holborn, Central line
    Weekend Hours: Friday 7 a.m. - 2 a.m., Saturday 8 a.m. - 2 a.m.
    Hubbard & Bell is the flagship restaurant of The Hoxton Hotel Holborn, a hip hotel and hangout from the members-only Soho House group.
    Modeled after a Brooklyn grill, the restaurant has a trendy, '70s shtick with its whitewashed brick walls and burnt yellow and muted blue booths and chairs, and continues to be a hotspot for people-watching and cool-hunters.
    The open kitchen cafe, bar and grill prepares seafood, meats, salads and other dishes in their all-day menu in addition to brunch and breakfast selections.
    Guest DJs come to amp up the party vibes on Thursdays and Fridays.

    Hubbard & Bell, 199-206 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BD England;

    Pizza East Shoreditch

    Nearest Tube Station: Liverpool Station, Central line
    Weekend Hours: Friday 12 p.m. - 2 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 a.m.
    Though one can't tell by its name, Pizza East Shoreditch is no run-of-the-mill pizza joint.
    "Pizza East has the best vibe, especially late night. It's a huge slice of NYC-cool in the heart of Shoreditch," declares Stacey Smith, founder of London food blog Crummbs.
    The upmarket pizzeria is housed in a former tea warehouse turned trendy commercial space (Tea Building) and serves gourmet, individual-size pizzas such as "nduja, pickled peppers, red onion, scamorza" (£12 / $15) and "leeks, puzzone, egg, rosemary, cream" (£11 / $14).
    Beyond the wood oven pies, Pizza East also has antipasti selections and baked dishes from beef lasagne to salt-baked salmon.
    "While you nearly always have to queue, the turnaround is pretty quick. Order a plate of charcuterie and a tumbler of red [wine] while you wait," says Stacey.

    Pizza East, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ England;