In 24 Hours

Night Tube in London speeds you to late-night eats

Travis Levius, for CNNUpdated 11th March 2017
(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.
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.
24-hour tube arrives on the London Underground. Tube enthusiast Geoff Marshall talks us through the history of the capital's underground network.
"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.
Late-night eating doesn't have to mean poor quality.
courtesy Duck & Waffle
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.
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."

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.

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.
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?"

Polo Bar

London late night eats-Polo Bar
The literally all-day breakfast.
courtesy Polo Bar
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.
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.

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

London late night eats-Beigel Bake, credit Martin Hearn- CC BY 2.0
With a comforting amount of fat, Beigel Bake's salt beef bagel is one of the best late-night cheap eats.
Martin Hearn, creative commons
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.

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.

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."

Balans Soho Society

London late night eats-Balans Soho_SPATCH_COOKED_POUSSIN
In addition to the classics -- burger and steak -- Balans Soho Society offers modern British dishes.
courtesy Balans Soho Society
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.

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.

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.