London Chain Gang – My guide to London’s most popular chain restaurants

My guide to London’s freshest fast-growing chain restaurants, take aways & fast food joints.

I’m not talking fast food from a crappy freezer bag, I’m talking fresh, seasonal, local food produced with love and style, by chefs, created by food enthusiasts – – so good their brands are spreading.

Hopefully one day we’ll be able to enjoy the gorgeousness on our doorstep right here in Norwich.

  • Likelihood of them coming to Norwich – see below


Belgo – Mussels frites and beers in 7 locations.

Pot mussels £14 great flavours like Thai, Kimchi or go for the classic. Rotisserie chicken £14 with frites and a sauce. They also offer specials like beat the clock for early birds, around 5-6pm you pay 5.55 if that’s the time you ordered. I used to dine at the first Belgos back in my London cheffy days – I’d beat the clock with a pot of juicy muscles and some frites on the side – mayo dip a must.

  • We have the Belgium Monk – Belgos will stay London I think, 10% maybe in a decade-ish down riverside with self-drive cars and the I phones XZX100.


Busaba Ethai – the first one appeared on Wardour Street 1999, a modern no fuss Thai with Asian juices. 14 branches including one in St Albans the rest are in London. Express lunch £9.99, tasting experience £19.99, Pad Thai noodles £9.85.

  • The Giggling Squid has it all going on, but people just love Thai. 40% in 5 years.


Bodeans – American Smoke BBQ house, Andre Blais in 2010 brought home style Kansas food to London. Chilli Cheese hot dog £8.95 as is. Combo meal £17.45. Desserts £3.95-£5.95. 8 restaurants all in London.

  • 10% chance of making it to Norwich – too much competition. Think they’d have to adjust the prices too.


Benitos Hat – Burritos and Margaritas fast food style. Burritos, salads and tacos £5-7, sides around £3 Cocktails £6-7. Simple, fresh and tasty. 5 in London 1 in Oxford. Founder Ben lived in Texas for a year and on coming home wanted to offer the great Mexican taste that America offered him.

  • We have Nanna Mexican for take outs and Independents like Jive & Pedro’s, not sure we’ll adorn the hat here quite yet -10%


The Breakfast Club – 16 branches started from a family Caf, now a trendy cool place to hang, selling breakfasts like pancakes, waffles, disco fries, bircher to shakes, cocktails and brunch for just under a tenner. How an old traditional Café should go – love it.

  • I like this brand but think it will stay in London and maybe hit the bigger cities. 5% But theres definitely an opening for something similar in Norwich – anyone?


Chilango – Mexican Burritos since 2007 now with 8 places. Eric and Dan worked at Skype together, gave it all up to create the Mexican food they had in America growing up. Voted the best Burritos in London.

  • Think Norwich might get on within 5 years – 40% likely. Think this one’s going to grow fast.


Chipotle Grill – An American chain selling standard Mexican. They advertise their food with integrity, selling it as fresh. Usual – pick a tortilla, chips or salad bowl add the meat topping, pick a bean, load with sauce or salad – Fast food style.

  • It’s one of those American chains, need I say more, they usually take over at some point but 15% not quite yet.


Comptoir Libanais – Tony Kitous set up this Lebanese canteen, now a 20 chain empire including oxford, Manchester and Leeds, selling middle eastern vibrant dishes, in a souk like setting. Check them out at Stratford shopping centre. Starters and soup around £5, from the grill £10-14, Tagines and Salad around £9-12 and wraps for £8.50. I love this place, every mouthful is gorgeous – a true taste of the middle east, try the Fattoush.

  • I think Norwich needs it but I’m not sure if Norwich is ready for it yet – 15% we might see it the next few years, but 60% in a decade.


Crussh – Fast food at its healthiest. Born in 1998 by James Learmond who fancied a juice bar in the city. Over 30 branches in London & 1 in Kent. Healthy smoothies, salad, sarnies and snacky bites. Soup £3.75, Tagine £5.50, Noodles £5.25, Smoothies from £3.50 – £6. Great selection of Vegan and Vegetarian foods.

  • I think there’s a whopping 70% chance that we could see a Crussh in Norwich in the next 6 years!


Dishoom – only 3 in London since 2010 but very popular award winning colonial, 1940 feel smart Bombay Indian restaurant. With a good selection of cocktails. They even do sausage naan wraps for breakfast £5.50. A selection of Ruby Murry for just under a tenner. Desserts like Indian bread and butter pudding for £5.50 – they even do Indian slaw as a side. Exciting menu – I’ll be trying it very soon.

  • PLEASE come to Norwich – – – but alas, I think this is too new and will only adorn the big cities for now. But I think Norwich has plenty of room for a modern, alternative Indian – come one guys spice it up!


Dirty Burger – 2012 – 4 burger chains plus a chicken shop, keeping it simple but fresh. Burgers £7 – 8, crinkle cut fries £3.75 plus sides, a few desserts, cocktails and shakes. Whitechapel have a Chicken Shop attached with rotisserie chicken whole at £18.

  • 15% chance, we’ve got 5 Guys, Byrons, Gourmet and our lovely independents like the popular Zaks and my fav Gonzos – don’t think we have room quite yet!


Franco Manca – 2011 with 40 plus with a good 8 out of London. Tasty Pizza joint using fresh Neapolitan sour dough pizza crust. Said to be delicious –next on my list to try.

  • I love the sound of these, I’m hoping for a not so popular Italian Norwich chain take over – – 50% it could happen. Down with the frozen doughs delivered of a lorry – in with the bubbly cauldron of sour dough.


Grind – Coffee House & Cocktail bar combined. 6 cafes and 4 restaurants. Sarnies for around £8-10, great coffee, breakfast for £8-10, snacks from £2-5 plus plenty of cocktails including a whole coffee cocktail menu. The first one opened in 2011.

  • Got a good feeling about this one, 65% in 5 years.


Honest Burgers – 25 restaurants with our closest in Cambridge, yes I’ve tried it, yes its good. Tom and Phil started with a marquis, a fryer and a grill. Burgers £9-11, fries £3, wings £4.75 – clean and simple menu with fresh great tastes.

  • We have tons of burger joints, but this is a little different think we may have a 40% chance in the next 5 years.


Hummus Bros – Two college boys went in search of a cheap, tasty filling lunch and came upon hummus, olives and bread. 2005 and 6 shops later – they serve hummus as a base topped with all sorts, plus a few salad sides, veggie sticks & deli stuff for literally a few quid! Find one opposite Chancery lane tube.

  • Not a chance yet, but who knows what the future could hold. 5%. Think someone could do something similar on Norwich market in a few years.


Itsu – Flavours of the far east, fresh and healthy. Dumplings, sushi and bento boxes, fast food to take home or eat in. With over 60 London branches more inc. Cambridge and Heathrow.

  • 60% in the next few years – – it’s a must, Cambridge has one, where’s ours.


Leon – Around 20 naturally fast food fresh middle eastern and Mediterranean, modern English food. Catch them at Heathrow airport. I love it – fresh, modern, fantastically interesting dishes. From the breakfast eggs and truffle, to the wraps, tagines, meatballs and more on their ever-changing menu. Veggie burgers and wraps around £5, salads around £6

  • This is top of my list to come here, 80% within the next 6 years or I’m giving up my day job!


Lobster and Burger – 2011 4 school mates wanted a restaurant where the focus was on 2 main items, in a small Irish pub in Mayfair Lobster and Burgers was formed. 9 in London and 8 around the world inc New York, Manchester, Dubai and Bankok

10oz burger £19, 5oz lobster burger £23 same for a 1lb lobster. £32 for a lobster and burger – that’s what im having! All come with chips and salad.

  • I can see this but not yet – 30% in a decade.


Masala Zone – Voted in the top 10 of Indian restaurants in London. Quality dishes including Indian street food. Founded 2001 with 7 branches in London including Selfridges. 2 courses with wine £30-£35

  • 20% chance of coming to Norwich – lots of competition but no Indian chains, would work a treat down riverside or Chapelfield.


Meat Liquor – started as an American style food truck, visiting places like Glastonbury. Now with over 15 inc. Brighton and Leeds. Burgers £8-9, Fries £3-6, slaw £3 kids meal £7.50

  • I think Norwich is too small for these guys – 5% with the chances doubling every 5 years.


Ottolenghi – 5 since 2002. Mediterranean, middle eastern deli, cafes and restaurants. Yotam is an Isralian, British chef and cookery book writer with a thriving online business. I love his food, his flavours, his style and concepts – well worth a visit.

  • I think there may be a 40% chance they’ll get to Norwich but more like a decade away.


Polpo – Known as a Bacaro, simple stylish rustic eatery. Established 2009 with 6 around London plus Brighton and Bristol. Cool wooden restaurants offering reasonably priced Venetian tapas style Italian food. I loved the antipasti dishes especially the marinade octopus (polpo in Italian) great for sharing.

  • Too new to spread too soon – but I love it and would love it here, 15% in a decade.


Pod –Around 25 since 2005 fast fresh healthy food stores. Serving up breakfast and lunch on the go. Scrambled eggs £4-5, brown bread toast £1.80, porridge from £1.50, Green energy curry £5.50, gyoza £2.50 – more than salads – great concept and sure to spread.

  • I think these look great but not sure Norwich has the same foot fall, including office workers for take-out breakfast & brunch. 10%, but maybe 50% in a decade. The trend for eating out and take outs is only going to grow and this fresh approach is what we’ll be needing.


Pho – (Pronounced Fur, but quickly) Stephen & Juliette opened Pho in 2005 after they fell in love with Pho in Vietnam, they how have over 25 including Cambridge and Westfield shopping centre. Noodles, Pho-soup and curries around £8-10, plus starters and street snacks. I’ve had the curry at Westfield and it was without doubt one of the tastiest Asian dishes I’ve ever had, the flavours of Vietnamese cooking are amazing.

  • I think this would be amazing in Norwich, let’s give it 5 years – 30%


Shake Shake – This is an American born concept from a Manhattan food truck. Selling burgers, custard shakes (sorry too sickly for me), hot dogs, crinkle cut chips and chicken burgers. There ethically sourced, freshly made to order-ish and tasty. 8 in London with a huge following.

  • I don’t think Norwich needs one yet, too much competition. Maybe 20% chance in 6 – 8 years or maybe we’ll see a merge!


Tossed – A fast food salad take away, healthy fresh and bespoke salad boxes with juices and smoothies. In 2004 Vincent went to the USA to study a healthy eating concept, bringing back the first Tossed in 2005 there is now around 15. Salads, wraps and pots of goodness from £4-6. Hot on its heel’s is Salad Box – similar theme with 2 opened in London, plus its main competition is Pod – these healthy lunch take outs are catching on and sprouting up all over London.

  • We had a similar concept which closed within a year, think Norwich ain’t quite ready yet – give it 5 – 8 years and one of them will open here. 65% chance.


Vinoteca – Co-founders Brett Wooton & Charlie Young started in 2005, now with 5 joints. Wine bar selling in excess of 200 wines, 25 by the glass with simple Italian antipasti platters and Spanish tapas. It’s sold as a local’s upmarket relaxed hang out. Plus, all restaurants double as wine off licences. Great concept perfect for London.

  • It’s a local for London place, but we have real locals here – very slim 1% chance, never say never!


Wahaca – Mexican tapas founder Tomasina Miers (winner of master chef & food writer). Now with 25 branches across Britain, 8 being in London. Go for the starters / snacks £3-4, tapas style dishes to share. Steak, salads, enchiladas & burritos £8-12. Fresh, cool and vibrant – I was at the first one and its only getting better. The perfect chain serves fresh, changes its menu and moves with the times – tick, tick, tick!

  • I would, so love a Wahaca in Norwich, think we could squeeze one in Riverside or Chapelfield. 40% in the next 5 years.


Wasabi – 2003 when Kim a Camden market seller wanted to share fresh sushi, her first being in Embankment. Sushi and Bento inc. soups and snacks – like Itsu it’s a Japanese inspired chain. Over 40 inc Wasabi at M&S, Cambridge and New York..

  • I think the way wasabi is spreading we are more likely to get this than Itsu, don’t think Norwich could take the both. A massive 95% in the next 3 years – if Itsu don’t get here first.


One to look for ‘Cereal Killer Café’ – with 2 in London and 1 in Birmingham. There looking to expand the brand globally –



Chains are where the moneys at, get a concept, get a look, price it right as long as the food is perfect and you work like a cart horse = “this time next year, my son you could be a millionaire”!?!?

Or on the other hand depending on what google search you look at between 20-60% of restaurants fail in the first year.

By Zena Leech-Calton ©