David Adamson finds a fully-formed neighbourhood spot

What: Papillon

Where: 31 Hope Street, L1 9BQ

Food/ Drink type: Brunch, lunch, cocktails, wine and dining

When: Mon - Fri: 11am - 11pm // Sat and Sun: 9am - 11pm

Independent or chain: Independent

2024 04 17 Papillon Exterior
Outside Papillon Image: Confidentials

Popping in somewhere for lunch can be a tricky business. Time is tight, menus err on the side of sensible, and once you've stepped through the doors it's hard to turn back. 

I was on Hope Street on Monday afternoon, the gowns of graduation day blowing fitfully in the strong breeze, and needed somewhere to pop into. Papillon appeared. Really I was just after a sandwich, but soon felt there could be more to this place than a good butty.

2024 04 17 Papillon Interior
Inside Papillon Image: Confidentials


The interior of Papillon is exactly my kind of thing; loose, laid-back and slightly freewheeling decoration - complete with the obligatory hanging plants. They've dressed up a room without gutting out the ghosts of what was here before - it has shades of a 70s cafe that's been hitting the books over lunch. 

It seems perfectly suited to cater to your appetites any time of the day: a brunch to slowly winch you from the depths of a sore head; a relaxed spot for long and winding lunches, or somewhere to go for cocktails, ready to make the same mistakes all over again. If I lived in the neighbourhood, I reckon this would be my place.

2024 04 17 Papillon Interior 4
Inside Papillon Image: Confidentials

The Main Event

I was deep into late lunch territory, where a banquet of breadiness or the prospect of a bowl of pasta is a little foolhardy. Something to help you sail through the afternoon is what's needed. With that in mind, I chose the beer battered fish finger sandwich with tartar sauce (£10). I know the words 'beer battered' might set those sails flagging a bit, but sod it. Mondays must be gotten through. 

I was expecting a reasonably hearty but largely straightforward fish finger sandwich, but what arrived was much more substantial, which, for a tenner, I'll never sniff at. 

A brioche bun arrived with a knife plunged into the middle, golden brown goujons spilling out of the sides and a liberal layer of tartar sauce visible. A butty of Arthurian proportions. When you tweak the individual components of something like a sandwich it does make all the difference. The addition of mushy peas wasn't essential for me, but I can see how that would tick an extra box for many. Add to that a pint of Camden Hells (£5.65) and I'd call that an ideal lunch.

2024 04 17 Papillon Fish Butty
Beer battered fish finger sandwich with tartar sauce Image: Confidentials

Judgement Day

Papillon hasn't reinvented the wheel here, just kept it spinning at a very pleasant pace. If I'd had more time on my hands and some dining company, I'd have gone full Fleet Street Long Lunch and tried a table of small plates - especially the duck and orange pâté - and at least a bottle of wine, which Papillon seems to know its way around (whites; viognier, sauvignons, rioja blanco, riesling and a South African. Reds; two Spanish numbers, a French malbec and amongst others a very enticing Portuguese tinto).

I wasn't expecting what I found in Papillon; a fully-formed neighbourhood spot, seemingly fleet-footed enough to deal with any time of day. I would love to return soon to a menu with a bit more bravery and sense of adventure, because when I next pop in it'll be for more than a butty. 

Papillon, 31 Hope St, L1 9BQ

2024 04 17 Papillon Interior 2
Papillon Image: Confidentials

Papillon is on Confidential Guides

Recommended by Confidential Guides

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.comand completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 8/10

    Beer battered fish finger sandwich with tartar sauce 8, double espresso 9

  • Service 4/5

    Always passing, the right side of friendly and fast.

  • Ambience 4.5/5

    Just my sort of place, and I imagine summer evenings are a sunlit joy.