Test Driving Donia - the best of British produce with Filipino flair in Carnaby

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonThe buzzy dining room at Donia in Carnaby

What do we need to know about Donia?

This is the latest opening from boutique Filipino-led restaurant group Maginhawa who are also behind places like Panadera, Mamasons, Bintang and Guanabana. The duo responsible are Omar Shah and Florence Mae Maglanoc with Florence Mae taking the steer on this particular project.

Where is it?

You'll find it up on the top floor of Kingly Court, having taken over the old Imad's Syrian Kitchen space (which has itself moved elsewhere in Kingly Court). It's a large bustling dining room with most tables arranged around a central banquette. The nearest tube would be Oxford Circus.

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonLook for Donia up on the top floor of Kingly Court

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

You're spoilt for choice in and around Carnaby. Easy places to pop in for a glass of wine include nearby Bar Crispin or Antidote while Nightjar's a reliably good place for a cocktail.

So what kind of food are we talking?

Think Filipino dishes made using the best of British produce. Maglanoc says she's taken inspiration from childhood dishes and given them some European flourishes. That approach proves to be particularly successful here at Donia with a menu that was so enticing we honestly had serious problems deciding what not to have. Here's what we had to give you an idea.

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonCarlingford oysters with chive oil and guava granita (£11 for three) - we've had our fair share of oysters in London over the past year but this particular treatment with the always-amazing Carlingford oysters was memorably good.

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonSea bream kinilaw (£11) - kinilaw sees Filipinos marinating raw fish with citrus and vinegar for an alternative to ceviche. 

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonPrawn and pork dumplings (£14) topped with crab cooked in a brown butter lime sauce with a dash of chilli oil. These are comfort food in a bowl. If you've been having a bad day, come down and order a load of these and you'll immediately feel better. 

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonPork belly Léchon-style (£22) served with a liver peppercorn sauce which takes inspiration from the popular Filipino condiment Mang Tomas sauce that's usually served with lechon (roast suckling pig). As lechon is normally something you'd need a crowd of you to order, this makes the dish easier to serve as a single portion. 

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonChicken Inasal (£21/£39) marinated in a secret house sauce then grilled over coals and served with a butter emulsion. If you're a fan of grilled chicken and looking for a new hit, then this is what to order.

Things we didn't have room for, but watching them arrive on other tables giving us serious FOMO, were the pandesal rolls to start and the aged ribeye with beef jus and pickled shallots which the folks at the neighbouring table told us was the best steak they'd ever had.

What's on the menu for vegetarians or vegans?

The adobo mushroom croquettes are already getting a lot of praise on social as is the vegetarian main of aubergine and tomato ensalada with Pommes Anna.

Room for dessert?

You'll be letting yourself down if you don't save room because, in addition to this amazing dessert below there's also the corn tart which sounded amazing.

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonUbe choux (£11) - choux bun filled with a ube praline, coconut chantilly and ube cream. There's a reason it won Best Dessert in the Hot Dinners Awards 2023 - we'd go back for this in a heartbeat.

What about the drinks list?

The wine list is, we thought, pretty punchy for a Carnaby restaurant with only two options under £50 in red and white and several bottles on a short list running to over £100. There's not much by the glass either, but maybe that'll be expanded over the coming months.

Cocktails are most enticing. There's a good mix of hard and soft options for cocktails (if you're already thinking ahead to Dry January). Most start with a classic cocktail base and add Filipino elements.

donia restaurant review kingly court carnaby londonPlum was a Negroni-style cocktail with umeshu, Campari, mezcal and vermouth while the Pipino featured cucumber, gin, sesame, lime and coconut and comes highly recommended (both were £12).

Overall thoughts:

If it's not already clear, we loved our dinner at Donia. Not only would we want to go back and have pretty much everything we ordered a second time, but we are also desperate to try everything on the menu we didn't manage to have. This is food made with heart and thoughtfully executed and a definite jewel in Kingly Court's crown.


More about Donia

Where is it? 2.5, Top Floor, Kingly Ct, Carnaby St, London W1B 5PW

Find out more: Follow them on Instagram @donia.restaurant

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Donia. Prices correct at time of publication.


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