There are approximately ten million sites talking about London restaurants, and the scene changes non-stop. You can check all the usual sites for listings – SquareMeal and OpenTable and TripAdvisor; and the usual range of vouchers are on TimeOut, Groupon and Bookatable. Secret London has an excellent overview of the capital’s best – top 5 recommendations for everything from cheap to French to late night to pizza.
Personally, I tend to just check Google Maps when I’m looking for restaurants in a new area 😉
- If you have exotic tastes – London covers pretty much every cuisine in the world. Name a cuisine and there’ll be a bunch of restaurants fighting for favour. That said – Indian food is particularly good in the UK.
- The famous Brick Lane is – IMO – overrated; pretty much all the restaurants there are same menu, same taste and same price – though at least they’re cheap.
- Dishoom has several branches around the centre, generally slightly more expensive, usually very busy – but worth the wait.
- Several michelin-starred Indians, which are correspondingly expensive – Gymkhana, Tamarind, Trishna, Benares
- Quirky food options and unusual restaurants abound, from underground toilets, to cereal-only cafes, to champagne call buttons or dine in the dark. TimeOut’s list of quirky restaurants covers many of this ever changing list.
- Don’t forget foodie markets and pop up street traders for grazing options. The Nudge’s list is pretty comprehensive
Personal favourites? Dean St Townhouse is my go-to; Hankies if I fancy Indian, and Zedel if I’m showing people London.
Did we mention that London loves to drink? Yes, pubs are everywhere, and are the centre of most social life: meet colleagues or friends after work and drink till kicking-out time around midnight. Pub kicking-out time, from 11 on, is correspondingly messy.
But – the pubs can be worth a visit, even if you don’t drink alcohol. Most have some food and tea/coffee options, and many are quite beautiful and historic – and quiet during the day time. And if you do drink – prepare yourself for a good time.
- Good list of 24 historic London pubs in this Telegraph article; or FreeToursByFoot has 11 historic pubs including a map.
- Secret London’s list covers the current favourite speakeasies and cocktail bars
- Looking for old school proper ale? CAMRA (campaign for real ale) created the ‘What Pub’ site – find pubs serving proper bitter by location, and you can search for features like ‘real fire’ or ‘pub games’
Personal favourite? Out of centre, but Battersea’s ‘Four Thieves’ is brilliant entertainment – it has crazy golf, a giant scalectrix raceway, escape room theatre, VR, comedy, its own gin distillery and brewery, and decent food. Worth a trip.
Food and Drink
However, as you’re in the UK, maybe you want to try out English cuisine. Oddly – or not – there aren’t many restaurants that specialize in this, other than the ubiquitous fish’n’chip shops.
- Fish and chips – yes, battered cod and thick fries. Just search for ‘chipper’ for a cheap and filling meal.
- Jellied eels and liquor. Much less famous, for good reason. However, boiled gelatinous eel with mashed potato and a green sauce, is a traditional London cockney dish. Search for ‘Pie and mash’ shops; there are still dozens around London, particularly in the East End / Greenwich.
- ‘Full English Breakfast’ is generally fried bacon, sausages and egg, sometimes with ‘pudding’ (blood and spices), ‘beans’ (in sweet tomato sauce) and other accompaniments. Ubiquitous, from cheap versions in “greasy spoon” cafes, to upmarket hipsterized versions.
- ‘Sunday Roast’ – available from most pubs on Sundays. Roast lamb, beef or chicken, usually with roast potatoes, peas and gravy, and washed down with a pint. Usually relatively cheap and nice; usually has vegetarian options.
- High tea – a lovely, if pricey, experience – typically £30-£50 for some sandwiches, cakes and tea, usually in lush surroundings – such as The Ritz.
- Drink-wise, London loves alcohol. Gin is a London tradition – and currently rejuvenating, with new gin distilleries popping up everywhere. “Bitter” and ale are equally traditional, and new craft beer breweries are likewise plentiful – try the Bermondsey Beer Mile to sample a fair range.