The city of London is a gigantic place making it one of the world’s Megacities and one of the most iconic places on the planet. London encompasses a staggering 32 boroughs and is filled with different people of different ethnicities, religions, beliefs, and ideologies truly making it a “world city”. London is the largest city in Western Europe and even remains to this day as a place of international business, fashion, music, politics, finance, and of course, food.
When I started traveling to London 35 years ago, the food was, to say the least, not too good. I would end up eating in pubs most of the time, but soon found out that pubs in London were not the “real” pubs of England. Then I started working for an English company and soon found that there seemed to be some sort of renaissance going on. The food started getting better. There were more choices than the typical pub fare or fish and chips.
Now, London has become a true foodie destination, with famous chefs that we all see on our televisions leading the way.
England might have had a sordid reputation in the past when it comes to the food culture but the truth is far from the bland and weird dishes people might associate with English food. London’s massively diverse population has made dining out in London an exercise in trying to pick out what you want to eat when you can have literally anything in the world. Like any massive city in the world, finding the right place can be a struggle but this list will help guide you to some of London’s best and most interesting restaurants.
For a mid-range restaurant, you’ll feel like you’re really dining somewhere special that will cost you way more than it actually does.
The Barbary brings the cuisine of North Africa and the Mediterranean middle-east to the plates of Londoners.
The Barbary has business booming every night at dinner time so make sure you either book ahead or show up as late as 5 if you’re looking for a seat. The restaurant advertises itself as “modern Israeli” but in reality is it anything but modern, showcasing classic Berber dishes and ancient recipes from North Africa. Indulge in some handmade and freshly made naan straight from the tandoor or grilled octopus and deep-fried moreish snacks.
Kiln brings amazing Thai and Asian-inspired dishes right to your plate straight from the chef’s hands. The little restaurant is characterized by its simple yet modern décor and by Chef Meedu Saad’s expertise. He’s such an expert in what he does that you can just sit there and watch him cook right in front of your eyes.
Simple ingredients like charcoal-fired chicken dusted with cumin or lamb skewers might seem simple but it’s the flavoring of chef Meedu’s dishes with things like mint and kefir that make everything stand out.
Not to be confused with the sport, Kricket is a buzzing and energetic SoHo restaurant that is making its way to the top of everyone’s must-eat-there list. The restaurant started as a simple little venue that operated out of a shipping container only a short time ago but now has a stylish and fun dining area that brings in young and hip guests.
The restaurant has two floors and prides itself on serving Indian-inspired dishes made from the finest British ingredients and because the menu is not supermassive, you can order and get your food in a matter of minutes. Enjoy dishes like cinnamon-spice venison keema or tandoori grouse and have a Hendrick’s Gin on the side.
Booking ahead of time with a group means you can usually skip the lineups outside though if you’re soloing it or with a partner try to get a stop at the bar where you can watch the cooks prepare your dish right in front of you.
While geographically far from Mexico, fans of Mexican cuisine will find themselves delighted by this affordable and delicious Mexican restaurant.
Sonora Taquería is in Hackney and brings some of the best tacos served in handmade tortillas by chef Michelle Salazar de la Rocha. Their niche is more specifically the beefy cuisine of the Sonora region but Sonora Taquería isn’t the most traditional spot offering options like adding a cheesy crust to your taco but that doesn’t mean the barbacoa tacos aren’t made with love and attention.
Pasta is a wonderful thing. On its own, noodles and pasta are not very complex or complicated but it’s what you do with them that makes it stand out. And that is where Padella comes in.
The simple pasta bar offers a wide and vast selection of pasta dishes with all shapes and sizes and different sauces and toppings. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Where Padella stands out from other run-of-the-mill Italian and pasta-centric restaurants is that their menu rotates on a daily basis.
The daily changing menu ranges from a few small options every day but the plates are large to keep you satisfied and the food is prepared right in front of you. Seats and tables are perched up above the kitchen area so you get a bit of a show before you get to eat. The restaurant has all glass and marble décor making the experience feel ultra-chic and the eight-hour braised beef shin ragu is out of this world.
Hill & Szrok
The simplicity of Hill & Szrok is truly what makes it stand out.
What started as a simple butcher shop is now one of Hackney’s quaintest stops for a quick bite to eat. Of course, since the mind’s behind Hill & Szrok are butchers, the cuts of meat you’ll get here elevate the dishes to higher standards.
Their juicy cheeseburgers are the perfect lunchtime feast for those caving a meaty delight in the afternoon and their meatball subs, pies and mash, and pigs head hotdogs bring simple dishes to a new level. Indulge in a double cheeseburger and a few chewy chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
There are few British traditions as important as the ubiquitous Sunday Roast.
A staple in the minds of every Brit, the Sunday Roast is a tradition that spans generations and people always have their favorite spots.
Marksman brings the tradition of the Sunday Roast to the modern age with new twists but still features the same delicious flavors a good roast has. Marksman’s is also not only for Sunday’s however, as the restaurant is still a great pub-restaurant type of place to come to at any day of the week and serves British gastropub dishes. But if you’re in town and you’re looking for a delicious and modern take on the Sunday Roast, Marksman is worth the trip.
Sushi Tetsu is one of those restaurants that is more about performance and experience rather than getting stuffed until you can’t move out of your chair.
Located in Clerkenwell, Sushi Tetsu might be one of the hardest places in the entire city to get a seat. The reason for that is that the restaurant only seats seven people.
Despite its tiny size, it is likely the absolute best sushi restaurant in London.
Having dinner here is for people who truly appreciate the finer art of sushi making from sushi masters. Owner and chef Toru Takahashi is a master and simply watching his knife skills cut fish and assembles pieces of sushi is also like watching ballet. Every movement is deliberate and refined from him doing it thousands of times.
Toru Takahashi’s wife Harumi provides hospitality for guests that are unparalleled in any other restaurant in London. If you can somehow get a seat here, it’s a sushi experience you won’t ever forget.
Dining at Game Bird is an experience that goes beyond the normal elegant dining.
Located in the illustrious Stafford building Game Bird serves old-school British food in a modern and elegant setting. The Stafford has been around since the 17th century. The original owner’s family served Queen Victoria, during the war it served as a club for Canadian and American officers and the wine cellar was used as a bomb shelter, and finally, the stable houses here once housed thoroughbreds for the nobility.
Now the restaurant here serves British comfort in a very classy and high-end setting. Think waiters in waistcoats serving vintage wines and seasonal game. Eating here will make you feel like you’re the Queen’s guests at a fancy estate while you dine on the freshest game and elaborate cocktails.
Delicious Vegan cuisine doesn’t have to be bland or boring and those looking for Vegan-friendly dishes will absolutely love Andu Cafe.
The Ethiopian cafe is super affordable and just as delicious.
The restaurant is a no-frills kind of place where it’s the food that is the star of the show. Slow-cooked stews filled with garlic, onions, and spices bring every dish to life. Pop-in on a cold fall or winter day and have a hearty plate of bean and lentil stew and injera on the side. You can practically smell the spices stewing from this restaurant from a block away.
A name this simple offers exactly that. Delicious steamed-bun simplicity. Located on Lexington Street, the ever-popular Bao often has lineups but it is easy to understand why. For under £10 you can get a couple of delicious and flavorful bao or other tasty things like Taiwanese fried chicken. They don’t take reservations but on the plus side, people come and go a lot so you won’t have to wait very long for a table.
Their lineup of steamed buns includes modern takes on the dishes as well as classics like braised pork belly and peanut powder. Bao has gotten so popular that they opened a second location in Fitzrovia which allows reservations and is more of a “sit-down” style restaurant rather than the street-food style of their SoHo location.
Smokestak doesn’t have a huge sign out front nor is there much indication that the restaurant is even here. Walking down the street you can probably smell Smokestak and see the smoke emanating from the restaurant. The restaurant is the brain-child of chef David Carter who has dedicated his cooking life to making some of the best barbecue outside of the U.S.
Enter the restaurant’s two heavy metal riveted doors and step into the industrial-chic atmosphere of Smokestak. Concrete walls, steel paneling, and large wood-planked tables give its industrial motif but the meat is the real star of the show here. Serving things like 15-hour smoked brisket, delicious pastrami, and generous portions of slow-cooked ribs make sure you come here hungry and ready to eat.
What was once a 1920s car showroom is now one of London’s best spots to eat and drink. The team behind The Wolseley kept the aesthetics of the original 1920s art deco foundation of the space and gave it a facelift so you can feel like you’re dining on modern delicious fare while eating in a century-old dining room. The space exudes glamour with gold and red trimmings and sleek leather banquettes.
The all-day brasserie is perfect for an afternoon lunch or after-work drinks but their breakfast and brunch is where they really shine with stacked pancakes, fluffy omelets, and even smoked haddock with creamy hollandaise.
Our Final Word
Despite old notions of English food being bland and boring, that is not the truth.
The type of food you can find in London is a large and diverse scene made possible by all the people from around the world that came to call London home and brought their native cuisine with them.
Whether you’re looking for vegan options or quick burgers, London has options for any discerning taste. And if you’re looking for a classic Sunday Roast or traditional English game, then there is plenty of that too served with modern twists. London continues to evolve and it’s food scene does as well. We still love to head to the midlands and go to a pub. Or have a fish and chips. But now, there are so many choices. London truly has become a foodie destination.
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