The Essential London Dining Guide
Whether you're new to London, a seasoned local or visiting for the first time...this list has everything you need when it comes to eating all the things. My advice? Stop frequently for street art, hit up every single market you see (London has the street food thing down), go on a pub crawl, and avoid anyone who doesn't want to eat their way through the city. So here it is, my essential london dining guide.
This guide doesn't have every single place you should go whilst in London (trust me, the list would be way too long), but it does include all the places I'd go if I had a few days and all the calories in the world to indulge in.
BREAKFAST, BRUNCH, LUNCH + TEA
Whether you’re in the mood for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or simply all day & late night service, The Wolseley has got you covered. This traditional European-style restaurant is truly magnificent, and the service is on par as well. Whatever you need, both food and drink-wise, you can’t go wrong with The Wolseley. Needless to say, the only downside to a place like this is that it’s wildly popular, so make sure you make a reservation in advance if you’re keen to visit this grand café-restaurant.
If you’re a fan of full English breakfast as well as peculiar cockney accent, this is the place where you need to come. This old-school east London café is indeed old, as it was opened back in the 1900. It’s a café with plenty of history, and plenty of good, albeit a little heavy, English food. Beware of the strong tea, though. You can always order tea with milk, but everyone will know you’re an outsider!
Poppies Fish & Chips
You can’t come to London and not try fish and chips, it’s simply a sin. But not just any fish and chips. Poppies Fish and Chips serves fish that is freshly caught, and although this is a classic British dish, you will get all the extras you didn’t even know existed. Poppies is the perfect spot for a quick, yet quality London style supper. But it isn’t just fish and chips you can eat at Poppies. Except for the fish, they also serve chicken & savories, starters, side orders, puddings, beverages and they also have the kids menu.
If you’re a burger fan or simply feel like eating one while in London, there’s no better place than Bleecker Burger. The key to the exquisite taste lies in simplicity as well as quality of the ingredients. If you’re really hungry, though, we suggest you go for the double cheeseburger, you won’ regret it. Apart from that, if you want to try something really British, order the Bleecker Black which contains the famous black pudding, which is a type of blood sausage. They also serve craft beer, which goes perfectly with a burger.
While taking a break from your shopping spree through Shoreditch, an inner city district in the historic East End of London, stop by Rochelle Canteen for a lunch (or maybe dinner during the weekends). Rochelle Canteen is a real gem hidden away from the street noise in an old house which used to be a school canteen back in the day, hence the name. Unlike other school canteens, Rochelle Canteen serves a wide range of quality wines which will leave no one indifferent.
If you’ve come to London to feel like a royal, then Savoy Hotel should be your first choice. Savoy is the place where you can sip your afternoon tea at The Thames Foyer, maybe even buy a monocle and pretend you’re a British aristocrat. But in order to make this come true, you will have to book way in advance because, surprise surprise, you’re not the only tourist who wants to feel like a royal at this grand place.
OMG THIS PLACE! Where the heck do I begin because, honestly, I think about Borough Market a minimum of 3x a week. There is nothing I love more than a legit dining hall slash public market (basically, what I'm trying to say is I'm a huge fan of food courts...but trying to sound a tad more boujee) .There are a lot of good food markets in London, but in my opinion, Borough Market is probably among the best and the most popular. It may be the best market I have ever, ever, ever been to. At Borough Market you can find anything from fruits and veggies to gourmet food. Borough Market consists of more than 100 stalls selling fish, meat, cheeses, breads, coffees, ciders, cakes and much more. One of the reasons why Borough Market is so popular among Londoners is because the products are super fresh and there are no ‘bad apples’. Also, you cannot leave this place without having a minimum of three empanadas from the Porteña Empanadas. My favorites? The Cheese & Onion (OMG), Spinach & Feta and Ham & Cheese.
Maltby Street Market
This bustling place is perfect for tourists because here you can really experience the true London weekend day atmosphere. Locals gather here during the weekends to eat and shop, so if you’re in the mood to mingle, this is the place to be Saturdays and Sundays. Maltby Street Market is open Saturday 9am -4pm, and Sunday 11am - 4pm. Every Sunday, Lassco Ropewalk is full of artisan producers serving delicious local food. We recommend trying soup dumplings as well as scotch eggs, which are the local’s favorite.
Afternoon tea at Sketch is like having scones and clotted cream in an Alice In Wonderland themed spaceship. This massive space is made up of several rooms, each with somewhat different themes, and each slightly insane - in a good way. It may not sound like much, but having a tea at Sketch is probably going to be the highlight of your London visit. Sketch is a huge place where you can easily get lost at. It has multiple rooms, each decorated differently and used for a different purpose. If you’re not a tea person, Sketch also serves breakfast and brunch, but there also rooms for private dining, as well as 5 different restaurants and bars dubbed: The Gallery, The Lecture Room, The Parlour, The Glade, and The East Bar.And make sure you go to the bathroom while you’re there. That’s the best room in the building.
Duck & Waffle
Duck and Waffle is not for the faint of heart. If you’re afraid of heights, you should either skip Duck and Waffle or confront your fears because this restaurant is the highest restaurant in London. The view from the Heron Tower, where this restaurant is located, is absolutely breathtaking (perfect for the 'gram). Perhaps the best thing is that it is open 24/7...I mean, what could be better than that? Oh, yes, and unlike most touristy fancyish spots, the food here is more than good.
If you’re a fan of Chinese food and love football or soccer (depending on where you’re from) then Xi’an Impression will undoubtedly leave an impression on you. Xi’an Impression is the best Chinese restaurant in entire London, and interestingly enough, it is located right across the Emirates Stadium where London-based FC Arsenal plays. We suggest you try the delicious hand-pulled noodles, which are their specialty, or the famous Xi’an beef burger with special sauce. After lunch, you can cross the street to take a few photos next to the statue of some famous soccer player to earn you some likes on social media!
Real Taiwanese food in the middle of London! This bustling place is hard to get into but easy to get out of. But even once you’re in, people don’t usually stay too long. It’s definitely not one of those place where you sit for hours and sip your dink after you’ve had a meal. People literally wait in lines to get in, and as soon as you’re done you’ll feel that it’s time to hit the road. Bao is perfect for a late afternoon snack, preferably around 4pm, because that’s the time when you should be able to get a table rather quickly. As for the food itself, we promise you it is worth waiting for, if you’re a fan of Taiwanese food, that is.
When you find yourself in East London (and you will, one way or the other) you have to visit the Marksman. This is one of the finest gastropubs in the East End London, which makes it a perfect place for a rich Sunday lunch. Marksman was reopened in 2015 by chef owners Jon Rotheram and Tom Harris after a huge makeover. The atmosphere is light and airy, and the food is absolutely delicious. Thera are also rooms that can be reserved for private dining, in case you’re celebrating a birthday and would like a room for yourself, for example.
Hop at Hoppers if you hate making reservations and love curry. At Hoppers, you will find the best curry in the city, served in a crispy Shri Lankan pancake called hopper – hence the name. Location-wise, Hoppers is divided in two: the casual Soho experience and St Cristopher’s Place. Both place are great, but somehow we lean towards Soho in this case because Soho offers a more relaxed atmosphere. The place is almost always crowded so don’t be surprised if you’re waiting a bit too long for your order.
J Sheekey is the typical English restaurant. If you’re up for some high-quality dinner and expensive wine, J Sheekey is the place to go. This is the classic London restaurant, in every sense of the word, and every Londoner would recommend going there for a nice dinner. Even though it’s a classic restaurant, the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. The main specialty is fish and seafood, but if you don’t like eating those there are other menus as well. The waiters are helpful as well, so if you don’t know what to order they will gladly help you out.
If you know Panjabi MC - Mundian To Bach Ke then you need to experience the Punjabi restaurant (don’t ask for that song, though). Tayyabs is the old-school Punjabi restaurant in the East End London near Whitechapel, which is as close as you can get to the heart of this city. You can’t say you’ve been in London without visiting this part of the city! Having a meal at Tayyabs is not for the faint of heart, though. It’s crowded and people are fighting for their share of the lamb chops. But other than that, this place is a real thrill.
Homemade pasta, ravioli with herbs and goat cheese, slow cooked meat and affordable prices is what sets this place apart from the rest of London. And the fact that it’s located Borough Market, where you will end up one way or the other. When you do, don’t miss out on delicious homemade food at Padella! Even if you have to wait in lines, it will be all worth it. You have our word.
St. John Bar and Restaurant
Just like J Sheekey, St. John is also a classic-looking London restaurant which is known to practice ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking style which is a way of eating and cooking which means using every single part of an animal and therefore minimizing waste. St. John Bar and Restaurant is a typical British style restaurant that serves a lot of meat, but also fish, and everything from finger food to full meals and desserts. Thei house wine is great, so don’t forget to get a glass or two (or three) at the bar.
Taste the food of modern day Jerusalem in the heart of the Theatreland, at the restaurant called The Palomar. Their menu is heavily influenced by South Spanish and North African cuisine as well, which definitely sounds like a must-try. This place is fun and unpretentious, and everyone seems like they’re having the time of their life. You have to try the Israeli small plates, and with that friendly bartenders will offer you some shots which you can’t refuse. Maybe it’s because of the atmosphere or the food (or alcohol) either way this place is really something special.
Gunpowder is a strong name for a restaurant, and rightfully so. Every big city has its hidden gems, well, this is the hidden gem of London. Gunpowder is actually an Indian restaurant, located close to Brick Lane. At Gundpowder you can drink spicy Indian soup out of shot glasses, eat funny-looking meat doughnuts or taste the best tandoori lamb chops in London. This place isn’t big, though. It’s a home style Indian restaurant with great food and outstanding flavors.
If you like Spanish tapas bars or anything related to Spain, then you have to visit Barrafina. There are three Barrafinas in London, though. The original one is located on Soho’s Dean Street, the other two are on Drury Lane in Covent Garden and on Adelaide Street. Each of the three restaurants features an open kitchen, and a bar where customers can actually watch as the chefs work their magic. Their a la carte menu features authentic Spanish dishes, but they also have a special daily menu that is different in every restaurant. While you’re there, don’t miss out on Spanish sherries, pan con tomate and a glass of cava.
Ok, so be prepared that the first thing you're gonna notice about Dishoom is how busy the place is. Doesn't matter which location you head to, you’ll almost always find yourself in a line that may or may not wrap around the block (don't worry, they'll feed you the most incredible chai while you wait and speak to you in the most magical of accents). The flagship location took Covent Garden by storm in 2010, and won the hearts of Londers with it's fusion approach to Indian fare. The place is almost upscale with it's fancy and inventive cocktails, stunning decor, young crowds and bustling atmosphere. Don't let the wait intimidate ya...Dishoom is really a must.
Bocca di Lupo
You can’t for wrong with quality Italian food, so Bocca Di Lupo sounds like a pretty great choice. This classic Italian-style restaurant has it all: juicy grilled meat, fresh seafood, delicious pastas and good wine – what more could you ask for? This place if very popular, especially in the evenings, so make sure you make a reservation if you’ve decided you want to come here.
The Anchor & Hope
If you’re visiting London, it’s very likely you will be strolling along the Southbank. While you’re there, it would be a shame not go to The Anchor and Hope. The Anchor is situated somewhere between Southwark Underground Station and London Waterloo East. This is a classic gastropub as well as one of the oldest London pubs, which is why we recommend you give it a try. You will be absolutely blown away by their three hazelnut and cheese soufflé, chestnuts, pumpkin, and cream or with the slow roast porchetta, fennel, borlotti, rocket and thick yoghurt specialty!
Yeah, yeah.. you probably didn’t come to London to eat pizza, but every once in a while it’s either pizza or nothing. If you’re a hardcore pizza fan (I may or may not be talking about myself here) and you simply need a slice or two every once in a while, Homeslice won’t let you down. Even though London isn’t famous for its pizza, this Italian pizzeria has what it takes to satisfy even the fussiest of pizza eaters. Homeslice pizzas are thin-crusted, with various toppings. The pizzas vary from standard one like margherita, salami, rocket & parmesan to more exotic ones like mushroom, ricotta,, pickled carrots and celery, caramelised onions, kalamata olives & anchovy and chorizo, or corn & coriander one. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret it. Also, pizzas are huge so you can easily split one and you’ll still struggle with it. In case you don’t want to spend £20 on a pizza, you can buy one slice for £4.
Dum Biryani is the perfect spot for those of you who don’t want to spend a bunch of money but still want to enjoy traditional Indian cuisine. Oh, the fact that their playlist is chalk full of hiphop throwbacks doesn't hurt - listening to Tupac and Kanye while throwin' back the best Indian in town? Sign me up. Biryani is actually a staple dish consisting of mostly mixed rice and is served with almost every Indian dish. Interestingly, Dum Biryani specializes in making this dish the main one. We urge you to try vegetable biryani as well as chicken, and for those of you who prefer lamb, order lamb shank. If you find yourself here for lunch, you can order biryani for just £5.
You can’t say you’ve tasted London food until you’ve tasted Nando’s spicy chicken. Now I try to avoid chains when possible, but Nando’s chicken is so good you'll ditch the pricier joints and maybe even end up here a few more times before you have to leave London town. Trust me on this one, going to Nando's won't be a regret.
Sibarita is a relatively new Spanish cheese, cocktail and wine bar. As far as the food is concerned, they offer lamb chops, chicken and grilled fish, as well as daily specials and deserts. The list of dishes isn’t too long but the quality of the food is exceptional. If you want something lighter, though, you can order croquets or fried artichokes that go really well with their wine.
Craving sushi whilst in London? Lucky for you Yashin Sushi is known for serving up some of the best in town. Served in a trendy and sleek setting (they've got a killer neon sign...which is known to lure me in), rolls are topped with things like whiskey jelly, and truffles...so, whether you're a foodie or a hipster, you're sure to enjoy your unconventional sushi at Yashin.