London is a city that is infamous for its food scene. The foundations of this culinary haven are defined by the city’s cultural diversity. This is made evident by varying tastes and dishes on offer throughout the city.
From the large number of Indian immigrants that flocked to the UK in the 20th century to the growing African and Caribbean population that is choosing London as their home. The city has become a melting pot for great food and culture.
No matter where you are in the city you are never too far away from some serious eats. Several dishes are considered traditionally British, but as the years have gone by the dishes that have become associated with this metropolis have expanded in taste and flavor. Below we have curated several must-try dishes when visiting.
A Proper Sunday Roast
A Sunday roast is a tradition in the UK and you would be alas to visit London without experiencing a roast. Dating back to the 1500s the Sunday roast is a time when people get together with friends and family to dine with some proper eats. If you’re keen to learn more about the origins of it, be sure to check out this article on TheSpruceEats. It’s extremely detailed but well worth a read.
A roast usually consists of meat (traditionally beef, chicken, or pork. Some roasted veggies, multiple variants of potatoes, and the icing on top… Yorkshire puddings with gravy. It’s a traditional meal that is the perfect soakage from a boozy Saturday night.
The best place to get a roast is in a pub and while a lot of our recommendations do include eating and drinking in pubs it’s because the standard of food served in these watering holes is usually quite high. So be sure to check out this British staple.
An Indian Curry
London and the UK, in general, have a large Indian population and they have become a fantastic part of the UK population. With them, they brought the spices and flavors from their wonderful country and an “Indian curry” is a bucket food item.
Brick Lane is synonymous with the Bengali Indian community, so there is no better place to sample a legit Indian curry than here. The area of Brick lane where most of the Indian restaurants are located is aptly known as the “Curry Mile” so you’ll be spoiled for choice.
A trip to the capital isn’t complete without experiencing afternoon tea. It is an experience and tradition that is embedded in British culture. Although it’s not necessarily something most Britians would regularly do, Afternoon tea takes you back to a grander time and makes you feel like you’re sitting in Kensington Palace with Royalty.
Typical afternoon tea consists of a selection of sandwiches with fillings such as Salmon, egg + crest, and crab. This multi-layer platter also contains a layer of scones with the obligatory creams and jam selection, a layer of Buns, cakes, and biscuits are typically served as well. Of course, Afternoon tea isn’t finished without a piping hot pot of earl grey tea.
A Scotch egg and a Pint
This little treat is typically served in pubs as a snack, but over recent years the snack has begun to make it on more and more restaurant menus. It’s a pretty simple dish which is a hard or soft boiled egg covered in sausage meat and batter which is then either deep-fried or baked. We advise that you try this dish when in a pub and to combine the scotch egg with a pint of bitter (beer)
Fish and Chips
Although not located by the sea, this dish is synonymous with London and you’re sure to find some great traditional Fish and Chips throughout the city. Widely considered the national dish of the UK, it is a must-try when visiting the capital.
Typically a white fish (Haddock or cod) this deliciously flaky fish is covered in batter and fried until crispy and golden. Accompanied by the succulent fish are some perfectly cooked chips and mushy peas. This cheeky meal is a must-try when you are visiting London.
Choosing a restaurant to go to can be a really difficult decision. Especially in a city with such variety and quality. So, we at InspoVacay have compiled a complete guide to restaurants to visit in London. For some of our recommendations below you may be expected to queue as there is no booking option, but trust us. If we included it on the list below it’s because we believe the place is queue worthy.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Every city food guide should include at least one top-quality steakhouse and Hawksmoor perfectly fits this bill.
Speaking of the bill, this restaurant is a pricier choice, but trust us it’s worth a visit. When you picture a steakhouse you typically think of dark wood, leather seats, and dark lighting. When you walk into the Hawksmoor you will be met with all of these assumptions. It is the quintessential steakhouse and it delivers on its tradition.
The making of a steakhouse is the quality of the meats that they purvey and here you will not be disappointed with what is on offer. Prime cuts of steaks, beautifully seasoned and cooked. If you plan on having one blow out night in London. This is the place for you meat lovers out there.
This Taiwanese joint serves up some exquisitely steamed buns with some traditional and unique fillings. Like a lot of restaurants on our food guide you can be expected to queue to get a place at Bao, so be prepared to wait for a little. The good thing about BAO is that the chefs are extremely quick at churning out these delicious dishes, so the wait will never be too long.
Some of our favorite menu items are the duck confit Bao which consists of fatty and tender duck with a hoisin type sauce and finished off with some crispy shallots. The textures and flavors pack a punch. This is a must-order when visiting BAO. Another favorite of ours is the fried chicken bao. What more needs to be said about that.
This Spanish tapas restaurant brings you to Spain and back in the time it takes to devour the top quality tapas on offer. Rated by TimeOut as the 4th best restaurant in London. This Michelin starred restaurant serves up some fantastic food. The bustling atmosphere in the restaurant goes against the script of a lot of Michelin restaurants. Its almost like you are in the side streets of Barcelona. There is a casual sense to the dining with counter-style seating, so its a very welcoming place.
Considering the hype you should expect to queue for a seat if you don’t have a booking. When we visited a few Summers ago the thing that struck us the most was how courteous the staff were and their commitment to delivering a wonderful experience. We never felt rushed and although there was a significant queue outside we sat and soaked up the atmosphere for a good two hours.
Best Comfort Food
Comfort food is any type of food that warms the cockles. This can be southern BBQ to a warming stew. Several restaurants throughout the city deliver some fantastic comfort food.
To us, at InspoVacay there is nothing more comforting than the authentic taste of the great American outdoors. With multiple locations throughout the city, Bodeans is the place for southern comfort food in London. From pulled pork to baby back ribs there is every comfort food item on offer in this joint. The best time to dine at Bodeans is on Sundays where there are always specials on food and drinks.
Serving up traditional Philly cheesesteaks this dive bar is a great place for some grub. It’s also a great place to pull a stool and to drink the night away. This American joint has US sports on the telly 24/7 and blares out rock music to give that dive bar feel. The food here is surprisingly good and is a solid reflection of the stereotypical US food scene of wings and cheesesteaks. When we visited we went a bit off the playbook and ordered chicken parm and it did not disappoint.
Grab a slice
HomeSlice Neal’s Yard
Located in Covent Garden and the picturesque alleyway of Neals Yard, this Pizza spot comes with a reputation as one of the best slices in the city. These woodfired pizzas come either by the slice or a 20-inch pie.
If you’re sharing we recommend that you go for the 20-inch pie and split the toppings 50/50 to get a taste of two of the flavor combinations. The full pies feed between 2-3 people depending on the hunger levels of the diners, but with pizzas available by the slice. You can always order more. Our recommendation is the dairy 4 cheese with jalapeno salsa and rye crumb. Perfect for the cheese lovers out there.
Santa Maria Pizzeria
Although the original location is a little bit outside of the city. We couldn’t omit this pizza place in our food guide to London. The pizza on offer here whisks you off to the cobbled streets of Naples with an authentic taste of southern Italy. The owners are from Napoli, so you know this place is legit. Pasquale, one of the owners was working when we visited the original Ealing location and was extremely hospitable.
To judge a pizza restaurant you should look no further than the quality of the margarita pizza they put out and you won’t be disappointed with their take in Santa Maria. The perfectly prepared dough is coupled with simple and fresh ingredients to produce the perfect pizza.
Fancy a Burger
Burgers and chips (fries for you North American’s) are a staple in any notable food city and London doesn’t disappoint on this staple with a wealth of choice in top quality burger establishments. No matter where you are in the city you’ll never be too far away from one of these spots listed below. You can thank us after.
Patty & Bun
This place has Instagram food porn written all over it. Known for the incredible beef patties and construction of some truly decadent eats. Patty and Bun are one of InspoVacays top spots visiting London. This burger joint does the unthinkable and delivers on not just beef burgers, but also produces some of the best boneless chicken thighs on the market.
Did we mention that they also have an extensive Vegan offering? What’s not to like about this place. With three locations throughout the city, you’re never too far away from a feast of a meal that will leave your calorie count for well over 3,000 calories, but heck goes enjoy yourself. Make sure you try hand-cut chips. It’s served with chicken skin salt and a roast chicken mayo.
Dip & Flip
If you’re in the southwest of London and specifically the area made famous by a tennis tournament that takes place every Summer. Be sure to check out Dip & Flip. This place serves up a rather unusual combination of beef burgers with slides of roast beef or lamb on top with a side of gravy. A word of warning though, be sure to bring a spare t-shirt with you as this is one of the messiest burgers around. Although it’s not a traditional burger it is a unique burger and for that, it warrants a place on our guide.
Opened in 2011 and with locations throughout England, Honest Burger has become a serious player in the London burger market since the burger revolution started in the early 2010s. Earning some of the most consistent reviews throughout their numerous locations this spot is our top recommendation to grab a burger when you’re in London.
Their trademark honest burger is highly recommended and is a simple burger that is perfectly executed. The burger is essentially a bacon cheeseburger with sweet relish, lettuce, pickles, a mild cheddar, and top with some crispy bacon to top it off. A unique thing that isn’t found in most burger restaurants these days is that at Honest Burger they ask you how you would like your burger cooked.
Another one that’s in contention for producing one of the best burgers in the city. Meat Liquor is a burger lover’s paradise. With several locations in London and throughout the UK, this one-time hidden gem has blossomed into one of the better-known burger chains in the city. Usually, we are not big on featuring chain restaurants in our food guides, but we have had no complaints when we visited any of their London locations, but please bear in mind that we have only really sampled these locations after a few drinks.
Their signature burger is the “Dead Hippie” which combines two mustard fried beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and the delicious “Dead Hippie” sauce. Also on offer is an extensive chicken menu and some of the best-topped fries in the city. If you are looking for a slap-up burger and fries, this is the place for you.
This is a restaurant that you can expect to queue for. It serves some top quality dumplings at a reasonable price, so you can understand the demand for these juicy little things. Their signature dish is the Pork Pan Fried Soup Dumplings. These small little balls of goodness have perfectly golden on the bottom with soft and chewy dough.
This Malaysian restaurant is known to have a cult following. Hidden away in a basement just off Euston station this spot serves up some of the best roti canai and Kari Laksa in London. This is another one of London’s best cheap eats and is a great spot to get your fix of authentic Malaysian food. Be warned, there will be a queue outside and up the stairs, once everything is back to normal. So you will probably have to wait a while, but it’s worth it.
Ramen is one of the top food trends on the food scene today and as this delicious dish grows in popularity. The demand for ramen spots continues to grow. Be prepared to have to queue to get a spot in Bone Daddies in our favored Soho location. This location has an intimate and lively atmosphere with rock tunes pumping and a bustling vibe that matches its Soho surroundings.
The key to good ramen lies in the broth. If you can produce a strong broth you’re halfway there. Bone daddies manage to deliver on producing a rich and silky broth based on the Tonkotsu ramen that we sampled. The Korean style fried wings also pack a punch.
Where to grab a traditional Sunday Roast
No picture does better justice at whetting the appetite than the picture of the Blacklock offering that is featured above. This award-winning chophouse serves up a Sunday roast that we consider to be the best in the city. As described on their site “their roast is almost as good as Mum’s” and we find it hard to disagree. Its Soho location is in the basement of an old brothel and it oozes charm and character. Serving a choice of 55-day aged beef rump, Cornish lamb leg to Middlewhite Pork loin the perfectly tender meats are served with the trimmings of duck fat potatoes, seasonal veg, Blacklock gravy, and some fluffy Yorkshire puddings. The Blacklock is on another level when it comes to their Sunday roast.
One of our favorite things about this spot is their non-existent happy hour. Although this is something we at InspoVacay aren’t typically happy about. The good news is that they offer cocktails for five every day. So no gimmicks or a special promotion just wonderfully crafted cocktails for the price of a return tube ticket.
Located in the boujee area of Regent Street. Parlour is the perfect place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This unpretentious restaurant serves up some really good British classics such as a pork pie starter “Desperate Dan’s cow pie” that is perfectly executed. The paired back breakfast menu offers all of the typical brunch menu items such as smashed avocado, the full English, and a fried egg and bacon wrap to name a few. The highlight for us is the “Back Door Smoked Salmon and Soda bread” which is simple yet delicious. Combine that with Mimosa and you’re off to the races.
Burnt Toast Cafe
This Aussie run restaurant serves up all the typical brunch menu items at a very reasonable cost. The pancakes with bacon and syrup was an absolute treat and are a must-try. Located in Brixton village, Burnt toast is the perfect spot to grab some brunch and head for a morning stroll around this super trendy area. There are food stalls, quaint shops, and several murals throughout Brixton village and the area just oozes its culture and diversity.
The Barge House
Located in East London, a trip to this beautifully located restaurant is not complete without trying their signature dish of “Breakfast and Bread”. It comprises a sourdough roll that has been hollowed out and is filled with your choice of breakfast treats. We went for the original which is filled with sausage, smoked bacon, roasted tomato, leeks, mushrooms, spinach, cheese and topped with a fried egg. It was top quality. Each of the Breakfast and bread options costs £14, but they are some serious feeds.
The Barge House is situated next to a picturesque canal that is worth a visit on its own. In the area, there are several artisan shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, so it is a great place to soak up the morning atmosphere.
What would any food guide to a city be if we didn’t throw in a few recommendations for places to grab a drink after you have sampled some of the fine foods on offer from the establishments above.
Gordons Wine Bar
Located on the Thames and opened in 1819 it’s London’s oldest Wine bar. The vibe in here and its outdoor seating area is something else and is considered one of the best wine bar in the city.
During the second world war the bar was used as a bomb shelter. The place is steeped with history. They only serve wine and cheese, but what more would anyone want. If you can try to get a seat in the wine cellar, it’s an intimate space and the perfect spot to enjoy some vino.
Shrub and Shutter
Located in trendy Brixton. This place is rated as the best bar in Brixton by TimeOut so you know it has some serious chops. Opened in 2014, Shrub and Shutter offers some of the best presented and tasting cocktails out there.
If you like your liquor try the Good Will hunting cocktail. It’s smoky and delicious and is the epitome of a strong cocktail. As with any trendy area, these types of high-quality spots are super busy, so be sure to book ahead.
You won’t find any cocktails here, but the Harp located in Covent Garden serves up an array of beautiful beers. Known as of the narrowest pubs in London this pub has a great traditional aesthetic. With its stained glass, bustling atmosphere, and local clientele, this is the perfect place to experience a true London pub.
London is a gastro city and one that must be visited to really be appreciated. It has an awful lot on offer. For a complete overview of what London has on offer be sure to check out our article here. If you haven’t been there before, make sure you get there once international travel becomes a thing again. Your taste buds will thank us.