The Ultimate Foodie Guide to London
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
I am a massive foodie, so no trip to a foreign country is complete without sampling the local flavours, be it in a fancy restaurant or just hanging out in a cafe and soaking up the atmosphere with a cup of coffee and some cake. Picking a place to go to though is often a struggle as I don't know whether a restaurant is good just by walking past. And there are so many places to eat in London that it can get super overwhelming for a visitor. So I've decided to draw on my local knowlegde and put together a foodie guide to London for similar-minded travellers who want some awesome culinary experiences during their visit to this vibrant city. Without further ado, here are my 22 best places to eat in London that I've personally tried and tested over the years of living here, divided into categories.
For British food:
If you are in the UK, you probably want to try some British food and Darwin describes itself as 'inspired by the best of British'. Fish and chips, steak & kidney pie and butternut squash soup are some of the traditional things you will find here. Everything I tried was delicious, from starter to dessert.
However, the main selling point of Darwin is not actually the food, but the stunning views - it is one of several restaurants located in the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building (20 Fenchurch Street) and, in my opinion, is the best of them - away from the noise and the crowds of the lower bar area, but at the same time with better views and more affordable prices than the more upmarket Fenchurch restaurant located above it.
Check out the menu and book a table here: https://skygarden.london/restaurants/darwin-brasserie/
Toby Carvery is a chain of restaurants that does fantastic Sunday roast (which incidentally you can have any day of the week, not just on Sunday). They are a bit tricky to get to because the London locations are all on the outskirts, but if you do happen to be heading somewhere like Bexleyheath or South Croydon, make sure you stop off at a Toby Carvery for lunch or dinner.
You order your meat at the carvery stand and you can choose from four types of meat - gammon, turkey, beef and pork. You don't have to pick just one, you can have a couple or a bit of all of them. Once you get your plate with the meat and a yorkshire pudding, you can move on to sides and sauces stands which run on a buffet self-serve approach with unlimited refills. I've never had to go for a refill though - I mostly struggle to finish what I've got after the first round!
Price-wise, Toby Carvery is super affordable and you are looking at less than £10 for a brilliant quality roast meal - best I've had!
Find your closest carvery and book a table here: https://www.tobycarvery.co.uk/
For international food:
I don't think you should focus just on British food during your visit to the UK, especially in a city like London. Instead, use this chance to immerse yourself in this melting pot of international cuisine as there are some fantastic restaurants here that you must try.
Herman ze German
If you've got a hankering for some good old German currywurst (chopped sausage with curry sauce and fries), head to Herman ze German. They've got three locations in Central London from the tiny and almost street-food-like stall in Charing Cross (great for a quick bite, but seating very limited and you can't book a table - if the weather is good, I would advise taking your currywurst to the nearby park to eat) to the bigger restaurants in Soho and Fitzrovia.
You can choose between a few different sausage types (including vegan) and define how spicy you want your sauce to be. The fries (or chips as we call them in the UK) are rather special here, they are air-dried, which gives them a distinctive texture and makes them less fatty. While you're there, make sure you also try Fritz-Kola - a soft drink made in Germany.
Since Herman ze German is a fast food restaurant, the prices are very wallet-friendly - you are looking at under £10 for a currywurst with fries.
Check out the menu and book a table here: http://www.hermanzegerman.com/home/4584726816
If on your visit to London you are in the mood for sharing small platters of Spanish tapas, you can choose from four Iberica restaurants - Marylebone, Canary Wharf, Farringdon and Victoria. I've been to Farringdon and Victoria and enjoyed my meals in both. The food is great quality and, unlike the extremely popular tapas bar Barrafina, which doesn't take reservations, you don't have to queue for ages here to get a table. Quite frankly, I am of the opinion that if I have to queue outside in the cold to get in, however good the food may be, it's just not worth it!
Iberica has a nice selection of jamon iberico, some great cheeses and a solid menu of tapas to cater to different tastes. The must-haves for me are the fried squid with aioli sauce, ham croquettes and garlic prawns. Prices differ depending on the tapas you go for but start as low as £4. I would recommend going for at least two tapas per person.
Check out the menu and book a table here: https://www.ibericarestaurants.com/
This Japanese restaurant specialises in okonomi-yaki - a street food from Osaka. It's a savoury pancake made from a base of cabbage, egg and dough and a choice of other ingredients made on a hot plate in front of you. Abeno Too is a small restaurant located a short walk away from Leicester Square station and it doesn't take reservations, so arriving early is advisable as it tends to get full quite quickly. If you prefer to book in advance, you can go to the sister restaurant called Abeno in Bloomsbury, but I always end up in Abeno Too.
If there's just two of you, you will be positioned along a 'U' shaped bar rather than get a separate table, so you will be able to see the food being cooked for other people as well as yourself. Groups of four are likely to be seated at a separate table. Please be aware that it gets quite warm inside and the clothes will absorb some of the cooking smells - so this is definitely more of a jeans and T-shirt place rather than one for dressing up nicely.
There are lots of different okonomi-yaki options, but my favourite is the Tokyo Mix with pork, squid and prawn. Once the food is ready, the cook will offer a selection of sauces and toppings to go on the pancake and I always follow here advice - the fish flakes are delicious! Price-wise the regular size okonomi-yakis are between £10 and £20, with larger sizes a couple of pounds more expensive.
Check out the menu and book a table (only at Abeno, not Abeno Too) here: http://www.abeno.co.uk/
Update: please note Abeno Too has now closed (I am absolutely gutted!), but you can still enjoy okonomi-yaki at the main Abeno restaurant.
Fire & Stone
If you love pizza and going crazy with the toppings, then Fire & Stone is the place to be. Located in Covent Garden, Fire & Stone is known for its creative topping combinations. Pizzas are given city names and Marrakech, for example, comes with minces lamb, lemon, Greek yoghurt, hummus and pomegranate. Or you could go for Peking - with shredded duck, mozzarella, hoisin sauce, spring onions and cucumber. Pizza prices are around the £10-£15 area, so it's certainly an affordable option.
The restaurant is in a modern basement space with open piping and bare walls, so it tends to get very loud - I wouldn't come here for heartfelt conversations. But then again the level of noise is a problem in many British pubs and restaurants, so it's nothing new.
Check out the menu and book a table here: https://www.fireandstone.com/
Daquise is a Polish restaurant located right next to South Kensington tube station which has been there since 1947. And here's an interesting fact - the Polish president in exile used Daquise as his headquarters while planning to overthrow the communist regime!
The food here is hearty and delicious - some of my favourites are marinated salmon with potato pancakes, red borscht (a red-coloured soup with beetroot), and dumplings stuffed with fresh strawberry. The service experience is quite different from what you're used to as some if not all of the dishes get deposited on your plate from a pot or a sizzling pan in front of you.
Prices are not bad at all for Kensington - the most expensive main is £22.
Check out the menu and book a table here: http://daquise.co.uk/
Mi Cocina Es Tuya
If you are prepared to look beyond Central London for your food options, Crystal Palace in zone 3 is a paradise for small independent cafes and restaurants. I will be featuring a few of them on this list and Mi Cocina Es Tuya, a tiny Venezuelan restaurant is one of them.
It offers dishes cooked with traditional family recipes and is my go-to for arepas (Venezuelan corn bread, served hot), cachapas (corn pancakes), churros with chocolate and torta tres leches (three milk cake). They also do some fabulous fruit juices, of which I struggle to pick a favourite, and a hot drink called chicha (made from rice and milk and flavoured with cinnamon). Prices are very appealing since you're outside of Central London - with the most expensive main (oxtail) coming up to just £14.
Please note Mi Cocina Es Tuya is only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday, the rest of the week it is a breakfast/lunch destination. For exact opening times, menus and reservations, have a look at their website here: http://www.micocinaestuya.co.uk/
Another one of the independent gems in Crystal Palace is a Turkish restaurant called Dem. The restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can see how the skewers and the bread are prepared while you wait.
The food is not only delicious but also abundant. Even before you get your food, there is a massive grilled bread/veg welcome treat on the house, so unless you have a bottomless stomach, you are likely to be leaving Dem with a doggy bag. My personal favourites here include sigara boregi (sigar-shaped filo pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley) and ali nazik (lamb with aubergine puree, yoghurt and garlic). Finish up your meal with a cup of Turkish tea or coffee and perhaps a sneaky baklava if you're not absolutely full yet...
Takeaway is also available! Check out the menu and book a table here: https://www.demrestaurant.co.uk/
Heliot Steak House
I was not expecting to find a great steak restaurant in a Leicester Square casino, but find it I did! Heliot is a steak restaurant located inside the Hippodrome casino, a beautiful early 20th century building. It's quite an unusual venue - you have to walk through the casino to get to the restaurant, which is located on a balcony above - a pretty cool setting!
Heliot restaurant serves 28 day aged USDA prime steak and it has got to be the best steak I have ever had - tender and succulent and complimented nicely by the sauce and chips. My personal recommendation would be to go for the fillet and have it cooked medium rare to fully appreciate the flavour.
Prices are affordable for a Central London restaurant and great value for the quality that you get (you are looking at just over £20 for a small fillet steak - sides cost extra).
Check out the menu and book a table here: https://www.hippodromecasino.com/restaurant-bars-lounges/
For street food:
Borough Market is a large food market located by the London Bridge station. It's is London's oldest food market and so is quite iconic and unfortunately a victim of its own fame. A Saturday visit means crowds so think you will struggle to get through, massive queues and no space to consume the yummy food you purchased. However, if you don't mind the crowds, it's a super interesting place to add to your list of London sights.
Borough Market is open Monday to Saturday, but the beginning of the week is called 'limited trading', meaning not all the stalls are open. The market has both produce stands, with fruit, veg, cheese etc. and meal stands where you can grab a hot meal or a juice on the go.
Borough Market has a dedicated website, with opening hours, a list of traders, a market map and any special events, so plan your visit here: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/
Southbank Centre Food Market
Southbank Centre Food Market is a small food market located behind the Royal Festival Hall on the south bank of the river Thames. It's open on weekends and bank holiday Mondays and is a lot less crowded that Borough Market (at least it was during the times I visited).
Also unlike Borough Market, the market at Southbank is focused on the meals, so don't come here expecting to stock up on some fruit and veg for the week ahead. What you will find here is things like coffee, curry, cakes, burgers and pad thai. Lots of yummy-looking options to consume at one of the market tables or take it to a bench overlooking the Thames! If you're not bothered about it not being as iconic as Borough Market, I would actually recommend to pick this food market to avoid the crowds.
Check out the Southbank Centre market page here: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/visit/cafes-restaurants-bars/scfood-market
For fine cuisine:
You can't write a foodie guide to London and not mention fine dining. As a matter of fact, London has over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants and Texture is one of them. It's a modern European restaurant headed by an Icelandic chef and located in the posh area of Marylebone in Central London. This is a trendy special occasion kind of place, so you will feel better dressed to the nines.
The food has a Scandinavian influence with ingredients sourced from Britain and Iceland and the goal is to create light and healthy food. To enjoy as much of Texture's Michelin-starred glory as possible, I would highly recommend going for one of the tasting menus. We went for the fish tasting menu and everything was beautifully presented and delicious. Since it was a birthday celebration, they also brought our an extra course for dessert, which was a lovely gesture.
The prices reflect the Michelin-star status (£89 per person for the fish tasting menu), but if budget allows, Texture is certainly worth the money.
Check out the menu and book a table here: http://www.texturerestaurantgroup.co.uk/
Update: Unfortunately, Texture restaurant will not be reopening after Covid lockdown and is now permanently closed.
Gastronhome is a tiny French restaurant located in Clapham (walking distance from Clapham Junction train station). It's a bit of a surprising location for a fine dining restaurant as it's not particularly upmarket and there is nothing similar nearby, but don't let that put you off - it just means there is a more relaxed atmosphere and the prices are lower than comparable quality in Central London.
Gastronhome gets smashing reviews on Tripadvisor and not undeservedly - the food is fantastic! The style, as described by the restaurant, is traditional French cuisine with a modern touch. My recommendation would be to go for the five-course tasting menu (£59 per person) - you won't know what you'll get in advance, but it will be something from the a la carte menu and you can state your dislikes should there be anything you particularly want to avoid. Everything we had was beautifully presented and delicious.
Check out the menu and book a table here: http://gastronhome.co.uk/
Update: Unfortunately, Gastronhome restaurant will not be reopening after Covid lockdown and is now permanently closed.
For afternoon tea:
The Landmark Hotel
If you are coming to the London, then going for an afternoon tea (sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of cakes accompanied by - you guessed it - tea) is a must, and if you want to make it super classy and upmarket, the Landmark hotel in Marylebone is a fantastic choice. The afternoon teas take place in the Winter Garden, a stunning airy glass-roofed area in the centre of the hotel with plants and palm trees.
Just like the Winter Garden, the food and drinks selection for the afternoon tea here is excuisite and beautifully presented. But it comes at a price - you are looking at £45+ per person depending on the option you go for (with or without champagne). I do think that the experience is totally worth it though! It's certainly the most beautiful afternoon tea location I've been to!
Check out the opening times and book a table here: https://www.landmarklondon.co.uk/dining/high-palms-high-tea/
For a traditional afternoon tea experience with a twist, try B Bakery (or Brigit's Bakery). It's a cafe in Covent Garden with some mighty fine cakes and you can book a table in the cafe and enjoy your afternoon tea here, or you can do something more adventurous and go for an afternoon tea in a typical red Routemaster double decker bus - so you can sip your tea and munch your scones all while taking in the sights of London. It's more expensive than having your afternoon tea in the cafe (over £50 per adult), but it's understandable given the fun factor and the petrol and maintenance required for the buses.
The starting point of the tour can either be Victoria or off Trafalgar Square, depending on the time you go for and there is a recorded commentary to fill you in on the details of what you're seeing. One thing to note is that there is no toilet on the bus, so make sure you use the facilities before getting on board.
If a bus doesn't sound fun, B Bakery is also running a few afternoon tea boat tours in the summer departing from Butler's Wharf.
Look at the options available and book a table here: https://b-bakery.com/
The National Gallery
If you are after a traditional afternoon tea, but don't want to spend much money on it, try the National Cafe at the National Gallery. Whilst the cafe itself might not be as posh as the Landmark hotel or as fun as B Bakery bus, what you are losing in ambience, you are gaining in money - prices for afternoon tea here start at £22.50. The food is delicious and I felt this location represented great value for money.
Plus you are in the National Gallery, so why not combine your afternoon tea with a visit to a few rooms at the gallery - it's free after all!
Check out the opening times and book a table here: http://www.peytonandbyrne.co.uk/the-national-cafe/
Teanamu Chaya Teahouse
If you are ready to deviate from what you expect to be afternoon tea and willing to try something completely different both in terms of the location and the food served, Teanamu Chaya Teahouse is the place for you. A nondescript residential house in Shepherd's Bush (zone 2 on London's metro network) turns into a Chinese tearoom on selected weekends and is only available by reservation.
An afternoon tea here will give you a flavour of the Chinese tea ceremony and the food served has an Asian influence, so you will find things like bamboo shoots and dim sum on the menu. Prices are between £25 and £30 per person depending on whether you would like to include dim sum or not. NB! Payment is cash only.
Have a look at the menu and the available dates here: http://www.teanamu.com/teahouse/
Yes, I admit it, I am a cake snob. But honestly, I'd rather have no cake at all than bad cake. Way too often I got tempted by delicious looking creations in the windows of big cafe chains only to discover that the sponge is not great and the cream tastes of nothing but fat. So many calories and so little enjoyment, what a waste! The places below are on my short but sweet - in the true sense of the word - vetted list of placed to get some delicious treats.
A Crystal Palace (zone 3) gem for all cake lovers, Dalhousie serves homemade cake with ingredients sourced from and produced in the UK. The cake slices are generous in size and the comfy sofas and armchairs are super inviting to settle down with a good book. As most of the places in Crystal Palace, this cafe is a small independent business, so the owner, Derek, is often (if not always) on the shop floor service customers.
All the cakes here look delicious, but some of my favourites are pineapple and almond, coffee and pecan, apple and coffee. The nutty brownies are also rather delectable. If you are eating in, prices for the big slices are between just under £4 and £4.50. Check out the full menu and the opening times here: https://dalhousie.london/
A French chain of fine patisseries, specialising in macarons, this luxury bakery has a few cafes in London, but my favourite is the one in Covent Garden. If you sit outside on the balcony, you will be able to observe the hustle and bustle below and might even be able to see one of the street performers doing their thing.
I don't actually go to Ladurée for the traditional macarons - it is their other cake selection that makes them a favourite. In fact, cakes here are so popular that quite often if you come in the evening (and they are one of the few cafes in London open long btw!) a lot of the cakes are sold out, so if you want to have the full range, I would recommend going earlier in the day. My personal favourites are the light and fruity Ispahan (a giant macaron with raspberries and rose petal and lychee cream) and Plaisir Sucre (hazelnut, praline and milk chocolate cake). The cakes aren't cheap (over £5 per piece), but so worth it!
Check out Ladurée's website - you can even order online: https://www.laduree.co.uk/
L'Eto is my latest cake place discovery, and another rather expensive one, but you have to treat yourself every now and then, right?! The branch I found is by Harrods when I was drawn in by the fantastic display of cakes in the window. I prefer to get takeaway here - the cafe is pretty much always super full with a queue waiting outside, so the atmosphere doesn't do it for me - however, I haven't been to the other branches (5 total in London), so if you want to sit in, you should probably try one of the other locations. Plus point - just like Ladurée, most of the branches are open late.
As for what to get, the selection is overwhelming and it all looks great. Can't say I've tried everything available, but so far my favs are the caramel layer cake and the chocolate hazelnut parfait. Price-wise, some cakes slices can be above £6, but prices do vary -the chocolate hazelnut parfait, for example, comes at £5.90.
Also just like with Ladurée, you can order cake online at L'Eto - check out their website for more information as well as the cafe locations here: https://letocaffe.co.uk/
Is it possible to find tasty, but reasonably priced cake in Central London, you might ask? Absolutely, and you will probably be surprised by the location - it's at the Garden Rooms in the V&A museum! Whether you want to explore a few of the rooms of the museum or not, do stop by the cafe for some delicious muffins, scones and cakes accompanied by some loose leaf tea. Prices range from £2.80 to £4.50 per cake.
It's not just cake that's impressive at the V&A - the cafe is located in some stunning-looking period rooms, so you will be able to soak in the environment whilst enjoying your cake. These rooms do tend to get full, but there's always seats available in the modern section by the entrance to the cafe.
For more information, check out the V&A's website: https://www.vam.ac.uk/info/va-cafe/
So this is it - my foodie guide to London which has hopefully given you plenty of ideas for restaurants and cafes to try out during your visit. If you are looking for more information for planning your trip to London, check out my other posts about things to do in this fantastic city below.