It’s really hard to think of a better city in Europe for a foodie than London. Due to the fact that people from literally all over the world have made a home for themselves there, you can find excellent examples of all types of cuisines. From Japanese to Italian dishes, from Middle Eastern and Thai food to a good old burger, literally everything can be tasted.
Of course, it goes without saying that you can also try some traditional British dishes, much more than your average fish’n’chips. Since I’ve been there multiple times, the gastronomic scene of London is very familiar to me, so if you’re a foodie coming into this metropolis for the very first time, allow me to give you some useful tips.
The markets are awesome
No real foodie should skip on a trip to a London market. It’s absolutely amazing what you can find there. All kinds of restaurants, food carts, pastry shops and whatever else you can think of at arm’s length. These places are so colorful and the smells are so incredible that the whole experience can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
Once you get a grip, though, you will enjoy a spectacular foodie adventure. Indeed, a visit to a London market should be on your itinerary even if you only have just one day in London, and if you can, go and visit one of the following two:
This is as close to a foodie paradise as you can get. Borough Market has an incredibly long tradition, and there’s not a thing you can’t try there. It is an excellent place to buy high-quality ingredients, but it also has loads of street food vendors, freshly baked bread and cakes, coffee shops… Trust me, you could spend a whole day with your senses in overdrive here.
While this market is not primarily known for food, don’t let that fool you – the selection they have around here is simply excellent. From Ethiopia to Brazil, from seafood to vegetarian dishes, everything’s here! Brownies, cannolis, ice cream, cheeses… My mouth waters just thinking about this. Plus you get to browse around what else is on sale. A great way to feel the city’s vibe!
How about Some Authentic London Eats?
No, I don’t mean just your average fish and chips here. F Cooke’s has been around since the middle of the 19th century and they serve only one dish and one dish only – pie and mash, all covered with a delicious parsley sauce. OK, you can add some eels into the mix if you’re feeling adventurous, but the basis remains the same. It’s very traditional and you can mostly find locals here because it’s not flashy enough for tourists, I guess. But that’s EXACTLY why I loved it so much! Good, honest food, something unique to England, and a relaxed atmosphere.
They won’t actually call themselves a restaurant – they prefer to be called a shop – and that really say a lot. But don’t think that because of that the quality is going to suffer. Quite the contrary, all ingredients are carefully chosen to ensure you really get the feeling of that authentic meat pie. Oh, and if you’re a vegetarian you can come here too because they make non-meat pies, as well. Everything else remains the same. Love it!
Don’t worry, if you want to “treat yoself” London has plenty of restaurants on the other end of the spectrum, too. If you want exquisite dishes prepared by some of the best and most famous chefs in the world, this is the city for you. A good example of that is Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. Now, while this great chef has several restaurants across the city, this is his first restaurant and an establishment that boasts not one, not two, but three Michelin stars! It simply doesn’t get any better than that.
Of course, Ramsay is not the only one with a classy restaurant around here. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is another place operated by a celebrity chef, and the dishes here are inspired by recipes that go back centuries. Salmon cured in Earl Grey tea is bound to catch your eye, but you simply can’t go wrong no matter what you choose.
But if you’re looking for a luxury restaurant, don’t limit yourself just to celebrity chefs. There are places all over the city that can provide you with incredible food and an even better experience. Explore, and you will surely be rewarded.
A few final notes
London is such a vast city that listing all of its good restaurants and other interesting foodie places would be impossible to fit into an article of this size. I would have to write a much, MUCH longer text in order to just scratch the surface of what you can find here. The few places I mentioned above are just vivid examples of the delicacies and the variety you can expect to find. I myself have encountered delicious Nigerian BBQs, fantastic Iranian cafes, lovely little Greek seafood restaurants and so much more.
The reason why I’m saying all of this is to motivate you to explore. You never know what can be around the corner. Maybe you’re missing out on a fantastic grill joint because you didn’t cross the street and because that place is so small and inconspicuous that only the people in the neighborhood know about it. Maybe there’s a pub with great atmosphere two blocks from you.
Visiting a city like this is not just about the sights. Sure, they are immensely beautiful and incredibly impressive, but sometimes you can get a much better feeling of the place if you just chat with an old lady in an even older pie-and-mash shop. Moments like that can bring something truly special to your trip.
For more ideas on what to do in London, check out my London Travel Guide or read about my Tinder date in London travel story for some solo traveling motivation to get out there and meet some new people.