The Ultimate Food Guide to Eating in London

By Anna Kerekes A food loving North Londoner who swapped Italy’s Umbria region for London’s global cuisine.

Updated: 02 January 2020

Food culture in the UK capital is exciting, inspiring and mind-blowing in equal measures. From Indian street food to traditional British classics, Michelin star restaurants to neighborhood markets, we’ve got it all.  Locals can feast on authentic foods from across the globe on a daily basis, so if you get excited about food as much as I do, you’ll feel like you’re in the utopia of culinary delights. I live in North London, so most of my favorite places to eat in London are localized, partly since I’m less concerned with fancy London restaurants with a view than I am with honest, authentic cooking and amazing quality produce - but as an Italian from Perugia, that goes without saying. If you’re looking for cool London restaurants, fun places to eat and North London neighborhood spots where you can really appreciate the art of good cooking, then this is London food guide is for you. And it never hurts to add a few glasses of wine into the mix too. 

Some useful tips

To start off with, I want to point out that you won’t find the best places to eat in London by following online recommendations. Sure, you’ll hear about the most famous restaurants, but as a gourmet, you want more than the latest hype. I usually follow the reviews of food critics like Jay Rayner or Marina O’Loughlin when I’m trying a new place. Another essential tip is that you should remember most London must eat restaurants are busy, so make a booking ahead of time whenever you can. And finally, walk as much as possible! The distances between where you are and the restaurants you’re trying to get to are usually a lot shorter than you might think, and of course, you’ll likely to stumble across another eatery you can't wait to try along the way.  

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Coffee and breakfast

I can't start my day without a good quality espresso, and it’s taken me years to whittle down the list of coffee shops I’ll go to on the way to work, and the list of where to eat in London for a weekend breakfast.  If, like me, you are passionate about coffee then visit the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. What I love about this chain is that along with good coffee, they are committed to running their business in a way that tries to minimize its impact on the environment. They have branches across London; Paddington Central, Farringdon, Maida Vale, Leather Lane and Spitalfields Market, to name a few. But when I’m on the way to work, my favorite in Bloomsbury is Store Street Espresso, located on 40 Store Street, which is always busy with a mix of students and professionals. If you are in the area and looking for something unique, drop into Fortitude Bakehouse on 35 Colonnade and try their sourdough cakes, a must eat in London that are their specialty and makes this place really stand out.

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For an authentic Italian lunch

Of course I’m biased, but who doesn’t love real Italian food? I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that some of the best places to eat in London are Italian! My favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant is Trullo, by Highbury and Islington station. Their handmade pasta is the ultimate must eat in London, and their short, seasonal menu reminds me of the way we eat back home - with good quality, seasonal produce cooked fresh every day. They serve lunch from 12 pm and dinner from around 6 pm. For a business lunch, I love to visit Da Paolo at 3 Charlotte Pl in Fitzrovia, one of the few independent family-owned restaurants in London Zone 1. What places it on my list of the best restaurants in London is the homely touch added to their dishes, the thoughtfully sourced ingredients and the love they put in the preparation and with which they serve the food. It feels a bit like being at home whenever I visit here. My go-to order is Spaghetti allo Scoglio.

Don’t forget the bread

For me, good sourdough bread is a very important part of every meal and it's great to find good bread in several corners of the city nowadays. Fabrique is a Swedish chain with several outposts (Fitzrovia, Shoreditch, Notting Hill and Covent Garden), and along with top-notch bread, they sell incredible cinnamon buns. I also recommend the Dusty Knuckle, a Dalston based bakery that makes exceptional bread and great sandwiches with the best organic ingredients. They normally sell out by noon! If you are around London Fields then pop into E5 Bakehouse, which is one at 395 Mentmore Terrace, and try their Hackney Wild loaf. My London food guide would not be complete without this bread, which is made with flour milled directly on the promises. It’s then slowly fermented to give it a great flavor with a crunchy crust. They also serve breakfast, brunch and lunches and offer bread making classes. 

Of course! Try British Cuisine

No guide to what to eat in London could be complete without proper British cuisine! Yes! Fish and Chips. Dare I say that the best food in London could very well be the fish and chips, or a traditional British Sunday roast if you go to the right places. For fish and chips made the old fashioned way, nowhere beats Poppies. They have outposts in Camden (30 Hawley Crescent), Spitalfields (6-8 Hanbury Street) and Soho (55 Old Compton St). It helps to make a reservation as they can get busy, but you can also opt for delivery.  For a good Sunday roast, book a table at The Princess of Shoreditch. A stone's throw from Old Street on the City/Shoreditch border, you can find excellent British ingredients skillfully prepared and I recommend it for a delicious Sunday roast. The venue is split between a bar serving craft beers, cocktails and wines by the glass, and a more comfortable restaurant area where reserving a table is a must. 

Wine and nibbles are always a good idea

To me, any night in London should start with a good glass of wine and some nibbles. If you’re looking for aperitivo style drinks and small plates, the best place to eat in London is Sager+Wilde in Hackney, a cozy bar where the wine cellar is displayed on the wall behind the bar with wines from across the globe. They offer sharing plates and I recommend trying baba ghanoush or their popular cheese board. Ask the staff for their recommendations, but I loved their Catarratto 'Baglio Bianco' from Sicily for its mineral notes. If you’re looking for something more elegant and high end, I recommend Terroirs Wine Bar - one of the true London must-eat restaurants. You’ll find them at 5 William IV St, open Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 11 pm. The last booking is taken at 10 pm and they serve cheese from 3 pm to 5.50 pm. The wine here is a literal reflection of the meaning of the word Terroirs; the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced. And there’s also a branch in East Dulwich is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 10 pm, on Saturdays at 10 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 10 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 9 pm. 

Restaurants in Central London

For me, the best places to eat in London are family run or independent, neighborhood places, but there are some great options for when you find yourself in the middle of London and don’t want to compromise on quality. If you can plan a little ahead, I’d recommend booking a table at one of the Hawksmoor restaurants. British ingredients and a great grill are what make the Hawksmoor so reliable. I’ve never been disappointed by either the steak or the fish, and don’t miss the triple cooked chips with home-made ketchup too! For something faster and more informal, head to Pizza Pilgrims in either at 12 Garrick Street in Covent Garden or at 11 Kingly Street in Carnaby. The pizza here is the real deal: classic Neapolitan wood fired pizzas and some variations using interesting British ingredients, so remember to ask for the day’s special menu. Just one thing to remember, they don’t take bookings and are walk-in only.

Shop for inspiring ingredients

I also like to shop inspiring ingredients to cook, as home beats any restaurant. I adore cooking in London because here you can find the ingredients for any cuisine if you know where to look. When I get homesick and want to cook up the flavors of Italy, I visit Lina Store on 18 Brewer Street in Soho. They are open from 10 am to 8 pm, which is convenient to pop in even after work. If you want to spend the evening eating in, I recommend Burro e Salvia near Shoreditch High Street station. The pasta counter and deli are open daily for take away - from 11 am to 7 pm Monday to Saturday and 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays. Think handmade fresh pasta, which is really some of the best food in London, and they also offer seasonal variety boxes too. A great excuse to try new things in the search for ingredients is to visit one of the London food markets. From the most famous like Borough Market to smaller, weekly markets like Maltby Street Market, you can source fresh ingredients and artisan produce to cook with.

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