In my opinion, the best way to experience a city is through the food. Would you agree? When planning your trip, I know you have a lot of your plate (excuse the pun) which is why I have chosen all the best places for you to eat so you can get the best culinary experience from London as possible.
Before I tell you the criteria that the list is made up of I thought it was important to tell you what it’s NOT made up of. This isn’t a list of fancy, expensive places to eat but what it is is a list of places with great atmosphere, great food and where you can get a great experience.
I’ve picked a handful of each for breakfast, lunch & dinner, sweet treats, cheap eats and places to eat classic British foods so you have a LOT of great options. Plus, it covers a lot of cuisines and a range of budgets.
Here are the Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors.
For the ultimate London breakfast experience look no further than Duck & Waffle. Duck & Waffle is a modern European restaurant. It sits on the 39th floor of one of London’s most iconic buildings and you can have breakfast over looking the beautiful landscape of London. They are most famous for their namesake duck and waffle dish but the duck egg en concotte (eggs in cheese with truffle) is one of my favourites. Duck & Waffle is not the cheapest place to have breakfast but essentially you are paying for the whole experience not just the food. Booking at least one month in advance is essential. Dress code is smart casual. See more great breakfast suggestions here.
Top tip: If you don’t want to spend too extravagantly you could easily come here for some pastries and a cup of tea which will set you back around £10.
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY, www.duckandwaffle.com
If you weren’t looking for Crispin you probably wouldn’t find it. They are a little gem tucked behind Spitalfields Market (another great place) that does a fantastic brunch & artisan coffee. The food at Crispin is very simple but very sophisticated and presented perfectly for an Instagram snap. From the menu you can expect good sized portions of things like spicy parmesan scrambled eggs on bread baked by a local bakery, smoked salmon with brown butter hollandaise & a cracking three cheese and ham toastie topped with an oozing Clarence Court egg . Inside is bright and modern with a mixed crowd of people enjoying brunch. Crispin is pretty small so make sure you get their early or there will be a to queue a little.
Top tip: Crispin is a great choice for breakfast before a wander around nearby market Spitalfields Market where you’ll find lots of independent retailers & even more food options.
Pavilion on The Corner, White’s Row, Spitalfields, London E1 7NF, www.crispinlondon.com
If you want to start the day with a difference look no further than Dishoom. Dishoom are a self confessed ‘Bombay Cafe’ who do an Indian twist on breakfast. Dishes include things like spicy, masala eggs, naan bread bacon sandwiches and the ‘Big Bombay’ which is a fun twist on the classic full english breakfast. They are in various locations across London and each one as its own unique vibe and interior decor. Booking for is not required but is essential if you don’t want to queue. No bookings taken for dinner.
Top tip: Their chai tea is bottomless so order it once and they keep refilling through your sitting.
12 Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9FB, www.dishoom.com
If you thought every pastry was created equal you would be wrong. Pophams are experts in all things viennoiserie. They arrived in London only a few years ago and set up a small shop on a residential street in North London. Since then they have become one of the most innoviatve, most visited and most delicious places in London. Every morning they bake a whole menu of fresh pastries including your usual pain au chocolate and almond croissants but they also do more unusual items like an UNBELIEVABLE maple, bacon swirl or an apricot & tonka bean custard. The bakery is small with a large sharing table inside and two outside. Pastries are served on beautiful crockery made just for the shop. Lucky for us Pophams have just opened up a second spot in East London and rumour has it they are going to be doing an evening pasta menu. Pophams features on my ‘How To Have The Perfect Day In London for Under £20!’
Top tip: Tables are mostly for sharing so only go if you don’t mind sitting next to a stranger.
19 Prebend St, Islington, London N1 8PF, www.pophamsbakery.com
5. 26 Grains / Jacob the Angel, Neal’s Yard
Both 26 Grains and Jacob The Angel sit in the gorgeously vibrant Neals Yard near London’s Covent Garden. I put both of them on here because they are both great and both allow you to take in the vibe of the yard. However, they are quite different. Jacob The Angel is a coffee house specialising in freshly baked pastries and cakes made on site every morning with a small menu of breakfast toasts and coffee. Whereas 26 Grains is known as London’s ‘posh porridge’ cafe and they do bowls of both sweet and savoury porridges with unusual and interesting toppings. Which ever you choose they are both lovely.
Top tip: Get to Neal’s Yard early otherwise the crowds get pretty big. Weekdays around 8am are perfect before it gets too crazy.
1 Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP, www.26grains.com / 16A Neal’s Yard, London WC2H 9DP, www.jacobtheangel.co.uk
Sunday sits on a residential road in North London. Even though the area is quite quiet, they has made a name for its self of being one of the best brunches around and people queue right around the block to get in. Expect a youngish crowd enjoying stacks of honeycomb butter pancakes and french toasts. A great choice for a weekend brunch and to explore a different area of London without feeling like a tourist. Sunday features on my list of Best Breakfasts in North London.
Top tip: Get there before 11am otherwise you’ll be waiting in a long queue.
169 Hemingford Rd, London N1 1DA, https://www.instagram.com/sundaybarnsbury/?hl=en
Lunch & Dinner
Hawksmoor is my absolute favourite restaurant in London so I had to put it on this list so you can experience its greatness. I could say that they are a steak restaurant however I feel like that would be underselling them a bit – they are more like steak experts. Yes the food is exceptional but it’s the balance of this coupled with attentive and knowledgeable service plus the beautiful interior that makes them so good. You could easily think that Hawkmsoor might be a bit ‘posh’ and not really for a casual meal but you’d be wrong. Yes, the price point is higher than your average meal but the vibe always makes you feel super comfortable. Whatever you do, DO NOT visit Hawksmoor without trying the sticky toffee pudding.
Top tip: The pre-theatre menu at Hawksmoor is unbelievable value for money and a great option if you want to try it without breaking the bank.
Photo credit from thehawksmoor.com .Various locations, thehawksmoor.com
BAO (pronounced Bow) are a trendy Tawaineserestaurant specialising in bao buns. If you haven’t heard of these before imagine a small, white, soft bun that has been steamed until they’re super fluffy and then stuffed with delicious fillings like black cod, beef short rib or their most popular pork bao with crushed peanuts.When you arrive at the restaurant they give you a sheet to tick where you choose your dishes then hand to the waiter with your order. They have a few locations around London & each one has its own personality but what they all have in common is they are all super trendy.The buns range from £4.50 – £6 and they also do a load of Tawainse side dishes as well and you must get the beef butter sweetcorn & beef cheek nuggets. A good place for a solo dinner or a lighter, cheaper lunch. In fact, I named it on my list of great solo dining spots in London.
Top tip: The Fitzrovia location is the only one you can book at. All others are walk in only.
Various locations, www.baolondon.com
Flour & Grape are an affordable pasta and wine bar in South Londons Bermondsey Street; a trendy area full with lots of cafes, restaurants and gift shops.All the pasta is freshly handmade on site everyday and their flavours are always a little bit different and interesting. Plus the portions are a good size too! As well as the pasta they have a great selection of small plates and an extensive wine list which they will help you choose from. The reason I love Flour & Grape and picked it for this blog is because it ticks all the boxes of somewhere great for lunch or dinner. It suits all budgets, it suits all occasions, the food is top notch & it’s in a great location
Top tip: Get a few dishes and share to make the most from the great menu.
214 Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, London SE1 3TQ, www.flourandgrape.com
Homeslice are the cool kids of the London pizza scene. There are two things that make them stand out from the crowd from a standard pizzeria you’ll find in the city. Number one – their toppings are really unusual and the do things like beef brisket with carrot or cauliflower and pomegranate. Number two – They come in just 2 sizes, a GIANT 20 inch pie or a single (but pretty large) slice. One whole pizza is £20 and will feed 2 people for a big dinner or 3-4 for a lighter one. Otherwise a slice is £4. Homeslice has various locations around London all with cool vibe perfect for a midweek feed or a boozy Saturday night. Homeslice features on my list of London’s best pizza’s.
Top tip: Booking is available at all locations expect for Covent Garden.
Various locations, www.homeslicepizza.co.uk
Noodle pull alert! If you type in ‘London’s best ramen’ into google Kanada Ya is at the top of most lists. They are a Japanese ramen bar which is so popular you’ll usually see it with a queue out of the door. They have about 10 ramens on the menu to choose from but the most popular is their truffle version which is super luxurious and decadent. Big portions and fast service with three locations around London. Ramen prices range between £9 – £14. Make sure you add a fudgy egg for extra luxury.
Top tip: The Piccadilly branch is probably the busiest so try the Covent Garden or Angel locations for a little less madness.
Various locations, www.kanada-ya.com
*CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO* If you’re a meat eater you absolutely have pay a visit to Smokestak when in London. They are home to some of the best BBQ smoked meat around that literally falls of the bone as you eat it. The menu is designed to get multiple dishes to share and includes things like beef brisket, ox cheek nuggets and mushroom toast with beef dripping gravy. I know I said it’s meat heavy but surprisingly their vegetarian dishes are some of the most stand out, particularly the huge jacket potato covered in a mustard cheese sauce or the charred greens with pomegranate and peanuts. Modern, industrial interior that makes you feel super cool by just being there. Booking is essential. *CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO*
Top tip: Go with friends and share as much as you can afford.
35 Sclater St, Shoreditch, London E1 6LB, https://smokestak.co.uk
Burmese food is not one you hear much about. That was until Lahpet arrived and thankfully put this once undiscovered cuisine to the forefront of the London food scene. If you’re unsure what Burmese would be I’d liken it to a delicious blend of Indian meets Thai with steaming bowls of coconut curry noodles, caramelised onion sea bream and their signature ‘laphet’ salad which translates in ‘tea leaves’. Why I’ve put it on here is because the food is unusual and it’s not your usual restaurant. Plus, it’s got a really cool and stylish vibe. You’ll be sad you’ve never eaten Burmese before once you visit Lahpet.
Top tip: Lahpet are part of a scheme called First Table where you can get 50% off the bill if you book the ‘first table’ of the evening. For more info click here.
58 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch, London E1 6JW, www.lahpet.co.uk
Burger & Beyond does a great burger and if you’re looking for a good one while you’re in London I recommend these guys. They originated at good London food markets but since have opened their own restaurant in East London. Their burgers are not like your standard buns and yes they’re pure filth, yes they’re loaded with cheese and yes they drip down your arm as you eat them but the absolute quality is still there. If the burgers weren’t good enough already the loaded tater tots sides or beef shin nuggets are so good. Bear in mind this isn’t the cheapest burger you’ll ever eat and will set you back around £15. Burger & Beyond is in an area called Shoreditch where there are plenty of places to wander around near by to walk off the serious calories you’ve just consumed.
Top tip: Don’t eat too much before. These are seriously filling burgers.
147 Shoreditch High St, Shoreditch, London E1 6JE, burgerandbeyond.co.uk
If you LOVE chocolate and you’re visiting London you absolutely have to visit SAID. SAID are a rustic Italian coffee house in Central London that specialises in all things chocolate. On first look SAID might look like your average cafe but what sets them apart from the crowd is that they drown all of their sweet treats in a puddle of molten milk, white & dark chocolate before serving. That includes brownies, cakes, fresh strawberries & even a hot chocolate drowned in even more chocolate! (Yes, that is possible!) SAID is the perfect place for a lunch time treat or to extend the evening if you’ve already had dinner somewhere else and want dessert. Hell, skip dinner altogether and head straight for the chocolate! SAID features on my list of ridiculously indulgent things to eat in London.
Top tip: The Soho location of SAID gets really busy but what a lot of people don’t know (& I might regret telling you this haha) is their Fitzrovia location is not as well established so it’s a bit quieter.
29 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JG, said.it
You could be fooled into thinking Chin Chin Labs is just an ice-cream shop but it is so much more than that.All of their ice-cream is made using liquid nitrogen and if you’re lucky you will catch a glimpse of the science happening right there in the store. Yes they do ice-cream (and very unusual flavours at that!) but they also do freshly baked cakes, pies and their famous hot chocolate which is topped with a huge mound of marshmallow! The parlour is super cool, colourful and whatever you get it’s going to be an experience!
Top tip: The Camden location is really small which is good if you want to take out but the Soho branch is larger if you want to sit in.
49-50 Camden Lock, Camden Town, London NW1 8AF, www.chinchinlabs.com
You might be thinking what’s so special about this place to make it to this list! I mean, it’s just a bakery, right? Well this isn’t just any bakery it’s the bakery owned by Claire Ptak – the baker who made the wedding cake for HRH the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan. Violet’s American style bakery is sat on a quiet road in Hackney, East London and anyone can visit for a cup of tea and a sweet treat. They counter is laden out with all kinds of cupcakes, muffins and my favourite tahini brownies so you might have trouble choosing. Inside is very kitch and cute with a larger seating area on the first level. How great to tell your friends you ate somewhere connected to royalty! This little bakery has a big reputation.
Top tip: Get a few things and share to make the most of the menu.
47 Wilton Way, London E8 3ED, www.violetcakes.com
Dominque Ansel Bakery, named after its owner and esteemed pastry chef, is known for its innovative and creative desserts. The cafe/bakery/restaurant opened in London a few years ago since making a name for themselves across the pond in New York. Ansel is known for being the creator the ‘cronut’ – a croissant, doughnut hybrid and has since created other unusual interesting desserts such as the ‘frozen smore stick’, the ‘cookie shot’ and ‘ banana paella’. The cafe sits off a side street so you probably wouldn’t find it if you weren’t looking for it but I highly recommend you seek them out. They get really busy on weekends around lunch time so I’d avoid that time if you can.
Top tip: Dominique Ansel is a real experience but it is more expensive than your average cafe. Only go if you don’t mind spending some money.
17-21 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP, www.dominiqueansellondon.com
5. Sticky Toffee Pudding at Hawksmoor or Smokehouse
This choice is a bit of an unusual one because both Hawksmoor and Smokehouse are NOT dessert only places. However, the reason I wanted to mention them is because they do the best dessert you’ll ever eat – the great British sticky toffee pudding! I can’t begin tell you how perfect these sweet, sticky, decadent puddings are and I couldn’t choose between them so I thought it best to mention both. You won’t be able to go to these restaurants just to eat dessert but that’s certainly not a bad thing because both places are exceptional restaurants in their own right with focus on high quality, prime cuts of meat. Just make sure you get this for dessert.
Top tip: Don’t get one to share. You’ll regret it if you do.
10 Basinghall St, London EC2V 5BQ, thehawksmoor.com / 63-69 Canonbury Rd, London N1 2DG, www.smokehouseislington.co.uk
Like the above, Blacklock is not a dessert only place. So, why have I suggested you go? Well, if you play the video below you’ll see why! Blacklock do just two desserts and one of them is their white chocolate cheesecake. This isn’t your average slice of cheesecake but instead what they do is serve it straight from the dish it has been made in and scoop copious amounts into a bowl right in front of you. It doesn’t look fancy in the slightest but looks are deceiving because this cheesecake is AMAZING. Blacklock is a meat heavy restaurant and their main dishes are just as good as their dessert so take this as I’m telling you to go their for their main dishes too.
Top tip: Blacklock do something called the ‘all in’ which is a small starter, a pile of chops and a side each for just £20 which is such amazing value. They also do a great Sunday roast and on Monday’s you can save a bit of money by taking advantage of their ‘butchers price Monday’s’.
24 Great Windmill St, Soho, London W1D 7LG, https://theblacklock.com
Great Cheap Eats
1. Maltby Street /Borough Market
Both Maltby Street Market and Borough Market are a must visit destination in London for any food lover. Both are home to fantastic independent retailers selling fantastic street food & homemade foodie gifts which includes anything from burgers and brownies, freshly made honey and artisan vinegars . Once you’ve decided what you want to eat, there is no realformal seating area so you can pull up a near by kerb to enjoy your grub which all adds to the experience. Maltby is open Saturday – Sunday only. Borough is open all week except Sunday.
Top tip: Go early!
37 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA, www.maltby.st / 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL, www.boroughmarket.org.uk
Pizza Union is one of my favourite cheap eats in London. Why’s that you might be thinking? It’s got great food, a great vibe and all for great prices. They have a few locations across London and all of the restaurants are set up where you pay at the counter for your food, you find a seat at the communal tables and you wait for your buzzer to go off.What I like about them most is it doesn’t look like a ‘cheap eats’ kinda place and you could easily have a group of mates here and feel like you were really splashing out. The pizza here starts from £3.95 and the cocktails from £5. Great for anyone who’s travelling alone in London and needs a solo dining spot. Lots more solo dining ideas here.
Top tip: Get a garlic dip for the crust and save room for their Nutella and marscapone dessert pizza.
Various locations, www.pizzaunion.com
If you weren’t looking for Roti King you probably wouldn’t find it and to be honest with you, with the way it looks, you probably wouldn’t want to go in anyway. Well don’t judge a book by its cover because Roti King is one of the most popular places to eat in London.They are small but mighty Chinese/Malyasian restaurant famous for their flaky handmade rotis, spicy curry and no fuss/no frills service. Inside is a little rough around the edges but it adds to the charm and authenticity of the place. The most popular thing on the menu is the roti with a curry dipping sauce or the beef rendang. Be warned the queue starts about half an hour before it opens.
Top tip: Roti King is not one you’ll be able to hang around for a long leisurely lunch. They get em in and get em out – in the nicest of ways!
40 Doric Way, London NW1 1LH, rotiking.info
Padella is probably the most popular cheap eat in all on London. They are a chic, small pasta bar next to Londons best food market Borough, and they serve dishes of beautiful, handmade pasta. Inside has gorgeous marble decor and a large bar that you can sit around and watch the chefs in action. What makes Padella a bit different is that the pasta portions are smaller and therefore designed to share. However, one plate and some bread is enough for a lighter lunch and depending on what you choose lunch could set you back as cheap at £6.50. My biggest piece of advice is to get there as early as possible, even an hour before they open! If you rock up at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon you’ll be stood in a pretty substantial queue. Otherwise if you can go on an afternoon during the weekday about 3-4pmit should be quieter.
Top tip: While it is a ‘cheap eat’ adding some extra dishes and wine will rack up the bill pretty easily so just be aware.
6 Southwark St, London SE1 1TQ, padella.co
Flat Iron is a great choice for when you want a quality, delicious place to eat with good vibes but without breaking the bank. They only do one thing which is flat iron steak (hence the name) which is served to you on a hot stone with your own meat cleaver and a side salad. The side dishes at Flat Iron are just as good as the steak and I highly recommend you get some of the creamed spinach with local made hot sauce. You can even get a bottle at the hot sauce store! It’s a really easy place to eat and if you’re looking to impress someone as it looks like you tried really hard when you really haven’t! No reservations taken.
Top tip: The Covent Garden location is probably the busiest but they have a few locations around London so you have lots of options.
Various locations, flatironsteak.co.uk
Max’s sandwich shop is a bit of an unusual suggestion. I wouldn’t normal suggest somewhere like this only because its a little out of the way but Max’s is a quirky local gem that shows just how diverse and interesting the London food scene can be. The cafe is known for its epic sandwiches which have unusual fillings and are delivered to your table in brown paper packaging so when you open it it feels like opening the best Christmas present ever. Max’s is like a throwback to the 80’s with retro decor and little knick knacks everywhere. The vibe is super chill and not fancy in the slightest. They serve booze too. A review I once saw called them ‘sandwiches on steroids’ and I for me that sums it up perfectly.
Top tip: These sandwiches are huge so I’d recommend one between two plus some spuds and mac n cheese balls for the full Max’s experience.
19 Crouch Hill, Stroud Green, London N4 4AP, www.maxssandwichshop.com
Honest Burger are relaxed and trendy burger place with various locations across London. Their burgers are made with quality beef, great toppings and all come with a pile of their signature rosemary salted fries included in the price. To keep things interesting every month they do a special where they collaborate with a different brand or restaurant in London. Honest is a nice, easy choice for when you want good food, in a nice setting but without the fuss. Remember, when I say this is a cheap place to eat I mean cheap by London standards. They also have vegetarian and vegan options, plus a kids menu.
Top tip: Get the onion rings. They are huge and sooooo delicious.
Various locations, www.honestburgers.co.uk
For a Very British experience
Simpsons dates back all the way to 1828. It was originally a chess club and one of its regular visitors was none other than Sherlock Holmes. Today it is a classic British dining room connected to the famous Savoy hotel that you could liken to something out of Downtown Abbey. The food is full of pomp and ceremony and they are most famous for their silver carving trolley which is wheeled through the dining room and your dinner is carved right in front of you. The waiters are dressed impecibly in their waistcoats and dickie bows which adds to the whole experience and everyone fusses around you which make you feel extra special. Simpsons is a considered purchase but one you absolutely should make if you’re wanting that extra special classic British dining experience. An exceptional place to eat.
Top tip: Take lots of pictures. It really is stunning.
100 Strand, London WC2R 0EW, www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk
When people visit London from abroad they want to go to a proper British pub and eat proper British food. The Windmill is a traditional pub in London’s Mayfair that ticks all the boxes for a traditional experience. The pub has a bar in front with cask ales and craft spirits and in the back sits a small dining room. The menu has your British staples like fish and chips or steaks, however the reason to visit The Windmill is for their award winning suet pastry pies served with mash and gravy. Pubs in London are huge part of our culture and The Windmill is a great choice to get that real London pub experience. It doesn’t get more British than pie and mash.
Top tip: Get some peas and bacon on the side to share to go with your pie.
6-8 Mill St, Mayfair, London W1S 2AZ, www.windmillmayfair.co.uk
The Ned is a 5* hotel and private members club set in a former bank. The one thing to mention first before anything else is eating here is not cheap but what you are paying for is a whole experience because it’s absolutely stunning. The hotel boats nine restaurants on its ground floor which are separated between what used to be bank counters. How cool is that? Eating here you can choose from an Asian-Pacific-inspired restaurant Kaia specialising in healthy food, Millie’s Lounge who serves classic British dishes, and Cecconi’s; an all-day Venetian brasserie, serving northern Italian dishes in a classic setting. Plus loads more. On Sundays a lot of the restaurants do a ‘feast’ for a set price and you can enjoy them over some live music being played for a band stand right in the centre of the building.
Top tip: Even if you don’t eat at The Ned it’s worth going for a look. Anyone can go in so don’t be put off by its 5* status. It’s pretty relaxed.
27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ, https://www.thened.com
Above I talked about The Windmill Pub which is a traditional British pub. My next suggestion is another pub but this time is a more of a high- end gastro pub. What does that mean you might be thinking? Well, a gastro pub is somewhere that is a bit posher than your average pub with a bit more focus on producing high end, classy food and The Royal Oak in Marylebone is a great example of this. At The Royal Oak you can expect elevated pub favourites like scotch eggs, steak and fish and chips but all done in a more sophisticated way. If you’re around on a Sunday they also do a great roast dinner.
Top tip: The starters at The Royal Oak are phenomenal – don’t miss out on the scotch egg or the steak tartare.
Various locations, www.royaloaklondon.com
You can’t come to London and not have fish and chips, can you? It’s the law! Poppies is a really fun place to enjoy this British staple and it feels like you’ve been transported back in time to the 1940’s. In addition to fish and chips at Poppies you can also try other British ‘fish supper staples’ like mince meat pies, fish cakes, battered sausages and if you’re brave enough you can even get jellied eels! Poppies is a bit of a novelty but you don’t mind that when the food is tasty.
Top tip: Get mushy peas and curry sauce on the side for that ultimate British experience.
Various locations, poppiesfishandchips.co.uk
WAIT! BEFORE YOU GO…
You might also be interested in my other blog post ?