Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors | First Timers Guide

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors

Scroll down to discover the Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors.

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 on your plate (excuse the pun) which is why I have chosen all the best places for you to eat during your time in London. I’ve spent a lot of time curating this list so you can have the best foodie adventure possible here in London, covering a range of cuisines and budgets so there is something for everyone.

 

Here are the Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors.

 

1. Pizza: Homeslice

Homeslice have five sites across the city and have a big reputation for being London’s coolest pizza place. The pizzas they serve are not the traditional pizzas you may be accustomed to which is why its a great place to have a real London foodie experience. The pizza comes in at a whopping 20 inches per pizza and the toppings they do are pretty adventurous. Ever heard of beef and carrot on a pizza? or cauliflower cheese and spinach? Now you have! Price wise they are around £20-£22 but it can easily feed 3 people or 2 very hungry people.  You can also get them by the slice for just £4 so its a great option for a quick and cheap lunch snack. Each site of Homeslice feel effortless cool and a bit edgy. If you do want something a bit more classic, check out my list of London’s best pizza places here.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Homeslice Pizza)

 

2. Afternoon tea:  The Kensington’s Landmark tea

Afternoon Tea should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting London. However, there are so any places to choose from where do you even start? While I do have a list of London’s most famous afternoon teas on my blog, I wanted to put The Kensington’s Landmark Afternoon Tea at the top of your list. This afternoon tea will give you the quintessentially British experience that you’ll want when here in London. The afternoon tea takes inspiration from London’s most recognisable and historic landmarks like Big Ben, The Shard and The London Eye, mixed in with classic sandwiches and warm scones. Perfect for anyone who wants a real London experience.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Landmark Afternoon Tea)
Photo Credit: The Kensington Hotel

 

3. Cheap afternoon tea: The Wolseley

Afternoon tea can be quite expensive depending on where you choose to go. For those for those of you not on the biggest budget but who still want to have the afternoon experience, I suggest indulging in a cream tea at The Wolseley. The Wolseley has a rich history dating back to 1921 when it was first a car show room, then a bank, and now a restaurant since 2003. The grand interior boats art deco architecture and high ceilings. Their breakfast and dinner menus feature some of the best in European style dishes around and the level of excellence continues to their afternoon tea menu. You may be thinking, what’s the difference between an afternoon tea and a cream tea? My guide to afternoon tea in London explains it all but an afternoon tea at The Wolseley comes with sandwiches, scones and cakes at £29.75 per person, while a cream tea is just the scones and your choice of tea for just £12.75. By indulging in just a cream tea, you still get some of the afternoon tea experience at a more affordable price. Let’s be honest, the best part of an afternoon tea is the scones, right? 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of cream tea at The Wolseley)
Photo Credit: David Loftus

 

 

4. Fish and chips: Poppies (Spitalfields Branch)

You can’t come to London and not have fish and chips, can you? Poppies is a really fun place to enjoy this British staple. Stepping inside the restaurant it feels like you’ve been transported back in time to the 1950’s with its retro décor and vintage jukebox. 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 which are an East End essential dating back to the 18th century. Poppies looks like a bit of a novelty but the food is always top quality. 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of fish & chips at Poppies)

 

5. Pub Lunch: Windmill Mayfair

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, upstairs has a more high end dining room and in the back sits a smaller dining room perfect for a pub lunch. 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.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of pie at The Windmill Pub Mayfair)

 

6. Unusual Bakery: Arome

Arome arrived in London in January 2020 as a small pop up. I remember visiting and thinking how completely outstanding this place was and I hoped they would find a permanent spot so I could become a regular. Thankfully they did and in 2021 they made a home for themselves in Covent Garden. Arome are a French/Asian bakery created by  French born pâtissier Alix André and Singaporean restaurateur Ellen Chew. They combine Asian flavours with French techniques to make some of the most beautiful pastries and cakes you will ever eat. The miso and bacon escargot and the honey bread are two I would highly recommend. Arome is a great place for breakfast or an afternoon treat.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Arome Pastry)

 

 

7. Classic bakery: Violet

Before they were made famous for making the wedding cake of Meghan and Harry, Violet’s was one of London’s best hidden gems. It still is great, I just mean its a lot more known since then. This little bakery sits on a corner of a quiet street in East London’s, Hackney. They do a large range of cookies, cakes, brownies and cupcakes made under the instruction of American owner Claire Ptak. Everything is baked on site in their small kitchen with a larger seating area on the first level to enjoy your treat with a tea or coffee. How great to tell your friends you ate somewhere connected to royalty! 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of cake at Violet Bakery)

 

 

8. Taiwanese Food: Bao

BAO are a trendy Taiwanese restaurant specialising in bao buns and small plate Asian dishes. If you haven’t heard of a BAO before, they are a small, white, soft bun that has been steamed until  fluffy and  stuffed with fillings like black cod, beef short rib or their most popular pork bao with crushed peanuts. When you arrive at the restaurant the waiter will give you a paper menu which you tick off your dishes and hand it back to the waiter. Food comes out as and when it is ready and is meant to be enjoyed as smaller sharing plates. While you must order the bao buns, the Taiwanese side dishes such as the beef butter sweetcorn & beef cheek nuggets should be on your hit list too. BAO can be made how extravagant or as cheap as you want. It’s also a great place for a solo lunch or dinner and features on my list of great places in London to eat alone. In my opinion, I wouldn’t choose BAO for a long evening of dining where you can stretch out different courses. They get very busy and tables turn quite quickly. They have also recently opened Cafe Bao which serves sweet baked goods alongside their savoury lunch and dinner menu.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Bao buns at Bao)

 

 

 

9. Sunday Roast: Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor is hands down favourite restaurant in London. I could say that they are a steak restaurant however I feel like that would be underselling them – they are more like steak experts. As well as their traditional steak dinners they do the best Sunday roast in London.  A Sunday roast is a great British tradition. If you haven’t heard of one before its traditionally served in British homes on a Sunday afternoon and is made up of roast vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and a choice of meat or nut roast, served with lashing of gravy. Being the steak specialists they are, Hawksmoor does a traditional beef roast dinner like you won’t find elsewhere. While the food is exceptional 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 for dessert.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Sunday roast at Hawksmoor)

 

10. Food Market: Borough Market

London has many markets but I want to put Borough at the top of your list. Borough Market is London’s oldest, largest and most established food market. The many stalls are adorned with an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses brought to you by passionate artisan producers from across the UK.  There’s also a huge choice of street food vendors selling ready to eat lunches or if you prefer, sit down in its many great restaurants – a few of my favourites being pasta at Padella, Japanese at Bao and tacos at El Pastor.  It’s a great place to spend an afternoon before cutting through to Bankside and walking along the river Thames. Borough Market is steeped in history and dates back all the way to 1276. It’s also been the filming location for Harry Potter and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Borough is probably the most tourist-heavy market out of them all and Saturday’s get SUPER busy. Go as early as you possibly can. For more great London markets check out my blog here on London’s best markets.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Borough Market)

 

11. Pasta: Flour & Grape

Flour & Grape are a great pasta and wine bar at the end of South London’s Bermondsey Street. Bermondsey is a very trendy area packed with lots of cafes, restaurants and shops, and is a great destination for an afternoon or evening out. At Flour & Grape, 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.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of pasta at Flour & Grape)

 

12. Chocolate: SAID Dal 1923

If you LOVE chocolate and you’re visiting London you absolutely have to visit SAID Dal 1923. SAID are a rustic Italian coffee house in Central London that specialises in all things chocolate. On first look it might look like your average café but what sets them apart from the crowd is their famous hot chocolate. They generously slather the cup in three different types of chocolate before filling it up with your choice or milk, dark or hazelnut drinking chocolate. As well as their hot chocolate you can opt for their brownies, cakes and strawberries to be drowned in molten chocolate also.  SAID is the perfect place for a lunch time treat or to extend the evening if you’ve already had dinner and want dessert. SAID Dal 1923 can get very busy in their Soho location, but their Fitzrovia location is London’s best kept secret … until now.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of hot chocolate at SAID Dal)

 

13. Burger: Burger & Beyond

If you love burgers and are looking for the top burger place in London to ty, it has to be Burger & Beyond.  They started their life as a pop up at different London food markets but as their reputation and popularity grew they took the plunge and opened their own sit down restaurant in East London which has been a massive success. The burgers here are pure filth. If you’re unsure what I mean by that, think big, thick, juicy patties loaded with cheese, bacon that will drip down your arm and slather across your face. However ‘dirty’ these burgers are, rest assured the meat and filling are always top quality. If their bacon butter burger doesn’t make you want to drool, you may like the sound of their krispie fried chicken, truffle tater tots or their beef shin nuggets. I’ll be honest with you, they are quite expensive, even for London but I promise you its worth it!

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of burger from Burger & Beyond)

 

14. Classic breakfast: Regency Cafe

You can’t visit London without having a full English breakfast at a traditional British café. If that sounds right up your street then you should visit the Regency Cafe in South London. Here you won’t find any fancy slices of avocado on toast or quinoa breakfast bowls but good hearty food that’ll set you up for a full day of exploring. Along with their generous servings of eggs, beans, sausage and toast, you could opt for an omelette or choose from their daily lunch time specials of shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Inside is full of classic British charm like you see in the movies. Since opening in 1946 its became a real London gem and still is to this day.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of full English breakfast at Regency Cafe)
Photo Credit: Dan Fernandez – ThinkingFood247

 

 

15. Unique Breakfast: Where The Pancakes Are

London has so many places for breakfast. Luckily, I created 5 different breakfast guides for the best breakfast’s in North, South, East, West and Central London so make sure you check those out. However, if I had to suggest somewhere fun for your first London breakfast it would be Where The Pancakes Are. Set in a funky little place called Flat Iron Square in South East London, Where The Pancakes Are is the place to come for anyone who loves pancakes for breakfast. There are two halves of the menu – a sweet half and savoury half. The savoury side has pancakes with poached eggs and asparagus or pancakes with pulled beef pastrami. While the sweet side has banana marshmallow or strawberries and cream. Their pancakes are made with their signature buttermilk batter which gives them their fluffy texture and sour taste. For those with any intolerances or allergies, Where The Pancakes Are are a great place for vegan, dairy and wheat-free options too. Despite their secluded location, they have a big reputation so if you can book I would suggest you do. After breakfast, I would suggest a walk around Borough Market or Maltby Street Market which is just a short walk away.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of pancakes at Where The Pancakes Are)

 

 

16. Spanish: Barrafina

Barrafina features on most ‘best restaurant in London’ lists and any time you pass it has a long queue of people eager to see what the fuss is about.  They are a high-end Spanish restaurant that does outstanding Spanish tapas and they deserve every bit of credit they get. You could say the menu is a little intimidating because of its Spanish authenticity and if you’re like me you may have to Google a few things but in all honesty, I don’t think you can go wrong in whatever you order at Barrafina. The classic Spanish toritilla, pan con tomate (tomato bread) and the gambas rojas al ajillo (red prawns with garlic are great options. All of the 4 locations in London have mostly got counter seating which means you can sit in the middle of the cooking action like front row seats to a great theatre show. Barrafina is not your everyday restaurant but instead it’s one to treat yourself for a high end lunch or dinner.  It’s also a great option for any solo diners out there.

 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of dishes at Barrafina)

 

 

17. Cheap eat: Pizza Union

Pizza Union is possibly my favourite cheap eats in London.  It’s got great food, a great vibe and 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 a communal tables and you wait for your buzzer to ring to collect your pizza. What I love about Pizza Union is that 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 just £3.95 and the cocktails from £5. I would suggest Pizza Union for anyone who wants lunch or dinner without fuss, if you can’t get a reservation, if you have children or there is a large group of you. Another great option for anyone who’s travelling alone in London and needs a solo dining spot. 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of pizza at Pizza Union)

 

18. Great view: Duck & Waffle

For the ultimate London experience look no further than Duck & Waffle. Duck & Waffle is a modern European restaurant that sits on the 39th floor of one of London’s most iconic buildings. While they are open for dinner, they are most famous for weekday breakfast or weekend brunch which you can enjoy overlooking the cityscape of London. They are most famous for their signature duck and waffle dish which is a fluffy waffle topped with a crispy confit duck leg and mustard maple syrup to drizzle. While they have used duck as inspiration on a lot of their other breakfast dishes there are plenty of other brunch options if you’re not a fan of duck such as Columbian eggs and my favourite ox cheek doughnut. 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 and their is a dress code of smart casual. 

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of breakfast at Duck & Waffle)

 

 

19. Dessert: Chin Chin Labs

You could be fooled into thinking Chin Chin Labs is just another ice-cream parlour but it is so much more than that. In 2010, they took over a small shop in North London and started making ice-cream using liquid nitrogen. While their method is unusual that’s nothing compared to the flavour combos they mash up such as coffee & olive oil, purple carrot cake and coconut rose. As well as their ice-cream, they do freshly baked cakes, pies bursting at the seams and the most famous hot chocolate in the world. Seriously, when you see it you’ll know why it went viral! They have 2 science labs, sorry I mean parlours, in London, both super cool but pretty small so there maybe a wait for a seat or you can take your goods on the go.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of cherry pie at Chin Chin Labs)

 

20. Malaysian Food: Sambal Shiok

Formidable food critic of The Guardian newspaper Grace Dent called Sambal Shiok ‘Pure Joy’, and she isn’t wrong.  This small, unassuming restaurant is in a more residential area of London called Holloway and is totally worth the trip outside of Central London. Opened by Malaysian born chef Mandy Yin, she wanted to bring her authentic laksa bowls to the people of London. Laksa is a Malaysian noodle soup with either a rich, coconut milk or sour assam broth, topped with meat, fish or tofu. Their menu features five signature bowls plus a handful of rice dishes and their famous Malaysian fried chicken. Sambal Shiok haven’t toned down the authenticity of the laksa for the Western palate in any way which means it pretty damn spicy and dishes only come in medium and hot – no mild available, so bear that in mind when visiting. The restaurant itself is small with a local vibe. No-fuss, no-frills, just tasty, comforting, homemade noodle bowls that have been made a little bit more refined for the London crowd.  

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of laksa at Sambal Shiok)

 

21. Hidden Gem: Max’s Sandwich Shop

Hot sandwiches and booze are what’s on the menu. Max’s sandwich shop is a quirky little shop in North London that is a real London gem. The shop is nowhere near any touristy or main stream areas of London which makes it even more unusual. They specialise in sandwiches as the name suggests but these are like no sandwiches you’ve ever made or eaten before. They arrive wrapped in brown paper and are generously filled with some very non traditional filling such as the ‘Murdering The Ceaser’, ‘How am I Samosa Know’ and their most famous Ham, Egg and Chips (A take on the British dinner staple). They do have a few non sandwich options, or ‘other little things’ as they call them such as fried potatoes and mac & cheese balls. The shop itself is quirky and unpretentious with nostalgic 80’s knick knacks dotted around giving it the feeling as though you’re in someone’s retro living room. Order with a beer. Worth the trip to a lesser known area of London.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of sandwich from Max's Sandwich Shop)

 

22. Japanese: Kanada Ya

If you type in ‘London’s best ramen’ into google Kanada Ya is at the top of most lists. They are an authentic Japanese ramen bar with three locations in London. It started in 2009 in Hong Kong created by Kazuhiro Kanada and arrived in London in 2014. Their rich, warming bowls of Japanese ramen attraction hoards of people everyday, particularly solo diners who you’ll see sat in the steamy window seats slurping chewy noodles  You’ll very rarely see Kanada Ya without a queue its that popular. Inside has its signature Japanese flair with stylish yet simple wooden features. The portions are big and they also do a vegan and vegetarian options.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of ramen at Kanada Ya)

 

23. Chinese: Xian Impression

Sometimes its the most unsuspecting places that are the best, isn’t it? Xian Impression is a little further out of town then many first timers would like to go but I recommend you take the tube to Holloway if you want some top Chinese food. They do a menu of hand pulled noodles mixed with pork, beef or vegetables or a bunch of Xian street food such as pot stickers, dumplings and wonton soup. You won’t go to Xian Impression for the impeccable service or luxury decor but you’ll stay for the home cooked food and easy going vibe. They are just outside the Emirates Stadium too if you’re an Arsenal fan.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of noodles at Xian Impression)
Photo Credit: Dan Fernandez – ThinkingFood247

 

 

24. French: Casse Croute

Casse Croute is your perfect little corner of France without leaving the country. They live on Bermondsey Street, one of London’s most buzzing foodie destinations in South East London. The restaurant itself is small in size with just a handful of tables decorated in a traditional Parisian style. What they lack in size they certainly make up in quality. The menu of French classics changes daily at Casse Croute, and just like the restaurant itself the menu is small but perfectly formed with just three starters, three main and three desserts . It’s also all in French too so maybe take a few lessons before you arrive. The bavette steak, the beef wellington and the chocolate choux buns are a favourite amongst the regulars. Perfect for a little date night in London.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of dinner at Casse Croute)

 

25. Mexican Food: Caldera

If you want great Mexican food in London get yourself to Caldera. Caldera is an independent Mexican restaurant in the heart of East London’s Hackney and they do classic Mexican dishes alongside unique signature plates they’ve put their own stamp on. The menu serves more traditional tacos, burritos and guacamole but these classic dishes are high quality and much more refined than what you would usually relate to your average Mexican restaurant. If you want something a bit more unusual, I’d recommend the octopus marinated in ash or lamb cutlets smothered in a molo-miso sauce. The East London vibe is really cool with low lights and a buzzing bar sending out top notch margaritas. A great choice if you love Mexican food.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of food at Caldera, Hackney)

 

 

26. Modern Indian: Brigadiers

Brigadiers is the opposite to what I would call a ‘British’ Indian restaurant. The food they serve is modern Indian food designed to be ordered as sharing plates between you and your guests. They are located in Bloomsbury Arcade, a buzzing foodie hub in the city area of London popular with city workers and foodie aficionados. Some things I can highly recommend are the aloo tokri chaat, goat tikki buns, achari beef shortrib and the garic butter naan. Inside has dark wood interior and low lights making it feel edgy and sophisticated. The great thing about Brigadiers is you can order many different combinations of dishes you’ll get to try so much and there will be something for everyone. A great option for adventurous Indian food in London. They do a top notch brunch, too.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Indian food at Brigadiers)
Image Credit: Brigadiers

 

 

27. Classic Indian: Aladdin

Brick Lane is known as London’s curry mile. Along this East London street, you’ll find many Indian restaurants enticing you to come inside. Aladdin is one of the most popular Indian restaurants on that street and a great choice for a ‘British’ Indian experience. The menu has all the classics you want from a curry house including starters like chicken tikka and onion bahji, mains such as chicken madras and vegetable biriyani and breads and rices to accompany them. They also operate a BYOB menu (bring your own booze) which can be enjoyed with your meal. It can get very busy, especially on the weekend so bear that in mind.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Aladdin Indian restaurant)

 

28. Meat Lovers: Blacklock

If you’re a big meat eater, Blacklock has to be on top of your hit list. They are one of London’s leading restaurants in steaks, chops and burgers; not to mention the most epic Sunday roast dinner you’ll ever see. If I was going to recommend something to you it would be their ‘All In’. It includes canape bites, a pile of meat chops piled high on meat soaked flatbread and two side dishes all for just £20 per person. Insane value for the quality. If you’re stopping by for lunch their steak sarnie is the one, and like I said above, their Sunday roast dinner is like nothing you’ve ever eaten before.  Inside is a little bit edgy but still sophisticated with exposed brick walls and dark wooden features. Blacklock ticks all the boxes for a fantastic meal out.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of dinner at Blacklock)

 

29. Local gem: Normah’s

Normah’s is what I would call a real gem. This little restaurant is tucked away inside Queensway Arcade, West London and is ran by Normah herself. She makes authentic Malaysian food using her favourite ingredient of all, love! What looks like a very basic place from the interior is anything but basic when it comes to the food. Her beef rengdang packs a punch and her roti canai are the most buttery, flaky canai you’ll find in London. While somewhere like Queensway Arcade wouldn’t usually be your obvious foodie choice while visiting London, I urge you to take a special trip to support small local business and try something a little less obvious. Normah’s does charming, honest and unpretentious food that will leave you wanting more.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of roti at Normahs Queensway)

 

 

30. Crazy experience: Pick & Cheese Conveyor Belt

A cheese conveyor belt? Yes you read that correctly. Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden is where you’ll find the stuff cheese dreams are made of. On a moving conveyor belt, cheeses paired accompaniments such as chutneys, crackers and fudge (honestly, its amazing) are whisked past you ready for you to pick and enjoy as you like. Think of it as the sushi of the cheese world. Depending on the colour of the plates depends on much you pay for each of them so be mindful as they add up very quickly. Such a fun concept.

Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors (Image of Pick & Cheese, Seven Dials)

 

I hope your enjoyed reading Best Places to Eat in London for First Time Visitors.

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