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Eating and Drinking in London

Sample Local Dishes
Eating and Drinking in London
London's culinary landscape is colorful, flavorful, and extremely diverse. There is no dearth of options, with everything from classic pub grub to high-end dining, international cuisine, and pop-up restaurants.
By Savi and Vid, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Sample Local Dishes
    Sample Local Dishes
    Everyone who comes to London must try a traditional plate of fish and chips. You can find a 'chippy' in every neighbourhood, although we recommend Fish Central, which has been slinging fried cod, mushy peas, and chunky chips since 1968. Or try a more cutting-edge approach to British cuisine at St. JOHN, around the corner from Smithfield Market. Famous for its nose-to-tail cooking—a technique that uses an animal’s whole body—St. JOHN is revered for its rustic food and no-nonsense approach to quality. You can't leave without having a traditional English breakfast—and there's none better than the one served at The Wolseley.
    Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Traditional Pub Grub
    Traditional Pub Grub
    Get in the spirit with a meal at a cozy local watering hole like the Rose and Crown in Stoke Newington or The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead—a classic example of the old-world charm found in the best of London’s pubs. Most pubs in London serve food, and less often (these days) bar snacks like pickled eggs. You can't go far wrong with classic dishes like steak and kidney pie or bangers and mash, and the Sunday roast dinner is an institution—check out The Anchor & Hope for one of the best. Traditional desserts—called "puddings"—are hot and stodgy; try bread and butter pudding or spotted dick with custard. And don't forget the drink: A pint of local bitter or cider will wash your food down nicely.e
    Photo by Gareth Morgans / age fotostock
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    Britain's Other National Cuisines
    Britain's Other National Cuisines
    Britain's fascination with Indian food goes back a long way, and dishes like chicken tikka masala are arguably just as "British" as bangers and mash; the area around Brick Lane is curry central, and Lahore Kebab House and Tayyabs in Whitechapel are justifiably famous, serving some of the finest Punjabi cuisine outside Punjab. For a different take on the Subcontinent, check out Dishoom, a chain of old-style Bombay cafés. But it's not all about curry – Chinese is also a big deal in London, and among the literally hundreds of options on offer around Chinatown, Wong Kei Restaurant is legendary.
    Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Artisanal Farmers' Markets
    Artisanal Farmers' Markets
    The colorful seasonal produce at London's farmers' markets sits alongside fresh meats and cheeses and offers a culinary experience rooted in the heart of London’s food scene. The bustling Borough Market is one of London's most popular destinations for chefs and food-lovers alike. Follow your nose and sample as much as you can. You’ll find everything from venison to honeycomb to truffle oil, with the emphasis on local, artisanal—and expensive. If you prefer smaller markets, try the Berwick Street Market or the Marylebone Farmers’ Market. Pick the tastiest-looking goods for a picnic in the park. And if flowers are your thing, do not miss the chaotic Columbia Road Flower Market.
    Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Culinary Tours
    Culinary Tours
    Taking a London food tour is a great option if you are passionate about trying local food or are interested in new ways of exploring the city. London boasts a number of such tours, each peppered with historical and cultural information and offering you the chance to sample a range of tasty English fare. Eating London Food Tours takes you around the East End, with stops for bacon sandwiches and curry. Liquid History Tours explores London's finest pubs, while Walk Eat Talk Eat offers tours all around the city and with a wide variety of themes. Most tours last for three to four hours, and prices of all meals are usually included in the cost of the tour.
    Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Indulge a Little with High Tea
    Indulge a Little with High Tea
    Forget about counting calories and surrender yourself to one of the joys of life: English high tea. Expect dozens of indulgent treats such as finger sandwiches made from freshly baked bread and brushed with rich butter, generous slivers of cake, dainty macaroons, tiny biscuits, and decadent scones served with clotted cream and homemade jam. Wash all this down with a pot of properly brewed English tea served in delicate china cups. Better still, have a glass of champagne as well. To experience this quintessentially English tradition at its finest, book at Claridge's, the Savoy or Fortnum and Mason; for a more contemporary take, check out Sketch.
    Photo by Savi and Vid
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    Vegetarian Delights
    Vegetarian Delights
    London is home to a new generation of vegetarian and vegan restaurants that boast wholesome food and nuanced flavors. It's an extremely veggie-friendly city and you'll never have trouble finding good food. Mildred's is a Soho staple that has  expanded to other locations; the River Cafe cooks up some of the most flavourful vegetables in town. Try one of the many South Indian eateries dotted about town: Sagar on King Street and Rasa N16 on Stoke Newington Church Street are both quality and eminently affordable options; make sure to try a traditional dosa with spicy sambar and coconut chutney. Camden Market is known for its vegan cafés. Try Cookies and Scream—which offers delicious vegan ice creams, cookies, and cakes—or quench your thirst with one of the vegan beers or wines at Manna.
    Photo courtesy of River Cafe
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    Around the World in 80 Dishes
    Around the World in 80 Dishes
    London’s food scene is dynamic and constantly evolving. The Southbank Centre has a street food markets that allow you to sample bites from around the world. Mexican churros, Indian kati rolls, Vietnamese pho, and Moroccan harira are just a few of the things on offer, depending on the time of year. You can find absolutely any and every kind of cuisine done well in this multicultural city, from Middle Eastern at Honey & Co. to Venetian cicchetti at Polpo and Spanish tapas at Barrafina.
    Courtesy of Polpo
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    The Finest Dining
    The Finest Dining
    Connoisseurs of fine dining have no shortage of choice in London. Many innovative, Michelin-starred chefs have gained international accolade thanks to their London restaurants. Highlights include Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester (French cuisine with international influences), Gordon Ramsay's Petrus (modern French in stylish surroundings), and chef Chris Galvin’s Galvin at Windows (seasonally-inspired French haute cuisine). For something unusual, dine at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. The restaurant is famous for its fascinating interpretation of historic British dishes using modern techniques of molecular gastronomy. Or try Kitty Fisher's, famed for its grilled specialities. Yotam Ottolenghi's NOPI, in Soho, serves fresh and inventive cuisine largely inspired by the Middle East and Asia.
    Courtesy of Kitty Fisher's
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    Quirky Bars to Get Your Drink On
    Quirky Bars to Get Your Drink On
    London has an abundance of rather whimsical bars, notable for their creative atmosphere and delicious libations. You enter the PortSide Parlour through a toilet, but the bar’s sultry atmosphere and warming cocktails—it specializes in rum—are well worth the misdirection. At Callooh Callay you step through a wardrobe and end up in a bar inspired by Lewis Carroll's nonsensical "Jabberwocky" poem, while at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, those with an "appointment" are led through a hidden office door. For specialist gin joints, you can't do better than The London Gin Club, a formerly traditional Soho boozer, or The Whistling Shop, which recreates a Victorian gin palace.
    Photo by Victoria Fisher
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    The Daily Grind
    The Daily Grind
    Tea may be the national drink but the old fashioned English cuppa has largely been superceded—in the Big Smoke at least—by the beloved bean. East London is the traditional home of the hipster barista, and you can't throw a stone in Shoreditch without hitting someone whose kitchen is dedicated to the art of the cold brew. For a flat white as the Antipodeans meant it, try Tina, We Salute You in Dalston. The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, who operate out of various locations, are great for coffee with a social conscience. And if you just need to kickstart your day, espressos don't come stronger than the ones at Caravan.
    Photo courtesy of Caravan