It used to be a running joke that British food wasn’t very good. People would immediately think of overcooked roasts and boiled meats.
But a lot has changed over recent years, and London especially is now known as one of the world’s best cities for food! Aside from exciting and modern cuisine, as well as classic and authentic English specialties, London is one of the world’s most multi-cultural cities, so there are wonderful ethnic dishes for you to enjoy.
During my nine days in London, I had many excellent meals, but here are some of the best foods I tasted…
Fish & Chips
Princess Louise Pub, Holborn
No trip to England would be complete without eating Fish & Chips at least ONCE. I had this on our arrival day, while we were all feeling jet lagged and very hungry, and it really hit the spot. The fish was cod, and it tasted very fresh, while the batter was perfectly crispy without being greasy. The thick-cut chips were homemade, and the mushy peas on the side made it feel like a more full meal. I’m sure I could have hunted down a restaurant that specializes in this English classic dish, but it seems that every corner pub makes a great version.
Full English Pancake
My Old Dutch, Holborn
Just across the street from our hotel was My Old Dutch, a well-known pancake house that specializes in thin but enormous crepe-style pancakes, cooked with a variety of fillings, as well as sweeter options like butterscotch pancakes and mini Dutch-style poffertjes.
I ordered the Full English Pancake: “Pancake served with smoked bacon, fried or scrambled egg, mushrooms & grilled tomato”. It was MUCH larger than I had expected – probably about a foot and a half across! My wife ordered one with bacon and spinach, and it must have had at least 10 slices of bacon on it. Despite the ridiculous size, the pancakes were delicious!
This cute little Japanese restaurant had some very tasty sushi! We all ordered the Aburi Sushi, where the fish is lightly blowtorched, immediately before serving. This method sears the fat in the fish, leading to a much more flavourful bite! The fish included appeared to be salmon, tuna belly and butterfish (black cod).
We all really enjoyed this meal, but it was quite pricey, as is a lot of food in London.
Doner Kebap Lunch
Best Mangal Turkish Restaurant, Chelsea
There are a LOT of great Turkish restaurants in London, because London has such a large Turkish community. After taking a tour of Chelsea Football Club‘s stadium, Stamford Bridge, I stopped at this location of Best Mangal, a small chain, to enjoy an inexpensive lunch.
Doner Kebap is the Turkish version of what you may know as gyros or shawarma – marinated meat, stacked on a large skewer, broiled over open heat, then shaved. This version was made with lamb and beef, and it was served with rice, salad, fresh bread and a yogurt dip. The food was all very fresh and tasty, and the portion was large and filling. I also ordered Ayran, a savoury yogurt drink, that goes really well with kebabs.
Bill’s Restaurant, Shoreditch
Eaton Mess is a classic English dessert, which combines meringue with whipped cream and fruit. One of our dining companions told us that every time he visits his “mum” on his birthday, she prepares Eaton Mess, his favourite dessert! It’s light and refreshing – perfect for a hot day. This was easily my favourite dessert from our trip.
Bill’s is a chain of restaurants in London, that prepares modern, high-quality versions of classic English pub food.
Dishoom, Covent Garden
I knew that I wanted to try Indian food in London, and Dishoom came very highly recommended. This chain of upscale Indian restaurants serves modern takes on classic dishes, using only the best ingredients. The restaurant’s vibe is very funky, with vintage Bollywood posters and a playlist that’s so cool, they sell it in stores on CD and Vinyl!
The best thing I tasted there was the Okra Fries appetizer, which had fresh okra, cut lengthwise, lightly battered, and served with a few dipping sauces. It was served piping hot, but the okra was still kind of crispy – it reminded me of zucchini fries or fried green beans.
Grilled Steak Tacos with Griddled Cheese
Wahaca, St. Paul’s
The menu featured tons of small, sharable plates, as well as larger main courses, and creative cocktails and Mexican beers. We opted to order a bunch of the smaller dishes to share, and my favourite was the steak tacos, served on fresh tortillas and topped with griddled Mexican cheese. The cheese (which cost a bit extra) really brought the dish together!
Full English Breakfast
Hubbard & Bell, Holborn
Pretty high up on my “to eat” list was a Full English Breakfast. This usually includes eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, beans, mushroom, tomato and toast. I figured the best place to try this was in our swanky hotel’s restaurant.
Everything was cooked perfectly. It was my first time tasting black pudding, which I found a bit intimidating, but I always like to try scary foods in places where I know they’ll use high-quality ingredients, and prepare them properly. I didn’t love the black pudding, but I’m glad I tried it! The bread and butter that were served with the breakfast were really fantastic – in fact, the butter that was served in all of the restaurants we went to was very flavourful!
Cockles & Whelks
Sue’s Seafood Stand, Dover
During our incredible tour of Leeds Castle, Dover, Canterbury and Greenwich, our only stopped in Dover for about 10 to 15 minutes. We didn’t get to go up the famous White Cliffs Of Dover, because the chalk cliffs can’t hold coach buses. But we had a few minutes to enjoy the view from the seaside town.
I saw a small, fresh seafood stand directly on the beach, so I ran over to make sure I had a chance to taste the local delicacies. I had never tasted cockles or whelks, which are local shellfish. I purchased a small cup. I looked at the table full of sauces and condiments, and asked the owner, Sue, how the locals usually enjoy them, and she suggested that I keep it simple with black pepper and vinegar.
They were very tasty! They reminded me of clams, conch, or other steamed shellfish. I preferred the larger whelks, and would not hesitate to try taste kinds of local seafood treats more often.
Morelli Zorelli, Brighton
During our day trip to the Victorian-era beachside town of Brighton, we suddenly found ourselves very hungry! We didn’t know where to go, but we were lucky to find a great Neapolitan-style pizzeria, called Morelli Zorelli.
This is true, authentic Italian pizza. I ordered the special, which included potatoes, tomatoes, capers, olives, onions and fresh mint. It was REALLY good! All of us were really happy with our pizzas.
Tas Authentic Anatolian Turkish Cuisine, Bloomsbury
On our final night, my wife and I found a wonderful Turkish restaurant, just around the corner from The British Museum, a few minutes from our hotel. I had discovered this restaurant earlier in the week, and was hoping that we’d have a chance to try it before we left.
The restaurant was very busy at around 8pm, which is usually a great sign. We waited for about 10 minutes for our table. We ordered a bunch of different appetizers and salads, followed by one main course each.
I chose the Iskender Kebap, which has meat piled on cubes of fresh-baked bread, topped with a tomato sauce and homemade yogurt. It’s usually prepared using shaved Doner Kebap meat (see my lunch, earlier in this Blog Post), but this place had their own version, where the meat they used was a “mixed grill” sampling of their various charcoal-grilled kebabs. My wife ordered the chicken version of the same dish. We both loved our meals! We enjoyed our dinner with glasses of Raki, a Turkish licorice-flavoured liquor, similar to Ouzo or Sambucca.
This was probably the best meal of our entire trip!
There were SO many other great foods that I enjoyed in this trip, including a wonderful German sausage with curry ketchup in Covent Garden, Cornish Pasties, English crisps and candies, and many wonderful breakfasts at the Pret a Manger chain.
I also loved the beers in London, especially Camden Hells Lager, a local brew which I ordered whenever I saw it.
London is a very walkable city, and really fun to visit! There are so many amazing sites to see, neighbourhoods to explore, foods to taste and friendly people to meet. It’s easy to navigate and not intimidating, the way many big cities can be.
I hope I’ll get to go again soon, as there are still SO many places on my list to see!
If you’d like to plan your great British adventure, contact me or comment below, and I can share some wonderful recommendations with you.