What and where to eat in London

A true melting pot of culinary practices and influences, London is offers a nearly infinite choice in terms of food

The UK might not be internationally known for its cuisine, but London is blessed with an extremely heterogeneous food scene thanks to cultural diversity, making the city one of the best European capitals for food lovers. Whether or not you’re excited to try out British food, here you won’t have trouble come supper time.

Traditional British food

Although British food is not normally what people would define as mouth-watering, if you want to get an idea of what traditional food in the UK actually is, here is a list of some of the most popular dishes.

English Breakfast: contrary to what you might have been told, the majority of British people don’t actually have this for breakfast every morning. The dish is however served in most cafes and restaurants until (and sometimes including) lunchtime. It consists of bacon, eggs (fried, poached, or scrambled), fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, sausages, and baked beans. It can also include hash browns and black pudding (blood sausage), and it is served as a full portion or as half.

English breakfast
If a full English breakfast sounds like too much, we recommend you ask for half a portion.

Fish and Chips: this another famous British classic. It’s battered fish (usually cod) with a side of freshly-fried chips. Although it is a fast-food staple, you can also order it at the pub or restaurant, where it might be served along with mushy peas (slow-cooked peas that have been made into a mush).

Sunday Roast: also known as Roast dinner, this is a meal usually eaten at family gatherings on Sundays, hence the name. It consists of roasted meat (chicken, lamb, gammon, or beef), vegetables, and potatoes, usually served with gravy.

Shepherd’s Pie: this is a baked savoury dish made by a layer of minced meat with peas and carrots topped by another layer of mashed potatoes that become crispy on top.

Bangers and Mash: the name might sound weird, but this is just sausage with mashed potatoes served with gravy. You’ll find this dish in any pub in the UK.

Cornish Pasties: a large oven-baked shortcrust pasty filled with meat (usually beef), potato, turnip, and onion.

Scotch Egg: a popular on-the-go dish consisting of a hard boiled egg, surrounded by a layer of minced ham and rolled in breadcrumbs, which has been deep-fried.

As for desserts, the UK is known for its love of cakes and sweets. Any café you walk into in London will likely have a variety of muffins, cakes, and sweet pastries that you should try. However, here are a couple of the British classics.

Eaton Mess: This (admittedly messy-looking) dessert consists of strawberries (and other berries), crushed meringue, and whipped cream.

Cream Tea: this is the richest version of afternoon tea, which includes not only actual tea but also scones served with clotted cream, jam, and butter.

Where to eat

London is obviously a massive city, so there are countless delicious foods to try and excellent restaurants, food markets, and small eateries to find all over the city. And like any city, London too has areas well-known for the variety and quality of food.

Soho is a known foodie destination in London, bustling with hipster venues that always look to innovate and experiment with different culinary traditions.

Chinatown is of course a must for any visit to London. You’ll find an incredible variety of Chinese food from different culinary traditions, from Cantonese, to Sichuan to Jiangsu cuisine. On top of that, London’s Chinatown is also home to dozens of other East and Southeast Asian restaurants, shops, and cafés, so that you can try a Vietnamese coffee, a Filipino ice cream bun, and a Japanese snack, all on the same street.

Chinatown in London
The Chinatown area in London is demarcated by a paifang.

Covent Garden is the place to go if you want to eat at a traditional historic pub or more highbrow, trendy restaurants. The neighbourhood is also ideal if you’re looking for a place to eat past dinner time, since this is where you’ll find a lot of eateries open until late.

If what you’re looking for is Bangladeshi cuisine, there is no better place than Brick Lane, famous for its numerous and delicious curry houses.

Camden Town is another stop we highly recommend for all food lovers. The food market there hosts countless stalls serving all kinds of savoury and sweet street foods from all over the world.

When to eat

Meal times in the UK are quite early. Lunch is normally eaten between 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm, with restaurants normally closing around 2:00 pm. Dinner is served between 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm.

However, since London is such a large city and tourists are around at all hours of the day, you will be able to find something to eat practically at any time. Most fast-food venues have much longer hours than restaurants, and late-night eateries are very easy to find in the most central parts of the city.

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What and where to eat in London