British food notoriously has bad wrap, but London's culinary scene has some of the best food in the world with a strong international street food and restaurant scene.
I have lived in London twice in my life, both as a student. First in 2012 when I studied for a semester abroad. My alma mater, Syracuse University has a London campus. This trip I knew London essentially the same as a tourist. When I returned in 2015 for two years while completing my master's degree in publishing is when I became a Londoner. I had local London-native friends, lived in different neighborhoods, interned at a food magazine, and even ran a pop-up restaurant, Orange St where we served 'Northern California Style Taco' hey it was a selling point that kinda worked.
London's food scene is everywhere! Each Central London neighborhood has a variety of daily street markets where people grab lunch for as little as £5. There is Exmouth Market, that's my my former flat in Clerkenwell. I'll never forget the first time I investigated all the vendors in the market before making a decision, as one should always do when visiting a new street food market. The last vendor in the market had the longest line. After walking past a line 'queue' of people who resembled a 90s Benetton ad, I saw that all these people from various cultural walks of life where waiting for a bowl of Ghanian food. Spinach and egusi, peanut stew, jollof rice, it was all there and they were all waiting for it. My head spun because I could only DREAM of the day I would see such a line for African food in Los Angeles. Point is, London has incredible food and the people in the city know it!
“After walking past a line 'queue' of people who resembled a 90s Benneton ad, I saw that all these people from various cultural walks of life where waiting for a bowl of Ghanian food”
Here are my 11 favorite London restaurants (in no order) that I return to time and time again with just as much enthusiasm as when I first dined at them. For a full list of my London places, including bars and galleries, check out my London Google Map.
I wish I could remember how I stumbled upon this outdoor noodle shack, but it has become my favorite place to recommend to friends for beyond the obvious reason of having a risque name. It's the most perfect restaurant for me. Casual, run by the loveliest owner serving spectacularly delicious food for an affordable price.
Order: Lakska Noodle Soup & Shrimp Dim Sum
This is another one of those restaurant where you can't go wrong, but let me tell you something, when it comes to the wings, I shamelessly get an order to myself, or if we are a group, be sure to put in 2-3 orders of them. Sweet-Spicy-Briney oi oi, the toughest part is that they don't take reservations, so arrive early to put your name down. There is no shortage of fantastic bars in the area to wait it out. And YES it is worth the wait.
Order: Chili Fish Sauce Wings
I love the food from Dishoom so much that I have two copies of their cookbook, one at home and one in the Jikoni studio. This restaurant is spectacular from the decor to how it's run. The menu is vast, and honestly I've probably only ever tried the same 5 dishes, but damn they're delicious. I have never had a trip to London without a visit. The breakfast is not to be slept on!
Order: Chicken Ruby, Mango Lassi, Bacon & Naan Roll (Breakfast)
As an American, I would have never imagined that my favorite burger of all time would be found in London, but Dirty Burger is everything we want an American burger to be: simple, juicy and savory with a little bit of tang. The Exmouth Market location serves beer and has a hidden dining area in the basement.
Order: Anything on the menu. You can't go wrong here
88 Leather Ln, Holborn, London EC1N 7TT
This family owned Thai restaurant is just a half block away from my last London flat, but I was a customer long before I lived in the area. I would be lying if the proximity to the restaurant wasn't a huge plus when selecting my apartment. I'm not saying they serve the best Thai green curry in the world, I just can't imagine how one could be better...
Order: Thai Green Curry
I can generally find my way to Fabrique via smell when I'm close by enough. The smell of cardamom, my favorite spice, seduces usually fast walking Londoners inside. These buns differ greatly from an American cinnamon bun not just in flavor but in texture. The twisted dough is much denser than the fluffy shopping mall buns. Enjoy with a cappuccino and meander through the nearby boutiques.
Order: Cardamom Buns
Order: Little cakes from the display
The ideal place for a catch up dinner with a friend. Order the tasting menu and enjoy Middle Eastern delights in the cozy dining room.
Order: Tasting Menu
French patisseries are a weakness of mine. When I'll scrunch my nose at the cost for most things, I'll happily pay more than necessarily for a perfectly crafted tiny dessert. The pastries here are top notch, with a specialty focus on eclairs.Each flavor is stunning, and thankfully delicious to live up to the visual anticipation. All their locations are a bit limited seating wise. I most frequent the Soho location so I can roam though the village of gay bars while enjoying an eclair.
Order: Chocolate Eclair
No list of London food would be right without one English dining option. Perhaps my favorite cultural adoption of London culture was the pub. The pub serves as the meeting point for all social groups. Weekends with friends, after work with colleagues. When the weather is nice you'll see herds of Londoners in front of pubs with pints in hand and work bags on the floor. That's why I enjoy the Builders Arms a bit of a hidden gem in the posh neighborhood of Kensington.
Just a couple minutes from the busy high street this pub has gorgeous hardwood floors (unlike the dreadful beer stained carpets of many pubs), generally low-key though it can be busy during sporting matches, and delicious food! A true gastro pub, everything I've tried on the menu is simple, yet delicious.
Order: Bangers & Mash, pint of Guinness