After already introducing London in my international food guide (>>take me out for dinner<<), it's finally time to dig in deeper, 'cause despite all the prejudices about the Brits not having any kind of food culture, London has quite a few places to satisfy your hunger.
The development of the British tea culture dates back to 17th century and is still a very important part of London. So, if you're in town, do it like the locals and dedicate yourself into this great tradition. My favorite place to enjoy an afternoon tea is >>Brigit's Bakery<<, a serene and relaxed place in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Covent garden. A beautiful mix between vintage interior and bright establishment greets you when entering. Your tea will be served in a traditional and flowery pot, in which none of them look like the other and the baked goods are made with love. I can absolutely recommend the red velvet cupcake. Trough the large windows, you're able watch the people pass by as you lean back, relax your feet and unwind.
One of London's most vibrant boroughs would be Camden Town. Colorful houses, second hand shops, clubs and markets. Its loud, it's mostly crowded and it definitely is a must-see while you're in the pea souper.
First place to stop by: >>Poppies – Fish & Chips<<. You'll be welcomed back to the 50s in this chippy. Be prepared, you'll probably have to wait for your table, so don't get there during the weekend. Shorter waiting times are in the afternoon on a weekday. Owner Pat 'Pop' Newland started his career in the business at the age of eleven, wrapping up fish and chips in daily mirror paper as a young lad. The whole shop is filled with memories of Pops time back then, the servings are huge and the waitresses and waiter are absolutely friendly. I recommend the traditional fish & chips with haddock and believe me when I say that the regular serving is more than enough to fill your stomach, a fentimans victorian lemonade is corresponding greatly with the fish.
But there's more to Camden then Poppies. The >>Horse Stable Market<< itself offers a great variety of food trucks and stands. Pass by the first market, following on the left hand side after the small bridge and after a few meters, you'll see the entrance of the Horse Stable Market underneath an underpass on the left side. Right at the corner is a great freshly homemade lemonade stand during spring and summer,
followed by an asian food stand on the right with the best sprouts ever. Yes, you read that right, I absolutely mean sprouts. No one usually likes them, me neither, but those are prepared so well, you're going to want more and – big plus – the food isn't that expensive, which is beneficial in an expensive city like London is.
My favorite pub in Camden Town is the >>Oxford Arms<<. It is a family run pub in the heart of Camden. There's always a crowd and cheerfulness and it's a great place to go before you hit one of the many clubs in Camden.
Best food market around London
There is only one food market that can be the unchallenged number one and that would be the >>Borough Market<<.
The oldest food market of London is nestled in the Rochester Yard, next to the London Bridge underground station in Southwark. The market offers a great assortment of local offers and fresh products. Either if you're looking for vegetables, meat, fish, bread, sweets, pies or take-away dishes, you'll find the best stuff around here. The market is open from Monday to Saturday. Check out the webpage for the right times.
Back to the 60s
My favorite place to go on a rainy evening is right in the middle of London and just off Trafalgar Square – >>Little Frankie's<<.
The restaurant isn't too big, the interior is held in a colorful sixties style with small booths, little sofas and pictures from old movie stars and singers. Little Frankie's originated from the New York Italian Restaurant Frankie & Benny's and offers burgers, pasta, pizza and tasty, American styled desserts. The cheese as well as the veggie burger are great. For dessert, savor the brownies and ice cream slowly. Get a place right at the front window and you'll have a great view of the illuminated Trafalgar Square during the evening.
The healthy fast food
If you don't want to stop by a restaurant or simply want something on the go, steer clear of McDonalds, Burger King and so on. The best fast food place to go – which isn't really a fast food place – is >>Pret A Manger<<. They offer the best sandwiches around town and they are freshly prepared every morning. A friend of mine has worked there during my time in London and that's how I know for sure that the food, you'll get at Pret is always fresh and it's a healthier alternative to all the other fast food stuff. What I also like about Pret is that they don't throw the unsold food away in the evening, it gets picked up and the homeless people get it for free.
For breakfast, I recommend the overnight oats or the veggie brioche. The posh cheddar & pickle baguette or the matured cheddar & Pret pickle sandwich are also quite tasty. So, if you need something quick to eat, stop by Pret A Manger. You cannot miss the stores, they're everywhere around London, labelled with a red star.
London is full of pubs, so you can get overwhelmed. Here are my favorite pubs distrusted across London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Bankside, Soho and Notting Hill.
- >>The Shipwrights arms<< – This traditional pub is located near famous Tower Bridge in Southwark. It's a classic English pub with a dark but cozy interior, a carpet and with the bar being the heart of the pub. First a nice walk along the Queen's walk from the London Bridge to Tower Bridge, followed by a nice pint.
- >>The Globe Tavern<< – Located near London Bridge but in the other direction, right in next to Borough Market, the Globe will warmly welcome you. Some of you might find that the building looks familiar. Well, the apartment of Bridget Jones was located above the Globe in the well-known movie. The pub itself is set over two floors and serves fine ales, wines and other drinks in the bar downstairs and some great dishes upstairs, right in the middle of this great borough pouring on the charm.
- >>The Founders Arms<< - A more modern riverside pub with an awesome view of the millennium bridge across the river thames, whether you're sitting on the inside, right next to the glass facade, or in the comfy outside area.
- >>The Anchor<< – Just before Bankside, at the river thames, this pub can't be unseen with the bright red door and window frames. Enjoy the outside terrace on warm summer evenings or have a seat in one of the comfy chesterfield-styled chairs and sofas.
- >>O'Neills<< - A rather big Pub on three floors with the main two floors around the bar, one room for live music and a great roof terrace. It's always crowded there but you'll meet many great people and big plus, this Pub doesn't close its doors at midnight, like most Pubs do due to off-time in Britain, it's open till three am.
- >>Sun in Splendour<< - The best place to relax after fighting yourself through the obligatory visit of the Portobello Road flea market in Notting Hill. This pub is a great mix of vintage and modern crankiness. Motley interior, chandeliers, local brews and the best thing – the “secret” backyard, secluded from all the rush and crowds in Notting Hill.
The big don't
Something really bothered me, respectively disappointed me in London and that was the Chinese food. Chinatown is located right behind Leicester Square and looks quite nice. The traditional arcs and lanterns, street signs written in Chinese and ducks, displayed in shop windows as they originally are in China. I've been to several restaurants in Chinatown and the food wasn't really what I expected. Traditional restaurants, with lots Asian guests but it was overpriced,
did taste like nothing, the people were unfriendly and even tried to rip us off once. So, be careful if you want to try one of those restaurants in Chinatown, there are way better places to go as you've seen by now.
Other than that, the Brits have always been kind, friendly and very polite with me and my friends and made us feel at home. So, delight and indulge.
Best flight deals to get to London from >>New York City<< are during January next year for only $341, from >>Los Angeles<< during May 2017 for only $391 and from >>Amsterdam<< or >>Brussels<< also in May for 62€ respectively in March for 102€.
Until then, happy traveling.