English cuisine once suffered from a terrible reputation, but with help from celebrity British chefs and a growing multi cultural dining scene this image is no longer accurate. Some of the finest dining establishments in the world can be found in London. And despite the lowly opinion foodies may espouse concerning common British treats like fish & chips, pies, and Sunday roast, this foods are still widely enjoyed in the UK and now around the world.
Drinking and pubs are necessary social pursuits. It less to do with the drinking and everything to do with the culture of the UK. Bars are the place friends and family meet and you can even meet grandma at your "local".
Pubs & Bars
Traditionally popular, the pub is a meeting point for everybody. It is not rare to see a staff person talking with the head of some department of the company in there. They are open until 11pm and happy hour from 5pm to 7pm. The most well known are Hoggshead, Picher and Piano, All Bar One, Slug and Lettuce… Food is less expensive than in restaurants, usually made with burgers, fish and chips, pizza….
Below is a list of pubs and bars that we recommend:
- The Fire Station, 149 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8SB [020 7620 2226]
- Crosse Keys, 9 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V 0DR [020 7623 4824]
- Penderels Oak, 283-288 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HJ [020 7242 5669]
- Westbourne, 101 Westbourne Park Villas Notting Hill, London W2 5ED [020 7221 1332]
- The Barrow Boy And Banker, 6-8 Borough High Street London, SE1 (London Bridge Tube)
- The Anchor, Bankside, London SE1 9DN (Southwark Tube) [020 7407 1577]
- Cuba Libre, 72 Upper Street London N1 ONY [020 7354 9998]
- Tiger Tiger, 28-29 Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4SP [020 7930 1885]
- Gordons Wine Bar, 47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE
- The Melton Mowbray, 18 Holborn, London EC1N 2LE (Chancery Lane Tube) [020 7405 7077]
- The Alexandra, 14 Clapham Common South Side, London SW4 7AA [020 7627 5102]
- Living Room cafe, Suncourt House 18/26 Essex Rd Islington, London N1 8LN (Angel Tube)
You can consult also: http://www.beerintheevening.com
Many pubs are also sports bars and many are fiercely loyal to a local team. Beware that some places can be a bit rough, especially on game days.
Tea - Tea is a staple of the daily routine and diet for many English. The custom was begun in the 1840s due to the various classes in England. The upper classes typically ate luncheon at about midday and dinner at 20:00, while the lower classes ate midday and then a light supper at around 19:00. For both groups, afternoon tea filled a gap in the meals. Teatime is no longer strictly observed in busy office environments, but it still often takes place in the home and has become a popular tourist activity.
There are two basic types of tea:
Afternoon tea - Small meal typically eaten between 14:00 - 17:00.
High tea - An early evening meal, typically eaten between 17:00 - 19:00.
Tea usually consists of
Tea - loose tea is brewed in a teapot and served with milk and sugar.
Sandwiches - customarily cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste, ham, and smoked salmon
Scones - with clotted cream and jam
Cakes and pastries - Battenberg, fruit cake or Victoria sponge
Popular Spots for Tea:
- Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain (Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG) - In the idyllic setting of Tate Britain, this tea features decadent treats. £8.95 per head.
- Bea's of Bloomsbury (44 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8NW) - This chain of cafes has branches on the King's Road in Chelsea and at One New Change in the City. "Sweet tea" is £12 and comprised of a double-decker of plates.
- Soho's Secret Tea Room (Coach and Horses 29 Greek St, London, W1D 5DH) - Vintage style bedecks this venue. Quality teas, sandwiches, scones and treats can be enjoyed for £14.50 per person.
- Orangery (Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX) - Once Queen Anne's greenhouse and entertaining pavilion, this place is the perfect summer venue. Signature orange scones and orange-themed tea sets this tea apart. £14.85 per head.
- The Modern Pantry (47 - 48 St John's Square, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 4JJ) - This alternative tea house is funky and hip. Friendly staff and unique, flavorful eats make it a destination. £15 a head.
- Orange Pekoe (3 White Hart Lane, London, SW13 0PX) - This is a popular tea house and reservations are encouraged. Black and gold and elegant white bone China set the tone. £16.95 per head.
Alcohol has a rich history in the UK and a good drink is taken seriously. People can be as passionate about their drink as they are about their team. Choose wisely.
Beer - Beer was the first alcoholic drink to be produced in England. It has a complex but incredibly long history as it has been brewed continuously since prehistoric times.
Ale (cask conditioned beer) is traditional in the UK market
Lager generally refers to bottom-fermented beer in England. Despite ales being traditional, more than half of the current English market is now lager in the Pilsner and Export styles.
Stout originated in England, although it is now often associated with Ireland.
Bitter applies to well-hopped pale ale, from about 3.5 to 7 percent. Variations include best bitter, special bitter, extra special bitter, and premium bitter.
Cider - This drink of fermented apple juice is actually a member of the wine family. It is served by the pint or half pint like beer. There are two distinct types:
Scrumpy is cloudy and unfiltered
Perry is made from pears.
Shandy is beer mixed with lemonade.
Wine - Wine often accompanies formal meals. It was introduced to England by the Romans and has been much enjoyed ever since. Most wine is imported, but there are English wines. The Wine Standards Board reported that there were just over 350 vineyards producing wine throughout England. The largest is Chapel Down Wines near Tenterden in Kent, with The Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire and Sharpham Vineyard in Devon also of note.
Liquor - Gin is the liquor most often identified with England. Though not actually developed in Britain, gin and tonic has historical roots back to the British empire when it was originally taken to combat malaria in tropical climates. Rum is also popular, and though whisky is largely claimed by the Scots, it is also popular.
The legal drinking age is 18 years old and any pubs and clubs will ask for ID. However, if alcohol is to be consumed with a meal or while the teenager is with their parents, the laws are more generous. For example, it is legal for a single glass of wine to be served to a 16-year old with a meal.
Penalties for drinking and driving are extremely severe. The current limit is:
35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 milliliters of breath;
80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood;
107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of urine.
From fine dining to street food, London provides. Along with the usual English fare, numerous Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Pakistani, Polish, Turkish, Indian, French, and Italian dishes are available.
- Full English Breakfast - Consists of several courses, traditionally a starter (fruit juice, prunes, grapefruit, cereal), a main course of bacon and eggs, tea, toast and marmalade or other preserves. Many variations are possible.
- Fry-up - Another morning specialty, this includes fried eggs, toast, a selection of sausages and bacon, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, hash browns, and traditionally, black pudding.
- Scone - Sweet or savoury scones are a staple for afternoon tea. Buttery and sweet, they often feature berries and are paired with butter or marmalade.
- Ploughman's Lunch - Composed of cheese (usually a thick piece of Cheddar, Stilton or other local cheese), ham slices, pickle, apples, pickled onions, salad leaves, and bread, this platter comprises the best of local specialities.
- Bangers - English sausages are known as "bangers" and are usually made from fresh meats and rarely smoked, dried, or strongly flavoured. They are frequently served with mashed potatoes, and this dish is called Bangers & mash.
- Cornish Pastie - A traditional pub staple, this is a dry mixture of meat and potato and other vegetables baked in a folded-over pastry crust.
- Toad in the Hole - Sausage is baked in a batter similar to Yorkshire pudding.
- Bubble and Squeak - Traditional English dish made with the shallow-fried leftover vegetables from a roast dinner. The main ingredients are potato and cabbage, but carrots, peas, brussels sprouts, and other vegetables can be added.
- Fish & Chips - This dish of battered fish which is deep-fried and served with chips (french fries) is the most well known of all English specialties. It became popular in London and South East England in the middle of the 19th century and it is believed that the first chip shop stood on the present site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market.
- Black Pudding - Associated with Lancashire, this sausage is made from pig's blood and oatmeal.
- Pies - A mainstay of English cooking, there is a wide variety of pies. Meat pies generally contain fillings such as chicken and mushroom or steak and kidney pie. Cottage pie (also known as shepherds pie) and fisherman's pie using fish/seafood is topped with mashed potato.
- Beef Wellington - Filet steak coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.
- Sunday Roast - More an event rather than a specific dish, this was once the most common feature of English cooking. Traditionally includes roast potatoes accompanying a roasted joint of meat such as roast beef, lamb, pork, or a roast chicken served with a gravy and assorted vegetables.
- Sherry Trifle - A sherry-soaked sponge covered with mixed fruit and jelly (jello in the US), topped with a layer of whipped cream.
- Spotted Dick - This sweet puddings is a steamed, log-shaped suet pudding studded with currants and ideally served with treacle poured over it.
- Steamed Treacle Pudding - A steamed sponge pudding made with treacle that also has treacle poured over it when served.
- and last but not least, the Korma (a chicken or lamb curry with a thick, cream-based sauce), is very popular in English restaurants. Although originated from Northern India and Pakistan, it was popularized by the English colonists, to whom traditional Indian cuisine was too spicy and appreciated milder korma meals.
Vegetarian food isn't difficult to find and, in fact, many sites, restaurants, and guides cater to vegetarian and vegan dining. Most restaurants offer at least one vegetarian option, and a side dish or appetizer can be made into a main course.
Helpful sites for vegetarians include: http://www.veganlondon.co.uk/ or
Address: 17- 18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB
Tel.: 020 7242 2622
A Michelin-recommended restaurant, this venue has a reputation as one of the finest vegetarian restaurants in the capital.
Address: 45 Lexington Street, London , W1F 9AN
Tel.: 020 7494 1634
Serves internationally inspired vegetarian food. Made fresh, it offers friendly informal service.
Address: 43 Old Compton Street, London
Tel.: 020 7851 1586
Fast service restaurant serving authentic falafel and freshly made vegetarian food.
The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 51 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 9QL
Tel.: 020 8748 6932
A gorgeous setting with high ceiling, this cosy restaurant offers beautiful courses and accommodating staff.
Tipping in restaurants is less generous than in the United States, but generally more generous than other places in Europe. All meals include a 20 percent VAT tax and it is customary to leave 10-15 percent of the bill. However, restaurants may add a service charge so check your bill before paying.
It is unnecessary to pay a tip for fast food, self-service or take away meals. Tipping is also not practiced in pubs. If you have had a practically pleasant experience, you may offer to buy a drink for the bartender who will either have it, save it for later, or keep the price of the drink as a tip.
Fast food is widely available, to the disadvantage of the people's health. Fish and chip shops, a "chippy", are very popular, as well as international fast food. Though London is an expensive city to live in, there are many meals available from £5. Most pubs offer a decent small meal starting at 11:00. Grocery stores like Tesco also have many inexpensive ready made options. Within the city there are also many take-away options like fish & chips, Indian, falafal, and other international specialities.
Recommended Fish & Chips:
- Fish Bone - (82 Cleveland Street London W1T 6NF) Fresh fish is cooked to order and fried in groundnut oil. The chips are hand-cut and delicious.
- Fryer's Delight - (19 Theobald's Road London WC1X 8SL) This shop is traditional fare with fat chips, chunky batter on the fish, fried in beef dripping.
- Geales - (2 Farmer Street, W8 7SN) This restaurant has been in business since 1939. A posh chippy, it is upscale while still serving good old-fashioned meals.
- Golden Fish Bar - (102 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3EA) This place has been around for 150 years and is very popular. There is a restaurant and a take away fish and chips shop with a traditional working class feel.
- Olley's - (65-69 Norwood Road, SE24 9AA) Great location opposite Brockwell Park, offers a nautical theme and features a dozen types of fish (battered, steamed or grilled), with a selection of meal options named after local celebrities or famous customers.
- Rock & Sole Plaice - ( 45-47 Endell St City of London WC2H 9AJ) This is London's oldest fish and chip shop. Established in 1871, it is popular with locals and tourists.
- Seafresh - (80-81 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1DL) Established in 1965, fresh fish is delivered from Billingsgate Fish Market daily.
- Sea Shell of Lisson Grove - (49 - 51 Lisson Grove London NW1 6UH) This take away fish and chips shop is popular with locals and visitors.
While there are a countless number of excellent restaurants within London, not all of them are good. Note that prices are inevitably inflated close to major tourist attractions. Look for restaurants that Londoners are dining at rather than tourists.
For very good food in the most expensive locations in London, (crazy low price indeed: £5 - Beef stroganoff, custard and pudding, ...) there is The Stockpot, 40 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4EA. You will find other Stockpot in prestigious locations such as 273 Kings Road SW3 5EN, 18 Old Compton St Soho - W1D 4JL, ...etc.
For noodles and not much more expensive, there are also the famous Wagamama.
To explore the best of London's dining, use http://london.diningguide.com/ and http://www.london-eating.co.uk/.
- Brick Lane - This street in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is in the East End. Starting at Swanfield Street, it runs to the northern part of Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. It is the heart of the Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and famous for its many curry houses.
- Brixton - African/Caribbean cuisine
- Chinatown - Off Leicester Square, there are typical Chinese options here.
- Clapham Junction - Just a short ride from the center, this area has good restaurant options like around Lavender Hill and Battersea Rise.
- Drummond Street - In the Euston area, this area has a mix of great Indian restaurants and vegetarian.
- Edgware Road - In Marylebone and Paddington, this are is popular for Middle Eastern cuisine.
- Finsbury Park - This area offers Greek and Turkish.
- Golders Green - Jewish fare.
- High Street Croydon - Outside of the center, there are well priced, independent restaurants.
- Kingsland Road - Cheap Vietnamese options.
- Lordship Lane - Located in the southern suburbs, places serve European restaurants and a few award winning gastropubs
- Tooting, East Ham, Wembley and Southall - Authentic, inexpensive Indian food.
- Upper Street - Highbury & Islington or Angel. Excellent restaurants that are popular with young professionals.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge SW1X 7LA
Tel.: 020 7201 3899
Price: Main courses £12-28
This American chef, Daniel Boulud, offers fine French cuisine. Set within the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the restaurant is surprisingly informal.
Dean Street Townhouse
Address: 69-71 Dean Street, W1D 4QJ
Tel.: 020 7434 1775
Price: Main courses £15-24
A hotel restaurant, this is one of the places to in Soho. Regulars attest to the superb offerings in a pleasant, traditional, country style setting.
Address: 33 Charlotte Street, entrance on Rathbone Street W1T 1RR
Tel.: 020 7813 8010
Price: Tapas £2-25
Fino's basement setting provides classic and inventive Spanish tapas. Small portions of regional specialities are perfect for sampling and sharing.
Address: 3 Hereford Road W2 4AB
Tel.: 020 7727 1144
Price: Main courses £9.50-14.50
Classic British food is featured in this restaurant. The menu changes daily and includes things like offals (calves' brains and kidneys, lamb's sweetbreads) and classic British puddings (vanilla rice pudding, apple crumble).
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Address: 11 Langley Street WC2H 9JJ
Tel.: 020 7420 9390
Price: Main courses £15-30
The Hawksmoor is within Covent Garden. Huge, high quality steaks and a trendy environment make this a great place to dine.
Address: 25 Heddon Street W1B 4BH
Tel.: 020 7434 4040
Price: Main courses £17-28
African cuisine is served within this unique and memorable setting. Glamorous and exotic, this is a restaurant to impress.
Address: The Halkin, Halkin Street SW1X 7DJ
Tel.: 020 7333 1234
Price: Main courses £17.50-26.50; nahm arharn £60
Located within the Halkin hotel, Nahm offers luxurious minimalism. A nahm arharn (traditional Thai meal) offers diners the chance to select a dish from each of the menu's six sections.
Address: Mezzanine Floor, Victory House, 99-101 Regent Street, entrance on Swallow Street, W1B 4RS
Tel.: 020 7734 1401
Price: Main courses £15-32
Known as London's oldest surviving Indian restaurant, Veeraswamy draws tourists and locals. Located on the first floor overlooking Regent Street, there are colourful hanging lamps, ornate chandeliers and aromatic and beautiful dishes.
Address: Patriot Square E2 9NF
Tel.: 020 7871 0461
Price: Set dinner £65 6 courses (£115 with wine)
Stylish and trendy, Nuno Mendes's restaurant is creative and fun. Portuguese, Japanese, Thai and South American flavours blend in satisfying seafood dishes.