Name a more foodie city than London. I’ll wait…
London is one of the best gastronomic destinations in the world! In no small part, this reputation is thanks to the sheer diversity and vibrancy of restaurants that you can find in London. There is cuisine from (quite literally) every corner of the world. In this comprehensive guide, I am revealing a wide range of amazing London restaurants, perfect for a first-timer foodie visitor.
Going meal by meal, I’ve got you covered throughout a full day of eating your way across London. Discover cozy breakfast spots serving everything from traditional English fry-ups to Aussie health food. When it comes to lunch, London boasts an impressive range of options to suit every palate (and budget). For dinner, I’ve split my recommendations up into a few categories – casual dinners, Asian cuisine, and fine-dining – based on my personal preferences and experiences. Finally, end with something sweet!
If you're a first-timer in this culinary paradise, get ready to embark on a delicious adventure through the various neighborhoods of London. From edgy fusion spots in trendy neighborhoods to upscale dinners at Michelin-star eateries, London truly does have it all. Whether you're in the mood for English fish & chips, satisfying homemade pasta, or flavorsome Indian curries, this guide will point you towards the best places for a flavorful trip to London. So let's embark on an unforgettable gastronomic journey!
First Timers Guide to the Best Food in London
Tucked away on a quiet lane off frenetic Old Street, Origin was my favorite coffee shop in all of London. In fact, I went there three days in a row! Espresso is the specialty. Origin offers “session coffees” monthly. These special blends and flavor profiles tend to focus on a specific process, varietal, or origin country. The staff is SO nice here. We wound up chatting with one of the baristas for practically an hour while sipping delightful cups of coffee. With a sleek East-London aesthetic and a quirky robot mural near the front window, this place just has a cool neighborhood feel.
- Address: 65 Charlotte Rd (Shoreditch)
- Website: https://www.origincoffee.co.uk/
One of the most highly regarded spots for quality coffee in London is Monmouth. With multiple locations around the city, this trusted name even sources beans for other cafes and coffee shops. Unlike the other two places I mention on this list, espresso isn’t necessarily the specialty here. It’s brewed coffee! The cold brew is especially impressive with a smooth mouth and rich taste. The staff are meticulously trained in the different tasting notes, so they can help you find your perfect cup of coffee.
- Address: 27 Monmouth St (Covent Garden)
- Website: http://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
Another Shoreditch hotspot for nice espresso is Ozone. It has actually be open for over two decades, making it one of the best-established brands for artisan coffee. The two story industrial minimalist café offers ample seating in an airy space. On the basement level, you can even watch the roasting process in action. The smell fills the entire café in a divine way.
- Address: 11 Leonard St (Shoreditch)
- Website: http://www.ozonecoffee.co.uk/
If you’d excuse me for the pun, this French-influenced rotisserie chicken is cluckin’ great. Their specialty is free-range roasted chicken, which is marinated in a blend of herbs and spices before being cooked on a traditional rotisserie. While it is open throughout the day, I think it is best enjoyed in the AM. My favorite dish was the croissant chicken & waffles. The waffles were crispy and doused in a spicy, sweet syrup. Of course, the waffles are topped with their signature roast chicken, which I found to be super succulent with a nice crispy skin.
- Address: 8 Hoxton Square (Shoreditch)
- Website: https://www.mycocotte.uk/shoreditch
Looking for a late-night snack to stave off tomorrow’s hangover? Pop into this 24-hour bagel joint for the salt beef bagel sandwich. The long-standing diner is an artifact from the neighborhood’s former history as London’s largest Jewish community. An enormous hunk of meat sits between two bagel slices smeared with English mustard and a sliced gherkin. Locals rave about this Brick Lane institution, and look – its good. However, Americans (such as myself) might be disappointed by the bagels themselves. I found them to be doughy and a little bland. But the salted beef sandwich is legit.
- Address: 159 Brick Ln (Brick Lane)
- Website: https://bricklanebeigel.co.uk/
Styled as a breezy Australian café, Lantana Café offers healthy fare prepared in simple but delicious ways. Come for the bottomless brunch options, which includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic selections. You can have smoothies, mimosas and cold-pressed juices. This is the type of restaurant where hours slip by as you casually sip and eat and chat.
- Address: 13 Charlotte Pl (Fitzrovia)
- Website: http://www.lantanacafe.co.uk/
Duck & Waffle
Enjoy breakfast food at any time of day, all while sitting 40 floors above London. Duck & Waffle takes all-day dining to the extreme, serving up their decadent modern European menu round-the-clock. Waffles with a view! Dishes are indulgent, including fluffy duck jam donuts with an orange glaze. Prefer something sweet? Try one of their ice cream cones, such as as the Full Elvis banana and peanut butter concoction.
- Address: 110 Bishopsgate (Spitalfields)
- Website: https://duckandwaffle.com/
The Breakfast Club
The vintage styling of this locally beloved chain is nostalgia inducing. From diner style décor to quirky mismatched furniture, the 1970s aesthetic at Breakfast Club is playful and comfortable. The food is pretty traditional American breakfast fare. Signature dishes include huevos rancheros and fried chicken & waffles. You can also go British with the Fully Monty, which has all the classic fixings (yes, including Black Pudding).
- Address: 33 D'Arblay St (Soho)
- Website: http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com/
Housed inside Borough market, Padella is a busy outpost for delightful fresh pasta. They don’t accept reservations, so to avoid a wait, go at odd hours such as a late lunch or early dinner. Service is fast, so don’t worry if you find a line. The heart felt home cooking emerging from this kitchen will give you an immediate serotonin boost. Take the cacio e pepe as an example. Thick cut fresh spaghetti is tossed in a generous serving of cheesy sauce and a sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper. It's the ultimate comfort food!
- Address: 6 Southwark St (Borough Market)
- Website: http://padella.co/
Instagram darling, Sketch, is one of the most recognizable restaurants in central London. The atmospheric design-forward space has its quirky, global aesthetic plastered all over social media. It is most well-known for high tea, and reservations are required. The high tea comes in four courses, so settle in for a few hours. Service was underwhelming, but the three-piece orchestral live music during high-tea was a nice touch.
- Address: 9 Conduit St (Soho)
- Website: https://sketch.london/
Poppies Fish & Chips
With three locations around the city, Poppies is a long-standing London institution. They opened their doors in 1952, offering some of the best fish & chips you’ll find in the city. I visited the Spitalfield locations, and I was totally obsessed with the 1950s American diner aesthetic. You’ll find vintage signs, old Coca-cola vending machines, and lots of other quirky décor. The fish is fresh and the crispy fry is perfection. You can order a range of sides and sauces, giving you the traditional chipper experience.
- Address: 6-8 Hanbury St (Spitalfields)
- Website: http://www.poppiesfishandchips.co.uk/
Set in a walled private garden on the grounds of a former school, Rochelle Canteen feels a world away from central London. The pristine garden gives you the impression you’re eating at an idyllic country house, perfecting mirroring the seasonal, sustainably sourced menu. Dishes change all the time, but you can always expect simple, unfussy cooking. Pair your dish with one of the wines on their expertly curated wine list. If you see a classic pudding on the menu, you should order it – they are often covered in a perfectly made creamy custard.
- Address: 16 Playground Gardens (Shoreditch)
- Website: http://www.rochellecanteen.com/
Specializing in nose-to-tail cooking, Manteca is a buzzy spot in the heart of Shoreditch. We went on a Saturday night with an 8:30pm reservation -- and we still waited a few minutes for a table. It’s a popular recent opening in the East End! There are plenty of enticing items on the menu, but the main event is pasta. My favorite was the ox ragu pappardelle, thanks to a gloriously silky sauce. The crab cacio e pepe was another highlight. Wash down the rich (and sometimes oily) sauces with one of the Amaro cocktails on the menu.
- Address: 49-51 Curtain Rd (Shoreditch)
- Website: http://www.mantecarestaurant.co.uk/
For classic yet upscale British food that packs a punch of flavor, Noble Rot is an excellent choice. From the moment you step inside, you’ll feel welcomed in their cozy and intimate space. Settle in with a glass of wine from their extensive and well-curated wine list. The dishes are not super inventive, but they are prepared very well with the highest quality ingredients. Definitely order the beignets. Stuffed with chicken liver mousse and dusted in parmesan, this little pillow pockets are pure joy. My husband loved the sirloin with horseradish cream & duck fat potatoes. For our vegetarian friends, try the grilled tomato with braised spinach in a paprika cream sauce with sourdough tapenade.
- Address: 2 Greek St (Soho)
- Website: http://www.noblerot.co.uk/
Inspired by elite sport clubs in India, Gymkhana’s design feels like you’ve walked into an old-world joint in the heart of Mumbai or Kochi. Awarded a Michelin star in 2014, the menu at Gymkhana focuses on less common south Indian cuisine. If you aren’t familiar with the dishes, ask the helpful and knowledgeable staff for recommendations. My favorite thing that we ate, the Kid Goat Methi Keema, is not something I would normally order so I was happy that our server recommended it!
- Address: 42 Albemarle St (Mayfair)
- Website: http://www.gymkhanalondon.com/
With locations all around the city, Hoppers started serving casual Sri Lankan street food in 2015. It quickly captured the hearts and stomachs of Londoners, thanks to its casual atmosphere and delicious dishes. The namesake hoppers are a must order dish. Hoppers are savory, thin, bowl-shaped pancakes with a similar texture to Indian roti. They are most often topped with an egg, spicy sambar sauce, or cheese. The prices are reasonable, the vibe is fun, and you can usually get in without a reservation (although you might run into a brief queue).
- Address: 49 Frith St (Soho)
- Website: http://www.hopperslondon.com/
Offering anything but boring Thai food, Som Saa totally gives you the feeling that you’ve left London on a one-way flight to southeast Asia. The aesthetic is just right and the food is absolutely excellent. While the menu features primarily traditional Thai dishes, I can almost guarantee you won't recognize most of the dishes. These are unique and delightful options with spicy, strong flavors that don’t hold back.
The fried seabass is a signature dish. I am absolutely loved the cilantro herbed salad that comes alongside the whole fried fish that looks like it is practically jumping off your plate. Another noteworthy dish was the five-spice pork with succulent tender meat in an oily yummy sauce. Finally, the charred mushrooms & greens was great with a strong smokey wood flavor. The menu isn't huge, so go with a group to try everything.
- Address: 43A Commercial St (Spitalfields)
- Website: http://www.somsaa.com/
Noodle & Beer
For spice lovers, there is no better choice than Noodle & Beer. The insanely delicious Sichuan cuisine coming out of this kitchen is impeccable. But it is not mild. Nearly everything is generously seasoned with the hot, hot, Sichuan pepper. If you can handle the heat, then you simply must try the dried Sichuan beef. These are like spicy beef jerky candy bites. I would come back just to eat this dish. The noodle dishes, such as dan dan, are also excellent as well as the hand formed dumplings.
- Address: 31 Bell Ln (Spitalfields)
- Website: http://www.noodleandbeer.com/
Perhaps the most famous name in British Indian food these days is Naved Nasir. He is the executive chef at Dishoom, a Bombay-inspired restaurant with multiple locations across London (as well as other UK cities like Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham). This isn’t one of those hyped places that can’t deliver – it’s actually really good. I find the dishes have great seasoning with lots of cardamom. The Black Dahl was my favorite. Stewed for 24 hours, the lentils are perfectly soft with a wonderful mix of spices without being too spicy. Another favorite is the paneer, because the cheese is delightfully firm and squeaky yet still soft and rich.
- Address: 12 Upper St Martin's Ln (Covent Garden)
- Website: https://www.dishoom.com/
This restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. Having been to Mexico City and central Mexico a number of times, stepping into this restaurant feels like you’ve walked into a cutting-edge restaurant in the heart of Mexico City. The terracotta painted walls, decorative masks & tapestries, and colorful wall-mounted baskets seamlessly blend to create the perfect warmth. There is a 1 Michelin star restaurant on the main level or you can opt for a cheaper street food-style menu at the Mezcaleria in the basement. While dishes may be unfamiliar to many Europeans, most north Americans will recognize the food as traditional Mexican fare prepared with British seasonal ingredients. Everything we tried was complex and perfectly executed.
- Address: 9 Seymour St (Marylebone)
- Website: https://www.kolrestaurant.com/
Restaurant Gordon Ramsey
The name Gordon Ramsey is essentially synonymous with British cuisine – he is perhaps the most famous chef in all of the United Kingdom. While he has several outposts in his London restaurant empire, the Restaurant Gordon Ramsey is his crown jewel. It has been awarded three Michelin stars and topped the “best of the UK” list several times.
On a quiet Chelsea street in an unassuming jet black doorway, you are going to experience one of the fanciest dining experiences in London. The menu was full of high-end ingredients like caviar, foie gras and lobster, prepared with classic French techniques and stunning plating. I found nearly everything about this dining experience to be flawless.
- Address: 68 Royal Hospital Rd (Chelsea)
- Website: https://www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/restaurant-gordon-ramsay/
The Cinnamon Club
One of London’s original fine-dining establishments (that still holds up to the hype) is the Cinnamon Club. Housed in a former Victorian library, the two-story dining room is lined floor to ceiling bookshelves with white tablecloth tables sprinkled throughout. It’s a really picturesque restaurant. While this might be a basic order, trust me when I say -- order the butter chicken. It is some of the best I’ve ever had! Juicy pieces of thigh meat are served on the bone in a pool of well-seasoned masala gravy sauce. I found the service to be mediocre, especially at the price point, but the food is genuinely lovely.
- Address: Great Smith St (Westminster)
- Website: https://cinnamonclub.com/
Located in a minimalist loft space above Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick is one of London’s most innovative dining experiences. Silo is the brainchild of Doug McMaster, who aspired to open the world’s first zero waste restaurant. As in, there is no garbage bin in the restaurant! I can totally recommend the affordable lunch tasting menu, which offered 8 courses for 65£. The menu changes practically daily, and they don’t print the menus, so you’ll have a look using the QR code. Or let yourself be surprised!
You’re always going to start with slices of the sourdough bread, “the Siloaf”, which is made from flour that is milled in house. Highlights from my menu were heirloom carrots, Quaver-inspired cheese crisps, and braised rainbow chard. There are lots of unique fermented ingredients and preserved jellies, all made from food waste and scraps.
- Address: Unit 7, Queen's Yard (Hackney Wick)
- Website: https://silolondon.com/
The Clove Club
Of all the dining experiences we had in London, Clove Club was my favorite. The open kitchen, a rarity in the high-end dining world, makes you feel like you are part of the cooking action at this two Michelin star culinary juggernaut. You can see all the dishes prepared with delicate toppings and exciting flairs, like smoking pine or liquid nitrogen formed crumbles.
Full of surprising flavor combinations and unique preparation methods, I tried new things at Clove Club. I loved the feeling of surprise that came out of the kitchen. For example, there was a tea-pairing menu for folks that wanted non-alcoholic drink options. The service is super attentive, and the historic space is beautiful.
- Address: 380 Old St (Shoreditch)
- Website: http://thecloveclub.com/
Dessert & Sweets
I love the concept of this dessert shop – the essence of a crumble served hot in a cup! It is really simple and super nostalgic. With locations inside Borough Market and Old Spitalfields Market, their crumble cups are fully customizable. Basically, you choose the fruit mixture, such as apple or berry, then add your crumble (ex: shortbread, granola) and toppings (ex: custard, whipped cream). Delicious, artisan crumbles that taste as good as they look!
- Address: 105C Commercial St (Spitalfields)
- Website: http://humble-crumble.com/
Chinchin Ice Cream
This has got to be the smoothest, yummiest ice cream you ever did eat. And it is all thanks to chemistry. No really! All the ice cream at Chinchin in Camden Market is made with liquid nitrogen. You’ll see the KitchenAid mixers lined up and then a billow of cool steam will come out as the employees pour in liquid nitrogen. The result is exceptionally creamy, delicious ice cream. You can choose a few different flavor and topping combinations. One of my favorites was the tonka bean with pistachios & cardamom, as well as the browned butter caramel with honeycomb. If you’re feeling really extravagant, go for the Tonka bean over sticky Toffee Pudding brownie.
- Address: 49-50 Camden Lock Pl (Camden)
- Website: http://www.chinchinlabs.com/
Did you enjoy this London food guide? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!
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