10 Foodie Reasons to Fall in Love With London
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford." - Samuel Johnson
This is why I love London - It holds something for everyone. It's diverse and extreme; beautiful and rough; fast and sleepy; noisy and peaceful; I could go on and on. Wherever I go, something always draws me back. It’s a city that never stops evolving, changing and growing. I also have a bit of a soft corner for it because it's where my whirlwind of a culinary journey took a big step forward - Putting aside the fact that I have a massive fat crush on London and all the awesome places it has to offer. It will forever be the city in which I learned how to cook.... Like; really cook, and ever since then there was no looking back, and a long standing affair was ignited.
I was absolutely smitten. And here's 10 foodie reasons why you should be too.
1. It’s one of the most diverse cities on the planet.
The food culture is just ridiculously good, from restaurants and food trucks to street markets - It continuously evolves. Whichever cuisine or absolute bizarre food trend you're in the mood for, it's never a long tube ride away. Here are some of my favorite eateries.
Ottolenghi - Now with various locations around London including a branched out chain of restaurants and delis, Ottolenghi takes fresh food to a whole other level with some of the best salads I have ever tried. Rooted in Middle Eastern flavors, the Mediterranean influence is however strong in their cooking but they're as likely to be reaching for mirin and miso as they are pomegranate molasses, olive oil and date syrup. The cupboard is wide and the menu ever-changing. Must-try's include the butternut squash salad with red onion, tahini and za'atar; roasted aubergine with turmeric yogurt and pomegranate seeds; chargrilled broccoli with chilli and fried garlic and the meringues.
Cereal Killer Cafe - Soon to open in Dubai, the only way I can describe this place is Cereal on Crack. Love it or loathe it, it's so bizarre you'll want to check it out at least once. They’ve got 120 international cereal varieties on offer, 20 toppings and, wait for it, 30 different milks! No, I had no idea there were so many either. They serve bowls of cereal (with warm, steamed or cold milk that is plain, chocolate or strawberry flavored) to the masses from morning to night, alongside toast, cereal-inspired cakes, cereal cocktails and 13 different varieties of Pop Tarts. Like I said. So bizarre.
Homeslice - This one sells huge, really, really good thin-crust pizzas and you can buy them by the slice. An old haunt for me. Also located in one of my favorite places in London, Neal's yard, a small alley way in Covent Garden that opens up into a beautiful courtyard.
Royal China - You win some you Dimsum. If you’re a dim sum fanatic then you will love this place! There are a few Royal Chinas dotted around London. Royal China on Baker St is the most famous, and is always rammed on weekends.
Edgware Road - The southernmost part of the road is noted for its distinct Middle Eastern flavour. Many Lebanese restaurants, shisha cafes and shawarma stalls line the street. My favorite is a small, 2 decade old, family run restaurant that serves the best Burmese Khowse ever! Mandalay Golden Myanmar Restaurant - the best budget meal you will have in London.
Nosteagia - Bubble waffles and bubble tea at a Shoreditch service station. And it is the bomb.com! Crispy on the outside and fluffy inside, we’re talking egg waffles turned into a cone and stuffed full of cream, sauce and a variety of toppings including Oreos, raspberries, strawberries and even ice creams! Oh and they're just so darn photogenic!
Tito's - A family run restaurant, just around the station from London Bridge, established in 2003 and serving some of the best ceviche in town! The classic with fresh Cod, lime juice, red onions, coriander and chilli is a must try.
Mestizo - This mis amigos, is one of my fav spots for some guac and tacos. They also have this amazing bubbling dish of gooey cheese, grilled spring onions, cilantro and avocado, with your choice of chicken, beef or vegetarian, accompanied with corn or flour tortillas. And served in a volcanic rock bowl (as you do).
Milo and Hectors - You really just can't go wrong with selling ice-cream sandwiches from a 1965 Piaggio van can you? Cookies baked to exacting chewiness, ready to carry the hefty scoops of gelato. Flavors are pretty classic, my favorite is the white chocolate macadamia cookies with pistachio gelato.
2. Soho. Nuff' said.
Part of London's West End and the most exciting area for a foodie in London to visit, Soho is always evolving when it comes to food and it changes each time I go back. Upmarket michelin star restaurants to speciality coffee shops, small local food vendors and 5 star hotels - Soho houses a range of options, something for everyone!
Smack in the middle of London, just across the road from Selfridges you’ll find Smack Deli. A lobster roll joint from the same people who dreamt up “Burger & Lobster” and it is clawsome. short menu. You order at the counter, pour your own drinks and walk off with a buzzer to wait for your food. And oh boy... is it good
Another favorite is Bao. A tiny little street food vendor who’s made it into bricks and mortar, and taken the city by storm! A little place on Lexington, that serves up fluffy, steamed milk buns, stuffed with all sorts of goodies, along side Taiwanese street food. With strict opening hours it's hard to avoid the monumental queue. There’s a line of businessmen, tourists, locals and Instagram addicts waiting outside and glaring at you through the glass. You can however, just wait across the road and a waitress will bring you the betting slip of a menu. Don't skip out on dessert - Deep Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao!
If you need anything in the world, Harrods will have it. With eight floors, if Harrods doesn’t have it you probably don’t need it! And Harrods' food hall is gourmet grocery heaven. I could literally spend an entire day there. But if I had to pick my favorite baked good, it would be the doughsants. Best I have ever had. Flaky, buttery, crispy and soft on the inside - I swear by them. An absolute must-try. If you're feeling peckish there's also a Rotisserie, Caviar bar, Steakhouse, Sushi bar, Teahouse, Sea Grill, Oyster bar, Artisan ice cream Parlour, Artisan chocolates, a Boulangerie, a Pattiserie and an Italian Truffle & Foie Gras Restaurant.
4. Breakfast at Dawn.
Especially when the skyline looks like that.
Duck and Waffle made quite the impression while I was in London, they had some epic waffles, I must say. When we found out it was open 24 hours, we decided to drag ourselves out of bed one day and watch the sunrise. We got off the tube, walked to the Heron Tower, climbed into the Willy Wonka lift, complete with flashing floors, to the 40th floor. “This had better not be a nightclub" was all I could think. And it most definitely wasn't.
Although it was a tough decision, my favorite had to be the Full Elvis. Loaded with jam, peanut butter, caramelized bananas, fresh berries, chantilly cream, peanut crunch and cocao nibs. #CleanEating.
By the time we headed back down to earth, the rest of London was setting off for work. And once we got to the hotel, it all felt like a bit of a dream anyway.
5. There’s never been a more appropriate place to drink tea and eat scones.
Tea and scones are accepted at all hours of the day, in all types of atmospheres, and here is one of my favorite.
Madhatter Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel - Truly a unique experience. A grown up, witty menu that retains elements from Lewis Carroll's classic children's book like a scrummy chocolate fudge blue caterpillar, a little Drink Me smoothie potion, a red velvet ladybird cake, and a bread and butterfly cake - all straight from the original text. There's even a chocolate-coated coffee-flavoured White Rabbit's pocket watch macaroon. But the piece de resistance is the Queen of Hearts Oreo cookie soldier with a strawberry gel filling and not to mention the specially designed tea blends to fit in with the Alice in Wonderland theme. #ImAMadHatter
6. Borough Market
Everyone loves to nibble. There’s just nothing better than getting to try lots of things, rather than just one dish. If you’re a foodie, Borough Market is heaven. They have everything you could possibly wish for. From grocery stalls, piled high with fresh produce, to artisanal bakeries, delis and street food stalls. Two must-trys are the doughnuts from Bread Ahead, and the Grilled Cheese and Raclette from Kappacasein Dairy. 3 types of melted cheese, onion, garlic, leek, and chives all on Poilane Sourdough. #GrilledCheesus
Make sure you check the timings before you go though, the market isn't fully open every day.
7. Fish & Chips.
Kerbisher and Malt - A proper old 'chippy': you can eat in, you can take away, it'll be done in seven minutes whichever way you slice it. You can have cod, haddock, plaice, pollock or coley and you can have it either battered straight up, grilled or deep-fried with matzo meal (breadcrumbs). The onion rings are made with pickled onions and I almost want to write a love poem to the double fried chips. Definitely worth the trek to Hammersmith.
8. Brunching like a boss.
Brunch is my fav meal. Real brunch though, not Dubai's version of one, which is more lunch than brunch! I'm talking eggs, waffles, hash browns, dimsum, frittata and french toast. I mean who doesn't love a second chance at breakfast? In the morning I'm still feeling like a bit of a hermit but brunch? Brunch is sociable; it’s light; it’s utterly civilized, and nowhere is it more civilized than at Berners Tavern - Oh, the majesty of that dining room. The ceiling is triple-height and adorned with the most intricate stucco I have seen, the walls neatly cluttered with gold-framed portraits, two huge chandeliers, modelled on those found in NYC’s Grand Central Station, hang overhead. It's huge and glitzy and faaabulous! Another Jason Atherton venture and success story for the Social Company restaurants, (which btw seem to be expanding faster than the universe lately)! The menu at Berners Tavern, like the pictures on the walls, covers everything; his signature style sprawled all over the menu: local, seasonal produce; Mediterranean nudging against true Brit; rich, sticky, carby things presented flawlessly.
Granger & Co. - Another favorite of mine and an old haunt; nestled in the alleys of Notting Hill. They don’t take reservations so if you want to go on a weekend, arrive early or queue around the block, your choice. Either way the pancakes are worth it. The ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, bananas and syrup are un-bloody-real.
Tom's Kitchen - No trip to London is complete without visiting a Tom Aikens' restaurant, my favorite being the original Chelsea branch. It's everything you would imagine it to be, the food is good ‘n’ comforting, ingredients are local, sustainable and the best of the best. The only thing missing was Tom Aikens.
Friends of Ours - I stumbled across this gem of a café while wandering around what I consider to be the ‘dodgier’ end of Hoxton, a real indie feel with some amazing coffee, it quickly became one of my favourite spots. The menu was full of lovely little riffs on all the brunch classics, and then some. sweet potato and courgette rosti with poached eggs, Devil’s Scrambled Eggs, Corn Fritter Stack and Shack and the French toast - which was more French loaf - and came smothered in roasted pears and vanilla clotted cream – all of which were conversation-stoppingly-delicious.
That coffee though, absolutely faultless. Which is what brings me to my next point:
9. The Coffee.
London's independent coffee scene has exploded since I was last there. It was so nice to see the buzzing coffee culture and countless speciality coffee hubs dotted all around London. Here are a few I tried and loved!
Grind & Co. - Founded in Shoreditch in 2011 and now with locations all around London including Covent Garden, Holborn, Soho and more; The Grind coffee bars got 2 things right - the coffee and the atmosphere. An industrial venue with exposed bricks, house-blend coffees, plus brunches, sharing plates and a laid-back hipster vibe, made for a winning combination.
White Mulberries - Near the St. Katharine docks, this café is a stunner during summer. The kind of café that feels homey the instant you enter. It's not the sort of place you'd casually walk past, however, once you've found it, chances are you wouldn't want to go anywhere else.
Ozone Roasters - This place was packed each and every time I went! The endearingly un-refurbished basement space, where the beans are roasted, often holds greater promise of empty seats. Located in Shoreditch this Aussie café takes their coffee and pastries very seriously.
10. It's. Just. SO. Damn 'Gram-able'!
Note: The above don't even begin to scratch the surface, these are just some of my favorite spots in London based over the 2 years I was living there and the few times I've gone to visit afterwards.