Your Guide to Dining in London
Unlike Paris, for most, a night dining in London doesn’t come with a language barrier. Yet that doesn’t make eating out in London any easier. True, there aren’t too many customs and you’ll be able to order simply enough, so why then is an evening in London so daunting?
Well, you see, London is a huge metropolitan city that is saturated with wonderful and intriguing restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. On one side of the street you might see an American-style diner serving Man vs Food style burgers, yet on the other you’ll find a Michelin star restaurant where food is art – literally.
Although London might not have the same overwhelming foodie identity as cities like Paris, it’s a city where nothing is off limits, where the street food is just as amazing as a restaurant experience and where the world is your oyster with such a grand selection of culinary delights.
Photo CC Davide D’Amico
Before your trip to London you must plan where you want to eat. There are thousands of restaurants in this city and the last thing you want to do is waste one of your nights in a sub-standard restaurant. Plus, many of the most in-demand restaurants will book out months in advance, so if there is a particular place you’d like to sample, planning is key.
Sites like TripAdvisor are a superb source for honest reviews on the true quality of not only the food, but the experience as a whole. True, you could read a fantastically complimentary restaurant review from a critic, but this might not reflect the standard of the average experience.
TripAdvisor is full of tips not only on how good a restaurant is, but it’ll give advice on whether you need to book, average menu prices, the best times to visit and even the best seats in the house.
The Best of British
Compared to the sophistication of a French menu or the comfort of an Italian, you might think that British kitchens don’t really have that much to offer, but that’s not the case at all.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for something high-end, hearty, or just a quick snack here are some must-try dishes for any traveller in to the UK.
Street food is something that goes down an absolute storm in the UK. It also, quite often, involves some kind of pastry. Two must-tries are the sausage roll – literally a sausage baked in a blanket of puff pastry – and the Cornish pasty.
Originally from Cornwall – you’ll still find the best pasties in their home county – this is a hearty snack that can now be found up and down the country.
The fillings vary from beef mince, onions, carrots and other vegetables, to a steak chunk, gravy and vegetable mix, all packed into a shortcrust (traditional) or puff pastry parcel.
Photo CC HarshLight
Originally intended as a form of celebration as many Catholics and Anglicans abstained from eating meat on Fridays, the Sunday Roast became a celebratory meal eaten after church on a Sunday. Still very much an occasion for a lot of British families the traditional Sunday Roast comprises of a large joint of meat (very often beef), a selection of vegetables, a thick, rich gravy and Yorkshire puddings.
Nowadays, it’s become a tradition for many families to head out for their Sunday roasts which is why they’re available in the majority of pubs and British restaurants on a Sunday. Alternatively, you can head to a carvery, where you serve yourself, and enjoy this famous British staple any day of the week.
Perhaps the noblest of UK dishes, it’s a fine fillet steak wrapped lovingly in a thick layer of pate, all held together in a golden puff pastry case. Beef Wellington is also generally served alongside a selection of vegetables and sometimes also gravy.
Photo CC InterContinental
Choose Your Menu
Restaurant menus in London generally depend on the time of day you visit. At lunch time, for example, a cheaper set menu is often available alongside the à la carte evening menu. Between 4pm and 7pm many restaurants will also offer a pre-theatre menu which is again usually a set two or three course menu comprising of a few of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
It’s fashionable for restaurants to have themed nights also, and this is a great way to save some money on your food. Although a standard, full menu is usually always available throughout these evenings, Curry Night, Steak Night or special offers on a Sunday roast are all common things to find. On these evenings, the dishes advertised are generally reduced in price – sometimes as much as 50%.
London and the surrounding areas have their fair share of Michelin star restaurants that are renowned for their impressive, artistic displays but also their high prices. Visiting one of these restaurants is an all-encompassing experience that’s most definitely worth that higher price tag. However, if their menus are falling a little out of budget then consider booking in for a tasting menu.
Considerably cheaper than the a la carte offerings, a tasting menu generally includes between seven and 14 courses. It’s a set menu which allows you to try a large selection of the restaurant’s offerings for a set price – it’s a great way to sample some exquisite food while keeping costs to a minimum.
Photo CC by Farrukh
Do You Have to Go Out to Get Good Food?
What a lot of travellers don’t realise is that you don’t actually have to visit a restaurant to eat wonderful food in London. After-all, a trip to London without visiting one of its many food markets would be a journey wasted.
Borough Market is open daily and features some of the tastiest food from across the globe. Think melted Swiss cheese sandwiches, Mexican beer and spectacular homemade granolas that are perfect for breakfast the next morning.
Another favourite is the Saturday Broadway market, which is foodie heaven. This market is famed for its stalls selling burgers, catfish and the most amazing BBQ. Not to mention all the amazing sweet treats like luxurious brownies and cupcakes on sale. London has lots of markets on every day of the week with something for everyone – you’ll no doubt find you want to try everything!
Photo CC by FollowYour Nose
Of course, you don’t even need to leave your hotel or apartment to experience some of the best London cuisine. This city is famed for the high standards of takeaway food on offer. All you need to do is download a popular app like Hungryhouse. As one of the most popular delivery services in London, it’s famed for its huge variety of cuisines on offer, along with great prices and generally large portions.
Once you’ve headed back after a day of exploring, the thought of going out again just to get some food is a tiring one, so for at least one of your evenings in London, make sure you try a restaurant takeaway menu – you definitely won’t regret it.
- Tipping in London tends to be around 10% although this is not enforced so if you have bad service feel free not to tip. Tips tends to be left in cash, although some places can add your tip to your bill so you can pay by card.
- Check the restaurant for their booking requirements before visiting. Many restaurants will book out well in advance whereas others won’t take bookings at all and work on a first-come-first served basis.
- Visit a restaurant out of your comfort zone at least once. True, there are plenty of Chinese, American, British etc. restaurants but there are also exceptional Polish, Vietnamese and the ever popular Korean offerings too.
- Some restaurants will have a dress code and some don’t allow children past certain times so check before you arrive.
- As London is so full of worldly cuisine you might want to look up the customs of the country of the restaurant you’re going to just in case. Most restaurants will be very casual as they are in London but it’s always best to be prepared.