10 Things You Need to Eat on Your First Visit to London
Forget everything you’ve ever heard about English cuisine, because it is actually brilliant. Long gone are the days of stodgy pub food and stuffy tea. The London food scene has given tired British classics a much needed modern makeover, combining street food flavor, fine dining touches and updated classics. In-between spotting royals, snapping selfies with the Queen’s Guards and braving the heights of the London Eye, feast on these modern British delights on your first visit to London.
Fish and Chips at Golden Union
Eating a massive basket of fish and chips on your first trip in London is a rite of passage. Although British chippy Golden Union is packed with people (and tourists), the generous portions, locally sourced potatoes, freshly caught fish and quick service make it a neighborhood favorite. A somewhat controversial statement: order the pollock over the cod. Even more controversial? The homemade steak-and-ale pie might be the best thing on the menu, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.
Tipsy Cake at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
If you’re lucky enough to score a res at this coveted two Michelin-starred restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental, make sure to order the Tipsy Cake at the start of your meal: It takes at least 45 minutes to prepare. The Tipsy Cake, Blumenthal’s modern update on a traditional British dessert, which dates back to 1810 from The English Cookery Book by J.H. Walsh, is a spit-roasted and caramelized rum-soaked pineapple wedge served alongside piping hot sweet brioche buns sitting atop a boozy custard. Mmm.
Sunday Roast at Marksman Pub
There is nothing more classic than a Sunday roast (traditionally, a large meal eaten after church). Marksman Pub in up-and-coming dining destination Hackney has one of the best elevated yet rooted takes on a roast with pudding à la the Roast Hereford & Yorkshire Pudding. Contrary to its name, Yorkshire “pudding” is actually a puff pastry made from eggs, flour, and milk or water. Make sure to smother in gravy.
Black Dal at Dishoom
If there is one place that anyone who has been to London will tell you to go, it’s Dishoom. The dining room and food are a welcome throwback to the Zoroastrian cafés that peppered Bombay in the 1950s, but have seen a major decline in recent years. The creamy house black dal is the keystone of the menu. It’s cooked for over 24 hours and pairs perfectly with everything, but especially the meaty (but meat-free) jackfruit biryani.
Afternoon Tea in the Gallery at sketch
Not your ordinary afternoon tea: the millennial-pink-velvet-swathed tea parlor (the Gallery) at sketch takes traditional tea sipping to an Alice In Wonderland-like level. The classics like Coronation chicken, egg and cress sandwiches, scones with Cornish clotted cream and Victoria sponge cake make appearances on the tea tower, all served by butlers and servers donning pink trimmings, pushing pink trolleys, in a pink room...you get the idea.
Cod at Spring Restaurant
The dining room of Spring Restaurant at Somerset House is like walking into an airy cloud and blooming garden on the first day of spring. The daily-changing menu of seasonal British food by Skye Gyngell is just as light and whimsical. The fish and chips, typically battered, is elevated here with local sea kale, wild garlic, kefir butter and finger lime.
Smoky Shakshouka at Nopi
You’ve never had shakshouka like this: braised eggs, piquante tomato sauce and smoked labneh (trust us, it makes a big difference). This saucy breakfast dish by Israeli food celeb chef Yotam Ottolenghi uses locally sourced ingredients within Britain, like cheese from North London cheesemakers.
Lamb Kebab At Mangal 2
Part of what makes the London food scene so delicious is its Middle Eastern influences, which have practically become part of the fabric of British cuisine. Mangal 2 in Dalston has foodies and high-profile restaurateurs alike making a pilgrimage for its mouthwatering and affordably priced Turkish ocakbaşı (charcoal-grilled) kebabs and mezze. The lamb kebab is stunningly juicy and hefty.
Hot Cross Buns at Lyle’s
You might have to wait until next year, but the spiced hot cross buns at the revered Michelin-starred Lyle’s in Shoreditch are worth pining for. These delicious quintessential British treats are best eaten with a pat of butter and hot coffee at Lyle’s bar. Buns out of season? Stay and dine at the bar and enjoy the seasonally rotating modern British fare.
Fancy Bacon Roll at Timmy Green
The bacon “sarnie” is a much-loved British breakfast, and Timmy Green, part of the Daisy Green Collection brunch empire, has put a contemporary and fresh Aussie spin on this a.m. classic in the form of the Fancy Bacon Roll. This crave-worthy sarnie is layered with crispy poached eggs, back bacon sourced from small British farms and hollandaise sauce on a paratha roti from Indian specialist bakers in North London.