The poor quality of British food is a tired and appallingly false cliché that never really had any truth in the first place.
In fact, London, being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, has one of the best and most varied food offerings of any city anywhere in the world.
A lot of Londoners will still spout that you can’t beat a traditional British Sunday Roast (which is essentially true), but that doesn’t mean that different cuisines can’t be experienced on the other six days of the week.
London, it seems, can never enjoy the same reputation for food as a city such as Paris, where food is considered the pinnacle of perfection.
However, trying to find cuisine in Paris that isn’t French, Italian or American fast food is a challenge. In London, not only are a proliferation of cuisines found on every street, but they also vary from top-notch street food to some of the best restaurants of their kind in the world.
Here are some of the best places to enjoy various cuisines in the capital. Some may be considered top restaurants in London, others are simply fine eateries which give a great account of their culture.
Zuma is a restaurant that many visitors will recognize the name of as it does have other locations throughout the world. The restaurant is best known for presenting traditional Japanese food with a more modern twist. The dining is informal though tips a respectful nod towards the cuisine’s roots in a more traditional past.
The food is presented in the neatly laid out often called ‘pretentious’ way, but it is delicious and certainly not charged for at ‘pretentious’ prices.
Chinese restaurants and takeaway services can be found all over London and throughout the UK as it is one of the country’s favorite cuisines. Royal China presents one of the best examples of the cuisine and branches that can be found throughout London at places like Fulham, Harrow, Queensway, Canary Riverside, and Baker Street. There are also other branches throughout the world.
Dim Sum, Hong Kong and Cantonese food are the specialities and the prices are good too.
The Breakfast Club
Whilst some people may frown upon American food being referred to as an actual cuisine, most people will agree that if done well, traditional American cuisine is undeniably delicious. The Breakfast Club is one of those places that does it well.
Its name comes from its origin as a small Soho cafe that specialised in fantastic breakfasts but since then they’ve certainly moved on from the ‘most important meal of the day’.
It’s now expanded across London and beyond, as well as having a handful of highly rated cocktail bars. It’s also not all about breakfast, the dinner menu with the expected burgers, wings and salads is most definitely to be sniffed at, and then devoured.
Tempting as the worldwide cuisine offering is, nobody should come to London and not sample at least one purveyor of British fare.
The Chancery is a pretty good place to try traditional British cooking as, unusually, it actually offers a tasting menu which most Londoners will tell you is quite unique to British cuisine.
Venison, suckling pig, halibut and ham served with mead are all things that people would expect to be served at the table of Henry VIII himself, but are actually at The Chancery to be sampled by paupers too.
Bocca Di Lupo
As with any modern city, there is a never-ending choice of Italian restaurants, or pizza shops as some are often known as. However, food lovers will know that these places do not adequately present the beauty of Italian cooking. Italian is far more than pizza or pasta.
Bocca Di Lupo demonstrates this with an Italian so authentic, you’ll think that the ingredients are specially flown in from Italy every week. Which they are.
The fresh traditional ingredients make the dishes stand out, not only in taste, but in presentation too. The best place to sit in this restaurant is at the counter, so the magic of creation can properly be observed.
Chez Elles Bistroquet
Ask any Londoner the best place to go for a curry and they’ll inevitably say “Brick Lane”. The street is infamous for having South Asian cuisine on offer in practically every premises.
However, what most Londoners won’t know id that one of London’s best French restaurants can also be found in Brick Lane.
The reason it’s so well respected is that it’s a French restaurant that dispenses with so much of the pomp that’s traditionally associated with French cuisine. It’s simple, it’s charming and most importantly it’s tasty which is what most people are looking for when it comes to a meal.
Unlike other upmarket French restaurants, the prices are pretty good too, something else which is important to most people
Mexican cuisine is another firm London favourite but not as easy to find as an Indian or Chinese. This small looking restaurant is actually quite large inside and is decked out in a traditional cantina style.
Mexican food is a great go-to for vegetarians, vegans and people looking for gluten free meals and Cafe Pacifico offers a wide range of options on its menus.
Another Mexican favourite is, of course, its beer. There’s a range of beers available and, as you would expect, margaritas too as well as a fully stocked range of tequilas.
There are so many chain restaurants in London that are offering meals every bit as good as expensive independent restaurants and Busaba Eathai is one of them, producing fabulous examples of Thai cuisine all over London.
Be warned though, the food is that good that queues often form outside of the restaurants, especially at weekends, so be prepared for a wet worth it wait.
The menu is long and comprehensive and has plenty of the staple Thai offerings as well as dishes that the more experienced or adventurous Thai connoisseur might like to try.
For large groups or anyone who likes a party atmosphere whilst they eat, Cabana has plenty to offer. It’s loud, bright and busy as you would expect from any eatery in this area.
Brazilian cuisine is often considered to be more or less barbecued meat based, which on the whole it is, but there’s also decent vegetarian fare on offer here too, including a halloumi burger and a crispy coconut cauliflower wrap,
Carnivores shouldn’t worry, there’s still the fried chicken and Churrasco Mixed Grill to get into.
Located in a street more famous for its clothes than its cooking, this completely authentic Caribbean restaurant has plenty to tantalise for fans of Caribbean cuisine.
The menu features all the expected jerk dishes as well as some fantastic seafood options. The red snapper fillet with mango salsa is a particular favourite amongst regulars.
Vegetarian options are also available including the halloumi and mushroom bun with the fearsome scotch bonnet mayo.
Another non-Indian classic located on Brick Lane. This is Greek street food at its finest served in an environment that can only be described as buzzing. Spicy lamb chops, Greek-style, are served as fitting competition to the spicy Indian lamb chops being offered in nearby establishments and the vegetarian moussaka is another fantastic option.
The best, most authentic street food to try is, however, a simple pita wrap containing a meat skewer which has been cooked on a traditional charcoal grill. This is where Suvlaki is at its simple best.
Curry is the UK nation’s favourite cuisine, beyond any doubt. The national dish is now considered to be Chicken Tikka Masala, a British invented dish unashamedly stolen from Indian cooking.
What this means is that wherever anyone finds themselves in London, they’ll be able to find a curry house. Although colloquially referred to as Indian restaurants the cuisine on offer can come from all over South Asia from countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal as well as India. In fact, most of the cuisine that the British refer to as Indian is in fact Bangladeshi!
Whilst it’s easy to find this kind of cuisine, finding quality examples of it is that bit harder. There are a huge number of restaurants to be found along the famous Brick Lane, but it’s a lottery when it comes to the quality of each one.
Avoiding Brick Lane and heading over to Tayyabs in Whitechapel is highly recommended. It’s not the best looking of restaurants and the staff are rushed and certainly won’t treat you like a king or queen, but the quality of the food is incredible, and surely that’s what’s important?
Here the grilled meat comes highly recommended and if anyone in the party hasn’t had Indian grilled lamb chops then that should be immediately rectified at Tayyabs.
Price-wise it’s very reasonable and the ‘Bring Your Own’ policy when it comes to alcohol keeps the price even lower.