Isn’t sampling the local food and enjoying a taste of flavors not readily available at home a primary reason to travel? If you haven’t visited London recently, the thriving restaurant scene that has developed there will pleasantly surprise you and satisfy your desire for culinary diversity.
On our last trip to London, we had the chance to enjoy a variety of cuisines from high end to street fare. Smoked salmon, dim sum, and, of course, the fish & chips, all tasted better than their U.S. counterparts. Make reservations in advance if you can, even for lunch, and check out OpenTable.co.uk, the online real-time restaurant reservation service—it’s a great way to secure a table. Also, contact your hotel concierge—an expert at finding a seat at the busier spots.
Here is just a sampling of some of our favorites arranged by neighborhood:
KNIGHTSBRIDGE & BELGRAVIA:
Daphne’s: Recently refurbished and reopened after a fire, this local Italian restaurant has a smart but not uptight atmosphere and a hearty menu—a great choice for lunch or dinner after visiting the Natural History or Science Museum.
Harrods: Fill a picnic hamper with an endless variety of treats in this store’s extensive food halls. From chocolates to cheeses, macarons to meat pies—the list goes on forever. Or, take a seat at Harrod’s more than 25 restaurants including Mango Tree for delicious dumplings and The Terrace for a light lunch overlooking London.
Oliveto: This is actually one of six casual, low-key Olivo restaurants, all serving a variety of authentic, homemade, Italian specialties from the isle of Sardinia. My favorite – Oliveto’s crab pizza.
Zuma: A modern twist on the traditional Japanese izakaya style, where dishes are meant to be shared. Order the seared beef skewers with soy, garlic, ginger, and chili, or scallops with ume boshi (Japanese plums) and mentaiko (Pollock roe).
MAYFAIR & PICCADILLY:
Caviar House & Prunier: Stop at this seafood bar for a pre-dinner drink and a taste of caviar and Smoked Balik Salmon, sourced directly from Norwegian farmers and prepared following the recipe of the purveyor to the Russian tsars.
Cecconi: A classic Italian restaurant serving simply prepared Venetian cuisine; it’s just across the street from the Royal Academy of Arts.
The Coburg Bar: Located in the Connaught Hotel, this bar boasts a warm, country house feeling – the perfect place to end a day of sightseeing with a nightcap.
Dorchester Hotel: Visit The Promenade in this iconic hotel’s lobby for afternoon tea, or come back at night for jazz at the bar. Downstairs is China Tang for genuine Cantonese food.
Hakassan: This hip and dramatic, belowground restaurant offers excellent dim sum.
Scotts: The place for seafood, it’s just around the corner from the Connaught Hotel. If the restaurant is booked, sit at the Oyster Bar for a fun change of pace.
Shepard’s Market: Not a market, but a charming, hidden piazza with sidewalk cafes and Victorian pubs, between Piccadilly and Curzon Street.
The Wolseley: This café-restaurant offers traditional full English breakfast. For the uninitiated, this includes fried eggs, slabs of bacon, baked beans, broiled tomato, and toast placed unbuttered in quaint metal racks. Lunch and dinner is also served in this impressive, high-ceiling setting.
The Ritz: Enjoy traditional afternoon tea in this hotel’s famous gilded salon, The Palm Court. Enjoy a selection of loose-leaf teas, cut finger sandwiches with fillings like cucumber and egg, and pastries and teacakes. Leave room for the freshly baked scones served with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserves.
MARYLEBONE HIGH STREET
Relais de Venise: This Parisian bistro offers something very unique, just one choice— green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette, steak frites in a secret-recipe, herb sauce, followed by a selection of cheeses and desserts. Reservations aren’t accepted, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
Randall & Aubin: Originally a French butcher shop, they offer a no-fuss seafood menu in a retro, turn-of-the-last century setting. Take a seat at their counter-style tables and order the fried haddock & chips served with yummy, minted peas.
CITY OF LONDON
Heron Tower: The financial district’s tallest tower features several restaurants including Sushi Samba on the 38th floor. Enjoy a blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine and 360 degree views of the city.
Borough Market: Peruse row after row of London’s freshest produce, meats, confections, seafood and more or take a break at one of the Market’s many sit-down eateries including Roast, well known for its breakfast.
London’s Famous Markets: Grab a slice of local life with a visit to one of London’s numerous markets available throughout the city on various days, including Camden Market with its eclectic mix of street culture and street food.
Travel tip: Bookmark this article on your smartphone and take it with you on your next trip to London. And, combine your visit to the city with a weekend in the country — click here to see my recent article on Hampshire, England.
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