My apologies, you’ve been so busy reading – you must be starving! We all know that one of the best ways to explore a new country is by trying the local cuisine. Well, it’s officially time to let your taste buds guide you. Following up on Part 1 (Things to See) and Part 2 (Things to Do) of “London Calling”, this is where you get to drool over some of the best culinary treats London has to offer. From traditional pub fare to the deliciously exotic, here are the best places (and dishes) to try during your time in London – Bon Appetit!
No matter where you are in London, you are guaranteed to find a pub waiting to welcome you with doors wide open. Whether it’s a pub full of locals on the edge of a city or a bustling center where football fans come to feed, a visit to an English pub is a necessary experience for every visitor to London! If you’re not sure what to order, try one of these traditional dishes:
Fish and Chips: Battered cod or haddock served with Chips (french fries) or Mushy Peas (dried marrowfat peas soaked overnight and simmered with sugar/salt and sometimes flavoured with mint), tartar sauce and a wedge of lemon. Drown your chips in some malt vinegar and enjoy!
Bangers and Mash: Sausages and mashed potatoes. That’s about it!
Steak and Ale Pie: The Brits are known for their pies, from steak and ale to chicken pot pie, you’ll find at least one pie on every menu that offers traditional English fare. Encrusted in a golden flaky bubble, pies are normally served quite warm and can be made with just about anything.
Traditional English Breakfast: If you’re looking to stalk up on calories before taking off for a day touring the city, then load up on a traditional English breakfast served with back bacon, sausages, black pudding (blood pudding), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and baked beans. You’ll be all set to take on whatever adventures the city has in store!
Two of my favourite pubs in London are:
The Red Lion, located at 48 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2NH, the Red Lion was and is a watering hole for the political and social elite. A favourite of Sir Winston Churchill, anyone with an ounce of British blood running through their veins will enjoying paying their respects by enjoying a pint and toasting to the great (and late) Prime Minister.
The White Lion, located at 24 James Street, London, WC2E 8NS in Covent Garden
Afternoon Tea at The Orangery, Kensington Gardens
Afternoon tea is a stark part of English history. Served mid-way through the afternoon, tea was a prelude to dinner that took place much later in the day. What does afternoon tea consist of? Picture the smell of freshly baked scones. Now imagine a table lined with pastries like chocolate cake, meringues, cheesecake, and eclairs. Now take a sip of the most delicious tea you’ve ever had, courtesy of the Orangery.
The Orangery in Kensington Gardens in not only the perfect location for afternoon tea but is equipped with the most tantalizing selection of desserts and teas in and around London. The building itself was made for Queen Anne and now hosts private events and afternoon tea between 3pm-6pm for the public to enjoy. After a stroll through Hyde Park, head over for English Orangery Tea (the basic afternoon tea selection) and indulge in finger sandwiches (cucumber, salmon, cheese etc), an orange scented scone served with Cornish clotted cream and English jam and a selection of pastries guaranteed to fill you up until well after suppertime.
Indian Food on Brick Lane
If you’ve never been to India, here’s your chance to explore the food while saving on airfare. Accounting for 6.4% of the population, London has a large and vibrant Indian community with a cuisine that has become the second most popular type of food in London. If you want to get bang for your buck and experience a different kind of London, head over to Brick Lane. Get off at Aldgate East Tube Station and walk to the entrance of Brick Lane where your culinary adventure awaits. Spanning a full street are Indian restaurants whose owners are outside fighting to get your attention, and your patronage. Owners will offer you a free bottle of wine with dinner, perhaps some free appetizers and a full course menu for next to nothing. Take your pick of restaurants and don’t feel bad negotiating! If one owner offers you a bottle of wine, let the next one know that you want two! Walking along Brick Lane is like spinning a wheel in an attempt to cash in on the best deal. The food is delicious but whatever you order, the experience is one you won’t forget.
If you’re looking to spend a little more for an incredible view and some high quality food, pay a trip to the OXO Tower. Visitors have the option of eating at the restaurant or the brasserie, and either provide a stunning look over the city of London.
Nibble on some creative appetizers like white gazpacho with cockles, parsley and lemon. As a main course, enjoy an entree of lamb cutlets, venison, wild bass, duck breast, fillet of beef or roast sucking pig. To end the night, share a chocolate plate or dive into a selection of delicious sorbets. As you may have noticed, the only pounds you’ll be shedding during this particular outing will come from your wallet. The best way to cope? Pair your plate with some of the best wine in the city and watch as your worries slowly slip away into the Thames and down the river for good.
Wine and Cheese at Gordon’s Wine Bar
Just steps away from Embankment Tube Station is Gordon’s Wine Bar, the oldest wine bar (built circa 1890) in London and one of the coolest places to stop for a glass of wine, or two. Nestled in between restaurants and cafes, the entrance to Gordon’s Wine Bar is barely visible. A steep stairwell beckons visitors downstairs to a basement that resembles a royal version of the bat cave that just keeps on going. The walls are lined with clippings from old newspapers and people fight for chairs and tables among the many squished together in this unique venue and eatery. My advice to anyone interested in exploring Gordon’s Wine Bar is to get there early and enjoy a glass of wine before dinner as to beat the onslaught of the apres-work scene, full of young professionals looking to unwind.
Now that you’ve had your fill of English pub fare, foreign specialties, wine, cheese and haute-cuisine, I think you’re nearly ready to shop! I’ll give you an hour or so to digest but then pack your bags and gear up for Part 4 of “London Calling! See, Do, Eat and Shop in England’s Bustling Capital”.