Food in London - top tips

london collageLondon is one of the world’s great food capitals. Eat your way around the world, from Afghanistan to New Zealand without leaving the city, taste and buy in great street markets and enjoy London as you dine.

Borough Market by London Bridge has become something of an institution for gourmets as London's best food market and has been on that site for 1000 years. On Friday and Saturdays, "London’s Larder" comes alive with bakers, cheese sellers, organic fruit and veg, Spanish olive oil, organic meat and game, specialist beers and more. It’s the perfect place to stock up for a dinner party or picnic.

London is becoming a 24 hour city. Late night in Soho, many restaurants are open until 1 or 2 am and Little Italy is open just about all night. If you're near Brick Lane, the Brick Lane Beigel Factory has been specialising in all night hot salt beef beigels for years and years. If you fancy a pint of beer at 6:30 am, head for Smithfield Market and have a jar with the meat porters at The Fox and Anchor or The Hope as they finish work. They do good English breakfasts as do many London cafes that open as early as 6am for a traditional English fry up.

Enjoying something of a renaissance, the traditional pie and mash shop is still serving its traditional fare. These working class cafes serve meat pies, mashed potatoes, liquor (gravy) and jellied eels. They are mostly to be found in East and South East London with perhaps Manze’s on Tower Bridge Road as the most famous. Alternatively, head to Roman Road in E3 to one of the G Kelly shops.

A renewed interest in the best fresh produce has led to the creation of a series of weekly farmers markets in London, where the consumer can purchase directly from the producer. Well known examples include Sunday’s market in Angel, a Saturday market in Notting Hill, Wimbledon & West Ealing. Consumers are guaranteed the freshest produce without the supermarket as the middleman and they can ask questions about the way the food is produced.

Make the food hall your number one stop at Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason and particularly Harrods which are spectacles in their own right. You’ll find food from every corner of the planet as well as the best British cakes, cheeses, biscuits and of course teas.

With over 7000 Indian restaurants in the UK, curry is now the nation’s favourite food. In and around Brick Lane in East London, the restaurants are mainly run by the Bangladeshi community and many of them are trying to resurrect Bangladeshi cuisine on their menus while also offering well-known ‘Indian’ dishes. As well as over 60 Bangladeshi restaurants, Banglatown also has some great Indian food stores such as Taj Stores, fashionable bars and clubs and a famous Sunday market.

Eating out in London can be great value. Eat in Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish or many other Ethnic restaurants and a three course meal could cost as little as £10. Try eating out at lunchtime or early evening to take advantage of the set menus offered at many of London’s most famous restaurants. In particular, look out for pre-theatre menus. For price alone, the Indian Vegetarian restaurant in Islington’s Chapel Market takes some beating – an eat all you like buffet at £3 per head!

With so much to look at in London, it might seem a shame to spend several hours inside while you are eating when you could be watching the world go by. The restaurants at Somerset House, Oxo Tower and Gabriel’s Wharf, the Savoy, Tate Modern and on the opposite side of the Millennium Bridge – The Bridge, all offer great views of the river with your meal. For the highest views in London with your meal, eat at Vertigo in Tower 24 in the City. To just watch the world go, head to one of the restaurants with outdoor seating in buzzy Soho.

Arm yourself with a picnic and enjoy a truly outdoor lunch. Favourite spots include Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, Richmond Park, St James’s Park, Postman’s Park near St Paul’s, afloat on the Serpentine, draped over benches on the South Bank, Soho Square or take advantage of the picnic tables in Europe’s largest indoor square – the Great Court at the British Museum.

Award-winning restaurants
If you are looking to celebrate, then why not dine out a restaurant that is celebrating itself. This year’s award-winning restaurants in the Carlton London Restaurant Awards have been announced. Here are a few of the highlights:-

Best Italian – Locanda Locatelli
Modern Italian food under the effervescent direction of Giorgio Locatelli. Smart, but no door policy and kids welcome in the best Italian traditions.

Best Indian – Chutney Mary
Reborn in 2002, one of London’s best-known Indian restaurants aims to provide the sort of food you might find at a middle class dinner party in Bombay.

Best British – Rules
London’s oldest restaurant in Covent Garden is still filling its tables with high-class game and roasts, not to mention a great range of traditional puddings.

Best French – Gordon Ramsay
London’s best-known chef is still top of the pile. Equally renowned for his temper and flowery language in the kitchen though his TV appearances, it is Ramsay’s food that speaks loudest.

Best Oriental Restaurant – Hakkasan
Best London Chef – David Thompson at Nahm
Best Iberian – Cambio de Tercio

A few more ideas to help you feast in London...

Did you know you can enjoy lunch, tea or dinner as you cruise past along the Thames? The London Showboat also includes entertainment and songs from the West End Shows.

Eat Al Fresco even when the sun doesn’t shine — at Covent Garden Market where you’ll also be entertained by buskers and opera singers.

Work up an appetite with a wander through the gardens at Kew and then enjoy a meal in one of the cafes or restaurants

Eat and relax in the Orangery built for Queen Anne at Kensington Palace.

For a feeling of peace, enjoy the historic setting of the Crypt Café in St. Paul’s Cathedral

Buy your own fruit, meat and vegetables fresh from the farmer at Borough Market,

The Brew House Café at Kenwood is particularly well-known for its hearty breakfast — worth getting up for…

How about a picnic in a park? There are plenty of green spaces through-out London — in Richmond, Enfield, Lee Valley Regional Park, Sutton, and Mile End Park.

Try a cold-cure with a difference — a curry in one of the myriad of restaurants in Brick Lane, London E1. Spicy food’s also supposed to keep your heart healthy…

Wine’s usually an accompaniment to a meal but at Vinopolis it’s the star — try a gourmet meal at the award-winning Cantina Vinopolis.

Eat lunch at the Royal Festival Hall and you’ll be able to enjoy their free foyer events at the same time!

You can’t eat there but it might give you some ideas or make you grateful for your modern cooker — feast your eyes on the way we cooked in Tudor times in the kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.