After two millennia of growth on the banks of the River Thames, ‘The Big Smoke’ continues to thrive as an ever more diverse city, with over 300 languages spoken by more than 13 million people. Catering to the highest number of international visitors each year, London restaurants are rising to the occasion with panache. Long known for boring and sometimes downright disgusting contributions to the food world, London has finally surpassed its reputation as a culinary dead-zone and become a foodie's delight. Not only is it at the cutting-edge of cuisine, with many London restaurants being Michelin-rated and helmed by superstar chefs, but there are endless opportunities to explore vast possibilities for international flavours that only such a diverse city can offer.
The West End is the beating heart of London. This area of central London contains Soho, Chelsea, Bond Road, Piccadilly Circus, the National Gallery, Covent Garden to name but a few attractions. But what most people think of when they think of the West End is its theatre, equalled only by New York’s Broadway. Here, pre-theatre dining is an institution when one considers where to eat in London. On top of being a destination for the world’s theatre fans, the West End also hosts many wealthy business people. Combining power lunches with theatre glitz means some of the best restaurants in London are here in the West End, many of them featuring special pre-theatre menus or even discounts for theatre-goers.
Matching some of the best restaurants in London with an array of sightseeing attractions, the South Bank is a vital cultural and culinary destination for locals and tourists alike. The Royal National Theatre, the Old Vic and the British Film Institute, the London Eye, London Dungeon and an Imax cinema crowd South Bank, and many top restaurants in London are a short walk from these. The centrepiece of South Bank is the Southbank Centre which is the largest centre for the arts in Europe, bringing in three million visitors per year. They bring their appetites with them, so many good restaurants in London can be found here. Grab a pre-movie bite or a leisurely three-course meal overlooking the River at London’s South Bank.
As likely to find jellied eels sold from a tub as you are to find fine dining cooked with fully organic heritage ingredients, eclectic is probably the best word to describe London’s East End. Historically working class, the East End was not known for its food until immigration from South Asia resulted in a large number of curry houses and Anglo-Indian restaurants, many of them gathering around Brick Lane. Adding to the mix of the East End’s culinary scene is the influx of artists, students – and the wealthy – who are changing the face of the until-now ragged district. Sad for some, but good news for foodies: gentrification is bringing some of the most exciting restaurants in London to the East End.
Or rather, the world is your oyster card! But really, the sky is the limit when planning where to eat in London. A diverse, ever-growing, ever-changing population, and a thriving economy to boot has meant London remains a veritable playground for chefs and foodies to push the envelope and explore new possibilities. For better or worse overall, the gentrification of formerly gritty neighbourhoods has meant some outstanding new restaurants are cropping up in unexpected areas. Dishes from around the world can be sampled here, at any price. Whether you want a cheap street eat or a multi-course experience, London’s eateries don’t hew to formula, though you can be assured that London’s food is finally impressing the world’s most discerning diners.
Either you love it or you hate it – traditional British fare has long been lauded by the locals and mocked by visitors as being bland and on the heavy side. But if you love comfort food and are open-minded, British cuisine – yes, cuisine – might be for you, and nowhere is it better prepared than in the traditional British pubs. Here, along with an good pint, hand-pulled pint of English ale or cider you can enjoy such delicacies as steak-and-ale pie, a ploughman’s lunch, pasties or the famous bangers and mash. It goes without saying, fish and chips are certainly a favourite amongst pub goers. Remember, even simple, cosy pubs are known to hide some of the greatest restaurants in London.