It may well be that the UK are not known for having the world’s most distinguished cuisine, but they do know how to attract high class restaurants. Also, being such a cosmopolitan city, you can find just about everything in specialty shops, markets and restaurants.
Although London has currently about 60 restaurants with Michelin stars, you do not need to splurge to enjoy good food in London.
Here are some of my tips for a short weekend trip.
For a cheap and nice dinner: Yalla Yalla
This is a tiny Lebanese restaurant hidden in a dark, creepy street in Soho. But once you enter the place, things just get really nice. Because of limited seating and lots of hungry guests you might have to wait for some time, during which you can try some of their homemade delicious lemonades.
Food wise you either can get a few mezze (think of typical Hummus and Tabouleh, but also some more unknown mezze like pastry filled with minced lamb or spicy Lebanese homemade sausages) or one single dish. They have lots of vegetarian options as well.
The food is great and the prices are really very moderate for London standards.
Service is very nice even when the place is buzzing. I would recommend this place to have a nice dinner with your friends ( don’t bring a huge group, you probably won’t fit 🙂 ), but not so much for a romantic date.
1 Green’s Court, W1F 0HA London
T: 020 7287 7663
They opened a second branch close to Oxford street and currently have a pop-up store in Shoreditch
For a laid back but classic afternoon tea: The Wolseley
The Wolseley is an institution in London located in a gorgeous 1920 building that was formerly a chic car showroom and later on Barclays bank. Since 2003 this gorgeous space has been reconverted into a posh breakfast/lunch/tea/dinner place. Unlike many other well known tea places in London you don’t have to book a crazy time in advance. For a weekday a few days will do it. If you want to come on the weekends, I would however advise you to book 3 to 4 weeks in advance. Also, you can leave your tie at home and stay casual. This place is about honest food, efficient service (maybe there are no Yes Madam and Yes Sir every few minutes, but the work gets done!) and a casual yet chic atmosphere.
The interior is just sublime and your food will be served on nice dishes with silver cutlery and teapots.
As always with afternoon tea you might want to skip either lunch or dinner as the portions are very generous. My company and I had one classic tea (with sandwiches, scones and patisserie) and one cream tea (scones only) and it was more than enough.
I also really like this place for breakfast especially on weekdays as it is less crowded. That’s actually the only negative point: if the place is full, the room gets so noisy that you can barely hear your neighbour and your afternoon tea will be more exhausting than relaxing. My advice for afternoon tea: come on Mondays to Thursdays. On Fridays and weekends, ask to have a table in the separate rooms near the entrance of the restaurant.
160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB
T: 020 7499 6996
For culinary shopping: Food Halls
Head for the food sections of the big department stores. Yes, they are posh, yes they are overpriced, but it’s just so nice to take a stroll in the food halls of the big department stores. My favourite is definitively Harrods, but others include Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. Product wise, there is actually not a lot that you couldn’t get from any big city, the hype of the unknown is gone by 2013. However the layout is so inviting and decadent, that it’s just a pleasure for the eyes.
My tip: get a sandwich at Harrods and have a sunny lunch in Hyde park, just 5 minutes away.
I am actually not a big fan of Borough market, which is highly appreciated by a lot of food bloggers and critics. Again, you won’t find anything new here and the products are majorly overpriced. However in comparison to the food halls where everyone knows that luxury is part of the deal, you’ll get more or less the same food but in market conditions i.e. in the rain and wind half of the year.
For breakfast/lunch/brunch: Fleet River Bakery
This beautiful cafe is located just two steps from the LSE campus, in Lincolns Inn Fields. Whether it is for breakfast, coffee, lunch, brunch, tea or after work drink, you’ll always be satisfied. The coffee is great as they use high quality Monmouth coffee. The food is gorgeous as well, with always very fresh ingredients and nicely prepared.
But the best part is, there are virtually no tourists, which is not so easy to find in the city centre. And even when just a block away from LSE, you also don’t find tons of students that spend their whole afternoon monopolizing a table with a huge pile of books and paper.
Fleet River Bakery is one of my personal favourites in London so shhh..
71 Lincolns Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JF
T: 020 7691 1457