Before and after I brought Covid into my boyfriend’s family home for Christmas (woopsies), I made it my duty to go out and eat all over London. Here is a list of every single London restaurant and bar I went to. Some good, some terrible, none in order, and all at different price points because, damn, London is expensive. That’s not a 25 dollar appetizer, sweetie, that is a 40 dollar piece of radicchio, check yourself and the exchange rate (me to myself). At least you can never, ever go wrong with a Marks & Spencer’s meal deal.
1. Berners Tavern, 10 Berners St.
Berners was my first Michelin Star restaurant, so I was excited to see what all the hype is about. Plus, it’s stunning — those crown mouldings, good god. This is definitely a special occasion restaurant (unless you’re Beyoncé), and the food (modern British… whatever that means) is excellent. However, I’ve also had amazing meals at places without stars, so just a reminder that le Michelin isn’t everything.
We got the 8-hour slow-cooked Cumbrian Herdwick lamb shoulder, and let me tell you that bad boy was succulent as sin. Truffle oil is balls, but their garden salad with actual truffle shavings in the dressing was one of the best darn bowls of leaves I’ve had.
If a man with a Champagne cart rolls up to you, the bubbly is NOT free (I assumed Champagne offered from a cart is complimentary because I am an idiot). Whatever, I regret nothing, the one I picked tasted like wealth. Berners is inside The London Edition hotel, so if you have some time, check out the lobby bar — the Rhubarb Fool cocktail is a masterpiece.
2. The Punch Room, 10 Berners St.
The Punch Room (also tucked inside the excessively fancy London Edition) is sexy. There’s something about an oak-panelled bar that really does it for me. As the name suggests, the cocktails are an ode to punch. These babies are packed with a slew of house-made syrups and ingredients I can’t pronounce, but the bartenders know exactly what they’re doing.
3. Ottolenghi, multiple locations
I definitely recommend going to an Ottolenghi where you’ll find hot people eating vegetables. The dessert window is the most attractive of them all though. The Otto I went to is a two minute walk from Old Spitalfields Market, which I didn’t go to, but it looks nice on Google.
4. Marks & Spencer, multiple locations
I will never not preach the wonders of Marks & Spencer. Where do I start? The prosecco, the mini Colin the Caterpillar cakes, the £5 MEAL DEALS. I don’t know of any other place in London where you can get a sandwich, a bag of chips and a drink for five quid (about $8.25 Canadian). I could go here every day.
5. Simmons Bar, multiple locations
Simmons is bad. If anyone were to tell me otherwise, I would not trust them. But, alas, sometimes you need a greasy, cheap happy hour spot. Sometimes you need to drink terrible cocktails out of a teapot.
6. Bar Remo, 2 Princes St.
This is a great pit stop for carbs while you’re shopping on Oxford Street. We ordered two plates of spaghetti bolognese, and I’m pretty sure our server rolled his eyes at us for being so basic. I bet all of their pastas are exquisite, but when I go back I will order three plates of the spaghetti bolognese. FIGHT ME.
7. The Booking Office 1986, St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
The Booking Office 1986, attached to St. Pancras Station, is the most stunning room I have ever been allowed into. The restaurant and bar opened at the end of 2021, but there’s this hazy, romantic nostalgia to it — that may have been the onset of a fever talking or the side effects from the best espresso martini I’ve had.
8. Greggs, multiple locations
If you didn’t get a sausage roll from Greggs, what was the point of coming to England, honestly? I don’t eat dairy, so their vegan roll that doesn’t taste like melted plastic is a real treat. If you’re visiting during Christmas, get the festive bake.
9. Flight Bar, multiple locations
When I was told we were going to a darts bar, I was picturing something more… dingy. Flight Bar, with its leather banquettes, theatre lights, and DJ playing the occasional Spice Girls song, is the exact opposite of grimy. This night was an unexpected highlight especially because you don’t have to be good at darts to have a really fun time. The food is meh, but darts are life.
10. Kolamba, 21 Kingly St.
Each dish at Kolamba blew me away. The flavours bring the heat and are so bright and satisfying. I wish I could remember everything we ate, but it’s all a blur of spices and colours that crowded the table until it disappeared beneath our bowls.
I want their perfect-crunch pappadums with sticky mango chutney, daily. I learned that dhal is a staple in Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo (‘Kolamba’ in Sinhalese), so, naturally, we ordered theirs (vegan, btw), and the hearty bowl obliterated any notion I had that lentils are boring. Their fragrant Ceylon Chicken Curry is silky and tangy and has more balance than I could ever dream of having. We were so full and blissed out on the train home that we tragically FORGOT our leftover Vaira’s Jaggery Beef — I’m not quite over this.
11. Kricket, 12 Denman St.
Kricket was probably my favourite meal. We went to the one in Soho, but there are a few locations around London. It’s reasonably priced for the quality (and amount) of food you get, and if you come with a small group, you could probably order everything on the menu.
The food is full of familiar Indian flavours, but it’s not traditional in the slightest. The space is industrial-modern — very Soho, dahling — with its brass bar stools, exposed vents and brick walls, and contemporary dishes that match the interior. The fan faves: crispy Keralan fried chicken (iconic), pillowy kulcha flatbreads (for the sauces but mostly for shoving into your mouth), and the immaculate goose vindaloo, which deserves a medal.
12. Oriole Bar, E Poultry Ave.
If you’re a cocktail nerd, definitely check out Oriole. It’s very ~ experiential ~ in a way that could be gimmicky if the drinks weren’t so well executed. You could spend the whole night sifting through the detailed menu, or tell your server what spirits you like and they’ll guide you. There’s usually a band lighting up the subterranean space with loud jazz, so you don’t have to listen to anyone talk about their crypto portfolio. Ask for the deck of cards before you leave.
13. Hijingo, 90 Worship St.
Hijingo is absolute chaos. I guess it’s bingo, but it’s also pyrotechnics, choreographed dance and the distinct smell of sweat mixed with anxiety and gin. Their prizes are random (a light-up jacket) but also legit (plane tickets to anywhere in Europe). Just go.
14. All Bar One, multiple locations
If this chain were in Toronto, I would have their ‘Ultimate Lunch’ (Monday–Friday until 5 p.m.) at least once a week. For £9.50, you can get a warm midday meal, a side, AND a glass of house wine. Kiss me.
15. Polo Bar, 176 Bishopsgate
Sure, you could go to Duck and Waffle at the top of the Heron Tower and spend $40 on waffles at 3:30 a.m. Or you could roll into Polo Bar, the other 24/7 vortex just down the street, get a solid British breakfast for $10, a mystery roulette of shots because you’re unhinged, a milkshake you will most certainly regret the next day, and call it a night for the love of god.
16. Six by Nico, multiple locations
I thoroughly enjoyed our Six by Nico experience. Their whole MO is a themed six-course tasting menu that changes every six weeks.
We went when Omicron was pretty much at its peak in London (we had just recovered from it), so the Charlotte Street location wasn’t as busy as I’ve heard it can get. The fact that we got a reso on NYE is startling. Anyways, because the kitchen wasn’t on fire, they could really focus on each dish — all fantastic and comically tiny.
It’s £37 for SIX courses, so it makes sense why the portions are small, but I left feeling full and happy that we didn’t have to take out a personal loan to pay for two tasting menus. They’re also really good about accommodating dietary restrictions.
17. BAO, multiple locations
This restaurant feels a bit like a marketing experiment, and their cocktail menu is confused (rock-hard mango sorbet in a glass of prosecco… OK). I’m sure there are way better places to get a bao in London; however, each steamed bun I ate was satisfying with the right amount of fluff and chew. They have about five types of bao on the menu, which you can pair with other xiao chi ( ‘little eats’).
18. Scarpetta, multiple locations
When you need delish, inexpensive and made-to-order pasta immediately.
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More places to eat… outside of London:
The Prince’s Head, Richmond
The Prince’s Head pub is the Ted Lasso pub! Even though she’s famous now, she still has a homey, neighbourhood feel — one of the cast members (Colin) was just chilling in the back, having pints with friends. We got the fish and chips, obvs.
The Abinger Hatch, Surrey Hills
For that quintessential, slanted roof, old-as-heck English pub, I present The Abinger Hatch. We enjoyed it so much, we went twice — best Sunday roast I had (see below). I love how inclusive their food offerings are, so no one feels restricted. They even have a separate dairy-free menu, which I greatly appreciated and then proceeded to ignore because I can’t turn down a Yorkshire pudding.
This is the Fancy Free Walk we did to get to The Hatch. I highly recommend doing one of these (their site has several). It’s an awesome way to see the countryside. Don’t wear shoes you like.
The White Hart Inn, Winchcombe
The Cotswolds is an adorable (and huge) area of England. It consists of several different counties like Worcestershire (big fan of your sauce) and Gloucestershire. Winchcombe is a medieval town within Gloucestershire that looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. It’s absolutely breathtaking, even when it’s piss pouring rain. After a long, harrowing walk, we had a relaxing Sunday roast at The Whitehart Inn and it was a dream.