Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink in London. I say that as if I frequent London often. I don’t. I’ve been there like three times. Well, actually, the last time I was there, it was for five weeks because while visiting my boyfriend’s family for the first time, I brought Covid into their home for Christmas (ahem, woops).
Anyways, when I wasn’t quarantining, I made it my duty to go out and eat a lot. Here are the highlights (in no particular order), all at different price points because, damn, London is expensive — like 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 thrilled. 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 is 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.
Also tucked inside The London Edition is the sexy Punch Room. 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, it’s on the list because 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.
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 espresso martinis talking, which are phenomenal by the way.
8. Greggs, multiple locations
If you didn’t get a sausage roll from Greggs, what was the point of coming to England, honestly? They also have a vegan roll that doesn’t taste like melted plastic. In fact, it tastes really darn good. 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 opposite of that. This night was an unexpected highlight. Speaking as an individual who lacks hand-eye coordination, you don’t have to be good at darts to have a really fun time here. The food is alright, but darts are life.
10. Kolamba, 21 Kingly St.
Before Kolamba, I hadn’t been to a Sri Lankan restaurant, and during our meal, I was kicking myself for not being more familiar with this cuisine. Each dish blew me away — the flavours bring the heat and are so bright and satisfying. Kolamba was my favourite meal. 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 kind of 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 someone FORGOT our leftover Vaira’s Jaggery Beef — I’m, not quite, over this.
11. Kricket, 12 Denman St.
Kricket was my second favourite. 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 that you get. 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 dishes that match the contemporary 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.
I have no fricken idea how to describe Hijingo because it’s more of a feeling (I hate myself for typing that). Hijingo is bingo, but it’s also pyrotechnics and choreographed dance and another dimension — the smell of sweat, anxiety and gin permeating the hot air. 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 sick, and a milkshake (although you will most certainly regret it 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, but delightful.
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
An entire restaurant dedicated to the art of the beautiful buns. Their cocktail menu is a little confused (rock-hard mango sorbet in a glass of prosecco, kk), but each steamed bun is supreme 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.’ Nice for a quick and casual lunch spot.
18. Scarpetta, multiple locations
When you need delish, inexpensive and made-to-order pasta immediately.
More places to eat…outside of London
The Prince’s Head, Richmond
The Prince’s Head pub is theTed 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.
For more local guides, here’s a list of my favourite Toronto shops