I recently took a 5-day long weekend trip to London with two main goals – see as many musicals as I can and eat as much delicious food as possible, two things I absolutely love. Overall, I think it was a very successful trip on both sides.
On the show side, I managed to see Hamilton, Come From Away, and The Lion King, all absolutely gorgeous in their own way and definitely worth seeing if you want to see some West End productions. Come From Away has been a favorite of mine for years and this was the second and unfortunately last time I saw them in West End because the production ends at the end of the year. The Lion King is a classic and what really stood out to me were the costumes and decors (but not so much all the children at the Sunday matinee), but what really blew my mind was Hamilton. Guys, that musical is something else and everyone should see it, just saying. In addition, I managed to squeeze in not one but two stand-up comedy nights at Top Secret Comedy Club, which I can warmly recommend if you have a gap in your schedule on any night of the week.
Regarding food, I had asked a friend who knows London for recomendations and tried to basically check as many of the food places on her list. I’m quite proud of how many different places I managed to check out, and very pleased to say none of them disappointed and the London food scene is definitely worth the hype. I left London with my body so full and desperate for some simple greens, but my wallet a lot lighter (it’s all about balance, right?), so here comes my list of every place where I ate in London, to hopefully inspire you on your next trip.
On our first night in London, we had a dinner reservation to Flat Iron Westfield. Flat Iron has several locations all over the city, and it’s the perfect spot for a nice but affordable date night. Their menu is very simple and focused on one dish: steaks. Their basic steak currently costs 13 pounds, and next to it you have the choice between a number of sides. Honestly, it’s great value for money and I’d definitely put Flat Iron at the top of my London recommendations. The place was also decorated to look very cosy, regardless of its location right next to a mall, and you get some delicious ice cream to finish your meal. Only issue is that obviously as a heavily meat-based restaurant, it definitely is not the spot if there’s a vegetarian or a vegan in the group, as they didn’t really seem to have proper meat alternatives on the menu.
We ended the night after a comedy show at Flight Club Bloomsbury, which is rather a bar/entertainment venue. Flight Club’s particularity is that it offers dart boards in a very funky retry venue. It’s a really nice spot for a night with some friends in my opinion, as it combines drinks with a fun activity. As most places in London, they also have several locations to choose from, and you might also want to make a reservation if you want to play darts.
I don’t eat breakfast every morning, but I woke up early on the first morning in London and decided to have a walk to my closest GAIL’S for a takeaway breakfast. A morning coffee while walking around a place you’re visiting just hits different, you know? They have many locations all over London, and it’s definitely a sound spot for both sweet and savory pastries and coffee. I’m personally a big fan of almond croissants, and theirs was yummy.
One of the musts for this trip was to have Indian food at least once, because Indian food in London is just superior to the options in most of Europe. I had received several recommendations for Dishoom, so the choice was pretty easy. We went to their Shoreditch location (as most places in London, make sure to book ahead), where in addition to the inside restaurant, there was a lovely covered veranda that was also in winter use. The decor was lovely with fairy lights across the ceiling and menus printed in a newspaper style. The food was really nice too and there were many options for both veggies and those craving meat, Not mindblowing-wow-powaw (Okay Elli?) in my opinion, but definitely worth the visit if you’re looking for a good place in London.
King’s Dog Daycare & Café
One place I had spotted on Tiktok was a dog daycare that also works as a café. Yes, you can actually go have a coffee while petting dogs, the same way as in a cat café, and I didn’t know this existed but when I found out I just had to see it. I find the concept really nice – the dogs are there only during the day when their owners are busy, getting the care they need but also a ton of cuddles, and any visitor can get their dog cuteness fix at the same time. Be aware though that while it is a dog café, there is no guarantee that there will be dogs, or how many there will be. If I understood right, the dogs that spend time with visitors are regulars (understandably you can’t put any dog with strangers), and not all of them are there everyday, and even those who are need breaks from people throughout the day.
Victoria Market Hall
Before seeing Hamilton in Victoria Palace Theatre on Friday night, we stopped at Victoria Market Hall right next to the Victoria underground station for a drink and some bites. It’s quite a small but cosy food market on two floors, with a good dozen of food stalls that all looked delicious. I definitely have to go back one day for more, but this time we opted for some pork ribs form Hot Box that were to die for. Seriously, that was some amazing stuff and if you eat meat, you should absolutely try those. It’s a shame the market wasn’t open late, because I definitely could have had another portion of those after the show.
There are so many cool bars and speakeasys in London, and I had to make sure to try a few. I made a booking to Opium in Chinatown, which I obviously f*d up and only realised at the door that I had made a booking for the previous day when the guy at the door couldn’t find my name on his list. Fortunately he managed to get us a walk-in (and in his words, ”save my life”). Opium actually has three different bars on separate floors, with all their own atmosphere and particular cocktail menus inspired by different aspects of Shanghai in the 1920s. My original reservation was for the Peony bar which has a really cool red maze-like ceiling, but we eventually ended up getting seats at the bar of the Academy bar. It was really nice to watch the bartenders work their magic while enjoying our drinks and some dim sum (served all night and in all three bars). Opium is definitely not the place for a budget night out, especially if you’re actually hungry and want to have a bunch of dimsum, but I love speakeasys with original themes and a signature cocktail menu so this was right up my street.
Mr Fogg’s Tavern
Mr Fogg’s Tavern wasn’t actually on my list, but as it turns out London nightlife is a bit limited after midnight, and most places that stay open are nightclubs. As that wasn’t what we were going for, I found the few bars in central London that were open late and we ended up at Mr Fogg’s, which was actually quite nice, except for it being packed as obviously everyone else that prefered a chat over dancing had had the same idea. Mr Fogg’s is a nice choice for cocktail-lovers too, as despite being very busy and having more of a ”basic” bar vibe at least at that time of the night, they have a proper cocktail menu. So – if you’re in central London after midnight and looking for a place to go, Mr Fogg’s Tavern might be the place. I’m also sure the place is actually quite nice earlier in the day, when it’s actually possible to properly sit down and enjoy a drink as well as the peculiar decor. I also know there are several other Mr Fogg’s locations in London, most of which are more cocktail bars, and based on this experience I’d be curious to also try those later.
Ah, a classic. If you love food markets I don’t think you can miss Borough Market. It’s one of the oldest and biggest markets in London, and especially on a Saturday midday, you could definitely feel it. The place was buzzing with people coming for a coffee or a Saturday lunch with friends, and there were too many options to choose from. We opted for the duck sandwich at Le Marché du Quartier, which was huge and they definitely weren’t saving on the pulled duck, with the only critique being that the bread wasn’t toasted, as well as some Mexican deliciousness from El Pastor. Unlike the stands in the market itself which are almost exclusively takeaway, El Pastor is actually a proper sit-in restaurant located on the side of the market. It’s a nice alternative if the hussle of the market and the queuing up feels overwhelming, with a menu that has some classics you’ll find in a lot of Mexican restaurants, but also some more innovative variations.
Back to cocktail bars, this time in King’s Cross. Hokus Pokus is in the basement of another restaurant/bar right next to King’s Cross Station, and the futuristic decor and closed metal doors initially made the bar itself a bit hard to find. Once you get in, the bar has a classy yet a bit mysterious atmosphere, with a light fog lingering in the air at all times, and a very innovative menu ”inspired by the history of King’s Cross, Bloomsbury and Camden”. While some fancy cocktail bars have items coming in all sorts of funky forms like smoke and bubbles and whatnot, their menu is not innovative in this way, but rather in their flavors. So while it is an alchemy bar, don’t expect a whole fire show with your drink, but rather surprising flavors like wagyu-infused smoked whiskey.
BAO is yet another London chain, serving Taiwanese food. As you might guess from the name, baos are a key element on their menu, but they also have a variety of other small, delicious dishes. It’s a great spot to order a bunch of options off the menu to share with the table. The atmosphere is quite casual, and I had lots of fun and some delicious food. The baos were delish, but so was the rest and I have to give a special mention to the fried chicken – I’m usually not a huge fan of deep-fried, battered foods, but this crust was so light and airy that it didn’t give at all the greasy ”ugh” feeling fried food often does. It’s a yes from me.
Ippudo is a Japanese chain that has landed in London to serve proper Japanese ramen, so we had high expectations for it. Never having been to Japan and experienced authentic Japanese ramen myself, I was really happy. The broth was creamy, the meat was super tender, the tamago what it should be and the soup hadn’t been ruined by an overload of toppings, rather working on the simplicity. If you’re craving a ramen, this place could definitely be it.
% Arabica Coffee
I don’t know why exactly Arabica is so famous, but judging from the queue (at least when I was at the Covent Garden location), it definitely is. So if you’re in a rush, this might not be your best bet. The coffee however is great, and something I personally appreciate is that they had a ”Kyoto latte” and a ”Spanish latte”, which both contain condensed milk, one of my favorite extras to add to a coffee, and that automatically makes this place a yes for me.
Seven Dials Market
We had time for one more food court, this time Seven Dials Market in Covent Garden. The central location is obviously very handy, and there’s quite a few options there for foods and drinks, on two different floors. I went for a Thai papaya salad, which was lovely because for once the level of spice didn’t make me want to die (although spice is frankly part fo the charm of this dish), and some cocktails. A good option if you’re in central London and the party can’t agree on one cuisine.
The Sun Pub
This place is a bit of an odd one on this list. It’s actually just a regular pub in central London, they do serve some food but I can’t comment on that as I only had a pint. I however wanted to add the place on this list as we went there before one of the comedy shows as it’s accross the street, and the staff was absolutely lovely. So if you’re looking for just a regular pub around the area, check The Sun Pub out.
I didn’t actually plan on going to White Pine, but ended up having a coffee there to kill some time and it turned out to be a really nice cafe. They have a trendy, scandi style going on and serve all sorts of healthy, fresh juices next to the regular cafe menu. In addition, they also have a small concept store with plants, books, cosmetics and other small items that you probably don’t need but as a millenial/Gen Z would convince yourself to buy. It seemed like quite a quiet spot where you can also bring your laptop and work during the day.
Circolo Popolare was actually on top of my list, but it clearly is on top of many people’s lists because when booking restaurants a couple of weeks ahead it was already fully booked for all evenings. Fortunately I found some availability for Monday lunch before we were heading to the airport, but make sure to book your table well in advance for this one. I know Mamma Mia happens in Greece and Circolo Popolare is Italian, but I really got some Mamma Mia vibes from the unique decor. There’s something very southern European about the table setups and the decor, the fake plants and vines crossing the ceiling, and obviously you can’t not pay attention to the 20,000 bottles of mainly liquor decorating the room on both sides. I don’t know if the staff were actually Italian, but it was very much on theme that they also spoke Italian. My seafood pasta wasn’t maybe as breathtaking as the decor, but it was still living up to the standard London had been giving us all weekend long. Most things we saw coming out of the kitchen looked amazing, and I kind of regret not trying the tiramisu, because that thing looked bomb. So if you want to escape south for a bit and enjoy some Italian dishes, do yourself a favor and book a table at Circolo Popolare.
Italian Bear Chocolate
My friend had made an Excel file with her recommendations for food and drinks in London, and for Italian Bear Chocolate, the comment was ”PROPER HOT CHOCOLATE.” There’s only one thing that can mean and it was exactly it: a thick, creamy, sweet cup of what seems to be pure melted chocolate. Yum. If you have it in the café, you can also ask for an extra pour of chocolate that goes all over your cup (check the pictures on their social media), which looks hella extra, although in my mind not necessarily the most appealing. I do have to note though that I initially wanted to go to their SoHo location one evening, but the queue was insane so I gave up on the idea, but got another shot on Monday as their Fitzrovia location is right next to Circolo Popolare and wasn’t crowded at least at that time. Be aware that many other chocolate-lovers might be also craving a thicccc cup of deliciousness, so you might have to decide how much queuing it is worth, or book a table in advance.
So there we go – a full list of food & drink places I tried on my London getaway. I have to say I’m impressed about how many things we managed to fit in only a few days. A culinary experience is what we were going for, and that’s definitely what we got. I hope some of these might inspire you too and that you’ll get to check these places next time you’re in London. I apologise for the lack of pictures for most locations – I have to say that a) my phone camera quality starts to be so crap that I don’t even want to share the pictures I take, and b) I having gotten into Tiktok so much that sometimes I completely forget to take pictures and just have video footage (what a Gen Z am I right?). But I assure you the food did actually happen even without being immortalised on camera. This was also definitely not the last time I’m in London, so feel free to send me your best London tips so I can give them a go next time I’m there!
I hope you’re having a lovely end of the year and enjoyed the holidays if you are celebrating, and I hope 2023 will bring plenty of good things to you!