When we think of London, certain images spring to mind. Bridges, buses and boats; the merky Thames, the soaring Tate and the ageing telephone boxes; rain-sodden streets and leafy parks; and all the culinary delights under the sun (or stormcloud, as the case may be).
London is one of the most richly diverse capitals in the world. And with such a heady mix of cultures comes a bubbling stew of cuisines - and every kind of food experience imaginable. From the beigel bakers of Brick Lane and Whitechapel’s Indian eateries to the seasonal small plates of Peckham, Brixton’s Caribbean kitchens and Fitzrovia’s finest foams, The Big Smoke truly has it all. And knowing where to begin on London food tours is nigh on impossible. But that's where we come in, because here at Plum Guide we have gone above and beyond to ensure that you have all the expert advice you need to execute a food tour of London exactly how you would want to.
Now, we wouldn’t be so bumptious as to call this a comprehensive list of London’s best dishes - it is a city of over 15,000 restaurants, after all. But let’s just say it’s a rather good start. If you’re visiting for the first time, this may just be your jump off point to some of the best meals of your life. So pack your umbrella, flex that cab-hailing arm and prepare to experience London at its most lip-smacking.
Try the salt beef bagels at Beigel Bake
While the bagel battle rages on between ‘the white one’ and ‘the yellow one’ next door, most Londoners will tell you that Beigel Bake is the place to go. Open 24/7 (just in case a craving strikes at 4am), it was founded in 1974 and has been dishing up the same silky bagels piled with succulent homemade salt beef, chunky pickles and blow-your-Brora-socks-off English mustard ever since.
Enjoy the whole sea bass at Som Saa
While the crispy, new penny-coloured deep fried sea bass is one of the finest fish dishes we’ve ever eaten, it’s just one of a handful of iconic offerings on the menu at this smash-hit Thai restaurant. Getting a table at Som Saa can be a struggle (it’s heaving every night of the week), so go early to add your name to the list, and head across the street to The Culpepper for a sharpener while you wait. Didn't manage to grab that table? Cook up your own storm from your impressive kitchen at one of our exclusive homes.
Order buttermilk chicken at The Clove Club, Shoreditch
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience that really defines London food tours, look no further than this cutting-edge restaurant in Shoreditch. Chef Isaac McHale and his team serve up modern British fare alongside dizzying wine pairings - with dishes like the buttermilk chicken in pine salt giving the place its cult following. After one bite, you won’t be surprised to learn The Clove Club has held onto its Michelin star since 2014.
Fuel up on fish and chips at Poppies
It would be nothing short of sacrilegious to leave London without giving yourself at least one fish and chips-induced food coma. There’s a lot of choice when it comes to this British classic - some great, some...not so great. Poppies has acquired quite the following since it first opened in 1952. Grab a box of freshly battered fish and golden chips (vinegar mandatory), and take it for a stroll around Camden’s famous lock. A great option if you're exploring London with the kids.
Get the confit potatoes at Quality Chop House, Farringdon
This former 19th-century working man’s ‘eating club’ is now one of London’s finest examples of seasonal, contemporary British dining. Pull up a chair in this mahogany-lined classic dining room for butcher-fresh pork pies, salt-sprinkled rare steak, brown butter pork chops and their famous confit potatoes. We won’t spoil the surprise, but let us just say this - potatoes will never be the same again.
Indulge in the xiaolongbao at Dumplings’ Legend
Bustling, lantern-strewn Chinatown is one of London’s most joyful neighbourhoods. Head here for speakeasies, Chinese supermarkets and fabulous restaurants - and if you’re in the market for dim sum, look no further than lunch at Dumplings’ Legend. You’ll pass by the chefs at work in the open kitchen before settling down at a paper-topped table for fresh, juicy dumplings of all shapes and sizes. But the stars of the show are their Xiaolongbao - soupy, delicate little morsels of joy you won’t be able to get enough of.
Buy Richard Haward's oysters at Borough Market
Head to this thousand-year-old market (yes, thousand) to stroll through stalls bubbling with paella, fresh pasta, cheese, ales, sizzling sausages and freshly baked bread. Just be sure to stop by Richard Haward’s for the freshest, plumpest oysters in town to make the most of London food tours.
Try the Caribbean mezze at Cottons
For a taste of the sun-drenched home cooking of the Caribbean, Cottons is a great place to start. The menu is bright and enticing, but we recommend beginning with their colourful mezze - a medley of saltfish fritters, chilli shrimps, tabbouleh salad, jerk chicken, chickpea curry and grilled roti. Goes down swimmingly with a couple of Killer Duppys.
Enjoy eating the dosa at Rasa
When it comes to Indian food, London has it all, from slap-up Anglo-Indian dining rooms to fine dining and spice-spiked street food. But for something truly exceptional, get yourself to Rasa. You’ll have a choice of the vegetarian, meat or fish restaurant outposts of this South Indian mini-chain, but our personal favourite is the pink-tinged spot in Stoke Newington. Everything (and we mean everything) on the menu is worth trying - bursting with flavour and cooked using classic recipes and a deep respect for ingredients. Our advice? Order as much as possible - just don’t miss the giant, crisp, masala potato-filled dosa. You’ll thank us later.
Order the schnitzel at Fischer’s
For the ultimate London dining experience (by way of Vienna), join an elegant crowd at this classic Austrian dining room in well-heeled Fitzrovia. Waiters pour ice-cold martinis in waistcoats while regulars cut deals and gossip beneath the stained glass domed ceiling. Start with the mustard-laden chopped salad, followed by the perfect Wiener schnitzel and a slice of classic sachertorte. Prost, old boy.
Discover the bone marrow at St John’s
A stalwart of the London dining scene, St John is the brainchild of food legends Trevor Gulliver and Fergus Henderson. You’ll often find them halfway through a long, wine-fuelled lunch in the simple dining room, where phones are forbidden and music never plays. Somehow though, the atmosphere is always one of joyful conviviality, and in many ways this is the perfect restaurant. Start with the classic bone marrow (something of a culinary legend), followed by seasonal meat dishes, pâtés and pies, and finally a plate of pillowy madeleines (with a glass of madeira, of course).
If you’re looking to create a one of a kind culinary experience from the comfort of your own home, this guide by Le Cordon Bleu has a unique selection of both savoury and sweet recipes.