Several weeks ago I was in London for my traditional annual visit. I have too much history with the city marking different periods in my life, for me to turn my back to her (yes, ‘her’). Every year I head out with a list, notions and ideas of where I want to go, and what I cannot miss. Sometimes I cross through everything, on other occasions I give things a miss. With every year that passes I grow older, I change as does London, as does my list. It used to be all about galleries, and buildings, architecture and art. The past few years markets, specialty shops and restaurants have replaces these, along with the transitions I went through. No need for cynicism on mentioning London with food. This is a serious metropolis and it has a lot, of everything, for everyone, all the time. As a food lover, my experience has taught me there is good food everywhere, you just need to look. This post should also be of assistance if you’re lost, hungry and in Londonium.
Having spent between a ¼ to a 1/5 of my life in London, I have several things to show for it. A rather convincing accent for a start. Several academic titles and many good, affordable places to eat all sorts of cuisines, suitable for all sorts of occasions.
I finally decided to sit down and write some of them down. Behold, my complete and unabridged London culinary list.
On a dessert island I will be just fine with me a steaming cart of dim sum. An endless variety of bite sized bundles of joy is perfect for a life of sun, sea and sand.
Yauatcha do good dim sum, and the good thing is they serve it for dinner. If you want to spend less and eat dim sum at the traditional hours, I always end up at “harbour city” in china town.
Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street. Soho, London, W1F 0DL
Harbour city, 46 Gerrard Street, London, W1D 5QH
A proper curry
I used to go to “Bangla town” on Brick Lane, for its large mural of Princess Diana. Recently I visited Khan's , which was also good.
Pastry, coffee, colourful fresh food
Ottolenghi, Ottolenghi, Ottolenghi.
If you need more said, here is a good overview.
A lovely grocery shop and kitchen specializing in local and seasonal produce and dishes. Everything here is good.
Quintessential, an absolute must do on any list, I have failed to achieve this feat myself. But its on the list, and has been for quite a while.
It is quite embarrassing, but I discovered this market on my last day, after 6 years living in London. It has been a regular stop on consequent visits. The market is open Thursday to Saturday, the latter being the busiest. It has stalls offering local and global goods, from traditional pork pies to Lavender from Provence, Italian olive oil, Spanish chorizo and Dutch cheeses. look out for the white strawberries and be sure to queue for a fried chorizo sarnie.
Marylebone farmers market
In an area behind Marylebone road, that serves as a parking lot throughout the week, this Sunday only market is a hidden gem. There is fresh local produce as well as mouth watering food stands. It may be a Sunday morning, but the large casseroles of chicken in bubbling sauce are cooking away and fresh fish, seafood and shellfish are waiting abd ready to be fried to order.
I usually try to hit markets early in the morning. The produce is fresh, the aisles are empty and I have all the time in the world to stroll, sense and sample the goods. At the early hours the market is dominated by the vendors, before the customers have arrived, and the atmosphere is different. Private.
Broadway market’s location requires intention and careful attention otherwise you’ll never make it here. It is a sharp contrast to the hecticness of Borough market, but it could be that I arrived here earlier then most…
Columbia road flower market
This tiny street in the back of Brick lane is east London at its best; tiny Victorian terrace houses set the scene on Sunday, when, instead of cars flowers, herbs, pots and plants take over. Its busy and you cant move, but everything is in bloom and full colour. Dont miss Lee's seafood (no. 134) world-famous fried tiger prawns and calamari which have been a market staple every Sunday for over 15 years. More info on their website.Specialty food shops
Selfridges food hall
If I had a church, this would be the London branch. There are a number of food halls in London, and this may not be the largest, richest or best, but it is my favourite. The abundant choice of chocolate, confectionary and pastries, hundreds. The Salt beef bar is a good place to stop for a light lunch in between shopping. You want to order a salt beef on rye bread with mustard and a gherkin. When you are done walk towards the Krispy Kreme stand and order a doughnut or two. Then, slowly turn and away, and whatever you do don’t look back. You want to leave room for dinner, this is only a light lunch.
I love this place. It’s the second best thing until my non-existent fantasy trip to Japan pans out. The front of the shop is a restaurant serving freshly prepared food, cold and warm. Walk through to the back in you are in Japan. They even have an online shop.
I connect with food that’s honest, made from the best ingredients and that has the added value of an experience, as well as a nutritious meal. So a Mexican lunch in a wrap fit the bill.
Their website tells it all. Its fresh, its huge, its colourfull and happy and I couldn’t eat for another day.
Communal tables, woody design, inexpensive and tasty. Its like a good Thai version of Wagamama...
I even love the fact there is no dessert (I do!), only Lemongrass tea with honey.
A good place to start is Neals yard dairy. They specialize in British cheeses and have shops in covent garden and Borough market as well as stalls in several markets, so there is really no excuse not to pop in and try a good cheddar. Their online shop also provides a good resource on cheese varieties.
La fromagerie is another specialty cheese shop, with a large variety of cheeses from the UK and Europe. The cheese room is part of a food shop and a café for full immersion.
This is it so far. I’ve kept a few secrets venues to myself, as I cannot give everything away, but this should be enough to make for a scrumptious food trip.
If you have any tips and recommendations I am always on the lookout for more new treasures.