A Foodie’s Guide to Visiting London, Summer 2018

Welcome to the third annual edition of this Foodie’s Guide to Visiting London!

When I started this series, I did so in response to all my friends and family abroad, who’d look at me as their personalised version of Time Out when flocking to London for their summer holidays. An on-demand source of recommendations if you will, particularly for vegetarian-friendly* tips on where to eat and drink (typically tailored to individual preferences)!

I wouldn’t have it any other way, as sharing my latest and most exhilerating discoveries is really what motivated me to start writing this blog to begin with! And so, gathered here is my updated bucket list to help navigate the city’s exploding mix of epicurean essentials – from the haute new openings to evergreen favourites, old classics, hidden gems and everything in between.

I just hope that it holds as much appeal for all those visiting London in the coming months, as it does for Londoners alike!

{ * While a vegetarian way of life is the only existence I’ve ever known – and will likely ever know – hardened meat-eaters need not turn away now, as my reviews and features rarely pander to the cliché of all-veggie restaurants. }


New & Noteworthy

Let’s start with the buzz-worthy openings recently commanding our appetite and attention. The most extravagant of these has to be Hide. The three-storeyed, 250-cover space from Ollie Dabbous is also an oenophile’s dream, with over 6,000 bottles of wine curated and supplied by Hedonism (Mayfair’s most sought after wine specialist)…

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In fact, almost all of the hottest new openings this summer have pedigree.

Roka’s family of restaurants is spawning a new spin-off in Soho, Inko Nito. Expect unconventional Japanese Robatayaki – charcoal grilled cooking with a Korean twist.

Meanwhile, a former chef from Roka, Novikov and international outposts of Mandarin Oriental, has opened a tiny gyoza bar in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market, Titu. The cosy and oh-so-beguiling interiors (designed by Athens-based DZA architects) are as much an attraction here, as the Asian-inspired menu.

Intimate kitchen-counter dining remains a high-level thrill, executed with flair and finesse by the city’s finest chefs. Journey along Spain at Sabor, the vibrant new home of Nieves Barragan Mohacho (the former executive chef of Barrafina); or hustle for one of just eleven seats at Evelyn’s Table. Championing modern European plates in Chinatown, this basement diner is the latest from the good folks behind The Barbary & Palomar (both of which still feature among my all-time favourite restaurants!).

Explore the full list of London’s new openings, here

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Eat & Play/ Shop 

You can also find a line-up of London’s trendiest eats at Swingers’ new site off Oxford Street. The 20,000 square foot space features two 9-hole courses of crazy golf, working in plenty of  jumps and bumps, loop-de-loops, moving obstacles and sneaky traps to keep you firmly on toes, before you finally plop down with tacos, gelato and Negronis!

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Of course since you’re in London on a holiday, chances are that a good part of your day might be spent pounding the pavements of the bustling high streets. We all know that the experience can be a bit… discombobulating. Thank goodness then for the respite care offered by the cafés, bars and restaurants conveniently tucked away nearby!

Options run the gamut from Alto, the new Italian rooftop restaurant at Selfridges (Aperol o’ clock anyone?), to the cobbled courtyard of Mews of Mayfair. Nestled behind Bond Street, it’s a hidden gem for tasteful daytime drinking, with a deep wine list that’s as good as the cocktails! Explore the full list of where to eat & drink whilst shopping, here

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Other top tips for fleeing the madding crowd include the floral haven at Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden; and the lovage summer terrace coming soon to Aqua Kyoto off Regent Street.

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Brunch Life

Since you’ve been reading this Guide for the past few years, you know I’m nothing if not religious about Sunday brunch.

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Among the classics, Christopher’s Covent Garden remains a favourite for its legendary French Toast, as does the rather grand 34 for impeccable Hollandaise and freshly-baked banana bread (available only on persistent request). Meanwhile, another Mayfair stalwart – Coya – has introduced a Peruvian party twist to this weekend ritual, complete with bottomless Pisco Sours and a live saxophonist… ¡ Arriba arriba !

Israeli cuisine has also been in the spotlight recently, with Middle Eastern-inspired brunches holding an especially eggstravagant-appeal at Delamina in Marylebone. Think  Turkish poached eggs, Shakshuka, a “Benedict Balagan” and more…

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Stepping out of Zone 1, my repertoire of weekend haunts have expanded to the gentle waterfront of St Katharine Docks – a marina sheltered in the shadow of  Tower of London. It’s here that you’ll find Dokke, a fascinating restaurant helmed by Neil Wager, a private island specialist. His menu is something of an education in the beauty of foraged ingredients, gracefully framed by captivating colours and awe-inspiring textures…

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Compelling Classics

My favourites really haven’t changed all that much though.

For those keen on Japanese cuisine, I’d continue to recommend Roka Mayfair, Nobu Old Park Lane and Ohisama Marylebone for your fix of the classics (all cater remarkably well for vegetarians too!).

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For cathartic Chinese cooking, head to Duck and Rice where the soulful menu is matched by cosily-snug surrounds in the heart of Soho. If you fancy a more ritzy affair, China Tang at The Dorchester is an understatedly-elegant choice; while Park Chinois – the wildly opulent, 1930’s-inspired Shanghai lair in Berkeley Square – offers summer truffle dumplings with a side of a risqué cabaret… Read more, as part of my foodie’s guide to the best (veggie) dim sum in London

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Santa Maria and Homeslice continue to be dependably excellent for when you need the restorative comfort of a good pizza. And pasta lovers can rejoice in finding the best Cacio e Pepe outside of Rome – at Stevie Parle’s Pastaio in Carnaby, or Padella at Borough Market.

Inspired by the vintage glamour of Italy in the ’50’s and ’60s, Harry’s Dolce Vita (the sister restaurant to private members’ club in Mayfair) delivers sublime satisfaction too, albeit with a dose of sybaritic style. The creative renditions of classic Italian desserts are particularly a highlight…

Meanwhile, the mix of Indian restaurants continues to expand with elevating additions,   redolent of the regionally-diverse and vastly-vibrant cultures within India.

At Bombay Bustle, you can experience a melting pot of dishes characteristic of a city that has historically attracted people from all over India; or immerse yourself in a colourful explosion of East-meets-West flavours at Indian Accent, the restaurant credited with redefining the vocabulary of Indian cuisine.

puchkas, five waters

If you’re still hungry for more, explore a comprehensive list of all reviews and features indexed by cuisine and location, here.


Afternoon Tea & Treats (With a Twist!)

In London’s true cosmopolitan fashion, there are several intriguing twists to the quintessentially-British tradition of afternoon tea – from the fashion-forward Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley Hotel, to High Coffee at InterContinental Park Lane which promises a culinary cavalcade of caffeinated decadence!

And of course, you have to trail-blaze your way through the unspeakably-delicious treats on offer across the city, from custard-filled doughnuts from Bread Ahead’s Bakery (various locations, but Borough Market remains a favourite) to the pretty-as-a-picture éclairs at Maitre Choux. Our favourite macaron ice cream sandwich makers, Yolkin, now have a permanent space in Rupert Street (Chinatown) too, with the likes of blueberry cheesecake, Vietnamese coffee and a vegan pandan flavour on offer…

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On those days when London’s iffy weather doesn’t pander to our penchant for an ice cream diet, head to SAID Dal 1923 – the cosy hideout on Broadwick Street. The triple melted hot chocolate here is simply the stuff of every cocoa lover’s dreams!


Bucket List Bars

The Coburg at the Connaught remains an institution among institutions, for its cosily-charming corners, excellent service and formidable French Martinis; while The Mandrake has been quick to establish itself as the new Chiltern Firehouse – very much a place to see and to be seen at. The haute scene at this recently-opened hotel in Fitzrovia is ripe for a parade of people-watching… that is, if you can tear your eyes away from the haunting piece of taxidermy jumping out from behind the bar, an illustrative metaphor of a peacock transmogrifying into a gazelle (explore more trendy bars in London, here!)

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The Rumpus Room at the Mondrian at Sea Container’s is another buzz-worthy spot, especially if you can lay claim to the rattan swing chairs on the rooftop terrace, looking out onto St Paul’s and the river.

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Stepping out of the hip hotel hangouts, stumble into one of London’s more secretive speakeasies. Oriole in Smithfield Market is particularly inviting, evoking an air of tropical seclusion with its palm prints and offbeat artefacts. The  thrilling cocktails are best enjoyed on an evening when a live jazz band takes centre-stage, in a vintage throwback to the roaring twenties!

And then there’s the familiar comfort of drinking in the Mayfair home of the eccentric British adventurer Phileas Foggs Esq. Gin lovers might also delight in the dedicated Parlour that Fogg’s has set up in Covent Garden, boasting one of the largest and most unique collections of gin in London (more details, here!)

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Other Useful Guides

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Understandably, it can be a tad daunting to navigate your way around the myriad of neighbourhoods across London. Which is why I’ve recently introduced a series of Area Guides, highlighting the best of what to do, see and eat in different pockets of the city.

And while you might inevitably plan your days around food & drink, you can also find a whole host of other recommendations for things to do in London – from experiential events to wacky pop-ups, thought-provoking art exhibits to cultural gems galore…

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Happy holidays!


Stay updated with the latest in the world of  food, travel, life & style by signing up to my monthly newsletter – here.

Author: The Foodie Diaries

A food travel & lifestyle journal, chronicling my culinary and other adventures around town.

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