Bite Into Big Ben: Where to Eat near London’s Top Tourist Stops

Like a handy carving fork, this London dining series is two-pronged. Prong one will point you toward 15 of the capital’s most-loved attractions, from classic Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park to contemporary art at Tate Modern (and beyond). Prong two (perhaps most importantly) will tell you where to eat, drink and make merry afterwards. Dig in, ducky.

Near Hyde Park (Belgravia): Dinner By Heston

You wouldn't want to taste medieval England — it probably tastes of slops and fire — but at Dinner By Heston (Blumenthal, obvs), you can expect a hint of bygone British eras, minus the scrofula and scurvy. In devising his menu, Blumenthal consulted 14th-century cookbooks and worked closely with food historians. (Writer and logician Lewis Carroll is another source of inspiration.) Like its menu, Dinner is striking: In the open kitchen, a pulley system rotates a spit on an open fire. Helpfully, Heston has dated his dishes: a savoury porridge circa 1660 stars frog's legs, girolles and garlic; spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes riffs nostalgically on 1780. The smart dining room is housed in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, decorated with antique jelly molds, porcelain-colored paint and Hyde Park views. Squint and you might see Henry VIII chasing foxes — or ill-fated wives.

Near Brick Lane (Spitalfields): Poppie’s Fish and Chips

Brits have 17th-century refugees from Portugal and Spain to thank for their introduction to fried fish. We may never know which genius added fried spuds to the mix, though a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin is credited with opening the first ever fish and chip shop in Bow Bells, East London. Fitting then, that one of the best spots for the British classic is in Spitalfields: Poppie’s has been perfecting its trade since the ’50s. It’s a snug, kitsch-as-you-like eat-in or takeaway joint, decorated with enough vintage memorabilia to stock a garage sale. Order cod or haddock with chips, mushy peas and pickled onion. Poppie’s serves alcohol, so diners can sip sparkling wine from a coupe glass, while plundering the tiny glass ketchup and tartar sauce jars with your chips. 

Near Buckingham Palace (Westminster): The Dining Room

For Michelin-starred dishes as pretty as an English country garden, look no further than The Dining Room, at the smart Goring Hotel. The Goring has always been good at life: When it opened in 1910, it was the world’s first hotel to offer ensuite bathrooms and central heating. Today’s dining room is designed by David Linley, including Swarovski chandeliers, and walls dressed with hand-woven Gainsborough Silks. It’s also home to one of the capital’s largest private gardens (where afternoon tea is served in splendour). The elegant restaurant is one of the last places in London where you can admire roast rib of beef being carved on a silvery trolley. A meal here is a whistlestop tour across the UK: to Cornwall, via the fish and Clarence Court eggs; to Lincolnshire for the sausages; to Kent and East Sussex via the Romney Marsh lamb; to Loch Fyne for the kippers; to Hereford for the beef, and so on...

Near the National Gallery (Piccadilly): Brasserie Zédel

In trying to uncover the history of the ile flottante — the airy, fairy, utterly delicious floating island dessert that Brasserie Zédel does so well — we came across the following advice: 'Ile flottante can be consumed at any time of the day, but is not usually considered a good option for breakfast.’ Reluctantly, we’d have to agree: in the deft hands of the French, almond croissants are excusable as a morning repast; a bowl of creme anglaise and meringue, scattered with shards of caramelized praline, not so much. The meringue-based desserts are one feather-light-yet-substantial reason to descend Brasserie Zédel’s opulent staircase, but others include the eye-popping 1930’s building, the live band that sometimes serenades guests, the cocktails, the bistro classics and the sense of unabashed fun.

Near the Globe Theatre (Southwark): Padella

Padella’s minimalist menu displays all the confidence of a nude model: No ornamentation is needed when your fresh pasta is this lithe and luscious. The lineup of dishes — which acts on cues from neighbouring Borough Market — is 10 million times shorter than the perma queue snaking outside. Don’t worry: This smart little pasta bar zips through covers. A tangle of tagliatelle comes with rich nubs of chicken liver and mushroom; an antipasto of borlotti beans delivers salty kicks courtesy of salami chews; burrata bigger than a golf ball shines in a golden slick of Puglian olive oil. There’s a diminutive room on street level, with seats spying on the chefs and the kitchen’s glittering equipment; downstairs, a more roomy basement space awaits. 

Near Portobello Road (Notting Hill): Kipferl

Hand an Austrian a baking bowl, dark chocolate and apricot jam, and chances are they’ll hand you back a success. (Also known as sachertorte.) Beyond sachertorte, Kipferl is good at cheese-stuffed sausages, sauerkraut, buttery schnitzel and spinach-and-mountain-cheese dumplings. The chalet-tastic design is no happy accident: Kipferl’s owners recruited Austrian designer Benedict Wilhelm to kit out its snug-as-a-bug space on Golborne Road; Wilhelm earns his stripes via vintage posters, lashings of wood, and stark, striking lights, setting quite the stage for overconsumption of cake, coffee and Austrian wine. 

Near Carnaby Street and Selfridges (Soho): Flat Iron

Taking our cue from Flat Iron and its impressively concise menu, we'll get straight to the point. The reason to come here is simply meat. Steak, in fact; specifically, the cheaper cut known as flat iron, served here with a house leaf salad for just 10,00 pennies. (That's 10 pounds.) If you want to bulk up your order, add creamed spinach, daily market greens and dripping-cooked chips, or peg on a couple of seasonal salads; there's also a salted-caramel sundae to sate your sweet tooth. Alcohol gets a tad more airtime, with a short selection of craft beers, a solid assembly of wines and a pleasing cast of cocktails, including a punchy plum-and-aperol spritz and an aromatic old-fashioned that works its magic with help from blood-orange oil.

Near the London Eye (Southwark): Baltic Restaurant & Bar

To make moonshine at home, you’ll need a couple of sacks of potatoes, barley malt, yeast, amylase, sugar, a large saucepan, a fermenter or large barrel, a long plastic spoon, a thermometer, a potato masher, some jars or jugs, a couple of old blankets, a demijohn, an alcohol hydrometer and a charcoal filter. You’ll also need time and patience. Instead, sip vodka shots at Baltic, where the dining room is as sleekly white as a Moscow ice rink. Baltic serves more than 60 vodkas, including versions favored with horseradish, plum and chile, as well as a hot honey number. The small plates are intriguing enough — including herring marinated in paprika and onion with pickled vegetables; gravlax with potato latkes; and pierogi and pelmeni — that many diners never quite make it to mains. 

Near Harrods (Knightsbridge): Zuma

Knightsbridge: home to women with tiny dogs, big hair and even bigger bank accounts. Fitting, then, that Zuma puts a swish spin on casual izakaya-style Japanese dining. Noted Tokyo design firm Super Po`tato, headed up by Noriyoshi Muramatsu, aced the shark-sleek fit-out: an amber cocoon of caramel-colored wood with soft lighting. Watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen or book the Tosho table for 10. To get the best introduction to the masterful sushi and sashimi, opt for one of the tasting menus and canter from sliced yellowtail with green chile relish, ponzu and pickled garlic to marinated black cod wrapped in hoba leaf. Zumba’s bar has around 40 sakes, for those looking to up the ante.

Near the Tate Modern (Southwark): Restaurant at Tate Modern

Post-art, pause for a pit stop at the Tate Modern’s swish minimalist Restaurant, housed on the ninth floor. The menu utters multiple cheers for British produce and producers: botanical-cured trout comes with grilled leeks and gin vinaigrette; baked semolina with Stinking Bishop cheese is matched with roasted globe artichokes and black garlic dressing. Then there’s the Josper Grill, where different cuts of meat are grilled to their juicy best and served with an array of sauces and sides, such as thick-cut chips and sprouting broccoli with chile and almonds. Save room for the chocolate fondant with mandarin gel and clotted cream, or lemon brûlée tart with blueberry custard. The restaurant’s wines are award-winning — it’s pretty much your duty to try them.    

Near the Geffrye Museum (Hoxton): Beagle

There’s a lot more to London’s railway arches than trains and trolls: excellent bars, restaurants and breweries await, for example. Beagle, by Hoxton Square, is one particular arch hero. Nab seats in the cosy exposed-brick bar area, where globe lights hang from the ceilings like suspended eggs. Expect the kinds of meaty mains that put hairs on an Englishman’s chest: braised hogget shoulder with turnips, spelt and kale, for example. It would be remiss not to order duck-fat chips; those who still have room can trust the chefs with pudding, too. 

Near Madame Tussauds (Marylebone): Orrery

Sometimes you want to gaze at the stars. Michelin stars that is; on a menu, innit. For such times, let us recommend Orrery in Marylebone. Little bit of trivia: an orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system, named after Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery (1676—1731), for whom the device was made. You can’t quite see the solar system from Orrery’s large arched windows, but you can see St Margaret’s church. The smart dining room occupies what was once stables. Things have got a lot tastier since the nags moved out and Chef Igor Tymchyshyn moved in. His menus play homage to British produce and French techniques and flavors, resulting in dishes like seared Orkney scallops served with apple veloute and Jerusalem artichoke.

Near Regent’s Canal (Shoreditch): Arepa & Co

The first rule of arepas is: There are no rules for arepas. These hot little patties from Venezuela and Colombia can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried or grilled. They can be made from maize meal, maize flour or ground kernels of maize; they can be served whole with things in which to dip them – cheese and avocado would be sensible – or they can be split in two and packed with bits and bobs, like cheese and avocado, meat, eggs, tomatoes, seafood, fish or salad. Arepa & Co on Regent’s Canal serves multiple arepas, including pork shoulder, shredded beef and plantain, Venezuelan-cheese-slathered versions, smoked salmon and more. The casual restaurant also dishes up cachapas (savory sweet-corn pancakes), cakes, mains, cocktails and wonderful waterside views.

Near the Emirates Air Line (Greenwich): Goddards at Greenwich

Pie and mash with eels and liquor is about as British as you can get, even if lots of modern-day Brits haven’t got round to actually trying the stuff. Londoners have been munching pies since the 1700’s, when tray-laden piemen would walk the city streets. Early pies were filled with eels from the River Thames, which were spiced and cooked in stock, before meeting their pastry crust. Pies became even more popular during the industrial revolution, and a surge of new pie joints opened, though eels became too expensive and were replaced with meat. Alfred Goddard opened the first Goddards outpost in South London’s Deptford in 1890, so the family has had a bit of time to perfect their trade. Whatever pie you opt for, add stewed or jellied eels for the full effect. To finish, opt for sweet pies filled with fruit; a variety of crumbles, drenched in custard; bread and butter pudding, and chocolate sponge pudding – with a cup of tea, natch.

Near the Barbican (Center of London): St. John

St. John could also be called St. Nose-to-Tail, or, more succinctly: St. Offal. Internal organs aren’t the only thing this carnivorous corner of Clerkenwell peddles, but they’re definitely one of the key things that made it famous. Chef Fergus Henderson is the son of two architects — one a keen cook, the other a keen eater — so it’s easy to explain the architectural fine lines that characterise his eating spaces. If you want a one-dish exemplification of what Henderson is all about, order the unctuous bone marrow and parsley salad.

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