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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.

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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.

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Photo: Charlotte Bland

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. 

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Photo: Charlotte Bland

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...

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Photo: Charlotte Bland

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.

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