There are countless things that make London the epicenter of the world. A city where the old meets the new in perfect unison. A city that embraces you with a certain familiarity and yet offers you something new to keep you enthused each time you visit the city. A city where the world meets greets and eats turning it into a multi-cultural melting pot. And above all, a city where all cricket lovers dreams come true!
Whether you are the type to miss ghar-ka-khana within a few days of your touchdown abroad or the one who cringes at the thought of eating Indian food abroad, London offers a smorgasbord of world cuisine to satisfy every type of food lover. So, while you enjoy the fanfare when team India plays in the ICC World Cup 2019 crisscrossing England this summer, here are some of the top 10 food restaurants from the classic to the contemporary that you shouldn’t miss out on during you stay in London. From the flavours of India to indulgent American steaks and burgers to a full English meal and the eclectic flavours of Europe, noshing through London just got easy.
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If you are a frequent traveller to any city, take advice from the locals. Always. They will guide you to the coolest places the city has on offer. Borough Market in central London is steeped in some serious history having started in 1014. Despite the river Thames now having many bridges to join both the banks, back then, the London Bridge was the only bridge that allowed for cross-river access. From paella to pastries, spices to breads to fresh produce, and drinks or coffee, you can have it all at the Borough Market. Enjoy the day, discover food or should I say, life?
And while here, don’t miss out on the scrumptious Spanish breakfast of jamón, chorizo, fried eggs and assorted wafers at Brindisa. Head to El Pastor that serves some of the best Mexican tacos filled with char-grilled fish, caramelised onions and magical mezcals. And if the notoriously long serpentine queues at Padella are anything to go by, buckle up some courage and wait for your turn to pig in to their delicious and authentic handmade Italian pastas. A pasta bar serving nothing but fresh handmade pasta at arguably the lowest prices in town, their tagliarini with brown shrimp, courgettes and chili and classic pappardelle’s are absolute winners.
Having started off as a small arts and crafts fair in the backyard of Dingwalls with just 16 stalls, Camden Market now is a community of over 1000 places to shop, eat and drink next to the Regent’s Canal. Filled with a spirit like no other place in London, Camden market is the hub of fashion and music, that welcomes visitors on all seven days a week. If you are a follower of the iconic rock bands The Clash or The Sex Pistols, you need to soak in the spirit of the Camden Market, which they loved to frequent. It still remains the hotspot for counter culture music and fashion and with that the experimentation of international cuisine. Like me, even if you have been to the Camden Market a dozen times, it won’t tire you out. Filled with effervescent energy and an array of cafes, bars and street food jaunts, it’s a tad difficult to pick out favourites here, but Half Hitch Gin, is a throwback to Camden’s forgotten gin history and a must-visit. Producing small batches of flavoured local gin distilled in copper pots, this is where stories and memories are made. While London is home to some of the most exciting street food in the UK, Camden’s Baba G’s, an Indian fast food joint, is now a popular name on the London street food scene for almost a decade. Started in 2008, their Bhangra Burgers and tandoor grills are world famous and pack a powerful punch with the homely masalas. A must-try is the masala marinated tilapia fish. If you are still not feeling spoilt for choice, try Lords of Poké for some California-inspired poké bowls with fluffy rice and a choice of pickled and raw vegetables and sashimi-quality fish or jackfruit.
Diwana Bhel Poori House
121, 123 Drummond St, London
Feeling homesick? A vegetarian? And London’s been expensive so far? If you tick all the three boxes, it’s time for you to head to this simple vegetarian snack house. If you are in London with a bunch of cricket-loving friends who are missing Indian food already, Diwana Bhel Poori House is just the answer to all your chaat cravings. Started in 1970s, the décor and comfort are not the USP, but the food definitely is. One glance at the menu and you will be transported back to India to maybe Shiv Sagar or Kailash Parbat outlets with the wide variety of Indian items on their menu. The Bhel Poori (yes, they spell it Poori not Puri) and papri chaats are the highlights, so are the dosa and the shrikhands. Avoid the curries, there are far better options for the same across London.
66 Chandos Place, Covent Garden, London
There’s no point if you are in London and have not checked-in to the award-winning Wahaca on your FB app. Ask your local friend for a drink and tapas in Central London, and it’s quite likely you will land up at Wahaca in Covent Garden. I personally love it because of the happy vibes of the place. People seated around you are chatty and warm, and that’s cool. If you are willing to go post a cricket match, it’s a great hangout place with funky music and delectable Mexican food and drinks. The grilled chicken club Quesadillas served with avocado, lettuce, mayo and melted cheese are personal favourites. Add a cool Mezcal to your grub and you are a happy eater. If you are a vegetarian and looking for a place for a sumptuous luncheon, there’s plenty of locally sourced and organic produce on offer that they are proud of.
50 Earlham St, London
London is truly a large party with unlimited culinary options for those with an experimental palate. With every trip, I try to pick up something different that usually is a great conversation starter. Belgo Centraal in Covent Garden offers some superb Belgian delicacies that you may not be familiar with. While the menu has many options like the Lobster Bisque soup served with champagne and King Prawns served with mango, chili and onion salsa, the highlight surely is the Mariniere Moules (Mussels) infused with celery, onion, butter, garlic and white wine. Pair it with a Belgian beer, you may choose from a wide range of fruity and blonde ales. End your meal with waffles, cheesecakes or chocolate fondue and will you not be disappointed.
66 Inverness Mews, Bayswater, London
Bookmark this for a visit on a leisurely day when the cricket matches are not very exciting. This one is a hidden gem. And not very touristy. Settled right in the middle of the swish Bayswater, this Greek restaurant is half a century old. Serving authentic Greek food including the wine list, that’s Greek, the hallowed walls of Kalamaras have welcomed the likes of Peter Sellers, Mick Jagger and the Beatles over the years. If you are feeling star-struck already, wait till you taste the food. The menu is true to its origin and offers a wide range of options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. An elaborate menu that needs time and energy to do justice with, don't miss out on their mixed mezzes-Tzatziki, Houmoú or Keftédes (small meatballs served with mint and shallots), charcoal barbequed Kotópoulo Souvláki (grilled herb marinated chicken on skewers) or Brizóles Arnísses (Lamb cutlets served with Greek Salad) or the chef’s special Keftédes (marinated meatballs in tomato sauce with chopped onion, fresh parsley, red wine, garlic, served with rice). The rich and succulent baklavas they serve here are truly the only guilty pleasure you will ever experience in London.
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane, London
Ask for an Indian restaurant in central London and Dishoom is the first name that’s rattled off. An undisputed regular on every tourist’s must-visit, must-eat itinerary, I discovered Dishoom by accident within months of it opening. The long queue caught my attention and eventually led to the quintessentially Indian restaurant. Dishoom has a certain Je ne sais quoi quality that makes it a wildly popular Indian restaurant in London. Described as “a Bombay Cafe in London”, I realise this must be their success story as I keep going there despite being a Bombay boy to savour Parsi (and other eclectic Indian food) at five times the price of any regular Parsi restaurant in Mumbai. The Kejriwal, Akuri or Keema Pao or a more elevated Mutton Pepper Fry served with Malabar Parathas are all well done enough to be eaten in London, however bizarre it sounds. And another desi connect-the Thums Up-the much-loved Indian beverage. Attributing to their insane popularity, the last time I visited them, I overheard the conversation that the Indian cricket team was visiting them later in the evening, you can try your luck too this time!
17-19 Maddox St, Mayfair, London
Chef Atul Kochhar’s new restaurant Kanishka brings the unexplored cuisine from the North East Indian states to the glitzy Mayfair, London. The seven sisters of NE- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura have a vibrant and true character, but are not discovered in India, let alone in other parts of the world. Kolkata phuchkas or chili spiced Naga scallops or soft shell crabs in mango and peanut jhal muri and passion fruit chutney stand out among the starters. The main course offers many options (more non-vegetarian) like the Sikkimese duck roast or the banana leaf sea-bass or Chef Kochhar’s signature Seafood Alleppey curry. Kanishka is a fine-dining restaurant and is the perfect choice for a grand Indian feast in London.
Unit 4, 12 New Burlington St, Mayfair, London
This one deserves to be on every travel bucket list for London. If you are a gourmand and are feeling indulgent and want to relish a Michelin-starred meal, The Araki deserves a visit. Even before you read the rest of the piece, remember to make advance bookings, if you haven’t already. The Araki is a 9-seater sushi restaurant run by Japanese chef Mitsuhiro Araki. The news of chef Araki moving back to Japan earlier this year generated more buzz than opening of any big restaurant in London. The Araki is no ordinary restaurant, it’s the first Japanese restaurant in London to be awarded three stars by Michelin. It offers a single choice set menu of 11 courses hand-picked by the chef. You will get to eat the best sushi in the world including Salmon sushi, Cornish squid and Chef’s signature tuna sashimi. If you are in London throughout the Cricket World Cup tournament series and have had enough of London street food, make sure to save up enough for a special meal like this.
STK Steakhouse London
336-337 Strand, London
STK serves a dash of American glamour, opulent décor, chic lounges and fabulous steaks right in the centre of London. Located in the swish ME Hotel, STK, the great American steakhouse features all American characteristics of an imposing central bar surrounded by many seating options, a menu dominated by steaks with a wide selection of different cuts of USDA prime beef in different sizes. There is a house DJ from Tuesday to Saturday for some good live music. If you ask me, beyond the trappings of glitz and glamour, the steaks are mindbogglingly delicious.
Images (For representational purposes only): Shutterstock.com
Mitrajit Bhattacharya is co-founder of The Corner Room Project, a curated platform for all things luxury for the modern gent, an avid traveller and a foodie, who is on the lookout for the next big meal to blow his senses away