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When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ – Samuel Johnson

London is considered one of the best culinary destinations in the world – largely because of how diverse the food culture truly is.

With a population of just under nine million people (that’s more than New York!) and home to 13% of the UK’s population, London was originally formed over decades. Small villages, hamlets and towns coming together to create one large city. Now, it’s the home of British politics and the Southern hub for food and drink, entertainment, theatre, nightlife and culture. It’s no wonder it was visited by over 20 million people in 2019 alone.

The Origins of London Food Culture

When you think of British food, you’d be forgiven for thinking of carb-heavy dishes that are either boiled or various shades of beige. However, there’s far more to taste and experience in the capital than the traditional fare. In fact, what many consider to be ‘British food’ is only a small percentage of the variety of foods Brits eat day-to-day.

According to The London Economic, the city is home to around 89 different varieties of cuisine.

This likely came from mass immigration from all over the world to Britain during the 19th and 20th centuries. The country was – and still is – seen as a place of prosperity and freedom for people from all over the globe. And we were lucky enough that they brought the food of their homes with them.

Beginning initially in Western Europe, the UK has seen immigration from Eastern Europe – particularly Poland and Romania – as well as parts of the Caribbean following WWII, then the Americas, South East Asia and across parts of Africa through the 1960s and beyond. Even the Brit’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala, was created by Indian and Pakistani immigrants to the country.

In 21st century London, nearly every country on the map is represented in the form of a restaurant, pop-up, stand, kiosk or stall. British people love food from all over the world – so here’s what you should be looking out for on your next trip to London.

What foods to seek out in London?

As to the city's diverse food culture there's a lot to explore in London. Whether it be the fine dining restaurants to the vibrant street markets.

Traditional

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Eateries across the city are reimagining the classics – whether it’s improving on the original or fusing it with another culture. Take away the plain, bring on the pizzazz.

Find perfectly battered fish and chips across the capital. Sutton & Sons, who have three locations across London, were awarded a 2020 National Fish and Chip Shop Award for their sustainable dishes. Start your Sunday morning with a full English Breakfast and then add on a proper Sunday Roast with all the trimmings.

And don’t forget your afternoon tea – when it comes to cakes, the Brits know what they’re doing. Splash out and experience an afternoon tea fit for royalty at The Ritz or experience the institution that is tea giants Fortnum and Mason.

Indian food

Brits love Indian food. And whilst the relationship between India and the UK is mired in colonialism, immigrant communities have brought a taste of the country to the capital city. Indian restaurants exist all over the city – from the mom-and-pop setups to five-star establishments. But if you want an authentic taste, head to the famous Brick Lane area where some of the finest Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants are located.

Pan-Asian food

Visit a market or street food stall and there will be Asian food, from Korean bulgogi to Chinese ramen. London’s Chinatown is packed with touristy restaurants, but the rest of London has plenty to offer too. West London is generally the area you’ll find delicious food with a gourmet setting, particularly Anglo-Japanese fusion foods, like Soho’s Sexy Fish, which integrates two things both cultures love – fried foods.

Caribbean food

You can’t visit London without experiencing authentic Caribbean food. Of course, the Caribbean covers a huge amount of food cultures - because it encompasses so many countries, from Jamaica to Grenada to Cuba. Look a little closer, and you’ll find more than jerk chicken and saltfish, weaving new and traditional recipes together.

Where to find the best food in London

London is big and something of a maze. But if you know where to go, you can find some of the city’s best kept food secrets.

Camden

In Northwest London, this trendy borough is home to Camden Food Market, where you can get everything from chicken and waffles to speciality pasta. If you’re looking for that perfect foodie Instagram picture, Camden Market is the place to find it. Our London Market Tour will give you the chance to explore this haven of food, alongside plenty of other great markets around the capital.

Islington

Considered the epicentre of the London food scene, Islington boasts world-famous restaurateurs and indie pop-ups across the borough, from foodie darling Ottolenghi to the centre of Malaysian cuisine in the UK.

Soho

This is where food comes to experiment. Fresh bistros rub shoulders with American diners and Japanese noodle houses. Also look out for Indian and Korean street food - a must try as you explore the area’s bars and nightclubs.

Brixton

Offering one of the most diverse food scenes in the capital, fusion dishes are king, particularly with Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Look out for plenty of street food and fast dining options here – perfect for keeping up with the borough’s high energy, vibrant atmosphere as you explore.

Food and drink experiences in London

Vast and complex, London is a city that thrives on food. For any country in the world, there’s somewhere in London that serves its dishes. Whether you want traditional bangers and mash, a classic British roast dinner or something from further afield, our London food tours are ready for you.

Available to book online, head to our website to find out more and explore the diverse food culture of London.


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