I know I’m biased but I think that England doesn’t get enough credit for its food. Pies, fish and chips, massive fried breakfasts- our stuff is good. We also love our global cuisine. If you’ve been on holiday and found something tasty, chances are you can find something similar back in Blighty. London in particular seems to have everything. I’ve been living in the city for the past few months and by far and away the activity I most commonly engage in is eating. I love a good eat and these are my personal favourites:
1. Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden
Ben’s Cookies is a global chain of cookie bakeries. Going there isn’t exactly a unique London experience but going to the branch in Covent Garden’s piazza is. The tiny shop is round the corner from the area where many street performers do their thing and the cookies are awesome. They are like cake-y biscuits stuffed with pieces of chocolatey goodness. If you get there at the right time, when they are fresh out the oven, they are lovely and gooey. The white chocolate ones are my regular. The best bit is that you can get them with a cup of milk. Treating myself to a cookie and milk and sitting on a bench, munching away, whilst watching some free entertainment used to be one of my favourite things to do in London. I’d always drag people along and they always agreed it was great.
2. Chinese food from Camden Lock Market
Getting Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden wasn’t the only thing I used to always love doing in London. Getting Chinese food from Camden market was up there as well. When I was 16 or so, I used to love going up to London and hanging around Camden market. The food court always smelt delicious and I’d always settle on Chinese food- chicken and noodles to be precise. It was the perfect interlude to wandering around the alternative, incense-scented market. I keep meaning to go back and relive my youth.
3. Wahaca’s street food on the Southbank
The Southbank is one of my favourite areas in London. When I was living in Kent, it was helpfully around the corner from Waterloo East station, where my train came into, as well as a couple of streets down from my university. Even though I now live in Streatham and have left my uni, I still find myself there often, going from dinner at one of the many restaurants and wandering along the river. One of the eateries is Mexican restaurant Wahaca, which has a street food stand outside, selling tacos and burritos. You can sit and eat them on one of the benches it provides, people watching and looking at the water. They are tasty. And juicy. After lunch, I would go back to uni covered in taco juice but it was totally worth it.
4. Borough Food Market
Borough Market is a renowned food market. In fact, it’s so renowned that if you try and go on a Saturday you will probably end up burning off a lot calories fighting your way through the crowds of people, but that’s okay because then you can justify eating more. There are so many choices. You can stock up on bits for your fridge or you can get yourself a meal. My favourite is a confit duck roll. It is all kinds of good. There may not be anywhere to eat it but sitting on the curb in the sun, surrounded by people, is actually kinda perfect. Particularly if you end up sitting opposite the Konditor and Cook bakery because then you can treat yourself to some pud.
5. Southbank Centre Food Market
If you find Borough Market too overwhelming then do not fear, there are alternatives. The food market at the back of the Southbank Centre provides similar tasty options but fewer of them. It may be busy but the hoards of people don’t compare to those in Borough so getting hold of some good grub isn’t quite so intense and stressful. Plus you’re on the Southbank. You can peruse the second-hand book market before and/or after you meal, wander by the river, or just sit on some steps and munch away. It’s not a bad alternative at all.
6. Brixton Village & Market Row
Anyone who reads my blog with any kind of regularity will know that my favourite discovery since moving to London is Brixton Village and Market Row, which is full of excellent little restaurants. Sitting at the tables in the arcade feels like you could be anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t feel like London. The place is often busy, so service may not always be quick, but the food is delicious and the atmosphere is buzzing but chilled. It’s just great. And there is so much choice, from burgers the size of your face and giant portions of ribs to pancakes and Italian tapas. You can never run out of options.
7. Sunday Up Market at the Old Truman Brewery
I’d been meaning to visit Brick Lane for ages. I didn’t really know what was there but I do love a bit of hipster. After a bit of research, I uncovered the fact that there was a vintage market on Sundays so I dragged my flatmate along. When we arrived, I didn’t actually know where it was so we Googled and wandered in the recommended direction, not really knowing what we had hotfooted across London for. We arrived at the Old Truman Brewery to find people swarming inside and out. This seemed to be the place to be.
Inside were food stands, selling the tastiest treats you ever did see, from across the world. It took ages for me to actually settle on something but I finally went for an arepa- a maize flatbread from South America, stuffed with pulled pork, cheese, tomato salsa and fried onions. I ended up devouring it on the curb outside and it was so juicy that I ended up spending the rest of the day with sauce on my chin. But I don’t even care. It was so worth it.
8. Street Feast in Dalston
Dalston’s Street Feast is open from May-September, on Fridays and Saturdays. It opens after 5pm and starts charging 3pm entry after 7pm. If you go, you’ll find a typical hipster Dalston scene: food stands surrounded by old shipping containers and peeling brick walls. The ceiling of metal sheeting is missing in parts. I don’t know how that works on a rainy day (this is England after all) but in the sun that provides a warm, open air atmosphere.
The number of food stands is slightly overwhelming but I don’t think there are any wrong choices. I found a jerked meat burger stall, called White Men Can’t Jerk. Where there are so many tasty places, a hilarious name was the clincher. I also found a cocktail lollipop. I’m going to have to start camping out in East London to make the most of that place before the Autumn rolls around and I have to wait for another year.
9. Pop Brixton
Pop is like Brixton’s answer to Dalston’s Street Feast, i.e. food stands with global cuisine surrounded by shipping containers. The difference is that this place is smaller and whilst there are sufficient levels of hipster, there are also families. I went on a Sunday afternoon and found a busy scene with live steel drum music. Finding a seat was difficult but, unlike Street Feast, not impossible, and it only took a short amount of hovering to nab a seat.
I initially went just for a drink with friends. I even made lunch before I came out. But the food looked so good, I couldn’t leave without having a bite, so we got a stone baked pizza to share. I only wish I could have eaten more. Not to worry, I have already have already planned to go back with friends on Friday and Tuesday. I plan to sample everything from the fish and chips to the burgers and tacos. Happy days.
10. The floating Waterside Cafe in Little Venice
I have to admit that this example is more about the experience than the food. The floating Waterside Cafe can be found in Little Venice, so called because of the areas canals and canal boats. The cafe is quite expensive and my mocha cake wasn’t exactly the best I have ever had but it was still pretty good. The main thing is the canal boat cafe itself. It is surprisingly spacious and you can feel the gentle rock of the boat on the water. The surrounding buildings are pretty and quaint. The area is quaint, quiet and peaceful. It feels like it could be somewhere on the continent. It kind of represents what I love about London- the fact that different parts of the city feel worlds away from each other.
11. The Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road
I love cupcakes. Cupcakes are amazing. And nowhere does them better than the Hummingbird Bakery. Branches can be found across London, including Spitalfields Market and South Kensington. The first branch I ever went to was on Portobello Road. After a mooch around the vintage market, sifting through the treasures on offer, and lunch at the equally delicious Falafel King, I went to Hummingbird Bakery for some dessert.
My friend recommended the Black Bottom Cupcake and it looked pretty darn good so I wasn’t going to argue. The cupcake had a chocolate base and white icing, with a hard chocolate chunk inside, and we sat on a curb, away from the masses of people to eat it. You may have noticed there is a lot of curb-based eating on this list. My cupcake was so good that on my return trips I’ve always gone for the same thing. I want to branch out, the other options look equally great, but if they’re not as good then I’ll be disappointed and that would be a terrible waste.
12. Coffee and cake in The Attendant public toilet
I have to admit, whilst some people loath alternative and/or hipster-esque venues, I love something out of the ordinary. That was what I loved about my visit to Berlin- airports turned into parks, power stations turned into clubs, cinemas in the park with deckchairs and blankets- you never know what you are going to find next. London is also packed with similar places. In this case, it’s a coffee shop in an old Victorian public toilet. That may sound unhygienic but don’t worry, it has been cleaned up over the years and no one will expect you to eat out of a toilet. Instead, you can grab a coffee and a slice of cake in one of the stalls, surrounded by porcelain.
The Attendant is located a short walk away from Oxford Street. Unlike it’s nearby neighbour however the area is quiet. You can actually walk down the street without being barged into by an onslaught of determined shoppers. If you want somewhere a bit different and interesting to recuperate from a stressful shopping trip, then this is the place for you my friends.
13. Eat German food in a Winter Wonderland
German food may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it sure is mine. I love a good currywurst- sausage in curry sauce. Don’t knock it till you try it. Finding good German food in London isn’t easy. It’s not quite as prevalent as your Mexican, Italian or Chinese restaurants. Happily, at the end of the year, the German Christmas Markets pop up in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. There you can feast on currywurst and chips until your heart is content, in between stocking up on stocking fillers in the market.
To me, German Christmas Markets signal Christmas time. I’ve only been to the real deal once but many places try to replicate them. I went with a friend from Germany and she confirmed that the Hyde Park’s attempt wasn’t a bad one. Although the diverse soundtrack, including some Katy Perry, wasn’t exactly festive.
During the rest of the year, Herman ze German provides a tasty alternative for satisfying any bratwurst cravings.