It is a huge task for a tourist to find the right place to eat in London largely because there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose. Although long reputed for not having the best food, this is a thing of the past.
And despite being second to Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world to eat, London is one of the best cities in the world to eat whatever your budget, particularly when it comes to more upmarket café chains like Caffe Nero, EAT, and Pret-A-Manger. There are plenty of good value, even cheap places to eat, as well as cuisines from nearly every country in the world.
Here is your guide on finding the good eats in London.
Help yourself – If you are tight on the budget, you may opt picnicking or buying food that you can prepare in your room.
Cheap eats – You can purchase a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink (soda), or some fish and chips (fish fillet with potato chips), for as little as £5.
Inexpensive international food offers – There are plenty of foreign cuisine restaurants like Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese, that can provide you with a meal and a bottle of beer for this amount. Some more expensive French, Mediterranean, or International cuisine have cheaper lunch options that include two or three courses.
Avoid “tourist traps” – Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions. Notorious areas for inflated menu prices that prey on traveler’s gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, the British Museum, and the Palace of Westminster. The worst tourist trap would be the various “Steak Houses.” Londoners themselves do not even dream of eating here, and so should you.
Fast food – London has probably the highest number of fast food outlets in Europe and you can hardly miss them when in London, whether central or suburbs. Sandwich shops are London’s most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from. More upmarket chains like EAT and Pret-A-Manger offer ready0made sandwiches made with quality ingredients.
Other independent shops would makde sandwiches to order, but depending on where you go the product may not be as large as you expect. Some Italian sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime. And if all else fails, there is likely to be a Subway nearby. Another good yet cheap lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (others call it a gyro) at many outlets throughout the city.
Tipping is optional – Tipping in London may be different than what you’re used to. Some places include a service fee (usually 10% to 12%) and all meals include the 17.5% value-added tax (VAT). The general rule is to leave a tip for table service, unless there’s already a service charge added or unless the service has been notably poor.
The amount tipped is generally 10%, but if there’s a figure between 10 to 15% that would leave the bill at a conveniently round total, many woule consider it polit to tip this amount. Tipping for counter service, or any other form of service, is unusual. However, some choose to do so if a tips container is provided.
Restaurants – London has a restaurant to suit any taste, it’s just a matter of finding it. Start off with a printed guide like Harden’s London Restauants and Time Out Books such as “Eating & Drinking Guide” and “Cheap Eats in London” (which you could actually just browse in a bookstore).
If you are looking for particular nationalities, these tend to be clustered in certain areas. For instance, Brick Lane in London’s East End is famously known for curries, but for a better—and cheaper—quality meal, Tooting in South-West of London has a far better reputation.
For a collection of good-value Indian Vegetarian restaurants, go to Drummond Street. There’s also a Chinatown in Soho, Kingsland Road in Shoreditch for good cheap Vietnamese food, Brixton for African/ Caribbean, Golder’s Green for Jewish cuisine, and Edgware Road in Marylebone for Middle Eastern food. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are randomly dotted all over London.
Vegetarian eating – London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants and can easily be searched online. If you are dining with carnivorous friends, then most restaurants would cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that only use vegetables.
Other options include Red Veg on Dean Street, opposite Tesco in Soho, for veggie fast food, vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat meat substitutes for â‚¤5. These can be found on Greek Street, Old Compton Street, and Islington High Street.
Religious dining – Because London is a very diverse city, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal meat, from burger joints to upscale restaurants. There are also plenty of Kosher restaurants in the city, including a Chinese Kosher restaurant called Kaifeng located at Hendon in London’s North-West.
Specialty shops – London caters for most global tastes by hosting food stores that specializes in one or more cuisines. Numerous examples exist, for example, of food stores dedicated to Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and African foods.