London calls travelers for a variety of reasons: business, vacation, adventure, or simple curiosity. Steeped in history, the city tells narratives of both British legacy and global influence. Though rich in culture, the city has acquired an unfair reputation for bland food, when in fact, diversity and high quality local produce are boosting its ever-growing food scene. Even better, the city’s magical aesthetic often translates into restaurant decor that will open your mind and renew your sense of wonder.
Next time you find yourself in London, these experiences should satisfy cravings for deep flavor and worldly perspective set in dynamically designed spaces.
Stay at a luxury hotel full of culinary experiences.
Rest your head at the same place you pick up your fork: the Corinthia Hotel London. The stunning five-star hotel is home to a variety of dining options that embody both British and international elements. The central location gives guests an opportunity to hit the town and follow up with a mid-day champagne tea time under the Corinthia’s Baccarat Crystal moon. The jaw-dropping fixture, chic design, and detailed menu set the stage for one of London’s most elegant and essential tea times.
The hotel was also home to one of London’s hottest new restaurant openings this year: Kerridge’s Bar & Grill. Helmed by Tom Kerridge, a Michelin-awarded chef, the restaurant is a showcase of elevated British pub fare. Whatever you do, don’t miss the lobster omelette or rotisserie offerings.
Conclude your evening at Bassoon, Corinthia’s New Orleans-style bar. The curated cocktail list is artfully crafted and includes standouts like a toasted coconut old fashioned, miso milk punch, and Bergamot Negroni. Cocktail amateurs need not be intimidated by the artful, elevated ambiance, because the versed bartenders seem to always know what you’re looking for.
Pro tip: Book the River Suite. It just may be the most iconic "room with a view" in London.
Indulge in Indian cuisine.
It’s safe to say you haven’t truly dined in London until you've indulged in a good Indian meal. Here are the best spots to find a little spice.
The Cinnamon Club’s Westminster location provides guests with a fine dining Indian menu set inside a former Victorian library. The aesthetic, aromas, and flavors found within the impressive book-lined walls lend to the restaurant’s focus of inventive Indian cuisine with British elements. It's a vibe.
Dishoom, with locations all over the city, emulates Bombay’s once thriving scene of Irani cafes, creating flavor profiles that range from classic Indian to exotic infusions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dishoom is arguably an essential stop while in London.
Gunpowder, which pays homage to the simplest form of homestyle Indian cooking, has rapidly become a force on London’s Indian cuisine scene using recipes derived from family cookbooks. Simple yet deeply flavored small plates are served at a quick pace, creating an undeniable energy that follows throughout.
Party (and dine) like a British socialite.
There are few institutions in the world like The Ned, a collective space of food, drink, and thriving social activity. Drenched in 1920s glamour, the space brings 10 versatile restaurant and bar concepts to life. The venue is a hotspot for London’s Great Gatsby-like elite. The Ned’s events and offerings provide visitors with a variety of choices any time of year, from Sunday feasts to live music and entertainment.
I’m always keen to grab a table at Millie’s, a traditional British restaurant inside The Ned. The menu, which features classics like native lobster, fish and chips, and an excellent Scottish egg, is complimented by a local selection of British sparkling wines.
Beyond the dining scene, The Ned is also a hotel and social club. Members and guests are granted access to a slew of exclusive perks like a rooftop pool and a chic underground lounge set in a former bank vault.
Treat yourself to an elegantly old-fashioned Italian meal.
The San Carlo brand represents regional Italian fare across England and the Middle East. Its Regent Street location is a prime example of why it has been able to achieve its massive international success, dating back to its Sicilian founder arriving to the UK with £12 to his name. The menu is a showcasing of artisan recipes covering everything from Sicilian seafood to a Florentine grill to Venetian-inspired cicchetti.
Inside you’ll find a space that blends white tablecloth elegance with familiar Italian warmth. Staff hailing from all over Italy only add to the charm while you wash down classics such as burrata, spaghetti carbonara, and veal milanese with a wine from the masterfully curated list. The restaurant flies in produce from Italian markets daily.
Take a trip east without leaving London.
Asian cuisine is heavily represented within the confines of London as well. Popular categories like Chinese, Japanese, and Thai have blossoming establishments popping up around the city.
Nipa Thai, located in the newly renovated Royal Lancaster Hotel, brings Thai culture to the forefront through both food and design. The hotel, which is Thai-owned, blends elements of Thai and British luxury, with Nipa sitting at the head of its culinary efforts. The all-female chef team (a cultural tradition of Thai kitchens) is operated by chef Sanguan Parr, whose menu has garnered so much critical acclaim that the restaurant has received the prestigious Thai select award from Thailand’s government for its authentic recipes and ingredients.
Visitors should splurge on one of Nipa’s signature tasting menus, which have an option for combined Thai wine pairings. Sipping on the Monsoon Valley’s varietals while surrounded by the aroma of lemongrass oil just may have you feeling like you’re in Thailand.
Ukai is one of Notting Hill’s most vibrant restaurants with an outdoor mural that has quickly become a staple of the iconic London neighborhood. Japanese at its core, the restaurant also features a surprisingly subtle twist of Italian flare, thanks to its chef and owner. The art-deco interior, impressive craft cocktails, and inventive menu (don’t miss the lobster tempura) creates the perfect meal to hit before or after exploring Portobello Road or Saint Luke’s Mews.
Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall is a one stop shop for those who appreciate Asian cuisine of all kinds. The 450-seat food hall unites 27 different restaurants under its roof with food that covers various regions of Asia like Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Give yourself a couple of hours to wander the hall, eat, drink, digest, and repeat.
Freak Scene is the brainchild of Nobu London’s former executive chef, Scott Hallsworth. The introspective spin on Japanese and Southeast Asian brings to life a series of small plates that blend the traditional with the experimental. Think octopus donuts, honey-hoisin grilled pork belly, and Japanese spirit cocktails.
After dinner, head to a cocktail bar.
One of my favorite parts of dining is London has nothing to do with the food. Cocktail bars in the city are excellent displays of culinary zest on their own. After eating your way through the city, curl up at one of these sultry spots.
Bart’s Speakeasy London is a place you visit and wake up in the morning wondering, “Wait did that really happen, or was I dreaming?” Draped in mystery and seduction, the bar’s cocktails are artfully decorated, regardless of how busy it may be. The coolest part of the whole experience? Treasure chests filled with costumes and accessories to suit any mood.
Nightjar is the kind of vintage bar that leaves a lasting impression. It’s an underground hideaway, but it's no secret — you'll definitely need a reservation. Live jazz, rare spirits, and recipes spanning centuries set the stage for a magical night out. Hitting the town with friends? Don’t miss their shared cocktails like the Alchemist’s Brew which isn’t just hard hitting but also a spectatcle of its own.
Sipsmith Distillery opened its doors in 2009, but its history dates back to London's first traditional copper distillery in 1820. Founded on the idea of restoring the glory of London Dry Gin to the city, the company has made an impressive name for itself across the gin industry. A visit to its distillery should be taken up by both gin enthusiasts and un-enthusiasts alike. I myself arrived a gin skeptic but left a hardcore fan. So much so, I began mixing in a Sipsmith gin & tonic into at least one round of my nightly bar order. Cheers!