London for food lovers

If you love food then you've absolutely, positively come to the right city.

If you’re happy to rise very early, start the day by heading to a market. Billingsgate is London’s main fish market, located in the Docklands. It opens at 4 am and closes at 9.30, but get there as early as you can before they run out of anything. Borough Market near London Bridge is a must-see, full of stalls selling gourmet and exotic products (artisan breads and cheeses, oysters, zebra steaks); it’s expensive, but fun to wander around. It’s open from Thursday to Saturday and gets extremely busy at the weekends. Hot on its heels is Maltby Street in nearby Bermondsey, an area that has become a foodie mecca of late.

For breakfast you can pick up a delectable chorizo and red pepper bap at the Brindisa food stall in Borough Market, or head to British restaurant Roast, where quality produce is used for fry-ups, omelettes and eggs Benedict. To eat on the go, head to the Sunday UpMarket where hipsters rest their hangovers with street food from around world, from Japanese octopus dumplings to Spanish tortilla. Check out some other options for breakfast and brunch here:

While we’re on the subject of street food, newly revamped King’s Cross has a market called KERB from 11 am to 2.30 pm each day with stalls selling dim sum, Austrian food and spicy Indian burgers; restaurant and coffee roaster Caravan have also opened a second branch here. In south London Brixton Village is another top destination, the cafes and restaurants are inexpensive and include pizzeria Franco Manca and Honest Burgers.

If you’re shopping for health foods, Whole Foods on High Street Kensington is the largest health food store in the capital. You’ll also find a branch of upmarket vegan eatery Saf here. Down to Earth, a raw food eatery and deli is on the same street. For fresh fruit and veg your best bet is a market. Farmer’s markets are a good, if fairly pricey option, and are usually only open at weekends. Walthamstow and Brixton markets are cheap, colourful and have plenty of choice.

Staying in West London, head up Kensington Church Street where you’ll find several moutwatering bakeries and cafés, among them Clarke’s. The cupcake craze may have waned slightly, but if you’re still a fan the best are to be found at Primrose Bakery, with branches in Primrose Hill and Covent Garden, they’re also stocked in Selfridges. In Notting Hill, head to Books for Cooks, a bookshop devoted entirely to food and cooking, plus there are cookery lessons taking place upstairs.
For more exciting confectionery, there are Japanese sweets at Minamoto Kitchoan on Piccadilly, and intriguing chocolates at Rococo, where you can find chocolate and jasmine bars, and beautiful hand-painted chocolate fish.

There are some fantastic bakeries in the capital, including Gail’s, Outsider Tart and Euphorium, as well as plenty of enticing delicatessens; try the Bluebird in Chelsea, Villandry on Great Portland Street and Raoul’s in Maida Vale, Hammersmith and Notting Hill. These all have restaurants serving food throughout the day too.

By now it’s time for lunch. Throughout the week you can take advantage of the set menus at some of London’s top-rated restaurants, which are a great opportunity to try what would otherwise be a costly meal. There’ll be a more limited choice compared to dinner, but the set menus are merely a small selection of what’s available on the à la carte, with no difference in quality. The Ledbury, our 2012 Ultimate Restaurant Winner, has a two course set lunch for £30 or three courses for £35. Check out other affordable fine dining options here.

Once you’re sufficiently nourished, head to Covent Garden, specifically to Neal’s Yard Dairy. They sell British cheeses here, and the staff really know their stuff. La Fromagerie is another cheesophile’s delight, with branches in Highbury and Marylebone.
Neal’s Yard is now part of the Seven Dials district, also home to award-winning steakhouse Hawksmoor and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. From here head West to Old Compton Street, where you’ll find the fantastic Algerian Coffee Stores, stocking coffee blends from around the world, specialist teas (roasted brown rice and artichoke are two examples) as well as grinders, espresso cups and tea strainers. On the same road you’ll find The Vintage House and Gerry’s, two shops with a large selection of spirits, liquors and champagne. Chinatown is a stone’s throw away with its many Asian supermarkets, and if you get peckish try the dim sum at New World or Lido.

If you’re shopping for cooking utensils your best bet are department stores like Selfridges and John Lewis, both have a fairly large selection and are located on Oxford Street. Selfridges also has a very appealing food hall which is worthy of a visit.

London hosts several food festivals a year including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste of London, Taste of Christmas and the London Restaurant Festival. Exhibitors include restaurants as well as producers and kitchen suppliers. You will usually have to buy a ticket to enter the festival on top of the cost of any items you wish to buy, however most stands will let you have a free sample to help you make up your mind.

There are plenty of schools and restaurants offering cookery demos, from courses lasting several weeks or requiring the commitment of just one afternoon. Angela Malik in West London offers courses in Indian, Thai and Chinese cooking, while an evening at Aveqia involves cooking, eating, drinking and socialising with other guests. If you’re brave enough, learn how to butcher at Ginger Pig, or spend time under the tutelage of Michel Roux Jr. at Cactus Kitchens.

And it’s time for dinner at last. Every cuisine imaginable is available in the capital; use our search tool to find what you’re after. One area that London is lacking in is late night eating, however this is starting to change. 24-hour restaurant Duck & Waffle opened in 2012, combining exquisite food (note there is next to nothing for vegetarians however) with impressive views. This is by far the best option for late night munchies, other possibilities are Vingt Quatre and Bar Italia for pizza, paninis, cakes and coffee in the small hours.

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