The Ultimate London Restaurant Guide

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Street sign in LondonWhen you travel, one of the best ways to get to know the culture is to eat the local food. So when we travel, we do a lot of it – eat that is. My parents (who we recently traveled to London with) tend to do a bit of homework in advance via guides and recommendations from friends as well as Frommer’s. Our bellies greatly appreciated this extra planning effort. So here’s a recap of our caloric intake in London, England, during the summer of 2013.

Italian Food at Osteria dell’Opera

After a nice gluten-free/veggie meal on the flight, we had our first London lunch at a little mom and pop family place down the street from our flat. Since our rooms weren’t ready yet and we had all our bags and a post-travel appetite, we just picked the closest place we could find. Our cab dropped us off right in front of a little family Italian cafe called Osteria dell’Opera. We sat outside and enjoyed a little fresh air while we did some much-needed catching up. The waitress was so sweet and friendly and was the one who gave us the recommendation to see Willie Wonka and the Chocolate factory. I had avocado and the freshest mozzarella ever along with a cream of squash soup. Mom had meatballs and we both sprinkled it with (a lot of) cheese (my favorite). Matt (my husband) got a salad too but it had olives (his least favorite).

Osteria Dell Opera

A Wine Bar, A Pub & Some Fish and Chips

We arrived at the flat only to find out that we had 96 stairs to climb. So instead of carrying all 6+ bags up, mom and I opted to do more sightseeing, enjoy a beverage and wait in a cafe at the bottom of the stairs called Fratelli la Bufala. Then we did a boat ride along the Thames to see the sights and ended up at Gordon’s to meet Michelle and Alex.

Gordon’s Wine Bar

Gordon'sThis darling little outdoor wine bar in an alleyway by our place was full of locals enjoying post-work nosh and nibbles overlooking a public garden (next to the Embarkment Station). We munched on what seemed to be my go-to snack of the trip: chips, complete with 3 types of dipping sauces (including vinegar of course). It started to rain so we headed inside to the basement of the Coal Hole, another gem of a typical English pub with yummy comfort food, ciders and beer on draft and great company. We had some fish and chips and I had my first (veggie) bangers sausage and mash of the trip. And what better than a Pimm’s cup to wash it down.

Le Deux Salons, a French Brassiere

Friday morning we got our tickets to the theater, strolled through an outdoor market and did a little shopping. Then we had lunch at Le Deux Salons, a French-style brassiere. Mom was most excited about this place after reading lots of excellent reviews. And after passing dozens of empty, touristy cafes while looking for this one, we were pleasantly surprised to see it was packed to the gills and that there was a table in a private area in the back as it if were waiting for us. Obviously they are doing something right. I had crab cakes while mom and dad had a Le Duex hotdog (has to be good if it’s named after the restaurant). Matt had a salad with olives (again), but he also had a beer so he was happy.

Le Deux Salons

Peter Gordon’s Kopàpà and The Delaunay

After an afternoon of museums it was time for the musical, but first a pre-theater dinner at The Delaunay. We had a very, very small table and we all shared white asparagus with nut cream sauce (going to try to replicate that again, it was so good), mushroom polenta and bacon flat bread. Post-chocolate factory show, we craved for a late night snack so went to another place on the list that day: Peter Gordon’s Kopàpà. Matt had steak AND a burger (but he didn’t join us for dinner before the show because he was meeting up with a friend) and I had more chips (it’s tough to be a gluten-free vegetarian (who eats bacon) in London).

Food and Drink at Wimbledon

We started Saturday off with a good ol “cheeky English breakfast” (of champions) at The Princess of Whales. After all we were going to Wimbledon that day. I had more veggie bangers and English-style eggs which I guess means smothering them in beans. Each came with a beverage so naturally I had a bloody mary (and a pot of Earl Gray tea). What a great way to start the day.

At Wimbledon, I bought my strawberries and cream but then unsuccessfully dropped them on the street (oh well). But, we did pass by these tennis ball-shaped cupcakes and had a rooftop Pimm’s cup at Alexandra which made up for the lack of strawberries and cream.

Wimbledon Food

Busaba Thai and Gambling

Later in the day, we took the tube back in to London and met back up with mom and dad for dinner at Busaba (Matt’s favorite restaurant from when he lived in London nearly a decade ago and it was just as good as he remembered). Community-style tables serving London’s best Thai food (yes, a little known fact, they’re known for their ethnic cuisine, especially Indian). I had Thai Curry and it was delish. Then my mom and I went to have dessert back at our go-to place below our flat, Fratelli la Bufala while the boys gambled (and won big) at the Golden Nugget.

Brunch at Simpson’s on the Strand

Sunday morning was dad’s favorite and his last meal before heading to the airport: brunch at Simpson’s on the Strand. An old London historic establishment dating back to 1828, famous for the lamb which is carved table side and served in a regal dining room, complete with live piano players. Talk about a good last supper and way to go out with a bang. I had lobster soup and a side of cauliflower with bacon.

Simpson's on the Strand

Notting Hill and Soho

After brunch, we kissed my dad goodbye and then my mom, Matt and I decided to venture out into Notting Hill for some more shopping and sightseeing. We went to the Museum of Brands and managed to work up a sweat, so were ready to plop down and grab a bite and drink. We sat on the patio at Portobello and had wood-fired pizza with salami and a salad (for me) paired with a Chardonnay and Peroni (for Matt). Our last meal in London was tapas at Brindisa in Soho, an appropriate choice for our Spanish send off (yes, we were headed to Spain next!). With photos of Spain on the walls and an open air kitchen, we were truly whetting our appetite for our next destination.

London’s Famed Indian Cuisine

After a few days in Spain we flew back out of London for our return flight to the states and were determined to eat Indian food that night (Yes, they have amazing Indian food in London of all places). There just happened to be a place down the street from where we were staying in the Ravenscourt area and it was the most amazing Indian food I’ve eaten in my life. I can’t remember the  name of the place on King’s street for the life of me, but I swear I wasn’t even hungry, but couldn’t get enough of this curry and naan.

Indian food in London

Whole Foods London

Saturday morning we went to Whole Foods in Kensington with our friends and got pastries, fruit and mimosas to enjoy the sunshine in Kensington Gardens. Having lived in Austin, Texas, across the street from the Whole Foods headquarters for the past few years, I was feeling right at home. But the Whole Foods Market in London is gigantic. It might feel that way because it takes up several floors, but they have a great selection and it was the perfect way to end our European experience before catching a flight back to Washington D.C., our current home sweet home.

What’s Your Favorite Restaurant in London?

All in all there was not a bad meal of the trip. Another great thing about vacation is you can eat guilt-free (calories and money). So while you burn a hole in your pocket you can simultaneously forget about how you’ll pay for the extra pounds (lbs. and the British Pounds) and burn it off later. And, now that you’ve read my review, let me know which restaurants you liked most by leaving a comment below. Tell us the name, why you love it, how you found out about it and how our readers can find it too!

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What a wonderful few days, I enjoyed reading about it almost as much as being there!