Eating and Drinking In London
London is an old town and a great international city. Melding the intimacy of a good old pub with the flashy daring of a modern cabaret, the drinking, dining, and deliriums of London’s nightlife have fascinated the world for decades. We created this list of eating and drinking and entertainment establishments, for a brief guide to some of London’s most interesting spots.
One of the great ways of experiencing London is by visiting its numerous splendid markets as we described in this link. A hidden gem of a market is Maltby Street Market, located in the northern end of Maltby Street on the South Bank, on a narrow lane called the Ropewalk. Every Saturday morning it offers some of the best pastries and street foods in the city, including boutique gins, fresh breads, and other assorted delicacies. Visit this virtually secluded nugget, as well as many others in London, fortify yourself with their delicacies and get on your way to explore London.
There is a lot of history wrapped up in these establishments, some of which were already in existence well before the Great Fire of London in 1666. The pubs of England were a source of great fascination to US servicemen during World War II. Social and relaxing in a way that had no compare in the United States, these humble inns and taverns, open to families, with pianos and cozy fireplaces, impressed the American soldiers and indeed many others who do not have an equivalent in their country of origin. Almost every pub in England will offer a menu of some sort, usually featuring a few British standards such as fish and chips, mushy peas, and Shepard’s pie. Many of London’s pubs entertain the visitor with multiple floors and odd nooks that can be hard to find. Some of the city’s more interesting pubs include these:
- The Mayflower – This is a quintessentially English pub, with its classic combination of dark wood and generous pints of bitters. Facing the River Thames on the South Bank near the eastern Rotherhithe train station, The Mayflower is small but cozy, with a Cheese Menu that would do a large hotel proud. If you like nice hoppy ale, try the Mayflower Scurvey, the house brew.
- The Faltering Fullback – Due north of the central London area, in the suburb of Finsbury Park, stands this fascinating pub. Its rooms have several twists and turns, one of which leads to a bamboo garden. Thai food is featured on the menu, while live music is a regular draw here. Sports fans will enjoy the large screens with the latest events, whether football, rugby or cricket. Cask ale is the featured beer, but the wine list is long and interesting.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – another of the competitors for the title of Oldest Pub in London, that takes you back in time to the 17th century to experience a piece of history. The Cheese is a Fleet Street institution and is located in the heart of the City district, near the Tower of London. It focuses on great pub food, offering a wide range that would fit in fine with a diner in the States. Popular with the locals and tourists alike, it has an impressive wine and cocktail list as well as an excellent list of Samuel Smiths beers.
Though losing its appeal, the afternoon tea time is one of the archetypal English traditions. The teahouses of London conjure that feeling of elegance and luxury, and the prices are ‘reassuringly expensive’. Generally, the ambience is warm, the service top class, and the quality of the teas and meal, amazingly good. There are more affordable options, of course, for those who wish enjoy a tea that doesn’t require a mortgage!
- The Tea Terrace London Afternoon Tea Review –Located on the top floor of a large department store on Oxford Street and Old Cavendish Street, The Terrace offers excellent afternoon servings of tea and pastries in a quirky and entertaining setting.
- Fortnum and Masons Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon – like Harrods, Fortnums and Masons is one of those enormous London supermarkets with a vast selection of products and services. They boast an elite clientele, and their teas are priced to match. The cakes and pastries are state of the art creations, and the teas feature fine leaf in excellent condition.
The great British public arguably, has acquired the most eclectic taste in cuisine in the world and London appears to be in the centre of this universe. The old British empire spread from the Americas to Australasia and still maintains links with the old colonies. The welcoming culture and sense of adventure that defines the British created a fertile ground for the array of ethnic food that graces its cities. All over London, you will find restaurants such as Indian, Chinese, African, Japanese, American, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arab, Lebanese, Persian, and so much more.
Fish and chips
This is the most popular English cuisine. It is simple, yet appealing. With almost every cuisine in the world now served in the city of London, this is the great English response. As an island nation, England has incredible seafood resources, and the national dish of fish and chips – fish fillets and sliced potatoes battered and fried – can now be lifted into a higher category. In London, the fish and chips takeaway can be functional in size and scope. However, there are now many excellent seafood restaurants that provide fresh fish, fried and garnished to perfection. With fresh delivery every day, dedicated seafood houses now offer punters the opportunity to splash out on a fish and chips meal:
- The Sea Shell of Lisson Grove – beloved by its local Lisson Grove and Marlybone neighbors, the Sea Shell lies within a stones’ throw of Madame Tussaud’s and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. After surviving a fire in 2010, the Seashell is justifiably proud of its history, and it is a charming and ‘homey’ sort of restaurant. The prices for extremely fresh seafood are excellent, and the restaurant has extensive desserts.
- The Golden Hinde – In operation for more than 100 years, the Golden Hind is another of London’s neighborhood favourite fish and chips shops. Slightly off the beaten path near Marlybone, the Hind allows you to bring your own alcoholic drinks. The prices are great value and the seafood is top notch.
Once you have dined and found the energy to go out and explore the nightlife of London, you will be able to enjoy a world of congenial pubs, wine bars, lively theatrical productions, and some of the best music in the world. Here are two cocktail bars you might care to visit should you be in the mood:
- The Experimental Cocktail Club – The ECC adopts the quiet invisibility of the speakeasy, and the front door can be hard to find. The youthful clientele enjoy drinks named the Ragtime and the Havana, and the three floors of the establishment are always busy, so reserve ahead of time. The drinks here are exotic and intense, and the prices are high, especially for the rare vintage vodkas and gins dating back to the 50’s.
- Purl – Another Marlybone establishment near Baker Street, the Purl is the spot for insane cocktails. Fire and smoke, liquid nitrogen and other effects are featured. Many of the drinks are paired with small bits of edibles, such as the bourbon served with lemon milk and sugar, and the Beefeaters served with chorizo and carrots.
For the night bird who enjoys a little show with a few drinks, there is nothing better than a cabaret. Cabarets feature music, song, dance, recitation, or drama. The audience usually sits at tables, often dining or drinking, and does not typically dance. Cabarets are great places to enjoy a drink, relax and unwind without fireworks and distractions.
- Café De Paris – A combination of dance club, small cabaret, and restaurant, the Café De Paris is very much a place to eat and drink. You can enjoy a show if you arrive early, or simply dance the night away while you have a few drinks if you arrive later on. Acrobatics will be part of the show. Drinks are sturdy, good, and pricier than the food.
We have only looked at a small part of life in London, and we urge you to explore more of the city to discover more for yourself. Whether East End or West, London is a lively place filled with amazing watering holes, eateries and restaurants.