In my part of the world, Arabs are known for two things when in #Landan! Either they stick to finding Arabic or Indian food because they can’t live without rice, or they only dine in cliche fancy restaurants around Mayfair, Parklane and Knightsbridge. Go figure! Im not here to prove anyone wrong, but let’s say, I know there is loads more to this metropolitan city than meets the eye.
So….many of you know that my London summer trip was to attend the Food Bloggers Connect, amongst many other things. I was there for two weeks and had a humungous list of places to go, markets to visit and restaurants to try. I thought, two weeks would be enough, but now I laugh at how I under estimated the London food scene.
London is no stranger to me, except its been 3 years since my last visit, and I felt a bit of research would help overcome my overwhelemed nerves. I really wanted to see this city in a different way than I normally did. That meant staying away from Harrods and binge shopping, or lets say directing it towards binge food discoveries. I wasn’t planning on counting calories while I was there, so what gives!
Resorting to friends who come from london or lived there is always your best bet to getting local tips. My fellow blogger Sally from “My Custard Pie” has it all laid out in her Where to eat and Drink guide in London. I would not have done it well without going through that post a few times at the very least. It’s quite extensive and includes thorough tips from other London locals. A piece I would frame next to my bedside if I were her.
Street & Food Markets
Borough Market – If you are a foodie, no trip to London is complete without a days worth visit to Borough. From fresh produce to to street food stalls of the yummiest bits you will ever have. This is a must on everyone’s itinerary. I’ve dedicated a whole post to it here. They are very active on twitter and i suggest checking their website because some days they operate fully and some days they only serve lunch.
Bricklane Market – This one is more of a venue that gathers food vendors in one place and confuses the hell out of you because everything looks way too desirable. I would have loved to try Mother Clucker’s fried chicken and Turner & Roast Meat Porn burgers. I had lunched on a delicious Bengali meal just prior to stumbling upon this place.
Portobello Market – Another vibrant place I love going to every now and then is Portobello. An added bonus is all the artsy vintage retail kiosks you get to buy amazing things from if you’re into antiques and collectibles.
Five guys – A joint I heard so much about from practically every instagram of a Khaleeji in london. at 15 poinds a pop, you get to stuff your preferred burger with unlimited toppings. Their burgers are beefy, chunky and not one for the ladies who are afraid to open their mouth wide for a bite. It’s good for when you are craving a classic burger that’s not from Burger King.
Honest Burger – I actually chanced upon this place by pure coincidence and realised it came highly recommended by a close friend of mine. The place lived up to its name. Seriously good honest burgers, and when it comes topped with caramelized onions without having to ask, you know they are serious about their burgers. We started off with their chicken thighs calling our name from the menu. Juicy, crunchy with just the right amount of fennel seeds coating their batter. A flavour mix that blew my taste buds away.
With their no nonsense approach to modernising Korean food, you will realise why you should have always slathered kimchi on your burger. Everything they make is from scratch, including their sauces, and that’s to elevate their ethos of supporting local farmers and produce in their offerings.
Polpo – a Venetian style eatery with dishes that don’t use up more than 5 ingredients. Though simple, they focus on quality and flavour and boy will i testify to that. There is something about Polpo that makes you want to announce this as your chill out spot.
Nopi – Having met the Ottloenghi – Tamimi duo from Food Blogger Connect, i couldn’t leave London without trying that place. Nopi is great if for a fancy girl’s catch up dinner or a date. They specialise in combining ethnic flavours from the Middle East into modern cuisine.
Pizzeria @ Harrods – Ok.. so I couldnt help but atleast go there once. I promise you it was the Pizzas from their Pizzeria that called my name. In my humble opinion, it is one of the few places in London that does this quintessential Italian dish any justice.
The Petal Pusher in Kew: A gorgeous flower shop and deli with delicious scones and tea. They also specialise in hot salt beef, but that’s something I found out after paying the bill and chatting up their lovely owner.
Urban Places to eat
Shoryu Ramen at Kingly Court – If you’re not going there for the ramen, please go for the Hirata Buns that will make love to your mouth in all its soft and fluffy glory. It’s food Romance at its best. I tried this as an appetiser pre- Ramen, and had I known the buns would be lip smackingly good, i’d have ordered 2 more been and rubbed my belly in contetment.
BoxPark at Shoreditch – when you explore East London by foot, you come across urban places like this pop up street mall constructed of stripped and refitted ideal for low cost retail. It is also filled with ethnic eateries that make the angels sing. From South africa’s Bunny chow to Korea’s Korrito and Falafelicious, there is something to explore everytime you come back.
And because this is not enough, I’ve picked the brain of my fellow Arab foodie instagrammers on their “must try” picks of London’s best eateries. I’d like to thank them for contributing on this collaborative post and shape a more comprehensive overview of our favourite joints. So in their own words, here is:
Hessa Al Khalifa from HK-Finds – I dont know how she does it, but im pretty sure this die hard foodie hardly eats at home. Her instagram is unindated with places to try in London. She is your go-to gal for tips on where to go. Here is her list:
Bob’s Lobster: Roll The best lobster rolls in town, so fresh, tangy and crispy. Loved how the lobster mixture topped with fresh oregano. On the go food truck check thier twitter account or FB for their spots schedules
Hong Kong waffles: Their waffles are like nothing I have ever seen before. They were surprisingly crispy and have different fillers to choose from. I went for Nutella, and honestly… 1 word…Yum. HK waffles is a food stall in China town that’s hard to explain its location. On google maps search for Korean chili stall, and this will be right in front of it.
Pimp my Ramen: Japanese style burger buns replaced with ramen noodles invented by chef Keizo Shimamoto in 2014 and became one of the food craze in NYC. The ramen burger at pimp my ramen food stall served Philipino/Japanese style by Harry awesome philipino guy who believe in creativity when it comes to food. His ramen burgers are special as the ramen buns usually get marinated over night for better taste and by the way they might look dry but they are not at all, all in all great & thrilling experience specially if you are burgers lover!!
Granger & Co: If you are a breakfast person and love pancakes this is the right place. Try their Ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, fresh bananas and syrup GO early morning or waiting queues will cost you 2 hours of your life. Pancakes are served till 5 pm.
Tap Coffee: Woke up one day craving caffeine to kick start my day and stumbled upon something that got be buzzing with happiness. This bottle of magic will definetely get you revved up.
Abdulla Al Shaikh from Abdulla_Eats – A humble foodie who leaves his calorie count at every restaurant door. This is his first trip to London and managed to interview the king of pastry making, Celebrity Chef Eric Lanlard.
Hotel Chocolat: School of chocolate branch has a workshop with a “bean to bar” experience that explains the process of chocolate making that’s fun and very enlightening. Chocolate isn’t just delicious, it’s educational. Take notes people.
Dishoom: A Bombay cafe in London, the breakfast menu is amazing and the flavors are delightful! The masala chai should NOT be missed.
Patty and Bun: The burger place that serves halal beef and enjoyed by the family. We had them packed for take away and ate them in Regent Park. It was so enjoyable that we repeated the process 2 days later!
Crispy Candy: Once I heard about a place that served a fried mars bar I just simply had to try it! They have several kinds of chocolate bars dipped in buttermilk pancake batter then deep fried! Yum!
Brasserie Blanc: I just passed by this place on my way to London eye and it caught my eye! I tried almost all the vegetarian and seafood on their menu loved most of them! It’s French cuisine and most of the items were a delightful range of flavors.
Abdulla Juma from __bodbod__ a 26 year old die hard foodie who works for Etihad. Now i get why he never stays put in one place from his culinary explorations.
Breakfast Club: Pancakes at the breakfast club in Soho, fantastic American breakfast their pancakes are fluffy and good.. Topped with whipped cream and berries.
Babboo: Burrata at “babboo” is a fantastic choice. Simple yet delicious! This place serves amazing pastas! Reservations is a must.
Yautcha: This place doesn’t only serve the best Chinese food in London, their desserts section is also a must try.
Ottolenghi: Good deli food with amazing desserts!
Places I was eager to try but didn’t get the chance to:
Fish and Chips : Yes, I went to London and forgot to try fish and chips. Well not really, I just didn’t want to try one that was mediocre and let’s face it, there’s many of those. Life’s too short for mediocre meals.
Gastropubs: I am told that gastro pubs are a new way to enjoy traditional food in a rather more contemporary style. Part of what intimidates about trying a gastropub is the fact that it has to be enjoyed with a bunch of loud friends. None of which I could gather in one day during my time there. Plus, i’ve only just started being ok with dining solo at some restaurants, but a gastropub?…. im not ready to crossover yet.
Sketch UK : A converted 18th century building that is now known to be the destination for food, art and some crazy futuristic interiors. Their washrooms alone are worth visiting Sketch for. On another note, I had my cousin Suhaila book this place twice for breakfast, and neither one of us woke up!
Streat Feast @ Dalston Yard: A weekend pop up street fest with a line up of food vendors that rotate every now and then to keep it fresh and interesting.
Kerb Food: A roaming street food event that is marketed as the space that makes cities taste better. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the founder of Kerb from a connection I made at FBC, sadly, it was unfortunate that their operation days clashed with my conference schedule. But do check out their link to find out when & where they operate.
I could keep on going, but I know you’re already pumped up to explore London for yourself. So i’ll leave some to find out on your own. What are your favourites?
Lots of love and yum