English food gets a bad rep. For those unfamiliar with the cuisine in London, you may think the food is bland and unexciting – the usual stereotype of English food. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, planning to taste food in London is part of the best itineraries you can create. If you’re visiting you have to have a list of must-try London foods.
Top British Food To Try in London
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the best of the best. You’ll taste Yorkshire pudding in hearty Sunday roasts and sample curries like the humble chicken tikka masala in curry houses across London. And that’s before we even get to the classics like fish and chips and the sweet treats like Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding. It’s safe to say your mealtimes in London will be extremely enjoyable.
1. Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding
A Sunday roast is one of the most classic things you could ever try in London. A Sunday roast is the epitome of British cuisine culture. It’s a meal and a weekly ritual for many families. Historically, it was a meal to be eaten as a large family after church each Sunday. It was also an occasion for those who couldn’t afford to eat meat throughout the week.
The dish itself consists of roasted meat, usually beef or chicken. It comes with mashed or roasted potatoes, brussels sprouts, onion gravy, and a giant Yorkshire pudding. A Yorkshire pudding is just a dough batter, a savory dish – a bit like a salty, crispy cake. A Sunday roast is easily one of the most delicious dishes to try in London, especially if you have a savory tooth.
There are thousands of Sunday roast dinner choices across London, especially considering the amount of gastropubs. We’d suggest heading for a Sunday roast at the Harwood Arms in Fulham.
Where to try it: The Harwood Arms in Fulham
2. Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is one for London tourists with a sweet tooth. The pudding is a delicious treat created from chopped dates and toffee sauce. It’s typically served piping hot, with accompanying whipped cream, custard, or ice cream. With a luxurious dark color and rich consistency, it’s a warming treat, trendy in winter.
Where precisely in the UK sticky toffee pudding was created is a mystery. However, most people agree that it was likely in Cumbria in the 20th century, an area of the scenic Lake District in northern England. Since then, though, the dessert spread like wildfire, and you can find it all over the UK and even in Australia and New Zealand, where it’s called sticky date pudding. You will be fine finding this dessert in London.
Where to try it: The Swan London in Bankside
3. Chicken Tikka Masala
There’s a massive influence of Indian food in London’s cuisine. In fact, for many residents and visitors, the number of amazing Indian restaurants is a highlight of London’s cuisine as a whole. If you’ve yet to tick off the experience of visiting a curry house in London, you’ve not visited London properly. The East End is especially famous for high-caliber curry houses and tasty dishes. Brick Lane is the most famed area, lined with rows and rows of incredible curry house after curry house.
Of all this Indian food in London, the most famous dish is the chicken tikka masala. It consists of roasted chicken in a thick orange sauce of ginger, yogurt, cream, onion, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s lightly spiced and super-rich.
If you plan to eat Indian food in London, our advice is to head to London’s East End and sample a classic masala. Your biggest struggle will be choosing which restaurant to dine at on Brick Lane.
Where to try it: Preem Brick Lane
4. English Breakfast With Baked Beans
The full English breakfast is the most popular meal you can have in London and across the country. It includes a set of staples. The classic English breakfast dish has fried eggs, baked beans, bacon, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, hash browns, and sausages.
The optional extras are black pudding or differently cooked items like a boiled egg rather than fried. It’s a filling dish and one of the most traditional ways to start a day in London.
A full English breakfast is easily one of the highlights of breakfast dishes in British cuisine. The traditional dish was created in the 14th or 15th century. You can find it in most pubs and places at around breakfast time.
Where to try it: The Breakfast Club SoHo
5. Scotch Egg
Scotch eggs are a famed British food created in the northern coastal town of Whitby in the late 19th century. The slightly bigger-than-bitesize snack is delicious. A scotch egg is a real savory treat.
The outside is sprinkled with breadcrumbs, but the food has layers – a bit like a culinary Russian doll. You bite through breadcrumbs to reach a layer of sausage meat, and inside that is a boiled egg. The egg and sausage combination is a protein punch and a popular brunch snack.
If you want to find a scotch egg to try in London, we’d suggest heading to the wonderful Borough Market. This huge marketplace has individual stalls and more casual vendors where you can find tasty snack classics like scotch eggs. Or there’s the Ginger Pig, a branch of butchers across London.
Where to try it: The Ginger Pig
6. Salt Beef Beigels
Salt beef beigels are a total London classic. You won’t find these bizarre-looking bagel sandwiches elsewhere across the country. Think of them as a London niche dish.
The bagel is split in half and packed with corned beef, peppery English mustard, and gherkins. The result is a high-protein meat feast, most famous as a takeaway lunch meal. You can find them at various sandwich shops, especially near Brick Lane – the curry hotspot we mentioned earlier.
Salt beef beigels are the best choice for a takeaway lunch if you love meat. The English mustard just makes it even more irresistible.
Where to try it: Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery
London might be off the coastline, but it does have excellent links to some of the best oyster-catching destinations in the UK. Essex is a real hotspot for oysters and is just on London’s doorstep.
The famously slimy seafood treat can be found around London in high-caliber oyster bars like J Sheekey or Dorset Oyster Bar. The outskirts of SoHo are especially good for oyster bars.
If you’ve yet to try an oyster, they come served in their shells, usually in six or a dozen packs. You eat them cold and raw – swallowing them without chewing. A quick squeeze of lemon is the secret to taste bud success, balancing out the salty neutrality of the oyster itself.
Where to try it: J Sheekey in Leicester Square
8. Eton Mess
Eton mess is another classic English dessert created at a cricket match between the prestigious Eton and Harrow schools. The strawberry, meringue, and cream pudding were dropped – leaving a ‘mess’ that is only too easy to envision. The result? An Eton mess.
This event in the late 19th century created one of the country’s most iconic desserts. It’s prevalent in late spring and summer. Still, you can find this delicious dessert all over London, all year round. Of course, the best place to try this dish is Windsor, the home of Eton College itself.
This sweet dessert is simply a mix of white meringue, berries (traditionally fresh, summer berries), and whipped cream. It’s a delightful treat. It’s a must at garden parties and outdoor festivities in good weather.
Where to try it: Gilbey’s Bar, Restaurant & Townhouse in Windsor
9. Fish and Chips
We can’t go any further without mentioning fish and chips, a.k.a. the national dish of England. This is not only a London food, but a true British icon. Most pubs serve this iconic meal, and you also get chippy shops across London, where you can buy numerous other variations, like chip butties and battered sausages. This is one of the UK’s favourite dishes, and you’ve got to try it when visiting.
The classic dish consists of fried fish in a light, crunchy batter. You then get rough-cut chunky chips, usually served with chip shop curry sauce or mushy peas. For the whole experience, drench your chips and fish in vinegar before a heavy dashing of salt.
Where to try it: The Blue Anchor in Hammersmith
10. Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington is a crispy pastry dish with a hearty interior. It consists of a beef steak coated in pate and then wrapped in puff pastry to bake. You cut through the piping hot pastry to reveal medium rare steak, and beef Wellington is a popular, hearty dish for families or pub dinners. If you enjoy hearty meals and beef steak, it’s one of the best foods to try in London.
Beef Wellington was created to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. This famed battle marked the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte – a big deal in the history of Europe. Definitely something to consider as you bite into this traditional savory dish.
Where to try it: Heliot Steak House in Covent Garden
11. Shepherd’s Pie
Whether shepherd’s pie originated in Scotland, England, or Ireland is a mystery. Experts can track it back to the 18th century, specifically in ancient cookbooks. However, it’s safe to say that this potato and meat classic is a staple food to try in London today.
Unlike a classic pie, it takes its ‘pie’ element from its potato. The mashed potato sits above a layer of minced beef or lamb, cooking together and turning slightly crispy.
This is a real pub grub type of London food. If you visit any traditional pubs in London, you’ll find this simple but tasty dish on the menu.
Where to try it: Museum Tavern in Holborn
12. Toad in the Hole
Toad in the Hole is easily one of the most fun foods to try in London. Nobody really knows its true creation story, but its funny name doesn’t reference actual toad meat. It was named after the sausages looked like toads peeking out of the batter.
This dish is just sausages floating in a Yorkshire pudding batter – a light bread consistency. You eat it alongside onion gravy and steamed vegetables like broccoli and carrots. It’s a novel dish with a fun name and great if you want a quick fix of protein and carbs.
Toad in the hole originated in the 18th century, and it’s thought to be an adaptation of a much older ‘pigeon in a hole’ recipe. Some crazy creation stories include a toad dislodging a golfer’s ball from an 18th hole in a Northumberland golf course.
Where to try it: The Dog And Duck in SoHo
13. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is a fine dining experience in London and an absolute must to feel part of London’s high society. We’d recommend it as an indulgent Sunday afternoon activity. This unique meal involves a cake stand of multiple levels, serving small samples of different mini meals.
For instance, you have slices of Victoria sponge cake, scones, and coffee cake on a sweet tier. While on the savory tiers, you can find traditional sandwiches like chicken, egg mayonnaise, cheese, and smoked salmon.
Historically speaking, afternoon tea was created for the Duchess of Bedford in 1840. The Duchess simply got hungry between lunch and dinner, asking her servants for a daily snack of sandwiches and sweet treats. The idea caught on. And now you can experience it for yourself.
Where to try it: Afternoon Tea at Cafe Royal in SoHo
14. Ploughman’s Lunch
A Ploughman’s lunch was a hit around the 1950s and remains a novelty meal today for those wanting a traditional midday dish. The lunch is essentially cheese, bread, and pickled onions. However, chefs commonly add ham, pork pies, boiled eggs, and fruit.
This dish is a fresh, light selection of different staples – a pick and mix to fill your stomach at midday. The selection of cheeses is the real highlight of a Ploughman’s lunch, with cheddar, brie, or stilton cheese.
Many pubs still serve this English classic in London. It’s less popular than in the 1950s, but there are still more than a few places to try it.
Where to try it: The Clarence pub in Whitehall
Last but not least, we have the tasty shawarma. Shawarmas are a brilliant Middle Eastern food to try in London. The origins of this dish are hugely debated, with people claiming it to have been created in Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and more countries. The dish is just slices of meat cut from a hot rotisserie and wrapped in a flatbread with salad and sauce. You can also find shawarma meat over chips.
There’s a lot of Middle Eastern food in London, but shawarma is easily the most popular. This dish is a craving for many partiers after a massive night out. And even during the day, it’s a hearty meal to fill your stomach.
There are tons of kebab shops across London where you can grab a quick shawarma to take away. But for a real treat, head to Brick Lane and have a sit-down experience at Damascus Bite, a Syrian restaurant with brilliant shawarma. Brick Lane has excellent Middle Eastern food, not just its famous stretch of Indian restaurants.
Where to try it: Damascus Bite on Brick Lane
FAQs: London Food
Are you feeling inspired by all this London food? You should be. The capital city is the best place to sample food in England, with a diverse culinary scenery shaped by centuries of multiculturalism and indulgence. Before you head off, knives and forks are ready, so check out these leading FAQs.
What is the national food for London?
Fish and chips are the national dish of England, but we’d argue that Indian cuisine is a national food for London, too. London is a brilliant place for delicious, authentic Indian curry.
What are 3 popular foods in England?
The three most popular foods in England are a roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings and mashed potatoes, fish and chips, and a chicken tikka masala.
What are the top 10 British dishes?
The top 10 British dishes are a roast dinner, fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, bangers and mash, full English breakfast, shepherd’s pie, salt beef, toad in the hole, Cornish pasty, and sticky toffee pudding.
What is the staple food of London?
A staple food of London is definitely its sandwich scene. You’ll find tons of finger sandwiches, wraps, and butties. It’s more your classics like Sunday roasts and various pies in pubs.
Top London Food
Feeling excited ahead of your trip to London? Its culinary scene is something to get excited about, not shy away from, as you now know. Whether you try East London food or head to a sandwich shop near London Bridge, you’ll have plenty of tasty dishes to sample. You can also check out our England travel guide for more inspiration on visiting the country. It’s full of tips and tricks – both food and non-food-related.
Enjoy your self-guided London food tour. One thing is for sure: you’ll be leaving London with a very full stomach.