Eat Like a London Local
A handful of foods are forever associated with London: think fish-and-chips, full English breakfasts, and Indian curry. All these and other innovations are permanently on locals' lips, not to mention their Instagram accounts.
Endless waves of Londoners and tourists alike throng the lantern-strewn grid of Georgian streets centered on Chinatown's Gerrard Street. Breaking out from Hong Kong Cantonese to embrace a wider spread of Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangsu, Taiwanese, and Malaysian offerings, Londoners tend to hit old favorites like the Wardour Street Four Seasons for roast Peking duck, the Lanzhou Noodle Bar for hand-pulled shaved noodles, Beijing Dumpling for handmade dim sum, and Rasa Sayang for spicy Malay chicken curries.
As a onetime global port and seat of the British Empire, London has enjoyed Indian cuisine for over four hundred years and opened its first dedicated Indian curry house for colonial returnees (the Hindostanee Coffee House in Marylebone) in 1809. Originally linked to Sylheti Bengali "lascar" seamen and ship boiler stokers, and later famous as an exotic cuisine championed by Queen Victoria, London's love affair with spicy Indian curry has only gotten stronger since the Edwardian era. Nowadays, the capital's curry hounds can be found along the Bengali-focused Brick Lane in the East End, but look to the newbies of Indian Accent, Brigadiers, Gunpowder, and Bombay Bustle for the best of the new-wave Indian menus.
A full English breakfast at one of the city's many workmen's cafés is every true Londoner's favorite guilty pleasure. While there are endless varieties, a typical English breakfast consists of fried, poached, or scrambled eggs, streaky bacon, sausages, baked beans, white toast, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, black pudding, chips, fried bread, brown sauce, and scorching mugs of tea.
With a focus on crisp batter, juicy cod or haddock, and thick crispy chips, locals seek out low-key traditional fish-and-chip shops and old-school "chippies" for their insatiable fix of that classic English meal. Old stagers like The Golden Hind in Marylebone, The Fryer's Delight in Holborn, and Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Garden have their nostalgic charms, while a fresh batch of newcomers like The Golden Union in Soho, Poppies Fish & Chips in Spitalfields, and Fishers in Fulham tweak around with beer batters, double-cooked chips, homemade tartar sauce, and sustainably sourced fish.
Londoners still love heading to their local gastro-pub for a rowdy combo of unpretentious Brit-focused dishes and draught beer, cask ales, and cheap wines served in soaring Victorian pubs or ornate Georgian gin palaces. Ever since exotic food started being served from an open kitchen in The Eagle pub in Farringdon in 1991, the homegrown, foodie-led gastro-pub revolution has swept London asunder. From still-going-remarkably-strong The Eagle in Farringdon to game-centric The Harwood Arms in Fulham to the seafood-heavy menu at The Marksman in Hackney, ducking into a bristling gastro-pub is a surefire way of dining out like a Londoner.
A welcome development to the London food scene, Street Feast's night street-food markets and "food arenas" have begun popping up in hipster zones like Shoreditch and Canada Water. Housed in edgy DIY indoor/outdoor venues, thousands of London's young foodie fanatics blitz their way through the mini–food festivals to try some of the best experimental food trucks, stalls, and stands around. With vinyl tunes, ample brews, and communal raw bench seating, it's impossible not to have a blast flipping from cheap Korean burritos to Folkestone crab buns to a hand-pressed Devil Burger with green chili sauce and double jalapeños.
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