London: 10 Restaurants Well-Worth Expanding Your Waistline
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
“I heard their food is disgusting.”
This had to be the #1 response I got from people when I said I was spending three and a half months in London. When people think of Britain, they think crumpets. Maybe haggis. They forget that the capital of England, with nearly nine million residents, is one of the biggest cities in the world. Like New York or Los Angeles, you can find just about any kind of food you’re craving, and boy, did I do a decent amount of exploring.
In no particular order, here are the places I would happily allow to move me up a trouser size. (See what I did there? Don’t all laugh at once.)
Addis is an Ethiopian restaurant in Kings Cross, just a few minutes' walk from where I was staying. I passed by it every time I went to Tesco for groceries, and was constantly intrigued. You and the rest of your party get to choose from a selection of meats and sides, which then comes served in a large, sponge-like bread. It's placed at the center of the table, and everyone makes an individual wrap for themselves.
There is no restaurant on Earth that takes the cake for most bizarre eatery like this one. We were lucky we were seated after arriving with no reservation (major "L"), but I think the host felt bad we’d run from the Tube station to the door without an umbrella in the pouring rain. The menu is full of exotic animals I didn’t even think were legal to eat. I got a cocktail with gold flakes in it (Princess Kate, where you at?) and the entire room was covered in greenery and Buddhas. As far as all that I consumed there . . . well, that’s for a future post.
3. Er Mei
In the heart of Chinatown, Er Mei is the first Sichuan restaurant to open in the area. Being new to Sichuan Chinese food, I found an abundance of choices to get acquainted with, and the wait staff was quick and really helpful. Er Mei is a fun date place due to its Lunch/Dinner sets; you get numerous starters and entrées to share with a friend or loved one.
4. Gourmet Goat
This Mediterranean take-out business is one I frequented a lot - not only is the food outstanding, but it’s located in Borough Market, which is filled with tons of other small eateries. It’s a bustling location, and pairs well with some of the dessert vendors. They use sustainable British ingredients, and I was a big fan of getting the salad/vegetable bowl with kid goat and tzatziki.
The next kind of restaurant I found myself throwing pounds at were some popular vegetarian/vegan restaurants. For all the hipsters out there, this one's for you.
Where do I begin? The Kings Cross location was right next door to where I was staying. I was guilty of ordering takeout multiple times at 9pm and picking up my order in my pajamas only ten minutes later. (Yes, they really were that fast.) The food is all vegetarian, and as a self-proclaimed omnivore, I would pick their teriyaki chick'n burger over a real one time and time again. It's a little on the Boujee side (I could spend twenty-ish pounds easily on a meal), so don’t look at the receipt after swiping your card and you’ll be just fine.
Vegan Mexican food in the UK? Don’t run for the hills quite yet. I downed my tacos in less than five minutes, no joke. Located in Seven Dials Market, the atmosphere is trendy and urban, and the food is relatively affordable. I got my order in 5 - 10 minutes, which was perfect for my post-class hanger.
Purezza is the UK’s first vegan pizzeria, according to their website, and until the moment I started writing this blog, I had no idea - you couldn't even taste a difference. The dough balls are a hit appetizer, and even though my stomach told me otherwise, I had no problem finishing the pizza to myself.
Would this even be a blog about London eateries if I didn’t include some pub food?
The Market Porter is “a traditional Victorian public house and dining room,” their About page says. As a kid, I didn’t think anything could really beat the fish fries at my dad’s church during Lent, but boy was I wrong. It’s a little on the pricey end, but the fish is big enough to split, and sometimes they have deals on booze.
I have to give two honorary mentions to the places that really made me feel like a true “uni” student. While their food was nothing on par with Gordon Ramsay, their meals (and their prices) kept me alive that semester.
This Italian pizza bar was not even a five-minute walk from my dorm. They served 12-inch pizzas for a super affordable price, and it always came out of the oven fast; you were given a buzzer after your order that let you know when to come back to the counter. They also had a small drink menu with prices you couldn’t find in any other part of London. Frozen margaritas for 3.50 pounds. I’m not joking.
10. Wok to Walk
So maybe you can find this in New York, but with seven locations in London, they’re a British staple in my eyes. Think Chipotle but with Asian ingredients. After a late night at the club, not many places were open for the drunk munchies - but Wok to Walk was. Easily my favorite “fast food” in London, as they don’t really have fast food to begin with (McDonald's being the big exception). And if you’re a health nut, they have the nutrition facts online. (But who really wants to think about that when you’re six tequila shots deep.)
And don't even get me started with the desserts.