London eats: a recap

So Danny and I are back from a fantastic extended long weekend in London, England. It was everything we had hoped for and much more, largely in part to the beautiful weather that seemed to put a spring into our (many, many) steps.

I’ve promised a recap of where we ate – because this is the real reason why we travel, is it not? Sure we saw the Rosetta Stone, straddled the Prime Meridian and breathed in the scent of roses in the White Garden, but it was the incredible variety in our meals that left us weak in the knees.

For the most part, we visited cafés and restaurants that we wouldn’t necessarily frequent with kids in tow. A family visit to London is in the works, and then we will certainly frequent the bustling Borough Market for meat pies and take advantage of the kid’s menu at Jamie’s Italian.

If this looks like a lot of food for four days, rest assured that we needed it to keep us fueled for all the walking. My Fitbit tracked an average of 20,000 steps (over 15 kilometers) per day – every day. The best way to experience London is on foot and we took advantage of the sunshine, mile after mile.

Also, Danny and I were celebrating our fifteen year wedding anniversary and so we splurged on food a lot more than usual. I was 8 weeks postpartum with Clara for our tenth wedding anniversary, and I don’t think we did a thing to mark that milestone, so we made up for it in London.

Oh, and aside from the eats, almost everything we did in London was free. The parks, the museums, the gardens — even our visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral was free as we caught it on a Sunday. There’s plenty to do in London on the cheap – which means one can budget a bit more for the food.

Okay, in no particular order, here’s where we ate in London!

LONDON EATS: a recap

River Café (Hammersmith)

I learned Italian cooking exclusively from the River Café cookbooks and dreamt of the day when I would dine in their garden on the banks of the Thames. Bloody expensive? Yes indeed, but everything is absolutely stellar.  To keep the cost of the bill down, skip the wine and have a glass of bubbly instead. Then opt for a few appetizers, a plate of pasta and dessert. Reservations essential.  PS: Have the Mozzarella di Bufala – it’s flown in daily from Italy.

  • Kids. No way. they wouldn’t appreciate the difference between a $42 pasta plate and any other.
  • Bathrooms? Yes. Very lovely.
  • Wifi? Yes. My waitress punched in the password, however.

Dominique Ansel Bakery (Belgravia)

Just order the cronut and forget about calorie count. Perhaps the single best bite I had on the entire trip. The website says that afternoon tea is coming soon; I may have to return to London just for that experience.

  • Kids? Certainly. Order them the frozen s’more.
  • Bathrooms? Yes! Quite lovely, actually.
  • Wifi? No

Pride Kitchen Neal’s Yard (Covent Garden)

I’ve been a fan of David Bez (@saladpride) on Instagram for some time and think his books are beautiful, too. As we were headed to the British Museum, I was searching for a substantial breakfast that was on the healthier side. The fruit and yoghurt bowl from Pride Kitchen was absolute perfection: coconut yoghurt, strawberries & bananas, chocolate nut butter, buckwheat granola and date syrup. Bliss! And imagine my surprise to see David himself making the breakfast bowl for me! Both Neal’s Yard and Pride Kitchen are a must-stop in London.

  • Kids? Totally.
  • Bathroom? Nope.
  • Wifi? No

The Orangery at Kensington Palace (Kensington)

Afternoon tea. In a palace. On our anniversary. Yes, this actually happened and it was wonderfully romantic. We strolled the beautiful Kensington Palace Gardens pre-tea and walked into Notting Hill post-tea. It was the ideal location, setting and price for us. Deciding on an spot for afternoon tea in London can be daunting, but this article from the LES helped me narrow it down.

Not only was the ‘Royal Afternoon Tea‘ at the Orangery ‘terrific value’, as the article states, but the tea was absolutely divine and the scones were as fluffy as clouds. Just perfect. We also didn’t dress up terribly much, and saw plenty of people more casual than we were.

  • Kids? Yes indeed. Perhaps with a stern pre-lecture on manners.
  • Bathroom? Yes, but you must ask for a pass code and then exit the building.
  • Wifi? Yes. I think! I wasn’t on my phone at that time.

Peggy Porschen (Belgravia)

We made a quick stop at this darling Belgravia sweet shop for cake and coffee. It was the perfect chance to rest a while and refuel with one of London’s best slices of cake. Our was a light champagne layer cake with a fluffy raspberry buttercream; I have no complaints! Peggy’s was also one of the very romantic stops our food tour. It has a darling petal pink facade that is quite popular with the Instagramming community.

  • Kids? Sure, for a quick visit.
  • Bathroom? Nope.
  • Wifi? No.

Ottolenghi (Notting Hill)

We had planned a take-away dinner at one of the many Ottolenghi locations, but a flash evening rainstorm had us seeking cover in Notting Hill. Fortunately there were two seats remaining around the intimate table at the back of the store. We shook out our umbrellas and sat down for a feast like no other. I know I keep saying this about other London eats, but you can’t visit without sampling Ottolenghi’s fresh and flavour-packed fare.

  • Kids? Not to sit in. It’s too intimate. Instead order take out and enjoy in one of London’s many parks.
  • Bathroom? Nope. I know. Seriously?
  • Wifi? No.

Greenwich Union (Greenwich)

I asked my friend Julia to recommend a quintessential English pub in her borough of Greenwich and she delivered with the Greenwich Union. This place was rocking on a Saturday night, yet service was friendly and prompt. They were sold out of the cottage pie, but we were very happy with our fish & chips, smashed peas and tartar sauce. When you go, ask for a tasting of Meantime craft beers, and then order a pint of your favourite.

  • Kids? No. It’s a pub and the air is thick with F-bombs, shouted from the uproar.
  • Bathroom? Yes. Tho a bit stinky.
  • Wifi? Yes indeed!

Monmouth (Covent Garden)

Definitely the best cup of coffee I had in London; it powered me through the British Museum – and that is saying a lot. Ask for your coffee in ceramic, then sit outside on the bench and enjoy some of the best people watching in the neighbourhood. Most locations are closed on Sundays.

  • Kids? Nope.
  • Bathrooms? Nope.
  • Wifi? Nope.

Dishoom (Covent Garden)

You can’t visit London without enjoying Indian food and right now Dishoom is the hottest location for your curry fix. I could happily eat my way through the entire menu, especially if it were paired with the mouth-watering cocktail list. Get the East India Gimlet to start and then have fun reading the lively menu.

Don’t miss: Dishoom calamari, prawn Koliwada, garlic naan + Roomali roti, lamb kabob and the raita. Skip: Chicken Ruby, which tasted like it was made with Campbell’s tomato soup.

  • Kids? Absolutely. The more the merrier, as long as the wait in line isn’t too much for them.
  • Bathroom? Indeed.
  • Wifi? Yes. And free for those waiting in line.

Lily Vanilli (Shoreditch)

I’ve been to many a bakery that hasn’t lived up to its social media status, but Lily Vanilli delivered. A vanilla cupcake was dreamy, the pecan brownie perfectly executed and the sausage rolls — well, they were rather life-changing. You should know from the start that this bakery is only open on Sundays until 4:30 and they do sell out fairly quickly. My recommendation is to get there before 9am, order a sausage roll and coffee, and wake up on one of the most adorable patios in the city.

  • Kids? Sure. Then find a seat on the patio.
  • Bathroom? Nope.
  • Wifi? No.

Leila’s Shop (Shoreditch)

If you are craving a meal that feels home-cooked, then Leila’s Shop is for you. The food is simple, yet flawlessly executed and you can taste the quality in every bite. Since we’ve been home I’ve been trying to recreate the raspberry drinking yogourt I had at the shop, but I’m convinced our dairy just isn’t good enough in Canada.

  • Kids. Do-able.
  • Bathroom? Nope.
  • Wifi? Not sure.

The Orange (Belgravia)

We slipped into this gastropub on a dark, wet night after walking for hours and hours. We hadn’t slept yet since our overnight flight across the Atlantic and were weary to the bone. They took excellent care of us. I perked up pretty quickly with the most massive Seasonal G&T (with hibiscus & orange), along with fluffy salt cod fritters and horseradish cream (my new favourite condiment). This place is positively dripping with atmosphere, and provides the top-notch service and flawless food to round out a great experience.

  • Kids? Not on your life. Not after dark, anyway. It’s pretty posh.
  • Bathroom? Yes.
  • Wifi? No.

Bill’s (Greenwich)

After walking around (not through) nearly all of the Royal Greenwich Museums, including the climb to the Observatory, I was desperate for a spot of tea. Bill’s was quite charming and provided all the necessary requirements: bathrooms, free wifi, an outlet to charge our phones, a place to sit, piping hot tea – and a slice of Victoria sponge with berries and cream. Should you find yourself similarly run-down in Greenwich, I can recommend Bill’s for a recharge (and cake).

  • Kids? Oh yes.
  • Bathroom? Yes.
  • Wifi? Yes.

Farm Girl (Notting Hill)

Our stop at Farm Girl was a similar recharge situation to the one described above at Bill’s.  My only annoyance was that they were out of everything I wanted to order, and it was only mid-afternoon. Still, the menu looked fabulous and the place was buzzing with locals. That’s always nice to see. I should point out that Danny was the only guy in the place. Make of that what you will.

  • Kids? Sure, why not. If one lady can languish at an indoor table with three dogs, they can put up with your cherubs.
  • Bathroom? Yes.
  • Wifi? No.

MORE:

  • Lords at Home for kitchenware
  • Neal’s Yard Dairy for stilton
  • Books for Cooks – for cookbook heaven
  • Wild at Heart for blooms
  • Biscuiteers for perfect cookies and an icing bar

One of you asked how we picked the cafés and restaurants to visit. Good question! I generally go with a mix of recommendations from foodie friends, food blogger posts and my own places-to-eat-before-I die wish list. I loved Joy’s post on her London travels. My good friend Kerrie also gave a ton of recommendations, such as Neal’s Yard and Monmouth.

River Café was on my ultimate bucket list and Leila’s Shop was recently highlighted by Aran. The Instagram feeds of certain places also play a part, such as Lily Vanilli and Farm Girl.

I also check what is in relatively close proximity to where we will be sightseeing and slot those places into the day. I knew we wanted to visit the Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday morning, and as Leila’s Shop is just a short walk away in Shoreditch, we ended up there for a beautiful, yet simple brunch.

Thanks for reading!

So tell me, where would you eat first if you had a weekend in London town?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

Subscribe For Free!

Like reading this post?
Get more delivered to your email inbox.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing all of these great spots.
    I think I would love to try them all, especially OttoLenghi and an afternoon tea somewhere.
    Loved the photos!

  2. Ian Brisbin says:

    Never hurts to have more well-informed London recommendations in my quiver for the next trip! Thanks for sharing, and your photos are gorgeous!

  3. Love this!! With the recent changes we decided not to go Portugal in August but do a staycation in London while kids are away at camp. I am actually planning on visiting all these spots. What a great list! And all of these have been on my list for ever but sometimes it’s hard to find time!! Feeling inspired. 🙂

    • Very recent changes indeed! I can’t think of a better place to staycation. Really. Enjoy! I look forward to your thoughts on these spots.

  4. Loved reading this! It got me excited about our own upcoming trip and I may have more questions for you.
    Finding good coffee is on our list and a classic English pub as well as a good place for tea. Saving this post for sure!

  5. Oh my goodness, all of your meals look heavenly! I’ve been wanting to go to London for ages, but haven’t been able to go yet. You can bet that I’ll be reading this again to plan my trip when the time comes though! I love that you included details like if the places have wifi and a bathroom – so helpful!

    • Shareba, my pleasure! I was checking in with the kids back home as well as some light work stuff, so that wifi was necessary! 🙂

      I hope you do plan a trip to London soon! There’s no place like it.

  6. Your photos are incredible! Are they taken on your phone? I’d love to see a post with your photo tips. Thanks for brightening up my day!

    • About half are on my phone and the rest are a DSLR we lugged around. Really all I do is try to shoot in natural light, and the best possible source. I always sit by a window. I also edit the shots using the Snapseed app. Hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

  7. We’re heading over there at the beginning of July and I’ve made some notes from your experience….thanks for sharing!

  8. Shawnna Griffin says:

    hey girl- London looks amazing! And that food looks so good! Glad y’all had a great time!

  9. Anne Judd says:

    Loved your Instagram posts throughout the trip and thoroughly enjoyed this post!
    Thanks for sharing how you chose where to eat! When we travel, even locally, I love to choose carefully when we eat out. Maybe I’ll make it to Montreal one day and you can give me your suggestions 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, Anne! I have a similar post in draft for Montreal…I get ALL kinds of requests….but I just haven’t had the time to fill it in. I think it would be very long.

  10. where did you stay? Any low cost hints?

    • We got an Expedia deal on a wonderful little place in Pimlico. It was ideal for us, as it is walking distance to Victoria Station, and we came in on the Gatwick Express. here’s the link:http://www.windermere-hotel.co.uk/

      We also passed a few nights with friends in Greenwich, which was very hospitable of them. That’s my best low cost tip!

  11. The article very useful

  12. Lovely post, great pictures! I’ve never been but I do dream about it it all the time. What’s with the no bathrooms???

  13. Margie from New York says:

    What was that egg dish from Leila’s shop ? At least it looks like and egg dish that I want to eat right now! 🙂

  14. OK, taking your advice on Ottolenghi, Dishoom, and the Orangery. We are staying in Pimlico at the cutest (and smallest) Airbnb, and we hope to walk everywhere (to work off the scones and gin and tonics, obvi), so some of your recos were too far for us. We’ll find a great pub closer to us, but the rest was crazy helpful. Thanks Aimee!

Speak Your Mind

*