Stodgy pies, jellied eels, full English breakfasts in workmen’s cafes...historically, London’s food scene has been a far cry from a global sensation. But today, the city is packed with innovative restaurants, cafes and food vendors boasting multiple Michelin stars.

Incredible produce from around the British Isles, and across the world, is served with flair. Whether you’re searching for street food, fine dining, budget or free-from options, here’s our round-up of some of the best places to eat in London.

A smartly dressed waiter in a red waistcoat, seen at the mid-section only, pours tea from a shiny silver jug. A two-tier tray of cakes stands nearby, along with glasses of bubbly
Spot of tea? There's more to London's food scene than cream teas, but they're an excellent place to start © Sam Mellish / Getty Images

Best cheap eats in London 

Silk Road, Camberwell

This understated restaurant tucked along Camberwell Church Street is an unexpected bastion of Xinjiang and Sichuan-style cuisine. From huge plates of pillowy dumplings and towers of spiced cucumber salad to vats of meaty noodle broths and stews, the dishes here are super-sized. Two can easily dine for under £30 (excluding drinks), with plenty left over for tomorrow’s lunch, too.

Sager + Wilde, Paradise Row

Taking up residence in a railway arch just a few minutes walk from Bethnal Green station, Sager + Wilde is where fine dining meets the tenacious East End. The menu features Italian-inspired plates and the extensive wine list is a showcase of exciting new and local winemakers. Visit during selected hours to take advantage of their £10 deal for a bowl of pasta and house wine or negroni.

Roti Kings

Located in a basement down a slip road behind Euston Station, Roti Kings might sound like the makings of a nightmare, but their Malaysian street food–inspired fare is the stuff of dreams. People flock here for the delectable roti canai (Malaysian flat bread) and dhal curry combo, which will set you back no more than £6.50.

Read more: Best day trips from London

Three ornate gold and trellis doors, entrances to the Dorchester Grill in London
A glitzy entrance to a tip-top address: gold-painted walls line the entrance to The Dorchester Grill in London © Chris Ratcliff / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Best high-end dining in London

The Lecture Room and Library, Sketch, Mayfair

Part Mad Hatter’s tea party, part Palace of Versailles, the ostentatious Lecture Room and Library at Sketch is fine dining on steroids. Once your senses have adjusted to the lavish interior, prepare to be bowled over by the incredible à la carte and tasting menus from triple Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. Each dish is an artwork in itself.

The Grill at The Dorchester, Mayfair

Recently relaunched under the expertise of head chef Tom Booton, The Grill is a fresh interpretation of modern British cuisine in one of London’s most iconic hotels. Signature dishes include the Colchester crab, prawn Scotch egg and lobster thermidor tart – those with a sweet tooth will want to bag a table at the restaurant’s ultra-indulgent Pudding Bar.

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, Goodge Street

A Russian doll of innovative cuisine, Bubbledogs (which serves up gourmet hot dogs with artisan champagnes) is also a front for the two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table, accessible via a discreet entrance at the back. The open-plan kitchen dazzles up to 20 diners with culinary theatrics from head chef James Knappett, who showcases daily changing menus using only carefully sourced and foraged British ingredients.

Read more: Top 20 free things to do in London

Stack of pancakes with side of blueberries covered in syrup
Breakfast will be the best meal of the day with these pancakes from Where the Pancakes Are © Milly Fletcher

Best brunch spots in London

Kudu, Peckham

With jugs of Bloody Marys and a mellow vintage interior, this bolthole along Peckham’s Queens Road is the perfect spot to shake off a hangover or while away a weekend morning. The South Africa–inspired menu is eclectic with boerewors (sausage) roll, shakshuka (Middle Eastern baked eggs in tomato) and sourdough waffles. Nurse your Bloody Marys until their lunch menu is available and order the signature kudu bread, made for sharing and smothering in melted butter.

The Barge House, Haggerston

Perched on the banks of Regents Canal, the Barge House is an East End brunch institution. Don your stretchiest pair of trousers and head here for their ‘Breakfast in Bread’: a hollowed out sourdough loaf filled to the brim with your breakfast favourites. The loaves are a bespoke creation from Better Health Bakery, and gluten-free options are available courtesy of Gail’s Bakery.

Where the Pancakes Are, London Bridge

Soft and fluffy, sweet or savoury, maple syrup or full English, nowhere does a pancake breakfast quite like this London Bridge–based diner. Their rich buttermilk batter is made fresh every day, and their 3-1 batter is dairy-free, wheat-free and vegan. Toppings range from classics like sugar and lemon to unusual twists like eggs royale and cinnamon-poached pineapple.

Read more: Highlights of London

A woman with dark hair concentrates as she pipes foam onto a dark, chocolatey drink at vegan restaurant Mildred's in London, United Kingdom
Plant-based temptations: shaking up a coconut and raw chocolate drink inside the Hoxton branch of veggie restaurant Mildred's in London © Leon Neal / Getty Images

Top vegan and vegetarian restaurants in London

Mildred’s Burger, Soho 

For over 30 years Mildred’s has been a veggie icon in the heart of the city, and today it boasts three additional locations (in Camden, King’s Cross and Dalston). Their menu is colourful and unexpected, but the star of the show has to be their creative veggie burgers, from mock duck bánh mì to superbly-seasoned beetroot and black bean burgers – all available for under a tenner.

Itadaki Zen, Kings Cross

Lauded as Europe’s first organic and vegan Japanese restaurant, Itadaki Zen transcends the health-food genre. Each ingredient has been carefully curated with a nod to the medicinal values of their ingredients. With a surprisingly familiar menu of sushi, udon noodles and crisp tempura, plus a tranquil, minimalist interior, Itadaki Zen is a true purveyor of the mind, body, soul and stomach connection.

The Spread Eagle, Homerton

London’s first vegan pub is the brainchild of Meriel Armitage, the founder of popular vegan-Mexican street food joint Club Mexicana – who, by no coincidence, also supply the food here. Tuck into heaving piles of fully-loaded nachos, unbelievably meat-free tacos and spicy vegan hot wings, and enjoy 14 taps of vegan-friendly craft beers.

Read more: The 11 best vegan-friendly restaurants in London

Facade of a lit up restaurant on a London street corner with grey tables out front
The popular Niche restaurant is completely gluten-free © Niche Restaurant

Gluten-free hotspots

Leggero, Soho and Mercato Metropolitano

Italian restaurants are often a write-off for those who can’t eat gluten, which is why Leggero, London’s first 100% gluten-free Italian restaurant, is all the more a revelation. The menu is sumptuous, serving nothing but true Italian classics from bruschetta slathered in fresh tomatoes and artisan cheese to rich pasta dishes, rustic pizzas and creamy tiramisu, all gloriously gluten-free.

Niche, Islington

Niche, London’s first Coeliac UK–accredited restaurant, prides itself on being ‘100% gluten-free, but you wouldn’t know it’. And with dishes ranging from savoury parmesan and cheddar doughnuts to butter chicken pie and blackberry and apple crumble, gluten-free folk will be thrilled by what is back on the menu for them. Dairy-free and vegan options are also available.

Indigo at One Aldwych

Similar to Niche, Indigo’s MO is about creating hearty, health-focused dishes using seasonal and local ingredients that also happen to be gluten- and dairy-free. With executive chef Dominic Teague at the helm, accreditation from Coeliac UK and a gorgeous location in London’s iconic One Aldwych hotel, this is free-from dining at its finest.

Read more: A food-lover’s guide to gluten-free travel

Industrial-looking brick buildings are the backdrop to a busy market scene, where people holding drinks mill between food stalls at London's Vinegar Yard market
Vinegar Yard in London Bridge, one of the latest additions to the mouthwatering market scene in the British capital © Sam Mellish / Getty Images

Best markets and street food in London

Greenwich Market

Welcoming trade from as far back as 1737, this historic covered market is a cultural icon in the heart of Greenwich. A huge proportion of the market is carved out for vendors selling handmade jewellery, vintage clothes, antiques, local crafts and contemporary art. Today, however, the boom in street food stalls has led to the opening of an additional eclectic food area adjacent to the original market.

Vinegar Yard, Borough

One of London’s newest marketplaces, this former car park has been temporarily transformed into a modern urban garden. Open seven days a week, expect the latest in street food from icons such as Baba G’s and the Gentlemen Baristas, as well a changing roster of beer from London’s local craft brewers, vintage clothes and huge dystopian scrap-metal installations from celebrated British artist Joe Rush.

Kerb, Kings’ Cross, Seven Dials 

Since launching in 2012, KERB has been at the forefront of London’s street food scene, offering customers a rainbow of global cuisine. Up-and-coming vendors have the chance to elevate their business through their ‘inKERBator’ programmes. KERB can be found in multiple places, including their recently relaunched King’s Cross location. Expect permanent residences from street food icons Lords of Poke and Luardos, with temporary revolutions from inKERBator graduates.

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This article was first published April 2013 and updated March 2020

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Catie visited coffee shops around the city, from Abraço (second from right, top row) to Café Leon Dore (second from left, bottom row). Photographs: Catie Kelly.

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