52 restaurants & cafes in London you must try (picked by a local)
London is my favourite city in the world. There’s just something there (an energy) that’s unlike every other place I’ve ever been. I visit the city about two or three times per year, and have even lived there for seven months on one occasion: the happiest months of my life. I spent my time running between work, friends, museums, restaurants and bars: there’s always something to do in London. So I figured today I’ll share my favourite restaurants & cafes in London with you, so you’ll never go hungry!
Before we begin, I’ll explain the layout of this article. I divided the restaurants, cafes and bars per district and area, as far as possible. Sometimes it is divided by district, sometimes by metro station/area. In addition, once you have a successful running business in London, there are bound to pop up many more branches. Some places I’ve featured here are thus part of a bigger chain, and sometimes I’ve just gathered these chains under the headline chains. A little bit arbitrary, but I hope it can still be of use to you! There is bound to be something there for you when you want to grab a bite :)
Shoreditch is still one of London’s nicest neighborhoods, and fortunately, I got to stay here at a super nice hostel a while ago. Next to/below the hotel you will find a super nice bar: Translate. As a hostel guest you get a discount, and the drinks are very affordable.
2. Jaguar Shoes
A few doors further is Jaguar Shoes. And just like most hipster naming rules: the name does not reflect what it really is. No jaguars are sold here, nor are shoes. It is a very nice and bubbly cafe.
Old Shoreditch Station
3. Old Shoreditch Station
I’ll start with a warning: do not order a Chai Latte here. That’s some green monster with wheat grass and matcha powder. I should have known, it’s still Shoreditch of course. But it does not take away that this is a very nice place for a normal coffee. With nice seating areas, and big windows (perfect for people watching). I have been working often here.
4. Meat Mission
At Meat Mission in Hoxton you will be amazed at the superb decor. The ceiling is based on a stained glass design, and the burgers are very tasty. Don’t go here on a date, however, because they are so juicy that you need a thousand napkins to clean all juices off of your face. But they are so good! I’ve been here about a million times, and took both my partner and my parents here. (Meat Mission has two other locations in London: Meat Liquor in Islington and Meat Market in Covent Garden.)
5. Barrio Shoreditch
Barrio Shoreditch is part of a chain with multiple bars, but because I’ve only been to this one, I’ll mention it separately. Barrio has a cute colorful Mexican vibe, and hip interior.
6. Bar Kick
At the other end of the coolness-scale you will find Bar Kick, a few doors further down. Bar Kick is such a lovely bar where you can have a good time with your friends, watch football, have a drink. And table football! That’s what the bar is famous for, and I have already seen many tournaments being held here.
My parents at Beigel Bake
7. Beigel Bake
An institute in London, and also a business where I took my whole family to. Beigel Bake has been on Brick Lane, the hipster street of East London, since 1974 (before it was this hip of course). The bakery is open 24 hours a day, and the salt beef bagel is the star of the show (they also have other bagels of course). The bakery produces 7,000 bagels a day. The interior is sober, you can’t sit here, and the service is next to unfriendly (efficient?), but the bagels are very cheap and incredibly delicious. There is no local in London that does not know this place.
8. Rolling Stock
In summer, you MUST go here. I once discovered this beer garden by accident, and ever since then I have been there multiple times. It is right next to a railway bridge (very hip), and you can have a relaxing drink in the open air. The last time I was there, there were musicians jamming and playing songs.
If you go to only one Italian restaurant in London, let it be this one. It was advised by Italian colleagues, and although it is not located centrally, the food is really amazing. A small trattoria, with only a few tables, run by real Italians. You will have a great time here.
10. La Davina
Another nice and affordable Italian restaurant, with a great interior. Half a car hangs on the wall!
Exmouth Market is a popular lunch spot for Londoners, and so I could not stay away for a quick lunch with friend Kasha. The sandwiches are absolutely delicious, and for London’s terms, definitely affordable. The name already gives it away, but the sweets are their specialty. I heard that the Portuguese cakes are divine here. It’s a small business with only a few seats, but that makes it extra cozy.
A very popular Italian. I definitely do recommend making a reservation here, because most of the time it is full! In summer the terrace is lovely.
This was often my stop when I wanted to get a bagel in the morning just before work. The coffee is also really good according to my colleagues (I don’t drink it!). The bagels are a bit pricey, but very tasty. This is not just a cafe, but a music shop as well, so you can buy vinyls.
Kings Cross / St. Pancras
This list below may seem like there are not much restaurants in this area, but there are actually many restaurants from the category ‘chains’ that are located here!
14. Continental Stores Coffee
For a delicious breakfast and a nice cappuccino you should go to Continental Stores Coffee. This place is not so far from Kings Cross/St. Pancrass and is located straight across Generator Hostels. I ate some delicious Greek yoghurt with nuts and fruit, but I also saw families who had toast with poached eggs. Everything looked so delicious.
15. Grain Store
It might sounds like a strange name, but this is a very nice place to sit during the summer. It is located behind Kings Cross on Granary Square, and not many tourists know about its existence!
16. German Gymnasium
Such a beautiful place. A gorgeous historic building (a former gym) that got transformed into a stylish and pricey European restaurant. I have heard that the schnitzels are gigantic here (I’ve only been for drinks).
17. Meat Market
Soho is one of the most popular neighborhoods for tourists (as well as locals) to eat and drink. This is also where many people go clubbing. Meat Market (a sister chain of Meat Mission and Meat Liquor) is located in Covent Garden – which is definitely worth a visit. I think Meat Mission itself is more fun and cozy, but the food here is also spectacular for burger lovers.
There is not a lot to say about this one: the interior is stylish and the pizzas are amazing. Baked in a wood fired oven. A great tip for good food in London!
19. Freud Bar
You may have noticed that there aren’t many bars on the list, but I’m not really a going out-person. Occasionally, I enjoy a cocktail. For that reason Freud is a well-kept secret. You have to look well, because this bar is underground, so you first have to walk down a staircase! Delicious cocktails :)
This is a popular one with bloggers, and people with a love for design. Sketch reminds me of a Wes Anderson movie. The building has different rooms, all of which are styled in different ways. From a pink bright 20’s salon, to a jungle bar. We had some brunch here, which was quite pricey, but a nice experience nonetheless.
21. Pham Sushi
This is my favorite sushi place in London. It has two stores, but one is mainly for takeout, I think. It’s just a tiny little thing, but the food here is really good, and the atmosphere is also very cozy.
For a quick lunch, I often went to Pho, where you get delicious Vietnamese dishes. Please note that they only accept cash here.
The Water Poet
23. Water Poet
I made some of my favorite memories here. You can sit inside comfortably, but outside was very nice too. You walk through a hallway of lights into the courtyard, where you can have a nice drink in the sunshine.
24. The Crown and Shuttle
This beautiful pub has an amazing courtyard garden where you can sit during summer. I have been here during one of my first visits to London!
25. Duck & Waffle
Another iconic place that every Londoner knows about. This restaurant is at the top of a tower, and has an amazing panoramic view over London. Another nice thing about the restaurant: it is open 24/7. It is quite pricey, so it’s more suitable for special occasions. The duck & waffle itself is really delicious by the way. You do have to make a reservation quite some time in advance.
26. Southbank center
This is my favorite spot during summer. Again, I have been here with friends several times, and it’s funny to see the surprise on their faces when they enter a completely normal looking building, while ending up at a great rooftop bar. So much fun, and you have an absolutely insane view of the Big Ben and London Eye.
27. Four Corners
Dear friend Kasha took me to lunch to Four Corners Cafe on the Southbank. The pub isn’t that far from the Southwark subway stop, in a street where you not only find great cafes, but also street food stalls. Very nice! Four corners has a travel theme, so you can drink your divine chai latte, while diving into a Lonely Planet book.
I have been here several times for parties, and I can tell you, the terrace is the most romantic place in all of London. Take your date here and enjoy the view over the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames together.
29. London Grind
A stylish restaurant and cafe just across the London Bridge tube station. Super convenient for appointments, and a nice place to work from. There are many more ‘Grind’ coffee shops to be found throughout London (it’s a chain), but I haven’t been there.
30. Franco Manca
Bermondsey was my neighborhood, so now you’ve reached the real insider tips :) I only realized after months that Franco Manca was also part of a chain, but I’ve only been to this one. This is really my biggest budget tip for London. The wood fired oven pizzas here are divine, and only £6! Which is super cheap! Great food + nice business + cheap prices = ultimate night out!
This place only does takeout or home delivery, but if you were to stay at a hotel … then you really have to order a pizza at Basilico. They have extremely large ones, but the ingredients are also of high quality. Not necessarily cheap, but definitely worth it with two people.
Back when I lived in London I was almost always sat here. Several times a week I sat here with a salmon bagel, while doing some work. This is a super nice and small coffee place with Swedish influences, where the staff is super friendly, you can quietly work hard, and where Dante the florist is selling beautiful bouquets.
33. The Woolpack
Classic pub with a nice courtyard garden, or as they call it here: a beer garden. Have a nice drink during summer and enjoy the weather.
Old Shoreditch Station
For the hipsters, I recommend Fuckoffee, just because of the hilarious name. A nice coffee place to hang out at and get something to drink. Wi-Fi is only valid for an hour, after which you will have to buy a new drink, so it’s not really suitable to work at.
These are my favorite chains in London! Super big international chains like Starbucks, McDonalds or Chipotle are not listed, but you can find them in London as well of course.
A chain of Asian food, with curry and Japanese noodle dishes.
Healthy fast food, from pure burgers to salad boxes.
37. Honest Burgers
Delicious burgers. Limited choices to make sure the quality is the best it can be. Similar to Byron.
38. Five Guys
Obama’s favorite chain. Not so healthy, but oh so good. More McDonalds-like than Honest & Byron.
Just like Honest, a chain of qualitative burgers. very nice milkshakes too.
40. Gourmet Burger Kitchen
My favorite from the range of quality burgers. A bit more original, the milkshakes are divine and the sweet potato fries with baconnaise are so good that I almost have to cry thinking back.
41. Pizza Union
My favorite for a quick bite. Great, affordable pizzas, and fast service.
42. Pizza Express
More of a restaurant version of Pizza Union. And more expensive as well. Suitable for an evening out.
43. Pizza Pilgrims
I like Pizza Pilgrims because the pizzas are more original than the ones at the above-mentioned places, and they have a sourdough bottom (like Franco Manca), which I like a lot.
Italian restaurant chain that you probably already know. Always a nice choice, not very cheap.
45. Yo Sushi
Sushi place with a conveyor belt where you take the dishes from, and at the end add all the plates together to calculate the price.
I always went here to have sushi for lunch. The quality is not that great, but pretty okay for lunch. Around closingtime all sushi gets 50% discount.
To be honest, out of the ten branches I’ve only been to one (on Leather Lane), but this is a convenient Mexican takeaway that makes delicious burritos. You can also sit there, but, like at Pizza Union, it is less suitable for anything longer than lunch.
48. Pret à Manger
The go-to for every Londoner during a work lunch. “A quick trip to the Pret” are some of the most used words ever. It sells sandwiches and salads for great prices. They are pretty much located anywhere in London.
49. Caffè Nero
You come across Nero & Costa pretty much anywhere. They are fine chains selling coffee, where you can make use of the wifi as well.
50. Costa coffee
These places are pretty much all the same, so I don’t have a preference. I also don’t drink coffee, so if you ask me which coffee is better …. I have no clue!
51. The Breakfast Club
One of the most popular chains in London, and queues can become pretty long. The gimmick? You can eat breakfast here all day long, so you can even order eggs or pancakes for dinner. Great food (and I have been to three of their chains).
Nando’s is really an iconic chain in British culture. This is a chain that revolves around chicken, using a Portuguese style preparation and herbs. A perfect place to meet for a simple but tasty snack with friends. Very popular and can thus be found anywhere.
For your city trip:
What are your favorite places in London?
Ps. I didn’t take pictures of all of the places, and some of the pictures are made with my phone so they are kind of bad. But the tips are good, promised!