A guide to London’s classic dishes


By Chris Pople, food blogger

Main image courtesy of The Drapers Arms

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September 2017

While London takes its culinary cues from its culturally-rich communities, the city has been reconnecting with its past, revisiting – and reinventing – its classic dishes and drinks, from gourmet Sunday roasts to the humble gin and tonic. Feeling peckish? London-based food blogger Chris Pople picks the best places to enjoy dinner, desserts and drinks (and everything in between) around the capital

Full English: Hawksmoor Guildhall

You can get a decent fry-up – which typically includes bacon, sausages, eggs, toast, mushrooms, beans and tea or coffee – at any one of a thousand cafés around the capital, but if you want to see just how good the great British breakfast can be, head to the City branch of Hawksmoor.

Most Londoners accept that no pub-bought Sunday roast stands a chance of being better than their mum’s, but if there’s anywhere in the city capable of meeting that lofty standard, it’s The Drapers Arms

Here, fried free-range eggs and sausages from acclaimed Ginger Pig butchers come alongside grilled bone marrow, baked beans with pulled pork, and short-rib bubble and squeak – and, if you’re feeling that way inclined, a marmalade martini.

Nearest Tube: Bank

In the know… After adapting the New York steakhouse for British tastes, Hawksmoor will be opening its first US branch in New York.

  • Fish at The Golden Hind is delivered fresh daily, then encased in the quintessential British batter

    Fishy business

    Until as recently as recently as the 1980s it was commonplace to serve fish and chips wrapped in old newspaper, and today some venues’ printed wrappers make a nod to this.

    London's Instagram dishes

Sunday roast: The Drapers Arms

Most Londoners accept that no pub-bought Sunday roast stands a chance of being better than their mum’s, but if there’s anywhere in the city capable of meeting that lofty standard, it’s this neighbourhood gastropub in Islington. The chefs roast a fore rib of beef to juicy, pink perfection better than anyone else we know. On top of that, the roast potatoes are golden brown, crunchy bundles of joy and the Yorkshire puddings are the size of your head.

Nearest Tube: Angel

In the know… If the weather’s good, arrive early to bag a table in the lovely outdoor garden in the back.

Most Londoners accept that no pub-bought Sunday roast stands a chance of being better than their mum’s, but if there’s anywhere in the city capable of meeting that lofty standard, it’s this neighbourhood gastropub in Islington. The chefs roast a fore rib of beef to juicy, pink perfection better than anyone else we know. On top of that, the roast potatoes are golden brown, crunchy bundles of joy and the Yorkshire puddings are the size of your head.

Nearest Tube: Angel
In the know…
If the weather’s good, arrive early to bag a table in the lovely outdoor garden in the back.

Fish and chips: The Golden Hind

It may surprise you, but London isn’t well known for its fish and chips – the famously British dish is far more prevalent in the North of England. But this charming, family-owned establishment in Marylebone serves genuinely excellent fish and chips for not very much money (well, not very much money for London) in refreshingly unpretentious surroundings.

Nearest Tube: Bond Street

In the know: Order haddock, rather than cod, for a denser, meatier fish. And don’t forget mushy peas.

  • Enjoy the house gin at The Distillery.

    Gin-spiration

    The Distillery was founded by four long-term friends who are all former bartenders. They now distil their very own spirit, Portobello Road Gin, as well as serving many others.

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  • Step inside Hawksmoor Guildhall for breakfast

    Hawk’s eye view

    Popular with a local London crowd, Hawksmoor has been praised for offering the ‘best power breakfast in London’ by GQ magazine.

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  • Sunday roast at The Drapers Arms is legendary

    Roast with the most

    The Sunday roast originated in Britain in the 1700s, as a meat-and-dairy feast that could be left to cook while you were at church and eaten upon your return.

    Classic London weekend

Pie and mash: F. Cooke

A true London institution, pie, mash and ‘liquor’ (a sauce that’s made with eel stock and parsley, and is completely lovely since you ask) has been available at this beautiful old Hoxton Street location since at least the mid-1800s. While sadly so many of its peers have long since been lost to redevelopment, is still going strong today.

Nearest Tube: Old Street

In the know… The Geffrye on nearby Kingsland Road is a fascinating time capsule museum, which is named after former London Mayor, Sir Robert Geffrye – each room is decorated as a different period in history.

Afternoon tea: Claridge’s

It’s true there are cheaper spots in town to enjoy this high society ritual, but if you’re going to start anywhere you may as well start at the top. Here, the sandwiches are exquisite geometric finger food containing luxurious fillings, such as chicken in tarragon mayonnaise or salmon with prawn butter; service is as sharp and polished as a duelling sword; and the cakes – fresh from a patisserie section headed by Kimberly Lin – are almost unmatched in the country.

Nearest Tube: Bond Street

In the know… Slip into a comfy chair in the discreet, cosy Fumoir bar after your tea and cakes, for an exquisitely-prepared cocktail.

  • Give in to temptation with Claridge’s Afternoon Tea

    Take the cake

    The dress code for afternoon tea at Claridge’s is ‘elegant smart casual’, with baseball caps, ripped jeans and shorts among the types of clothing not allowed.

    London’s afternoon teas

Gin: The Distillery

The classic London spirit has been enjoying a hip renaissance in the capital in recent years, and this gin-themed complex in West London is a mecca for G&T lovers. Home to the world-famous Portobello Road gin, it comprises two bar-restaurants, a hotel, and the ‘Ginstitute’, where you can learn how to mix botanicals and take a bottle of your own custom-made gin back home with you as a souvenir.

Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate

In the know… On Saturdays, Portobello Road turns into the world’s largest antiques market.

A pint: The Rake

There’s nothing more London than settling down for a pint of beer, and though this activity can be quite satisfactorily achieved in any number of London’s rightly world-famous pubs and bars, true beer enthusiasts hold a special place in their heart for The Rake in Borough Market. Despite its diminutive size, it has an astonishing range of beers, both by the bottle and on draft, and staff are always willing to talk you through your options.

Nearest Tube: London Bridge

In the know… Leave time, on Thursdays to Saturdays, to browse the rest of Borough Market and discover its fascinating food stalls.

Curry: Tayyabs

Britain has long enjoyed a love affair with Indian food, and while Tayyabs isn’t really your ‘traditional’ British curry house – there’s no creamy chicken korma or sweet rogan josh on the menu – this vast Whitechapel institution serves freshly-grilled lamb chops and seekh kebabs full of fire and flavour, bubbly naans slicked with ghee, and curries so addictive (try the famous tinda masala) that you’ll wonder what you ever saw in anywhere else. Plus it’s BYOB (bring your own booze).

Nearest Tube: Aldersgate East

In the know… If you can, go for a table on the ground floor – it’s more boisterous but much more fun.

Puddings: Rules

Where better to work your way through a selection of famous English puddings than this extraordinary restaurant, which has been operating from the same spot for over 200 years? Over that time Rules has perfected the art of quintessential British desserts from sticky toffee pudding and apple crumble to steamed syrup sponge, as well as host of other amongst a host of traditional savoury dishes. In fact, from the charming service, plush surroundings and menu of perfectly executed classics, there probably is no better place to enjoy the best that London has to offer all under one roof.

Nearest Tube: Covent Garden

In the know… The upstairs bar is a hidden gem – order a Kate Middleton cocktail, invented to commemorate the royal wedding.