London has recently become like a second home to me. I married an Englishman and therefore have been spending a lot of time in London, visiting friends, family, and of course exploring the city’s cuisine. Speaking of which, food in England tends to get a bad rap from Americans. And yes, historically, the restaurants in London haven’t been so great; but within the past 10 years, London has undergone a culinary revolution. And, if you know where to go, you’ll have tons of options for amazing food.
There are also tons of great places to stay in London, but probably the best and most central locations are Soho, Park Lane, and Knightsbridge. If you want to stay in Soho, Dean Street Townhouse is the place to be. It’s small, unique, and really cool. The rooms are very well appointed; some even have stand-alone bathtubs. Plus, it’s a short walk to both Covent Garden and Selfridges (both great for shopping). Park Lane is home to some of London’s most luxurious hotels. On the more affordable end in this area is The Montcalm Hotel at Marble Arch, a modern luxury hotel. The Montcalm offers guests the ability to choose their room aroma from a variety of five fragrances to customize the ambience, which is really unique. On the more expensive end, the Four Seasons at Park Lane underwent a two-year renovation in 2010, completely reinventing and modernizing the hotel. Not only is the hotel gorgeous, but it’s right on the edge of Hyde Park, one of London’s largest and most beautiful parks. And finally, The Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge is another great luxury option if you’re willing to splurge; it’s located on Hyde Park, houses one of the best restaurants in the city, and is just steps away from Harrods.
Once you choose a place to stay, you can either walk or take the Tube anywhere you need to go. Cab drivers in London are also extremely knowledgeable and friendly! No matter what mode of transport you choose, here are some of the best places to eat in the city.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal: Recently named U.K. chef of the decade at the Observer Food Monthly Awards, Heston Blumenthal is one of the most famous chefs in England. He owns Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in the Mandarin Oriental in London, and The Fat Duck in the English countryside (about two hours outside of London). He is known for his unconventional cooking techniques (lots of molecular gastronomy and tricks to make the ultimate version of anything and everything) and incredibly delicious food. I was lucky enough to dine at The Fat Duck a couple of years ago, and if you ever have the opportunity to go, don’t miss it! But, given the trip outside of the city and the length of the meal (it takes about four to five hours) it’s not super convenient during a quick trip to London. So, head to Dinner in the city instead. The food here is equally delicious and a great way to experience chef Blumenthal’s food and philosophy. Plus, the restaurant is in the beautiful Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Hyde Park. One of my favorite things on the menu is the Meat Fruit, chicken liver and foie gras mousse covered in a mandarin-flavored coating, made to look exactly like a mandarin orange, served with grilled bread. It might sound weird, but it’s amazing. For main courses, the cod in cider is fantastic, as are the steaks (any of them) served with chef Blumenthal’s famous triple-cooked chips. The best desserts are the Tipsy Cake (a take on pineapple upside-down cake) and the Brown Bread Ice Cream served with salted caramel, pear, and malted yeast syrup.
Indian Food: I know, this isn’t exactly a restaurant recommendation — but in London (and in all of England, for that matter), it’s very difficult to go wrong with Indian food. After all, curry is the national dish! There are a few well-known places to get a delicious Indian meal, including Brick Lane, a street famous for its many, very casual, curry houses. If you’d like something a little nicer and more refined, head to the Cinnamon Club, open since 2003 and still included on industry top 10 lists. Wherever you go, order liberally and get everything and anything that sounds good to share! The best way to experience the bold flavors of Indian food is to try a variety of items.
The Ledbury: The Ledbury has been on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the past three years, and this year it holds the number 13 position. For reference in terms of American restaurants, it’s just behind Per Se in New York City (number 11), and ahead of Alinea in Chicago (number 15). Chef Brett Graham has a down-to-earth attitude, giving the restaurant the perfect balance of a comfortable, neighborhood restaurant vibe with amazing, refined modern French cuisine.
St. John: If you’re an adventurous meat eater, look no further. Chef Fergus Henderson is considered one of the founders of nose-to-tail philosophy, which is of course reflected on the St. John menu. The menu changes daily, but you’ll always find lots of offal and other neglected cuts of meat, all with unique flavors.