Not always known for having acclaimed cuisine, London (and British food by extension) has cemented its culinary upswing with celebrated molecular gastronomy chefs, fine dining establishments, and mouth-watering cafes. A large, yet walk-able city, seeing London through the eyes of a local is to appreciate its landmarks while discovering what lies beneath. Big Ben, British Museum, the London Eye, and the Tower of London are all well-worth a visit, but so are these Not for Tourists-approved watering holes.
Breakfast: Start your day at Dalston Lane Café with an order of French toast with bacon or corned beef hash. The unassuming café sits on an unremarkable stretch of Dalston Lane and is easy to pass without noticing. Like most breakfast eateries this place is rammed before noon at the weekend, but on a Saturday afternoon you can share the café with just two or three other single diners.
If weekend brunch is what you’re after, head to A Little of What You Fancy. A firm neighborhood favorite, it’s a bit like being in a friend's kitchen or dining room. You know - the one that's always warm and full of delicious things that are effortlessly knocked out and where there's always a good mix of people around the table…
Lunch: A visit to the Hackney City Farm is a surreal experience, particularly when you’re dining at Frizzante. Don't come here if you don't like kids, but if you do (or even have them), it is a great place for lunch. Where else can you claim that the eggs on your plate come courtesy of the hens hopping around in front of the door? It can be surreal to tuck into your rabbit and pancetta terrine with those animals’ barnyard friends running around, but exploring the farm makes for a great post-lunch activity.
Dinner: It may seem somewhat against the whole idea of Not for Tourists to recommend a place like The Ivy. You should really only go when someone else is paying, but it is a beautiful, buzzy restaurant with every table guaranteed to be occupied and impeccably well-mannered staff who seem intent on giving you a dining experience that will prove memorable. Dorset crab with celeriac rémoulade (sounds poncey - it just means 'condiment') was light and fresh while your taste buds will begin to sing when the main turns up. Cornish lamb with creamy anchovy and dauphinoise spuds make a cliché true: they literally do melt in the mouth.
Drinks: Bourne and Hollingsworth’s Prohibition-era premise of serving cocktails in teacups is just the first charming surprise you’ll encounter once you actually find the bar’s entrance. (Hint: the address may say Rathbone Place, but the door is on Charlotte Street.) They serve a cucumber and gin cocktail with a cucumber sandwich and cherry brandy cocktails with Jaffa cakes. It is a cosy venue and fittingly it is decorated like a grandma's lounge with chintzy wallpaper and standard lamps and while hey’re not cheap, the drinks are incredibly potent!
Local Gem: Unless you’re a native of the UK, it is hard to understand the love for a Fish-n-Chip shop. Just the smell of the hot fish combining with the paper can send any nostalgic Brit down memory lane, but locals and visitors alike can understand the appeal of Kennedy’s. It's the kind of place you thought only existed in '50s Northern England--even the sign speaks of days gone by. And while the look, smells, and classic menu items attract hungry Londoners constantly, their pies also harbor a power over diners.