British food has a bit of a bad reputation, which is entirely unfounded. Eating out is a real joy thanks to the huge variety of traditional foods to try in London. Discovering traditional food in London is up there with visiting Buckingham Palace and Big Ben in terms of things to do in the city.
Having lived in Asia for six years, where the only food available was Asian or well-known fast food outlets, I can assure you that having such a choice is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, street food, or a Michelin-starred restaurant, there’s something for everyone. Below you’ll learn about some of the most famous food in London from fish and chips to jellied eels, gluttonous puddings (deserts), and more.
If you’re looking for more food options in the capital, check out this list of the best food tours in London. Traditional food in London usually comprises of hearty and filling plates such as the famous full English breakfast (a typical breakfast in London) or “bangers and mash”; sausages with mashed potatoes. And not forgetting of course the English favorite – the Sunday roast.
I’ve been dining out in London for years, and I’m always excited to discover a new restaurant. Although I love trying out cuisines from around the world, I’m always looking for places to try traditional local food in London.
1. Fish and Chips (Most Famous Food to Try in London Overall)
Fish “n” chips is one of the most traditional dishes in London and around the UK. This popular Friday night supper (dinner) comprises battered fish (usually cod or haddock) with thick-cut chipped potatoes.
Haddock is my personal favorite as it has more flavor than cod, which I find can be a little bland if not cooked properly.
The best batter is made using beer instead of water and is crispy to the bite. The chips should be thick, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside which is the result of deep frying. Popular accompaniments include tartare sauce for the fish, salt and vinegar for the chips, and a side of mushy peas and curry sauce, (don’t knock it!).
The best place to try this typical London food is the traditional chippy such as Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. Usually, the meal is ordered to take away and can be enjoyed on a bench or taken home to eat. Most good pubs also include this staple food of London on their menu.
Rock and Sole Plaice Info
2. Full English Breakfast
Debate rages about what makes up the perfect “full English”, so I’ll settle it now to avoid confusion. Bacon (preferably three rashers), sausages, fried eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, buttered toast, and tea (milk, no sugar).
Some people will try and convince you that black or white pudding (pig’s blood sausage) should be included, but that’s more typical of breakfast in Scotland and Ireland (and thus not a “full English”).
A lot of pubs add chips or hash browns to a full English too. Now I love hash browns as much as the next guy, but they don’t belong in a typical breakfast in London. And chips should only be eaten for dinner, maybe lunch at a push, but certainly not for breakfast.
The best place to indulge in this heartiest of breakfasts is a traditional “caff” (cafe) and you’ll find these across London in every suburb. The Regency Cafe in Westminster is one of the best places to go for the price at just £6.00 ($7.25) for a full English.
The Regency Cafe Info
Address: 17-19 Regency Street, London, SW1P 4BY
Phone: +44 (0)20 7821 6596
Operating Hours: 7am-2:30pm, Mon-Fri, 7:00am-11:45 Sat. Closed Sunday.
Average Cost of the dish: £6.00
3. Jellied Eels
A plate of Jellied Eels is the most famous dish of London, however, it’s not to everyone’s taste (mine included). This typical London food originated in the East End in the 18th Century and has been enjoyed by Cockneys and Londoners ever since.
A plate of cold, congealed, fishy-smelling slimy eels is about the last thing I want to eat (I know, I’m really selling it here), but for those wanting to try one of the most famous foods in London, this is it.
For a real authentic experience, jellied eels should be eaten in East London, preferably within the sound of the Bow bells (this is what makes a true Cockney). You can usually find jellied deals in a traditional pie and mash shop (more on that below).
G Kelly has been serving up jellied eels to Londoners for over 80 years and it remains one of the last proper pie and mash shops in London.
G Kelly Info
4. Chicken Tikka Masala
Although on the surface curry may not seem like a typical food in London, this south Asian staple has been enjoyed across the capital since the 1960s. Chicken tikka masala is a dish made with boneless chicken breast pieces and a creamy tomato, yogurt, and coriander (cilantro) sauce.
Its origin is linked to Bangladeshi immigrants living in Great Britain and the dish is popular at Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants across the country (and one of my favorites too).
There are some great takes on this classic dish from different restaurants across the city including Iranian and Afghan as well as Indian and Bangladeshi.
Dishoom has locations across the capital and is one of the best places to enjoy a creamy chicken tikka in warm and relaxed surroundings (the Covent Garden and Shoreditch restaurants are great options if you want to include a bit of sightseeing and street performances before your meal).
Dishoom Covent Garden Info
Address: 12 Upper St. Martin’s, London, WC2H 9FB
Phone: +44 (0)20 7420 9320
Operating Hours: 8am-11pm, Mon-Thu, 8am-12am, Fri, 9am-12am, Sat, 9am-12am, Sun
Average Cost of the dish: £10.70
Dishoom Shoreditch Info
5. Sunday Roast
Sunday roast, roast dinner, Sunday lunch, call it what you will, this tender feast is one of the must-try dishes in London and it doesn’t just have to be enjoyed on a Sunday.
If I were asked what my favorite common food in London is then I’d have to choose the Sunday Roast. This British institution has been enjoyed by Londoners and foodies alike for centuries and is the food I miss the most when I’m away from England.
A typical roast can be either chicken, lamb, beef, or pork and should include all the trimmings such as roast potatoes and vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, and thick gravy. Turkey is traditionally used at Christmas as it’s a bigger bird and will feed more hungry mouths.
One of the best places to enjoy a Sunday lunch is in a traditional pub, preferably in winter and beside a roaring fire. The Garden Gate in Hampstead is a great option and a place I’ve enjoyed a roast after a walk on Hampstead Heath many times.
The Garden Gate Info
6. Pie and Mash
Pie and mash is real famous food in London and just like jellied eels, is typical of the East End. The pie is usually a meat pie (vegan options are also available) made with British beef, gravy, and a pastry shell served with creamy mashed potato.
Unfortunately, many of London’s traditional pie and mash shops have closed down, however, there are still some great options to try this traditional food in London.
Leytonstone is a place I know very well and its Noted Eel and Pie House has been serving up traditional East End grub for almost a century.
Noted Eel and Pie House’s Info
Address: 481a High Road, Leytonstone, London, E11 4JU
Phone: +44 (0)20 8539 2499
Operating Hours:11am-3pm, Mon-Thu, 11am-7pm, Fri, 11am-5pm, Sat, closed Sunday.
Average Cost of the dish: £4.65
7. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is a British tradition and London is one of the best places to indulge in this mid-afternoon treat. This light meal includes a pot of tea (usually Darjeeling or Earl Grey), sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cakes.
Many people like to get dressed up and enjoy afternoon tea at one of the city’s high-end hotels where the ceremony is a great way of celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just catching up with friends.
All the big names such as the Savoy, Dorchester, and Claridges offer afternoon tea, as well as places such as the famous grocer Fortnum and Mason and even on the 32nd floor of the Shard.
If you’re looking for a little opulence while you dine, then the Ritz really can’t be beaten. It’s been serving up this traditional afternoon snack since its opening in 1906, so they know a thing or two about making the perfect afternoon tea.
The Ritz Info
Address: 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London, W1J 9BR
Phone: +44 (0)20 74938181
Operating Hours: afternoon tea is served daily at 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm and 7:30pm
Average Cost of the dish: £67.00
8. Smoked Kippers
A smoked kipper is a herring fish that has been butterfly cut, salted, and smoked over smoldering wood chips. It’s traditionally enjoyed for breakfast, but can also be eaten for dinner or lunch. The fish turns red after smoking and is also known as a red herring.
Noted diarist Samuel Pepys remarks in his entry of 10th October 1666 that he couldn’t attend a memorial for the Great Fire of London and was “eating a meal of herring in a pub instead“.
The Wolseley, which is just a few doors down from the Ritz, is a great place to try kippers for breakfast and is in the perfect location for sightseeing some of the city’s famous landmarks once you’re fully satiated.
The Wolseley Info
Address: 160 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London, W1J 9EB
Phone: +44 (0)20 7499 6996
Operating Hours: breakfast is served from 7am-11:30am, Mon-Fri and 8am-11:30am, Sat-Sun
Average Cost of the dish: £16.25
9. Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and Squeak is a dish made of leftover potatoes and cabbage that’s mixed together and fried. The name is derived from the sound of the ingredients being fried, and this popular dish dates back to at least the 18th Century.
This is a dish I make myself on many occasions as I tend to always have some leftover potatoes and cabbage knocking about after cooking, (particularly after a roast!). Although I’d love to invite you all round for dinner, I’ll instead suggest the best place to eat it in London, as recommended by 11 food critics.
Maria’s Market Cafe is located within Borough Market, itself one of London’s top foodie destinations. So it should come as no surprise that this traditional cafe serves up the best bubble and squeak in the city.
Maria’s Market Cafe Info
Address: The Market Porter, 9 Stoney Street, London, SE1 9AA
Phone: +44 (0)20 7407 1002 (for Borough Market)
Operating Hours: 8am-3pm, Tue-Sat, closed Monday
Average Cost of the dish: £5.00
10. Bangers and Mash
Bangers and mash is another typical meal in London similar to pie and mash, but with sausages instead of meat (or meat substitute) pie. The dish is topped off with lashings of onion gravy, which is one of my favorite sauces.
Mother Mash, just off of London’s famous Carnaby Street in London’s West End, is one of the best places to try this hearty and flavorsome dish. They have eight different types of mashed potato, a large selection of sausages, and five types of gravy (though I do recommend you stick with the onion gravy).
Ordering is easy. Just choose your mash, from cheesy to mustard or horseradish. Add your sausages (such as Lincolnshire, Cumberland, pork, and Chilli or vegetarian) and then add your gravy, and enjoy.
Mother Mash Info
11. Beef Wellington
I have to admit that it’s only thanks to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay that I had ever heard of Beef Wellington and tried it for the first time at his Bread Street Kitchen at the Hotel Atlantis in Sanya, China.
But fear not, for the same Bread Street Kitchen also exists in London where you can indulge in what is one of Mr. Ramsay’s signature dishes. If you’re looking for things to eat in London, then this dining experience is not to be missed and is a great option for couples.
Beef Wellington is named after the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, but for what reason no one is sure. The dish is a large piece of fillet steak that is coated in pâté and baked in pastry. It should be cooked the same way as steak (medium rare) so it’s pink and juicy in the middle.
Bread Street Kitchen and Bar Info
Address: First Floor One, 10 New Change, Bread Street, London, EC4M 9AJ
Phone: +44 (0)20 3030 4050
Operating Hours: 7:30am-11pm, Mon-Wed, 7:30am-12:00am, Thu-Fri, 11:30am-1:00am, Sat, 11:30am-10:00pm, Sun
Average Cost of the dish: £80.00
12. Sticky Toffee Pudding
It would be impossible to have any list of traditional food in London without the nation’s favorite dessert, sticky toffee pudding. I’m not really a pudding guy (though I do have a love of cheesecake), but even I can’t pass up this sticky treat when it’s on the menu (or better yet, made by my grandmother).
Sticky toffee pudding is made from a basic sponge cake with chopped dates and smothered in a rich, toffee sauce. Custard, clotted cream, or vanilla ice cream is usually added just to increase the decadence.
The Abingdon gastropub in London’s plush Chelsea and Kensington area is a great spot to indulge in this gooey, sticky sweet treat.
The Abingdon Info
13. Boiled Eggs and Soldiers
Another typical breakfast in London is boiled eggs and soldiers. The egg should be soft-boiled so the yolk is nice and runny, perfect for dipping your soldiers (thin strips of buttered toast). This is a dish that reminds me of my childhood and was a frequent favorite at the breakfast table.
This classic British comfort food can also be eaten for lunch or as a light tea (dinner). The eggs should be served in an egg cup in their shells, and the fun part is cracking the top off. However, when ordering boiled eggs and soldiers in a restaurant, the eggs will likely come without the shell.
Bill’s cafe in Covent Garden is a great place to eat this dish and is in a prime location for some of London’s best sights, shopping, and museums.
Bill’s Covent Garden Info
Address: St. Martin’s Courtyard, Slingsby Place, London, WC2E 9AB
Operating Hours: 8am-11pm, Mon-Sat, 9am-10pm, Sun
Average Cost of the dish: £3.95
14. Jacket (Baked) Potato
The humble baked potato is one of the most popular foods in London, and one of my go-to easy lunches. This traditional light meal can have many toppings from cheese and baked beans, to prawns in Marie Rose sauce, tuna mayonnaise, or whatever else may take your fancy.
You can find jacket potatoes on many pubs and cafe menus with a wide variety of toppings (my favorites are prawn, tuna mayo, or coleslaw). Fernando’s in Covent Garden has a wide range of jacket potatoes and toppings at very reasonable prices.
Address: 55 St. Martin’s Ln, London, WC2N 4EA
Operating Hours: 6:30am-4pm, Mon-Fri, 7:00am-4:00pm, Sat, closed Sunday
Average Cost of the dish: £4.50
15. Apple Crumble
Apple crumble is another of Britain’s favorite foods and is enjoyed across the capital. This homely dish of baked apples with a pie crust and sugary, crumble topping is another favorite of mine (we used to use the apples from our garden).
The best apple crumble should be homemade, but the next best thing can be had at the Cafe in the Crypt, under St. Martin the Field’s church at Trafalgar Square.
Similarly to the sticky toffee pudding, this dessert is often topped with vanilla ice cream or warm or cold custard.
Café in the Crypt’s Info
Address: St. Martin in the Field’s, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JH
Phone: +44 (0)20 7766 1158
Operating Hours: 10am-7:30pm, Tue-Sat, 11:00am-5:00pm, Sun, 10:00am-6:00pm, Mon
Average Cost of the dish: £5.00
Food Tours in London
Below are some great food tours that include places serving famous food in London mentioned above. Taking a food tour is a great way to experience some of London’s most popular dishes and learn a little of the history behind the food and the places you visit.
Eat 8 British Foods & See 30+ Sights
This fantastic food and sightseeing tour will have you trying 8 famous British foods and taking in over 30 of London’s top landmarks. You’ll get to try fish and chips, pie and mash, and a host of other classic London foods as you make your way through the streets of the capital.
Royal High Tea at Kensington Palace
Dine like royalty on the grounds of Kensington Palace with this great foodie experience. You’ll get to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea of sandwiches, cakes, and scones as well as exploring this section of Hyde Park and Queen Victoria’s garden.
The Authentic British Food Tour
This walking and food tour centers around the South Bank and Borough Market, one of the top destinations for foodies in London. You’ll get to try a traditional sausage roll, cheeses, fish and chips, and a pint of proper London ale.
No Diet Club
You won’t want to be counting calories on this indulgent foodie adventure. Discover some of London’s best street foods from Indian dosa to halloumi fries, grilled cheese, hot chocolate, and of course English tea.
The Art of Indian Home Cooking
As mentioned above, Indian food is inextricably linked with Britain and curry is a firm London favorite. Learn all about the spices, cooking methods history of Indian food while you cook, taste, and talk your way through this fun lesson.
FAQs About London Food
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about traditional food in London.
What are the most traditional foods in London?
Pie and mash, fish and chips, and jellied eels are the most traditional foods in London. They are usually inexpensive, filling, and are enjoyed by millions across the capital (except maybe jellied eels which are definitely an acquired taste).
What time is dinner in London?
Dinner (or tea as it’s more commonly known in London) is usually eaten between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm. It’s usual for people to eat as soon as they get home from work, but if enjoying a meal out, then people tend to eat a little later and 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm is more normal as people will want time to get ready.
What time is lunch in London?
Lunch in London is typically between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm and this is usually dictated by office trends and the working day.
What time is breakfast in London?
Breakfast in London is usually from 7:00 am to 8:00 am to allow enough time to finish breakfast and leave for work.
Do you tip in London?
Tipping is not expected in London in the same way that it is in America. However, it’s common to tip 10% to 15% in a restaurant for good food and service. It’s not usual to tip in pubs or cafes.
What neighborhood has the best restaurants in London?
The best restaurants in London can be found around the West End with Soho and Covent Garden being two of the most popular places.
Where should I stay in London?
Covent Garden is the best place to stay for restaurants thanks to its central location. It is also perfect for discovering the best sights in the city. Read more about where to stay in London.
This private room in Covent Garden is a great option and is centrally located in the heart of the West End.
With so many wonderful traditional foods in London to try, now you’ll have a good idea of what to expect when eating out in the city. No trip to the capital is complete without trying fish and chips, afternoon tea, and pie and mash.
The braver among you can sample the classic East End dish of jellied eels, even if just to say you’ve tried it! Be sure to experience Borough Market for the best artisan foods (and remember to check out Maria’s Market Cafe for that classic dish bubble and squeak).