London - a city with something to offer everyone! As the most visited city in Europe, there’s always much to see and do. During my three month study sabbatical the place totally stole a piece of my heart, which I don’t think I’ll be getting back.
London in a nutshell…
Compiling a general impression of London into a single paragraph is kinda tough. As one of the most globally diverse spots on the planet, the city offers outstanding culture that’s undeniably tough to beat. It’s historically-rich; a true mecca for history and art buffs. It uniquely thrives on both innovation and tradition, it’s equally charming and bustling, and has the most incredible energy in the air - one that makes you want to lace up your comfiest of comfy shoes and explore endlessly!
…and let’s not forget the food
London also happens to have an incredible food scene; which I’ve attempted to document - though with a healthy spin, because #healthblog. The below is, of course, by no means a complete list/ultimate guide. There were many places I didn’t get to venture to, sadly (next time!). But a good list, shall you be passing through/living there and wish to embark on a tasty food odyssey.
A note on sustainability
Fare aside, many food operations are seemingly thinking progressively; operating with sustainability at the forefront of business or mind, with the goal of helping to reduce environmental impact. This might be through careful ingredient sourcing; supporting seasonal, local and ethical producers; or rethinking methods of production, packaging and transportation of product - which is just bloody awesome!
Let’s kick it off, starting with…
MARKETS, RESTAURANTS, CAFES + DELIS
If you’re short on time during your stay in London, Borough Market tops the list as a must-visit. As London’s most renowned food and beverage market, impressively dating back to at least the 12th century (but legends say more like 1012!), it’s the mother of artisan markets - a cornucopia of gourmet global goodies, home-grown producers and high quality ingredients.
Snake through stands of bakers and cheese makers, fishmongers and butchers, and colourful food stalls from all four corners of the world - the perfect outing no matter whether you’re on the hunt for the latest food trend, shopping for ingredients to cook up a storm, or are just plain old hungry (make sure to get a visual on the biggest paella pan you’ll see in your life!).
Top tip: it’s noisy and crowded, so come earlier in the day for shorter lines and a little breathing space.
Find Borough Market at 8 Southwark St.
Nestled within the utterly charming and colourful Neal’s Yard is the ever-popular 26 Grains cafe.
Originally a pop-up stall serving Nordic-inspired breakfasts, the spot now offers a lavish spread of porridge-bowls - think the classic nutritious bowlful, but with a rustic foodie spin. Case-in-point: their “Hazelnut Butter” porridge prepared with almond milk, butter, chopped hazelnuts and coconut palm sugar. Gah *drool*.
Don’t worry if porridge isn’t your thing, there’s other tasty dishes to tempt, which change with the seasons.
Find 26 Grains at Neal’s Yard.
Established in 1988 in Soho and is still running successfully today, Mildreds now has multiple locations to dine at and queues for a table out the door (literally my experience). Expect super tasty vegan and vegetarian food, with a menu that is internationally inspired and varied. You’ll find everything from Sri Lankan sweet potato curries with coconut tomato sambal to green falafel with sour cherry and pistachio jewelled rice. Portions are decent, so come with a belly that’s ready to feast.
Find Mildreds at Camden, Kings Cross, Dalstron and Soho.
HEMSLEY & HEMSLEY
Popular sister duo, cookery book authors, and self-described home cooks, Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley’s Selfridges (oh la la) cafe is pretty stellar. Tucked away on one of the many floors of the ginormous department store is the perfect spot to take a load off while (window) shopping.
Their seasonal menu is carefully sourced; with ingredients organic, sustainable, biodynamic or traditionally farmed, wherever possible. They operate a plastic-free kitchen (impressive), work with fully recyclable packaging and aim to be as zero waste as possible. I ate the Cornish crab cakes, and they were scrumptious.
Find Hemsley + Hemsley inside Selfridges on Oxford St, Marylebone
Located a stones throw from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, is the cheerful and welcoming Deliciously Ella deli. On offer is a colourful selection of counter salads, hot options to tempt, and incredibly moorish, but wholesome, sweet treats - like banana bread, wedges of fudge brownie, and sponge cake topped with thick luscious lemony icing.
Being a deli, the food is with you speedily - simply order your dish and it’ll be ready in a heartbeat when you pay. We used this spot a few times as a study haven, eating our way through a deliciously good *heh, geddit* stream of breakfast, snacks and lunch items from the menu. A favourite of the lot.
It is very difficult to walk past one of Ottolenghi’s deli windows and not get a little something-something for the road. Come through the door and be greeted with tall towers of baked goods, sumptuous savoury tarts and colourful mountains of salads - all as visually pleasing as they’d be tasty.
There is a strong Mediterranean influence (plenty of olive oil, herbs + spices, date syrup and pomegranate molasses) across the deli thanks to kingpin Yotam Ottolenghi’s roots, as well as a focus on freshly made food and the celebration of small, local and artisan food producers. Love, love, love. Party-in-the-mouth type stuff.
Find Ottolengi in Islington, Spitalfields, Notting Hill & Belgravia.
Farm girl was born from a desire to bring the vibrant Aussie brunch culture to London. Across their three locations you’ll find a plethora of quintessential brunch classics on the menu, like avocado toast, acai bowls, house granola, porridge, and, of course, eggs cooked how you like them. Ingredients are field-to-fork, sustainably sourced wherever possible, locally farmed and high quality, lending to very tasty food. Drinks wise, they do artisan coffee’s and very instagrammable colourful lattes - my pals yellow turmeric latte had a French bulldog stencilled overtop in a dusting of cocoa powder, because why not?
Find Farm Girl in Notting Hill, Soho & Chelsea.
I had “eat fish and chip” top of my UK foodie bucket list, along with other quintessential endeavours like “eat scones with jam and cream”. Hook was the crown jewel of my findings.
Hook is a fish and chip restaurant with a point of difference. They work 100% with sustainable small fisheries and ethically-focused food suppliers across UK, promising a meal that’s not only delicious but environmentally responsible - right down to the use of reusable reclaimed wooden service boxes and biodegradable cutlery.
Their menu is scratch-cooked daily on site, including their homemade fancy pancy sauces - we loved the curried pineapple ketchup and garlic truffle sauce. Give you gut bugs a boost while you’re there with their selection of preserved sides, featuring everything from kimchi to wakame and cucumber pickle! Best fish and chips my tastebuds have ever had the pleasure of eating.
Find Hook in Camden Town.
Detox Kitchen’s mission is to pack every dish they make with as much flavour and nutrients as possible. They cook from scratch daily in their kitchen using high quality and seasonal ingredients; and have a really great range grab-and-go goodies, including protein-packed egg wraps, vibrant salads, hot stews and warming soups.
My good friend Tiggy took me to this place specifically for their beetroot brownie, as she said it would blow my mind. It was indeed gooey chocolatey perfection - I wish I could make it re-spawn again and again, but alas I am a mere mortal.
Find Detox Kitchen on Kingly Street and Mortimer Street.
LEON - the ultimate student-friendly fare for my travelling budget-concious self! When short on time, in need of a quick meal, or just after something cheep and cheerful LEON delivered.
Essentially a fast-food takeaway joint, LEON began from the notion that fast food can also be ‘good’ food - nutritious, tasty, accessible and with you speedy.
Their menu has a good range of tempting options, with many *putting on my nutritionist hat* nutritionally balanced meals, that provide a good serving of veggies, protein-rich foods and portion of starchy carbs per serve.
Find LEON, well, kinda everywhere.
A dreamy-looking spot that is aesthetically beautiful, decked out with green plants, twinkling fairy lights and a nude earthly palate. So Pinterest.
Farmacy’s food ethos are centred around supporting the plant-based organic movement, for human and planetary health, which they do through ingredient sourcing and mindful transportation (e.g. electric vans). Their fully vegan and vegetarian menu offers an extensive array of plant-based dishes - everything from vegan mac ‘n’ cheese (hold the cheese) to Ceaser salad (with mushroom ‘anchovies’) and ‘omelettes’ made with chickpeas.
The innovation and variety is neat, but the place is a little on the spendy side. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
FAB INNOVATIVE BRANDS / COMPANIES / SHOPS / MARKETS WORTH A MENTION
A third of all food produced globally gets astoundingly wasted. Olio is a mobile app for community food-sharing, which connects those with surplus food to those who need or wish to consume it. To use the app, you simply snap a photo of your fare, add a brief description of the item and provide pick-up details. A lovely neighbour will be delighted to take it off your hands! Badass initiative that has also extended to NZ!
Another company committed to fighting the war against food waste. Oddbox takes local farmers wonky and surplus seasonal produce that has failed cosmetic standards, and delivers it to your door at a more affordable price (around 30% cheaper!). Not only do you get tasty produce, but the produce can get pretty comical-looking which is fun!
The UK’S largest fully certified organic supermarket. Essentially a health food wonderland, with an impressively wide array of stock, which extends well beyond food - you can do your entire supermarket shop here! It is beyond easy to get sucked into the vortex of innovative products at a local Planet Organic, and emerge later with a lighter wallet and bag of goodies you didn’t prior need - well, for me at least. They have seven locations around London.
NEWTON & POTT
Newton & Pott make homemade chutneys, jams & preserves in their London based kitchen in Hackney. They use all fresh and natural ingredients, and take pride in practising the artisan methods of yesteryear, just like Grandma used to do - but with a twist. Expect whisky-pickled carrots and apricot amaretto jam *drool*. I got really into preserving in London thanks to culinary school, had the pleasure of doing a masterclass with founder Kylee Newton (a fellow Kiwi) and adored her ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy, and switching up output with seasonal gluts.
I do not want to admit how many of Livia’s chocolate-covered “Biccy Bombs” I ate while in London, but it would probably equate in weight to a small child. Livia’s take super simple natural ingredients and turns them into delicious treats that are vegan, gluten and dairy free. Their ingredient lists are exceptional - the real deal in regards to quality, innovation and taste! They’re also wildly accessible - find them across many major retailers e.g. Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Boots, WHSmith, Waitrose and Planet Organic.
Another exceptional product line, and second mention (after their deli). Aside from their popular deli, Deliciously Ella does a range of food products; including wholesome granolas, muesli bars, energy balls (great study snack!) and ready-made frozen meals - all made with epic ingredient lists and really tasty flavour combinations. Always had something in the cupboard from them!
ABEL & COLE
An organic foodbox delivery scheme, bringing the best of the organic world - from farmers, bakers and food producers - to homes and up and down UK. Simply choose a pre-made box, or design your own! While customising is fun, it’s equally great opening a box of seasonal unknown and getting creative in the kitchen with your colourful bounty. I ordered a box for most of weekly shops while living in London.
Another big player in the organic farm to table delivery scheme, alongside Abel & Cole. Delivering to over 47,000 homes around the country, Riverford has been toted the most ethical of the box schemes. After ordering a few times from Riverford towards the end of my trip, I can vouch for superb quality of produce!
NEW COVENT GARDEN MARKET
Possibly a strange inclusion on the list, but the New Covent Garden Market is something to the eye. We visted on a culinary school trip (close to midnight - to beat the superbly early AM market dwellers after produce for their restaurants/cafes/whatever’s!), and as the largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market in the United Kingdom, were met with an endless array of fresh fruit and veg - and boy, is it endless. With such a huge variety of produce, there’s always going to be waste - however, New Covent Garden Market are committed to sending no waste to landfill. Any food that isn’t fit for humans is instead off to very happy pigs on a farm in Oxfordshire. They’re also working to reduce the carbon footprint of the market, and from 2016 to 2017 lowered their CO2 emissions by 14%.
……ANNNNND, WE’RE DONE!
Well done for reaching the end if you’re still reading - I hope it’ll be mildy useful if you’re venturing to London or live there and are after some tasty spots to eat. I have not even scratched the surface with this list - there’s so many more incredible companies, you could really go on forever.
Writing this makes me miss London, boo. If you haven’t been yet, go. If you’ve already been, you’ll get it. What a fabulous city - a+++, 5 star, would trade again.