London’s Best Food, Bars and Culture
If you’re planning a trip, there’s no better way to explore London than by following in the footsteps of the city’s game changers: step into the eateries, bars and cultural hubs they’ve created…chances are you’ll never want to leave. In music, art, food and fashion, there are countless creative personalities that make the city hum. These are a few things to do in London which will fit easily into a short visit.
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Where to eat in London
Ottolenghi Notting Hill/Facebook
Ottolenghi, and Nopi
There’s no shortage of incredible food in London, not least because it’s where Yotam Ottolenghi calls home. For food fans, a visit to one of Ottolenghi’s restaurants is one of the most important things to do in London! The Israeli-born chef has a global reputation for his restaurants and recipe books, including the all-veggie tomes Plenty and Plenty More. Ottolenghi’s London delicatessens have made their mark in Notting Hill, Islington, Belgravia and Spitalfields, and in 2011 he opened the more formal Nopi in Soho. Equal parts fresh, wholesome and uniquely inventive, his one-of-a-kind take on Middle Eastern food is the perfect culmination of a modern, multicultural Britain.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel
If you’re after something more traditional, look no further than the classic British culinary experience: afternoon tea. Executive chef Matthew Marshall has crafted one of the most memorable gastronomic experiences in the city with his “Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea” at Fitzrovia’s luxe Sanderson Hotel. Combining his love of Lewis Carroll with a whimsical flair and a passion for fresh ingredients, Marshall has transformed what was originally a one-off event into a charming, beloved foodie destination, which now serves some 1500 afternoon teas per week.
Grab a Curry on Brick Lane
Bricklane Brasserie, Source: londonlovesmira/Instagram
Really want to get a local’s experience? You can’t go past a curry on the iconic Brick Lane. Indian curries are a popular local food, especially if you’ve hit a few on the iconic bars and you’re in need of a late night feed. Along Brick Lane and the surrounding streets is a heap of incredible street art to photograph as well.
There are a huge range of curry houses to pick from but one of the better ones is Brick Lane Brasserie. They even offer a mid-week two course option which is perfect for the hip-pocket too.
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Where to drink in London
Keen for a taste of home? Visiting an Australian run coffee spot might not be one of the obvious things to do in London, but you won’t regret it. Perched on the cusp of the famed Old Street Roundabout, you’ll find the Shoreditch Grind, Aussie Kaz James’ popular coffee joint and recording studio. The café serves up classic breakfast and lunch dishes by day and sourdough pizza by night, alongside small-batch coffee and inventive cocktails. In 2012, James – a Melbourne native who moved to London after being signed to Universal Records – installed an international grade recording studio above the café, where artists including Sam Smith and FKA Twigs have recorded. The Grind now has outposts across London in Covent Garden, Clerkenwell, Whitechapel and more.
The Vault, and Milk & Honey
Cocktail making is an oft-underappreciated art form in itself, but at Soho whisky bar The Vault at Milroy’s, head barman Chris Tanner gets to show off his unique talents on a daily basis. Seduced by the London nightlife, Tanner moved to the city from Paris to craft cocktails at speakeasy bar Milk & Honey before moving to The Vault, where, under his direction, a delightfully strict ‘no dickheads’ policy, a mouth-watering cocktail menu and delicious eats to match has made this one of London’s best-kept secrets.
White Lyan, and Dandelyan
Ryan Chetiyawardana of White Lyan
Ryan Chetiyawardana (AKA Mr Lyan), is another heavyweight on the London bar scene. The mixologist was twice crowned the UK Bartender Of The Year and took out the title of International Bartender Of The Year in 2015. In London, you can experience his innovative cocktails at Hoxton’s White Lyan, the first bar in the world that uses no perishables (so no ice and no fresh fruit). All of the spirits and cordials are house-made, making for truly one-of-a-kind drinks. You can also try Mr Lyan’s unusual take on classic cocktails at Dandelyan, a bar located in the Mondrian London hotel that overlooks the Thames.
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Where to get a dose of culture in London
Lights of Soho
Lights of Soho
What happens when three incredibly creative minds come together to design an innovative new art space? Lights of Soho, that’s what. Those three minds belong to Londoners Dudley Nevill-Spencer, Hamish Jenkinson and Jonny Grant. Together, they’ve built a space that most of us only dream of – a year-round hub for music, art, fashion and theatre – not to mention food and drinks created in consultation with Michelin-starred chefs. From Mumford & Sons to Banksy protégé Dran, the trio is responsible for one of the hottest things to do in London for all kinds of creative talent.
The popularity of unusual film screenings in London may very well have started in Dominic Davies’ London backyard. After projecting Jurassic Park onto a bed sheet in his backyard, Davies discovered his mates and neighbours loved watching films outdoors, and Backyard Cinema was born. Backyard Cinema screenings of cult favourite films now run year-round at locations across the city, complete with deckchairs, live DJ sets, actors and set builds, making it a must-do for film lovers.
Markets have been a fixture of London life since the middle ages, and from the eclectic fare at Camden to the highly Instagrammable Columbia Flower Market, no other city does them quite as well. Roger Wade got in on the action in 2011, shaking up the scene with BoxPark Shoreditch, a market housed entirely in shipping containers. Wade’s now turned his attention to South London, opening BoxPark Croydon. A haven for foodies, the market features the city’s cult-favourite eateries like The Breakfast Club, MeatLiquor and Dum Dums Donutterie, alongside a program of over 200 events a year, including spoken word nights run by Well Versed, reggae Sunday sessions and acoustic afternoons featuring local talent.
If you’re more of a theatre buff, then one of the great things to do in London is a visit to Bush Theatre. There’s a new artistic director in residence who is pushing for a more diverse representation of the city’s population on stage. Thirty-five-year-old Madani Younis is the first non-white artistic director in a major London theatre company. In his role at the newly refurbished Bush Theatre at Uxbridge Road, Younis kicked off the 2017 season with Black Lives, Black Words, a sold-out series of plays inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. At least 50 percent of the shows staged at the Bush Theatre this season feature the work of minority and refugee writers.
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This article was originally published as part of our Britain Unlocked series in partnership with VisitBritain and Qantas. Check out our Britain Unlocked portal for more things to do in London’s surrounds including Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, and Manchester.