What to Eat in London: 20 Foods You Can’t Miss

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Learn what to eat in London during your next trip. These classic British foods can be found at pubs, cafes, and budget-friendly restaurants all around town.

A photo collage shows fish and chips, a beef pie, chicken cutlet, and a scone with clotted cream.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about traveling in Europe, it is that it is far more important to know what you want to eat rather than where you are going to eat it.

Restaurants unfortunately come and go, management changes hands, and that restaurant recommendation could be a win or miss depending on the night you happen to visit.

But if you go on your trip armed with a list of classic local foods, you can be far more flexible with your dining plan.

Eating becomes a sort of scavenger hunt and you’ll know all the best things to choose from any given menu no matter where you end up sitting down.

During our 6 days in London, these are the top items my family enjoyed eating at classic British pubs and local cafes.

Everything you see here can be easily found on menus throughout the city and are budget-friendly options for regular family travelers.

Plan Your Meals for the Day

When you’re visiting London, chances are likely you’ll be spending long days out in the fresh air exploring all the city has to offer.

This means you’re going to work up a hearty appetite!

Be sure to plan plenty of time to stop for food, there is no shortage of options in and around London.

We often started our day with a light pastry and coffee or hot chocolate for the kids, stopped for lunch between 11 – 12pm, and ended the day with a heartier dinner.

If you plan to work in a traditional afternoon tea, be prepared for the amount of food that will be prepared. This could easily work as a hearty lunch or a light dinner so you will likely be able to skip one of those meals.

Just know that food can be very expensive, you’ll want to check out my tips for how to save money on food in London before you go.

English Pub Food

A classic platter of burger and chips in a pub in London.

Your visit to London just is simply not complete without a visit to a classic British pub.

The menus change from spot to spot, but you’ll find lots of traditional pub food items on the menu including;

  1. Pub Burger
  2. Bangers and Mash: Sausages and mashed potatoes
  3. Mac and Cheese
  4. Chips: French fries

As well as several of the items you’ll find later on the list below.

Fish and Chips

A fried haddock sits on a bed of french fries.

You can find fish and chips on most pub menus, but there are also restaurants that specialize in just this one delicious item.

We tried out The Mayfair Chippy and it was fantastic.

You’ll likely have your choice between beer-battered cod or haddock. I got the haddock but if I had it to do over, I think I’d pick the slightly firmer cod.

Traditional accompaniments include:

  1. Tartar Sauce
  2. HP Gravy: This has a smoky almost barbecue sauce flavor to it.
  3. Curry Sauce
  4. Mushy Peas
  5. Chips with Malt Vinegar
  6. Lemon Wedges

Classic Beef Pie

A pastry topped beef pie has a bone sticking out of the top and a pitcher of gravy on the side.

If you spot a classic beef pie on the pub menu, be sure to give it a try. We had this amazing slow cooked beef brisket pie topped with flaky puff pastry served with a side of mashed potatoes and roasted carrots with a pitcher of rich gravy at St. George’s Tavern.

It was the first proper meal we had when we arrived in London and after the chaos at the airport, comfort food at its finest was just what we needed.

Yes, that is actually a bone sticking out of the top of the pie. It was so delicious, my husband ordered it a second time on our last evening.

Classic Sunday Roast

We visited London for Easter so our only Sunday was spent doing holiday things. If you’re there on a regular Sunday, take the time to hunt down a proper Sunday roast at one of the London pubs.

A Sunday roast will offer your choice of roasted chicken or beef, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes, and comes with a fluffy popover, otherwise known as a Yorkshire pudding.

A Sunday roast is offered at restaurants all over London, you should have no troubles finding a good one nearby.

Chicken Cutlets

A breaded chicken cutlet is topped with rocket, parmesan, and tomatoes.

I enjoyed the chicken milanese from The Ivy on Easter Sunday. Topped with rocket (arugula), shaved parmesan, and fresh tomatoes, there’s a bit of pesto hiding under that salad topping. It was absolutely delicious.

On our last evening, I enjoyed a chicken schnitzel at St. George’s Tavern that had a garlic lemon butter sauce instead of traditional gravy.

London definitely knows how to cook up breaded chicken cutlets in delicious ways.

Battered King Prawns

A plate of fried and battered prawns with tartar sauce.

You’ll spot King prawns on London menus very frequently. My oldest was tickled pink to try giant shrimp instead of classic fish and chips.

She’s a huge shellfish lover and insisted these were absolutely amazing.

Cheese Toasties

A toasted sandwich with cheese and ham.

Lunch can be a budget-friendly fast option if you take advantage of the cafes and ready-to-eat restaurants around London.

We stopped in for a quick bite at the Danish bakery called Ole & Steen and spotted a ham and cheese toastie on the menu.

I know a “toastie” is a popular food in England so I was curious to see how it differed from our grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

The bread was absolutely fresh and delicious and just as the name suggests it is simply toasted warm. Not grilled in butter like in the US. Totally satisfying, light, and flaky. Highly recommend!

Sausage Rolls

A sausage roll has been cut in half and is being held up to show the filling.

We finally spotted classic sausage rolls during our trip to Borough Market and my husband couldn’t resist trying one.

I’ve made sausage rolls at home before, but the ones in London are sooooo very tender and this was wrapped in the flakiest, butteriest pastry ever.

Afternoon Tea

A tower of treats has pink pastries.

Afternoon tea is probably one of the first things you think of when it comes to dining.

This was such a special part of our vacation, I wrote an entire article about it so you know exactly what to expect. You can read about our afternoon tea in London here.

Be sure to schedule one afternoon for tea during your trip for sure.

Coronation Chicken

A coronation chicken salad sandwich on a pink tea plate at a tea shop in London.

One of my favorite finger sandwiches during tea was the traditional Coronation chicken.

This savory chicken salad is made with hints of curry, golden raisins for sweetness, and almonds for crunch. Delicate chicken is folded in and then tea sandwiches are made on fluffy bread.

The name comes from the fact that the recipe was developed by Le Cordon Bleu London in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.

Fruited Scones with Clotted Cream

A plate with a scone, jam, and clotted cream sits next to a mug of coffee.

If a full blown afternoon tea isn’t in your schedule, do not miss the opportunity to have a lighter “cream tea” which is just tea served with scones, clotted cream, and jam.

The English fruited scones with sweet dried currants mixed inside were my very favorite. I enjoyed mine for breakfast with a cappuccino at the Tower of London cafe one morning.

I learned about clotted cream when we dined in Ireland last year and I was so excited to be back where it is a common partner for scones.

Clotted cream tastes like a cross between butter and whipped cream and is the perfect first spread with a dollop of jam on top.

Fresh Pastries

Piles of fresh pastries at a London grocery store.

If you love pastries like I do, Europe is the perfect place to travel for vacation. Even in London you will spot giant towers of fresh pastries at the local bakeries, coffee or tea shops, and grocery stores.

Croissants, pain au chocolat, fresh Danish style pastries, classic scones, and more will be around every turn.

The Best Italian Food

A hand is grating parmesan over a bowl of spaghetti.

You may be surprised to see Italian food on a list of things to eat in London, but is very important to know that this is a cosmopolitan International city that has multi-ethnic influences on their cuisine.

If you want to eat it, London probably has it.

We had some delicious pastas with authentic Italian sauces and fresh pizzas made in brick ovens during the trip. When you’ve walked 20,000+ steps and more in a day, a steaming bowl of spaghetti certainly hits the spot.

The Best Thai Food

If you love things nice and spicy, you will have so many wonderful options in London.

If we had more time during our trip, we would have scheduled in a visit to Chinatown or stopped in for a curry at a Thai restaurant.

My friend Maggy strongly suggested Rosa’s Thai but we simply ran out of mealtime opportunities! This would have been an excellent choice for takeaway if we were too tired to sit at a restaurant and just wanted some quiet time in the AirBNB.

Cadbury Chocolates

The Cadbury Easter candies sit on a table next to a package of hot cross buns.

There are small convenience grocery stores all around London, take 30 minutes during one of your days to pop in and browse the candy selection before you go home!

Cadbury chocolate offers so many different kinds of candy than is available in the US. This can be such a fun gift from London to bring home for your children’s friends.

Jaffa Cakes

While I’m talking about convenience store goodies, my daughter was SO excited to hunt down a box of something called Jaffa cakes.

This sponge cake has a tart orange filling and then is covered in a blanket of chocolate. She bought a box as an Easter treat and it was gone within days. You can see the box in the candy photo above.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

A teen girl holds a cup of fresh strawberries covered in melted chocolate.

If you’ve got a teen girl, just know that you’ll be heading to Borough Market for chocolate covered strawberries before you leave London.

These were some of the biggest strawberries I’ve ever seen. They prep them in seas of cups and then pour the warm melted chocolate over it just before handing it to you.

That was our entire lunch one day!

Victoria Sponge Cake

A layered cake with creamy filling has powdered sugar on top instead of frosting.

6 days in London was not nearly enough time for me to sample all the yummy treats I spotted around the city.

I spotted this delicious looking Victoria sponge cake at a bakery one morning, but had already selected my scone with clotted cream.

The classic Victoria sponge cake is named after Queen Victoria and is often served at Buckingham Palace.

You may get lucky and be served a tea cake during afternoon tea, but if you spot a beauty like that cake above be sure to try a slice!

Where We Ate

If you really would feel better knowing exactly the restaurants where I found these items, I get it. Planning a trip is overwhelming and it is always nice to know places someone would recommend.

I made a list of every single restaurant we dined at during our trip. You can read all about it in my post where to eat in London on a family budget.

A photo collage with fish and chips, a pub burger, afternoon tea, and more.

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