Virginia Woolf once described British food as “an abomination”, consisting of leathery meat and tepid vegetables. It’s a reputation that has proved hard to shake, however, it no longer rings true. In recent years British cuisine has undergone a radical transformation, absorbing ingredients, influences and ideas from overseas, as well as looking inward to revitalize dishes from its own past.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than in London, now a true international melting-pot of a city. New food trends emerge here in pop-ups and palaces on what feels like a weekly basis; even for locals, it’s hard to keep up with the pace of change.
But whether it’s fine dining you’re looking for, or simply a splash of British eccentricity, our list of 9 weird & wonderful places to dine out in London is sure to give you some inspiration on where to start your gastronomic adventure.
1. Dinner By Heston
Heston Blumenthal’s innovative cooking revolutionized British attitudes to food during the 1990s and his food has regularly been voted among the world’s best, as well as showered with Michelin stars. Historians at the British Library helped Blumenthal unearth some forgotten recipes from the past, providing the inspiration for a menu that manages to be both deeply traditional and excitingly modern. Each dish on the menu has a story behind it, meaning there’s nowhere better to get a thorough introduction to the historic diversity of British food, as well indulging in a multi-sensory feast that will live long in the memory.
Price: Around £80 per person for three courses.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge Station on the Piccadilly Line.
2. Dans Le Noir?
Eating is a truly multi-sensory experience, but what if one of your senses was taken away as you ate? Would this diminish or enhance your enjoyment? The founders of Dans Le Noir? believe it’s the latter. Diners here enjoy their meals in total darkness, served by waiters who are blind or visually impaired. The “Secret Menus” at Dans Le Noir? mean you never know what it is you’re eating until it’s in your mouth, and sometimes not even then (though you can choose menus without seafood or meat etc). It may be for the more gastronomically adventurous, but this is not just a meal, it’s an experience—one that challenges you to think more carefully about the way you experience food, certainly, but also the people and world around you.
Price: Around £55 per person for three courses
Nearest Tube: Farringdon Station on the District, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City Lines.
The video covers Kiln from 0:00 to 1:06.
Londoners love exploring new ideas and they love their food. Whenever a new restaurant opens and gains a bit of attention in the media it’s quite common to see locals queueing up for the privilege of being the first to see the new show in town. One restaurant creating A LOT of positive buzz right now is Kiln, a small, casual venue that offers South East Asian cuisine with just a dash of British influence. Many of the traditionally Thai ingredients are produced in the South West of England, and the restaurant boasts that all its food is made without electricity or gas, instead, everything is cooked over charcoal. Keeping with the DIY ethos, even the kitchen and tableware is made in-house. Places are limited but if you’re lucky enough to grab a space, you’ll be sure to experience a cuisine that all contemporary London is currently raving about.
Price: Around £35 per person
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus Station on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines.
4. The Cereal Killer Café
Not every new place that opens is greeted with such positive reviews by both media and public as Kiln. If you’ve been in Britain at any point in the last 4 years then it’s likely you’ll have heard of Cereal Killer Café, if not, let’s just describe it as a somewhat controversial spot. The café, as the name suggests, serves nothing but cereal and 80s nostalgia. To its admirers it’s anything from an exemplar of entrepreneurial spirit to a tongue-in-cheek celebration of an everyday staple; to its detractors it’s emblematic of the excesses of gentrification, selling over-priced non-food to hipsters in one of London’s most deprived areas. Whilst it’s certainly divided opinion, one thing we definitely can say is that it got London talking, so why not head over for a bit and see what all the fuss is about?
Price: £2-4 per bowl
Nearest Tube: Bethnal Green (Shoreditch site) on the Central Line, or Camden Town (Camden site) on the Northern Line.
In a city where pop-up restaurants often have the life-span of mayflies and only the delicious survive, Tonkotsu is a reminder of the value of simplicity and patience. Their menu is paired back, consisting mostly of ramen dishes, but the quality of the food proves that less is sometimes more. Springy noodles sitting in a pork bone broth that is around 18 hours in the making, giving a depth of fflavorunlike any bowl of noodles you’ve had before (outside Japan). This restaurant was a big craze a few years ago, but when even when fads move on, Tonkotsu demonstrates that great food never goes out of fashion.
Price: Around £11 per bowl of ramen
Nearest Tube: There are several restaurants throughout London so you have the option to choose the one that best suits your plans.
6. Borough Market
And talking about longevity, Borough Market is one of the oldest and largest food outlets in London, having been in the same spot for over 1000 years. Today it’s beloved by locals and tourists alike and has long provided ingredients to many of the capital’s leading restaurants. If you have your own kitchen during your travels then the list of options to choose from is endless. On my first visit, as a student, I bought the best tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil I could afford and it’s a lunch I still remember to this day. It really is all in the ingredients. However, if your budget extends a little further then Elliot’s or Padella Pasta comes highly recommended by the locals.
The beautiful Southwark Cathedral is right outside Borough Market and offers a stunning backdrop to whatever food you choose.
Price: It’s up to you.
Nearest Tube: London Bridge Station on the Northern Line.
Sometimes, with all the wonders and wizardry of modern gastronomy around, it’s easy to miss those restaurants just doing great food in nice surroundings. Blanchette is one such place and a personal favorite. My initial visit was born of a desire to get my first taste of frogs’ legs, but I loved its casual and rustic charm so much that I’ve been back numerous times since. Specialising in classic French cuisine that can be eaten at the counter or at the table, Blanchette offers delicious food and a lovely ambiance in the heart of busy Soho; a little slice of the French countryside in the middle of modern London. Perhaps a place that’s easy to miss, but never to forget.
Price: £30-£40 per person for three courses.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus Station on the Bakerloo, Central, and Victoria Lines.
8. Shaka Zulu
Stables market has a truly unique gem hidden underground that serves South African foods including zebra, crocodile, ostrich, and much more. It’s also hard to miss too because of the 30ft hand cast bronze statue presiding over the entrance. The place is HUGE and the decor is probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Their service has mixed reviews and it isn’t the ideal spot for a long conversation since the live African-music is loud—though this does add to the atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a new experience.
Price: Around £26 per person
Nearest Tube: Chalk Farm Station or Camden Tube Station
9. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Taken straight from the business idea of “Bubba” from Forrest Gump, it was only really a matter of time before this restaurant chain found its way to London. Although somewhat of a novelty, this place actually really stands on its own as a great restaurant. Alongside its signature dishes of shrimp, fish-focused starters and baby back ribs, there are a variety of crustacean creations, as well as, steaks, chicken dishes and mixed plates to choose from, offering a convincing deep south American experience.
Price: Around £15 per person
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus Station or Leicester Square Station
So, that was our 9 weird & wonderful places to dine out in London! Would you add anywhere? Comment below! Or why not check out 5 Unexpected Food Cities Around The World You Have To Visit?