Food & Drink

50 Things You Need to Eat in London Before You Die

At the risk of beating a still-very-much-alive horse, London’s food scene is fantastic these days -- and is getting better at an astounding rate. Sadly though, you only have a finite amount of time to take it all in before you head to the big brunch in the sky (or leave town), so here are the 50 essential dishes you need to inhale before that happens…

Duck & Waffle

Duck & Waffle

The City

Since this is the signature dish, it’s a damn good thing they nailed it. Taking the humble sweet & savory mash up to new heights, it’s made even better with a side of the best view in town, and is accessible 24 hours a day.

Custard donut

St. John Bar & Restaurant

Bermondsey

For years people have journeyed down to the St. John Bakery on Saturday mornings with the flicker of hope they won't be sold out, and frequently met with disappointment and thoughts of “well maybe next time.” Yeah, these guys are that good. Luckily, now they’re available in other locations, but of course they’re gone pretty quick.

Beef ribs & bone marrow mash

Pitt Cue Co.

SoHo

These guys set the bar for Southern BBQ, with huge queues and tiny dining rooms when it opened a couple years back. But what kept drawing people in? Juicy beef ribs and bone marrow mash. Bone. Marrow. Mash.

Crab donuts

Chiltern Firehouse

Marylebone

Actually more like a mini brioche bun stuffed with crab, they are the palm-sized balls that people keep clamoring over, when they can peel their eyes away from the celebs trying to hide in the dining room.

The Crodough

Rinkoffs Bakery

Whitechapel

When the world went batsh*t insane for the Cronut, this family bakery responded with the London edition, the Crodough. They're flaky, puffy, sweet, and loaded with flavours from custard to toffee apple to Oreo cheesecake to s’mores. Make the pilgrimage first thing in the AM to get one before they sell out (... or just order them online).

Soy chicken wings

Rita’s

Hackney

Literally finger-lickin’ good -- you’ll have to tongue-bathe your fingers to dislodge every last droplet of that sticky, sweet, and hot soy and garlic sauce. We won’t judge if you try licking the wrapper as well.

Tonkatsu ramen

Bone Daddies

SoHo

This is the ramen dreams are made of, with a 20-hour pork bone broth loaded with silky noodles, chashu pork, and Clarence Court eggs.

Monkey Fingers

MEATmission

Hoxton

All of the best bits of its Bingo Wings without having to fight for your food. Fried bits of chicken and that tangy sauce and no bones. Why has no one thought of this before?!?!

Fish & chips

Poppies

Spitalfields & Camden

Having been in the F&C game since the mid 1940s, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. Fresh, flaky, and perfectly golden, this is the real deal.

Lobster macaroni with truffle

34

Mayfair

This is a dish that holds zero punches and offers a distinct lack of apologies for being incredibly decedent. But you know what? It doesn’t have to, because it’s just that good.

Xiao long bao

Venue Name

Chinatown

These little soupy parcels of joy have burned many of tongues as over-eager eaters rush to get these in their mouths. Painful? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Posh Madame

Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels

Covent Garden

This is the croque madame you never knew you were missing. Not content to just have normal ham and a regular egg (how mundane!) they’ve naturally upgraded to truffle ham and quails eggs.

Meat Fruit

Dinner by Heston

Knightsbridge

It’s a Manderine! No, it's parfait! No, it's the Meat Fruit! The dish that launched a thousand Instagram pictures is still as insane as it was the time it first launched, causing confusion and theatric wonder until you get the damn thing in your mouth.

House black daal

Dishoom

Various Locations

Black, rich, and intensely flavorsome, this signature dish goes through a 24-hour process to become the beautiful thing you’ll be happily shoveling into your mouth. The only question is: to naan up or just go straight for a spoon?

Buttermilk fried chicken

The Clove Club

Shoreditch

As pretentious as the presentation might sound, once you get a fried morsel in your mouth you’re not going to care if the pine boughs were locally foraged or watered with virgin tears. Light, crispy, and everything you could dream of in a fried chicken. We suggest ordering in multiples.

Truffled egg toast

Spuntino

Soho

It has crunchy toast on the outside, is soft and fluffy on the inside, is loaded with cheese, and has runny eggs and truffle. Perfect.

Eggs Benedict

The Wolseley

Mayfair

Described as the “Marilyn Monroe of Breakfast,”  this is how to start your day off right. The classic Benedict is just that, and consuming one in the grand style of The Wolseley will make you feel like a king.

Bockwurst

Herman ze German

Various locations

Specially made in the Black Forest in Germany, this is the real deal. Smoky, smooth, and begging to be loaded up with excellent sauces.

Lamb chops

Tayyabs

Whitechapel

Soft, juicy, rich, spicy, and unlike any lamb chop in London. We hope you brought toothpicks, because you’ll be gnawing on the bone to finish. Trust.

Classic tortilla

Barrafina

Various locations

While it might be considered everyday eats in Spain, here people queue up for ages to get their hands on this thing. It looks simple on the outside but inside is a treat, like a Kinder Surprise… only with eggs, potato, and cheese.

Lobster

Burger & Lobster

Various locations

Yes, an affordable, delicious lobster. Available in roll form if you’re feeling frisky.

Avocado toast

Caravan King's Cross

King's Cross

So basic and yet, there is magic on this toast. Maybe it’s the mountain of perfectly ripe avocado highlighted by the perfect amount of lemon or the chili. Perfect.

Toasted cheese sandwich

Kappacasein

Borough Market

Three types of melted cheese, five kinds of onion, and sourdough bread; there is nothing subtle about this toasty. Work your way through the madness of the crowds at the Market and be rewarded with melted, crispy gold.

Heaven and Earth

Hix

SoHo

To call this just spiced black pudding and mash with apple mixed in is to do this dish a severe insult. It's better than just the sum of its parts -- heavenly is just how to describe this gorgeous mix of seasoning, texture, and flavour.

Salt beef bagel

Brick Lane Beigel Bake

Brick Lane

Known by late-night and early morning party kids out east for years, this beast of a bagel is way more then just boozy fodder. This ring of doughy joy is one of the best in the world, and then they take it over the top with so much salt beef and mustard.

Seven Samurai lobster roll

Smack

SoHo

No longer is lobster solely a treat to the ridiculously wealthy. Now the masses have come to know, love, and happily afford lobster rolls at small spots across town with the Seven Samurai as the crown jewel. It's loaded with cucumber, white cabbage, pickled ginger, spring onions, and togarashi spice, but the tail still shines through.

A steak

Hawksmoor

Various Locations

Whether or not Hawksmoor has the best steaks in town (and it probably does), the experience here is so much more than just the amazing beef. Just ask the cocktail you’re going to wash this down with.

Octopus carpaccio

Scott's

Mayfair

Octopus can either be amazing or horrendous, with a very fine line separating the two. Scott’s plate of paper-thin tentacle cross sections is leaps and bounds across that line and securely in a place of greatness.

Radish salad

Bocca di Lupo

SoHo

While the rest of the menu at BDL changes frequently, this Jacob Kenedy original is a constant. The few times it has been swapped out, the guest outcry brought it back pretty quickly for fear of an outside revolt. It's walking that balance between salty (pecorino) and sweet (pomegranate), but has that drop of decadence (truffle), so it's a showstopper.  

Beef-dripping candle

Restaurant Story

Bermondsey

At first you think it’s just mood lighting and then you realize... that’s beef fat, not wax. And the fresh bread sitting next to it is going to soak up every melted drop.

English breakfast udon

Koya Bar

SoHo

It's the lovechild of your mouth's favorites: udon noodles and a full English breakfast. Fat noodles, a fried egg, bacon, and shiitake mushrooms show the way to have breakfast all day while warming your way through with perfect broth.

Spinach, Parmesan & soft egg pizzette

Polpo

Various Locations

Loaded with spinach and cheese, the egg is begging to dip folded corners of crispy pizzette into. Wash it down with a Negroni.

The Ari Gold

Patty & Bun

Various Locations

This is how burgers are supposed to be: simple, cooked to perfection, smothered in cheese (and of course you added bacon), and so juicy it’s dripping.

'Nduja pizza

Pizza Pilgrims

SoHo

It’s crazy to think these amazing pizzas started life out of the back of a tiny van on Berwick St. PP now has a couple brick & mortars around, and its pizzas are still outstanding, with this classic 'nduja remaining the menu favourite.

Bone marrow and parsley

St. John

Spitalfields

St. John was the pioneer of nose-to-tail cooking, and this is the standout dish. It's soft, rich, and melts in your mouth, so good luck ordering just one.

The Full Monty

The Breakfast Club

Aldgate

A proper full English should be all-inclusive, from the black pudding to the mushrooms, both sausage AND bacon, beans, eggs, and all the tomatoes. It's named after that first meal of the day, so it’s no surprise these folks do it justice.

Scotch eggs

cotchtails

London Bridge

Taking the humble service station snack to new levels of greatness, these are not the Scotch eggs you remember. Scotchtails has upgraded the components, bringing this round ball of greatness to the modern era.

A Sunday roast

The Marksman

Hackney

Spot-on meat, massive yorkies, and all the fixings in a revamped (but still charming) pub. This is how it should be every Sunday.

Bulgogi beef burrito

Korrito

Shoreditch

Korrito is bringing a little Seoul to Boxpark -- kimchi, marinades, and some heavy spices make this far from an ordinary lunch.

Gorgonzola custard

8 Hoxton Square

Hoxton

Somewhere between a creme brulee, a soufflé, and a custard, this dish is creamy with a good amount of cheese mixed through. We dare you to not finger-clean the dish to get every last dollop.

Dip & Flip Burger

Dip & Flip

Battersea & Wimbledon

This is so much more than just a burger. It's a meaty, cheesy, gravy-y invitation to get messy with and receives the full approval of the staff/your taste buds.

Bao buns

BAO

SoHo

Light, yet filling, these are the most authentic buns you’ll find this side of Taiwan.  

Mint stracciatella gelato

Gelupo

SoHo

We all know the classic mint-chip ice cream, and trust us, this is so far beyond that. Fresh with flakes of dark bittersweet chocolate throughout, this will knock your tongue’s socks off.

A Prairie Oyster

69 Colebrook Row

Islington

Technically a drink, but balancing on that line -- this is essentially a mini snack. It's like a Bloody Mary in literally bite-sized form, so there is simply nothing else like it.

Omakase

Sushi Tetsu

Clerkenwell

This tiny and rather reclusive sushi den has some of the best Japanese eats in London, if not most of Europe. If you’re lucky enough to get a rezzie, be wise and order an omakase, placing your mouth blindly into its chefs' very capable hands.

Kobe beef ishiyaki

Sushisamba

The City

This 1kg beast of a dish is served with a hot stone, so you can cook it at the table to your exact liking. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most, and worth every penny.

Plats de fruits de mer

Randall & Aubin

SoHo

With ridiculously fresh seafood and a particular love for Champagne, this where to go when you’re after some top-shelf crustaceans.

The Classic Melt

Melt Room

SoHo

There is very little better in life than a really good cheese toastie: the crisp caramelization of sourdough bread and the ooze of perfectly melted cheese (not running, but warm and gooey). A bite is a time machine of nostalgia bringing you back to the easy days when everything tasted this good.

Don Ceviche

Ceviche

SoHo & Old Street

This is gateway ceviche. The first bite seems innocent, but you instantly know this could turn into a full-blown obsession. Fresh sea bass w/ sweet potato chunks and its signature tiger’s milk makes this simple dish a dangerous temptation.

Spicy crab croquette

Lobster Bar

Hackney

Spicy, with a soft texture, the crab here comes through light and true. This is how all croquettes should be, but unfortunately rarely are.

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Haley Forest is a London-based writer who has eaten many of these items a worrying amount of times. Follow her delicious adventures on Twitter.